London tube strike: it’s time for driverless trains

steven george-hilleyThe trade unions may have inflicted short-term suffering on London’s workers and businesses this week, but they have only reminded everyone why it’s time for automated tube services, argues Steven George-Hilley

This week, the people of London were once again hit by a Union-organised tube strike, designed to cripple the transport network and inflict maximum suffering on normal working people. Thousands of commuters struggled to get to work, with 11 lines and 270 London Underground stations shut down.

Occasionally strikers win the sympathy of the public, but with tube drivers enjoying £50,000 salaries along with generous bonuses, many saw this week’s industrial action is politically-motivated and driven by greed rather than injustice.

The 20,000 workers who refused to man the tube stations for 48 hours are all too aware of the damage they can inflict on their fellow Londoners, but that didn’t seem to stop them. The decision by so many employees to bring the entire network to a standstill tells you a great deal about the contempt with which they treat their employers and the working people of the capital.

Once upon a time such spiteful activity struck fear into the hearts of politicians and the government, but not anymore. As London Mayor Boris Johnson said, “They can strike until they are blue in the face. The Night Tube will go ahead.”

Such comments are reflective of the mood of frustrated commuters I have encountered on a 1.5 hour bus ride across London. There was no sympathy whatsoever for the strikers for their actions, with one commuter telling me they should be sacked with immediate effect.

As London looks for the next phase of investment in its transport infrastructure, the one certain way to prevent a strike is to ensure driverless trains are implemented as soon as possible. The capital has been in desperate need of 24-hour tube services for a very long time and the only thing holding us back has been the Unions and their culture of fear.

So we should congratulate the Unions for making the case for driverless trains. Every time they choose to wreck the journey into work for ordinary people, support grows for automated services. So it’s comforting to know that after this week’s painful experiences, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the tube’s future.

Steven George-Hilley is a director at the Parliament Street think tank. @stevengeorgia

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