So where’s the Night Tube, then?
When the project, which would see 24-hour service on selected service at weekends, was announced by TfL, we were told we’d be whizzing around in the early hours of Saturday morning as of 12 September. But 12 September has come and gone, and now, it’s not clear whether the service will run in 2015 at all. We at CityMetric are particularly narked that the night tube was not operational for any of our birthdays.
Is the network ready for the service?
At a Battle of Ideas panel this past Sunday, TfL director of public affairs David McNeill told the audience that everything is “ready to go” – logistically, at least, TfL is ready to open up a weekend 24-hour service across five lines: the Jubilee, Victoria, and most of the Central, Northern and Piccadilly lines.
So what are we waiting for?
The initial delay to the launch came from disputes with various transport worker unions, much of which centred around the issue of work/life balance for drivers.
Hasn’t that been resolved now?
Yes – McNeill said that the only remaining sticking point centres on Aslef, the union of train and Tube drivers, which is pushing for all drivers to be given the option of a four-day working week.
What does that have to do with the night tube?
Not much. As with other big TfL projects, like the Olympics, the unions are using the introduction of the Night Tube to straighten out other working conditions – as McNeill put it, the Night Tube is basically “leverage”: it gives the unions something to withold and barter with.
Why should drivers get to work a four day week? Are they being lazy?
As we’ve covered before, being a Tube driver is not an easy job. Under the four-day working week, which McNeill told me is already granted to some employees on a case-by-case basis, workers would work the same number of hours, but spread over four days, not five. (This wouldn’t affect the current cap on how long drivers can spend in front of the wheel during a single shift.) The shorter week would give the drivers more flexibility, and could allow them to fit their work more easily around childcare.
Could anything hurry the talks along?
There’s a ticking time bomb in the form of the new bonuses, offered as part of the already-agreed Night Tube package. These would need to be added to the Christmas payroll over the coming months, which may encourage unions to reach a deal before the end of the year so they don’t miss the window.
Whether this will be enough to bring talks to a close before then is unclear- according to the Financial Times, the service is “unlikely to begin this year”. But there’s always hope – and we’re still dreaming of a Night Tube Christmas.
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