This morning Boris Johnson published his Transport Manifesto fizzing with great ideas. It offers, among other things, driverless trains on the London Underground within a decade. Driverless trains don't go on strike. But more generally they are more reliable and cheaper to run and so cheaper to use. They are a financially credible way to achieve lower fares.
But as a more immediate way of tackling strikes Boris promises to lobby the Government "to change Britain’s strike laws to introduce a minimum turnout in ballots." This change is long overdue and it really is about the time the Government agreed to it. Labour MPs bitterly oppose the idea but London commuters would greatly welcome it.
Also in the manifesto is a plan to cut delays on the Tube by a further 30%, to roll out New Bus for London with 600 vehicles on London’s streets by the end of his term and to further expand the Boris Bikes scheme
including to parts of south London. There will be a doubling of travel by river with new pier and there will be a new pedestrian river crossing between Vauxhall and Chelsea bridges. Young people who are discourteous will lose their entitlement to free bus travel.
"I want a new mandate from Londoners to automate the Tube network – to improve journeys, cut
delays, drive down costs and keep fares low.
‘Over the next four years I will no longer buy a tube train with an old-fashioned driver's cab. By 2014
we will have capacity for automatic trains on 48 per cent of the network – and now is the time to take
that programme further.
‘It is time for London to learn from other metro networks and get the benefits of automatic train
control. It is time to move forward with "train captains" – along the lines of the DLR – with all the
efficiency benefits at will bring, and absolutely no loss of safety.
‘With automatic trains, we will be able to expand and improve the service – and that will be good for
London Underground employees as well as for passengers.
‘Under my leadership, TfL will rapidly establish a timetable for introducing the first driverless trains to
become operational on the London Underground network within a decade. I will also ensure that TfL
never again order a new train for London Underground with an old-fashioned driver cab – it is time to
invest in new technology for London.
‘It may be that some hardline union barons will object, as they have traditionally objected to many
technological improvements. But I am convinced that most members of London Underground's workforce will see the merit of what we are doing.
‘We have already begun the process of explaining the plan to staff – and once certain myths are
exploded the response is positive. And I am requesting a mandate from Londoners to push again for
changes to national strike law, so that industrial action can no longer be triggered by a small minority of union members.
‘Our investments in new technology give this city a huge opportunity to modernise the oldest tube system in the world.
‘It is time to take London forwards – not back.’