It took me a total of two hours 20 minutes to get in to work today, a journey that usually takes under 50 minutes door to door. As I battled my way through the hordes of stranded commuters and tried to avoid being shoved into the armpit of the person next to it would seem natural to curse the RMT. But despite my journey from hell I support the tube workers’ strike.
The media have tried to pick Bob Crow apart by splashing stories on how much he makes a year, where he lives etc. to diminish his side of the argument. Sorry Daily Mail but I couldn’t care less that Bob Crow went to Brazil on holiday last week or makes £145,000 a year. What I do care about is passenger safety, my safety, on the London Underground, something that Bob Crow is seeking to preserve.
The official line that has been used to try and justify the closures is that fewer than 3 per cent of tube journeys start with passengers visiting a ticket office. But given that a total of 1.2 billion passengers travel on the tube every year, that 3 per cent represents rather a lot of people. Many of these people will be tourists who contribute millions to our economy each year.
Of course businesses evolve. Advances in technology allow us to work smarter, be more efficient and save money but at what cost?
All supermarket shoppers will be familiar with the self-service checkouts that were introduced to increase the speed and ease of your shopping experience or so they said. Personally I’ve never had a smooth experience using these checkouts especially as there’s always an “unexpected item in the bagging area!” So is it wise to cut 750 jobs on the Underground?
Granted, today’s passengers can handle machines and cards. Modernisation is inevitable but I would still like human beings around on the Underground to ask for help when needed or to make you feel safe when travelling late at night or early in the morning. What happens if you need your oyster card reissued or help planning an alternative route? There will be no one around to help and I highly doubt that most busy commuters will stop to help either.
Every morning I say hello to the lady at the ticket office in West Acton, we’ve been doing this for over two years now. Stopping to chat or waving to her as I run for my train really brightens up my mornings. I’d much rather be greeted by a smiling face than an automated machine any day.
Unmanned ticket offices may be cheaper but the government are seriously overlooking the human cost involved. We’re increasingly losing the human connection, something I don’t believe you can put a price on, as businesses become more ‘efficient’. This is why I’ll continue to support the strikes and remember not to grumble when I fight to get home tonight.