Transport union hits back at Boris and Tfl after conflicting statements over driverless trains

A London underground train. Pic: QSimple

The tube drivers’ union has called on TfL and Boris Johnson to “get their act together” after they delivered widely conflicting statements over plans for driverless Underground trains.

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference on Tuesday, the Mayor of London repeated his election pledge that he would press on with plans for driverless trains, despite union opposition.

However, Johnson’s tub-thumping speech came only three days after London Underground’s managing director Mike Jones had officially ruled them out.

A spokesman for transport union RMT told EastLondonLines: “It would be nice if Boris Johnson and senior officials were to get their act together and decide what to say in advance; rather than leave millions of Londoners wondering if they will take a massive gamble with public safety with driverless trains.”

Johnson, who promised in his manifesto that Tfl would never order a new train with an old fashioned cab, told the conference: ‘‘As I look ahead I am filled with confidence about London.

“We will regenerate East London and we will put in air-conditioned and driverless trains. Even if Bob Crow says his RMT drivers won’t test the driverless trains.”

However, in a sign of a serious rift with Johnson, Mike Brown, the managing director of London Underground said over the weekend :”Let me be clear – there are no plans to test driverless trains on any part of the network.”

‘’A fleet of 191 new trains which have a driver’s cab, like all of our existing trains, are now being delivered for the Metropolitan, District, Circle and Hammersmith and City lines. We have no design, no order in place and no programme for any further purchase of new trains at this time.”

“We have always made clear that we will continue to explore new technology as it develops – in common with every other metro around the world and this is what we are doing.

“As we, and the Mayor, have made clear this means looking at the next generation of trains and whether a conventional driver’s cab is the most effective model.

Internal TfL documents seen by EastLondonLines show plans to hold night-time tests of driverless trains. The memo, dated from this July, was directed at JNUP Programme Board, a group of officials responsible for upgrading the Jubilee and Northern lines.

It contained plans to hold tests throughout this month on the Jubilee line between Waterloo and Stratford and would have cost £1m.

Plans for these tests have now been scrapped.

A spokesperson for Tfl said:  “The JNUP Programme Board memo expressed the views of an individual within the organisation and were never endorsed or costed by TfL.”

The spokesperson also dismissed suggestions of tensions between Tfl and Johnson and denied plans to test driverless trains: ‘’They weren’t cancelled because there was never a plan for such tests. Reports to the contrary are entirely and completely incorrect.’’

The Mayor’s Office was unavailable to comment at the time of going to press.

By Toby Youell 


  1. ASLEF shrugged October 15, 2012
  2. Chris October 15, 2012
  3. Jo Abbas October 16, 2012

Leave a Reply