London’s nascent plans for all-night tube trains are to be expanded before they have even begun, George Osborne and Boris Johnson have announced, though rail unions have expressed scepticism about the vow.
The chancellor and London mayor gave a rare joint press conference at the Tate Modern gallery on Friday morning, unveiling 24-hour operation plans for the Metropolitan, Circle, District and Hammersmith and City lines, the London overground and the Docklands light railway.
This adds to the current plans for all-night underground services on the Northern, Victoria, Piccadilly, Jubilee and Central lines from September this year.
Unions branded the announcement a “blatant pre-election stunt” and questioned how the Conservatives had calculated the move would add £6.4bn to the economy.
The pair said the government would provide £10bn of funding for investment in new Transport for London infrastructure over the next parliament, including tube, bus, road and cycle lane improvements. Johnson also confirmed plans for 200 more Routemaster buses this year and 800 new buses a year from next year onwards.
“Today we have committed to additional night tube services, the first 24-hour London overground and the purchase of hundreds of brand new buses. This, combined with the promise of future investment in projects such as Crossrail 2 and the Bakerloo line extension, will ensure we keep the capital’s economy moving well into the 21st century.”
However, Mick Cash, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, criticised the lack of discussion about the plans with his members. “This announcement has been dropped on London by the mayor as a blatant pre-election stunt without a shred of consultation,” he said.
“That is a ridiculous way to conduct important negotiations and to unveil major service developments. RMT is not opposed to extended running but there are massive issues on staffing, safety and maintenance which have not been addressed and which would need to be signed off by our reps.
“This announcement has been made against the backdrop of a near-doubling in assaults on staff, cuts to over 1,000 jobs and the axing of guards on London overground.
“Night running would mean increased drunkenness and risks to both passengers and staff alike and could only work with substantial increases in staffing right across the board, and that means an immediate reversal of the current cuts programme.”
Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, said there could be a new government this year and a new London mayor next year. He accused Johnson of taking part in publicity stunts that are “getting more and more desperate and deluded as he heads for the exit door at city hall to become an MP on 7 May for Uxbridge”.
Cortes added: “How [Johnson] and George Osborne think they can dream up policies in Torycentral office for the next Labour mayor to follow when he or she is elected next year is beyond me.
“His night-tube starting in September will lose millions and is not due to break even for another 18 years, and yet here he is, with another back of a fag packet publicity stunt.”
This article was written by Rowena Mason, political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Friday 20th February 2015 13.07 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010