Driverless trains a nonsensical distraction for a rudderless government

ASLEF has hit back at the Prime Minister's suggestion that driverless trains should be a condition of the funding settlement for Transport for London this autumn.

General Secretary Mick Whelan commented: 'It's the usual signs of a failing Tory government that they'll attack trade unions and working people to try to distract from their own failings. Train drivers on London Underground have continued to work throughout this pandemic to make sure that fellow key workers can get to work and back. Now those very same workers are being treated with contempt and told they're not needed.'

'For the Prime Minister to claim that rail unions are holding the country as "prisoners" after we've all worked closely with the government and Department for Transport to keep our network working throughout the crisis, is nothing short of scandalous. Perhaps he should speak to his own Transport Secretary who last month was thanking us for working with him and said 'I look forward to continued collaboration in future, because co-operation will be key to setting the country on the road to recovery.' This doesn’t look like the spirit of co-operation to me.'

Driverless underground trains are simply not viable on London Underground. It would not be safe to run services without a trained member of staff onboard in case of emergency. Even the Docklands Light Railway, which was purpose built to be driverless, is staffed with a train captain who is able to drive the train if necessary.

Mick concluded: 'This is desperate stuff which is completely unworkable and unnecessary. People will be taking driverless car journeys to Barnard Castle before a driverless tube to Elephant and Castle. Driverless trains are a nonsensical distraction for a rudderless government with the hope of embarrassing a Labour London Mayor before next year's election. Londoners won't be taken for fools.'

Finn Brennan, ASLEF's organiser on London Underground, added: 'As always, Boris Johnson is talking nonsense about driverless trains. Slashing government funding to TfL means that they cannot afford the signalling upgrade, and other technology, that would be needed for "driverless trains". While pretending to support a "great leap forward" the Prime Minister's policies are actually preventing any progress with transport in the capital; they mean that Londoners will suffer years of delays and overcrowding in the future.'