The London Underground is trying to introduce driverless automated services, drawing huge opposition from the union and staff employed in the underground rail system.
Insider information about the LU's plans for automating London's rail system got leaked through the Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT) which leaked documents labelled confidential, creating a furor and displeasure among many opposing the idea of an automated rail system.
The biggest supporter of the programme, London Mayor Boris Johnson, believes if he has his way, getting re-elected, he would turn all of the underground service into a driverless automated service by 2018.
Not everyone associated with the underground thinks along these lines. Bob Crow, leader of the RMT union, is ready to give stiff competition to Johnson's dream of turning the LU automated. He says his union would mobilise to resist attempts to remove drivers from trains, citing the automatic train crash in Washington DC two years ago which led to nine deaths.
"This, combined with the total collapse of the automated system on the Jubilee line two weeks ago show graphically the potentially lethal consequences of this ill-conceived and politically driven plan," Crow told the Huffington Post.
Mayor Johnson has been stressing on successful examples of automatically controlled rail systems, implemented in Paris, Japan and a host of other nations to convince people on the feasibility of providing automated services.
The files leaked by the RMT disclose that a move to turn LU automated could save 1.8 billion pounds but could leave 1,500 employees working with the underground, without a job. Johnson says turning the LU automated will guarantee that commuters using the services of the underground are not left stranded due to strikes and agitations. In the four years that Johnson has been in office as the Mayor of London, there have been 23 strikes called by different unions affecting the smooth functioning of the underground.
The Managing Director of the underground Mike Brown revealed recently his plans to initiate a hearts and minds campaign to educate Underground staffers on the reliability of automated trains and least risks involved in operations. The director has indicated that in the near future, 30 out of the 258 tickets issuing centres would remain functional as electronic payments and screening will be introduced. When questioned on the possible 1,500 job cuts due to automation, Brown said he had no such information.
As per plans confirmed by Mayor Johnson, the northern lines will turn automated by 2014 while the Metropolitan, Circle and Hammersmith and city lines will follow going driverless by 2018.
The underground seems to have turned into hugely followed news in the UK especially in London, as it promises to impact the forthcoming elections for the position of London's Mayor set for May 3.