Deal struck but passengers could still be ‘vulnerable’ on inadequately staffed Night Tube say RMT

As crime on tubes continue to fall, TfL could be faced with fresh challenges once the new night time service comes into affect later this year.

After months of gridlock, the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) have agreed to the pay and conditions deal over a 24-hour tube on Friday and Saturday nights.

One of the trade union’s core arguments last year’s strikes was not having been properly consulted on key aspects of health and safety.

With this in mind, should passengers and staff be concerned about their safety on the night tube?

Crime statistics on the London Underground (LU) have improved in recent years, crime across the whole tube network fell by 12.4% last year according to their figures.

However, to contradict this there was a 32.2% increase in reported violent and sexual assaults, with 567 sexual offences in 2014/15, a figure up from 429 the previous year.

This seems to paint a worrying picture on aspects of criminal behaviour, although it is has been argued that sexual-related crimes are being reported more readily, resulting in the rise.

Keith Foley, the head of Night Tube, advises caution when interpreting crime statistics and points out that it’s a secure and gated environment despite public perception that anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related crimes could increase overnight.

“No matter how many times you show people the stats, that does not necessarily change peoples’ beliefs. You can tell people things until your blue in the face but if it’s not going in what can you do,” said Mr Foley.

“All of the evidence from worldwide cities is that you have all that fear of a rise in drunkenness and anti social behaviour through the night but none of it materialises.

“Stockholm put in a large security presence initially and it’s all been withdrawn because it’s not necessary.”

To reassure customers TfL and British Transport Police (BTP) have agreed to put 100 officers on patrol at 144 stations once the night tube is introduced.

However Paul Jackson, who looks after engineering staff at the RMT, said: “They are having to take on 100 police how is it safer? If it’s safer why have we not cut 100 police?”

Staffing levels have been dramatically slashed during the past year as 800 station staff were axed last year and TfL have planned to recruit back 500 to operate the extra service in their first recruitment campaign in three years.

“The staffing levels in each station are lower across the board and some stations are going to be unstaffed,” said Mr Jackson.

He worries about emergencies, for example passengers needing to be evacuated from a broken-down train stranded between stations.

With only a limited number of fully competent staff, passengers would have to make their way through the pitch dark and winding tunnels on their own.

He says these passengers could become lost, isolated and walk into places where they shouldn’t be, becoming vulnerable targets to anti-social behaviour and criminal activity.

The RMT are also concerned that TfL have not fully considered the logistics behind moving equipment down tube stations during the early hours, given that some stations will need to be kept open.

Referring to works currently taking place on the Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City, District and Circle Lines, they are worried about their staff coming into conflict with the night tube when transporting material underground.

Mr Jackson said: “Carrying anything down in any kind of way with the rugby club that has just come out of the local pub is going to create chaos. No one’s ever given a satisfactory answer of what they are going to do.”

Despite all this, TfL will operate the same staffing model through the night as they operate during the day with 12,000 CCTV cameras throughout LU and staff equipped with radios one click away from BTP officers.

The Head of Night Tube is clear that once up and running, TfL must keep their eye on the ball where safety is concerned and increase response time to victims of crime.

He said: “We never want to be complacent about it. The moment we say safety is not an issue is the moment we get it wrong. If at some point we are not actively managing the risk, this is when we could let someone down.”

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