In a move that will no doubt make him very popular with the transport unions, Sadiq Khan has spoken out against the idea of driverless trains on the London Underground. Apparently that idea is "madness".
If you've paid attention to the long-running driverless tube train story, you'll know that they've been surprisingly controversial. The idea was first thrown about by Khan's predecessor Boris Johnson, who wanted to have fully-autonomous driverless trains in operation on the Piccadilly Line by the year 2022. But speaking at a London Assembly meeting yesterday, Khan hot back against the idea.
"Anybody who understands the basic knowledge of the underground system will know there are some deep level, deep underground services, where the idea of having driverless trains is madness.
In the interests of saving some pounds to risk the safety of Londoners, of staff and visitors, is the height of recklessness. Where it's not safe to do so I will not do so. Where it's safe to do so of course we'll consider whatever efficiency savings that we can do."
The prospect of fully driverless trains on the Underground first popped up way back in 2011, when Giz UK was barely a month old, though leaked documents later claimed fully-autonomous unmanned trains wouldn't be able to hit the Underground network before 2030. Regardless, 2014 saw the release of the first designs for autonomous tube trains in preparation for a full rollout in the future.
A number of tube lines are already run by computers, but still require a living human being inside the cockpit. Their job is to open and close doors, and takeover in the event of an emergency. The DLR also runs a completely automated system, but it's always been that way and the fact that its all above ground means safety concerns aren't as much of an issue.
The RMT union has never been particularly happy with the prospect of fully autonomous Tube trains. That was due to fears that it would put TfL staff out of work, even though Boris Johnson denied there would be any job losses. However, it's welcomed Khan's words, saying:
"It would be madness to introduce driverless trains on any part of the Underground.
Boris Johnson may have said all kinds of things were going to happen but no politician would risk the carnage that would come with putting unmanned trains on that network. We are pleased to see Mr Khan make his position on the matter clear."
It seems as though the idea is now basically dead. TfL can't really introduce full autonomous trains without the support of the mayor's office. That's assuming the unions hadn't gone on strike first and shut the whole transport system down. [Standard]