What has the government said about driverless trains on the London Tube?

·2-min read
The transport secretary has compared the tube to Europe’s metro systems. (AFP via Getty Images)
The transport secretary has compared the tube to Europe’s metro systems. (AFP via Getty Images)

Transport Secretary Grant Shapp has raised the prospect of driverless trains on the London Underground, amid an ongoing funding dispute between Transport for London (TfL) and the government.

The government has made TfL its final offer to help it recover from the pandemic following weeks of discussions.

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said: "This is the latest and indeed the last such payment, which should see TfL get back to its own financial stability the year after next.

"It is a generous offer, which enables the mayor to do all the things he wanted to do in terms of investment pre-Covid and it will enable us to move to a more advanced TfL as well, where working practices are up to date."

But could the “more advanced TfL” involve driverless trains in the near future? The Tory MP has raised the prospect.

What has the government said about driverless trains?

Transport secretary Grant Shapps told BBC London that the London Underground needed to be modernised, like Paris with its driverless trains.

He said: "To give you one example, other European cities, even Paris for example, have moved ahead and now have driverless trains - the London underground doesn’t.

"We do need to move forward on some of these modernisations as well and this package urges and requires TfL to do that.”

Mr Schapps went on to say: "The balance we have come to here is the right one. It is the only offer which is on the table. There will not be a further one, but we will work with TfL on the technical details to assist them.”

He added: "I very much look forward to this being put to bed so that Londoners don’t have to keep hearing about stories about TfL needing more money and coming out with the begging bowl."

Currently, London’s Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is the city’s only automated metro system, and the trains do not have drivers. But there are operatives on board who open and close the doors, and check tickets.

Some other underground lines, like the Northern, Central, Jubilee and Victoria, also are partly automatic.

In 2012, then-London Mayor Boris Johnson said London would have driverless trains within 10 years.

In his transport manifesto at the time, Mr Johnson said: “It is time to move forward with ‘train captains’ - along the lines of the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) - with all the efficiency benefits it will bring and absolutely no loss of safety.

“TfL (Transport for London) will rapidly establish a timetable for introducing the first driverless trains to become operational on the London Underground network within a decade.”

Mr Shapps comments come amid a summer of train and tube strikes, with unions like the RMT and ASLEF demanding better pay, better working conditions, and job security.

On August 19, thousands of underground and overground workers will strike for 24 hours.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting