Volunteers Cover Tube Strike

23 January 2014, 11:33 | Updated: 23 January 2014, 11:37

Plans have been announced to deploy hundreds of volunteer staff to cover for London Underground workers who go on strike next month in protest at Tube ticket office closures.

Transport for London said "ambassadors" trained to help at Tube stations will help ensure they stay open if the two 48-hour walkouts go ahead from February 4 and 11.

TfL said over 1,000 staff have signed up to be ambassadors, ready to help passengers during major events or at times of disruption.

They will be joined by more volunteers, who will keep customers informed on how Tube services are operating and offer advice on alternative travel options, including bus, London Overground and River services, as well as walking and cycling routes, said TfL.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union has called the strikes, while members of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) are being balloted on whether to take industrial action.

The unions are protesting at the ticket office closures and the loss of hundreds of jobs.

Phil Hufton, LU's Chief Operating Officer, said: "Under our plans to modernise the service we offer our customers all of our stations will remain staffed and controlled by our people at all times when services are operating.

"In fact, we will have more staff visible and available in ticket halls and on platforms to help customers buy the right ticket, plan their journeys and to keep them safe and secure.

"We're also committed to implementing these changes without compulsory redundancies.

"There'll be a job for everyone at LU who wants to work with us and be flexible.

"Given these assurances, we urge the RMT and TSSA union leaderships to end their strike threats and to work with us to shape the future of the Tube.

"However, should a strike go ahead, we're determined to keep London moving and open for business and our TfL 'ambassadors' will play an important role. All a strike will achieve is lose those who take part four days' pay."

Talks between the two sides were adjourned earlier this week and are due to resume tomorrow.

Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA, said: "This is yet another gimmick by our publicity-obsessed mayor which shows he is determined to force an unnecessary showdown with the rail unions to further his own naked political ambition.

"His so-called ambassadors are merely management strike-breakers who will not be able to run anything like a full Tube service if the strike goes ahead."

RMT leader Bob Crow said: "Rather than pulling desperate publicity stunts, the mayor and TFL should be focused on resolving the issues at the heart of this dispute, which are about safety, access and the quality of service to Londoners, which are set to be hammered by de-staffing our stations and closing ticket offices.

"The idea that a scab army of volunteers can replace the work of thousands of engineers, drivers, technical and station staff is dangerous nonsense and senior LU officials know that."