Tube stations closed as ‘stressed’ staff report increase in violence and aggression from passengers
The loss of up to 600 Tube staff posts is to blame for the closure of a central London station, RMT leader Mick Lynch has said.
Lancaster Gate, the Central line station used by Bayswater residents and visitors to Hyde Park, is likely to be closed all week due to what Transport for London has termed “unavailability of station staff”.
The reduction in station staff jobs - which TfL says is a consequence of its need to break even under the terms of its Government covid bailouts - is one of the key factors behind ongoing RMT strike action.
On Tuesday afternoon, union members voted to back six more months of strikes, though no new dates for walkouts have been announced.
The RMT says there have been more than 100 station closures in the last two months because of staff shortages.
It says that Marble Arch, Lancaster Gate, Queensway and Holland Park have closed more than 50 times since mid-April.
Overall, there have been 71 Tube station closures in April and 60 so far in May, according to the RMT.
Mr Lynch joined RMT members at a protest outside Lancaster Gate station on Wednesday. He called on TfL to re-staff the stations and tackle an increase in violence and anti-social behaviour towards staff from passengers.
“The inevitable consequences are that they have spread the jam too thin and they’re now having to shut stations, sometimes planned and sometimes at random,” Mr Lynch said of the staffing reductions.
“That is causing a strain and the public are losing their service because we haven’t got enough people.”
Latest figures from TfL reveal that there were 1,316 incidents of work-related violence and aggression (WVA) reported by Tube staff between January and the end of March – almost half of all incidents across TfL services.
The total number of incidents, including on buses, the Elizabeth line, DLR and London Overground was 2,798 – up 603 on the October to December period, though part of the reason was there were four more weeks in the reporting period.
Fare evasion accounts for a third of all incidents – including 445 on the Tube. About a quarter are caused by passengers behaving aggressively or anti-socially, a problem that is greatest on the bus network. About 10 per cent of incidents involve passengers “intoxicated” with alcohol or drugs.
Mr Lynch said attacks on Tube staff were increasing. “That is not acceptable,” he said.
“We have a job to do to make TfL re-staff these stations and make the public secure and make our members secure, end violence in the workplace and provide the service that Londoners need.”
The RMT said that increasing verbal abuse and threats of violence had become “commonplace” and were linked to staff having to take time off due to work-related stress.
A petition has been launched by passengers calling on TfL to keep Lancaster Gate station open. It is being supported by Paul Dimoldenberg, a Labour cabinet minister at Westminster council.
Stop the closure of Lancaster Gate Tube Station - Sign the Petition! https://t.co/1JRLfpr7pV via @UKChange
— Paul Dimoldenberg (@PDimoldenberg) May 20, 2023
The petition said that “frequent and unexpected closures” were having a “devastating impact on the local community, residents and businesses”.
It meant passengers had to use busier stations such as Paddington and Queensway, increasing overcrowding and lengthening journeys.
A TfL spokesperson said: “We apologise to customers whose journeys have been affected by the recent issues at Lancaster Gate station.
“We are aware of the inconvenience that station closures can cause and only close them as a last resort, after exhausting all other possible options. However, on some occasions it is unavoidable as certain stations cannot safely remain open without a certain number of staff.
“Since 2019, station closures have largely been due to an increase in staff sickness absence, mostly linked to the pandemic.
“The RMT’s latest action short of strike, which covers the Lancaster Gate station group, is also significantly contributing to the station’s recent closures.
“We are working to address these local issues, are doing everything possible to ensure the station stays open, and are progressing recruitment that was paused during the pandemic.”