Finn Brennan: We must keep London Underground drivers safe from assaults

Finn Brennan: We must keep London Underground drivers safe from assaults

“Halfway between Golders Green and Brent Cross, my cab door flew open and in charged a man who grabbed me round the shoulders and started screaming. As the train was in ATO mode, I jumped out of my seat and we were wrestling in the cab/doorway while the train continued on its own and the customers watched on in shock. I eventually got him out of the cab and hit the Mayday button. This all happened at around 1pm in the afternoon so it can happen to anyone at any time”

Those are the words of a Northern Line driver reporting what happened to him one afternoon in 2015. Since then ASLEF reps have been arguing for secure driving cabs on the London Underground. This week our driver members will receive ballot papers for industrial action as our campaign continues. It is not a decision we have come to lightly, but despite more than 15 meetings with management nothing has changed and incidents keep happening.

In the last two weeks we have learned about one on the Hammersmith & City Line where a driver was forced to hang on to the inside door handle to stop someone forcing their way into her cab, and another where a driver was threatened while investigating a rear cab breach on the District Line. There has been a string of attempts to enter cabs on the Central Line as well as an assault on a Northern Line driver after a fight broke out on her train.

This cannot be allowed to continue. Unless something is done to make driving cabs secure it is just a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or worse. ASLEF cannot stand idly by and allow that to happen.

This is an issue that can affect any driver, whatever line they are on, whatever shift they work and no matter how senior they are. Of course, we understand the need for access in an emergency, but it would be straightforward to design and install a technical solution. London Underground management have simply not been prepared to commit the resources needed.

Ballot papers will be sent out from Tuesday (tomorrow). We are asking that members vote Yes and return ballot papers as soon as possible, to arrive by 19 September. A mandate for action from our members will demonstrate to management that the time for procrastination is finished. They need to act now to make drivers’ cabs secure.

Finn Brennan is an ASLEF District Organiser, covering London Underground. Follow him on Twitter. This as a slightly edited version of an article that originally appeared on the ASLEF District 8 website.

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