Boris Johnson, new Mayor of London, has started as he
intended to go on. He introduced an alcohol ban on London Underground without
any preparation and without putting staff in place to enforce the ban.
Inevitably the ban was challenged last Saturday night. Tube staff were left on
their own to deal with drunken revellers in addition to running a transport
system, as they had warned in advance. They were left at the sharp end of
Johnson’s self-publicising antics.
AT LEAST twelve members of Tube staff were assaulted at
King’s Cross station alone during Saturday night’s alcohol-fuelled
disturbances, according to reports coming in to the biggest London Underground
RMT has called for a personal apology from the Mayor – who
was conspicuous by his absence – to all staff members assaulted as the
‘half-baked’ alcohol ban came into force.
The disturbing picture coming from RMT reps includes
reports that police were ‘too busy’ to come to the aid of a woman member of
staff hit by a bottle thrown at High Street Kensington station, and arriving
too late to quell disturbances at other stations.
RMT estimates that the true number of assaults on staff,
including spitting, threats and verbal assaults, was more than 50. At least
twelve members of staff were assaulted at King’s Cross alone.
An RMT member was punched in the face and had beer
poured over his head during the incident at Euston Square.
One of at least four drivers assaulted was knocked on the head
by an assailant, and his glasses were broken.
Some drivers booked off on safety grounds when passengers
became angry and there were no staff available to assist.
One driver refused to move his train when it came to his
attention that there was a man on the roof.
At several locations passengers were seen on the tracks,
endangering themselves and others.
At several locations objects were thrown onto the tracks.
Passengers were seen urinating on trains and onto tracks
Drivers also report doors being pushed off their runners
and trains vandalised, some seriously.
At Liverpool Street station, one of six closed during the
evening, police told supervisors that the station could reopen at 22:00 – but
without police assistance. The station remained closed until start of traffic
At least six passenger emergency alarms (PEAs) were
activated during the evening. Drivers responding to PEAs were finding it almost
impossible to make their way through trains thanks to the sheer number of
people and the amount of debris and discarded bottles and cans.
Station closures and the suspension of District and Circle
Line services had a knock-on effect on the rest of the network, creating a
greater workload and causing problems for staff at most locations.
"The more reports we get from our reps the uglier the
picture of Saturday’s violence becomes, and the clearer it is that Tube bosses
effectively just crossed their fingers and closed their eyes," RMT general
secretary Bob Crow said today.
"Local reps are telling us that the scenes were among
the most chaotic they have ever seen, with none of the mitigation and
crowd-control that would be in place on New Year’s Eve – and the concentration
of numbers at times was probably greater.
"LUL can’t say it wasn’t expecting a massive
drunken crowd, and doing nothing amounts to a shameful dereliction of its duty
of care towards staff and Tube passengers.
"And where was the Mayor when our members were being
assaulted thanks to his half-baked publicity stunt – was he still swanning
around on a yacht in Turkey?
"TfL rubbished our warnings and said that our members
would be able to call on the British Transport Police if there was trouble, but
Saturday night proved that to be the nonsense it has always been.
"We have been saying for years that the BTP are
already too under-resourced to respond to the calls they already get.
"We understand from driver reps that on the District
and Circle lines there were no fewer than five Mayday calls at one point, with
no hope of getting help to them.
"Cleaners, most of them on little more than the
minimum wage, spent the early hours of Sunday clearing up a sea of vomit,
urine, bottles, cans and other debris for no extra pay, and that too is a
scandal," Bob Crow said.
Livingstone commented on the ban in advance, “The law is pointless unless
someone if enforcing it.
“The staff of the Tube won’t bother to challenge people; and I can’t say that I
blame them. The policing of the Underground is the responsibility of the
British Transport Police and unless you happen to live or work in very central
London, you’re more likely to come across the Queen Mother playing the banjo
than you are that lot.”