With all the hoo-ha about yet more Tube Strikes because already extremely well-paid Tube drivers want even more pay to work unsociable hours, TFL are still promoting the all-night weekend service, to start on 12 September, with the tagline “For Late Shifts and Great Nights”.
I could go on about my views regarding Tube drivers and their pay, but the fact of the matter is that this is what they get paid, and they have the right to strike if they are not happy about their working conditions. Whether it is morally correct for TFL to inconvenience millions of commuters or ultimately bring about its own demise by deploying hundreds of Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator drivers is probably better placed on more intellectual websites than this.
Update: After I originally posted this blog I got a lovely Tweet ““extremely well paid tube drivers” yeah your piece is rubbish. You haven’t got a clue” I thought this was a bit harsh but everyone is entitled to their opinion. So after a rather large number of tweets back and forth (that I won’t bore you with), he did make a very good point that the strike isn’t just about tube drivers and pay. This made me realise I was a bit to generalist and flippant on the issue, even though tube drivers were never the sole reason for this blog, as you will see below. So while I continue to disagree with him on a number of other things, he did share an article with me #TubeStrike: Why I’ll be striking over compulsory all-night shifts which gives an insight into why they feel compelled to strike and it is well worth a read.
But it got me thinking… who are the other winners and losers in the name of progress? But before I try and answer that, did TFL get Tron to mate with Flashdance for their Night Tube promo video? What were they thinking?
On to my more serious point, Boris, TFL et al all say that this will help London’s night time economy. I don’t doubt this for a second, and I am sure it will create more new jobs and make London a truly (if weekend only) city that never sleeps.
BUT…. with house prices and rents going up by the minute and it being cheaper to buy an Island in Norway (€1,000,000) than a three-bed house in Hammersmith (£1,250,000), it’s hard to see how people working in the service industry, who would likely use the Tube for Late Shifts, will earn enough on minimum wage to live anywhere other than on the fringes of London (Zone 5+) or in a room with a tree growing through it.
Even on the London Living wage it would be tough to even think about the bliss of not sharing a house with others, unless you don’t mind not eating, socialising, having any electric or running water.
The side effect of the Night Tubes will be an even bigger increase in property prices and rents, pushing shift workers out of the areas where there are Night Tubes and back on to the night buses.
Sadly, the Tube strikes divert attention away from one of the biggest problems in London: that it is likely that low wage workers will soon not be able to live anywhere near their workplace. As Londoners we should do more to support companies that support the London Living wage, and be more selective over where we spend our money.
Can you imagine shops, bars and other places having to choose between staying open and paying higher wages, or closing because no one can afford to work for minimum wage? Maybe this is what needs to happen. As whilst there are still workers who are willing to work for less than the London Living Wage (unlikely their choice), many companies in the service industries will happily continue paying the minimum they have to.
Unfortunately the Living Wage foundation doesn’t have a handy interactive list of members. I waded through the list of 578 London businesses (in excel), and most of these you would expect to pay at least the London Living Wage.
You’d have to get your coffee from Craving Coffee in Tottenham and drink beer made by Camden Town Brewery at their Brewery Bar or elsewhere, though the bar staff might not get paid the London Living Wage unless they also sell it at the Truscott Arms in Maida Vale. Finally, go to Chatsworth Road E5 Market for your tasty artisan delights. All of these look great but with no major chains on the list it would be a logistic nightmare to visit them all.
So where does that leave us with regards to the Night Tube and the winners? It will probably become a drunken middle class express way that even the well-paid tube drivers might one day not be able to afford to live near. Now wouldn’t that be ironic?
And perhaps TFL will need to think about it changing its slogan to “Great nights to closed places”? Okay I doubt it, but things can’t keep going the way they are forever.