This time last year, The London Underground was celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first ever tube journey, which ran on the Metropolitan Railway line between Paddington and Farringdon on 9 January 1863. As 2013’s celebrations are still fresh in our minds, with the beginning of a new year we now look forward to the future of the Tube, and the changes which we can expect over the next twelve months.
Plans have been announced to run a 24-hour Tube service on the Central, Northern, Victoria, Piccadilly, and Jubilee lines. The new extended service will initially only be available on Friday and Saturday evenings, when thousands of individuals take to London’s numerous bars and clubs for the evening and many more travel to work early in the mornings. Only major stations will remain open throughout the night, although the intention is to roll out daily 24-hour openings across the entire network by 2015.
Many are welcoming news of a 24-hour service, while others have been wondering how such a move will be possible alongside Transport for London’s 2% funding cut this year, equating to a huge £45 million loss.
Ticket offices will be replaced
The answer lies in plans to completely replace London Underground ticket offices by 2015, as revealed by Boris Johnson late last year. Instead of independently manned ticket offices, commuters will instead be required to use self-service ticket machines. Transport for London assure us that special customer points will be found among the six most popular Tube stations, with additional staff on platforms at other stations.
However, the change is expected to cost 750 employees their jobs, and the past few months have been filled with talks of strike action. Further concern has been raised by those Tube users who often require assistance or directions during their commute.
Wi-Fi across all stations
Depending on your mobile phone network, the chances are you will already be able to make use of the Tube’s free Wi-Fi. Users of EE (which also covers Orange and T-Mobile), O2, Vodafone and Virgin Broadband can all connect for free at over 120 Tube stations, and others can purchase day passes for as little as £2.
Transport for London worked hard to roll out this service across the biggest and most popular stations in 2013, but this year will see connectivity spread to every single London Underground station. This would mean greater convenience for commuters, with no more dropped calls or lengthy waits between typing and sending a text message.
Contactless card payments
Over the next few months we will begin to see contactless card payment technology rolled out across The London Underground service, as well as on trams, London Overground and Docklands Light Railway. The new system will be similar to that which is used for Oyster cards, with a capped daily limit and identical ticket gate card readers.
One benefit of the new system is that you will no longer be required to top-up, instead you can simply touch and go. This can be ideal for those in a rush or without any spare change to hand, but Oyster cards will remain fully functional for those with no interest in the new system.
2014 is set to be an eventful year for The London Underground, with all of these changes in the pipeline. Do you think they are all necessarily good ideas? In particular, how do you feel about the switch from manned ticket offices to platform staff?