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Just How Safe Is the London Night Tube?

Category: Health & Safety | Bryan Richards Twitter | Published on: Oct 5, 2016 | Updated: Dec 12, 2016 Read more: Health & Safety

Almost three years since the planning of the night tube began, five lines are now going into 24-hour service on Fridays and Saturdays. The Central, Victorian, Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines will soon be available all night. It is certainly a fantastic addition to the city and will be massively beneficial for Londoners and tourists alike.

But with an estimated 200,000 people set to be travelling during the late hours of Friday and Saturday, this does bring some concern for the safety of passengers, some of whom may be travelling alone or who may be more vulnerable at these times. Will tube accidents and crimes rise as a consequence of the new underground timetable?

So far, things have gone fairly smoothly for TFL, with only 20 recorded incidents since the night tube service began. It is estimated to bring in an additional £360 million, plus a further 2,000 jobs for TFL.

A comparison with the Berlin night tube

Although it is a first for London and the UK, Berlin is famed for having a 24-hour underground rail service, which first opened in 2003. After a mostly successful bedding in process, the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) saw a spike in offences against members of staff. This included anything from foul language and spitting to physical offences that resulted in an inability to work.

In 2012, there were a record high 1,044 offences made, which gradually decreased to 628 in 2015.

staff crime incidents

It was not only staff who were the victims of crime during the later hours. BVG customers were concerned with several issues whilst travelling late. Threatening people, dark stations, empty carriages and intrusions into personal space were the main reasons for passenger concern.

passanger concerns

Despite precautions, crime and safety on public transport can never be guaranteed. However, as these problems were realised, along with what the public was most worried about, BVG went about setting up more precautionary methods to help prevent any issues.

They were quick to rectify any growing concerns after a public survey found 23% of passengers were in favour of more safety features. There was an increase in video equipment and emergency call points, with 557 help points set up across 173 subway stations.

incidents on the BVG 2015

The TFL have also gone about setting precautions ahead of the night tube, both against accidents and crimes. £3.4 million has been put forward to bolster policing of all five lines during the night, with 100 officers out across the network (the same volume as there are during the day).

Underground stations also have access to a state-of-the-art BTP control centre which operates a 14-hour service, which should help give a rapid response to any incidents.

What do TFL workers think?

Generally, there has been a feeling of positivity throughout the TFL with tube conductors both excited and nervous over the full arrival of the night tube.

Satir, who has first-hand experience with the night tube from working on the Central line, said “It’s going to be great for London, but I can see there being issues, possibly with drunk people. Because it runs so late, it opens up the opportunity for things to happen.”

Inga, a conductor who works at London Bridge station monitoring the Jubilee line, also said, “It will be great for the City, there is so much potential. In terms of safety, I doubt there will be many problems, just lots of drunk people I imagine.”

Legislation

Under UK health and safety legislation, TFL has a duty, so far as is reasonably practicable, to provide a safe working environment for its staff and to ensure that its operations do not affect the health and safety of members of the public using the Night Tube. This is done by assessing the potential risks to the safety and health of its staff and the public when using the night service.

In the planning stage, risks would have to be foreseen by TFL based on its own experience and the experience of operators such as the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe. Of course, it is not possible to foresee all risks (see Arinite Blog of April 2012) and the risk assessment will need to be an ongoing process depending on feedback from accidents and incidents.

However, there are inherent safety and health risks which cannot be eliminated. For example, passengers falling or being pushed on to the line. The relatively new Jubilee line recognised this potential hazard by installing an extra platform barrier, eliminating the risk.

For other lines, the risk remains and if there are more people under the influence of alcohol using the night tube, could such risks increase? We will have to see and TFL will no doubt learn and improve once the night tube becomes operational.

 
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