Driverless trains would have meant no 'brave Tube drivers' during 7/7 attacks, says Mayor

8 July 2020, 08:16

File photo: A Piccadilly Line train at London Kings Cross St Pancras Tube station
A Piccadilly Line train at London Kings Cross St Pancras Tube station. Picture: PA

By Megan White

The Mayor of London has said that if the capital had driverless trains, "brave Tube drivers" would not have been present to guide people to safety after the 7/7 bombings.

Sadiq Khan’s comments, on the 15th anniversary of the terror attacks, came after the Prime Minister said driverless trains should be a condition of a future bailout of Transport for London (TfL).

Speaking on Tuesday, the mayor argued that Boris Johnson would have to address safety concerns and spend "a huge amount of money" to make changes to tracks, trains and signalling.

He said: "Boris Johnson should know from his experience as mayor that to have driverless trains in London over and above the Docklands light railway that we've got would take billions and billions of pounds because we've got to change the signalling, we've got to change the tracks, we've got to change the trains for them to be driverless but also there is a real safety issue here in relation to most of our Tubes are deep Tube trains."

Referring to the 7/7 attacks, Mr Khan added: "Actually what we saw on that day was brave Tube drivers walking out passengers on the deep tube lines in many of those lines.

Sadiq Khan lays a wreath at the 7/7 memorial on Tuesday
Sadiq Khan lays a wreath at the 7/7 memorial on Tuesday. Picture: PA

"If these trains were driverless that wouldn't have been possible."

Mr Khan added: "Before we get to trade unions, there are big issues that the Prime Minister needs to address if he is serious about driverless trains and I think the reality is it's not possible unless the Government spends a huge amount of money, and bearing in mind the money involved, but also the safety concerns, and begs the question what would be the point?"

The mayor's comments come after he joined in tributes being paid to the 52 innocent people who died in the 7/7 bombings at a memorial in Hyde Park on Tuesday morning.

The Government gave TfL a £1.6 billion package to continue running services after a collapse in revenue in May due to the coronavirus lockdown, but that funding will run out in September.

On a visit to the site of a future Siemens rail manufacturing facility in the East Riding of Yorkshire on Monday, Mr Johnson said: "You can run these trains without the need for somebody to be sitting in the driver's cab the whole time.

"So what I will be saying to the London transport authority is let's take advantage of this technological leap forward, let's not be the prisoners of the unions any more, let's go to driverless trains, and let's make that a condition of the funding settlement for Transport for London this autumn.

"That's the way forward for this country and we want to make use of the fantastic technology we've got and provide a better service for people in the capital and take the whole economy forward."