Safety concerns about the Night Tube are becoming too big to ignore

A Freedom of Information requests shows TfL expects widespread increases in crime and anti-social behaviour


The Night Tube was meant to be Boris Johnson’s lasting legacy; a popular project introduced a year before he left office, winning him plaudits all round.

In reality however, the Night Tube debacle tidily sums up Boris’ time in office. A nice idea, followed by much hype and self-promotion, but ultimately disappointing results, often due to a complete failure to tackle the difficult details.

Not only has the Night Tube, originally scheduled to start in September 2015, still not begun; yesterday we learnt the scale of Transport for London (TfL)’s concerns about the project.

TfL’s risk analysis of the Night Tube project, obtained by The Times newspaper after a Freedom of Information request, shows TfL expects widespread increases in crime, anti-social behaviour, noise complaints and illegal taxi touting.

The 18-page document reveals that increases in ‘theft, robbery and sexual offences’ were very likely, given a rating of four-out-of-five. The report also warned that ‘offenders [could] target victims made vulnerable by alcohol’. Overall crime is expected to increase, with a five-out-of-five likelihood, resulting in ‘high crime levels’ and a ‘rowdy environment.’

Many of these concerns are nothing new. We have warned for months that the danger of increases in crime need to be taken more seriously. Now it appears TfL’s own risk assessment agrees with us.

Last year for example, internal TfL documents revealed that assaults against members of staff at tube stations had jumped 44 per cent. Despite this fact, the mayor pushed on with plans to axe almost 900 staff from tube stations, leaving fewer protections for the people we expect to run the network. Indeed on the Night Tube, some stations will be left staffed by a single person during night-time services.

It’s hard to imagine how a single member of staff, at a station far out on the central line, will effectively be able to challenge alcohol fuelled anti-social behaviour in the station at 3am.

When challenged the mayor has been defiant or just plain uninformed. Last year, when questioned by my colleague Joanne McCartney about the potential for increased crime and the police’s readiness to respond, he simply said ‘so far they have not highlighted any risks of the policy, but I take very seriously the point that you make about increasing assaults’.

With TfL rating the risk of increases in robbery and sexual crime as four-out-of-five, even when proposals to increase police officer numbers are taken into account, its only sensible to ask if the current policing arrangements for the Night Tube need reviewing.

The problem with estimates like this is that they hide the human impact of the crimes they are tallying. Of course there will always be challenges with a scheme like this, but what worries me most is the fact that the mayor’s rush to bring in the Night Tube seems to have meant turning a lazy eye to the details. It’s meant that he has failed to properly address the dangers and consider how we can best prevent or minimise them.

The Night Tube will be a wonderful development for London; it’s just got to be done right, and safely. Given the delays to the project, the mayor should have been taking the time to address each of these concerns properly, but there is little evidence of this.

The dispute with tube staff should have taught Boris Johnson what happens when you prematurely push ahead with policies without any thought for the consequences. In this case he caused uproar amongst staff after effectively trying to tear up their contracts and impose weekend working and incredibly anti-social hours.

Although we’ve now worked our way back from those proposals, it’s meant months of delay and anguish for all involved.

With a deal still far from guaranteed, it’s time for the mayor to buck his trend and get to grips with the detail of this policy before the Night Tube is once again derailed by a lack of forward planning.

Val Shawcross AM is the London Assembly Labour Transport spokesperson. Follow her on Twitter

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