Last night saw the annual dinner for London Government, hosted by the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House. Boris was the main speaker and he treated the star studded audience to an entertaining and informative progress report. Gone are the days when Ken used to turn up and drone his way through an economics lecture prepared by his staff - Boris appears far more relaxed in this environment.
In amongst the anecdotes and plugs for the City, his comments on London Underground caught my attention:
When the Jubilee works are complete there will be three lines in London, the Jubilee, Victoria and Central which will operate on an automated system and it is a fact - though not a widely known fact - that as we speak most of the Jubilee Line currently operates under automatic train operation, from Stratford to Neasden.
In other words the driving of the train is done by computer rather than manually. Of course there will still need to be someone aboard the train, just as every DLR train is staffed but thanks to the advanced signalling being installed it is also a fact that anyone in this room could in a matter of weeks acquire the qualifications necessary to supervise an underground train and the huge potential implications of that change will be obvious to everyone.
So I say to our colleagues in the trade union leadership that I respect and understand the vital role of unions in a free society to secure the best terms and conditions for their members but I hope they will recognise that the patience of Londoners is not endless and that they should abandon the recent pattern of pointless strikes and work with us to use this settlement to improve the Tube, to modernise the service and the best way to achieve a happy and contented workforce on the Tube is not just to have excellent pay and conditions but above all the satisfaction of providing an ever better service and that is what we are going to achieve with 33 per cent increase in capacity.
Last year my colleague Dick Tracey presented a report which concluded that London could introduce driverless trains in much the same way that other cities around the world have. The Mayor's team were not exactly supportive of the idea, but we plugged away, seeking to persuade them. Far more effective than our efforts has been the behaviour of the Tube unions. TfL know what to expect from the RMT under Bob Crow and prepared to grit their teeth and run the best service possible in difficult circumstances, but I think it was ASLEF's Boxing Day strike and their threat to disrupt the Royal Wedding that finally convinced Boris to look again at the proposals. Londoners are sick of the disruption and they will welcome the Mayor's words.