Labour Research July 2016


Hold on tight

London Transport and the trade unions

Martin Eady, Capital Transport Publishing Ltd (, hardback, £19.95

Private companies, municipal operators and central government have all, at one time or another, had charge of London’s public transport system. Conditions on the underground trains, buses and trams evolved separately. But consistent throughout that history has been union organisation — often backed by militant action — to advance pay and working conditions. 

As a former train technician on London Underground Ltd (LUL), and a national executive member of the RMT rail union, Eady documents those times in great detail, from the opening of the Metropolitan Railway in 1863, to wartime equal pay strikes, and the Public Private Partnership under the last Labour government. 

He saw at first hand how PPP marketisation went to absurd lengths. Infrastructure staff, told not to become friendly with LUL staff (despite working closely with them), quickly became the butt of passenger complaints. Strikes once more became a weapon to defend pay and conditions under PPP, as they were from the earliest days of London’s transport system. 

Privatisation and division could not be stopped, but the RMT kept its members together and, in time, the private operators (Metronet and Tubelines) were effectively re-nationalised.