The London Underground has one billion passengers every year. It’s hellishly busy and at rush hour it peaks at a crush of festival proportions. After just two stops, you know the people immediately next to you more intimately than you know most of your friends. Still, it’s one of the loneliest places in the world.

It’s just not friendly. We never hear niceties like “Your pits smell much fruitier than the bloke on the Victoria line, lovely” exchanged between passengers. People don’t know you and they don’t want to know you. This isn’t something which goes unnoticed by the staff who man the stations 20 hours a day.

It wasn’t the angry voice you might expect from people who are abused, sometimes violently from members of the public…

Confessions from the Underground which was shown on Channel 4 on Thursday gave a voice to the 19,000 employees of the underground system. It wasn’t the angry voice you might expect from people who are abused, sometimes violently from members of the public, who are pressured to lie to the public in service announcements and who have to work in stations which are drastically understaffed.

42 million more journeys were made in 2010 than in 2009, but TfL continues to cut staff. Clever editing between statements from them and reports from staff showed up their inability to accept any wrongdoing. Of course, this is because they can’t see they’re doing anything wrong because they spend their days sat on their thrones in their multi-million pound office quarters not really giving a shit.

It can’t be nice having to pick bodies off the tracks and store them in cupboards until the coroner arrives.

You can’t help but feel sorry for the workers. It can’t be nice having to pick bodies off the tracks and store them in cupboards until the coroner arrives. Or dragging a child to their death because of a cagoule getting stuck in the doors? Horrible. “I find the underground more frightening than the army because you’ve got nothing to defend yourself with” says one worker, while another says “I think we’re just running on good luck”.

As violent incidents are up by 20%, threats to staff up by 44%, and line repairs being held back for long periods of time, it looks like we’re going to need a lot of good luck for the Olympics.

Image courtesy of Chang’r

 

 

 

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