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Tube delays are hitting London's productivity

18 April 2001 - According to a 'snapshot survey' by the Industrial Society, almost 9 in 10 managers in the capital feel that the performance of the London Underground has a negative or very negative impact on their workplace.

50% complain of reduced productivity because of late running, disrupted and cancelled services. 83% say that employees are arriving late for work more frequently, and 44% say that there is less time to complete vital tasks. Other consequences highlighted by survey respondents include:

- increased staff absenteeism (41%)
- increased problems with recruitment (11%)
- retention of staff (15%)
- directly reduced income and profit (9%)
- worsening customer service (31%)
- overall rise in staff stress levels (81%).

These problems are eroding reputation London's standing as a modern business capital. As one manager commented, "London as a financial and commercial centre is in serious danger of decreased productivity and effectiveness due to the impact of the service from the Underground. The city will not be taken seriously enough if the current abysmal service continues. It is no coincidence that morale amongst London's office workers is decreasing and stress levels are rising."

The survey of over 200 managers shows how firms have responded to the tube crisis. Around 71 % said there has been more demand to work from home, with a further 65% citing an increased demand for working flexible hours. More employees are commuting in their cars (29%) - adding to traffic congestion - and there is an teleconferencing and on-line meetings (28%).

Stress levels are soaring. As one respondent comments, "Staff are leaving home earlier in the morning but arriving home later at night - this cuts into their leisure time. They return to work unrested and stressed."

Another says, "Staff who have to work with childcare are under great pressure as they cannot come to work very early and have to return at a certain time. Often the tube is fine very early and deteriorates. Parents are then late for work, but still have to leave at a specific time due to childcare."

Theo Blackwell, policy specialist and transport analyst at the Industrial Society, says, "Clearly London's firms and other organisations feel they are being hit hard by the current level of service on the Tube. Currently it reduces productivity and increases the burdens on managers planning their time and their staff."

He continues, "Managers' concern over reliability adds tangible burdens on organisations' in terms of managing the consequences of staff of all levels arriving late or being absent. It affects staff morale by impinging on their work-life balance, particularly so with parents. It also undermines stress management and general well-being in the workplace."

"In the absence of a settlement on the future financing of the Underground and extra investment in the network, government should recognise and assist employers and managers to deal with the added burdens placed upon them."


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