London Underground staff are being issued with new red vests to be worn in stations from next week, so that they are more visible to passengers.
The red tabards are reversible, pairing the standard orange high visibility vest with a red vest featuring a ‘Here to Help’ message on the back.
The vests have been purchased following recommendations from London TravelWatch on how London Underground could improve customer service now that the ticket offices are closed in most stations.
Although the closure of the ticket office usually means the staff are standing in the public areas, such as the ticket hall and platforms, there were concerns that they weren’t that easy to spot in the station since the single obvious contact point of the ticket office had been removed.
Janet Cooke, Chief Executive of London TravelWatch, commented: “We know that the London Underground staff provide an excellent service to passengers but they can’t always find them easily if they need assistance. These new bright red vests will help staff stand out from the crowd and provide passengers with the help and reassurance that they need when travelling around London.”
Staff will have the red side visible for customer service duties in ticket halls and around gatelines, while the orange side will be visible when dispatching trains, assisting on platforms and in emergencies.
For their part, the RMT is unhappy — calling them a “pathetic and detrimental approach by the company to enhance visibility”. The RMT argues that the red vests are only being rolled out due to the “intentional lack of staff on our stations due to cost cutting exercises”.
They also argue that the vests make staff easier to spot — which is the point of them — but as targets for anti-social behaviour, which is not such a good outcome.
The RMT is also worried that the vests cause “overheating of staff”.
They are now in the process of staging a ballot for industrial action short of a strike, which would likely mean a refusal by RMT members to wear the tabard.
The red vests should be visible from next week.