In an interview with HuffPost UK, the Mayor of London said that Underground barriers will be shut to prevent people having panic attacks and other problems on crowded platforms.
Several stations are now regularly forced to use ‘crowd management’ control in rush hour, as the Tube struggles to cope with the sheer number of passengers wanting to travel.
Kings Cross/St Pancras was evacuated in March after heavy overcrowding, Tube chiefs have warned commuters to avoid Victoria during busy times and Waterloo station often faces temporary closures because of the safety risk.
The Jubilee Line has seen some of the worst overcrowding, particularly after signal failures, and Canada Water, North Greenwich and Waterloo have all seen queues and rising numbers.
Asked about the dangers of crowd crushing at a time when memories of the Hillsborough disaster had been revived for many, Liverpool fan Khan said that he was acutely aware of the problem on the Underground.
“We can’t have a situation where people don’t feel safe on a platform to get on the Tube, having panic attacks, having palpitations, especially when it’s hot weather,” he said.
“The short term solution is we’ve got to make sure that we close the barriers so there isn’t overcrowding on our Tubes and on our platforms.”
The Mayor said that the major issue was London’s success in attracting more people, and how to plan to cope with the growth in numbers.
“I’m really concerned about safety in London. To give you an idea of the scale of the challenge, our population is currently 8.6m, by 2020 it will be 9 million, by 2030 10 million.
“Growth per se is not a problem, it’s lack of planning for growth that’s a problem.
Roughly speaking, each day there are 1.3m journeys on the Tube. There’s a short term solution, a medium and long term solution.
“So in the short term, we are going to make sure there is safety on the Underground.”
Delays caused by overcrowding have more than doubled since 2013. In 2015, passengers endured 280,355 “lost” hours because of the problem, up from 130,813 two years before, Transport for London’s own figures show.
The Jubilee line has faced serious overcrowding in recent months, partly because of the knock-on effect of London Bridge Thameslink works but also signal problems, with passengers fearing for their safety at peak times.
National rail stations which also have Tube stations are often the most affected by delays to mainline trains or to signal failures.
Waterloo station, Britain’s busiest with 97 million passengers a year, has become a particular safety concern since 2015 with upto 50% increases in commuter numbers at times.
Emergency measures include turning the escalators off to slow down the movement of passengers, but also closing the ticket barriers and Tube entrance hall, with the larger station concourse used to cope with the queues instead.
Khan said the issue needed a more strategic approach.
“In the medium term, we’re going to have more people using other forms of public transport. I’m keen to make it safer and easier for people to cycle across our city, to make it easier to walk.
“But also to see if we can have more buses to alleviate the pressure on our Tubes. Buses are the most popular form of transport in London, 2.3m million journeys a day.”
“Medium to long-term, Crossrail is going to open 2018/2019, that will increase our public transport capacity by 10%, that’s great. But we need Crossrail 2, we need a DLR extension, we need a Bakerloo extension in the south, more crossings in the East. That’s the planning we need for the growth we are going to have.
“I’m going to be the Mayor that makes sure we have a modern and affordable transport system – but it’s got to be safe as well.”
Khan said that he would soon announce changes to the Cycle Hire scheme in London to make it easier to get around the city.
Asked if he used the term ‘Boris Bikes’, he replied: “I’ve got my own bike, so I don’t have to use ‘Sadiq Cycles’. I use the bus and the Tube.
“The cycle hire scheme is great. We’ve got some plans which we will be announcing shortly about we can make it easier to use these bikes. It’s really important to make it safer and easier to use bikes across London."
But the Mayor was scathing about his predecessor’s new Routemaster buses, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, which have been plagued by complaints of overheating and unreliable hybrid-engine batteries.
Khan vowed that he would not commission any more of the buses – which cost more than £300,000 each - and that he would work with other Mayors around the world to instead demand a new generation of electric-powered or hydrogen-powered vehicles.
“We’ve seen more and more vanity projects from the previous Mayor. There is no other city in the world that buys these buses,” he said.
“I’m never going to be ordering any more of these expensive buses.”
“I will use the procurement power I have as Mayor to say to manufacturers 'I want the next generation of buses to be properly hybrid, or electric or hydrogen cell powered'. That will provide value for money - and it would be nice if the windows opened!
“Your customer base is not simply London. Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, Dehli, New York, all these cities will want to buy these electric powered or hydrogen powered buses. Why? Because climate change and air quality are some of the biggest challenges facing our cities. C40 cities [the network of leading global cities] working together to serve our punters.”
In his interview with HuffPost UK, the Mayor also warned Jeremy Corbyn again that he needs to broaden Labour’s message to have a hope of winning the 2020 general election.
Khan said that Labour had to ‘emphathise’ with Tory supporters to get them to “lend” the party their votes.
He also set out his pride at how many people were still congratulating him on his victory, from bus workers to refugees and asylum seekers stopping him in the street for selfies.
Watch the whole interview HERE.