Tube bosses promise to help Jewish community

By Robyn Rosen, March 4, 2010

Public buses for Jewish schools and better job possibilities for the Orthodox on the capital's transport system are to be considered by Transport for London after a meeting with rabbonim and other leading figures.

TfL organised the Hendon meeting to improve communication with the Jewish community and discuss commuting concerns, also including antisemitism on buses and calls for improved services between major Jewish areas.

A direct bus link between Stamford Hill and Golders Green was all but ruled out after TfL commissioner Peter Hendy said there were too many complications.

The London Jewish Forum and the Agudas Israel Housing Association are among organisations which have pushed for an extension of the 210 bus route beyond Finsbury Park.

"We do have some issues with it," Mr Hendy said. "We have now put double decker buses on the 210 route. Having done that, it makes the extension of the route less likely because of the railway bridges. There's no point promising something you can't deliver."

Mr Hendy promised to consider a request from Rabbi Leivi Sudak of Edgware Lubavitch for school buses for the Jewish market.

"There are 80 dedicated school buses across London," he reported. "I'm not sure if any are from the faith schools. Maybe there is something we could do."

The commissioner was also pressed on the lack of employment opportunities at TfL for Orthodox Jews because of its shift system. "The question about employment and those that can't work on Sabbath is one I should take away," he said. "We aim to employ from all of the London community.

"It's not easy when there is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation. We have made some progress. Thirty years ago there were all sorts of parts of the community discriminated against. We're a bit better than that now."

Rabbi Sudak further called for TfL support for relaxing parking restrictions on Shabbat and Yomtov.

"There should be a grace which would allow people to park for free before Shabbas comes in. In Hendon, parking is free after 5pm but for some of the year this is too late. If Rosh Hashanah is on weekdays, this is also difficult."

Jeroen Weimar, chief operating officer of enforcement and compliance, said he would "get that discussion going".

Well trained in Scheduling

Avram Ryan, 48, believes he is the only Orthodox Jewish tube driver in London.

Tube drivers work on a shift system and are required to work 10 days over a 14-day period.
Mr Ryan — a driver for 25 years on the Jubilee Line — said that in practice, it was hard to arrange a schedule around Shabbat as it required finding colleagues to swap shifts with.

“You have to find someone to cover for you, which is really difficult because everyone wants to take Friday nights and Saturdays off.

“If you mentioned in your interview for the job that you refuse to work on Saturdays, it wouldn’t go down well. I don’t know any other observant Jewish drivers.”

Mr Ryan said he had become more religious after a few years in the job. “Once you have the foot in the door, it’s easier to change shifts.

“But I couldn’t get promoted to a duty manager role because I can’t work Saturdays and they are needed to.”
A TfL spokesman said: “London Underground does everything they can to accommodate employees with special circumstances.

“Drivers are able to put in a request to change hours with a colleague if they require certain time periods off. However, this is subject to maintaining a service that runs seven days a week, 20 hours a day.”

Last updated: 4:03pm, March 4 2010