Mayor of London Boris Johnson has put forward a pledge to have driverless trains running on most of the key routes on the London Underground by the end of the decade. He said that some lines would be automated over the coming two years, with others added by 2018.

The announcement is unlikely to impress drivers’ unions who have initiated a number of strikes in recent years causing travel chaos for millions. Mr Johnson said that even though he did not relish confrontation, he believed he was the person to fight for a change.

At the moment there are driverless trains operating on the Jubilee, Central and Victoria lines although they do still have drivers present in the cabs. The Docklands Light Railway is already fully automated. Mr Johnson said he would like to see trains on the Northern Line without drivers by 2014, with the Hammersmith and City, Circle and Metropolitan lines fully automated by 2018.

Mr Johnson said that revenues from the automated DLR far exceeded the costs involved with running it. He added that those revenues were now available for investment in newer systems.

The RMT has described trains which do not have drivers as unworkable and potentially lethal. Aslef has also said that it will do everything in its power to fight moves to take jobs away from train drivers.