Sunday 25 September 2016

Night Tube delay fails to ground Tooting the toy owl

Published 17/04/2016 | 14:46

Tooting Bec the night Tube mascot (TfL/PA)
Tooting Bec the night Tube mascot (TfL/PA)

Hundreds of stuffed owl toys have been produced and sold to celebrate the extension of London's night Tube - despite the service having no start date.

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Tooting the Night Tube Owl began appearing on signs at London Underground stations shortly before last September's scheduled extension of running hours, in an attempt to direct people to the new services.

Transport for London (TfL) also ordered more than 2,000 Tooting cuddly toys to mark the occasion.

Sales of the £9.99 owl increased in the weeks after the all-night Tube was delayed, with the toy's description on the London Transport Museum website stating: "Are you a night owl?

"Meet Tooting, our night owl, a character created to celebrate the extension of the tube running hours at the weekends - coming soon! What a hoot!"

A long-running dispute over pay and conditions between drivers and TfL l ed to several strikes and pushed back the introduction of the service.

Recent agreements with unions led London mayor Boris Johnson to state he believes night services will begin in July, with TfL noting it is working towards a "summer" start date.

Passengers will be able to travel through the night on Fridays and Saturdays on the Victoria, Jubilee, Central, Northern and Piccadilly lines.

TfL, in response to a freedom of information (FOI) request from the Press Association, said 2,002 owl toys had been produced by the start of 2016.

It sold five last August, 20 in September, 74 in October, 38 in November and 60 in December.

TfL said total toy sales were 297 as of April 15.

There have been suggestions that Tooting is known as Becky internally within TfL.

It confirmed the owl's full name is Tooting Bec, a stop on the Northern line, and is also referred to as Becky.

In response to the FOI request, TfL initially said Tooting was male and Becky female.

It added: "There are two owls, brother and sister, although they are never seen together. They are named Becky and Tooting Bec."

TfL later confirmed there is just one owl.

It also said T ooting the owl was designed by its in-house design team, adding there was no external cost.

A London Transport Museum spokeswoman said: "Tooting the night Tube mascot was designed as a light-hearted celebration of the all-night service and to coincide with London Transport Museum's night shift exhibition.

"A small number of the toys had already been ordered when the time-frame for night Tube negotiations increased, so we chose to still make them available to customers in the London Transport Museum shop.

"Given TfL is focused on delivering the night Tube for London as quickly as possible, it is only right for us to continue selling the mascot."

Press Association

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