Profile: Andrew Jones, London Underground

Andrew Jones possesses a gentle yet assertive manner and an air of authority. He politely refuses to be seated for his photos because he does not want to be pictured in ‘that particular pose’.

He is understated: there are no overenthusiastic handshakes, cheesy grins or banter.

The Liverpudlian's daily commute from Hastings to London Underground's headquarters at St James's Park means he is a regular District Line user. 'I've never been on a Tube train that has broken down but I have been on ones that were delayed,' he
asserts. 'I wouldn't pretend Tube trains never get delayed.'

However, the network's comms priorities cover more than performance measurements. A co-ordinated strike threatens havoc for millions of the capital's workers next month after talks with unions Aslef and RMT collapsed. With 'employee communications' making up part of Jones's brief, these are testing times.

Following on from the New Year's Eve strikes, the upcoming protests
surround proposed policies on staff harassment, attendance and health and safety. 'I don't think the unions get public sympathy but they do get a good hearing in the media,' points  out Jones, who claims he spends a lot of time correcting London journalists during times of industrial action. 'It's never a dull job,' he asserts.

London Underground insists it has a strategy for curbing strike action, with senior managers currently negotiating a longer pay deal with the unions that represent their 12,500 staff. But the relationship between bosses and unions is inevitably one of immense frustration.

'Calling a ballot is simply part of their negotiation strategy,' responds Jones.

On top of potential strikes, passenger safety and the terrorist threat are high on Jones's agenda. He declines to discuss the likelihood of another attack, but talks about the increased security measures in place, such as the additional CCTV cameras that are being installed.

While passenger numbers initially dropped after the 7 July bombings, they quickly returned to normal. Yet there remains the challenge to communicate the network's improved security, says Jones. The London Underground is planning up to four safety awareness campaigns by the end of the year, via its recently appointed roster of PR agencies, which comprises Consolidated Communications, Cohn & Wolfe and The Idea Generation (PRWeek, 13 January).

The slower pace of decision making at  senior level in the public sector is difficult to get used to, says Jones, who until two years ago was director of corporate affairs at Camelot. And his sharp pinstripe suit is certainly more Square Mile than public sector.

During Jones's time with the lottery operator he oversaw comms when the National Lottery Commission initially rejected its bid for licence renewal in 2000. Camelot successfully appealed against the decision – an achievement that he counts as one of the most satisfying of his career.

However, Jones, whose father-in-law Martin Jackson is a former Daily Mail show business editor, did not originally intend to go into public relations. After getting married he lived with his in-laws at first, and would come home to hear lectures on the ethics of journalism and how PR was ruining the industry.

The son of two teachers, Jones turned his hand to teaching after university, taking a position at an all-girls' school. But it did not last long.

'I've only just finished the therapy,' he quips, explaining that teacher training does not necessarily equate to having a passion for the subject.

The 43-year-old, who was something of a bon viveur before he married and "settled down", is well known for his love of good food and drink. And a glimpse of humour and warmth shines through his general reticence.

But although Jones might describe himself as easy-going, the London media are likely to confront a stern communicator when reporting any future industrial action.

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