Tuesday, 26 July 2016

WTT69 is due to be introduced on the Central Line from Sunday 7th August to allow a test run of Night Tube services on Friday 11th and Saturday 12th with services to commence on Friday 18th.  Last week we were told that the new rosters had finally been agreed and that Night Tube was good to go but it seems that not everyone is happy.

Central Line General Manager Chris Taggart thinks there are too many DMIs (Duty Manager’s Instructions) where TOps become “spare” at the end of their shift although as I mentioned earlier the Duty Manager’s instruction is normally “sod off home”.  What makes this slightly bizarre is that the agreement was signed off by managers further up the chain than Taggart so effectively he’s arguing with his bosses.  There’s going to be yet another meeting over this and we should know what’s going on later this week.

Despite all that it seems that things on the Central Line are positively rosy compared to the Victoria Line where once again DMIs seem to be an issue although in this case it’s not management but the unions who are arguing against them.  I am told that at Brixton there is a local agreement that TOps work a maximum of five “rounders” – Brixton to Walthamstow Central and back – on a duty but some duties on the new roster have five rounders with a DMI on the end which means they could be asked to do a sixth rounder.

The situation has got so bad that RMT are balloting for strike action while I’m informed that the local ASLEF reps at Brixton and Seven Sisters have resigned en masse because they don’t feel they are getting enough support for the Functional Reps.  One suggestion is that this could go to ACAS with a six week “cooling off” period but that would mean Night Tube on the Victoria Line being delayed until September and whether they’d go ahead with Night Tube on just the Central Line is questionable.

If I've got any of the facts wrong please feel free to correct me, I'm simply reporting what I've heard around the depots (and I only got back off Annual Leave yesterday).

Alfred Hitchfox is doing well, I saw him picking through a box of KFC yesterday

Thursday, 14 July 2016


I’ve checked WTT69 and it seems that a lot of the depot/sidings moves I mentioned yesterday are actually stabling trains before our “normal” finish time but there will be 26 depot/siding moves between our “normal” last and first trains on a Friday night/Saturday morning; five starts, five finishes at HAI, four of each at WHC and LOU.  LOU and HAI are right in the middle of housing estates so I suspect the number of complaints to TfL from residents there, along the Open Sections of the Central Line and next to Northumberland Park depot on the Victoria will significantly rise after the second weekend in August.

I met Alfred Hitchfox in the staff car park yesterday as I was going home after work, I'm informed not only does he have a taste for pigeons but he's also doing his bit to reduce the local rat population and seems to enjoy digging up the flowerbeds of the Train Crew garden.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

I was given my copy of Working Timetable 69 a few days ago with orange pages for Fridays added to the white (weekday), green (Saturdays) and yellow (Sunday).  The proposed rosters are still under negotiation, management and our union reps have been discussing them for several weeks with the main bone of contention the distribution of "dead late" and “middle” turns.   Previously HAI and LOU had more dead lates than middles while LES had more middles than dead lates but when the first draft of the rosters came out it had switched around so some people are less than pleased (apart from me, I love later starts).

Since then there’s been a bit of swapping and as well as disagreement with management there’s also been disagreement between union reps, not RMT vs ASLEF but the reps of both unions from one depot arguing with the reps from another!  I think we’re up to version three now and it does seem as if things are slowly taking shape although one rather bizarre detail is still there. Up until now WER duties were numbered 200-something, WHC 300, LES 400, HAI 600 with the W&C duties 700.  For some reason the suits have decided to change this after all these years, in the new rosters WER are 900, LES are 600 and HAI 400.  I’ve no idea what WHC and LOU or why they’ve decided to do this but it seem rather an odd thing to do.

Even odder are the actual Night Tube duties that the part timers will be doing, for starters all duties are eight hours long although most of them aren’t driving up until the end of their shift, getting relieved a good while before their finish time but at least it will be unlikely they'll be claiming for overtime if there's a sigal failure.  One of the strangest duties drives a train for 2 hours 50 minutes, stables at LOU, brings a train out of WHC sidings 3 hours 10 minutes later and finishes at LES after 1 hour 42 minutes with 47 minutes left before their official booking off time.

Rather than trains running through the night it seems that trains will be taken out of service at regular intervals throughout the night which I assume is so the train maintainers can do their stuff.  There are fifteen night turns on Friday at LES and in those fifteen duties there are 28 instances where the train either goes in or out of a siding or depot.  So rather than drunks sleeping from one end of the line to the other until they eventually wake up they will have to be roused and persuaded to leave the trains before they can be stabled which from my many years of doing last trains I imagine will lead to a degree of aggravation. 

It’s also going to be very annoying for the residents of LOU, WOO and HAI as the trains have to sound their whistles when going in or out of a depot or siding as a safety measure to alert the staff working there.  I've no doubt this all looks pretty easy and problem free when you’re sat in an office somewhere but I suspect not only will there be tears before bedtime there will also be tears during and after.

On a somewhat happier note LES has a new attraction, if you’re coming out the Grove Green Road exit in the evening keep an eye out for the fox that appears to have taken up residence in the car park.  It’s perfectly relaxed with people, as long as you don’t threaten it then it will let you get quite close and just carry on sitting around or wandering about sniffing things.  Its not quite so tolerant of the local pigeon population from the occasional stray wing I've seen lying around but with its obvious taste for death and destruction I think we should name it in honour of the area’s other famous resident 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Alfred Hitchfox

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Yesterday for an hour and 40 minutes there was no service between MAA and LES due to a "one under" at LEY.  Had this happened last year we could have reversed at LIS or HOL but as mentioned last month Museum siding at HOL has been removed and currently LIS sidings are being used for storage.  Reversing over the crossovers at LIS and BEG would mean using one platform for arrivals and departures which would lead to serious overcrowding so instead the main central 16km/10 mile stretch of Central Line serving a dozen stations was shut down.  This is progress?

By the time I started work we were running again but obviously everything was late which was further exacerbated by a signal problem at WHC.  Things were still running late when I finished 7 hours 20 minutes later with all WB trains running to WER and a shuttle service running NOA to EAB plus no outer rail service on the HAI loop.  Strangely the platforms were more crowded around 20:00 than they were at 17:00 and my last EB trip wasn't helped by the train repeatedly changing the destination describer from EPP to WER or occasionally sounding the chimes to warn that the doors were closing after they'd started to close.  Not a happy train.....

We had conformation of the TOp reductions for Night Tube, LES will lose 5, HAI 14 and WHC 6.  As I mentioned this is not because the rosters were expanded for Night Tube last year and are now being reduced, this is from the full time TOps we had under WTT 67.  I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens next.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

When I joined LU nearly 20 years ago as a humble Station Assistant last trains meant that one of us would go down on the platform while another waited at the ticket barriers to call down over the radio if any last minute passengers were on their way.  When everybody was on board the bod on the platform would give a signal to the TOp that it was okay to proceed.  In April we received a new issue of Rule Books and one little amendment seems to have been overlooked. In the last issue of Rule Book 8 "Managing the platform train interface" under Section 3.6 "Last Trains" station staffs’ responsibilities were listed as....
"When the last train to a destination is departing you must:
  • hold the train as necessary to maintain connections
  • the announcements to tell customers this is the last train
  • dispatch the train using the appropriate dispatch sign.” 
The first line has now been amended to read "For the last train booked for connection to a destination you must"
The booked connections are listed on page 5 of Working Timetable 67, they are the last EPP and HAI at LES, the last WB and EB trains at MIE to connect with the last District Line trains and the last WER and EAB trains at WHC.  Anywhere else the TOp is no longer required to wait for station staff to show up, this seems to have caught out a few people including so I'm told the controllers at Wood Lane and when I got back from annual leave a few weeks ago notices had gone up pointing out the rule change.  No doubt this is another result of FFTF, it just gets better and better……..

Monday, 6 June 2016

Yesterday at 11:14 the Victoria Line Twitter feed announced that King’s Cross had been evacuated and closed due to “staff below minimum numbers” although at 11:35 it was announced that it had re-opened.  I’m pretty certain that King’s Cross has the largest staff of any station on the Tube, according to the Fit for Future station by station review for the Metropolitan Line it now has 7 CSM1s, 14 CSS1, 91 full time and 7 part time CSAs although some of them are the new “customer facing” CSA2 grade.
On a Sunday the minimum staffing level is 11 rising to 15 between 11:00 and 20:00 but on this particular Sunday there was no Circle Line due to engineering work with the Met and the H&C reversing at KX so for that 20 minutes it must have been pretty hectic at Euston Square or wherever they decided to tip out the trains.  My guess is that one or two members of staff who should have been there at 11am were delayed, possibly because like the District Line TOp I had in my cab on Saturday they forgot there was engineering work and their usual route to work was unavailable.  I guess it isn’t just the passengers who don’t check engineering work notices!
On Night Tube it seems the general opinion is to wait and see what happens.  One thing I neglected to mention about the TOps being displaced is that neither WHC or LES were getting any extra TOps for Night Tube.  Had the original plan gone ahead both depots would have had the same number as under WTT67 so these are not extra TOps who were added for Night Tube, under the current proposals both WHC and LES will have fewer TOps
Please feel free to correct me if I've got anything wrong, I usually do.........

Monday, 30 May 2016

And just when we thought everything about Night Tube was settled it seems that management can't leave anything alone.  The week before last I heard that when the new timetable is introduced along with the introduction of 37 part time TOps working Friday and Saturday nights the number of full time TOps will be reduced,  I've now learnt that there will be 8 less places at LES, 10 at WHC and 15 at HAI with the WHC TOps said to be going to Queen's Park while the ones from the east end of the line will find themselves at Earl's Court on the District Line.  What makes things even more unpalatable is that the number of TOps at LOU has been expanded, I'm informed they've had 25 brand new TOps join over the past year and I believe that WER has also had some fresh arrivals.

Management will give a annual bonus (I believe the figure is £6k) to the displaced TOps but as with Night Tube they don't seem to realise that money isn't everything.  One of the LES TOps who will be forced to move only got here from WHC recently and understandably she is less than happy, had she stayed at WHC she'd have been better off.  This issue will be raised at branch meetings over the next few weeks but even among those of us senior enough not to be effected the overwhelming attitude seems to be that this is grievously unfair and we are prepared to take strike action if necessary.

Maybe management could try asking for volunteers rather than imposing displacement, maybe there are some TOps who would take £6k for a move but speaking for myself its not worth having to get a staff taxi back across London after a dead late.