Tuesday, 23 August 2016


Two more jolly tales of Night Tube, the first concerns the much publicised simulation of vomit with vegetable soup during the test run on the weekend before Night Tube started.  Allegedly the staff given the task of applying the “vomit” were instructed to distribute it as widely as possible and they accomplished their task with such enthusiasm that the next morning we had to cancel a few trains as they were still being cleaned when they were supposed to enter service.

As the first night was undoubtedly a big event there were plenty of press and media in attendance along with more managers than you could possibly need.  One film crew was allowed to accompany one of our more photogenic new TOps as they worked their shift, filming events as they unfolded.  As the new TOp finished their shift at LES they closed down the train, removed their RKL220 key, stepped onto the platform and handed over to the relieving early turn TOp, all with the cameras recording every moment.

The relieving TOp pointed out that they’d forgotten to open the doors so the new TOp jumped back in the cab and pressed the open buttons.  The relieving TOp then suggested they might want to put their key back in because the buttons don’t work when a train is closed down.

All with the cameras recording every moment.

Monday, 22 August 2016


And so Night Tube has finally arrived.  The predictions of trains being mobile Sodom and Gomorrahs proved to be unfounded, perhaps deterred by the noticeable presence of the BTP who seemed to be everywhere, desperately roaming the line trying to find a train or station that didn’t already have BTP on it.  While things seem to have gone well from the public perception there have been rumours that things didn’t go quite so well behind the scenes and while I would usually try to verify whether these rumours are accurate I’m going to share them anyway simply because its too tempting not to.

The first thing I heard was that a number of the part time TOps didn’t last long enough to even see the start of Night Tube, the numbers quoted vary but it seems that when finally confronted with the prospect of working Friday and Saturday nights for the foreseeable future it was too much for them.  The plain fact is that we do have a high turnover with staff, for some the reality of working on the Tube isn’t quite as attractive as they imagined it to be, whether it be the shifts or what the job actually entails.

As most staff start out as CSAs this usually isn't a problem but it slightly different if they’ve spent four months training up as a TOp only to decide they don’t want to be a TOp after all.  Even if they’ve been a CSA or some other job that involves shift work they aren’t necessarily going to enjoy being a TOp, when I trained there I was with an SAMF for London Bridge who was also going to WHC, they lasted 6 months after their "sweat day" before they went back to stations because they couldn't stand the isolation of being in the cab on their own.

Another rumour was that there was a signal failure at LOU at some point which as I mentioned has trains moving in and out of the sidings throughout the night, something I’m told has already been the subject of complaints from the residents in the vicinity.  Also at LOU one of the new TOps supposedly managed to SPAD the signal on the middle platform coming out of the depot, not easy as the signal is a long way past the stopping mark.

However the prize for most interesting rumour must go to the tale of the TOp who went into HAI depot and seems to have got somewhat confused.  From the platforms at HAI there are two ways into the depot, either you go straight in or you go up the wash road, into the sidings behind GRH (known as the North Neck), change ends and then into the depot itself.

Allegedly the new TOp took the train through the wash, up into the North Neck, thought that was where they were to stable it and started walking back to HAI station.  All ended happily but I’m sure somebody will be checking to see which IOp signed off that particular TOp as fully trained on their HAI depot moves.

If any of it happened, of course……..

Friday, 5 August 2016


Recently I suggested that the rise in accidents at the Platform Train Interface was a result of stupid people paying more attention to their smart phones than where they were going but it seems the stupidity level has been given a boost.  Earlier this week “HSE Bulletin 22 in 2016” went up on the notice board to highlight the danger of Pokemon Go on the railways.

No, honestly, this is not a joke.

According to the bulletin “There have been reports of players attending railway stations and level crossings to try and capture the Pokemon characters they believe to be around.  Players are often so absorbed in the screens of their phones that they fail to appreciate their surroundings and the inherent dangers around them or whether access to an area is restricted.”

Got to catch 'em…SPLATT

Sunday, 31 July 2016



Today is the start of the last week of WTT67 as next Sunday we enter the wonderful, wacky world of Night Tube, indeed one of the LES Mafias has already out up duties for the week ending 13th August.  Chris Taggart's objections were overruled on Tuesday and according to the report of the RMT National Executive Committee the Victoria Line “have had their roster issues amended” although I’ve not heard if the amendments meet the approval of the TOps on the Victoria Line.

We are told that LU will be "managing the noise and vibration issue that Night Tube presents to many residents living above or near the Tube".  Apparently the Central Line Track Team have installed "resilient track fastenings" which act like shock absorbers to muffle sounds at "key rail noise locations".  Obviously this will have no effect on the train whistles as they go in and out of LOU, HAI and WHC at regular intervals throughout the night.

Yesterday when I Googled "London Underground" and "news" I was presented with a story about a fight at York Hall in Bethnal Green which ended with a man being fatally stabbed on the forecourt of a BP petrol station.  Most news agencies described the incident as taking place "outside" the Tube station, with the Daily Mail describing “massive puddles of blood”.  It is higly unlikely that any Mail reporter actually went to the scene to verify this as if they had they might have noticed that both York Hall and the BP petrol station are a good 200 yards up Cambridge Heath Road from BEG.  Sadly this is just one example of many over the years where reporters seem eager to link the Tube with any negative story regardless of how tenious that link may be.

On the subject of "inaccurate" journalists I have been told that recently a pair of reporters turned up at an address in East London wishing to "doorstep" a senior union official at his home about an upcoming strike.  When they discovered he wasn't there they proceeded to question the lady who answered the door about her opinion on the subject and when she asked how they'd come to have that address they told her they'd been given it by the union.  This seems highly unlikely as while the lady in question was once in a relationship with the union official they separated more than a decade ago and she moved to that address after the separation so he's never lived there.

Obviously things are harder than they were back in the days when if the newspapers wanted to know something they just hacked your phone......



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


WRONG!!!!

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