Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Wow. My last post has been read almost 300 times, that's the most this blog has been viewed since I started. Shucks, folks, what can I say, I feel humbled. Thanks.

It's still not as popular as the "balloon animals"

Let's get one thing straight, I'm not a union rep, I don't represent the views of ASLEF or anyone else for that matter, it's just me, yer average TOp on the sunny Red One.

I said a while back I'd talk about driverless trains, so here's my understanding of things.

We all knew that driverless trains were on the way, there had been rumours filtering out from the Bakerloo Line that a rather tactless manager was going around bragging how soon he would no longer have to deal with TOps. Just after the summer RMT had a leaflet out claiming that they’d heard of plans to make the Tube NoPO but then a few months later they produced a copy of a document that had been leaked to them and all hell broke loose.

At first LUL told us that it was just a feasibility study, a low-level exercise to get the managers thinking “outside the box” but then there was an article in the ES where Mike Brown was quoted as saying that driverless trains were in the pipeline and that there would be 120 meetings before March where staff will be told they must accept a whole "new way" of running the network.

This goes under the title of “Fit for London”, the sort of subtle Olympic reference we expect from our imaginative overlords, and is part of his campaign to win our “hearts and minds” though to be honest he’s got a far greater chance of ending up with his head on a pole than gaining any part of our anatomy.

The basic idea seems to be that sometime after 2015 trials will start on the W&C to see if the system actually works. This makes sense, the W&C is the smallest line on the Combine with only five trains, just over a mile long and only two stations, it gets used mostly Mon-Fri and closes on Sunday so you could test run at weekends without much disruption.

The problem is that there is only room for five trains down there, there is no extra space so that will mean reducing the service to four trains during the week. It’s crowded enough in the peak, I hate to think what it will be like with a reduced service.

If everything goes according to plan (the way it did on the Jubilee over the last few years or with the new Viccy Line trains) then the Bakerloo will be the first to go NoPO. This will take a few years and while it is undergoing conversion you will have the old trains running with TOps and the new ones without, on two different signalling systems, not forgetting that London Overground shares the track north of Queen’s Park.

After the Bakerloo will come the Piccadilly then the Central but all that is not expected to be completed until after 2025 and will still leave 80% of the Tube running on ATO with TOps in the cabs. By that time I’ll be looking to hang up my RKL220 key, move to the North Norfolk coast and get myself a Staffy.

Strangely no one seems to have noticed this little article in the Leicester Mercury back in November which claims that the boffins are already hard at work on NoPO up at the Old Dalby Test Track in Nottinghamshire. Glad to read that no badgers were harmed.

One final note, while the new trains will be driverless they will not be unstaffed, a new grade, Train Attendant, will be created and they’ll fulfil the same function as the train staff on the DLR. Obviously as they aren’t train drivers per se it is unlikely they will join ASLEF and are therefore likely to fall into the clutches of RMT, along with the extra staff in the control rooms needed to operate the system and the army of technicians needed to maintain all the new automated equipment.

RMT have always wanted to unite all Tube staff under one union and it seems as if LUL are doing their utmost to help them achieve their ambition.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Let’s start at the very beginning, it’s very good place to start…..”

Before last year on Boxing Day we’d run a reduced service, roughly between a quarter and a third of staff would come in while the rest would have a day’s Annual Leave docked and be given the day off. The duty sheets would be prepared in advance and then the Mafias went to work, sorting out who wanted the day off and who didn’t mind coming in. Everyone was happy because it worked.

Last year LUL announced that due to demand they’d be running a Sunday schedule which would mean that more than double the number of TOps would be required to come in. Obviously we were less than happy with this, complaints were raised at branch meetings and ASLEF took up the issue.

ASLEF’s suggestion was to make working on Boxing Day voluntary and in order to “incentivise” (is that a real word?) the staff they suggested that LUL offer triple pay with an extra day off in lieu. It was an opening bid, open to negotiation but it’s been trolled out many times since then, when the media reported the imaginary Royal Wedding strike they claimed we were asking for that.

LUL replied that any Boxing Day that fell on the weekend was not a Bank Holiday and was a normal working day while any that fell on a weekday were covered by our existing agreement so there was nothing to talk about. ASLEF failed to agree and informed LUL that they’d be balloting us for strike action.

Hardly surprisingly the vote was overwhelmingly in favour, around half the 2200 or so members voted, 1025 for and 127 against, and ASLEF announced a 24 hour strike on Boxing Day. LUL attempted to get it stopped in the courts, the judge threw it out and a meeting at ACAS was arranged.

When it was too late LUL offered to go back to the reduced timetable, a concession of sorts that the full Sunday service had never been needed, but with most of the Admin staff already gone home for Christmas there wasn’t enough time to sort out who’d be working and who wouldn’t.

So the Boxing Day strike went ahead, as there were no picket lines to refuse to cross RMT came in and as they’d planned a Sunday service there were enough trains to deal with demand. And then nothing, despite repeated requests to sit down and discuss the issue LUL refused to talk.

Almost a year to the day after the first meeting LUL finally agreed to discuss the issue. Once again we suggested voluntary “incentivised” working and once again LUL said that things were just fine the way they are. As Boxing Day is on a Monday this year they’ve gone back to the old system with only a quarter of us coming in but we’d like to get things sorted out before 2015, the next time it falls on a Saturday.

Another ballot and as with last year around half the members voted with an almost identical outcome. This time LUL agreed to another meeting before going to the courts but once more there was no agreement and the judge rejected their case. LUL didn’t bother coming up with a last minute offer this time, it was Thursday afternoon and perhaps they’d planned to knock off early for Christmas.

Rather than striking on Boxing Day, which obviously wasn’t enough to “incentivise” LUL, ASLEF have planned three more strike days, one in January and two in February. In this blog I expressed a certain reticence to vote as I would be on holiday Boxing Day and it was even used as evidence to support LUL’s court case. As I will be on strike for one or two of the future dates I happily support the strike and am glad I voted in favour.

Publish that, Howard Collins, and be damned! Or better yet sit down with our Reps and get the bloody thing sorted out so we don't have to suffer a repeat of this pointless exercise in 2012, 2013 and 2014!

To those of you struggling into work today, my apologies but it takes two to make an argument and LUL started this by messing about with Boxing Day in 2010. To those of you who think we are being greedy and unreasonable to ask for triple pay and a day in lieu, no apology whatsoever, you are being unreasonably by believing that we actually expect to get that.

Not that I would ever choose triple pay and a day in lieu, I’d much rather let someone else take my place while I spend Boxing Day with my family, my friends and West Ham United. Money isn’t everything, it can’t buy you time and one thing that was brought home to me over the past 12 months is that we have a finite amount.

To absent friends.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Well, that’s that, no more work until New Year’s Day. 2011 has been a difficult year for me on a personal level, one way or another I’ve lost a number of people I was close to and various ambitions I had at the start of the year remain unfulfilled. I can only hope that 2012 is a little less fraught and that I can devote more time to writing.

London has been very quiet this week and will probably be even quieter next. The courts threw out LUL’s attempt to block the Boxing Day strike and while I hope something can be sorted out round the negotiating table today somehow I doubt it, no matter what happens on Monday LUL senior managers’ jobs will be secure and they will still be drawing their huge salaries.

Anyway, a merry Christmas to all and a happy New Year, stay home Boxing Day.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

For those of you who’ve never seen “Life of Brian”.

LUL say when Boxing Day is on a Saturday or Sunday it isn’t a Bank holiday and is just a normal day. We say that the current agreement covers Bank Holidays only and that every Boxing Day should be voluntary working at triple time with a day in lieu.

They offer us time and a half, we ask for double and a half and a day in lieu, they offer us double time and a day in lieu when it’s on a weekend, we say deal.

Except LUL won’t haggle. Where’s Burt when you need him……

Friday, 9 December 2011

The rain caused chaos with ATO yesterday; I lost count of the number of times the train ground to a halt halfway into a platform or between stations, in the end I just put it into Coded Manual and drove the thing, Wood Lane even made an announcement advising us to go in Coded. So much for us just opening and closing doors all day!

While the Victoria Line seems to be suffering repeat overrunning engineering works we are suffering from Christmas shoppers; overcrowded stations closing, Passenger Emergency Alarms getting pulled down on trains, security alerts when someone’s left Granny’s present on the train or platform, even the occasional “passenger action” which probably is two people continuing the fight they started in Hamleys over the last “Let’s Rock Elmo” on the WB platform at OXO.

The ASLEF reps have been busy drumming up support for the Boxing Day strike, I’ve been asked by just about every rep on the line if I’ve sent my ballot paper in, one of them has even asked me twice. I explained that I’d be on Annual Leave that week but they didn’t seem to mind so I’ve sent it in despite my earlier reticence. So just like last year I will be manning the picket line at my local pub watching West Ham on Sky Sports except this year I will be getting paid. I will just have to drown the guilt in beer…..

Doing ATOR with two weeks of early shifts a few months back was enough for me, I’ve finally given up on following the roster and trying to sort duties out on my own; I have joined a Mafia. A Mafia is a group of TOps who join together to exchange duties so from now on someone will give my earlies to someone who likes doing them while I get lates and nights in return. From now on I won’t start work until noon at the earliest, the mornings are mine to do my domestic duties.

Friday, 25 November 2011

We are getting very short of TOps. Yesterday I was spare but as soon as I’d walked in the DTSM was calling my name over the PA. Not only was I covering an unfilled duty but someone was running late with a flat tire and there were no other spares available. I ended up handing over one train on the WB while my next train was coming in on the EB.

I have a new leader, Mick Whelan of Willesden edged out Simon Weller from Brighton in the election to replace the lovely Keith Norman. TSSA also have a new Gen Sec, Manuel Cortes, who was the only candidate to be nominated. Over at RMT Uncle Bob will continue his rule for another 5 years as no one stood to oppose him. Manuel and Bob seem to get on rather well by all accounts so I wouldn’t be surprised if the next time there’s a dispute on stations you could see joint action by both unions.

Oddly it is exactly a year since TSSA and RMT called off their strikes over the ticket office closures. Since then there have been two one-day strikes by RMT TOps on the Northern and Bakerloo Lines in December and January but apart from those while there has been a fair amount of shouting and sabre rattling not a single day has been lost to industrial action by the RMT.

Remember how ASLEF went on strike last Boxing Day and I said that we were expecting to have talks on the subject? After 11 months of avoiding the issue LUL finally agreed to discuss our grievance at a meeting last Thursday. Unsurprisingly they still don’t see Boxing Day as anything special so once more we are balloting for strike action.

I will abstain, not out of apathy but because I won’t be working that week and somehow I don’t feel it’s right for me to vote for a strike when I won’t be losing a day’s pay for it.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Sorry for the lack of posts over the last three weeks but I’ve been rather caught up with events outside LUL. Oh yes, we have a life beyond work, we don’t spend all our time wearing these daft uniforms.

Hopefully normal service will be resumed soon.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

“Setting back a train up to one car” basically means that if you go past a signal or platform by less than one car you can reverse the train. In the past we had to walk through the train and drive it in the wrong direction; if you stayed up front and stuck it into reverse you were sacked.

I’ll say that again, YOU WERE SACKED.

LUL have decided that something that TOps used to lose their job for doing is fine and dandy. It doesn’t matter if we can’t see what’s behind us, just back her up and carry on. This procedure has been in use on the Jubilee Line Extension since it opened but they have Platform Edge Doors so there’s no chance of anyone falling on the track behind you.

OSN no.101 says that if the train is setting back into a platform then the move will carried out by either using the in-cab CCTV or with a member of station staff on the platform at the rear of the train to “make announcements to customers” and “to pass messages from the controller to the train operator”. How you pass messages to someone who’s at the other end of a train isn’t explained.

As we have CCTV on the Central I could be asked to drive a train backwards into a platform with just my trusty, somewhat grainy, often flickery and fuzzy in-cab monitor to guide me . Somehow I can’t see myself doing that with a platform full of passengers.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

As you’ve probably heard RMT are up in arms over changes to procedures so I thought it might be useful if I explained what they are.

The ominously titled “Operational Standards Notice No. 101”, subtitled “Getting ready for the Olympics”, has three changes. Apparently all TOps were meant to be given a briefing away from everything by an IOp or a manager and then allowed to ask questions. Instead there are tales of these simply being handed out when booking on or even being given to TOps while they were in the cab.

The least contentious change actually comes last; the re-categorisation of platforms. All platforms are either Category A or Category B, on Category B you can clearly see the entire length of the platform and the train from the door of the cab while obviously on Category A you cannot. If the CCTV fails on a Category B TOps can close the doors while stood in the cab door, check that no one is stuck in them and move off, on a Category A they have to get assistance from a member of station staff to dispatch the train.

Up until now all platforms on the Central Line (and some others) had been Category A, I have no idea why this was decided but someone has been very busy and now blue stickers with a white A or B have appeared by the headwall of every platform.

While I have no problem with this particular rule change it’s pretty obvious that this is being brought in due to the drastic cuts to station staff numbers. RMT don’t like it because they represent station staff along with TOps (and anyone working in transport) and removing the need for the extra body on the platform means less potential members paying £17.12 a month

In case you were wondering ASLEF is £24.39 for anyone earning £31k or over; you get what you pay for, I prefer a union tailor-made for train drivers rather than a “one size fits all”. You can tell I worked in menswear in the 80s; Ooooo, Sir! Suits you, Sir!

The only concern is when this situation arises at a Category B during the peak and the sheer number of bodies on the platform make it impossible to see the other end of the train. If I ever find myself in that position then I will refuse to move on the grounds of health and safety no matter what the Line Controller says. They can try to sack me if they want but the law and ASLEF will be on my side.

Enough for now, I’ll tackle the other two procedure changes later along with the hoo-ha over driverless trains and the possibility of industrial action over two RMT TOps that LUL are refusing to reinstate. Déjà vu?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Apologies for not writing but matters outside work have needed my attention. Not much has happened worth reporting and I’m currently re-doing my licence, tucked away from the daily grind at sunny HAI.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The rumour mill continues to grind, the news that we were to expect 27 new TOps has now been replaced with the story that the training has been cancelled and they’ve all been sent back to stations. I’ve also heard that all the TOps who had been seconded to various depots as trainee managers are to be recalled and put back on the line. Just as well as Wednesday we had 16 duties uncovered and 12 trains cancelled.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Despite what the papers say I will not be making £50k this year.

The deal is a 5% rise which will bring us up to £44.5k and then which ever is greater of RPI + 0.5% or 2% for the next three years. Sadly I lack the Daily Mail’s crystal ball because I don’t know what RPI is going to be in February or beyond but over the last year various financial institutions have forecast that it will be anywhere between 1.2% and 5.7% with opinion on 2012 and 2013 equally varied.

If we got the 2% for the rest of the pay deal we’d be on £47.3k the next time unions and management start all this palaver again. Admittedly we do get more than some train drivers on the mainline but we are still behind others, Arriva Cross Country are currently on £48.7k, Eurostar on £49.5k, Virgin West Coast £49.6k, and East Coast Mainline £50.8k. And they have guards on their trains while we have to do both jobs.

The deal was done after a meeting at ACAS where both sides accepted their recommendations; how that constitutes the unions “blackmailing London” is beyond me.

Other than that we suffered a small degree of late running but no major incidents on Tuesday though it felt decidedly odd starting work at 9am and then going home around 5pm.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

A slight dampener to the news that we will be getting more TOps as I heard on Friday that there are quite a few retirement parties planned for the end of the year at HAI depot; LUL giveth and LUL taketh away again.

Another bit of sorry news is that the planned refurbishment of the 92s for the Olympics is not going smoothly. The cars were to be repainted and then a special anti-graffiti film applied but the film peels off when doors open and close. I was also told a few weeks back that they had run out of the new blue material for the seating. While I admit that all these might just be unfounded rumours they are sadly only too believable where LUL is concerned.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Another lovely day on the Central Line, another trip round the HAI-WOO loop with the door open enjoying the sunshine followed by a truly breathtaking sunset as I headed WB up to WER, all in all a good day to drive a train. I didn't get a shot of the sunset so here's one I took earlier this year of sunrise over Debden.


One piece of good news is that 27 trainees have started the TOp course and they are all coming to the Central Line. Just as well, we had 15 shifts uncovered at my depot yesterday and loads of trains cancelled, hopefully the Olympics might not be such a struggle after all.

I was told that the “one under” on Wednesday survived but then jumping in front of a train is not the best method of topping yourself. The generally accepted figure is that approximately one in three achieve the intended outcome, around the same number come away with a permanent injury while the other third come out relatively unscathed.

When a TOp is unfortunate enough to have a “one under” you aren’t be allowed back on a train for at least a month and when you are you will be accompanied by an IOp until management are convinced that you are okay to be left on your own. On rare occasions the TOp finds that they simply can't face driving a train and are re-employed elsewhere by the company.

A few year ago there was a rather unpleasant film called “Three and out” about a TOp who suffers two “one unders” in the space of a week and is told that if he had three within a month he would be retired with ten years’ salary in a lump sum. Utter garbage naturally, happily it bombed at the box office and the writers are enjoying the obscurity they so richly deserve.

What really annoyed us at the time was that LUL allowed the production team to film on the trains and stations in the first place, you would have thought that they would have taken a look at the script and seen that it would upset the staff. Sadly I suspect that the idea of being connected with any sort of media event got them so hot and bothered that they lost all sense of perspective, if they had any to start with.

I guess things look very different from the lofty towers of 55 Broadway.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

First day back, things were running a little late when I booked on as we’d had a “one under” earlier, someone had jumped in front of the Track Recording train which goes up and down the lines checking the state of the rails, etc. 85 passenger trains trundling around and they managed to pick that one, what are the chances?

Regardless, it was a beautiful day so I went Coded round from HAI to WOO with the door open which was fortunate as if I hadn’t I would never have heard the young mother shouting for me to hold the train as she rushed down the stairs at CHI with babe-in-arms. As I’d only pulled off a yard or so I was able to stop and open the doors, had I gone any further she would have had to wait 20 minutes for the next train.

Wood Lane called me up at ROV and asked me to reverse EB off the WB platform at WOO rather than going up the siding which caused the usual confusion as people scurried over from the EB platform and others arriving on the platform expecting the train to go west had to be told that it was going round to HAI. I have no idea why they did this but I arrived early at HAI and then sat there until I was back on timetable.

RMT are still sulking over the Olympic deal and sure enough when I checked my mail slot there was a leaflet announcing that now was the time for one union for all Tube workers with plenty of emphasis on how they got the two sacked TOps reinstated. They will have to do a lot better than that to get me to join.

Friday, 16 September 2011

The Olympic deal or at least as I understand it, I may be wrong.

Every TOp gets £500 regardless of what shifts they work or if they work while the games are on. This is paid to us for temporarily working outside our "contract".

Anyone working past 01:30, the normal end of traffic hours, will get paid at overtime rate for every hour of the duty.

Anyone working longer than 8 hours (plus our 30 minutes meal relief) will get paid at a higher rate, I think double time, for each hour of the duty.

I doubt very much if more than a few shifts will go beyond 01:30 and it looks as if the only shifts lasting longer than 8.5 hours will be at the weekend.

The claims that we will be pocketing £1800 or £1200 or some other huge figure depending on where you read it would appear to be based on all of us working 9 hour shifts and finishing after 01:30 each and every day which obviously isn’t going to happen.

RMT are sulking as they seem to have planned on using the TOps as a lever to get a better deal for all staff but will now have to negotiate for stations, signals and engineers separately. As far as I know none of them are being asked to work longer hours but you’d think they should get something on stations for finishing later and for the extra passengers they are going to have to deal with.

Yes, LUL are exploiting the division between the various grades, no doubt RMT will accuse ASLEF of selfishly ignoring non-train drivers and this will be held up as an example of why there should be one union covering the whole of LUL, that union naturally being RMT.

Bob Crow has no grounds to complain, he has said time and time again that his job is to get the best deal for his members and that is exactly what ASLEF have done. I’m sure the RMT TOps will be more than happy to accept the offer and if Bob tries to bring them out in order to support the claim for the other LUL workers I suspect we could see another run on ASLEF membership forms.

Back to my summer hols.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Friday was uneventful and Saturday I was spare though not for long. Six trains were cancelled for the want of a TOp and I had to cover for someone who’d booked off sick Friday. With the Olympics looming someone should be doing something but as usual there’s a general feeling that our problems are being ignored in the hope that they will sort themselves out.

Between trains I had to grin when I read that TfL thinks that the transport links to and from Greenwich Park will not be able to cope with the 75k spectators expected for the Olympic 3-day eventing. It warns of two hour waits for trains and buses unless LOCOG restrict the crowd to 50k but that would lose a cool £1m. For years the locals have been saying that the roads and rail would be a nightmare if the equestrian events were held in Greenwich but no one took a blind bit of notice.

I’m off until 28th September, if I hear anything that I think is worthwhile commenting on I will pop back but other than that I wish you all happy travelling whatever your destination.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Wednesday was to timetable, only Friday and Saturday to do and then I will be off again until 28th September. After work on Tuesday I went to my branch meeting where the main topics of conversation were the pay deal, the Olympics, the shortage of TOps and the new procedures LUL are bringing in next week which I will cover soon.

Our Reps still think there’s plenty to negotiate on pay deal though they are hopeful that the issue of Bank Holidays, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve is almost there. The Olympics won’t be settled until the pay deal is sorted and the TOp shortage is not just on the Central Line, it’s every Line.

The meeting did produce a strange tale; one of our members approached the local Rep objecting to Muslim TOps being given “light duties” and “special arrangements” for Ramadan which she thought was unfair to all us non-Muslims. The Rep thought this all sounded unlikely and when he investigated he confirmed that there were no such deals in place.

What he did discover was that the rumour seemed to trace back to an RMT Rep, possibly the same one claiming that ASLEF Reps were going around advising us to accept the current pay deal. Same old RMT, when facts don’t work try invention.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Okay there is bizarre and there is bizarre; this was bizarre.

Wood Lane had given us a “next platform and hold” for a train having trouble on the EB approach to LEY though instead of the usual two voices giving out the same information we had three; the Line Controller, the Line Information Assistant and the Signaller.

Along with them blaring out over the radio and the station PA informing us that there was a good service on the Central Line there was little space for me to let my passengers know what was going on so when everything went quiet I took the opportunity to enlighten them as to why we weren’t moving.

Predictably while I was making the PA the Signaller made another announcement instructing various trains to move up and while I half heard “LAG up to MAA” I though it best to check.

“Train at LAG EB; did you just ask me to move up to MAA?”

“You’re not at LAG, pick another station.”

Now I most certainly was at LAG but I was game for a laugh.

“QUE?” I suggested, even though there was no crossover in front of me.

“No, I’ve got nothing at QUE.” She was obviously getting irritated.

“HOP?” I offered.

“You’re clear up to LAG.” She said cutting me off without another word.

Well, the signal was clear, it was safe to move so I went onto the next station which surprisingly turned out to be MAA rather than NHG. I decided it was probably best not to try to move up to QUE.

Nice to know that Wood Lane know what they are doing……..
Urgggghhhhhh. First day of a week of earlies, I did try to swap but for some reason the Mafia was short of late duties this week. Everything went timetable though during the peak there were four “next platform and hold” calls when someone pulled down a handle, three of which were for “passengers ill on train” and two were at the same station.

Other than that very little of note so here’s another bit of London related but non-LUL observation/opinion.

The Lib-Dems have again selected Brain Paddick as their mayoral candidate so 2012 will be a re-run of 2008 as far as the big three parties are concerned. Lembit Opik, who promised to run the Tube 24/7 at little extra cost, was beaten into fourth place with a measly 8.2% behind Paddick, GLA member Mike Tuffey and Brain Haley, an ex-Haringey councillor who jumped from Labour to LibDem when he was de-selected from his seat but lost it in the following election.

Lembit has been bleating that he was the victim of “a remarkable degree of antagonism and aggression from certain Lib-Dems”, that only he had a sufficiently “high profile” to present a challenge to “celebrity politicians” Ken and Boris and that if he wasn’t chosen the Lib-Dems would suffer a catastrophic defeat.

As his only connection with the London Lib-Dems was sitting as a MP at Westminster for a Welsh constituency perhaps he’d have had more success if he’d focused on winning the local party members who elected the candidate rather than simply proclaiming himself as the only choice for mayor, setting up a vanity website and granting interviews to the Evening Standard..

Either that or get himself invited as the guest host “Have I got news for you”.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

This blog is subtitled "observations and opinions"; here's a non-LUL related opinion.

I was very saddened to read the comments John Cleese made on Australian TV recently, saying that “London is no longer an English city” and “I love being down in Bath because it feels like the England that I grew up in.” Cleese grew up in Weston Super Mare which he described earlier this year as “a tedious little place” that wasn’t worth the bombs the Germans dropped on it in 1940.

I would like to think that like Morrissey a few years ago what he was trying to say that it is the English people who are less English, that increasingly we seem to be aping the styles and mannerisms of the USA and that it is the English themselves that are allowing their culture to be diluted (even though we have been subject to various foreign cultural influences ever since the Romans arrived and the locals swapped their woad for togas).

I would like to think that or I would like to think he was being deliberately provocative, I would like to think that his comments were tongue in cheek but sadly I suspect he is just a pathetic 71-year old racist ranting against immigrants.

John Cleese has lived in California for over 20 years.

I will still watch “Life of Brian” every Christmas and Easter but I don’t think I will ever move to Weston Super Mare.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

During Friday’s evening peak for some reason Wood Lane decided that my HAI via NEP should become a HAI via WOO. They called me up as I approached LAG, I changed the destination on the front and all the way through the Pipe SONIA was clearly announcing that this was a HAI via WOO. Between LEY and LES I made a PA repeating the destiantion, adding that anyone going to HAI via NEP should change at the next station and even listed the stations the train would be calling at.

At LES it was utter pandemonium, people got off, got on, got off again and then got back on as I repeated everything once more. When things had finally settled down I closed up but even then a couple made a last gasp dash for the platform and squeezed through the doors. Predictably when we reached SNA there was a file of the lost going back over the stairs to the WB platform.

All of which supports the theory that people do not actually bother listening to PAs or actually read the dot matrix indicators on the front of the train or over the platforms. They see “HAI” and assume that “via NEP” is implied, traversing the Tube by instinct.

I suppose that is why I find the complaints about passengers being treated like cattle rather amusing; sometimes they behave like cattle.

Friday, 2 September 2011

The fun and games Thursday started on my second half, a LES-EPP-WER-LES “rounder”. At BUH WB two young ladies made a dash from the stairs just as the doors were closing and only one made it onboard. When I tried to reunite them I could see on the CCTV that the doors stayed shut even though the “door closed visual” suggested they were open.

After I’d pressed various buttons and turned various rotary switches to no avail I told Wood Lane that I had a problem and went back to investigate. While the doors on the rear six cars were closed the ones on the front two were open which was a problem that I’d never encountered before.

By this time the lady who’d been left behind had walked up to the front of the train so with her on board I tried closing the doors on the front two cars but they refused to budge. I closed them with the "porter buttons" and set off to WOO. When we got there all the doors stayed firmly closed so I informed Wood Lane that the train was going “out of service” and asked the station staff to start tipping out by opening the “butterflies”.

It was only at that point I remembered it might be a good idea to try resetting the “door control” MCBs and predictably that resolved the issue. The only way to describe how I felt at that point is a Homeresque "D'oh!!!"

Sadly It didn’t last, at SOW some of the doors didn’t open and even though tripping the MCBs did the trick again it was clear that this was not a happy train and needed to be taken to the depot. At LES the passengers and I were decanted from one train onto another and we headed WB about 15 minutes late.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Another day down the Drain but this time with an IOp in tow to monitor my performance. Apparently this should have been done immediately after my little mishap two weeks ago but the manager that interviewed me neglected to pass the information on.

Despite the fact that the two and half shifts after I messed up went without incident procedure has to be followed and so the poor man had to sit there watching me drive the train back and forth between Bank and Waterloo, much like Charon ferrying the souls of the dead across the Styx. Except we’re ferrying bankers and stockbrokers under the Thames and no one ever made the return trip from Hades to Surrey.

ASLEF’s general secretary, Keith Norman, is retiring and yesterday I received my ballot paper for the election of his successor. Strangely all three candidates have surnames starting with W; I hope I can remember which one I voted for when they announce the results.

Meanwhile on the shop floor an RMT rep claims that ASLEF are going to recommend the pay deal proposed by LUL even though they have clearly stated in writing that they have rejected it. This is nothing unusual, ever since I started working here RMT have made up rumours about the other unions so I’ll take this with the usual pinch of salt until I hear otherwise.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Carnival came and went and on the whole it was rather subdued compared to previous years. We were asked to go Coded WB from QUE to NHG both days during the afternoon due to the sheer density of people getting off but were only asked to do the same EB from HOP for a few hours on Monday night.

I don’t know who worked out the duties for Monday but there were some unusual work patterns; at least two of my colleagues and I finished driving at WHC and then had to “ride the cushions” back to LES while a WHC TOp got off their first train at WHC, had their meal break and then travelled to LES to pick up their second.

From 1871 until 1965 August Bank Holiday was on the first Monday of the month and Scotland, Ireland and several other countries still do this. I have no idea why it was moved but with the way the weather has been towards the end of the August the last few years it might be worth reinstating it to it’s original position.

While we are on the subject of Public Holidays there has been much talk of giving everyone in England the day off for St. George’s Day. When I was growing up no one cared about St. George’s Day, it's only grown in popularity over the last decade or so. I think the reason it wasn't observed in the past was that unlike the Irish, Scots and Welsh we weren’t a Catholic country and/or a conquered people trying to promote their independence from their tyrannical overlords.

I’m against it, we have an overcrowded Spring as it is with Easter, May Day and Whitsun. I propose making November 5th a new public holiday, let’s celebrate the thwarted plot of fanatical religious terrorists to place England under the rule of our enemies. If it wasn’t for those Beefeaters searching the cellars we’d all be speaking Spanish.

And I like fire……..

Sunday, 28 August 2011

A slight amendment to my last post regarding the pay deal, ASLEF (and I believe the other unions) formally rejected the current offer at the start of August. On 18 August LUL wrote to the unions asking them “to recommend this to their members and allow them a referendum”. Unite (not Unison) have said they will ballot but don't appear to have said whether or not that they will recommended it, another unamed union did respond, presumably in the negative, while the other two didn’t even bother replying.

LUL have now written again and proposed that we go to ACAS to sort it out which is odd seeing that the Unions are still happy to negotiate but then they don’t have the proposed expanded service for the Olympics to worry about.

Speaking of which while Wood Lane used to announce that we were running a “good service” at regular intervals recently they have taken to highlighting the cancellations due to “ONA” – operator non availability. I’ve been checking the booking-on sheets and I can confirm that all depots have uncovered duties; we are short staffed everywhere though mine appears to be the worst afflicted. With no great influx of TOps expected it is going to be very interesting to see what they come up with.

Strange things were going on at THB on Saturday. It started off with a phantom “held visual” on the WB, a little light that comes on in the cab to tell us to wait. We get these all the time but later it developed into a “next station closed” message when DEB was anything but and finally imposed a 15kph speed restriction on the sections into and out of the EB platform adding 6 minutes to our journey time. Perhaps the rabbits up there have been nibbling on the cables.....

Saturday, 27 August 2011

I’ve been on late shifts the last four days, nothing much to report other than it’s been raining and that meant trains that supposedly drive themselves stopping before they are fully into the platform and needed someone to get them the rest of the way in. We are still short of staff but Thursday was apparently a good day; only ten duties uncovered at my depot so only four trains cancelled on the line.

LUL’s deadline for a decision on the latest pay offer came and went with only Unite (or Unison, I forget which) saying that they will ballot their members which shouldn’t take long as there aren’t many. ASLEF, RMT and TSSA haven’t answered, probably sunning themselves on a beach somewhere.

A few interesting passenger moments witnessed on the in cab CCTV, firstly the man who was doing to Hokey Cokey at NOA WB. When I announced that the train was going to EAB he got off, then when I advised passengers going to WER to change, he got on. Finally when I repeated the destination before closing the doors he got off again. Maybe if he hadn’t has his mobile glued to his ear he might have been able to hear my announcements.

Then there was the passenger who ignored the advice to take care when platforms are wet at WHC EB, came racing down the stairs just as I was closing the doors, made a last mad dash for the train, realised that he was too late, slammed on the brakes, slipped over and nearly went between the train and the platform. I waited until he was on his feet before pulling out. If you are that desperate to get that train then get there that bit earlier.

And finally I would like to say thank you to the gentleman at CHL EB who on seeing that the car was packed out took his rucksack off his back and held it in his hand rather than trying to squeeze himself into the space with it still on his back. My faith in humanity is restored.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

I’m not back at work until late on Tuesday but “Olá” to my Brazilian reader(s). I mentioned that there were rumblings on the RMT side over a TOp who got sacked recently but last week I was told that they have returned to work.

Apparently at their appeal certain documents that were “mislaid” during the original hearing were rediscovered. I don’t have the full details so I won’t speculate on why exactly the TOp has been reinstated but it interesting to note that no one seems to have seen the DTSM who was involved in the incident that led to the sacking or seems to know where they have gone.

On the plus side the Central Line has another TOp back on the road, a rare commodity these days, the travelling public have been spared an unnecessary strike, LUL have saved roughly £100k in legal fees and we appear to have lost a manager that didn’t have the brains to take his foot out of a train door when it closed.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

As I mentioned there has been much going on at Chez Shrugged as the new paint job on the front of the house and the fully renovated sash windows testify. So busy that not only did I not bother swapping my early shifts this week but I failed to exchange my Waterloo and City line duties.

Sunday and Monday saw me crawling into work at a time I would normally be heading home from a night shift, much to the confusion of my colleagues. Equally when I walked in at the end of my shift the DTSM on the desk was checking his paperwork assuming that I was booking on rather than booking off.

And so Tuesday came and off I went to do my first ever full shift on the W&C. Why do Central Line TOps do the W&C I hear you ask; the reason is that the trains are basically the same as the 92s up on the Main and it was decided that Leytonstone depot would supply the crews.

Working the W&C is utterly unlike working anywhere else. You come out of Waterloo sidings, drive to Bank and get off. There’s a TOp waiting on the platform, they get on the other end of the train and drive it back to Waterloo. You wait for the next train in and drive that. This is called “stepping back”. You “step back” at Waterloo and repeat and repeat and repeat until the peak is finished after which you only “step back” at Waterloo, you bring the one you drove to Bank back again.

The trains are also different, down in the Drain it’s all manual driving, no Auto and while up on the Central speeds and signals are controlled by codes passed to the on board computer down there it’s simple speed limit signs like you get on roads with train stops and tripcocks to stop you going through a red signal

For those of you who have no idea what those mean every signal has a train stop, when it’s red it goes up, when it’s green it goes down. Under both ends of the train is a tripcock and if that hits the train stop when it’s up it will activate the emergency brake.

There are also train stops along the platform to stop you going too fast, they drop on a timing system and on my second trip I was going just a little too fast into the platform at Bank. Now as I said I don’t do the W&C very often so it took me a while to remember just what to do, in fact I had to ask the TOp waiting on the platform to check that I’d done everything. All this with an audience of passengers waiting to go to Waterloo.

By the time I got the damn thing moving the train stop had come back up again and activated the rear trip cock. We used the “butterflies” to get the passengers off, closed up again and got the train all they way into the platform. A technician was sent to check the train over, just to make sure that it wasn’t a fault on the train and he duly confirmed that it was indeed just a stupid TOp who can’t tell the difference between 10kph and 15kph.

While all this was happening the service was a train and a TOp short so the whole stepping back system was thrown out of sync, which meant that trains were not where they were meant to be on the timetable and were being driven by TOps who were on the wrong train at the wrong time. Things didn’t get sorted out until after the peak.

We were a train short the next day when we had a points failure in the sidings, so we had longer waits between trains at Waterloo and when the train did come out it had the wrong TOp on board. Finally on Thursday we were a TOp short so one train was left in the sidings. By the time they sent a TOp down from Leytonstone the whole “stepping back” process was so muddled that it wasn’t sorted out when I went home around 10:40.

If I do get sent down the W&C at least I know how things work but I’ll be in no rush to repeat the experience.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Please accept my apologies for not writing but there has been a lot to keep me busy at Chez Shrugged and not much to write about. After my 7-day week of nights my 3-day week of lates was entirely uneventful despite all sorts of shenanigans going on upstairs. Riots, what riots?

Apart from the local Blockbuster being ransacked and having all it’s windows smashed the closest the tumult came to my locale was on Tuesday night when some little hooligan lobbed a brick at the bus I was going home on. It fell short of the windows and hit the side with a resounding thud; Team GB’s search for a Gold medal shot putter goes on.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Saturday night and while Tottenham burned the rest of London was busy drowning in alcohol. My first taste of the night was even before I’d got on the train, a rather drunken gentleman asked me if the train went to Wimbledon. When I informed him it didn’t he enquired if I was the train driver and then asked me if I could take the train to Wimbledon. For a few seconds I considered telling him that for an extra £20 I’d run him home after we got to EAB but restrained my whimsical urge for fear that he might actually take it as a serious offer.

At LIS one “over refreshed” passenger failed to take heed of SONIA’s advice to “mind the gap” and ended up spread-eagled on the platform. Fortunately he was not alone and his companions hauled him off towards the escalators. When I reached EAB the cars were a mess of empty cans and bottles though surprisingly no one required waking up, just one poor soul sat on the platform searching through his rucksack for either his wallet or his Oyster card.

There was one annoying incident but nothing to do with passengers. Every night the last EAB train arrives at WHC, waits for the last WER to arrive on the adjacent platform, the WER then leaves and the EAB follows. There are three lines through WHC and while I was waiting an EB train arrived on the middle platform, going out of service and heading into the sidings under the Westfield.

After a while Wood Lane called me to say that the WER was being delayed because to the TOp of the train bound for the sidings had gone “walkabout” No, Wood Lane, the delay was due to you putting a train on the only platform the last WER could go WB from while the EB platform was empty. But why check the timetable when you can just blame the train driver, everybody else does.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

LUL have come up with it’s fourth pay offer and as with the last three they are insisting that they can’t afford any more than this. And then the boy cried wolf.

Since April we climbed from a “fair and affordable” 4% to “fair and affordable” 5% but they know that the unions aren’t going to accept anything less than RPI so from past experience we won’t reach 5.5% till October and then the real negotiations can start.

LUL are still clinging to a five year deal but have now added the carrot of RPI + 0.5% for the last year while the intermediate ones will be +0.25% but as we’ve never agreed anything longer than 3 years (and that after over a year of talks) there’s very little chance of that happening.

They do the usual hand-wringing about how “three out of four UK workers being hit by a pay freeze” but failing to mention that train drivers at other companies are getting at least inflation rises this year, specifically two TfL subsidiaries, or that the Tube is carrying more passengers than ever before.
A strangely slow week of nights but understandable as I was over the west end of the line. The only aberrations were down to staff shortages, THB was unmanned for two nights and one morning HOP was closed. Following the King’s Cross fire, 18th November 1987, and the recommendations of the Fennel Report all sub-surface stations have a minimum staffing level which due to some reason or other HOP failed to meet.

Fortunately WHC had a CSA who was familiarised with the HOP station layout that they could spare without dropping below their own minimum level so he was duly dispatched to make up the numbers. I once did the same at North Greenwich on the Jubilee one Christmas Eve; this was before it became the O2, the Dome was a giant disused tent and I saw about twelve people in four hours. Ho bloody ho.

HOP couldn’t officially open until he arrived and booked on with the Super so in order for me to drop him off he had to jump in the cab and I had to go Coded from SHB. If I’d been in Auto “station skip” would have rolled the train straight through and if he’d been in the car then the passengers would have got off too and we'd all have got a jolly good spanking.

Now how would they get around that with driverless trains? I suppose by then they’re hoping they will have staffless stations too. All very well if you are able bodied and know where you are going, not so much fun if you are “visually impaired” and have never been there before.

My comments about the refurbishment of the 92s seem to have been somewhat premature, a bulletin appeared on the notice board this week announcing that the repainting of the outside of the trains and the replacement of panels will start next month.

In addition the trains will be covered in an “anti-graffiti” film; must be one of Charles Bronson’s “Death Wish” series, where he stops shooting drug dealers and pimps and turns his guns on any near-do-well carrying a spray can after dark. I always thought he was a poor man’s Clint Eastwood…….

Saturday, 30 July 2011

My deepest apologies for not writing but there has been a lot going on at Chez Shrugged and very little on the Central Line, or at least while I was there.

Following on from where I left off my remaining four night shifts were thoroughly featureless, the only incident of note was on Thursday. On reaching EPP one sleeping passenger failed to respond and as I was running late I left him until we got to LOU. When I finally managed to wake him and informed him that the train was at it’s final destination he replied that he couldn’t possibly agree with me.

I will admit that at 01:30 in the morning I was unprepared for a philosophical debate with a drunk but any further discussion on the subject was curtailed by the Station Super who entered the car happily enquiring if I needed assistance. He kept up his non-stop merry banter as without hesitation he marched over to the passenger, hauled him up onto his feet then frogmarched him off the train and down the stairs. I don’t think the poor passenger got a word in.

Just to re-cap we do seven nights in one week and then carry our two Rest Days over to the following week, so I’ve only worked three days since Sunday and things went pretty much to timetable.

One thing that has become apparent is that the refurbishment of the Central Line trains for the Olympics has been drastically scaled down from what was originally planned. We were going to get a full repaint both inside and out, lighter seats with new upholstery, new lights inside and new windows but in the end only the windows and the new upholstery have been done, everything else is as it was.

The paintwork on the inside is still scratched while the outside still bears the scars where graffiti has been cleaned off. The lights diffusers appear to have been cleaned so the cars are a little brighter but the seats are still as heavy to lift up and as uncomfortable to sit on. For all the fuss of bringing in a new timetable very little appears to have been done.

We are still short staffed, every day there are a dozen or so duties uncovered at my depot but all is not doom and gloom. While casually reading the notice boards I cast an eye upon the Instructor Operators’ schedule and blow me down one of them was taking out a trainee for one day on their first week of training.

When we get TOps transfer over from other lines they go straight into a whole week of stock training but here was somebody starting at the very beginning, undoubtedly moving up from stations to trains just as I did almost eight years ago to the day.

Finally someone has decided we need more drivers!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Nothing much to report from the last two nights, Monday was deathly and Tuesday not much better; must be the weather. It did produce a truly glorious sunrise over DEB as I headed up to EPP this morning so I’ve no complaints.

Needless to say with all this rain ATO was failing on a regular basis, quite amusing as I had a Station Super on his way home from MAA in the cab who was pondering how long before the trains became driverless just as we pulled up two cars short at WHC.

On Monday despite being the last EPP the dot-matrix destination describer on the front of the train was insistent that we were WER bound. The TOp before me had tried everything he could think of and written it down on the “trouble sheet” so I tried a few things he hadn’t without success. No one seemed to notice as we headed east apart from one poor lady who jumped on at HAL only to got off again at EAA telling the Super that she was on the wrong train.

In addition while SONIA was happy to go through her spiel when the doors opened on the near side she was obstinately quiet when I opened the off side and as most of the platforms on the EB are off side I had to do PAs all the way through the “pipe”.

One day I’m going to stick up “ONGAR” and see of anyone notices.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Back on nights and a big “whoops” to start things off.

Somebody misread their duty book and was waiting at HAI when their train arrived at LES with the TOp expecting to be relieved. Fortunately I had turned up early for my shift to sort out a few changeovers (I was meant to be at HAI Thursday and Friday and now I’ll be at LOU all week) so ten minutes before I was even officially booked on I was off to HAI to reunite train with driver.

Other than that very little last night, we were told to expect crowds from Lovebox in Victoria Park but it looks as if the rain dampened people’s enthusiasm for outdoor music. The only time I went to Vicky Park for a concert was when the Clash and others played a Rock against Racism benefit back in 1978.

We were meant to gather at Trafalgar Square and march through London but my mates and I decided to save our energy for pogo-ing and went straight there from MIE. As it turned out we made the right choice as the crowd exceeded all expectations, we were near the front and read in the NME that you could hardly hear a thing at the back.

On Monday we have 13 duties uncovered and at least one train will be cancelled. Out of 122 TOps at LES we have 20 or so off sick with others on training courses, seconded to management posts, on annual leave, etc.

We’ve also got one TOp waiting the outcome of an appeal against dismissal, he’s an RMT member and there are rumours of a ballot for strike action if he gets turned down. I’ll keep you informed as and when things develop but you have been warned.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

A story that caught my eye in one of our in-house magazines tells of a stray dog that jumped onto the track at NEP and headed off down the WB tunnel towards GAH. Fortunately he was seen, the service was halted and a train sent slowly after him with a CSA on board to assist.

When they caught up with him they tried to tempt him into the cab with a piece of cake donated by a passenger but the dog wasn’t interested. They discharged the juice, the CSA got down on the track and finding him to be a very freindly dog lifted him into the cab. When they got to GAH the Super collected the dog and kept him in the control room until Redbridge Council arrived.

The dog was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and I absolutely adore Staffies. From now on I’m carrying a pack of dog treats in my train equipment bag, just in case.
Despite returning to work almost two weeks ago I’ve not written as there has been very little to write about. My first week back was seven night shifts, mostly spent at WER, followed by three late shifts this week which all went according to timetable and were utterly devoid of incident.

The only thing of note has been the lack of staff; one night after I’d stabled my train I had to bring another out of the depot and leave it on the platform as WER were short in the morning with the second spare not booking on early enough to bring it out on time. Last week I was informed that eleven trains had been cancelled due to lack of staff and on Thursday we had 13 shifts uncovered at LES. How LUL imagine we are going to cope with the Olympics is anyone’s guess.

On the union front as predicted RMT called off the strikes when LUL re-employed Arwen Thomas though not as a TOp. On the station side they are complaining that LUL will use office staff to help out with the large number of passengers during the Olympics, a sore subject after cutting 650 station positions back in Febraury.

LUL met with the unions on Wednesday and raised their offer from 4.5% to 4.75% with further discussions on Bank Holiday working. They are still hoping for a five year deal at RPI +0.25% and as yet ASLEF have not responded but as TfL have already agreed two 5.6% deals with them this year I don’t see us settling for less.

Back on nights Sunday.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Saturday night got off to a bad start with a train waiting for a driver on Plat 3 at LES, blocking all trains going to HAI and forcing all EPP trains to go through Plat 2. The TOp for the train on Plat 3 eventually turned up on an EPP train, I never got the full story on how they ended up behind their train but the fact that we didn’t have a spare to cover is worrying.

LUL made an offer for working over the Olympics which is less than we would get under our current overtime agreement so it’s been swiftly rejected by ASLEF. Naturally LUL knew it would never be accepted, this is just their style of negotiation, start with the ridiculous and work towards the reasonable. Not that LUL are alone in this behaviour, I can remember RMT asking for a 12% pay rise a few years ago and the papers announcing that is was disgraceful.

After what seems like a very long four months I am off for the next two weeks, hopefully I will return refreshed and full of energy. Happy travelling Tube people!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Not much to say about the last few nights apart from Friday where the WER Super and I were entertained by a couple having a blazing row that continued along the entire length of the platform. Half way along they stopped for a moment so she could aim a few kicks at him before heading off into the night with her loudly declaring how much she hated him and him announcing that he didn't care to any residents of the London Borough of Hillingdon within earshot.

It looks as if the RMT strike due start on Sunday night will go ahead. At ACAS on Wednesday RMT demanded that LUL promise to reinstate Thomas if the tribunal found in his favour but LUL refused to discuss the matter until the tribunal had delivered it’s verdict. By all accounts the meeting lasted two hours before RMT walked out accusing LUL of intransigence while LUL expressed it’s amazement that RMT had quit the discussions.

The next day Mike Brown announced in a memo that he had sent letter to Bob Crow assuring him that if the tribunal directed LUL to reinstate Thomas they would abide by the decision which begs the question why didn’t he say that at ACAS the previous day.

As with ASLEF’s strike on Boxing Day LUL seem incapable of any compromise when the opportunity presents itself and in most cases they make the offer when it's too late. Perhaps they've developed their negotiation style by watching action movies where the hero arrives to save the day just in the nick of time and deliver a snappy one-liner just before the credits roll.

Obviously it’s the Unions’ fault for not reading the script.

Browsing some RMT propaganda on the disputes someone at Unity House has totted up the cost of legal teams, time spent by managers away from their normal duties, the two men’s wages for the time they have been off the trains plus everything else LUL has spent and come up with an estimated £250,000 of taxpayer’s money that has been wasted on this farce.

Fills you with confidence, don't it.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Back on nights, the only highlight of Sunday was the strange man shouting and trying to hit the CCTV cameras with an umbrella on the other platform at EPP. Maybe he was protesting against the rise of the “Big Brother” society.

The Station Super had given up trying to coax him across to the “ticket office” side and had called BTP to deal with him. I’m certainly glad I didn’t pursue a career on stations, the last thing I’d want to be doing late on a Sunday night is waiting on my own for assistance to remove yet another nutter so I could shut up shop.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Platform Train Interface, PTI, where people get on and off and where the vast majority of accidents on the Tube and other railways occur. It was raining heavily Friday and I witnessed a woman almost slip over while hurrying for one carriage to another. Fortunately she didn’t but the EB was closed down for ages right at the start of the evening peak when some poor soul broke their hip getting on or off a train at Stratford. Careful, folks.

Otherwise Thursday and Friday were uneventful, back on nights tonight.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Was rather busy yesterday but there wasn’t much to write about on Tuesday apart from the usual defects that bedevil us daily. RMT have announced strikes in support of Arwen Thomas, the Northern Line TOp who along with the now reinstated Eamonn Lynch has been the cause of much agitation since last December.

I’ve just checked the dates and I’ll be on leave so I’ll miss all the fun. There’s another hangover from the days when the managers used to think they were the generals and we were their army to be commanded. We don’t get holiday, we get leave; we don’t get meal breaks, we get meal reliefs; we don’t do shifts, we do duties.

Must be something to do with sticking us all in uniform.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Sadly the family matter that led to my absence on Monday kept me away from work for the rest of the week and Saturday was utterly uneventful. If you hadn’t already noticed nights consist of seven shifts in one week with the two rest days carried over to the following week so I’m only down for three days next week.

I always take the Monday off as I find it a lot easier to adjust back to “normal” life from going to bed at 7am with the extra day off; must be a sign of age. I’ll be back to work Tuesday then Thursday and Friday, then back on for another, hopefully uninterrupted, week of nights before I am off for my two weeks “spring” holiday.

The big climber in the “audience” figures is Poland leaping into a majestic third place.


Tuesday, 31 May 2011

In the past I’ve mentioned the amount of empties I find when I reach the end of the line, like the bottle of vodka poking out of a mess of streamers at EPP on Sunday, but if I needed any further evidence that the drinking ban is fading from memory it was two blokes, one at NHG and the other at HOL, actually drinking on the platforms as I pulled in on the last train.

Other than that Sunday was timetable and due to personal reasons I was off Monday.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Actually I think it was Caroline Pidgeon, chair of the transport committee, and not Val Shawcross, deputy chair, who was speaking to Bob Crow. Both have short dark hair but are in different parties, my apologies to both ladies for my error.
Szia to whoever is reading this in Hungary as we call it or Magyar Köztársaság as they call it.
Sorry for the delay in posting but I've had trouble logging in.

Wednesday was timetable and when I booked on Thursday I found that the person who’s duty I was covering had returned to work so I became an additional spare. Less than half an hour later I was off up to EPP and back in heavy rain, so heavy in fact that BUH was closed due to flooding. When a station is closed Wood Lane will put a “station skip” in place which tells trains in auto not to stop there and it will go through the platform at 20kph.

BUH reopened EB just after I’d passed through and reopened WB just as I was leaving LOU on the way back. Halfway to BUH “auto station skip” flashed up on DTS which obviously meant that auto would not stop at the station. I waited till the train had slowed to 20kph then knocked out the TBC to put on the emergency brake, switched to Coded and pulled into the platform.

As with the signal failure on Tuesday shortly after one person made an announcement from Wood Lane someone else repeated the same message; henceforth I will refer to this phenomena as “Little Sir Echo”.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

I’ve watched the webcast of the GLA Transport Committee from last Tuesday again and Bob Crow made an interesting point. He claimed that between 1926 and 1975 industrial relations on the Tube were so good that there were possibly only two days of strikes on LUL. I will try and verify this but I'm asuming he meant after the General Strike.

One of the factors he blamed for the number of disputes in recent years is the fragmentation of the Tube under PPP where rather than just dealing with LUL the unions now have separate disputes with the infracos and subcontractors.

As for the £500 bonus “being demanded” here is what was actually said (or as close to it as I can be bothered to transcribe).

Bob Crow – There’s been no formal position put by London Underground to us, as of yet, on an Olympic deal, we have got a deal with Network Rail, the biggest rail operator obviously in Britain, and we’d be looking for the same if not better with London Underground.

Val Shawcross – Peter Hendy, this morning I’ve read in the press, is saying they’re considering paying a Games bonus of up to £500 which is similar to Network Rail, is that the first you’ve heard of that?

Bob Crow – It’s the first I’ve heard of it so it must have been a good deal last week if Peter Hendy has recommended it.

If you want to check it yourself go to

and click on “Transport Committee – Tues 17 June”. Start around the 16:30 point.
Only one major hiccup Tuesday, towards the end of the evening peak there was a signal problem at CHL EB, just as I was arriving at SHB. I sat there making PAs for about ten minutes before someone at Wood Lane instructed all trains to move up to the next station.

Things got a little confused after that as someone else at Wood Lane started issuing instructions to move up so it wasn’t clear if we were to move up one station or two and I ended stuck in the tunnel outside QUE staring at the taillights of the train sat in the platform.

On the approach to MAA Wood Lane happily announced that the signal problem had been fixed but even before I’d opened the doors it had unfixed itself and we started the whole process over again. Thankfully it was fixed again by the time I reached OXO and this time it stayed fixed though by then I was 20 minutes down on a trip that normally would have taken 14.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Saturday night was timetable, the only thing of note was that my duties for next week have already been covered as I was off sick. I went through next week’s sheets and there were plenty of duties marked “NCA” – no cover available. I picked three late turns, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, but there will still be plenty for the spares to do.

With things the way they are there is absolutely no way we are going to be able to provide the level of service planned for the Olympics without us TOps working our rest days.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The toe is much better so the night spare did my WER and back while I went through the “return to work” interview with the DTSM. When I took over the train at LES it was only a minute late which isn't bad for the last EPP on a Friday night. I could see on the CCTV that the CSA on the platform was involved in something on my rear car but I made the assumption that if there was anything serious I would be summoned to the back of the train.

After a lot of gesticulation and animated conversation between him and whoever he was in discussion with along with a few PAs on my part to explain the delay to the other passengers I was given the “right” to leave. As I left SNA Wood Lane informed me that the delay had been caused by a passenger who had intended to leave the train at HOL but had resisted all attempts to wake him and that the Super at WOO be waiting to remove him.

This raises the obvious questions of why wasn’t he removed at LES and if his fellow passengers were aware that he intended to get off at HOL why they didn’t alert someone there? Sadly I suspect the reason was that they didn’t want to delay their own journeys and only mentioned the poor fellow’s plight once they were safely at their destination. Back when I was working stations I was once called up to deal with a passenger lying unconscious on the floor of a train at STR and he’d been there since MAA.

The milkman of human kindness needs to leave an extra pint on a lot of doorsteps in London.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The toe has refused to deflate so I took it back to the doctors resulting in stronger medication and a blood test.

Speaking on BBC London Monday Peter Hendy mentioned that LUL are considering paying staff an Olympic bonus similar to the one offered to Network Rail which the news media have interpreted as us definitely getting £500 for the Olympics.

On the pay deal he first said that there was a two year deal under discussion then amended that to a five year deal on offer but that LUL would not settle for anything less than a two year deal.

And so it goes on....

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

On Friday the doctor advised me to take ibuprofen and keep my foot up. By Sunday night my toe was still painful but I managed to get my shoe on with some difficulty and made my way into work.

Unfortunately I had got my shifts mixed up so I arrived to discover that I was 40 minutes late and that my train was waiting on the Plat 2, I was supposed to go to WER but because of my tardiness I was “short tripped” to NOA.

As I changed ends I was in so much pain that I had to accept that there was no way I would be able to walk out of the sidings at LOU and then walk back in again in the morning. I called up the DTSM on the desk and the night spare took me off when I arrived at LES.

I don’t like being off sick and I don’t like missing night turns. Not a happy bunny

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Two reasons why I didn’t post yesterday, firstly the blogger site was unavailable and secondly the big toe on my left foot is swollen to the point that walking is uncomfortable and wearing my LUL issue DMs downright painful. Consequently I phoned in sick and will have to go through the tedious “return to work” process at some point next week.

I can’t remember the last time I was off work due to sickness, I think it was back in the autumn, but this will effect what happens next. LUL’s sickness policy is based on a suitably Byzantine equation of how often you take time off in a given period and for how long though to be honest I can’t remember the exact details so I will explain more after I’ve had my “return to work” interview.

In the meantime LUL have amended their pay offer, up from the "fair and affordable" 4% they tabled a month ago to a "very fair and affordable" 4.5%. As I mentioned before the normal starting point for pay negotiations is RPI in February which this year was 5.5% so at this rate we’ve got another two months to go before proper negotiations commence.

Then the LUL management will announce that they are off on their summer hols so talks will be delayed till the autumn.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

I enjoy checking on where I’m being read, it comes as no surprise that people in the UK are viewing this but that anyone out there in rest of the world should be checking in amuses the bejesus out of me.

Our cousins on the other side of the pond are always second but this week Iran has leapfrogged Germany and Norway into third while Spain, Hong Kong, Sweden and Russia have been outdone by new entry Slovenia.

For that you get a cheery zdravo!
Shift work can mess you up, yesterday I felt like it was Friday, today also feels like a Friday, Lord alone knows what tomorrow, Friday, will feel like. At least this will bring an end to three weeks of early turns and I can return to relative normality, after work I can rarely motivate myself to do anything other than vegetate on the sofa so the dishes have started to pile up and the contents of washing basket are starting to colonise the surrounding floor.

I was spare yesterday, did one trip up to EPP and a trip around the loop to WOO. LUL have re-employed Eamonn Lynch, though not as a TOp, and RMT have called off the strike. Uncle Bob is going to a have sit down with the LUL bosses to discuss the disciplinary process. Interesting days.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

A beautiful sunny day of which I saw very little as almost all my day was spent downstairs. A signal problem at LAG meant that I was ten minutes late finishing my first half and fifteen minutes late picking up my second. I shuttled back and forth between WHC and NEP and each time I changed ends I had just enough time to sit down before I was off again so by the time I finished I was only a couple of minutes late.

The RMT are still planning on strikes next week, a complex system that means that the night shifts won’t turn up on Monday, early shifts on Tuesday and Thursday and the late shifts Wednesday and Friday. I have heard a lot of mumblings around the depot canteens that the ASLEF reps are running out of membership forms.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Saturday it rained and the trains were slipping around so much that Wood Lane told us to drive in Coded Manual if we felt it was necessary. I’d already switched by then as the train had nearly gone through a red signal at WHC WB in Auto.

Sunday morning I had the pleasure of taking the first WB through the pipe. There is a lot of dust down there, normally just floating around but after the last train goes through it settles and in the morning the air pushed ahead of the first train sends it up again. These clouds of dust are clearly visible in the headlights and are quite entertaining. However there have been a few occasions when the dust has been so bad that passengers waiting on the platform have mistaken it for smoke and reported a fire in the tunnels.

The other thing with running the first train on a Sunday is that we open an hour and a half later than every other day, people forget this and the platforms are as crowded as in the peak hours. When the train arrived from EPP it was quite busy but after the first train from HAI had pulled in and the passengers had been decanted onto my train it was so full that when we arrived at LEY some people couldn’t get on. The same thing was repeated all the way through to HOL.

When I was waking across to get my train one poor soul asked me how to get to Chigwell and I had to tell him that the first train wasn’t for over an hour. If you are travelling anywhere and you’re not sure about what time things run I can thoroughly recommend TfL’s journey planner, it’s on their website, I use it all the time and now I know that if anyone wants to go to Chigwell at 7am on a Sunday morning they can go to Buckhurst Hill and get a bus.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Nothing of note train-wise Friday but a development in the wacky world of industrial relations. Earlier this week the RMT announced that it’s members had voted in favour of strike action in support of the two sacked TOps and would be staging a series of strikes. On Friday the employment tribunal declared that the Bakerloo Line TOp had indeed been unfairly dismissed and now we are all waiting to see if LUL will reinstate him and if RMT will call off the strike.

The tribunals findings make great reading, it’s on RMT’s website, it describes the manager who chaired the disciplinary panel as “an unsatisfactory and unreliable witness” and that the manager who handled his appeal was more concerned with covering up the mistakes that had been made at the initial hearing.

Something about a brewery and organization springs to mind

Friday, 6 May 2011

More trouble Thursday, as I was leaving BAN WB the train behind me was stopped by an “obstruction on the tracks”, something we normally hear when a branch falls off a tree during a storm or bored children on school holidays find an amusing use for shopping trolleys, certainly not something you expect at LIS at the end of the morning peak.

In 2003 the whole Central Line was closed down for months after a train was derailed at Chancery Lane when a motor that fell off so I was a little anxious when Wood Lane asked if I was having any problems and then a train technician got on at WHC to run a system check. Thankfully it was nothing to do with the train itself, the cover of a junction box had fallen off and got stuck underneath.

For the want of a nail......

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Sunday was my rostered Rest Day and Monday I was given the day off as Annual Leave again. It was very odd to be starting work at 5:30am Tuesday, normally I’m finishing but it was a truly beautiful spring morning and everything went timetable. The rabbit population of South West Essex is thriving as the embankments up towards EPP testify. Rest Day again today, Wednesday, then back on till next Tuesday, I’m not spare at any time so there is no danger of a return to the dreaded W&C.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

More merry mayhem just as I was starting, this time the culprit was a signal failure between MIE and BEG and the line was suspended LES to LIS in both directions with all WB trains reversing at LES. I kept busy fielding passenger questions until one of the trains set off EB and made room for my train could come in. The TOp I was relieving had no idea where they wanted me to take it and though I did try calling Wood Lane they were obviously busy so I had no choice but to sit and wait.

After ten minutes I was told to go to EPP and then come back to LES again. Twenty minutes after that I was finally on the move and on the way up I passed a queue of eight trains stacked up all the way past WOO but absolutely nothing after that. This meant that when I returned I would be the first train WB from EPP for well over half an hour.

As I pulled into EPP, one hour after I’d started, Wood Lane announced that hopefully the problem was fixed and they were going to run a “test train” through the section. Thankfully it worked but I was held at EPP for another 20 minutes before they let me out again and the platforms were understandably crowded.

I still had no idea of where I was meant to be going, I still had LES up on the front and it wasn’t till five minutes after I’d arrived there that I was told to do a mainline shunt and go back to HAI via NEP, which was nice as that was where I was due to have my meal break in half an hour. There was general confusion as TOps who were due to get off at LES were arriving to find that the TOp who was supposed to relieve them was somewhere else on the line and the DTSM on the desk had run out of spares long ago.

The problem with the mainline shunt is that it blocks the WB line out of Plat.2 and as that was where the only WB train was, packed out with the passengers I'd picked up, it would have made sense to get me out of the way asap. Instead I sat there and stared at the headlights on the train facing me for a good ten minutes while trains went by EB. Eventually they let me go and I got to HAI almost on time, possibly the only TOp who was!

By the time I’d finished my meal relief everything was running to timetable or near as damn it though I was held at WHC for about ten minutes while the train in the middle platform had the green light but no one in the cab; obviously there were still TOps wandering lost out there.

Just be glad it didn’t happen Friday.
I was spare on Friday and for the first couple of hours I sat around drinking tea and watching Hitchcock’s “Spellbound”. I’m a big film fan, my dad was a cinema manager in the 50s and 60s so I was brought up watching a lot of old movies. Hitchcock grew up in Leytonstone and the subway to the station is decorated with mosaics depicting his life and movies, well worth seeing if you are ever over this way. Salvador Dali was hired to help with Gregory Peck’s dream sequences but sadly the studio cut the original 20 minutes worth and other than a few stills the extra footage is lost.

After that I was sent down to the Waterloo and City, the first time I’ve ever actually worked there rather than go for training. I’ve never liked the idea of going one stop, changing ends, going one stop, going up the sidings, getting off, getting on the next one, going one stop, changing ends, repeat until your brain starts dribbling out your ears. Some people love it but I was bored after the second trip.

I can’t have had more than six passengers on at a time and once I left completely empty. After about two and a half hours of that I was on my way back, the Tube was virtually deserted and everyone seemed to have something with a Union Jack on it except me. Very odd.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Everything went smoothly Thursday which was hardly surprising as once again it would appear that vast numbers have decided to start the long weekend early and the platforms were half empty during the morning peak.

Following the localised strikes on the Northern and Bakerloo Lines over the sacking of two TOps the RMT have successfully balloted for a Tube wide strike. It all seems a little premature as the last I heard the Employment Tribunal have yet to hear one of the cases and have not delivered their verdict on the one they had.

The problem is that even if the Employment Tribunal do find in favour of the two men under the present legislation LUL does not have to give them their jobs back, they just have to pay a large wedge of compensation. With LUL pleading poverty at the pay negotiations (while at the same time boasting of record passenger numbers) it would be a lot cheaper to simply reinstate them and tell them to behave in future.

Perhaps I’m missing something..........

Monday, 25 April 2011

A beautiful Easter Sunday on the sunny Central Line, two trips up to EPP both in coded with the cab door open, scattering bunnies all the way from DEB to the end of the line.

Monday as it’s a Bank Holiday we are running a Saturday service instead of a normal weekday and the Drain is closed. Some of us are therefore surplus to requirement and have been given the Monday off as one of our spare Annual Leave days.

Exactly what we wanted on Boxing Day but LUL wouldn’t give us until it was too late to do anything about it. Tuesday and Wednesday are my rostered rest days for the week so I’ll be back Thursday and on Friday it’s the Royal Wedding. Should be a giggle.

Friday, 22 April 2011

سلام to whoever is reading this in Iran, здравствуй to whoever is reading this in Russia.
After Wednesday’s mayhem everything went timetable, not that anyone would have noticed if things had gone horribly wrong, so many people had started the Easter weekend early that it felt more like a Saturday than a Thursday.

The only wrinkle was that the Jubilee was suspended due to a defective train at Canary Wharf which meant that the only way east from London Bridge was to head up the Northern to BAN and jump on the Central. Half an hour after the suspension started BAN EB was so overcrowded that they decided to close the platform and we were instructed to non-stop.

Almost seconds after that announcement we were told that the Jubilee had resumed and shortly after we were told to stop at BAN EB as normal. I had a picture of sad, tired refugees from the Jubilee shuttling between the two stations on the Northern Line in the desperate hope of escaping Zone 1.

I’m off till Sunday, have a good weekend everybody.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Me and my big keyboard……

I guessed there was something wrong when I was walking over to the WB platforms at LES as the train on Plat 1 had a clear signal but wasn’t moving. We learnt from Wood Lane that there was smoke coming from the train up at LEY and when I met the TOp involved he confirmed that this was the case. I spent the next hour using all the knowledge I’d gained working as an SA at STR trying to direct passengers to their destinations via the buses and other trains while the Fire Brigade did their thing.

Just as we were given the all clear at LEY we were told that another train had gone defective at BOS WB. I was told to move up as far as STR, at LES the Super thought I was going to be held there and at STR a CSA on the platform was under the impression that I was going through to HOL.

After a few minutes I was told to move up as far as BEG, when I reached MIE I made a PA to say that I’d only be going one stop and a fair number of people got off to use the District Line. Before I could close the doors we were given the all clear so I relayed the good news to the passengers and they all got back on again.

As I approached LIS Wood Lane told me to reverse at MAA, I got up there without any further delay, tipped out quickly, went up the sidings, came straight back out and I was now only a few minutes late. With all the disruption the platforms were heaving so I was packed out after only two stops.

When I reached TCR Wood Lane announced that there was a signal failure at HOL on the WB, which was fine for me as I was going EB but as I approached the signal that covers the points out of British Museum sidings it remained ominously red. I called up Wood Lane and they confirmed that there was a possibility that the signal failure could be EB as well and I’d have to walk through the train to take it back to TCR. As the passengers were squeezed in like sardines the prospect did not fill me with joy.

Wonder of wonders the signal cleared and off I went but I’d only got as far as CHL before the sirens went off to tell me that a Passenger Emergency Alarm had been pulled down in the rear car. With no member of station staff on the platform to go reset it for me I had to make my way down the very crowded platform to sort it out. Whoever pulled it down had left the scene before I arrived so I never found out what was so damn important to warrant stopping the train.

There were more delays at LIS as a train was reversed over the crossover west of the station and then an almighty train-jam at LOU before I finally reached EPP. Back at LIS someone turned off the WB traction current, Wood Lane didn’t know why as it had been discharged locally which usually only happens when someone or something is on the track that shouldn’t be.

I never found out the cause and even through current was switched back on after only fifteen minutes or so that further delayed things. I got back to LES for my meal break nearly four hours after I’d started work and barely half an hour before I was due to pick up my next train.

It didn’t matter, my next train had been withdrawn from service so I ended up doing two trips to EPP and back. In all the years I’ve worked here I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I’ve never known so many things go wrong in such a short space of time.

You will never see the words “quiet” and "day" together in this blog again.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Political thought.

I was going to vote against AV, I think it will make very little difference, elections will still be dominated by a handful of marginal seats only there will be slightly more of them than previously and parliament will still be as unrepresentative as before. I think the Lib Dems had a golden opportunity to change politics with a complete reform, top to bottom, and they bottled it believing that gradual change would be more acceptable.

Now I’m going to vote for AV in the hope that it is accepted and it’s shown to be just as useless as “first past the post”. Maybe next time someone manages to get electoral reform on the agenda they won’t be so chickenshit and will come up with a list of proposals that will bring about actual change.

The funniest argument against AV is that it would confuse the voters; if you’re confused by the system then just maybe you don’t understand the issues you are voting on and shouldn’t be there in the first place. Or am I getting to be a grumpy old man.
A nice quiet day, everything running smoothly though the Jubilee was closed from one end to the other due to a power failure; they’ve not been having a lot of fun this year. Last week LUL came out with their pay offer, 4% this year with RPI +0.25% for the next four and unsurprisingly with RPI at 5.5% the unions have rejected this.

ASLEF have already got 5.6% for two other TfL subsidiaries this year and train drivers on other railways are tied into no more than two years at a minimum of RPI +0.5%. LUL have just announced that we carried a record 1.1bn passengers in the twelve months up to March 2011, a rise of 42m on the previous twelve months; business is obviously booming.

In the past these pay talks have dragged on for a year or more but all parties must be aware that we don’t have that luxury this time, the Olympics are coming. Whatever method LUL intend to use to fill the extra trains the unions aren't going to agree to it until the pay deal is finalised.

I’ll keep you informed as and when I hear news.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Special working, no trains beyond MAA, the most noticeable thing was that whereas the last time I did this there were station staff on the platform helping to close up the train and direct bemused passengers this time it was left to the TOps and a DTSM. We certainly had no idea which bus went where, I hope there were station staff upstairs to provide them with more reliable information.

I was the last EB and the platforms were packed. By the time I reached TCR passengers were squeezing on or running further down the platform to find space. Needless to say when I reached EPP I was running late and only had enough time to change ends before I was off again.

Apart from the usual evidence of a good night out, empty bottles, empty cans, a small pool of vomit, I encountered a distraught child, almost in tears, being led away from the public toilets by her mother who declared that “if a lady made that mess then she was no lady”. The EPP Super rolled his eyes and went to assess the extent of the problem and if it requireD the services of a plumber.

One sleeper refused to wake up despite my best efforts and as I didn’t have time to hang about he came to LOU with me. When I arrived there was no sign of station staff to help me close up so after three attempts to move the sleeper I managed to get him up on his feet and onto the platform. While I was finishing closing up someone, I assume the LOU Super, made a PA announcing that there were no more trains and that passengers should leave the station.

That had absolutely no effect as when I walked back to the cab the gentleman was pressing the door buttons in the vain hope that he could continue his journey. I explained that his only way home was to try the minicab office outside the station and went off to stable the train. Despite losing 650 station staff it appears we still have managed to retain some of those who can’t be bothered to get off their fat arses and do their jobs.

The next morning was unusually busy, the train was quite crowded by the time I reached LES which I assume was down to the London Marathon. At 7:00 in the morning! On a Sunday? Some people are far too keen.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

After two very quiet nights London was out on the tiles again Friday. As I was going WB I heard a loud cheer through the J door, the one between the cab and the saloon. All doors have letters, take a look next time. At SHB a group of young ladies informed me that someone had thrown up and “it was everywhere” but when I checked while closing up at WER it was a relatively small puddle. Ladies, if that is the worst you’ve seen then you have never seen proper vomit.

At HAL I spotted a gentleman looking around with that easily identifiable “where am I” look, at PER the Super helped an unsteady woman onto the train while at GRE another young lady staggered off the train and when I last saw her she was clinging to one of the pillars on the platform as if it was her only friend in the world. Two sleepers at WER, both who set off the wrong way up the platform and had to be redirected towards the stairs.

There’s engineering works again this weekend so once more we’re shut down west of MAA and on my way up to WER I passed at least half a dozen engineers trains loaded with new ballast. As there are no trains out of WER in the morning once I’d stabled the train in the depot I had to jump in a taxi, pick up the other West End night turn at WHC and then the pair of us were ferried over to HAI.

When we arrived we surprised the night turn at HAI as he’d forgotten about the “special working”. When he checked his duty with the DTSM he was shocked to discover that rather than just getting a train out and running down to LES he had to get another train out half an hour earlier and leave it on the platform for one of the HAI early turns. Bit like valet parking.

My shift finished uneventfully, running empty to MAA, up the siding and then back in service to LES. One piece of bad news is that one of the new goldfish has died, it had been fine when I last saw it Thursday night but since then someone had left a coil of tubing and a bag of some unidentifiable yellow crystals next to the tank. Now the tubing suggests that someone either did or was planning on doing a water change and I suspect that the crystals are some sort of water treatment but obviously whatever they did it wasn’t the right thing.

Someone owes me a fish.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

All quiet on the Central Line, nothing worth mentioning but Shelix has left Midland Road. When the RSPCA came on Monday they thought it best to keep her with her kittens so they’ve all gone off together. The station staff told me that she was teaching the kittens to hunt and it was fun watching them pouncing on each other.

I wish her and her six little bundles of fluff all the best.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Spare again, more staff in than Tuesday but even so all the other spares were out and about when I booked on. After a couple of hours I was given a job; WER, HAI and back on the cushions. Nothing of note other than we were stepping up at WER again, for some reason a train had been taken out of service and was blocking one of the two platforms as there were no spare available to put it in the yard. There were a couple of “next platform and hold” calls while I was going back EB but the first was on the WB and the second a long way behind me, both were passenger-initiated so it looks as if London is still in a party mood and bugger Austerity!

I did a bit of checking and was surprised to discover that there are only 400 or so TOps on the Central Line, I had a vague idea there were about 600 when I moved over from stations and everyone I’ve talked to seems to agree with that estimate. I can also confirm that currently no one is training, all the IOps apart from the few running ATOR are driving trains alone. So how are we going to manage to run the extra services demanded for the Olympics?

Currently the Unions are in negotiation about this and other things but one of my colleagues had the pleasure of having our Line Manager in his cab earlier this week and he asked him how the talks were going. Now this is just a rumour at the moment and sadly LUL is a breeding ground for gossip but the Big Boss said that one plan under consideration was allowing us to work our Rest Days, paying us overtime rates and anyone who worked all 14 days would get an additional bonus.

As I said this is not official yet but I worked Rest Days when I was on stations and it’s common practise on the mainline rail. Up there it used to be that every Sunday was a Rest Day, all Sunday working was voluntary and at double pay. A couple of years ago one of the mainline TOCs decided to reduce the rate and then found themselves without a service as none of the drivers were prepared to work their Rest Day.

The obvious flaw with Rest Day working is that it will be voluntary so LUL are going to have to dangle a large enough carrot to ensure that they have enough TOps to fill all the trains. However it would mean that LUL wouldn’t have to train up extra TOps and then have them go into the pool and wait for natural wastage to thin our ranks again. I’ll keep you posted as and when I hear more.

My only other news is that I’ve finally got around to getting Clive some company, he now shares his tank with two more Carassius auratus auratus, a great deal smaller than him with names as yet to be decided. I just hope he doesn’t try to eat them.