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.

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