Friday 31 December 2010

I managed to get on the right train Thursday, everything went to timetable, not one call from Wood Lane, not even any serious delays on any other lines and if anything there were less passengers than Wednesday. I’m spare Friday so in all likelihood my next report will be even duller.

Even though I’m back on nights next week as it’s the week after New Year everybody will be partied out and I’ll be over at WER most nights so the possibility of amusing drunks will be greatly reduced. Shame I couldn’t get the last EPP on Christmas week, I did that a couple of years ago and it was a bonanza of oversleepers. The saddest case was the suit on Christmas Eve, I tried in vain to wake him at EPP and ended up taking him to LOU. Between me and the Super we managed to get him on his feet and then while I stabled the train in the sidings the Super shepherded him out the station.

Christmas Day is the one time stations are guaranteed to be unstaffed and one of the rare occasions the late turn Super gets the padlock and chain out to lock the gates. When I got to the gates the Super was waiting to close up and go home so I asked if he’d found out where the suit was trying to get to. Slough. Ouch, a good fifty miles round the M25, at half past midnight Christmas morning, wonder what the minicab fare was on that?

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Dead early, 05:25 start. I managed to turn off my alarm and only woke up with just enough time to get dressed and get to work. We’re running a Saturday timetable but on a weekday roster so we have loads of spares sitting around. More passengers around today but still not up to normal levels, a lot milder and very foggy early on at the extreme ends of the line.

On normal Saturdays and weekdays number 01 duty takes the first WB train to WER and number 02 takes the first EB to EPP. As this isn’t a Saturday but we are running a Saturday timetable someone decided that they would swap 01 and 02 around which I didn’t realise until I was sat in the cab of the first EB train. I had to walk all the way back along the platform while a couple of hundred delayed passengers scowled at me and I cursed the miserable desk jockeys who generate the timetables and rosters.

Apart from that everything went fine until the very end when a defective train at MIE WB shut everything down all the way back to EPP and had me sat at SNA for about 20 minutes. Eventually they tipped one out at LES and sent it up to the shunt signal so they could get my train in. The line was still suspended LES – LIS when I left.

Tomorrow I’m doing number 01 and I’m going to check which train I’m on before I get on it.

Tuesday 28 December 2010

London was pretty empty yesterday, the only time any platform looked remotely crowded was around 16:00 EB at BOS and OXO. Every time I saw a train going the other way the cars were sparsely populated, we are running a Saturday service and it certainly is more than we need.

Evidence of how quiet it was came at the start of my second half, when the train pulled in I noticed that the front double doors on the leading car hadn’t opened and on investigation found that some scallywag had carefully peeled one of the Central Line maps that runs above the seats and then stuck it across the doors. Damn they use strong glue on those things. One assumes that the front car must have been empty at some point on it’s EB journey in order for the culprits to perform their act of mischief and escape detection.

Despite the scarcity of passengers we still had enough delays, it seemed as if we’d only resolved one before Wood Lane were calling “platforms and hold” for another. An “incident” here, a “passenger alarm” there, all little niggling delays but nothing major. The major delay was down to a signal problem at BEG EB which I ran into on my first half, halfway into the platform Auto packed in and when I switched to Coded I couldn’t get a brake release. Now this could have been a “platform plunger” but I had codes which shouldn’t have been there if that were the case.

BEG is in a “controlled area”, one where the signals are semi-auto. Oh well I’d better explain basic signalling to you, I will try and keep this simple. Two types of signal, auto and semi auto. A signal tells you what’s going on in the section of track between it and the next signal. A green signal means the track is “clear” and that it is safe to proceed, a red signal indicates “danger”, that there is something ahead.

All sections work as a basic electrical circuit, if the circuit is broken the signal in front of them goes to danger, a trains wheels will break the circuit so any signal will go to red if there is a train in the section ahead. An auto is just a simple circuit while a semi has to be activated by the signaller or signal computer. They are used in conjunction with points and will only clear when the points are set in your favour and obviously there are no trains in the section ahead.

At an auto under a given set of conditions I can pass a signal at danger under my own authority but where there are semis, a controlled area, I cannot so four cars into BEG EB platform I had to call Wood Lane to get the okay to pull in the rest of the way while the bemused passengers on the platform stared in at me; now I know how Clive feels. The problem persisited for most of the afternoon but had been resolved by the time I came EB again.

9am – 5:30pm, stupid time to work. Who could possibly live like that? Rest Day today, West Ham on TV again and then three dead earlies, 05:30 starts, ahhhhh that’s more like it.

Sunday 26 December 2010


Saturday 25 December 2010

Friday was as quiet as Thursday, it had a sort of Saturday feel to it, not the last minute rush the shops were hoping for. Tomorrow I will be on strike for the first time in all my years on the Tube and I’ll be manning the picket line at my local pub on the High Road watching West Ham v Fulham. As I said yesterday this could all have been avoided if LUL had offered to reduce the number of TOps working Boxing Day at any time over the past month and when they made the offer on Wednesday morning they knew full well it was far too late to do anything.

So if I wanted one thing for Christmas I would ask Santa to bring us senior management with a bit of imagination, a bit of vision, with an actual desire to provide the best service we could for our passengers and to treat the staff as a valued resource rather than something to be defeated at every turn. As I think I’ve mentioned before things definitely seemed to be improving under Tim O’Toole who worked in US rail freight before he came to LUL so maybe we need to attract the brightest and best from the railway industry rather than simply promoting from within.

LUL is part of TfL and the chairman of TfL is the Mayor of London so if you want real change on the Tube then in May 2012 you need to vote for a Mayor who is actually committed to improving the Tube. I’m not going to suggest one person or one party but have a good read of the section on transport in each each candidate's manifesto then ask yourself does what they say seem reasonable and more importantly is it possible. If all they talk about is buses, bikes, cable cars across the Thames, airports on islands and smashing the RMT then perhaps they aren’t really that interested in the Tube.

Merry Christmas, everybody.

Thursday 23 December 2010

London was spookily quiet Thursday, at 8am it felt decidedly off-peak which was made even odder by the Evening Standard announcing that shoppers were flooding into the West End; not on the Central Line they weren’t, matey. Despite being the only London paper ES does seem to restrict itself to regurgitating press releases rather than actually looking for substance behind the claims and this seems to have been a bit of wishful thinking on behalf of the West End shops which some hack had written up as factual.

And on that note I can confirm that the Boxing Day strike will go ahead despite LUL trying to get it stopped in the courts. We all got a nice note from Howard Collins telling us that at ACAS on Wednesday morning LUL had generously offered to reduce the number of TOps working on Boxing Day and that nasty ASLEF had refused.

Actually ASLEF should have agreed if the amended timetable, roster, etc could be in place by start of traffic Friday in accordance with LUL’s own rule that any alteration to duties must be made at least 48 hours in advance. LUL would then have to admit that it was impossible as these things take weeks to check and double check and then send out to the depots where local alterations can be made.

This was what we wanted from the start and it is a fine example of how frustrating management can be that they only make this offer when they couldn’t possibly give it to us rather than when we first asked for it over a month ago or even after the strike ballot had been announced. With the Royal Wedding coming up expect LUL to avoid talking to the Unions about arrangements until mid-April.

The first half of my duty finished with me stabling a train at HAI so when I arrived at Plat 3 I went through the train closing up and checking that the train was passenger free. As I sat back down in the cab and waited for the shunt signal to clear I got a call on the “cab to cab; there was a TOp at the other end if the train who informed me that he had been sent to take this train west.

As I headed off to the train crew accommodation for my meal relief a passenger complained that they’d been directed up to the train on Plat 1 for the first WB and there were still a lot of passengers sitting there waiting despite the station PA announcing the change of platform.

I was going to pass this information onto the station staff when I got to the DMTs desk but when I got there the DMT informed me that Wood Lane had been trying to contact me over the station PA as they now wanted me to take the train sat on Plat 1 into the yard.

As I closed up on Plat 1 several passengers expressed their understandable frustration at being sent to a train and then being turned off. They have my sympathy but communication of "real time" information with staff and passengers remains one of LUL’s failings. Sadly if Wood Lane decide to swap trains around at short notice it's not them that get the grief it's those of us out here on the "front line".

Wednesday 22 December 2010

After the chaos of the last few days Tuesday was going quite nicely until an hour before I was due to finish. With just a run up to EPP and back to LES to do there was a “next platforms and hold” call for the entire line as Wood Lane had lost all control of the signals east of LIS due to a power supply failure. Thankfully power was restored after a couple of minutes but as an after effect the escalators at BEG weren’t working and a few platforms didn’t have any CCTV.

Now as I have explained before if we don’t have CCTV in the cab we get Wood Lane to “watch” us out but if they don’t have it either then a member of station staff has to come down to give us the “right” and stand by an emergency platform plunger or “code buster” in case something goes wrong. What this little device does when activated is to put the signal code at the platform to zero, effectively giving the train a red light.

What the Line Controller instructed us to do was to “self despatch” if the platform was straight, without the failsafe of a member of station staff which is a big no-no and as we have seen up on the Bakerloo just because the Line Controller or the signaller instructs to do something doesn’t mean if something goes wrong you will no be offered the chance to join the fastest growing club in the UK, the dole queue.

So when I rolled up at DEB EB to find my screen blank I hit the whistle to attract the attention of the station staff and when none appeared I got on the radio to Wood Lane. Sure enough the Controller asked me to “self dispatch” and I refused, insisting on someone being there on the platform before I moved. I tried the whistle again and this time the Super appeared, I closed up, received confirmation that it was okay to go and set off again. I got a quick turnaround at EPP and when I reached BUH WB there was a member of staff on the platform waiting to give me the right.

With cuts to station staff coming in February and a leaked memo admitting the possibility of some stations being without any staff at certain times what will happen if we have a similar CCTV failure. I for one will certainly not be risking my job and my pension to keep the service running.

Other than that Auto was just not happy with the weather conditions. I gave up after we’d pulled up halfway into the platform for the third time and just stuck the train into Coded Manual for the rest of the trip. What with that and the CCTV I was only five minutes late getting to back LES. Wednesday is my rest day, I’m off to buy sprouts.

Monday 20 December 2010

Air is not only essential to humans it’s also very important to trains. The doors and brakes are operated by compressed air, the whistle and the windscreen wipers too though obviously not as vital. Central Line trains, 92s, are made up of four two-car units and one car in every unit has a compressor. With every compressor there is a governor which monitors the air pressure and the whole system is linked throughout the train by pipes so if a compressor on one unit isn’t working the governor can start the compressors on the other units to feed it’s tank. This will be important later.

Monday was meant to be very simple; LES to EPP, EPP to WER, WER to LES, grub, then repeat and go home. To start with my first train was running ten late and when I relieved the TOp he explained that he had a governor stuck in which meant that all the compressors we running at full whack. Obviously if they are constantly working they will eventually overheat and then things get all flamey and generally unpleasent so he’d isolated it and a train technician should catch up with me on the way back. They never did.

As I headed up to EPP Wood Lane informed us that a train at HOP EB had suffered a mainline burst, the pipe that connects all the air tanks. This is a very bad thing because without air pressure on a pair of switches we cannot get the brakes off on the unit with the burst, so we have to isolate it from the healthy units, turn off the compressor and governor so we can empty the compressed air tanks to get the brakes off.

At the same time the air pressure holds back the Emergency Spring-applied Brake, a bit like a hand brake, so this will jam on once all the air is bled off. When we do get moving we have to drag the train through the brake pads, making progress very slow. All in all mainline bursts are considered to be the worst defect that you can suffer.

The absolute worst is a mainline burst on the lead unit as without those the pressure switches I mentioned earlier you cannot get the train moving, so you either need a train behind to push you along or another TOp will be ferried to the back of your train and they will drive in reverse while you instruct them from the front. And the computer was telling the TOp at HOP that the burst was on the lead unit. Not good.

Anyway I got away WB at EPP only a few minutes down and was expecting to be turned around at MAA but when I got to LOU Wood Lane announced that there had been a second mainline burst, this time on the WB between LEY and STR. Now thankfully MLBs are rare so to have two in the space of thirty minutes was incredible and I’m sure I was not the only TOp wondering if it was something to do with the weather and praying that I would be next.

I was held at LOU for a while, then moved up to WOO before being cleared up to SNA and then we got very lucky. The MLB at HOP was actually on the coupler between the first and second units, not on the first unit itself, which mean that the pressure switches were working and the train could move as normal. While I was making my way to SNA we got the all clear at LES-STR too so I guess that was a similar situation; a bullet dodged.

Regardless of our good fortune I was running 20 minutes late by now but Wood Lane decided to “stock and crew” me at SOR. I pulled into the WB platform, another train pulled into the EB platform, we swapped trains, I changed the number on the train I got on to the number of the train I’d got off and hey presto train 666 and it’s driver are back on time. My lunch break was saved.

Except I’d not reached NOR EB before I got a call from Wood Lane asking me to check the id number of my rear car. When I confirmed this the Line Controller informed me that the DDM at the depot did not want that train going through the pipe (I was never told why) and I should turn it around at WHC. As I was due to get off for my meal relief at LES in less than an hour the LC said they’d call WHC and get a spare to take me off. Sadly there were no spares available so there was no choice but for me to take it back to RUG and stick it in the yard which would naturally mean that my meal break and my second train were going to be messed up.

Anyway I got as far as SOR before there was yet another “next platforms and hold” call for a points failure at WER so when I should have been making myself a cup of tea I was sat on the front of a train staring at a red signal. Ten minutes later we got the all clear, I tipped out at RUG, stabled the train and walked out of the depot. I presented myself at the DMTs desk for instructions 30 minutes before I was due to pick up my second train at LES, obviously that wasn’t going to happen especially as my second train had been put away in the sidings at LOU.

I jumped the next available train back east and finally got to LES around the time I should have been leaving there for my second trip up to WER. By the time I had my meal break the line was running smoothly but due to the lack of stock available my train didn’t come back into service until after I’d finished. What really made me laugh in all of this was while I was closing the train up prior to going into the depot the automated PA at RUG was announcing that there was a good service on the Central Line which was at the very least woefully optimistic.

Saturday 18 December 2010

On Saturday it snowed. Lots. When I booked on the job was completely up the wall not so much due to the weather but because of a signal failure. While we could send trains from HAI to LES we couldn’t get them LES to HAI so all HAI via NEP trains were being sent up to WOO, round the loop and then back WB; fine if you wanted HAI but a long haul for anyone travelling to stations between NEP and WAN.

In order to ease the congestion caused by all the trains going up the EPP branch to WOO I was instructed to take over a train coming into Platform 3 and reverse it back WB to EAB. The only problem is that for some strange reason when you go WB off Platform 3, normally the EB platform, you get Platform 2 on the CCTV. As I was unable see what I was doing I had to call Wood Lane to observe my departure in order to ensure that there were no accidents while I was leaving. So I was late starting and got later as I made my way to EAB, finally getting there 20 minutes after I should have left.

When I came back EB the signal failure had been sorted but even so by the time I reached HAI I had lost another ten minutes and was made even later by a points failure. After a hold up between LES and LEY I was a long way behind the train in front and the platforms were filling up. By the time I’d reached MIE my train was full and passengers were having to wait for the train behind me. I was getting later and later and still had to go to EAB before I got off for my meal break at WHC.

As I left MAA Wood Lane called up and announced “White City only for relief” which I understood to mean that I would be relieved at WHC but when I came out of the pipe and was directed to the middle platform I realised that they’d meant that the train was terminating there too. I don’t think my passengers were too impressed when I told them that the train would not be going any further. Sorry.

I had slightly over the half an hour minimum for my meal relief before I was due to pick up my second train but when I checked to see where it was it was noticeably absent. I asked the nice helpful DMT on the desk what they wanted me to do and he told me that he’d find me a train to take back east. Sure enough about an hour later he called me up to tell me that I should get a train out of WHC sidings and do my last EAB and back to LES.

So off I trudged in the snow down Wood Lane and then down deep beneath the Westfield Centre. Thankfully I came out on time, got to LES on time but the TOp who was due to take me off was somewhere else on the line and there were no spares available. Now we can’t just leave trains sitting on the track so if was no TOp to relieve me I would have to take the train onto HAI, put it into the depot, walk out and then get a train back to LES, at least another 40-45 minutes to my day. While I would have been paid overtime at that point all I wanted to do was go home. Fortunately there was a TOp waiting to go west in need of a train so they made mine into theirs and I made my escape.

As well as the weather effecting the Tube there the two strikes on the Northern and Bakerloo. As predicted the Bakerloo Line was the worst effected, only running north of Paddington while with only the RMT drivers at Morden Depot on strike the Northern Line was running a “good service”. Still no word on Boxing Day.
There were a lot of hold ups on the Central Line and elsewhere on the Tube for passenger caused problems, either “incidents” or “passenger emergency alarm” (PEA) being activated aka "handle down". Fortunately it was either far behind me or in the other direction but the one that did slow my progress for a mere two minutes has to have had my all time top announcement from Wood Lane. This, as far as my memory goes, is how it went:-

“All eastbound trains, White City to Liverpool Street, next platforms and hold. We are currently waiting for a passenger to be removed from a train at Bank following the earlier fracas, about 20 minutes ago, at Queensway westbound”.

“Earlier fracas”?!?!? So the passenger had previous? My mind was full of visions of some drunken nutter, banned from every pub in London, reduced to cruising Zone 1 trying to pick a fight. And yes, the Control Room person actually said “fracas”, I can only hope that in future we will be encouraged to say something like that on our PAs.

“This train will be held here while staff deal with an altercation at Chancery Lane” or “delays to the Bakerloo Line while honour is satisfied at Edgware Road”.

One can only hope……

Friday 17 December 2010

It couldn’t last, the first half went timetable but after my meal relief at WHC I got as far as SHB EB and then got held while a train went out if service at LIS. When I came out of the pipe it was snowing, Auto kept failing so eventually I put it into Coded Manual for the rest of the way up to EPP.

I had just enough time to change ends before setting off WB but just as I was about to leave LES Wood Lane put out a "next platforms and hold" call due to an incident at…..LES. The EB train stopped about two cars into the platform so whatever the incident was it was happening on that side but I had no idea what it was. I later learnt it was a passenger “causing a disturbance” and we were instructed to enter LES at caution speed in both directions; nutter or drunk, take your pick.

Eventually the EB train pulled all the way into the platform and after another few minutes we were told to carry on by which time the platforms ahead of me had started to fill up. By the time I reached STP I was packed out and passengers were being left behind. When the platforms are that crowded the passengers trying to get on block the passengers trying to get off which slows things down so my train was getting further behind the one in front while the ones behind were getting closer. This is when we “regulate” the service, get the trains ahead to hold for a minute or so to enable the packed train behind to catch up so that it isn’t arriving at packed platforms.

Despite all this when I finally got to WER I still had seven minutes before I was due to go EB and I finished on time. Which was nice......

Wednesday 15 December 2010

I was busy yesterday so this one is a day late. Monday was timetable which makes four days in a row without any major delays to my train and with no incidents to report this is a very boring post. The result of the ballot was announced, 1025 for and 127 against so unless LUL and ASLEF can come to an agreement sometime in the next ten days I shall be on strike for the first time in my thirteen years on the Tube.

Monday 13 December 2010

Sunday I was spare, things were quiet and all I ended up doing was a LES to WER and back. With so little to relay I thought I’d try to explain the waves of industrial action that are besetting the Tube at the moment. What I’ve ended up with is the longest post I’ve ever written and hope it’s not too much for my readers.

First off there’s the biggy, the loss of 650 station staff, mostly ticket office staff, another 150 managerial grades, several hundred administration people and more job losses at Metronet, which has led to four 24 hour strikes since September by RMT and my old union TSSA, which previously hadn’t walked out at the Tube since the General Strike in 1926. The admin and management jobs are being shed out of a need to save money due to the recession, an argument which LUL have negated themselves by regularly trumpeting that they are carrying more passengers than ever before. The recession certainly ain’t hurting us, the DfT slashing TfL’s budget maybe.

On the station side LUL’s argument is that since the introduction of Oyster cards TOs aren’t as busy so they are reducing the opening hours and therefore don’t need as many staff. As I’ve said elsewhere when Oysters were being introduced management were insistent that this would not affect the need for TOs but I thought otherwise and asked to be transferred to the train side of the business. So either management were incompetently inaccurate in their assessment of future trends or it was just bullshit. As I mentioned above we are carrying more passengers, surely we need more staff. What about 2012?

What didn’t help the station staff was that over 200 positions have already fallen vacant with people retiring or leaving the company and they’ve been doing overtime to cover for these vacancies. As for the 150 management grades they were offered severance payments and there were far more applications than the 150 needed, I’ve met several managers who put in for a pay off and have had to stay. As there are no reductions to TOps none of this directly effects ASLEF so we carry on turning up for work. The alterations to TO opening hours along with the roster reorganisation will come in February after which the unions will have to admit defeat.

There are also a couple of local disputes that will manifest themselves as strikes next Saturday. On the Bakerloo Line a TOp, a RMT Health and Safety Rep, with 15 years on the job, was sacked for an “operational error”. The signaller and the control room staff who instructed him to do whatever it was he did were given Corrective Action Plans, basically a few days retraining being told what they did wrong and what they actually should have done. On another line a TOp who made the same mistake some time after this incident was given a 12 month caution.

RMT took this to the Employment Tribunal a month ago, the judge agreed that this was blatantly unfair and awarded him “interim relief” which means that LUL have to pay his salary until his full tribunal hearing in March next year. RMT want him reinstated immediately but LUL refused so he’s sat at home, on full pay but unable to carry out his union responsibilities as H&S Rep and having been one when I was on stations I can assure you there’s a hell of a lot of paperwork.

Anyway RMT balloted it’s 119 members on the Brown One, 45 came back for strike action, 4 against with the same number voting for action short of a strike. Yes I know pathetic really and while the last London Mayoral Election only got a 45.33% turnout our ballots are postal, so your ballot paper drops onto your doormat, all you have to do is put a cross on a piece of paper, put it into the prepaid envelope and shove it in a postbox. Still it seems as if the RMT have every right to be miffed at LUL and if you are on the Bakerloo next Saturday I’d plan a nice day at home.

Meanwhile on the Northern Line a TOp who has been active in RMT for 29 years is accused of “verbally assaulting” a manager working on the gate line of Kennington station during one of the last strike days. Even though his disciplinary interview hasn’t been held yet RMT have still balloted their 192 members for strike action and the result has been somewhat different.

At his home depot, Morden, 30 voted for a strike and 29 against though there was more support for action short of a strike, 44 to 15. At the other three depots the response was tiny, only 21 bothered and the vote was against any action, 8-13 on the strike, 10-11 short of strike. So only RMT at Morden will be out, RMT at the other depots and all ASLEF TOps will be booking on as normal. Expect a few cancelled trains but otherwise the Northern should be running ok.

Meanwhile ASLEF have balloted for strike action on Boxing Day and the result should be out this week. Back in the old days, say er……last year, Boxing Day was treated as special. We ran a reduced service so that as many TOps as possible could have the day off and it coped perfectly well with demand. If we work bank holidays we are given a day off in leiu and if Boxing Day wasn’t one of our rostered rest days the company would just use up one of our accumlated days. This year LUL have decided that December 26th is just another Sunday and will run a full Sunday service although we will be opening up an hour late so that enough trains can be prepped to start.

To make matters worse the timetable change in the summer means we work more Sundays than before so whereas at my depot less than thirty TOps would expect to be working on Boxing Day we will have more than 40 booking on this year. In response ASLEF asked for a day off in lieu which LUL won’t give us as it’s not a bank holiday and for triple pay which LUL obviously rejected. So we balloted for strike action and it looks likely that I will be out on strike December 26th, my first day’s pay lost due to industrial action since joining the Tube.

Now here’s where it get’s amusing; we have no intention of picketing our depots, the whole point was for as many of us to have the day off as possible, we will stay at home (unpaid) with our families like normal people. What this does mean is that when the RMT TOps turn up for work there will be no picket line for them to refuse to cross so they will have no excuse for not working. We’ve worked four of their strike days, let them do all the work for a change. Merry Christmas

Sunday 12 December 2010

This was going to be a very different post. The first half went smoothly enough but an hour into the second half Saturday became arseholes night. At MAA two men restrained their friend who was trying to kick my train as it came into the platform, his foot vs. 150 ton of 92 stock, guess where my money is on that contest. At NOA a man so drunk he was zigzagging the width of the platform as he headed for the exit, knocked it into Coded and pulled out very slowly.

But utter arsehole to the night goes to the idiot at BAN and I have to say this is something that got me fuming. BAN is one of the stations where we are instructed to say “mind the doors” every time rather than when necessary, even if it’s empty we make a PA. So SONIA has done her bit telling the passengers where they are, where the train is going, then I do a “mind the doors”, hit the “close” buttons, a good 30 seconds, plenty of time for everyone to get off, and just as the doors close this bloke jumps off the train.

He then tries to pull the door open and eventually I open up the doors again. Off jumps his dog, not on a lead, who starts running around the platform and I am furious. Railways are dangerous places, we’ve got trains thundering about, we’ve got 640 volts going through the traction rails, dogs can get hurt and that is why it is we insist that if you bring a dog on the Tube it must be on a lead at all times.

Worse are escalators, a dog can get it’s paw caught in the “teeth” and that is why we insist that dog’s must be carried on escalators, if they are too big to be carried then use the fixed stairs and if there are no fixed stairs contact the station staff and they will stop the escalator so you can walk your pup up. I did this at Paddington once for a guide dog, much to the annoyance of the other passengers but they’ve got eyes, that lady needed a dog to get around, she gets priority.

Which reminds me that I picked up a MIP at MIE; the CSA put them on board and when we got to LIS there was another CSA to escort them them to either the Circle and Met platforms or up to the mainline. When the station staff cuts come in February things might get a lot more difficult if you’re not fully able.

Anyway back to dogs on the Tube. I made a PA asking the man to put his dog on a lead but he just strolled off with Fido running around sniffing everything as dogs do. Now I adore dogs and I was livid, anyone that careless of his pet’s well being shouldn’t be allowed to own a dog; hell, they shouldn’t be allowed to vote, they shouldn’t be allowed to breed. There you have my opinion, the punishment for lack of care for your pets; sterilisation.

Remember that little phrase “dogs must be carried on escalators”; doesn’t it sound as if they are compulsory, “no dog, take the stairs”. You could start a business hiring out Chihuahuas at stations.

All I’m saying is if you are taking a dog on the Tube, if you love and care for it which I’m sure you do please, please look after it. Keep it on a lead.

Saturday 11 December 2010

Yesterday was timetable and while it was busy as Friday evenings usually are the passengers seemed, well, older. Lots of middle aged people on the platforms rather than the usual 20-somethings out clubbing. By the time I reached HOL on my last trip EB I was packed out and left a few people on the platform who were obviously searching the cars for space. CHL and STP were the same. What was going on last night?

Being crowded there were a few interlock losses, something I’ve been meaning to write about and have been asked by Katie; thanks for being considerate with the rucksack, if only more were like you.

Okay here’s roughly how it works. All the doors (except the interconnecting doors between cars) have a thing called interlock which tells the train when they are closed and it is safe to move. This is indicated in the cab by a little blue light on my “dashboard”; the door closed visual or as we call it the “pilot light”. Those of you old enough will know why, those of you not ask your mum. If the doors come open the interlock is broken, the motors cut out, I lose the pilot light in the cab and I know that a door or doors are open somewhere on the train.

All doors have a bit of give so that if someone/something is trapped between them they don’t totally shut but if someone leans on the door in just the wrong way, like when the train starts moving and you all lean backwards, it will come open just a tiny bit, you lose the interlock, the motors stop and the train for want of a better word, jerks. The person/persons leaning are thrown forward, re-establishing the interlock, the motors kick in, the person leans on the door again, repeat process until they finally stop leaning on the door and we can get moving as normal.

It has been known for young ragamuffins to do this on purpose as a form of entertainment but being of somewhat advanced years I fail to see the enjoyment derived from such shennanagins. Occasionally the TOp will tire of being jerked around and will kindly request that the passengers stand away from the doors. Actually what they want to say is “get your great big fat arse off my f***ing doors” but we aren’t allowed to say that over the PA.

Obviously if the little blue light stays out for more than a second or so we get a bit worried and if it repeatedly happens to the same car then we get really worried as that means we may have a faulty door, in which case that train is going out of service and you are all going to have to wait on the platform to see if you can squeeze onto the next one.

So please treat our doors with respect and move you big fat arse when asked

Friday 10 December 2010

A fair amount happened on the Central Line but very little of it seemed to be happening where I was. When I got to EAB the EB was stopped on the instructions of the BTP because of an “incident” at BAN but by the time I got to WEA we had the all clear. Straight after there was a “handle down” at CHL but that was sorted before I left NOA. I was held up by a train coming out of the sidings at WHC and I didn’t reach HAI until I was timetabled to be leaving but they cleared the signal straight away and I was off WB only 3 minutes down.

As I pulled into EAB for the second time we were told to “non-stop” OXO though I couldn’t make out why, the announcer must have been halfway through a bacon sandwich. Fortunately by the time I reached SHB OXO re-opened saving me a call to Wood Lane to discover the cause. Other than that there was the usual Auto failure, this time on the EB approach to SHB and numerous rucksacks caught in doors; must have been all those student demonstrators.

One thing that did catch my eye was an announcement from our glorious leader, Mike Brown, that the Tube carried record numbers of passengers last month, over 90m despite two days of strikes. On Friday 26 we carried over 4m for the first time in over two years, nearly a quarter of a million more than the same weekend last year. Over the last seven years passenger numbers have increased by 16% and we run 27% more services than we did 15 years ago.

So obviously we are cutting 650 station staff because the Tube is getting too crowded.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Sorry I didn’t write yesterday but it was my day off and I felt like a day out enjoying myself up West rather than sitting around. Tuesday was reasonably uneventful other than getting stuck behind a “passenger ill on a train” for so long that I reached EAB ten minutes after I should have left.

At HAI the train was due to go into the depot but there were no station staff available to help me close up which made me even later than I already was; with the staff cuts due in February I expect that this is a taste of things to come. Fortunately rather than first sending me up though the wash to give the train a good clean and then having to change ends before stabling the shunters sent me straight into the yard which saved me a few minutes.

Other than that very little to report, let’s see what happens tonight.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Monday went to timetable, a refreshing change and a reminder that lates seem to suffer far less agro than earlies. You may or may not be aware that ASLEF has balloted us for a strike on Boxing Day, the votes we due in next Monday (13 Dec) so we should get the result early next week.

ASLEF are asking for some sort of compensation as in the past we worked a reduced service on Dec 26 regardless of what day it fell on and it coped perfectly with demand. The duty sheets are up and apart from opening about an hour late it looks like a full Sunday service. If memory serves less than 30 TOps booked on at my depot in the past, this year it's 42.

Obviously what we really want is a return to the previous agreements so that some of us could enjoy Boxing Day like normal people but that is highly unlikely as LUL have all those leaflets printed up telling passengers that we'll be running a normal Sunday service and it would far too late and expensive to replace them. We won’t be getting a day off in lieu as it’s not a bank holiday so a little financial compensation for depriving us of what little social life we have would be appreciated. Fat chance.

The only alternative is to stick two fingers up at our magnificent, munificent management, lose a day’s pay and stay at home with our friends and families (or go watch West Ham away at Fulham). I somehow doubt if there will be any ASLEF picket lines as that would defeat the point of the strike. Perhaps we should just all phone in sick like the Spanish air traffic controllers

Friday 3 December 2010

And going all the way back to my first post this was what one kind passenger left for the the cleaner to deal with on the night of Thursday 15 April 2010

Here’s the graffitied train I mentioned back on Wednesday 12 May 2010.

I finally downloaded all the photos off my mobile so here are a few Tube related ones. This was at about a month ago, it wasn't so much that it was a huge panda, what disturbed me was that it appears to have been the recipient of a frontal lobotomy.

We have a useful programme on the LUL internal system called Trackernet which displays a map of any given line and shows the trains moving along, very useful for keeping tabs on your next train.

I have no idea what happened to my fellow TOp and the manager who went into HAI dept but ten minutes before I was due to relieve them on the WB they were nowhere to be seen on Trackernet. The DMT had a look for my train on the Predictor, another bit of kit, and that confirmed that my train was indeed missing. A call to Wood Lane confirmed that there had been a few problems and I was told to take over a train due to go out of service at RUG and make it into mine, a piece of news very welcome to the TOp I took over from as it saved him a long, cold walk out of RUI depot.

So once more I was late picking up and each time I reached my destination I had just enough time to change ends before I was back off again. Despite this by the time I started the last trip before my meal break (EPP – WHC) I was back on time. Just as I was about to pull away from HOL we were told to hold on platforms for a train with door problems so I ended up being ten minutes late which just gave me enough time to squeeze in my meal break before I had to pick up my second half which thanks to a bit of switching around was on time.

Off till Monday, try to keep warm.

Thursday 2 December 2010

I’m doing the same shift as yesterday and obviously I was wondering if I’d have another wasted hike into HAI yard but I had a pleasant surprise waiting for me when I booked on. One of my colleagues is being assessed under Competency Management, the system LUL presents as evidence to the Office of Rail Regulation that our staff are capable of doing their jobs.

Part of the TOp’s examination is to bring a train into service and as luck would have it the assessing manager chose my train for this purpose. So here I am sat in the rest room again waiting for a train to drive. It snowed quite heavily through the night but we seem to be running all right at the moment.

Nothing much happened yesterday and the dead train at Debden is as yet unmolested. My highlight was about half a dozen magpies hoping around the track between LES and SNA, it reminded me that we see a fair amount of wildlife trackside, especially the EPP branch. Loads of rabbits between DEB-THB and occasionally up towards EPP, wood pigeon especially between LOU-DEB, squirrels anywhere there are trees and plenty of crows.

There are a fair amount of foxes around, I saw one excellent specimen in the summer sunning itself on a patch of grass just past SOW who barely raised its head to acknowledge the train’s approach. And a few days ago while sat here at a PC a blue tit perched on the window sill and peered in at me. Mustn’t forget the huge rat that crawled out of a bush at NOA and then scuttled back or the mice that inhabit the platforms in the tunnel sections.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

This morning I was meant to start by getting a train out of the yard at HAI, I got the “road number” from the DMT on the desk and jumped on a train. When I walked into the yard I found my train had a “target” on it which basically tells us that someone is working on this train and not to touch it under any circumstances. I checked with the DDM who happily told me that he’d phoned the DMT shortly after I’d left to say that the train was unavailable so I trudged back out of the yard in the snow and rode the cushions back to LES. They’re going to reform a train due to go out of service in about an hour and I’ll make that into my train.

On the subject of broken down trains there’s one currently stuck in the siding at DEB which we are informed is in such a bad way that it will be staying there for a few days. I went past it yesterday; completely dead except for a single red light on either end, effectively 150 tons of scrap metal. Considering that recently we’ve had ne’er-do-wells sneaking onto the track at night and stealing signal cabling I wouldn’t be surprised if the local tea-leaves eyeball it and start taking it away in stages.
After Strike day we had snow day. All the trains were running late and every time I reached the end of the line I had just enough time to change ends before the signal cleared again. After my meal break there was a further delay while the PWay sorted out a track problem between HOP and NHG which left me stood waiting for my train on the EB platforms at WHC with a train either side.

Being a helpful sort I suggested that it would be nice if we shifted the passengers from the train due out second onto the one out first, the TOp made a PA and the passengers duly trooped over to the train on the opposite platform. Predictably Wood Lane then switched the order and we had to herd them back across the platform. So much for being “pro active”.
Monday was strike day, I’d been monitoring the Central Line at home while I got ready for work and when I left we were running EPP and HAI into HOL on the east end of the line and WHC to EAB and WER on the west. By the time I’d got in, booked on and been handed a job someone had decided to run LES to WHC. I have absolutely no idea of the logic behind this decision, I am but a mere TOp and have no insight into the workings of the higher minds that run the Tube.

Half the stations were closed and nothing was open between BOS and WHC. This doesn’t mean that there were no staff there rather that there were insufficient numbers to meet the legal minimum staffing level. If any of these properly “under ground” stations had been totally unmanned then we would have had to tip the passengers out at the last open station and run through empty. Fire Regs.

The other minor problem was that Auto can only handle one station closed at a time, if there are two consecutive stations closed it goes through the first one but stops at the second so we had to drive the trains manually. So much for us Central Line drivers being nothing more than “door openers”, yah boo sucks GLA Tories!

Anyway after I’d done my first WB trip to WHC NHG reopened. Unfortunately I was changing ends so I didn’t hear the radio message from Wood Lane informing us of this so when the signal cleared I cheerfully announced that the train wouldn’t be stopping till BOS. When I pulled into NHG and saw passengers on the platform I had to call Wood Lane to ask if the station was really open. During a previous strike a Jubilee Line TOp opened up the doors at Canada Water when it was closed and the poor punters were stuck in there for 40 minutes. Whoops.

Sunday 28 November 2010

Balloon animals on the Tube. Are they deer or dogs? No idea but when I changed ends at WER today there was a whole car full of them. I love this city.

Saturday 13 November 2010

My profuse apologies for not writing but things have been rather fraught in my personal life. Today, Saturday, is my last working day for two weeks so there will be nothing to report until the end of the month. Hopefully I will come back refreshed and in the right frame of mind to delight you with further tales of everyday life on the Central Line.

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Tuesday was good for observing the Platform Train Interface, simply where train meets platform. This is where the overwhelming majority of injuries sustained on the Underground occur so you’d think people would take extra care when getting on and off. You’d be wrong.

First incident, TCR WB, a group of teenagers boarding the train, one at the back totally engrossed in their mobile/ipod/whatever, goes to get on the train, his foot finds the gap between train and platform, he half trips and then scuttles on board. Obviously not good at multi tasking.

Second incident, later that evening, HOL WB, woman with small child hurrying to get on the train, child struggling to keep up, as she gets on the child stumbles and is only kept from falling down the gap because she’s holding on to it’s hand. Lifts it up like a bag of shopping and whisks it into the carriage. Our future generations are safe with granny.

Other than that not much to report other than the usual ATO/ATP failures, was a little late because I got held at WOO while two trains went over the points in front of me and because of the strike the last WB train left LES at 22:02, about two hours early. Tomorrow will be fun.

Monday 1 November 2010

After a busy start to the week Wednesday passed without incident, Thursday I was spare and there was nothing for me to do other than sit and wait for something to go wring; it didn’t. Friday I was handed a job the moment I booked on, riding to WHC, picking up a train there, taking it through to EPP and into the sidings at WOO. London was heaving for Halloween, the platforms packed with people in costume and when we got to WHC the train waiting on the EB platform.

Just the one sleeper at EPP, a suit, who was already awake by the time I got to him and asked if we were going back to BUH. The DMT had booked a taxi to take me back to LES and it turned up about fifteen minutes after I’d stabled the train but after a while I noticed that it was taking a rather strange route. It seems that rather than going straight to LES we were picking up a H&C or District driver at Barking. Well I was getting paid so I didn’t complain.

Saturday was reasonably dull, I was on the last EAB, stabling at WHC for the night, with an extra hour as the clocks went back. As I changed ends at EAB I saw someone in the one of the cars asleep and stepped inside to wake them. I was greeted by a very friendly and utterly gorgeous Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy and I will admit that I delayed waking her owner for a minute of two while I fussed her. This job does have it’s good moments.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

My deepest apologies for my unforgivable tardiness but I have had various personal and domestic upheavals to deal with since last writing and subsequently the muse deserted me. Not that much has happened, last week while the rest of the Tube seemed to go into complete collapse the Central Line carried on serenely. Oh yes, we are “The Man”

Sunday started off quiet enough, a single body asleep, woke him up and had to explain just where EPP was; ahhhhh, an “overshoot” virgin. At LOU I directed him towards the buses and saw him boarding the 20 heading back into town as I left the station.

In the morning I took the first train up to EPP, changed ends and when the signal changed pushed the Auto start buttons; nothing. I switched into Coded, tried the handle for brake release; still nothing. Even though I was getting codes I tripped the ATP MCB just to be sure but still nothing. I closed down and opened up again; yet more nothing. I tried Restricted, ah, brake release. I called up Wood Lane, they asked me if I done all of the above, were equally bemused and gave me authority to proceed down to THB in RM.

EPP to THB is 2.54km, a journey of two and a half minutes if you get up to line speed, 85kph. It takes a bit longer if “overspeed trip” activates the emergency brake if you venture above 15kph and as EPP to THB is all downhill this means you have to keep applying the brake at regular intervals. When I arrived Wood Lane called up to say they’d had a word with the train maintainer who’d prepped the trains at LOU that night, they suggested that there might be a loose connection on one of the brake test buttons and I should give them a few prods. I dutifully did and hey presto, we have forward movement in Auto.

And my immediate question was if the Train Maintainer “suspected” there was a loose connections on one of the brake test buttons why the hell didn’t they fix it when they were working on the train Sunday night?

Monday night went smoothly enough but Tuesday morning after I’d crawled into RUI depot I got onto the train, completed the brake test and only realised I’d got onto the wrong train when the shunter called me up. A quick hop next door, brake test and off we go, fortunately I always walk in a bit early so no time lost.

But it was Tuesday night that the fun really started. Going WB I was held at WOO while an empty train came over the points and went into the sidings. Had I not been held I wouldn’t have seen the man walking along the path at the side of the EB track. Now he could have been P Way but he wasn’t wearing a hi-vi and on the whole P Way don’t wear suits. I opened up the cab door and asked him where he was going.

Obvious drunk he demanded to know why there wasn’t a gate for him to leave by so I informed him that he was on the track and directed him back towards the platform. This was greeted with a torrent of abuse regarding my parentage and my sexual orientation, some of which may or may not be true, I have done many things while under one influence or another some of which I can only vague recall but as I am the second of three children I think it fair to say my parents were most certainly married when I entered the world.

After that things went fine although I was running around 4 late until I reached MAA. Ahead of me the last EAB had been stopped by signal failure and had lost codes over the points E of QUE. As it was a “controlled” area the TOp needed authority from Wood Lane to continue but Wood Lane couldn’t confirm that it was okay to proceed as they had lost control due to the signal failure. The normal procedure at this point would be for the Super at QUE to get onto the track and physically secure the points but they couldn’t do that as the train was already over them. With all this going on I was told to hold at MAA and they worked things out. I kept the passengers informed the best I could and we finally got moving around 01:00 by which time NHG and SHB had closed as all the staff apart from the Supers had finished their shifts and gone home. Larks, eh?

Monday 18 October 2010

The West End of the line is definitely less boisterous that the East, three nights at WER and not one sleeper to show for it. I have nights again next week and I’m going to see if anyone wants to swap my last WERs for last EPPs just so I’ve got something to write about!

Over the weekend we had engineering works closing the line from LIS to LES. Friday night I was spare and the DMT told me that I might have to cover one of the early turns up until my duty finished around 07:00. When we checked we found that even though the first four booked on around 05:00 they were being sent in a taxi to WER to get trains out of the depot, the earliest coming out at 06:45. That obviously didn’t give me enough time to get back to LES to finish so I couldn’t cover anything.

Saturday night I shared a taxi to LIS with another night shift TOp as I was on the last WER again while they were taking the last EAB and then stabling at WHC. After that I was getting a taxi to LOU to bring out the first train in the morning while other TOp was going from WHC to HAI. We assumed that we’d be in the same taxi but we had on one each. Until last week the plan was to shut the line all the way out to LOU and I was booked to take a third taxi at the end of my shift to get me back to LES so I could go home.

All these taxis would seem a tad extravagant at a time when we are being told that we need to save money but what really makes us laugh is that during the day TOps from the East End depots who were booked to pick up trains at LIS were told that they would have to use the replacement buses to get from LES to STR and then get the mainline service into LIS. It was fortunate for everyone that the mainline didn’t develop any problems otherwise there would have been TOps arriving at LIS expecting to go home and finding no one to replace them. They would have had to take the train back to WHC, get relieved there and only then head back to their depots.

If we ever needed further evidence that the people making these plans up at 55 are somewhat out of touch with the people working down here then this is more than enough.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Last week was thoroughly uninteresting and I started nights Sunday.

When I got to EPP there were two sleepers both of whom resisted waking and so I took them onto LOU. The first case was a homeless bloke with all his worldly possessions in a rucksack and collection of carrier bags. The second was a lad in a suit who was laid out along the seats face down and snoring. When the SS finally woke him he asked where he was but he’d never heard of LOU. I later saw him getting on a bus and could here him asking the driver for the destination. It would seem he had no idea where Walthamstow was either. When I went back to the station to get the first train out in the morning the man with the carrier bags was still waiting outside and he boarded the train as it came back WB from EPP.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

It would appear that last week while I was away doing ATOR the Central Line went through quite a bad patch. One derailment inside RUI depot by one of the shunters, another in LOU sidings by a TOp, a section of trackside cable was stolen that closed the line from LES to EPP and then sadly a one-under at LES last Friday. I’m told the family were allowed to place flowers by the track; nice to see a bit of feeling from LUL, makes a change.

Monday was strike day and in previous strikes when we’ve had enough TOps we’ve run shuttle services between LES and HAI or EPP on the east end of the line and between WHC and WER or EAB on the west but on Monday we tried something different. The plan seems to have been to run the “outer” shuttles from start of traffic till around 10:00 then abandon those and replace it with a service through the “middle” from LES to WHC, reverting to the “outer” shuttles after 20:00. Or at least that was the plan.

Apparently while we had plenty of TOps turn up but there weren’t enough staff at Wood Lane to run the show and the line didn’t get running till after 10:00. Although I'm told there were pickets a-plenty outside my depot in the morning by the time I strolled into work they had all left and while I wouldn’t cross a picket line if someone asked me not to I’ll be buggered if I’m going to lose a day’s pay if they can’t be bothered to hang around for me.

Even though we were running through the middle almost half the stations were closed, ATO couldn’t handle all the closures so consequently we had to go Coded through the Pipe which was actually quite fun. Everything went fine until we got to point where it was time to switch from working the “middle” to the “outer” lines. At LES the DMT on the desk was putting TOps from WHC and WER on the front of WB trains while at WHC the opposite was happening. Somehow there was a miscount and there wasn’t a West End TOp to take the last WHC train. Guess who volunteered…….

Obviously as I was heading WB the last train to LES was going the other way and we passed each other around CLA. The only way to get me back for my finishing time was for LUL to cough up for taxi back across town which I shared with a WHC DMT who lives over this side of town. Turns out exactly the same thing happened at WHC with the last LES train; more business for the taxis.

There’s a third strike in four weeks and a fourth four weeks after that, obviously they are being planned so staff only lose one day out of every pay period. All pointless, the job cuts have been coming ever since LUL decided to go with Oyster cards, it was one of the reasons I decided there was no future in carrying on at stations and move onto trains and I am glad I did.

Saturday 2 October 2010

Friday we went to White City for communications and responsibilities otherwise known as how to use the radio and how not to get sacked. Thrilling. Thankfully I’m back to work Monday, or not if the picket line hasn’t gone to the pub by the time I book on.

Thursday 30 September 2010

On Tuesday we were told by the trainer that the four TOps from HAI and LOU would be doing stock training while the three from LES would be doing “Route retention” with an IOp. However the DMT meant to be organising all this is off to the Met Line in the big reshuffle and seems to have lost interest in things around here. We met up at LES 09:00 yesterday to be told that the IOp had gone to HAI.

When he arrived he didn’t have a clue what to do and only around 10:30 told us that “Route retention” now meant hiking around Ruislip depot. Apparently someone had refused to take a train into Ruislip and now we all had to have a guided tour to “re-familiarise” ourselves. So an hour on the train, a pointless wander around the depot, which is huge, covering every possible move we could do which most of us know and then an hour back.

Today we did stock training in HAI depot with the IOp simulating faults on the train and us getting the train moving. If a train stops in a tunnel and the nearest technician is at WHC or LES we have to get it to the next station and get the passengers off. It doesn’t happen often but when it does it’s our train, we are responsible. They don’t do that on the mainline, they can sit and wait while a fitter drives to where they are and walk up to the train to fix it. We are stuck in the pipe, a fitter isn’t going to walk up to us and solve the problem, we get it moving and we are the only drivers who are expected to do this.

That is why we get paid the big bucks.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

I passed my eyesight test, I have demonstrated that I know how to scrape ice from the juice rails, lay a short circuiting device, that I know what to do if we get a “Code Amber”, “Code Red” or “Emergency Evacuation” call over the radio and what the correct procedure would be if I SPADed a signal, opened the doors on the wrong side or was to be told to evacuate my train in both a tunnel or an open section. So far so good……

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Under RAOGS aka The Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations 2006 anyone working on a UK railway has to have the appropriate licence issued on behalf of the Office of the Rail Regulation, so every year we get sent off to re-sit our license at our Annual Test of Rules, ATOR. This consists of three days in a meeting room going over procedures, one day in the depot showing that we can deal with any faults that might occur on a train while it’s in service and one day demonstrating that we understand any move we might be asked to do on the Line.

Don’t expect much till next week. So boring I could feel myself falling asleep........

Monday 27 September 2010

So this how things were supposed to be Saturday; I start work around 16:00, go to HAI, EAB, HAI, LES, get off on the WB for grub around 19:30, pick up again at 20:15, HAI, EAB, WOO via HAI, back to EAB, off around midnight.

Except some ragamuffin decided it would be a spiffing idea to grab some lady’s handbag/purse/whatever and make their escape down the WB tunnel at LAG. The Line was brought to a complete standstill in both directions while BTP waited at QUE and LAG for the villain to reappear. My first train turned after 20 minutes, around the time BTP finally accepted that he wasn’t going to come out of his own accord and set off to flush him out.

I got to HAI without any problem and then sat there for half an hour before we finally got the “all clear” and I started heading west. I got held at BOS for another ten minutes, no word from Wood Lane as to why. I’m making PAs telling the passengers that not only am I sat at a red signal but I can see the taillights of the one in front in the tunnel between us and MAA while the station’s automated PAs are blurting out their “we have a good service” announcements; au contraire. It was only after we were moving again that the signals answered my call and I discovered they’d been tipping a train out at MAA.

Another five minutes outside WHC, no word from Wood Lane but as I pulled in I could see a train going into the sidings and that the platform was crowded with very pissed off looking people. As I left WHC I could see the train in the sidings still had WER as it’s destination which would suggest that they hadn’t told the driver they were short turning the train until they’d reached WHC. At EAB I had four minutes to change ends before setting off EB at which the time I should have been arriving at HAI. At this point Wood Lane were telling us there were only “minor delays” to the line.

By the time I’d got to LES EB it was 19:55 and there was someone waiting to take me off for grub. Sadly for one of the spares my second train was on time, at CHA EB, a mere 19 minutes away, which didn’t give me the 30 minutes break that is legally required so someone got to do my HAI and back and I picked up on the WB by which time it was ten minutes late. After that everything went timetable.

In conclusion I think the only thing I can offer is that the platform of LAG is possibly not the best place to commit an act of robbery.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Sitting spare, HAI had a duty uncovered with no spare of their own so they called us up and I was given the job. The only problem was when they bothered to tell us there wasn’t enough time for me to get to HAI, walk into the depot, do a brake test and bring it out on time. Still I just drive, I don’t have to worry about the service, that’s someone else’s problem.

Congestion back to normal, the bottom of the stairs at LEY EB was as rammed as usual, yesterday must have been an aberration. Still a few platforms without SATS in the peak so I reckon this must be a result of the overtime ban. Otherwise a very quiet evening.

Friday 24 September 2010

Timetable. When I came out to pick up my second half at WHC it was raining heavily and the train came to a stop about a car short so rather than trust Auto for the trip to EAB I drove in Coded.

Oddly it seemed very quiet during the peak, the platforms appeared less crowded that I would usually expect. One place that gets very congested during the peak is LEY EB, we have a “countdown” in the cab and usually there are still people getting off the rear car when it gets to zero with a queue to get up the stairs but not tonight. On the second time through it was back to it's normal busy level so maybe everyone decided to pop out for a drink after work or something.

During the peak most Zone 1 platforms have a member of station staff doing SATS, waving the baton to your normal people, but a few were noticeably absent. Station staff have an overtime ban so maybe this is the result. RMT and TSSA are out on strike again in October, according to the memo sent out by our beloved leader they wouldn’t discuss anything until the job cuts had been cancelled, no doubt the Unions will tell another story. Still they have a few weeks to go, anything could happen.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

First real day back, first time opening the doors on both sides at STR WB, we have even been given a scripted PA to make at LEY to inform the passengers which doors to leave by. There’s a member of staff on the new platform to raise the baton when we close the doors and two I.Ops to “offer assistance” and check that we’ve done things properly.

No major problems, a passenger ill on a train (PIOT, another abbreviation from our massive list) at STR kept me outside NOA EB for a while and then some lost property at LEY kept me at TCR for five minutes so by the time I left EPP I should have been getting off at LOU for my meal break. Otherwise reasonably timetable.

WE have engineering works coming up in October that will shut the line down between WOO and LIS and in a bid to save money LUL have come up with an interesting idea. Rather than laying on taxis to ferry TOps four at a time from LOU, HAI and LES to LIS we will get the replacement bus service to STR and go in on the mainline. Needless to say some of my fellow TOps are none too keen on sitting in full uniform on a bus full of passengers pissed off that there’s no service. Will be interesting to see how that one plays out….

Tuesday 21 September 2010

It’s work, Jim, but not as we know it. I’m on lates this week and I knew I was starting Monday at 14:00 but when I phoned up last week to check my finishing time I was told that I had been released for a Waterloo & City line refresher. Word is that recently a spare was asked to go down the Drain and they claimed that their training wasn’t up to date as they hadn’t been down there in years so now they are making sure we are all reintroduced.

So I was at Waterloo for 09:00, much to the amusement of the regulars who know the only other time I've been down there was for my initial training and I managed to avoid that for three years. I endured a very boring morning going over the same thing I did last year and then drove a train up and down for a bit. All it did was to confirm that I find working the W&C tedious in the extreme. Back on the Main tomorrow, at a reasonable time.

Friday 3 September 2010

Once again I find myself apologising for not writing but despite switching to late turns I’m still waking up at 3am and feeling dog tired all day. Nothing much has happened recently, no amusing anecdotes to relate, TSSA and RMT will go on strike next week but I will be on two weeks leave as of Sunday so I will miss all the fun until the next planned date in October.

On Sunday platform 3A will be opening at STR WB so we will be opening the doors on both sides of the train from this weekend. Naturally we are predicating that someone will forget and only open on one side leaving a load of irate passengers behind.

One of my colleagues is going for six month’s secondment as a DMT and as I’m top of the list in the Pool to be rostered I’m covering him in his absence so I can plan my life once more. Which is nice….

If something does happen in the next two days I will relay it here but if not I will be back in sixteen days time. Take care out there, folks.

Saturday 28 August 2010

My apologies for not writing this week but these early turns are playing havoc with my body clock plus I can’t always access the blog through the LUL computer network. Fortunately there hasn’t been much to report and as I’m back on late shifts next week normal service should be resumed. I'm still mightly pissed off that next week's "Pool" duties were only posted on Tuesday and hopefully this is just a one-off glitch but if this carries on then I’ll certainly be asking my Union Rep to raise this issue at the next “Level 1” meeting with the TOM (Train Operations Manager, top boss at a Depot).

It’s rained quite a lot this week so I’ve had numerous Auto failures. On Thursday the District and H&C were suspended because of a signal failure at Whitechapel so there was no interchange available at MIE. I made a PA as we pulled in, even explaining that the train stuck on the opposite side of the platform was going nowhere but when I opened the doors a couple of dozen people came out like the runners in the 2:30 at Ascot and not all of them came sheepishly back again.

At SHB I spotted a lady in a wonderful asymmetrical peach-coloured top hat which I suspected was a Philip Treacy and that reminded me of when he was commissioned to design a new hat for LUL. It was meant to be given to all staff with the new uniform we were getting to coincide with the Millennium and he said something along the lines of wanting to create something as distinctively recognisable as a Policeman’s helmet. Distinctive was a wholly inadequate word, it looked like something that could have worn by Scott Tracy in Thunderbird One. Sadly I have been unable to find a picture of it online but it was quietly shelved and we were issued the standard cap instead.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

RMT and TSSA will call the troops out in a couple of weeks and thankfully I will be on holiday replacing my bathroom and toilet so I won’t have to endure any pointless arguments at picket lines.

Today I was spare but the admin person responsible for coverage had not only failed to give the “Pool” staff any duties for next week but had also failed to cover a running turn so I ended up taking the night spare off around 06:30 and filling in. When I got back I discovered that I have got lates next week and I will be working Bank Holiday Monday. Nice to be given some warning, that’s the only real problem with this job, nice money, shit social life.

Other than that a very “timetable” day.

Thursday 19 August 2010

The CCTV had been fixed and the Duty Books arrived half an hour before my shift started. Had a nice little chat with the “Blue Light” DMT who gets to investigate any irregularities, from TOps forgetting to get off a train to one-unders and SPADS.

TSSA voted to strike, possibly the first time they’ve taken industrial action on the Tube since the General Strike of 1926 so you know it’s serious this time and not just RMT having a hissy fit. Not that it will do any good, LUL will push these changes through, there will be less staff around on stations and then passengers will start moaning to the Evening Standard about how they can never find anyone to complain to anymore.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

CCTV failure at TCR EB yesterday, one of the four cameras was on the fritz so there was a CSA stood by the headwall to ensure that if anyone got stuck in the doors or fell between the platform and the two cars we couldn’t see they could hit one of the emergency stop buttons. When I went through a second time there was a different CSA on the platform and they were stood in their normal place halfway down the platform.

While I could see them on one of the screens I had no idea if they were aware that I was blind on two cars so if I left the platform and there was an incident I would be held responsible. Now I'm not losing my job or getting his collar felt by BTP over a misunderstanding so I held the train until the CSA walked to the front cab and I had assured myself that he knew the score. If you follow the set procedure you are covered, cut corners and you could end up sitting in jail, a lot of people forget this.

Although we've had the new timetable for more than a month we still don’t have Duty Books at my depot (unlike everywhere else), the little guides that condense our duty list and the timetable into an easy to follow form. When I booked on I knew when I was starting and finishing but I had to look up my train numbers, when I was getting off for my meal relief and when I resumed working.

What I failed to notice was exactly when and where I was being taken off so I was happily going over Woodford Junction towards LES when Wood Lane called up to point out that I’d left my relief behind at LOU. The confusion happened because I’d neglected to change the destination from NOA to EAB so the relieving TOp had assumed it wasn’t his train. Now I always go by the train number but each to their own I suppose. There was no spare available at LES so the train had to wait on Plat. 2 till the driver could get there on the next train from LOU.

I’m doing the same shift today, think I’ll be getting off at LOU.

Sunday 15 August 2010

A very quiet couple of night so either passengers on the West End of the line are more civilised or it’s the middle of the month and thus too far from payday to really go out on the razz though I suppose this "austerity" government could be affecting drinking habits. One bit of bad news, I’d heard that there was bad blood at WHC and after spending last night there I have more details though once again I’m not sure if I have the entire story, as always our world is full of rumours and gossip.

When a WB train terminates at NOR you tip out, close up, take the train up the siding and then come back onto the EB platform. A WHC TOp was doing this but neglected to turn his train radio on when he changed ends. Wood Lane decided for some reason that the train would go back into the WB platform and carry on up to WER but couldn’t pass the message to the TOp. Regardless they set the points for the WB and cleared the signal.

All signals at points will either have an arrow or a number, counting from left to right, to indicate the direction the points will take you, in the case of NOR you have 1 for EB, 2 for WB. Taking the train down the wrong road is almost as bad as SPADing a red signal but it would appear that the TOp didn’t notice the change of destination so when he suddenly found himself heading in what he thought was the wrong direction he slammed on the brakes.

This is where he made his big mistake, he panicked, put the train into reverse and went back into the siding blind; very bad move. I don’t know when he realised he’d left his radio off or what he said by way of explanation but it is alleged he tried to cover his mistake, another thing you just do not do. Whatever occurred this is the sort of thing that gets you hauled into the office where you can expect to get monitored in the cab by an IOp for a few months, sent back to Ashfield House for further training or at the very worst dropped down to Stations for a while.

He was sacked, told to clear his locker immediately and return his Staff Pass the next day. As by all accounts he had a virtually spotless record this is regarded as harsh in the extreme and naturally the other WHC TOps are furious about his treatment. His Union has balloted for strike action though predictably as this is RMT they had to do it twice as they cocked it up the first time but it is virtually guaranteed that his colleagues will support him. I doubt very much if any ASLEF drivers will cross the line as he was well liked and if they can kick him out over this any of us could be next.

Hopefully management see sense and reinstate him but then this is LUL where sense and logic play a very small part in our world. When I joined as a Station Assistant my instructor’s first words were “watch you own back” and it seems that his advice has never been more relevant. Perhaps this highlights why there is such a “them and us” attitude on the Tube.

Have a nice week at work if you have it.

Friday 13 August 2010

Very quiet couple of nights; did my first last WER train yesterday, had a few sleepers when I reached EPP around 23:30 and was expecting a load when I finished but the train was totally empty. Obviously folk on the West End of the Line are not the party animals us East End of the Line lot are.

On the way back this morning I was held at STR by some bloke standing in the doorway to hold the train while his female companion took her own sweet time getting up the stairs. Now this is annoying at the best of times but this gentleman happened to be a manager or supervisor of some description, he was clearly wearing a LUL tie with his white shirt. Unbeknownst to me one of my DMTs also boarded my train at STR, he questioned why I was so long before closing the doors and when I explained he suggested the culprit to be none other than the infamous Group Station Manager Gary Trimmer, of whom the tales are many and sometimes bizarre.

Had I known I would have closed the doors on him.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Very little has happened over the last two days while I was spare though I did take a train round “the Loop” to WOO and put it away for the night.

RMT got their result, 76% in favour of a strike though less than half of the 8700 members bothered to vote. Sensibly for once RMT is waiting till next week when TSSA, the other station staff union which also covers the operational management grades, get the results of their ballot. Regardless of what happens if they call a few 24 or 48 hour strikes it will not stop the staff cuts, despite all the claims this is just a protest that LUL will simply ignore. If it goes on for more than one or two strike dates the staff will drift back as they see their pay packets dwindle. If the public notice the difference and start complaining there might be a rethink but that won’t happen until the changes have gone through.

Well, it keeps Bob Crowe happy I suppose.

Monday 9 August 2010

Quiet night, discovered that the RMT ballot doesn’t close till Wednesday so expect to see Bob Crowe’s gorgeous visog on TV pretty soon.

Saturday 7 August 2010

I haven’t written this week because nothing much happened other than the usual failures of Auto and ATP which required this “overpaid doorman” to earn his crust. The one incident of note didn't even happen to me, a train in Auto overshot LIS EB to such an extent that the TOp had to walk back through the train and drive it back into the platform. Oh yeah, driverless trains by Christmas.

Back on nights tomorrow, hopefully things get interesting again. Very little news about the impending RMT strike, maybe the ballot has not delivered the overwhelming support for industrial action they were expecting. Whatever’s going on at Unity House it looks increasingly unlikely there will be any disruption until after the summer.

Sunday 1 August 2010

Last night my train was ten minutes late and the T.Op I was relieving was not happy. When she got to WER she was told that the train she was on had to go into the depot for maintenance and that she should change over with the next one in. That was late for a start and then rather than getting her moving Wood Lane decided to stable the train she’d come in on. At that time of night the timetable runs HAI – EPP – HAI – EPP but she was so late leaving WER that by the time she reached NOA the HAI train that should have been five minutes behind her had already gone through. Consequently there hadn’t been an EPP train for around 20 minutes at a time when most people are heading home from a night out up West and even at LES the platform was crowded, God knows what it must have been like between MAA and HOL.

Despite all that I only had one person, self waking for a change, who asked me if there were any trains going beyond LOU; another bit of business for the minicab office. As I was walking into the sidings this morning I was surprised to see the Night Spare hailing me from the cab of one of the trains; apparently one of the LOU early turns had blown out so he’d been sent in a taxi from LES to drive it up to EPP and then run it back to LES where an early spare would take him off.

And they say we’ve got too many Train Ops!

Saturday 31 July 2010

How 92 stock trains work part 105.

Now on 92 stock every car, of which there are eight, has two sets of four wheels on a “truck”. Between the truck and the car is the suspension system, basically a big bag full of air. The car has a sensor that gauges how much weight is onboard and the suspension system inflates or deflates the bag as people get on and off.

Another clever little piece of kit adjusts the acceleration and braking depending on how much the train weighs while yet another do-da converts the weight information into an estimate of how many passengers are on the train, passes that onto Wood Lane and should there be a need to tip out and reverse they can pick a relatively uncrowded train. All in all the suspension system is pretty damn important.

Every now and then the bag just deflates on it’s own leaving that particular car with a very bumpy ride and if this happens we have to go back to the affected car, open up a cabinet under one of the perch seats and reset. Now that’s all very well if you happen to be at a station like EAA at 23:00 but if you are in the middle of a tunnel at 08:30 with 800 odd people jammed on and the failure is in the rear car it’s not so easy to get through. If that is the case we have to crawl along at around 30kph, the maximum safe speed for driving without suspension, until we reach the next station.

Fortunately I was a EAA at 23:00 though its still a long walk to the rear car.

Friday 30 July 2010

Very quiet Wednesday night apart from ATP, the thing that passes signal information to the train, crashing at BAR. Last Trains don’t leave a station until the have been given a signal, “The right”, from station staff that everyone who should be aboard is aboard, a way of trying to ensure that passengers don’t get left stranded. This is given in numerous ways, a handlamp, a baton or the simplest form, a raised arm, just as long as it is a clear indication that the train has permission to leave. ATP is restored by resetting a circuit breaker in the cab which left the SS at BAR with his hand in the air for a lot longer than normal and he was starting to look a little worried.

Thursday and the usual collection of drunken sleepers at EPP. Two woke up and got off, a young lady woke up and was not at all pleased that she had overshot her destination or that we were only going back as far as LOU. There was a lad stretched out face down on the seats, which was very nice for him except he hadn’t intended to sleep past WOO. Another bloke simply refused all attempts to wake him and as I had little time to change ends before I got the green he came with us back to LOU.

On reaching LOU while the SS was busy dealing with the other two so I tried to awaken the dead once more . I gave him a shake and his head began to lift but when I stopped shaking it descended again. So I shook some more but every time I stopped the same happened, it was like pumping up a balloon with a leak, every time you stopped pumping it deflated. In the end I just kept shaking him until his eyes opened and focused on me. I managed to get him onto the platform but then had to dissuade him from leaning on the train and get him to lean against the wall. After that the SS took over trying to herd him out of the station while I stabled the train. The whole time not one word passed his lips though I could quite believe the speech centre had been left somewhere on the system.

Lost Property is at Baker Street if anyone is interested.