Friday 30 April 2010

We have a new timetable coming in for the Central Line on 4 July and while I haven’t seen the details it will mean that the depot’s “roster” is going to be reduced by ten and the drivers dropped back into the “pool”. The other depots are also being reduced which can only mean that there will be fewer trains running, one would imagine this will be during the off peak, so passengers might find that the gap between trains when you are going home late at night will be longer and that the trains will be subsequently more crowded. Thanks Boris.

What this means for me personally is that rather than being able to say what I’m doing between now and the end of the year I won’t know exactly what time I’m working or when my rest days are during the week until the Wednesday or the Thursday before. An inconvenience at the very least but I was in the “pool” for my first year as a driver and again for six months when I transferred to my current location. The list for getting back on the roster is graded by how long you’ve been a driver and what did surprise me is that even though I’ve been a driver since 2003 of the ten dropped I’m seventh. I’m going to have to wait for a few retirements before I can get my working life sorted again but think of the poor lot who were already in the pool thinking they’d get rostered soon and now have to wait.

On a happier note we have been told that we will get our pay rise on the next pay day back dated to the beginning of April along with our £250 bonus. After the rise of inflation plus 0.5% we now earn the thoroughly poetic sum of £42,424. Four Two Four Two Four; just rolls of the tongue, don’t it.

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Another boring day with one moment of note. When I picked up my first train the TOp I was taking over from seemed very keen to be relieved and it wasn't until I'd settled myself in the driving seat, made a PA to announce we were off to Epping and to "mind the doors" that a passenger knocked on my window to inform me that the doors hadn't been opened yet. Fail.

Derek is still not a well fish.

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Another timetable day, the only thing of note was that the PA announcer at Lou who sounded strangely like Monty Python’s Mr. Gumby. Was he doing it on purpose or does he sound like that in real life and if he does who the hell let him loose on the PA system?

My brain hurts …….

Friday 23 April 2010

What’s better than running to timetable? Running to timetable and getting off early. One of the shunters in the depot managed to put a train “on the floor” and “bend it a bit”. I’ll assume you understand that the floor is not a suitable place for trains, they are generally meant to be on the rails. Shunters, in case you were wondering, are they who spend their time moving trains from one part of a depot to another for reasons beyond the ken of mere mortals.

With a train derailed in the depot there were problems getting others out so rather than putting my train away at the end of my shift I was told that it would be kept in service and that another driver would take it off me at Hai. So instead of taking it into the depot and then hiking out again all I had to do was pop across from Plat 3 to Plat 1, jump on the train waiting there and ride “on the cushion” back to Les. I left for home 45 minutes early; which was nice…...

Derek is still poorly and even though it’s my day off Friday I will go into work after I’ve been to the local aquatics centre to see if they have any idea what is wrong with him. Clive seems to like the peas.

Thursday 22 April 2010

Pay day for all us Tube workers, we get paid every four weeks, thirteen times a year rather than monthly which makes keeping up with direct debits a nightmare.

Another quiet day with everything running to timetable apart from a three minute stoppage on the WB for a passenger having an epileptic fit at Oxo and a train going out of service at WeR delaying my arrival. On the way back we had the instruction to drive at “caution speed” approaching Shepherd’s Bush due to the BTP dealing with an “ongoing incident”. Not a great inconvenience as I was going east and the speed limit on the EB approach to ShB is 20kph.

My real worry yesterday was that one of the goldfish doesn’t look at all well, a quick look at the Practical Fishkeeping website suggested he might be constipated and suggested a remedy. Thus it was that I spent the entire second half of my shift with the heater on in the cab defrosting a bag of frozen peas. Please send your best wishes for Derek.

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Everything ran to the timetable, started on time, got off for the meal break on time, picked up the second half on time, finished on time. No incidents, no delays, very boring. Actually most days are like this, normally nothing happens, we do the job we are supposed to. No one notices when the Tube works the way it should, when something goes wrong it gets written up in the Standard and everyone says how crap we are.

Up at 55 Broadway they wring their hands because the media criticise us and the customer satisfaction surveys tell them that the public don’t like us, what they seem to ignore is that the reason no one like us is because we are a monopoly, the vast majority of people don’t have a choice but to use us. Think you can get to work any other way? Other methods of public transport; sure, go to, plot your route and then de-select the tube from the “modes of transport” list, see how long it would take without any delays.

Got a car or a motorbike; okay you could drive, pay the Congestion Charge, now find somewhere near your work where you can park. Got a bike, which it would appear is Boris’s solution to the transport question, I’m afraid until he does something about the rising number of cycling fatalities (most killed by lorries, none by bendy buses) I don’t think that’s such an appealing prospect.

As for his idea for a cycle hire scheme, all that will do is put untrained cyclists on the streets and a further rise in accidents. And the cost to the taxpayer seems to go up every time the damn thing is mentioned. Don’t blame me, I voted for Ken.

Sunday 18 April 2010

I’ve been thinking about doing this for some time. I joined London Underground (LUL) over ten years ago as a Station Assistant (SA now CSA), one of those bodies that you see shivering or sweltering next to the ticket gates or on the platforms with a baton. After five years I moved out of stations and onto trains. I can honestly put my hand on my heart and say that this is the best job I have had since I left school in the late 70s. I think we do a bloody good job though could do better, I believe London is the greatest city in the world and I have adored the Tube ever since I was seven or so. I’ll probably impart more details of my life in due course.

Rather than use the whole station name I’ll use the system we use for signals. If the station name is one word we use the first three letters, thus Holborn become Hol, Debden Deb, the only exception is Leytonstone which is Les because Ley is Leyton. If the station has two words we take the first two letters of the first word and the initial of the second, thus Bond Street is BoS. If there are three words then we just use the initials; Tottenham Court road is TCR. The only one I won’t describe this way will be Oxford Circus, universally known as Oxo, because it’s funnier that way.

One final note before I get down to things, what you call Train Drivers we call Train Operators, I don’t know why, maybe I’ll find out one day but I assume it’s because since the introduction of “one person operation” (OPO) we perform the function of both driver and guard. So we are TOps, not TDs. Any other abbreviations you’ll just have to pick up as we go.

Enough? Let’s get started.

Wed 14 Apr

An announcement from on high that we failed to reach the target to get the £500 bonus so we get £250 instead. The bonus is based on customer satisfaction survey results and we were supposedly on target before they re-jigged the Circle Line after which we were flooded with complaints. Some people think the figures have been altered to get out of paying us the full whack but I seem to remember that when the bonus was first proposed about four years ago no one wanted it. Even then we failed to get anything the first year it was put into operation our ratings were so bad.

Sitting spare at Les, everybody in, no emergencies, very quiet. Fed the goldfish.

Thursday 15 Apr

A bit of Central Line procedure; when a train is going out of service if there is a member of station staff available then the TOp closes the first two cars and stations deal with the back six. If there are two station staff they take four cars each while the TOp gets to stay in the cab and obviously if there are no station staff available the TOp shuts the whole train up on their own.

Reaching Epp I was greeted by the sight of a punter (Male 20s) asleep with his Happy Meal all over his shirt and face. My efforts to wake him succeeded in so much as he opened his eyes though how much information he absorbed was hard to discern. I guessed the Station Supervisor (SS) at Lou would be delayed closing up the back six by Happy Meal so I carried on closing up and in Car 5 I discovered that someone had left what I can only describe as the most impressive display of projectile vomiting I have ever witnessed in all my years on the Tube, truly it was an improvised art installation of puke. When the SS saw it he was equally impressed and we both took out our mobiles to record the work for posterity. There’s vomiting and then there’s real vomiting.

Friday 16 Apr

The fun started at Lou. As I rolled into the EB (Eastbound) platform I could see the night’s entertainment (Male 30s) lying on his back on the platform with two other punters and the SS standing over him deep in discussion. His two companions managed to haul him on his feet and they boarded the train. The trio re-emerged at ThB but rather than heading for the exit they set off over the footbridge to the WB (Westbound) platform. Sure enough they were waiting for me when I came back from Epp.

Attempting to board the train our noble inebriate managed to miss the open door and get one leg into the gap between the train and platform (platform train interface or PTI). His friends and the ThB SS managed to haul him out, get him onto the train and then leave him to his own devices. On reaching Lou he literally fell out of the train and if he’d been a few doors further up he’d quite possibly have fallen headlong down the stairs. Fortunately there were a couple of BTP (British Transport police) on the platform and they guided him out of the station

Saturday 17 Apr

A truly heroic drunk (Male 20s) at EaB who I first saw on all fours halfway along the platform, chundering like a machine with his girlfriend stood over him. Once he finished emptying his stomach contents onto the platform she managed to get him on his feet and moving towards the exit. They hadn’t progressed more than few yards before he started to veer off towards the empty track dragging her with him. Fortunately she managed to divert him away from the platform edge and they staggered off into the night.

Another Male 20s was asleep on the train and though I tried to wake him he was dead to the world so he came back to WhC where the CSA (Customer Service Assistant) managed to wake him and tip him out. After I’d put the train away in the sidings underneath the Westfield Shopping Centre I met him walking down Wood Lane and he asked me which bus would get him back to EaB. Being an East London lad I had no idea but I pointed him towards Shepherd’s Bush Green where there are night buses a-plenty.

Engineering work between LiS and Les Sunday morning, which means instead of bringing the first WB train out of WhC I get a taxi over to Lou at 04:40 and take the first train up to Epp. A glorious spring morning, the embankments are lined with blossom, the sun just peeking over the fields, a little mist here and there and rabbits, rabbits, rabbits, dozens between Debden and Epping. Most of them scamper away into the bushes as the trains go by but a few just sit there and stare. I finish around 07:40 and I’m off till Tuesday.