Wednesday 30 June 2010

An altogether unremarkable day apart from a possible bit of good news; the Northern Line was due to start closing early in the evenings next week for engineering work so to compensate the Waterloo and City Line was going to stay open later and the W&C is operated by TOps from LES. Extra duties had been added to facilitate this which were being covered by the Pool, one of which finished later than the last trains from Waterloo so whoever had that duty would have to hang around for the staff taxi and wouldn’t get back to LES until around 01:30; not ideal. The early closure has been cancelled but as of yet the W&C late running still stands though logic suggests that at some point those unwanted W&C “dead late” duties will magically transform into additional spare turns or as we know them “buckshee” spares.

Predictably there was a problem as I did my very last trip, WER to LES, I’d reached PER when Wood Lane called up to announce that everything was shut down WOO to EPP due to a “suspect package” on a train at LOU. In a week’s time it will be five years since four arseholes blew themselves up, taking 56 people with them and injuring around 700 more. I was still working at WHC but I ended up at LES watching the news for any information.

There were reports that a fifth bomber had been shot by police at Canary Wharf, there were even interviews with eye witnesses to the event, just as a few weeks later there were eye witnesses to the wires visible under Jean Charles de Menezes’ jacket. In the desperate race to be first with the latest breaking news rumours and hearsay are reported without any checking of their veracity, anyone can say anything they like and it will be flashed around the world on the internet. In our hunger for instant information accuracy has become an inconvenience, gossip has replaced facts, with a million and one different stories it is no wonder that paranoia and conspiracy theories flourish.

I recently walked in on one of my colleagues watching some Yank 7/7 conspiracy DVD which claimed that Tony Blair orchestrated the bombings because he was worried about his popularity. I didn’t bother commenting that there had been a General Election a month before giving Labour a third term in office, such facts are wasted on those who want to believe in the New World Order, why spoil his day?

Oh, yes, the suspect package at LOU, just some luggage left behind. Don't you just love our passengers!

Sunday 27 June 2010

Friday was timetable, nothing to warrant inclusion here. There have been fears that with the shrinking of the roster the expanded pool will end up covering the other depots (LOU, HAI, WHC and WER) or even being transferred but so far I’ve learnt that WER have lost 7 places in the roster, LOU have gained one, I’m sure WHC has lost a few and I haven’t heard of any big changes either way at HAI so it’s not as if there is anywhere for us to go.

Another strange piece if information is that apparently even though we have vacancies at LOU and a large waiting list no one is being allowed to transfer from other lines onto the Central Line, while at the same time another driver who applied for a job driving Test Trains, whatever they are, was told that Central Line drivers were not eligible for the position as the company wanted to keep them all there. What is going on up at 55?

Friday 25 June 2010

Another week of earlies, another delayed posting, thankfully I’m on lates for the next two weeks so normal service should be resumed.

Wednesday I was spare, got called up to do a WOO via HAI quarter of an hour before England v Slovenia was due to kick off, was on the train till the end of half time, booked off and saw the last half hour in my local. If England beat Germany I will be working for their remaining games, had they won the group my next day off would have coincided with the semi if they get that far. I’ve got my builder in this weekend fitting a new kitchen so hopefully we can get everything done by 3pm Sunday! He’s back doing the bathroom Cup final weekend……is this a sign?

Thursday was timetable, Tubelines strike didn’t seem to trouble the J, N & P much, apart from a signal failure taking rather longer than usual to fix on the Picc and subsequently Wood Lane Control asking us to do PAs informing the punters to avoid HOL like the plague. The only incident of note involved a “Mobility Impaired Passenger”, a blind man with a guide dog, who was assisted to my train at TCR by a CSA. The CSA then informed me of the MIP’s destination, in this case EPP, made sure he had my train number so he could inform the station staff at EPP so there would be someone waiting on the platform to assist him out the station.

Predictably when we arrived at EPP there was no one waiting but as I had ten minutes before I was due to go back WB again I guided the gent over the bridge and out of the station. At some point, usually within the first year of joining LUL, we all get disability awareness training which includes being put into pairs and taking it in turns for one of us to put on a blindfold while the other acts as our guide while we negotiate Victoria station. When I was an SA at Paddington and did the MIP helping thing myself I became acutely aware how little sighted people actually bother to look out for others. Most people spend their lives totally self involved in their own little world …. and then step out in front of a bus with any luck.

I did spot a CSA making tea in the SS office and asked him if he’d been told about the MIP. He’d only just booked on for work and hadn’t been told, so somewhere between TCR and EPP this piece of information had been overlooked. Strangely as I pulled away going back WB I saw a CSA come down the stairs and walk towards the end of the platform where the MIP had got off the train, so maybe they got the train numbers mixed up……..

Tuesday 22 June 2010

A question we get asked a lot is why don’t Tube trains have Air Con. The number one reason is down to how Air Con works, it sucks in hot air, blows cool air back and expels hot air outside. Now this works fine if you are in a building as there is plenty of outside to send the hot air to and it will even work on the “cut and cover” Lines like the Circle and H&C which will be getting Air Con when the new S stock trains come in but on the deep levels with very little space it means that the heat stays in the tunnel. The tunnel is packed with equipment, signals, communications, safety, power, etc and if this stuff overheats it stops working; ever notice how we have more signal failures in the summer?

Another reason is that it would take up space inside the cars and we are packed out in the peak as it is. Ah you say, why not put it under the seats? Simple, there’s already stuff under there, do you really think with the limited size of a Tube train there’s an inch of space wasted? Next time you are sat on the Tube look up above the windows and you’ll see letters; DIC, DML, EPBIC, etc. This tells us what equipment is underneath your arse.

One suggestion is that we should dig shafts to the surface and have giant fans blowing cold air down, a lovely idea were it not for the fact that a lot of the deep level tunnels run under some of the most expensive property in the country, so buying it up might be a bit expensive and as we all know London and the country at large is skint right now.

Actually the question of why don’t we have Air Con is misleading; we do have Air Con on Tube trains but only in the driver’s cab. Hey, you try sitting in a tiny box surrounded by a ton of electrical equipment, in the summer you could fry eggs on the floor!
Monday went smoothly, no problems but I did hear a bit of news from Saturday. As I was heading EB for the last time I heard Control call a “platforms and hold” for all EB trains EAB and PER through to SHB for a person ill on a train. At the time all I thought was lucky it was behind me and I was going to finish on time.

Before I got off there was another call to inform us that the “PIOT” was ongoing and that they were waiting for an ambulance; pretty serious and not just someone fainting. Yesterday I was told that the situation got so bad that the TOp of a train stuck in the tunnel between WHC and SHB was instructed to walk through the train to the back cab and go back the wrong way to WHC.

As we only have ATP in one direction this means putting the train into Restricted and driving at a maximum of 15kph. You also have to have confirmation that the points E of WHC are set for you and even if you have confirmation from the signaller you still stop and visually check they are in your favour. Hell, it’s your train, your responsibility and you are the one who is going to get their arse kicked if the train ends up on the floor.

The only time I’ve ever been asked to do a wrong direction move was when someone was running round with a knife at BAN and they wanted me to go back to STP. By the time I’d changed ends the incident had been sorted and I had to walk all the way back again, much to the amusement of the punters.

A memo from the London Assembly Conservative Group calling for full automation of the Tube and driverless trains stated “the Victoria and Central lines already use technology which has reduced train drivers to door openers”.

Nice to be appreciated

Monday 21 June 2010

Sunday went smoothly, all very quiet apart from a slightly disturbing call as I made my last trip EB from WER. Control instructed us to go into Manual from BEG to STR both directions and approach MIE at caution speed as they had been tipped off by BTP that someone might be attempting to end it all under a train.

Or to put it another way.....

“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
Samuel Johnson, 20 September, 1777

Saturday 19 June 2010

Two dreadful days. Thursday I was spare so I didn’t know anything was wrong until I got called up by the DMT and told to run a train “out of service” from LES back to HAI. I thought it was defective until I got to the WB platform and found it jam packed, only then did I hear that there was a signal failure at SHB that was playing merry hell with the morning peak.

When things get this bad the policy is to avoid having trains full of passengers stranded between stations so Control starts holding trains at a platform and only moving them up to the next one when it becomes available. During the peaks we have far more trains than platforms so the policy is to start putting them away in depots and sidings, which was what I had been sent to do.

When my train arrived I tipped the passengers out, closed up the doors and took it back empty back to WOO and round the loop to HAI. On the way I was listening in to the radio traffic and it was clear that progress was at snail’s pace so once I’d stabled the train it took quite a while to get back to LES.

About an hour after I got back I was sent out again, a simple WOO via HAI. At HAI the WOO train normally leaves from Platform 2 so I was surprised that as I approached I was directed to Plat 1. As I pulled in I peered up at the dot-matrix destination board and read “Terminates here”. I made an extremely apologetic PA to the passengers to inform them that I was going no further and then had to endure the walk of shame as I changed ends. The dot matrix now read “Ealing Broadway 15 mins” but on reaching the other end I found a HAI TOp closing the train up as he’d been told to put it in the depot. So I made my way back to LES trainless once more.

Friday my duty started in the depot at HAI but due to another signal failure, this time at BEG, I was kept in the yard for two hours. Fortunately I’d had the foresight to buy a paper otherwise I’d have been sat there slowly going mad but for the first time in years I can claim to have read The Guardian from cover to cover. Once they let me out everything went to timetable or near as damn it, certainly the better of the two days.

Saturday went timetable and as for Tubelines and the ERU the word coming down from the joint Union Safety Council is that we carry on as normal until something goes tits up at which point we "apply existing protocals". Just pray there are no one unders, track fires, etc, etc

Thursday 17 June 2010

A nice quiet day, a few minor glitches that meant I spent the second half with just enough time to change ends before I was off again but at least I finished on time. One thing of note was that there have been a “one under” on both of the last two days, Tuesday on the Jubilee and yesterday on the Northern. Worrying…..

Something else that is worrying is that staff at Tubelines, the soon to be defunct private consortium that provides maintenance on the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly Lines are planning to go on strike at the end of next week. Now that might cause problems on those lines but what everyone seems to have forgotten is that Tubelines also has the Emergency Response Units, the nice people who amongst other things are those who come along and get the one unders out from under the train.

If there’s no ERU can we run the any service at all? Whoops…….

Wednesday 16 June 2010

First day back, very quiet apart from some little scrote activated a Passenger Emergency Alarm (PEA though more commonly known as a “handle”) at the start of my second half as I pulled into REB heading towards HAI. The PEAs on the Central Line trains have a neat little radio so the T.Op can speak to whoever’s pulled the handle down and find out what the emergency is.

There was no answer so the next thing to do is tell Control what’s going on so that they can hold all the trains behind you while you go back, reset the handle and deal with whatever the problem is. Fortunately I only had to go back three cars and at 14:00hrs RED was empty; I once had to go back to Car 7 to reinflate the suspension at 08:30 at OXO, took me an age to get down the crowded platform and back.

Car 3 was utterly devoid of passengers and no one in the adjacent cars had seen anything. The handle by the first door was down, I reset it and then checked all the others; a novice mistake is to reset the first handle you find, go back to the cab and then discover that the brakes are still on as the culprit has pulled down two handles in the same car. Normally we get this thing during the school holidays, during the Notting Hill Festival or around Christmas.

One encouraging rumour is that the latest timetable will only be with us till March 2011 when the Roster will be expanded again and I’ll get out of the Pool. Ah sweet logic, something we learn to live without at LUL…..

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Boris slags off the Harry Potter theme park opening in Orlando saying it should be in England and fails to notice that Warners got planning permission back in April for one at Leavesden Studios nr. Watford where they made the Potter films.

Any betting he claims it was all down to him when it opens? And Watford's in London, isn't it, it's on the Metropolitan Line.....

Friday 4 June 2010

Popped back to feed Clive and found a letter waiting for me; it’s official, new timetable as of July 4, I will drop off the “roster” and into the “pool”. There are five refugees from the now-defunct East London Line at the top of the waiting list for going back onto the roster and then after that it is by how long you’ve been at the depot rather than now long you’ve been a T.Op. Pleasant surprise, I’m top of the list and as some of the ELL are coming up to retirement age I might only have to spend a year or so getting my duties a week in hand.

On that subject, yes, we do “duties” rather than shifts and have meal “reliefs” rather than breaks. I’m informed this is a leftover from the days when it was thought we should be run on military lines which might explain why some Duty Managers act like Drill Sergeants.

And get ignored.