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!