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.