Thursday 27 January 2011

We supposedly work 35 hours a week but because of the varying lengths of shifts sometimes we work more and sometimes we work less. The whole thing is meant to balance out over 12 weeks (could be more, can’t remember offhand) and in order to achieve this when the last timetable came in we were given one 4-hour spare duty on Tuesday and another one Wednesday. No doubt these will disappear when the new timetable comes in on March 6 but yesterday it was my turn for a nice little “snip”.

The DMT handed me a job the moment I booked on, getting a train out of the sidings for LOU who were short staffed and then handing it over on the platform. When I got there they’d already sent someone to get it out so I headed back to LES.

And that was it; I sat around till it was time to go home then watched West Ham crash out of the League Cup. Off till Sunday when I’m back on nights. Have a nice weekend, folks.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Most of Tuesday was plagued by little delays, no major incidents but all day I seemed to be constantly late. For some reason Auto gave up failing halfway into the platform and instead came to a halt half a train’s length short of a red signal on the EB approach to LES and then about the same distance from a Block Marker Board WB between WHC and EAA. I’ll explain what one of those is one day when I’m really, really bored, suffice to say it acts like a signal without actually being one.

The last part of my duty was from NOA up to EPP, back to LOU and then on the cushions to LES, a duty I remember all too well as the first time I did it I took the train all the way to LES leaving my replacement stood on the platform at LOU. I’d been staring at the tail lights of train in front all the way from NOA but between MIE and STR it was stop-start the whole way through due to a signal problem at WOO. I came to a complete stop sat outside LES at which point Wood Lane announced that signal problem had developed into signal failure.

Wood Lane eventaully decided that they were going to put me into Plat 2, the middle road at LES, and send the train WB. This meant that the passengers had to troop down the stairs at the rear end of the platform and round to Plat 3 which can’t have made the ones in the front cars very happy. I called up the DMT on the desk and pointed out that I had less than an hour before I was due to finish so I certainly wasn’t taking this train west.

By this time the signal failure had been resolved so when the DMT called up Wood Lane they decided that the best thing to do was for me to take the train empty to LOU so that the TOp who was due to relieve me could pick up on time. I managed to get up to LOU, hand over, ride back and book off only a couple of minutes late.

At least it gave me something to write about…..

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Monday was unremarkable and I was going to share the findings from LUL’s annual staff survey with you as they give an interesting insight into our feelings about working down here. Sadly I’m suffering from “Shift lag”, a 12:30 start after a week of nights is not good. I’m spare tomorrow so after cleaning Clive’s tank and providing I don't get called up to do some work I’ll write something then.

Monday 24 January 2011

Unlike Friday Saturday night was quiet, no interesting incidents, no sad revellers sleeping past their stop and finding themselves stranded in the wilds of Ruislip and no drunks threatening life and limb.

ASLEF have declined Boris’s invitation for face-to-face talks as negotiations on bank holiday working between our regional reps and LUL are going very well and they see no point in duplication. Or in other words we aren’t going to give Boris an opportunity to claim he averted a strike that didn’t exist, we’re affiliated to Labour, we have already pledged our support to Ken and made a donation to his campaign fund so yah boo to you, blondie!

Saturday 22 January 2011

Friday was cold but it seems as if London has recovered from the Christmas and New Year hangover. The usual groups of youngsters off for a night out, a man at WOO who didn’t want to finish his conversation so stood half in and half out the door until I asked him over the PA to have a little consideration for those passengers who were still on the train and wanted to get on with their journey. And two men both obviously “over-served” who staggered off the train (LOU and THB) then zigzagged up the platform to such an extent that I left very cautiously in Coded.

Tonight DEB and BUH were unstaffed and at EPP I had to employ the whistle to remind the Super that the last train needed confirmation from them that it could depart. At SOR Wood Lane instructed me to approach WER at caution speed in Coded as there was a very abusive passenger on the platform and as I left RUG I heard the DMT over the radio confirming that the passenger, female, was refusing to leave so we’d have to wait of BTP to arrive to deal with the situation. By the time I crawled in the passenger, about 5ft nothing, was meekly heading towards the exit.

As I said, back to normal.

Friday 21 January 2011

Tuesday the TOp that went missing returned and I had a quiet night sitting spare during which the DMT took the opportunity to conduct my “return to work” interview, all part of our baroque sickness and absence policy. When I’m really, really bored I will explain it here.

Wednesday was equally quiet, the only things of note being that this week DEB is unstaffed and as I pulled in at the end of the night at HAI a passenger with a suitcase was remonstrating with the station staff. He even tried to board my depot-bound train while they were closing up the rear cars and I left them debating the issue on the platform. There was no sign of him when I walked past the closed station a few minutes later so I guess they must have directed him to the night bus or the minicabs.

I had much the same experience when I arrived at WER Thursday night, two sleepers in one carriage with a third in another, one of whom was very loath to leave their seat and was mortified to discover that the next train back to EAA wasn’t for four hours. On the journey up Auto failed three times between stations due to the rain, ah technology will solve all our problems.

My only other bit of news is in connection with the theft of a large amount of communications cable from DEB trackside a few weeks ago which turned up in a scrap metal yard round the corner from me Tuesday morning. BTP turned up later, informed the owners of it’s origin and took the details of the people who had brought it in. When they returned the next day with more of the cabling BTP were waiting and made five arrests. Which was nice…….

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Monday I was spare but one of the HAI night turns failed to show and I got their shift. Apparently the TOp was working Sunday night and Wednesday he starts rest days so if he doesn’t show up tonight I will be the only spare this week having to cover for him. Now it’s personal……

This wouldn’t be so bad but there always seems to be one HAI TOp who asks for night shifts but then calls in sick etc and as LES provide the night spare the other TOps at HAI are unaffected. The last one played this game for ages before he got told no more nights and that was only after an admin error gave a week of nights to a TOp who was still in holiday on Pakistan.

This meant that there was no night spare to cover the regular absentee so the HAI dead early and dead late spares had to start and finish the duty. Thus the workload finally fell upon his colleagues at HAI and it was strongly suggested to the mafia that he shouldn't be given night shifts in future.

When I picked up my train, WB to WER, the TOp I relieved told me that ATP kept failing when going EB, that he’d told Wood Lane about the problem and that they might get me a change over. Despite the heavy rain the train behaved itself perfectly all the way to WER but when I changed ends although ATP appeared to be working the train wouldn’t move until I’d tripped and reset the MCB. We stopped short on one platform and ATP failed twice between stations on the EPP branch; not a happy train.

Overnight at LOU, first train out in the morning, tonight I must remember to take a book or a DVD.
Sunday was pretty straight forward, due to the engineering works at MAA I had get a taxi over to WHC to pick up my train, stayed overnight at WER before coming back in the morning. With so little to report I am going to address the stories involving ASLEF and the Tube that started flying around last week.

On Monday the Evening Standard ran a story that ASLEF were planning a strike of the day of the Royal Wedding unless we received triple pay and a day in lieu, oddly the OTT demand we had made when LUL refused to budge on Boxing Day. ASLEF immediately responded by declaring the report “premature”, that we were due to resume negotiations with LUL on all Bank Holiday working, that this hadn’t been raised at our executive committee and that no ballot had been held let alone supported by us members.

This was completely ignored by the press and media as we became the target of a storm of condemnation for threatening to ruin Wills and Kate’s big day with our greed and general lack of patriotic feeling. The finally stupidity was Ed Milliband declaring he was “appalled” on the Andrew Marr Show Sunday morning. The fact that as ASLEF is still associated with the Labour Party unlike RMT and as the Union vote helped Ed to win the leadership the least he could have done was to check with us to ask if we were threatening strike action before going on national TV and condemning us. Looks like I voted for Teflon Tony part 2.

Then on Thursday Boris made a speech where he claimed that driverless trains could be just around the corner, that there were three lines where the trains did all the driving already and that anyone could drive a Tube train after a few weeks anyway so the Unions had better watch out. This was greeted with euphoria by the slavering dogs of the anti-Union brigade and was, obviously, complete and utter bollocks.

Admittedly the Tube could start to convert to NoPO any time they wanted but it would cost billions and the money simply isn’t there. TfL depends on government subsidy and that was slashed when the Coalition came in, the Mayor could never raise the sort of money through taxation and after the PPP disaster the private sector won’t come within a mile of the Tube.

There are two lines that operate under ATO, the Victoria and the Central, while the Jubilee is currently in the process of being converted. Anyone who’s read this blog will know just how effective ATO is on the Central Line so if Boris thinks these train can be left to run themselves then he’s deluded.

Same for his claim that TOps take a matter of weeks to get licenced, my training took 5 months. Anyone interested here is another TOps training diary, a little too much detail for me but if you are that interested help yourself.

Anyway after all this rubbish and fakery the real interesting bit; on Friday it was revealed that Boris had sent a letter to ASLEF Gen Sec Keith Norman asking him for face to face talks “at his earliest convenience” to discuss a variety of topics including Bank holiday working, Tube funding and the Olympics. As Boris has consistently refused to talk to any Union who were threatening strike action I guess this means we aren't.

Perhaps the first piece of business should be Boris offering an apology for the “anyone can drive a train” remark………

Saturday 15 January 2011

Oh well I tried. Still not at all well but was managing to get by until going EB through the Pipe I started getting stomach pains and the jolting of the train made me feel very uncomfortable. At the time I was heading up to DEB, the EPP branch is the worst part of the line for track condition and I decided that I was in no fit state to go on.

By the time I called up the DMT to tell him I’d be booking off sick I was at STP and he asked if I’d be okay to get to LES or did I want to book off where I was. Well I wasn't thant sick so the quickest way home was to stay right where I was on the front of the train. Once again the track between MIE and STR played merry hell with my metabolism but eventually I got to LES and a spare took me off.

I’ll be back Sunday night, hopefully in full health. Even train drivers get ill.

Friday 14 January 2011

Still raining, lost count of the number of times Auto failed part-way into the platform, in the end I just gave up and went Coded whenever I was in open section. The second half started badly, I made my way down to WHC EB when my train reached NOA, there was a train sat on the platform with a TOp waiting to be relieved. When no one appeared he called the DMT on the desk who said that a spare should be on their way and while one did eventually appear the train was over five minutes down which left a considerable gap between it and the train ahead.

This was just before 5pm so those Zone 1 platforms must have been packed solid by the time it came through and packed platforms means further delays. Don’t know if it was the TOp or the DMT who messed things up but that is how easy it is to disrupt the smooth running of the Tube. My train was third in after the late one, all right up behind each other so I had a view of the taillights of the train in front m of me all the way through the pipe.

Things didn’t get better but that was in no way down the Tube of the passengers, it was entirely down to my digestive system. I been feeling slightly unwell all day though not enough to warrant calling in sick but between WHC and HAI the need to use the toilet became ever more urgent. When I reached HAI I was relieved to be directed to Platform 1 as there is a staff toilet halfway down.

The only snag was that because of all the delays I only had the minimum four minutes to change ends. In theory I should have told Wood Lane or the DMT on the desk at HAI that I would be late leaving but Wood Lane were busy and weren’t answering my call while to contact the DMT I would have had to walk all the way to the front of the train to use the phone by the signal and at that point I wasn’t sure I’d make it there and back to the toilet without needing a change of underpants.

So I was late going WB and despite my visit to the toilet I was still feeling unwell. I got up to WER with only enough time to change ends but halfway back through the Pipe I wasn’t sure I’d make it to HAI. I called up the desk at LES to see if I could get a PNR, basically a spare relieves the TOp in need, drives the train while the TOp rushes to the toilet and then they swap back again on the return. Sadly there were no spares available, when I’d booked on the DMT was on the phone telling someone that he couldn’t cover any more duties as all his spares were out running for LOU and HAI and the situation hadn’t improved six hours later.

The best the DMT could suggest was to send my train onto Plat 2 at LES which has a public toilet so they could then trains around mine while I did the necessary. The only problem with that is from Plat 2 you cannot go to HAI via NEP, you can only do that from Plat 3 and I had a trainload of passengers who were under the impression that was where they were going. I decided to brave it out to HAI though the bumpy ride between MIE and STR makes it very hard to concentrate on keeping the sphincter clenched.

I managed to get there but on the approach to HAI I was gutted (ho ho) to see that all three platforms were occupied. After what seemed an eternity a train went into the depot off Plat 3 and I was able to pull in, shut down, scurry over the footbridge and into the sanctuary of the toilets in the Train Crew Accommodation building.

This job is just all glamour........

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Very rainy but despite lots of “low adhesion” warnings from the DTS there was only one ATO failure that left me switching into Manual half way into a platform. I was meant to finish my first half by tipping out at RUG and going into the depot but due to a shortage of trains I was told to take it onto WER where someone would take it off me.

On the subject of lack of trains we will be getting a new timetable in March with two trains less in the peak as they will all be refurbished for the Olympics. For some reason it has been decided to take 7 roster positions from HAI and 4 from LOU (or it could be the other way round) and transfer them to LES so having dropped into The Pool when the last timetable came in I will now be back on the roster. This means that I will know what I’m doing every day from now until the next timetable change which probably won’t be until they bring in the Olympic one.

My second half finished in HAI depot, two stablers on one duty, that’s a lot of walking. There was a notice on the 7-minute board when I booked on about the shed roads at HAI, each one now has a specific stopping mark and these were listed. Sadly when I noticed it I didn’t have enough time to make a note of them all and typically when the shunter called me up he directed me to a shed road, 61. I asked where he wanted me to stop and helpfully he told me to just draw up level with the train that was already on 60.

As I made my way into the yard I was trying to remember whether the shunter had instructed me to shut down the train or not and was about to call him up when I realised that the points had sent me onto 62. I thought I must have misheard his initial instruction but then he called me up to say that someone had set the points wrong and that I should leave the train just outside the shed while he sent someone to take it back over the points and put in onto the right road. Not a good way to end the night.

Something else I noticed today is that the siding at MAA is still “under possession”. We were closed between WHC and HOL at the weekend for engineering works at MAA and will be again this weekend and it would appear that whatever work they are doing it means that we can’t use that siding until they finish. I wonder if anyone realises that if we have a shutdown at HOL itself then we will have nothing between WHC and LIS. Fingers crossed……

Monday 10 January 2011

A rather annoying Saturday night. There were engineering works at MAA which shut the line down between WHC and HOL. As I was overnight at WHC this meant that I was booked to get a taxi over to WHC with the TOp doing the WER night duty but he’d decided to make his own way over so I had the taxi to myself. For a start it turned up ten minutes late as it had been waiting round the wrong side of the station but as it was still booked for two people we had to wait even longer while the driver confirmed that is was to leave one person short.

After making our way across town we got to WHC with just enough time for me to pick up my train, not that there was much to do, EAB – WHC – EAB then back to WHC empty and into the sidings. There was a short delay caused by an ATP failure two cars short of being fully into the platform and then after stabling the train I had to walk back along Wood Lane to the station and take another into the sidings. Glad it wasn’t raining.

In the morning I got the first train out, up to EAB and back and then a taxi back to LES. Ten minutes after it was due to pick me up I was still waiting so I went back to the desk to ask the DMT to chase it up. Someone had decided to cancel it for some reason so it had to be rebooked and I was told it would pick me up in five minutes. I waited, went out again, waited another ten minutes and then went back to the DMT.

This time I was told that the taxi was outside waiting but when I went back out the street was still noticeably taxi free. The DMT got on the phone again and was assured that the taxi was definitely there. This time he came out to see for himself, agreed there was no taxi but he thought he could see one waiting up the road at Wood Lane station. Sure enough when I walked up there I found that my taxi had been waiting at the wrong station, the driver hadn’t realised there were two stations on the same road.

I ended up being forty minutes late, not the sort of thing you want on a Sunday morning. I heard on the radio that EPP and SNA were unstaffed again and I would hazard a guess that they will be unstaffed until the shifts change on Tuesday, seven days with no one there at close of traffic, not an encouraging sign for the future. Off till Wednesday.

Saturday 8 January 2011

Well so much for a quiet Friday night sitting spare, a LOU duty was uncovered so I had to ride to WHC, pick up the train on the EB, go up to EPP, stable at WOO and then get a taxi back to LES just after 01:00. While I was on making my way EB I kept losing the “door closed visual” as I was pulling out of the stations, not long enough for DTS, the on board computer, to identify where the problem was but enough to jerk the train about. Eventually I announced that there seemed to be a reoccurring problem with the doors and if it persisted I’d have to take the train out of service. Strangely the loss of visual stopped after that……

It seems that both EPP and SNA have been unstaffed since Tuesday, the TOp who did the last EPP confirmed there was no one there Thursday night and EPP was locked up and dark when I got there. There was no station staff at WOO to help me close up the train and I had to tell a passenger who had wandered over to the WB platform that the last train had gone. As I crossed over the bridge I had to break the bad news to another passenger who’d got off the last EPP and was trying to get back to MIE. As I made my way out of the station a group of PWay workers waiting to book on outside the Super’s office which was ominously dark.

If this is the future for stations then I don’t see how we can keep up the level of customer service our passengers are used to. I’m certainly convinced that getting myself onto the train side of the business was the best career move I ever made in my life.

Friday 7 January 2011

Wednesday started pretty much the same as Tuesday except this time I was put into Plat 2 at EPP and could see that the ticket gates were open, the ticket office and the Super’s office were dark, even the public toilets and the waiting room were locked; EPP was unstaffed again. I called Wood Lane who confirmed that both EPP and SNA were devoid of staff. All slightly ironic since yesterday the Evening Standard reported Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy saying that no stations would be left unstaffed while trains were running so either he is being misinformed by LUL or…………

Regardless the last WER went to timetable and I took particular notice of the shunt signal on 24; once bitten, etc. No engineers train to delay me leaving the depot but on the approach to NOA junction there was a red signal waiting for me where none should be. When I rolled into NOA there was an engineers train on the middle platform having come up from the EAB branch. Despite being only a couple of minutes late finishing I am getting very suspicious that the engineers trains are conspiring to delay me and make me miss my bus.

Thursday night I was spare, everyone was in and there was nothing for me to do. Spare again tonight, hopefully similar.
Sorry for the delay in writing but then Tuesday night/Wednesday morning was riddled with lateness. I was on the last EPP – WER and as with all last trains we hold at a platform until a member of station staff gives us “the right” to proceed to ensure we connect with last trains on other lines if required and that passengers aren’t left stranded.

Things started badly, I was over on Plat 1 at EPP which is the other side of the bridge from the entrance/exit. When the signal cleared the platform was bereft of staff, I waited for a minute, gave a blast on the train whistle just in case they’d forgot and when no one appeared called up Wood Lane. They tried to contact the Station Super but to no avail; EPP was unstaffed. Later I learnt that this had been announced earlier but it would appear that when they had a changeover of shifts at Wood Lane this information had not been passed on.

As I was now late there were station staff waiting for me all the way down the line except for SNA which was also staffless. This isn’t unusual, it’s not a busy station so I didn’t bother hanging around and just carried on. At MIE I got held while the last WB District Line caught up and then at LIS the CSA kept me there ages while stragglers made their way down the escalators. Had I been on time they would have missed the last train but that didn’t seem to inject any urgency in their efforts to get on board or in the CSA to get me moving. After that the station staff were more than happy to move me along as the sooner I left the sooner they could shut up shop.

There are two routes into Ruislip depot from the platforms at WER, either through the wash, literally a huge train sized car wash type affair, or 24 road which runs between the wash and the WB running line. 9 times out of ten they send you in through the wash before going into the yard, you pull up to the “Stop” boards, wait until the shunter tells you where to put the train then go slowly through the wash while it cleans your train.

24 road is covered by a shunt signal so after you get your destination from the shunter you have to wait till this clears. I’d got so used to going through the wash road that when they put me on 24 I nearly SPADed the shunt signal. Tiredness and lack of concentration on my part; don’t think they would have sacked me but I’d have probably been on a corrective action plan and a 12 month warning.

As I walked into the yard at the start of traffic I noticed an engineers train in the platform at WER. I prepped the train and waited to be called up by the shunter to the outlet signal. The minutes went by and I tried to call the shunters’ cabin without any joy. I suspected that I was being held while the engineers train was brought in and sure enough five minutes before I was due to leave WER EB I saw it rolling into the yard. A few minutes later I was called up and went straight out onto the platform, eventually leaving six minutes late.

With a little careful pruning of dwell times I was making up the lost minutes until I ran up against a red signal on the approach to QUE that to the best of my memory has never been red unless there was a train in the platform. Having waited the required two minutes I called up the signaller at Wood Lane who was unaware that the signal was at danger and cleared it. So I finished late, not the best day.

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Body clock completely all over the shop, nothing of note to report, very quiet Monday night but back to normal levels Tuesday morning. This is threatening to be a very disappointing week......

Monday 3 January 2011

First day back on nights, very odd changing over from bed at 9pm and starting work at 5:30am to going to work at 9pm and going home at 5:30am. Very quiet, perhaps a mixture of too many days off to enjoy themselves, the impending VAT rise and the nervousness about the future has people staying in watching TV. One poor soul at the ticket office window at EPP, as I walked past I heard “So I take that train to Loughton, then what?”; something you don’t want to find yourself asking at half past midnight on a Sunday when your final destination is obviously not LOU.

Otherwise not much to report other than I managed to swap my rest day Friday week (14) with a colleague who had Tuesday (11); I’ve been offered a ticket for West Ham v Birmingham in the League Cup Semi. Come on you Irons!!!!!!

Saturday 1 January 2011

The moment I got into work there was a job for me; one of the LOU earlies had blown out, there was a train in WOO sidings due out at 05:33 so I was told to jump in a taxi at 05:35, run it to LES then up to EPP and back again and then someone would take me off. I pointed out that the first EB left at 05:36 and would be quicker than any taxi, here we are trying to save money and there’s Wood Lane not even bothering to check the timetable!

Even so by the time I got to WOO and got the train prepped there wasn’t enough time to get it to LES so we did a shunt over to the EB platform and we were on time again going up to EPP. When I got back to LES I waited for a while for my replacement to show up and then called the DMT on the desk.

There had been a change over while I was away and predicatably I had been overlooked. All the spares that had been hanging around over the past three days were doing the extra night turns for all night running on New Year’s Eve so off I went to WHC where I was relieved and rode the cushions back to LES.

And that was it for the rest of the day, very quiet once more though I was told it livened up as the morning progressed. Happy New Year to one and all.