Thursday 31 March 2011

Apart from being held for the last District EB again Tuesday was utterly uneventful and Wednesday was threatening to be identical until I reached WOO. Amongst everyone else getting off the train there was a forlorn figure stood on the platform displaying all the signs of someone who had just woken up, who was a little unsure where WOO actually was but was certain that it wasn’t where his soft, warm bed was located and was starting to suspect that after a night out enjoying the fleshpots of the West End he had insufficient funds for the minicab home.

At LOU the Line Controller informed me that there wouldn’t be anyone to dispatch me as the Station Super was busy dealing with a drunk on a train waiting to go into the sidings and as I was changed ends at EPP a young lady was staggering unsteadily up the platform. I asked her if she needed help, she declined and apologising for throwing up on my train explained that this was her first night out for a year. I told her not to worry, that she wasn’t the first, certainly wouldn’t be the last and assured her that she wasn’t in as bad a condition as some people I’d encountered.

There is a vacancy for Rep at my depot, the election will be held at the brach meeting in May, both candidates have now asked me to turn up to vote for them and I’ve said yes to both. Think I might be busy that night.

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Spare on Sunday, everyone was in so nothing for me to do. We had engineering works at the weekend and the whole of the line west of MAA was closed.

Earlier this year when we were shut down between LES and LIS our TOps were having to get the replacement bus to STR then the mainline into LIS and drive trains. This weekend the TOps at WHC and WER were doing bugger all, just booking on and sitting around, watching TV, drinking tea, etc. Sometimes it does feel as if someone up there has something against us here at LES.

Another feature of engineering works was that my colleague booked to do what would have been the last WB to WER and the first EB from WER on a normal Sunday night finished at HAI and then was taken by taxi over to WER for the start of traffic Monday morning. The engineering works overran and he got stuck over on the west end of the line until the engineers handed back “possession” of the track to us.

Monday was quiet, I did have one sleeper when I got to WER who refused to be woken but stumbled off the train at RUG. There was one man who jumped off at SOR, jumped back on, then at NOR jumped off, on and off again. I was expecting him to shake it all about….

Apart from that the only things of note were that I got held at MIE to connect with the last EB District and while Wood Lane called up to tell me that THB was staffless they neglected to mention that there would be no one at LOU so I had to call them up to get the okay to carry on. As I left LOU station after putting my train in the sidings there was a member of staff shutting the Boswick gates; very odd.

As I was coming back from EPP in the morning I heard that the first train out of WER had gone defective in Ruislip depot so once more the TOp doing the night shift over there was late. Oddly I offered to swap all my LOU and HAI turns this week with the TOps doing the WERs but they both turned me down. Lucky me.

Friday 25 March 2011

A quiet day to end the week, the only interesting event was on the Bakerloo Line which was flooded when a pipe feeding the fountains in Trafalgar Square burst. When it was first reported the line was suspended from Elephant & Castle to Oxford Circus but then it spread to Paddington and then all the way to Queen’s Park. It then receded back down the line to Paddington, then Oxford Circus until finally the line resumed a full service.

While I know the Thames has tides I didn’t realise they went all the way up to NW6. Back on Sunday, another week of nights.

Thursday 24 March 2011

Another glorious day and my first trip was round “the Loop”. To start with my train was running 15 minutes late so when I got to WOO, tipped out, went up the siding (21 Road) and changed ends I didn’t have long sitting around before I was off again.

Coming into the platform the emergency brakes came on for no obvious reason; I was under the target speed so it wasn’t an overspeed, I still had Codes so it wasn’t an emergency platform plunger nor was it anything else that I could immediately see would cause the train to stop. After a few seconds I got it moving again as if nothing had happened, I got another car or so into the platform but then it slammed on the brakes again and refused to budge. I went though my checks and then called up Wood Lane to let them know that I was experiencing difficulties.

As I still couldn’t get a brake release in Coded I switched into Restricted and pulled in the rest of the way. I switched back into Coded and everything was fine so I’m still none the wiser as to what the problem was. While I was sat halfway in the platform I had a party of schoolkids gazing in at me; one even asked the teacher how they were going to get home if the train had broken down.

So I was late getting away from WOO and I was made even later still by a handle down at STR followed almost immediately by a passenger incident on a train at LEY. By the time I reached MIE I was ten minutes down with the whole of Zone 1 in the evening peak still ahead.

I was meant to go to RUG and then put the train away but halfway through “the Pipe” I noticed that the dot matrix board over platform was now advertising my destination as WER. I changed the destination on the train and sure enough when I reached RUG the signal was a straight green sending me onto WER rather than a shunt signal into the depot. When I reached WER there was a TOp waiting to take over the train and I trotted off for my meal break.

I suppose I could have radioed Wood Lane to find out what was going on but I was curious to see if at anytime anyone was going to bother to tell me what was going on and no one did. Not that I’m complaining as it saved me a long walk out of the depot but it’s a perfect example of how the TOp is usually the last person to be informed.

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Spring is here! The daffodils are in bloom, the rabbits are hopping around east of DEB and I drove Coded with the cab door open for the first time this year. Other than that a very quiet start to the week, I was held on a red signal for a couple of minutes longer than timetable at DEB WB, I called up Wood Lane to find out why but before my call was answered the signal cleared. 52 minutes later as I rolled into NHG the signaller called me up to ask what I wanted. Must have been his turn to make the tea………

Monday 21 March 2011

The nice people at Midland Road have spoken to a local animal official and the plan is to wait until he kittens are old enough to be removed and then have Shelix “fixed” so that she can stay at the station without overpopulating the area. Here she is in the box she has decided to call home.

Apparently early on Wednesday evening a few trains had to be taken out of service with broken windows as some scamp was taking pot-shots with an air rifle at Central Line trains somewhere between Leyton and Stratford. Maybe they were practising for the Olympics.......
After a relatively quiet week some entertainment on Saturday night. QUE WB, last WER train, our star of the show was flat out on his back halfway down the platform with a rather small CSA stood over him trying to persuade him to get up and get on the train. Further down the platform a technician of some sort or other was impatiently waiting for the train to leave so they could get on with whatever they had to get on with that night.

Seeing that the CSA is having no success in inspiring the prone passenger to leave the tech strides purposefully back down the platform, hauls the man to his feet and “assists” him onto the train. He makes it all the way to WER and then falls over at the bottom of the stairs much to the amusement of his fellow travellers.

Back on Tuesday.

Thursday 17 March 2011

On Wednesday our beloved leader, Mike Brown, proudly announced that London Underground had won Best Metro at the Metros Awards 2011 beating Seoul, Madrid and last year’s winner, Singapore. I have no idea who runs the Metros or how they are judged but if the Tube is currently the best mass transit system in the world then either you lot are a bunch of whinging ungrateful buggers or the rest of the world is in a very sorry state, I’ll let you decide.
Monday and Tuesday were very quiet even for mid March weekdays, everything ran to timetable, no stations were lacking staff, there were a couple of ATO failures but other than that nothing of note. I even got a bonus, rather than having to take the train all the way into Ruislip depot the shunter took the train off me at the “cabin” on the way in and saved me the walk.

Of course it couldn’t last, at MIE WB I got held waiting for the last District Line train to catch up so I was running late from then on. Bicycles are not allowed in the deep level tunnels though the exact reason is unknown to me or anyone else I’ve ever spoken to but at one deep level station there was a passenger with a bike on the platform talking to the CSA waiting to give me “the right”.

Maybe the CSA didn’t know about the “no bikes” rule, maybe the cyclist had a puncture and the station staff took pity on him, what I should have done was to have asked the CSA to come to the front of the train and tell me what was going on as if I’d stuck to the rulebook I should have refused. I didn’t because I was running late with a load of other passengers on board and I didn’t want to further delay them getting home.

Predictably there was no helpful shunter to take the train off me at the cabin plus on the way back the next morning I had three ATO failures and had to reset the ATP at MAA. I’m spare tonight though there does appear to be a lot of duties uncovered so I might be busy but if I get a chance I will explain later why the Tube is officially the best mass transit system in the world.

Monday 14 March 2011

Over the weekend there were engineering works that shut us down from LES to LIS which normally means that the bus replacement service acts as a filter for the “oversleepers” and other entertaining individuals that inhabit the Tube towards the end of traffic hours. My first half consisted of shuttling between LES and EPP and I wasn’t expecting much until I got to DEB WB the second time. As I pulled in I could see a curly haired gent clinging desperately to the stairs and only after I’d opened the doors did he release his grip, stagger across the platform and onto the train.

I didn’t notice him get off before we reached LES and as I changed ends I found him sat slumped forward in one of the cars so I gave him a pat on the shoulder and told him where he was. He slowly raised his head like some strange inflatable, flashed me a grin that would not have been out of place on a psychiatric ward and then slowly deflated again. Over the years I’ve come to recognise when further interaction is pointless and as I had a few more trips left before I put the train away for the night I left him to it.

I kept an eye out for him and spotted him staggering off the train at BUH EB. He took a few steps onto the platform, turned to face the train, leant against one of the pillars supporting the canopy and began struggling with his flies. He was still struggling when I left the platform but as there was no telltale puddle there when I returned I have no idea whether he attempted to relive himself on the spot and failed or was simply letting some fresh air in

As I always say, it’s all glamour in this job.

Friday 11 March 2011

Apart from a few minutes here and there Thursday was pretty much timetable. Off till Sunday when I’m back on nights. One piece of rather disturbing news, on Wednesday the Bakerloo was shut down between Queen’s Park and Harrow & Wealdstone for a “passenger incident” which we all assumed was a one under but it turns out that there was a gang-related altercation at Harlesden, someone got shot in the “lower back” with a shotgun, staggered onto a train and then collapsed on the platform at Willesden Junction. If hoodies are going to start blasting each other’s arses full of buckshot the least they could do is keep it off the railway, we’ve got enough to deal with.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Wednesday was the reverse of Tuesday, rather than having a long first half and then only a little bit to do after my meal relief this duty had me getting off for grub an hour and a half after booking on with everything to do afterwards. Even so it was uneventful until my last trip EB when Auto failed less than half way into STP during the evening peak with a platform full of bemused passengers and once more I had a “Clive” moment. Yes Boris, Central Line trains drive themselves.

There was an interview with Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy in the Standard yesterday and some of the things he came out with were just plain wrong. He’s repeatedly claimed that “Ten years ago if we'd had a dispute with the RMT we wouldn't have run a train”. Back in 1998 RMT called a series of strikes to protest against the introduction of PPP with the first strike cunningly planned to coincide with England first match in the World Cup.

Back then I was a Station Assistant in TSSA working a dead early shift at Paddington so I got the staff taxi in and started around 05:00. Initially there was no service so I was kept busy dashing hither and thither to intercept passengers who had let themselves in and inform them that here were no trains. After a couple of hours the Circle Line started running and by the time my shift finished the Bakerloo had too. Even with my poor education I can work out that was 13 years ago.

He also claimed that following the Royal Wedding strike rumour ASLEF “immediately disavowed one of its leaders” which is absolute bull. As I wrote here at the time ASLEF denied it categorically the day the story started, as did the official who they claimed had made the statement. Either Mr. Hendy is delusional or he’s just lying through his teeth.

I’m sure this all plays well with the Standard reading Neanderthals but it doesn’t do anything to bridge the ever widening divide between senior management and employees. More on that another time.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

I wasn’t spare for long yesterday as we had a duty that had been left uncovered for whatever reason. It was a beautiful sunny day which was a shame as the duty consisted of shuttling back and forth between NEP and WHC almost all of which is underground with the exception of NEP, WHC and the stretch between LES and LEY.

On bright sunny days the glare off the track can make seeing some things on the CCTV a little difficult. Not big things like a whole person stuck in the doors, that you can see plus you wouldn’t get a “Door Closed Visual”, the little blue light in the cab that tells us that all the doors are closed. However something like the straps of the bag of someone who jumped on the train at the very last second leaving the bag outside the train while allowing the doors to close and the DCV to illuminate can be missed.

One place where the sun shines bright is LEY WB. I’d only moved off about half a car before someone pulled down the Passenger Emergency Alarm (more commonly know as “the handle”) and the emergency brakes slammed on. On the 92s someone was bright enough to stick a microphone and speaker with the PEA so the TOp could talk to whoever had activated it and find out what the problem is. At the same time “PEA activated” flashes up on the DTS and tells us which car it’s on; in this case it was Car 1.

The person who had pulled the handle told me that there was a bag stuck in the doors, I squinted at the monitor but still couldn’t see it so I opened the cab door and there it was plain to see. As we’d pulled out I couldn’t open the doors up again but fortunately the owner managed to pull the bag in while I was pondering the best course of action, as I said it was pretty small which made it hard to spot.

Another stroke of good fortune was that there was a member of off-duty staff in the car who reset the PEA for me, not that going back into the saloon of the lead car on a quiet Tuesday afternoon would have been a great hardship, bet there wouldn’t have been a handy off-duty member of staff if it was car 8 during the peak.

Nothing else of note except for being held at BOS for a couple of minutes while staff carried out a “small investigation” at MAA and then waiting for five minutes outside LES while the train in front sat on the platform with no explanation from Wood Lane then only being told it had been waiting for a technician to check a fault as it was pulling out. If they want TOps to keep the passengers informed of what was going on it would be helpful if they gave us some information.

Monday 7 March 2011

I bad mouth Lembit Opik and my home PC gets infected by some virus/Trojan/thingie the very next day; coincidence or something more sinister? Of course it’s a coincidence, I don’t go for all that conspiracy theory bollocks. Saturday night was quiet, Sunday morning equally so. There were no unstaffed stations the last few days and no ATO failures, which was a pleasant surprise.

There’s a news item floating around this morning about us running 24 hours over the Olympics, so far picked up by the Standard and the BBC, which is amusing considering what LUL said and I reported last week.

I despair at what passes for journalism these days, no one seems to bother checking the veracity of a story before publishing it. And don’t get me started on TV, that Riz Lateef is as effective an interviewer as a dead badger. I’m certainly turning into a grumpy old man………

Saturday 5 March 2011

A relatively quiet Friday night, two sleepers when I got to WER both of whom were easily awoken and left to the Super to usher out of the station. According to the Standard Lembit Opik is touting himself as the Lib Dems candidate for mayor in 2012 and advocating that the Tube should run 24 hours.

Maybe that is what London needs, someone who has never represented a London constituency or served on a London borough council, who harbours ambitions to lead their party, a shameless self publicist who makes great efforts to get their face in front of the cameras, a history of philandering and absolutely no idea of how the Tube works. Expect to see him presenting “Have I got news for you”.

Friday 4 March 2011

Two very straight forward nights the only little wrinkle being on Wednesday evening when I was heading WB. First there was a call for all EB trains between WHC and BOS to hold on platforms as there was a report of someone going into the tunnel at OXO. When I reached BAN this had expanded to include the WB from TCR back to LES as traction current had been discharged in both directions though it was unclear if this had been done by the Control Room or by the station staff locally.

I was told to move up as far as HOL and hold where I was joined in the cab by a Station Super on their way to do a night shift who didn’t fancy sitting back there with the public. It’s true, if you’re wearing the uniform and the job goes up the wall all eyes immediately turn to you in accusation which is why I never travel in full kit. I try to look as little like a train driver as possible when I’m not being paid to.

When I first joined it wasn’t so bad, the coats were plain dark blue with badges that cleverly tucked away and a plain white shirt but then we had this new design for the Millennium that was bright blue with logos everywhere which made you stand out like a sore thumb.

The white shirt was replaced by a blue shirt with a white check pattern and many a time I was asked for help by customers at Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s who got very annoyed when I tried to explain that I didn’t work there, one even demanded I call the manager to complain about me. White shirts became the mark of Supers and managers.

Everyone said that the bright blue would get filthy down in the Tubes but the suits at 55 went ahead with it regardless and then replaced it a year or so later with the same design in dark blue, still covered in logos and still making you easily identifiable as an LUL employee so it still stays in my locker outside of work hours.

Anyway I sat at HOL for a few minutes beofre Wood Lane announced that traction current had been restored and we could carry on, no idea if there ever was someone on the track or if it was just a fault. Other than that the only news to share is that pay talks have commenced with LUL proposing a multi-year deal while the unions want a one year deal and then recommence negotiations this time next year, a few months before the Olympics.

No doubt if they can’t reach an agreement something will be leaked to the Standard quoting some outrageous demand by the unions, someone will say that we are holding London to ransom, there will be a general moan against overpaid Tube staff and eventually we will end up with something halfway between what RMT demanded, what LUL offered and pretty much what ASLEF and TSSA suggested in the first place. Sadly all too predicatable…..

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Spare again and another quiet night in with Clive. The only news to come through is that the Royal Wedding has been sorted, we get another day in lieu and despite returning to the roster Sunday I can’t say I'll be working as that particular week is designated as “leave cover”.

Further developments with the Leyton Midland Road cat, the LO staff initially called him Felix but on discovering that he was a she renamed her Shelix. She’s given birth but the staff have been unable to find out how many kittens there are as she has them hidden at the back of the storage area between the stairs leading up to the platforms. If you listen carefully you can hear tiny kitten mews. I’ll keep you posted as and when I get news of her and her offspring's progress.

Tuesday 1 March 2011

问候和欢迎 to my follower or followers in Hong Kong and a rather dull "hello" to my loyal Yanks and Canucks.
Second day back and I was spare, everyone showed up, nothing went wrong, I cleaned Clive’s tank. Something I should have mentioned ages ago are the changes to the lower management structure that took place last year.

Before we had DMTs, Duty Manager Trains, who filled the space between us and the head honcho of each depot, the Train Operations manager or TOM. The DMTs rotated between working the desk, handling any incidents or unusual occurrences (the “blue light”) and dealing with personnel stuff like licences, attendance, sickness and disciplinary matters. If the TOM was away they would nominate one of the DMTs to stand in.

All that has changed, we now have TOSMs, Train Operations Standards Managers, basically deputy TOMs, who handle the personnel issues. The “blue light” has been replaced by DRMs, Duty Reliability Managers who aren’t attached to the depot any more and I believe cover not only the Central but parts of other lines too. Those left working the desk are now DTSMs, Duty Train Staff Managers.

In typical LUL fashion the selection process has thrown up some bizarre anomalies, like a DMT at another depot who had covered their TOM for months ended up as a DTSM while another who’s only experience of a disciplinary interview was taking notes is now a TOSM. Various DMTs have left for other depots while others have moved in. As both TOSMs and DRMs get paid more there are a lot of unhappy DTSMs who think they have been overlooked.

This specialising of roles has not gone without a few hiccups, I was told there was one occasion where an incident over on the west end of the line left all the DRMs stuck east of it and the nearest DTSM couldn’t attend as it was no longer part of their job description whereas in the old days any DMT could have gone and sorted it out.

Another change was that while there used to be a TOM at each of the five depots there are now three with the one at WHC also in charge of WER while the one at HAI is responsible for LOU. Both LOU and WER have lost their admin people so if you need to sort something out who have to get in touch with HAI and WHC respectively. At WHC the admin are so busy that apparently you have to book an appointment to see them through the DTSM. Much grumbling at the “banjo playing” depots.