Friday 29 April 2011

Everything went smoothly Thursday which was hardly surprising as once again it would appear that vast numbers have decided to start the long weekend early and the platforms were half empty during the morning peak.

Following the localised strikes on the Northern and Bakerloo Lines over the sacking of two TOps the RMT have successfully balloted for a Tube wide strike. It all seems a little premature as the last I heard the Employment Tribunal have yet to hear one of the cases and have not delivered their verdict on the one they had.

The problem is that even if the Employment Tribunal do find in favour of the two men under the present legislation LUL does not have to give them their jobs back, they just have to pay a large wedge of compensation. With LUL pleading poverty at the pay negotiations (while at the same time boasting of record passenger numbers) it would be a lot cheaper to simply reinstate them and tell them to behave in future.

Perhaps I’m missing something..........

Monday 25 April 2011

A beautiful Easter Sunday on the sunny Central Line, two trips up to EPP both in coded with the cab door open, scattering bunnies all the way from DEB to the end of the line.

Monday as it’s a Bank Holiday we are running a Saturday service instead of a normal weekday and the Drain is closed. Some of us are therefore surplus to requirement and have been given the Monday off as one of our spare Annual Leave days.

Exactly what we wanted on Boxing Day but LUL wouldn’t give us until it was too late to do anything about it. Tuesday and Wednesday are my rostered rest days for the week so I’ll be back Thursday and on Friday it’s the Royal Wedding. Should be a giggle.

Friday 22 April 2011

سلام to whoever is reading this in Iran, здравствуй to whoever is reading this in Russia.
After Wednesday’s mayhem everything went timetable, not that anyone would have noticed if things had gone horribly wrong, so many people had started the Easter weekend early that it felt more like a Saturday than a Thursday.

The only wrinkle was that the Jubilee was suspended due to a defective train at Canary Wharf which meant that the only way east from London Bridge was to head up the Northern to BAN and jump on the Central. Half an hour after the suspension started BAN EB was so overcrowded that they decided to close the platform and we were instructed to non-stop.

Almost seconds after that announcement we were told that the Jubilee had resumed and shortly after we were told to stop at BAN EB as normal. I had a picture of sad, tired refugees from the Jubilee shuttling between the two stations on the Northern Line in the desperate hope of escaping Zone 1.

I’m off till Sunday, have a good weekend everybody.

Thursday 21 April 2011

Me and my big keyboard……

I guessed there was something wrong when I was walking over to the WB platforms at LES as the train on Plat 1 had a clear signal but wasn’t moving. We learnt from Wood Lane that there was smoke coming from the train up at LEY and when I met the TOp involved he confirmed that this was the case. I spent the next hour using all the knowledge I’d gained working as an SA at STR trying to direct passengers to their destinations via the buses and other trains while the Fire Brigade did their thing.

Just as we were given the all clear at LEY we were told that another train had gone defective at BOS WB. I was told to move up as far as STR, at LES the Super thought I was going to be held there and at STR a CSA on the platform was under the impression that I was going through to HOL.

After a few minutes I was told to move up as far as BEG, when I reached MIE I made a PA to say that I’d only be going one stop and a fair number of people got off to use the District Line. Before I could close the doors we were given the all clear so I relayed the good news to the passengers and they all got back on again.

As I approached LIS Wood Lane told me to reverse at MAA, I got up there without any further delay, tipped out quickly, went up the sidings, came straight back out and I was now only a few minutes late. With all the disruption the platforms were heaving so I was packed out after only two stops.

When I reached TCR Wood Lane announced that there was a signal failure at HOL on the WB, which was fine for me as I was going EB but as I approached the signal that covers the points out of British Museum sidings it remained ominously red. I called up Wood Lane and they confirmed that there was a possibility that the signal failure could be EB as well and I’d have to walk through the train to take it back to TCR. As the passengers were squeezed in like sardines the prospect did not fill me with joy.

Wonder of wonders the signal cleared and off I went but I’d only got as far as CHL before the sirens went off to tell me that a Passenger Emergency Alarm had been pulled down in the rear car. With no member of station staff on the platform to go reset it for me I had to make my way down the very crowded platform to sort it out. Whoever pulled it down had left the scene before I arrived so I never found out what was so damn important to warrant stopping the train.

There were more delays at LIS as a train was reversed over the crossover west of the station and then an almighty train-jam at LOU before I finally reached EPP. Back at LIS someone turned off the WB traction current, Wood Lane didn’t know why as it had been discharged locally which usually only happens when someone or something is on the track that shouldn’t be.

I never found out the cause and even through current was switched back on after only fifteen minutes or so that further delayed things. I got back to LES for my meal break nearly four hours after I’d started work and barely half an hour before I was due to pick up my next train.

It didn’t matter, my next train had been withdrawn from service so I ended up doing two trips to EPP and back. In all the years I’ve worked here I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I’ve never known so many things go wrong in such a short space of time.

You will never see the words “quiet” and "day" together in this blog again.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Political thought.

I was going to vote against AV, I think it will make very little difference, elections will still be dominated by a handful of marginal seats only there will be slightly more of them than previously and parliament will still be as unrepresentative as before. I think the Lib Dems had a golden opportunity to change politics with a complete reform, top to bottom, and they bottled it believing that gradual change would be more acceptable.

Now I’m going to vote for AV in the hope that it is accepted and it’s shown to be just as useless as “first past the post”. Maybe next time someone manages to get electoral reform on the agenda they won’t be so chickenshit and will come up with a list of proposals that will bring about actual change.

The funniest argument against AV is that it would confuse the voters; if you’re confused by the system then just maybe you don’t understand the issues you are voting on and shouldn’t be there in the first place. Or am I getting to be a grumpy old man.
A nice quiet day, everything running smoothly though the Jubilee was closed from one end to the other due to a power failure; they’ve not been having a lot of fun this year. Last week LUL came out with their pay offer, 4% this year with RPI +0.25% for the next four and unsurprisingly with RPI at 5.5% the unions have rejected this.

ASLEF have already got 5.6% for two other TfL subsidiaries this year and train drivers on other railways are tied into no more than two years at a minimum of RPI +0.5%. LUL have just announced that we carried a record 1.1bn passengers in the twelve months up to March 2011, a rise of 42m on the previous twelve months; business is obviously booming.

In the past these pay talks have dragged on for a year or more but all parties must be aware that we don’t have that luxury this time, the Olympics are coming. Whatever method LUL intend to use to fill the extra trains the unions aren't going to agree to it until the pay deal is finalised.

I’ll keep you informed as and when I hear news.

Monday 18 April 2011

Special working, no trains beyond MAA, the most noticeable thing was that whereas the last time I did this there were station staff on the platform helping to close up the train and direct bemused passengers this time it was left to the TOps and a DTSM. We certainly had no idea which bus went where, I hope there were station staff upstairs to provide them with more reliable information.

I was the last EB and the platforms were packed. By the time I reached TCR passengers were squeezing on or running further down the platform to find space. Needless to say when I reached EPP I was running late and only had enough time to change ends before I was off again.

Apart from the usual evidence of a good night out, empty bottles, empty cans, a small pool of vomit, I encountered a distraught child, almost in tears, being led away from the public toilets by her mother who declared that “if a lady made that mess then she was no lady”. The EPP Super rolled his eyes and went to assess the extent of the problem and if it requireD the services of a plumber.

One sleeper refused to wake up despite my best efforts and as I didn’t have time to hang about he came to LOU with me. When I arrived there was no sign of station staff to help me close up so after three attempts to move the sleeper I managed to get him up on his feet and onto the platform. While I was finishing closing up someone, I assume the LOU Super, made a PA announcing that there were no more trains and that passengers should leave the station.

That had absolutely no effect as when I walked back to the cab the gentleman was pressing the door buttons in the vain hope that he could continue his journey. I explained that his only way home was to try the minicab office outside the station and went off to stable the train. Despite losing 650 station staff it appears we still have managed to retain some of those who can’t be bothered to get off their fat arses and do their jobs.

The next morning was unusually busy, the train was quite crowded by the time I reached LES which I assume was down to the London Marathon. At 7:00 in the morning! On a Sunday? Some people are far too keen.

Saturday 16 April 2011

After two very quiet nights London was out on the tiles again Friday. As I was going WB I heard a loud cheer through the J door, the one between the cab and the saloon. All doors have letters, take a look next time. At SHB a group of young ladies informed me that someone had thrown up and “it was everywhere” but when I checked while closing up at WER it was a relatively small puddle. Ladies, if that is the worst you’ve seen then you have never seen proper vomit.

At HAL I spotted a gentleman looking around with that easily identifiable “where am I” look, at PER the Super helped an unsteady woman onto the train while at GRE another young lady staggered off the train and when I last saw her she was clinging to one of the pillars on the platform as if it was her only friend in the world. Two sleepers at WER, both who set off the wrong way up the platform and had to be redirected towards the stairs.

There’s engineering works again this weekend so once more we’re shut down west of MAA and on my way up to WER I passed at least half a dozen engineers trains loaded with new ballast. As there are no trains out of WER in the morning once I’d stabled the train in the depot I had to jump in a taxi, pick up the other West End night turn at WHC and then the pair of us were ferried over to HAI.

When we arrived we surprised the night turn at HAI as he’d forgotten about the “special working”. When he checked his duty with the DTSM he was shocked to discover that rather than just getting a train out and running down to LES he had to get another train out half an hour earlier and leave it on the platform for one of the HAI early turns. Bit like valet parking.

My shift finished uneventfully, running empty to MAA, up the siding and then back in service to LES. One piece of bad news is that one of the new goldfish has died, it had been fine when I last saw it Thursday night but since then someone had left a coil of tubing and a bag of some unidentifiable yellow crystals next to the tank. Now the tubing suggests that someone either did or was planning on doing a water change and I suspect that the crystals are some sort of water treatment but obviously whatever they did it wasn’t the right thing.

Someone owes me a fish.

Tuesday 12 April 2011

All quiet on the Central Line, nothing worth mentioning but Shelix has left Midland Road. When the RSPCA came on Monday they thought it best to keep her with her kittens so they’ve all gone off together. The station staff told me that she was teaching the kittens to hunt and it was fun watching them pouncing on each other.

I wish her and her six little bundles of fluff all the best.

Friday 8 April 2011

Spare again, more staff in than Tuesday but even so all the other spares were out and about when I booked on. After a couple of hours I was given a job; WER, HAI and back on the cushions. Nothing of note other than we were stepping up at WER again, for some reason a train had been taken out of service and was blocking one of the two platforms as there were no spare available to put it in the yard. There were a couple of “next platform and hold” calls while I was going back EB but the first was on the WB and the second a long way behind me, both were passenger-initiated so it looks as if London is still in a party mood and bugger Austerity!

I did a bit of checking and was surprised to discover that there are only 400 or so TOps on the Central Line, I had a vague idea there were about 600 when I moved over from stations and everyone I’ve talked to seems to agree with that estimate. I can also confirm that currently no one is training, all the IOps apart from the few running ATOR are driving trains alone. So how are we going to manage to run the extra services demanded for the Olympics?

Currently the Unions are in negotiation about this and other things but one of my colleagues had the pleasure of having our Line Manager in his cab earlier this week and he asked him how the talks were going. Now this is just a rumour at the moment and sadly LUL is a breeding ground for gossip but the Big Boss said that one plan under consideration was allowing us to work our Rest Days, paying us overtime rates and anyone who worked all 14 days would get an additional bonus.

As I said this is not official yet but I worked Rest Days when I was on stations and it’s common practise on the mainline rail. Up there it used to be that every Sunday was a Rest Day, all Sunday working was voluntary and at double pay. A couple of years ago one of the mainline TOCs decided to reduce the rate and then found themselves without a service as none of the drivers were prepared to work their Rest Day.

The obvious flaw with Rest Day working is that it will be voluntary so LUL are going to have to dangle a large enough carrot to ensure that they have enough TOps to fill all the trains. However it would mean that LUL wouldn’t have to train up extra TOps and then have them go into the pool and wait for natural wastage to thin our ranks again. I’ll keep you posted as and when I hear more.

My only other news is that I’ve finally got around to getting Clive some company, he now shares his tank with two more Carassius auratus auratus, a great deal smaller than him with names as yet to be decided. I just hope he doesn’t try to eat them.

Thursday 7 April 2011

A gorgeous day, my first trip was up to EPP so I drove in Coded with the door open all the way there and all the way back. Nothing much on the first half, I had my meal relief at WHC and then headed EB. At MAA I was held at a red signal for a rather longer than expected so when I was the prescribed two minutes late I called up the signaller at Wood Lane but they weren’t answering.

I waited in the hope that someone might bother to tell me what was going on then tried the Line Controller. Seven minutes after I should have left I was told that I was being held because the train behind had gone defective at WHC and they were regulating to avoid a huge gap between trains. When the signal eventually cleared I was ten minutes down and all the platforms from MAA through to LIS were packed. By the time I reached LES I should have been tipping out and going up the siding at NEP but fortunately I had fairly long turn-arounds so I was back on time when I left EAB on my last trip.

I had a chat with a LOU TOp who’s been on the line for a lot longer than I have and he compared the current staff situation to the bad old days in the 70s when staffing levels were allowed to fall in order to save money. That all changed when Labour won the GLC elections in 1981 and Ken took over after which staffing levels went back up. Maggie removed LUL from GLC control in 1984 and there was another round of cost cutting which was only halted after the King’s Cross fire.

So now we have dwindling staff numbers due to cost cutting instigated by a Conservative controlled London in conjunction with a Tory government putting the squeeze on public spending and Ken Livingstone waiting in the wings. It would appear that very little has changed in the last 30-40 years, let’s just hope it doesn’t take another disaster before people realise that the Tube is worth investing in.

Wednesday 6 April 2011

I was the “dead late” spare yesterday, the last spare to book on before the night duties. When I got to work the place was empty except for the DTSM who immediately handed me a job that took me all the way through to the end of my shift, all the other spares were already busy. When I had my meal break at HAI there was no one there either and I was told that all the HAI spares were busy covering LOU depot duties as well as their own. When I finally got back to LES after midnight the night spare was nowhere to be seen.

From conversations with my colleagues this seems to be a pretty normal state of affairs, we are running at full capacity with just enough TOps to run the service at the current level. When the Olympics hit town the proposal is that the Central Line will run an “enhanced” service throughout the day with a third “peak” late in the evening to enable the crowds to get home and will finish an hour later than normal.

We are going to need more TOps……

Monday 4 April 2011

Two weeks ago I mentioned how quiet London was and postulated that perhaps austerity was biting. I can happily report that now that spring is in the air and as most people get paid at the end of the month London shook of the cobwebs last week. Or maybe it was just that I was finishing up on the East End of the line and the residents of the London/Essex borders are just somewhat more exuberant than those out to the West.

Thursday night there were plenty of unsteady people staggering on and off the trains and it came as no surprise when I changed ends at EPP that there was a small group of passengers clustered around a young lady who seemed to be rather the worse for wear. They managed to manoeuvre her off the train and onto a bench on the platform and I assumed they were all together but when I announced that this was the last train to LES they ushered her back on board. She staggered off at LOU where she was assisted by the Super who had come up to give me the “right”.

When I was closing up the train at LES I found that she’d left two things behind; her mobile phone and an extraordinary amount of vomit, running the from one set of double doors to the other. I gingerly leant over the puddles and retrieved the phone, passed it to the Super at LES and suggested that it might be worthwhile contacting his counterpart at LOU.

Friday saw the party mood ratcheted up a notch. As I approached WER Wood Lane called me to say we were “stepping up”, where the TOp of the train ahead takes your train and you take the one behind. Some cheerful soul had thrown up inside the front car right up against the J door and it had seeped into the cab, the cleaners were going home and the TOp had no intention of going to go all the way to EPP with vomit washing around his feet.

All was well except that the perpetrator of the first mess got on the train I’d brought in, sat in the front car behind the cab door and carried on vomiting. Fortunately he’d evacuated most of his stomach contents in the first bout and the DTSM decided to grab a mop and bucket and clear up the mess themselves. The passenger then decided they didn’t want to travel after all and staggered off up the platform towards the exit.

Things were running quite late by now, I duly took over the next train but as I was about to close the doors and leave the TOp who’d brought it in signalled me to stop. He explained that someone had thrown up just inside one set of double doors, leaving a very slippery mess for passengers to negotiate. Rather than drag the DTSM out again we cleaned the mess ourselves with a fire extinguisher, not perhaps their intended purpose but bloody useful and quick.

I got through to EPP without any further delay and had reached LOU on the WB where a man in a suit got off, turned back to the open door and started gesticulating at whoever he’d left behind in the car. A group of young men came to the door and after a few angry words were exchanged the suit lunged back towards the train and started throwing punches at anyone in range. I hit the mayday button and while waiting for Wood Lane to respond the Super appeared on the platform, saw the altercation, tried to intervene and in the fracas I think he got a stray kick for his pains.

The Super managed to get the suit to leave the platform and somewhat belatedly Wood Lane answered my Mayday call. I explained the situation, they called the BTP and told me to hold where I was until they arrived. Wood Lane eventually called up the Super who explained that the guilty party had already fled, the lads who were assaulted didn’t want to hang about to press charges and I was given the all clear to carry on. By the time I reached LES the last EPP train was pulling in on the other platform which made me about 20 minutes late.

Fun and games, folks!