Saturday 30 July 2011

My deepest apologies for not writing but there has been a lot going on at Chez Shrugged and very little on the Central Line, or at least while I was there.

Following on from where I left off my remaining four night shifts were thoroughly featureless, the only incident of note was on Thursday. On reaching EPP one sleeping passenger failed to respond and as I was running late I left him until we got to LOU. When I finally managed to wake him and informed him that the train was at it’s final destination he replied that he couldn’t possibly agree with me.

I will admit that at 01:30 in the morning I was unprepared for a philosophical debate with a drunk but any further discussion on the subject was curtailed by the Station Super who entered the car happily enquiring if I needed assistance. He kept up his non-stop merry banter as without hesitation he marched over to the passenger, hauled him up onto his feet then frogmarched him off the train and down the stairs. I don’t think the poor passenger got a word in.

Just to re-cap we do seven nights in one week and then carry our two Rest Days over to the following week, so I’ve only worked three days since Sunday and things went pretty much to timetable.

One thing that has become apparent is that the refurbishment of the Central Line trains for the Olympics has been drastically scaled down from what was originally planned. We were going to get a full repaint both inside and out, lighter seats with new upholstery, new lights inside and new windows but in the end only the windows and the new upholstery have been done, everything else is as it was.

The paintwork on the inside is still scratched while the outside still bears the scars where graffiti has been cleaned off. The lights diffusers appear to have been cleaned so the cars are a little brighter but the seats are still as heavy to lift up and as uncomfortable to sit on. For all the fuss of bringing in a new timetable very little appears to have been done.

We are still short staffed, every day there are a dozen or so duties uncovered at my depot but all is not doom and gloom. While casually reading the notice boards I cast an eye upon the Instructor Operators’ schedule and blow me down one of them was taking out a trainee for one day on their first week of training.

When we get TOps transfer over from other lines they go straight into a whole week of stock training but here was somebody starting at the very beginning, undoubtedly moving up from stations to trains just as I did almost eight years ago to the day.

Finally someone has decided we need more drivers!

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Nothing much to report from the last two nights, Monday was deathly and Tuesday not much better; must be the weather. It did produce a truly glorious sunrise over DEB as I headed up to EPP this morning so I’ve no complaints.

Needless to say with all this rain ATO was failing on a regular basis, quite amusing as I had a Station Super on his way home from MAA in the cab who was pondering how long before the trains became driverless just as we pulled up two cars short at WHC.

On Monday despite being the last EPP the dot-matrix destination describer on the front of the train was insistent that we were WER bound. The TOp before me had tried everything he could think of and written it down on the “trouble sheet” so I tried a few things he hadn’t without success. No one seemed to notice as we headed east apart from one poor lady who jumped on at HAL only to got off again at EAA telling the Super that she was on the wrong train.

In addition while SONIA was happy to go through her spiel when the doors opened on the near side she was obstinately quiet when I opened the off side and as most of the platforms on the EB are off side I had to do PAs all the way through the “pipe”.

One day I’m going to stick up “ONGAR” and see of anyone notices.

Monday 18 July 2011

Back on nights and a big “whoops” to start things off.

Somebody misread their duty book and was waiting at HAI when their train arrived at LES with the TOp expecting to be relieved. Fortunately I had turned up early for my shift to sort out a few changeovers (I was meant to be at HAI Thursday and Friday and now I’ll be at LOU all week) so ten minutes before I was even officially booked on I was off to HAI to reunite train with driver.

Other than that very little last night, we were told to expect crowds from Lovebox in Victoria Park but it looks as if the rain dampened people’s enthusiasm for outdoor music. The only time I went to Vicky Park for a concert was when the Clash and others played a Rock against Racism benefit back in 1978.

We were meant to gather at Trafalgar Square and march through London but my mates and I decided to save our energy for pogo-ing and went straight there from MIE. As it turned out we made the right choice as the crowd exceeded all expectations, we were near the front and read in the NME that you could hardly hear a thing at the back.

On Monday we have 13 duties uncovered and at least one train will be cancelled. Out of 122 TOps at LES we have 20 or so off sick with others on training courses, seconded to management posts, on annual leave, etc.

We’ve also got one TOp waiting the outcome of an appeal against dismissal, he’s an RMT member and there are rumours of a ballot for strike action if he gets turned down. I’ll keep you informed as and when things develop but you have been warned.

Saturday 16 July 2011

A story that caught my eye in one of our in-house magazines tells of a stray dog that jumped onto the track at NEP and headed off down the WB tunnel towards GAH. Fortunately he was seen, the service was halted and a train sent slowly after him with a CSA on board to assist.

When they caught up with him they tried to tempt him into the cab with a piece of cake donated by a passenger but the dog wasn’t interested. They discharged the juice, the CSA got down on the track and finding him to be a very freindly dog lifted him into the cab. When they got to GAH the Super collected the dog and kept him in the control room until Redbridge Council arrived.

The dog was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and I absolutely adore Staffies. From now on I’m carrying a pack of dog treats in my train equipment bag, just in case.
Despite returning to work almost two weeks ago I’ve not written as there has been very little to write about. My first week back was seven night shifts, mostly spent at WER, followed by three late shifts this week which all went according to timetable and were utterly devoid of incident.

The only thing of note has been the lack of staff; one night after I’d stabled my train I had to bring another out of the depot and leave it on the platform as WER were short in the morning with the second spare not booking on early enough to bring it out on time. Last week I was informed that eleven trains had been cancelled due to lack of staff and on Thursday we had 13 shifts uncovered at LES. How LUL imagine we are going to cope with the Olympics is anyone’s guess.

On the union front as predicted RMT called off the strikes when LUL re-employed Arwen Thomas though not as a TOp. On the station side they are complaining that LUL will use office staff to help out with the large number of passengers during the Olympics, a sore subject after cutting 650 station positions back in Febraury.

LUL met with the unions on Wednesday and raised their offer from 4.5% to 4.75% with further discussions on Bank Holiday working. They are still hoping for a five year deal at RPI +0.25% and as yet ASLEF have not responded but as TfL have already agreed two 5.6% deals with them this year I don’t see us settling for less.

Back on nights Sunday.