Tuesday 30 August 2011

Carnival came and went and on the whole it was rather subdued compared to previous years. We were asked to go Coded WB from QUE to NHG both days during the afternoon due to the sheer density of people getting off but were only asked to do the same EB from HOP for a few hours on Monday night.

I don’t know who worked out the duties for Monday but there were some unusual work patterns; at least two of my colleagues and I finished driving at WHC and then had to “ride the cushions” back to LES while a WHC TOp got off their first train at WHC, had their meal break and then travelled to LES to pick up their second.

From 1871 until 1965 August Bank Holiday was on the first Monday of the month and Scotland, Ireland and several other countries still do this. I have no idea why it was moved but with the way the weather has been towards the end of the August the last few years it might be worth reinstating it to it’s original position.

While we are on the subject of Public Holidays there has been much talk of giving everyone in England the day off for St. George’s Day. When I was growing up no one cared about St. George’s Day, it's only grown in popularity over the last decade or so. I think the reason it wasn't observed in the past was that unlike the Irish, Scots and Welsh we weren’t a Catholic country and/or a conquered people trying to promote their independence from their tyrannical overlords.

I’m against it, we have an overcrowded Spring as it is with Easter, May Day and Whitsun. I propose making November 5th a new public holiday, let’s celebrate the thwarted plot of fanatical religious terrorists to place England under the rule of our enemies. If it wasn’t for those Beefeaters searching the cellars we’d all be speaking Spanish.

And I like fire……..

Sunday 28 August 2011

A slight amendment to my last post regarding the pay deal, ASLEF (and I believe the other unions) formally rejected the current offer at the start of August. On 18 August LUL wrote to the unions asking them “to recommend this to their members and allow them a referendum”. Unite (not Unison) have said they will ballot but don't appear to have said whether or not that they will recommended it, another unamed union did respond, presumably in the negative, while the other two didn’t even bother replying.

LUL have now written again and proposed that we go to ACAS to sort it out which is odd seeing that the Unions are still happy to negotiate but then they don’t have the proposed expanded service for the Olympics to worry about.

Speaking of which while Wood Lane used to announce that we were running a “good service” at regular intervals recently they have taken to highlighting the cancellations due to “ONA” – operator non availability. I’ve been checking the booking-on sheets and I can confirm that all depots have uncovered duties; we are short staffed everywhere though mine appears to be the worst afflicted. With no great influx of TOps expected it is going to be very interesting to see what they come up with.

Strange things were going on at THB on Saturday. It started off with a phantom “held visual” on the WB, a little light that comes on in the cab to tell us to wait. We get these all the time but later it developed into a “next station closed” message when DEB was anything but and finally imposed a 15kph speed restriction on the sections into and out of the EB platform adding 6 minutes to our journey time. Perhaps the rabbits up there have been nibbling on the cables.....

Saturday 27 August 2011

I’ve been on late shifts the last four days, nothing much to report other than it’s been raining and that meant trains that supposedly drive themselves stopping before they are fully into the platform and needed someone to get them the rest of the way in. We are still short of staff but Thursday was apparently a good day; only ten duties uncovered at my depot so only four trains cancelled on the line.

LUL’s deadline for a decision on the latest pay offer came and went with only Unite (or Unison, I forget which) saying that they will ballot their members which shouldn’t take long as there aren’t many. ASLEF, RMT and TSSA haven’t answered, probably sunning themselves on a beach somewhere.

A few interesting passenger moments witnessed on the in cab CCTV, firstly the man who was doing to Hokey Cokey at NOA WB. When I announced that the train was going to EAB he got off, then when I advised passengers going to WER to change, he got on. Finally when I repeated the destination before closing the doors he got off again. Maybe if he hadn’t has his mobile glued to his ear he might have been able to hear my announcements.

Then there was the passenger who ignored the advice to take care when platforms are wet at WHC EB, came racing down the stairs just as I was closing the doors, made a last mad dash for the train, realised that he was too late, slammed on the brakes, slipped over and nearly went between the train and the platform. I waited until he was on his feet before pulling out. If you are that desperate to get that train then get there that bit earlier.

And finally I would like to say thank you to the gentleman at CHL EB who on seeing that the car was packed out took his rucksack off his back and held it in his hand rather than trying to squeeze himself into the space with it still on his back. My faith in humanity is restored.

Sunday 21 August 2011

I’m not back at work until late on Tuesday but “Olá” to my Brazilian reader(s). I mentioned that there were rumblings on the RMT side over a TOp who got sacked recently but last week I was told that they have returned to work.

Apparently at their appeal certain documents that were “mislaid” during the original hearing were rediscovered. I don’t have the full details so I won’t speculate on why exactly the TOp has been reinstated but it interesting to note that no one seems to have seen the DTSM who was involved in the incident that led to the sacking or seems to know where they have gone.

On the plus side the Central Line has another TOp back on the road, a rare commodity these days, the travelling public have been spared an unnecessary strike, LUL have saved roughly £100k in legal fees and we appear to have lost a manager that didn’t have the brains to take his foot out of a train door when it closed.

Saturday 20 August 2011

As I mentioned there has been much going on at Chez Shrugged as the new paint job on the front of the house and the fully renovated sash windows testify. So busy that not only did I not bother swapping my early shifts this week but I failed to exchange my Waterloo and City line duties.

Sunday and Monday saw me crawling into work at a time I would normally be heading home from a night shift, much to the confusion of my colleagues. Equally when I walked in at the end of my shift the DTSM on the desk was checking his paperwork assuming that I was booking on rather than booking off.

And so Tuesday came and off I went to do my first ever full shift on the W&C. Why do Central Line TOps do the W&C I hear you ask; the reason is that the trains are basically the same as the 92s up on the Main and it was decided that Leytonstone depot would supply the crews.

Working the W&C is utterly unlike working anywhere else. You come out of Waterloo sidings, drive to Bank and get off. There’s a TOp waiting on the platform, they get on the other end of the train and drive it back to Waterloo. You wait for the next train in and drive that. This is called “stepping back”. You “step back” at Waterloo and repeat and repeat and repeat until the peak is finished after which you only “step back” at Waterloo, you bring the one you drove to Bank back again.

The trains are also different, down in the Drain it’s all manual driving, no Auto and while up on the Central speeds and signals are controlled by codes passed to the on board computer down there it’s simple speed limit signs like you get on roads with train stops and tripcocks to stop you going through a red signal

For those of you who have no idea what those mean every signal has a train stop, when it’s red it goes up, when it’s green it goes down. Under both ends of the train is a tripcock and if that hits the train stop when it’s up it will activate the emergency brake.

There are also train stops along the platform to stop you going too fast, they drop on a timing system and on my second trip I was going just a little too fast into the platform at Bank. Now as I said I don’t do the W&C very often so it took me a while to remember just what to do, in fact I had to ask the TOp waiting on the platform to check that I’d done everything. All this with an audience of passengers waiting to go to Waterloo.

By the time I got the damn thing moving the train stop had come back up again and activated the rear trip cock. We used the “butterflies” to get the passengers off, closed up again and got the train all they way into the platform. A technician was sent to check the train over, just to make sure that it wasn’t a fault on the train and he duly confirmed that it was indeed just a stupid TOp who can’t tell the difference between 10kph and 15kph.

While all this was happening the service was a train and a TOp short so the whole stepping back system was thrown out of sync, which meant that trains were not where they were meant to be on the timetable and were being driven by TOps who were on the wrong train at the wrong time. Things didn’t get sorted out until after the peak.

We were a train short the next day when we had a points failure in the sidings, so we had longer waits between trains at Waterloo and when the train did come out it had the wrong TOp on board. Finally on Thursday we were a TOp short so one train was left in the sidings. By the time they sent a TOp down from Leytonstone the whole “stepping back” process was so muddled that it wasn’t sorted out when I went home around 10:40.

If I do get sent down the W&C at least I know how things work but I’ll be in no rush to repeat the experience.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Please accept my apologies for not writing but there has been a lot to keep me busy at Chez Shrugged and not much to write about. After my 7-day week of nights my 3-day week of lates was entirely uneventful despite all sorts of shenanigans going on upstairs. Riots, what riots?

Apart from the local Blockbuster being ransacked and having all it’s windows smashed the closest the tumult came to my locale was on Tuesday night when some little hooligan lobbed a brick at the bus I was going home on. It fell short of the windows and hit the side with a resounding thud; Team GB’s search for a Gold medal shot putter goes on.

Monday 8 August 2011

Saturday night and while Tottenham burned the rest of London was busy drowning in alcohol. My first taste of the night was even before I’d got on the train, a rather drunken gentleman asked me if the train went to Wimbledon. When I informed him it didn’t he enquired if I was the train driver and then asked me if I could take the train to Wimbledon. For a few seconds I considered telling him that for an extra £20 I’d run him home after we got to EAB but restrained my whimsical urge for fear that he might actually take it as a serious offer.

At LIS one “over refreshed” passenger failed to take heed of SONIA’s advice to “mind the gap” and ended up spread-eagled on the platform. Fortunately he was not alone and his companions hauled him off towards the escalators. When I reached EAB the cars were a mess of empty cans and bottles though surprisingly no one required waking up, just one poor soul sat on the platform searching through his rucksack for either his wallet or his Oyster card.

There was one annoying incident but nothing to do with passengers. Every night the last EAB train arrives at WHC, waits for the last WER to arrive on the adjacent platform, the WER then leaves and the EAB follows. There are three lines through WHC and while I was waiting an EB train arrived on the middle platform, going out of service and heading into the sidings under the Westfield.

After a while Wood Lane called me to say that the WER was being delayed because to the TOp of the train bound for the sidings had gone “walkabout” No, Wood Lane, the delay was due to you putting a train on the only platform the last WER could go WB from while the EB platform was empty. But why check the timetable when you can just blame the train driver, everybody else does.

Saturday 6 August 2011

LUL have come up with it’s fourth pay offer and as with the last three they are insisting that they can’t afford any more than this. And then the boy cried wolf.

Since April we climbed from a “fair and affordable” 4% to “fair and affordable” 5% but they know that the unions aren’t going to accept anything less than RPI so from past experience we won’t reach 5.5% till October and then the real negotiations can start.

LUL are still clinging to a five year deal but have now added the carrot of RPI + 0.5% for the last year while the intermediate ones will be +0.25% but as we’ve never agreed anything longer than 3 years (and that after over a year of talks) there’s very little chance of that happening.

They do the usual hand-wringing about how “three out of four UK workers being hit by a pay freeze” but failing to mention that train drivers at other companies are getting at least inflation rises this year, specifically two TfL subsidiaries, or that the Tube is carrying more passengers than ever before.
A strangely slow week of nights but understandable as I was over the west end of the line. The only aberrations were down to staff shortages, THB was unmanned for two nights and one morning HOP was closed. Following the King’s Cross fire, 18th November 1987, and the recommendations of the Fennel Report all sub-surface stations have a minimum staffing level which due to some reason or other HOP failed to meet.

Fortunately WHC had a CSA who was familiarised with the HOP station layout that they could spare without dropping below their own minimum level so he was duly dispatched to make up the numbers. I once did the same at North Greenwich on the Jubilee one Christmas Eve; this was before it became the O2, the Dome was a giant disused tent and I saw about twelve people in four hours. Ho bloody ho.

HOP couldn’t officially open until he arrived and booked on with the Super so in order for me to drop him off he had to jump in the cab and I had to go Coded from SHB. If I’d been in Auto “station skip” would have rolled the train straight through and if he’d been in the car then the passengers would have got off too and we'd all have got a jolly good spanking.

Now how would they get around that with driverless trains? I suppose by then they’re hoping they will have staffless stations too. All very well if you are able bodied and know where you are going, not so much fun if you are “visually impaired” and have never been there before.

My comments about the refurbishment of the 92s seem to have been somewhat premature, a bulletin appeared on the notice board this week announcing that the repainting of the outside of the trains and the replacement of panels will start next month.

In addition the trains will be covered in an “anti-graffiti” film; must be one of Charles Bronson’s “Death Wish” series, where he stops shooting drug dealers and pimps and turns his guns on any near-do-well carrying a spray can after dark. I always thought he was a poor man’s Clint Eastwood…….