Friday 30 September 2011

Another lovely day on the Central Line, another trip round the HAI-WOO loop with the door open enjoying the sunshine followed by a truly breathtaking sunset as I headed WB up to WER, all in all a good day to drive a train. I didn't get a shot of the sunset so here's one I took earlier this year of sunrise over Debden.


One piece of good news is that 27 trainees have started the TOp course and they are all coming to the Central Line. Just as well, we had 15 shifts uncovered at my depot yesterday and loads of trains cancelled, hopefully the Olympics might not be such a struggle after all.

I was told that the “one under” on Wednesday survived but then jumping in front of a train is not the best method of topping yourself. The generally accepted figure is that approximately one in three achieve the intended outcome, around the same number come away with a permanent injury while the other third come out relatively unscathed.

When a TOp is unfortunate enough to have a “one under” you aren’t be allowed back on a train for at least a month and when you are you will be accompanied by an IOp until management are convinced that you are okay to be left on your own. On rare occasions the TOp finds that they simply can't face driving a train and are re-employed elsewhere by the company.

A few year ago there was a rather unpleasant film called “Three and out” about a TOp who suffers two “one unders” in the space of a week and is told that if he had three within a month he would be retired with ten years’ salary in a lump sum. Utter garbage naturally, happily it bombed at the box office and the writers are enjoying the obscurity they so richly deserve.

What really annoyed us at the time was that LUL allowed the production team to film on the trains and stations in the first place, you would have thought that they would have taken a look at the script and seen that it would upset the staff. Sadly I suspect that the idea of being connected with any sort of media event got them so hot and bothered that they lost all sense of perspective, if they had any to start with.

I guess things look very different from the lofty towers of 55 Broadway.

Thursday 29 September 2011

First day back, things were running a little late when I booked on as we’d had a “one under” earlier, someone had jumped in front of the Track Recording train which goes up and down the lines checking the state of the rails, etc. 85 passenger trains trundling around and they managed to pick that one, what are the chances?

Regardless, it was a beautiful day so I went Coded round from HAI to WOO with the door open which was fortunate as if I hadn’t I would never have heard the young mother shouting for me to hold the train as she rushed down the stairs at CHI with babe-in-arms. As I’d only pulled off a yard or so I was able to stop and open the doors, had I gone any further she would have had to wait 20 minutes for the next train.

Wood Lane called me up at ROV and asked me to reverse EB off the WB platform at WOO rather than going up the siding which caused the usual confusion as people scurried over from the EB platform and others arriving on the platform expecting the train to go west had to be told that it was going round to HAI. I have no idea why they did this but I arrived early at HAI and then sat there until I was back on timetable.

RMT are still sulking over the Olympic deal and sure enough when I checked my mail slot there was a leaflet announcing that now was the time for one union for all Tube workers with plenty of emphasis on how they got the two sacked TOps reinstated. They will have to do a lot better than that to get me to join.

Friday 16 September 2011

The Olympic deal or at least as I understand it, I may be wrong.

Every TOp gets £500 regardless of what shifts they work or if they work while the games are on. This is paid to us for temporarily working outside our "contract".

Anyone working past 01:30, the normal end of traffic hours, will get paid at overtime rate for every hour of the duty.

Anyone working longer than 8 hours (plus our 30 minutes meal relief) will get paid at a higher rate, I think double time, for each hour of the duty.

I doubt very much if more than a few shifts will go beyond 01:30 and it looks as if the only shifts lasting longer than 8.5 hours will be at the weekend.

The claims that we will be pocketing £1800 or £1200 or some other huge figure depending on where you read it would appear to be based on all of us working 9 hour shifts and finishing after 01:30 each and every day which obviously isn’t going to happen.

RMT are sulking as they seem to have planned on using the TOps as a lever to get a better deal for all staff but will now have to negotiate for stations, signals and engineers separately. As far as I know none of them are being asked to work longer hours but you’d think they should get something on stations for finishing later and for the extra passengers they are going to have to deal with.

Yes, LUL are exploiting the division between the various grades, no doubt RMT will accuse ASLEF of selfishly ignoring non-train drivers and this will be held up as an example of why there should be one union covering the whole of LUL, that union naturally being RMT.

Bob Crow has no grounds to complain, he has said time and time again that his job is to get the best deal for his members and that is exactly what ASLEF have done. I’m sure the RMT TOps will be more than happy to accept the offer and if Bob tries to bring them out in order to support the claim for the other LUL workers I suspect we could see another run on ASLEF membership forms.

Back to my summer hols.

Sunday 11 September 2011

Friday was uneventful and Saturday I was spare though not for long. Six trains were cancelled for the want of a TOp and I had to cover for someone who’d booked off sick Friday. With the Olympics looming someone should be doing something but as usual there’s a general feeling that our problems are being ignored in the hope that they will sort themselves out.

Between trains I had to grin when I read that TfL thinks that the transport links to and from Greenwich Park will not be able to cope with the 75k spectators expected for the Olympic 3-day eventing. It warns of two hour waits for trains and buses unless LOCOG restrict the crowd to 50k but that would lose a cool £1m. For years the locals have been saying that the roads and rail would be a nightmare if the equestrian events were held in Greenwich but no one took a blind bit of notice.

I’m off until 28th September, if I hear anything that I think is worthwhile commenting on I will pop back but other than that I wish you all happy travelling whatever your destination.

Thursday 8 September 2011

Wednesday was to timetable, only Friday and Saturday to do and then I will be off again until 28th September. After work on Tuesday I went to my branch meeting where the main topics of conversation were the pay deal, the Olympics, the shortage of TOps and the new procedures LUL are bringing in next week which I will cover soon.

Our Reps still think there’s plenty to negotiate on pay deal though they are hopeful that the issue of Bank Holidays, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve is almost there. The Olympics won’t be settled until the pay deal is sorted and the TOp shortage is not just on the Central Line, it’s every Line.

The meeting did produce a strange tale; one of our members approached the local Rep objecting to Muslim TOps being given “light duties” and “special arrangements” for Ramadan which she thought was unfair to all us non-Muslims. The Rep thought this all sounded unlikely and when he investigated he confirmed that there were no such deals in place.

What he did discover was that the rumour seemed to trace back to an RMT Rep, possibly the same one claiming that ASLEF Reps were going around advising us to accept the current pay deal. Same old RMT, when facts don’t work try invention.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Okay there is bizarre and there is bizarre; this was bizarre.

Wood Lane had given us a “next platform and hold” for a train having trouble on the EB approach to LEY though instead of the usual two voices giving out the same information we had three; the Line Controller, the Line Information Assistant and the Signaller.

Along with them blaring out over the radio and the station PA informing us that there was a good service on the Central Line there was little space for me to let my passengers know what was going on so when everything went quiet I took the opportunity to enlighten them as to why we weren’t moving.

Predictably while I was making the PA the Signaller made another announcement instructing various trains to move up and while I half heard “LAG up to MAA” I though it best to check.

“Train at LAG EB; did you just ask me to move up to MAA?”

“You’re not at LAG, pick another station.”

Now I most certainly was at LAG but I was game for a laugh.

“QUE?” I suggested, even though there was no crossover in front of me.

“No, I’ve got nothing at QUE.” She was obviously getting irritated.

“HOP?” I offered.

“You’re clear up to LAG.” She said cutting me off without another word.

Well, the signal was clear, it was safe to move so I went onto the next station which surprisingly turned out to be MAA rather than NHG. I decided it was probably best not to try to move up to QUE.

Nice to know that Wood Lane know what they are doing……..
Urgggghhhhhh. First day of a week of earlies, I did try to swap but for some reason the Mafia was short of late duties this week. Everything went timetable though during the peak there were four “next platform and hold” calls when someone pulled down a handle, three of which were for “passengers ill on train” and two were at the same station.

Other than that very little of note so here’s another bit of London related but non-LUL observation/opinion.

The Lib-Dems have again selected Brain Paddick as their mayoral candidate so 2012 will be a re-run of 2008 as far as the big three parties are concerned. Lembit Opik, who promised to run the Tube 24/7 at little extra cost, was beaten into fourth place with a measly 8.2% behind Paddick, GLA member Mike Tuffey and Brain Haley, an ex-Haringey councillor who jumped from Labour to LibDem when he was de-selected from his seat but lost it in the following election.

Lembit has been bleating that he was the victim of “a remarkable degree of antagonism and aggression from certain Lib-Dems”, that only he had a sufficiently “high profile” to present a challenge to “celebrity politicians” Ken and Boris and that if he wasn’t chosen the Lib-Dems would suffer a catastrophic defeat.

As his only connection with the London Lib-Dems was sitting as a MP at Westminster for a Welsh constituency perhaps he’d have had more success if he’d focused on winning the local party members who elected the candidate rather than simply proclaiming himself as the only choice for mayor, setting up a vanity website and granting interviews to the Evening Standard..

Either that or get himself invited as the guest host “Have I got news for you”.

Sunday 4 September 2011

This blog is subtitled "observations and opinions"; here's a non-LUL related opinion.

I was very saddened to read the comments John Cleese made on Australian TV recently, saying that “London is no longer an English city” and “I love being down in Bath because it feels like the England that I grew up in.” Cleese grew up in Weston Super Mare which he described earlier this year as “a tedious little place” that wasn’t worth the bombs the Germans dropped on it in 1940.

I would like to think that like Morrissey a few years ago what he was trying to say that it is the English people who are less English, that increasingly we seem to be aping the styles and mannerisms of the USA and that it is the English themselves that are allowing their culture to be diluted (even though we have been subject to various foreign cultural influences ever since the Romans arrived and the locals swapped their woad for togas).

I would like to think that or I would like to think he was being deliberately provocative, I would like to think that his comments were tongue in cheek but sadly I suspect he is just a pathetic 71-year old racist ranting against immigrants.

John Cleese has lived in California for over 20 years.

I will still watch “Life of Brian” every Christmas and Easter but I don’t think I will ever move to Weston Super Mare.

Saturday 3 September 2011

During Friday’s evening peak for some reason Wood Lane decided that my HAI via NEP should become a HAI via WOO. They called me up as I approached LAG, I changed the destination on the front and all the way through the Pipe SONIA was clearly announcing that this was a HAI via WOO. Between LEY and LES I made a PA repeating the destiantion, adding that anyone going to HAI via NEP should change at the next station and even listed the stations the train would be calling at.

At LES it was utter pandemonium, people got off, got on, got off again and then got back on as I repeated everything once more. When things had finally settled down I closed up but even then a couple made a last gasp dash for the platform and squeezed through the doors. Predictably when we reached SNA there was a file of the lost going back over the stairs to the WB platform.

All of which supports the theory that people do not actually bother listening to PAs or actually read the dot matrix indicators on the front of the train or over the platforms. They see “HAI” and assume that “via NEP” is implied, traversing the Tube by instinct.

I suppose that is why I find the complaints about passengers being treated like cattle rather amusing; sometimes they behave like cattle.

Friday 2 September 2011

The fun and games Thursday started on my second half, a LES-EPP-WER-LES “rounder”. At BUH WB two young ladies made a dash from the stairs just as the doors were closing and only one made it onboard. When I tried to reunite them I could see on the CCTV that the doors stayed shut even though the “door closed visual” suggested they were open.

After I’d pressed various buttons and turned various rotary switches to no avail I told Wood Lane that I had a problem and went back to investigate. While the doors on the rear six cars were closed the ones on the front two were open which was a problem that I’d never encountered before.

By this time the lady who’d been left behind had walked up to the front of the train so with her on board I tried closing the doors on the front two cars but they refused to budge. I closed them with the "porter buttons" and set off to WOO. When we got there all the doors stayed firmly closed so I informed Wood Lane that the train was going “out of service” and asked the station staff to start tipping out by opening the “butterflies”.

It was only at that point I remembered it might be a good idea to try resetting the “door control” MCBs and predictably that resolved the issue. The only way to describe how I felt at that point is a Homeresque "D'oh!!!"

Sadly It didn’t last, at SOW some of the doors didn’t open and even though tripping the MCBs did the trick again it was clear that this was not a happy train and needed to be taken to the depot. At LES the passengers and I were decanted from one train onto another and we headed WB about 15 minutes late.

Thursday 1 September 2011

Another day down the Drain but this time with an IOp in tow to monitor my performance. Apparently this should have been done immediately after my little mishap two weeks ago but the manager that interviewed me neglected to pass the information on.

Despite the fact that the two and half shifts after I messed up went without incident procedure has to be followed and so the poor man had to sit there watching me drive the train back and forth between Bank and Waterloo, much like Charon ferrying the souls of the dead across the Styx. Except we’re ferrying bankers and stockbrokers under the Thames and no one ever made the return trip from Hades to Surrey.

ASLEF’s general secretary, Keith Norman, is retiring and yesterday I received my ballot paper for the election of his successor. Strangely all three candidates have surnames starting with W; I hope I can remember which one I voted for when they announce the results.

Meanwhile on the shop floor an RMT rep claims that ASLEF are going to recommend the pay deal proposed by LUL even though they have clearly stated in writing that they have rejected it. This is nothing unusual, ever since I started working here RMT have made up rumours about the other unions so I’ll take this with the usual pinch of salt until I hear otherwise.