Friday 21 December 2012

In case anyone missed it Rich S left a comment on my last post and this bit stood out.

Personally, I'm not sure that management don't care. In a former life, I used to have to deal with trade union representatives and on the whole I found them to be confrontational and ready at the drop of a hat to cause aggravation. The purpose of them I thought was to look after the best interest of their members.

I often wonder how so many people accept the likes of Bob Crow et al as their representative. Most are forced to for fear of intimidation.”

Shall we recap…..

2010.  Management declare that as Boxing Day is on a Sunday it is a normal working day and we will be running a full Sunday service with half the TOps working where previously we only used 1 in 4.  They refuse to talk until November despite repeated requests from ASLEF to discuss the issue.  We go on strike.

2011. Boxing Day is on a weekday so we’re back down to 1 in 4 but management still refuse to negotiate the issue until November and then say there is nothing to discuss.  We go on strike but call off the three additional days when LUL promise “meaningful talks” that never materialise.

2012, Boxing Day is on a weekday, 1 in 4 again, management refuse to talk until November, blah, blah, blah.....

Is that management "caring" and ASLEF being “confrontational”?

When I was on stations I was a health and safety rep and with a few notable exceptions I found management to be ignorant, complacent and uninterested. Most of the issues I raised at meetings had already been brought to management’s attention by my members, their employees, and only came to me when they failed to deal with them.  I tried to look out for my members’ interests when they displayed indifference and quite possibly they viewed me as “confrontational” for doing so.

Bob Crow got to be where he is because the RMT membership voted him in and since becoming Gen Sec the membership has risen from around 50,000 to over 80,000 so whatever he’s doing appeals to transport workers across the UK.  Or did they join RMT through “intimidation”?

The ASLEF members voted for strike action, about 10 to 1 in favour, no one twisted our arms.  Actually I just discovered I didn’t vote at all, I’ve just found the envelope in my pocket, I must have been so zonked out on painkillers I forgot to post it.  Whoops.

Thursday 20 December 2012

I’ve not been well, I have been off work taking medication and I’ve simply not felt like writing recently.  As with the last two years around half of our members voted with 1040 in support and 116 against.  As with last year in addition to a strike on Boxing Day ASLEF have called for extra days, only two in January rather than last year’s three.  No doubt these will also get called off when LUL promises to hold “meaningful talks” which no doubt will fail to materialise and we’ll go through the same sorry process next November.

Management don’t care, their jobs are safe, the press don’t question their press releases so why should they bother to do anything.  If the people running the Tube don’t care, if they have so little regard for their passengers and employees, why should I give a damn?  I think I've had enough of 2012, I might be back in 2013 but right now I'm just too tired for any of this.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Thursday 6 December 2012

Very cold out with snow on the ground at the east end of the line but otherwise uneventful apart from the gentleman who had obviously had a good night out, either at a Bill Bailey look-a-like contest or an after production party for extras from “The Hobbit”.   He stumbled off the train at FAI with the immediately recognisable look of someone who had no idea where they were and did a complete 180 degree spin before staggering off towards the exit.  That pirouette would have been impressive on its own but with the addition of his long beard trailing in the air like some hairy streamer it achieved a level of artistic grace.
Sad news that Dave Brubeck has passed on.  He grew up on a cattle ranch in California and originally was going to become a vet before switching to music at college.  After graduating in 1942 he was drafted and while serving under Patton in Europe formed the US Army’s first mixed race jazz band.  On his return to the US continued to oppose racial segregation and in 1958 refused to tour South Africa when asked to do so with an all-white band. 

In 1959 his quartet recorded the Cool Jazz masterpiece “Time Out”, the first jazz album to sell over a million copies and when “Take Five” was released as a single it reached no. 25 on the Billboard chart.  Quite possibly you’ve heard “Take Five” without knowing it was Brubeck but if you’ve never listened to “Time Out” then go forth and educate yourself.

And on the subject of music a quick plug for Nadean and Christopher’s “open deck” night at The Star on Bethnal Green Road; vinyl only, turn up, put your name down, wait your turn and play your five tracks.  Turn up early enough and you might get to hear some 80s/90s indie classics spun by some train drive fellow before he heads off to work……..

Wednesday 5 December 2012

The word around the depots is that we could be getting up to 70 new TOps on the Central Line which will help as for two nights in a row I’ve been finishing off LOU duties and ending up in the sidings at WOO. On both duties the trains stable early enough for the TOps to get an EB train back to LOU to book off but not for us to catch the WB last train to LES and both nights the DTSM at LOU had to be reminded that they needed to book a taxi otherwise we’d be stranded at WOO.

That however is nothing compared to Sunday night when WHC were asking for the night spare to be sent over so they could take a train into the sidings from the platform, a whole 3 minutes driving plus walking time back to the station, and then get a taxi all the way back across town. There are times when I’m glad that I just drive a train and have no involvement in managerial decisions, I think my mind might melt under the strain.

Last night when I reached WOO and was closing up there was a gentleman on the rear car who was very unwilling to leave the train. For a long time all he was prepared to say was  that he was fine and that he’d had a good night, something that was perfectly obvious to anyone. He then switched from this mantra, declaring that he was trying to get to Southgate and demanded that he be taken home. Eventually he announced that he was at fault, got to his feet with a little assistance and staggered off towards the exit. Christmas is going to be fun…

I received my ballot paper for Boxing Day, the result will be announced in a little under two weeks but there doesn’t seem to be much hope of anything getting sorted. Management seem to be sticking to their tactic of appealing directly to the very same TOps who voted overwhelmingly to go on strike the last two years while ASLEF wait for LUL to negotiate. Sadly I get the feeling that I could be writing something very similar on this blog in a year’s time.

Friday 30 November 2012

This week I've spent two days in a training room going through procedures followed by two days in HAI depot with the trainers and IOps simulating faults so that we can get the train moving again along with working in and out of the depot in manual.  After ten years of this it becomes somewhat repetitive but this is what we have to do so that LUL can demonstrate to the ORR that we are competent to do our jobs.

The most interesting thing so far was the discussion over whether we should tell the passengers that we’d be leaving them unattended should we be required to take over a train where the TOp is incapacitated.  All the Rule Book says is to keep the passengers informed but nothing more specific.

“Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen, LUL apologises for the delay to your journey but I’m leaving you for another train.  Our time together has been very special and I want you to know that it’s not you, it’s me.  Don’t worry, another driver will be along soon to take care of you and I hope that you can be just as happy with them as you were with me.  One last thing; I’m keeping the Morrissey CDs”.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

I’m doing ATOR this week and consequently I am totally knocked out of whack by having to be in for a 9am start especially as my body clock is still on night shift mode; I’ve not managed to fall asleep before 3am the last two nights.  I will write more but right now my head just isn’t in it and I’m only doing so now to push the puke picture off the top.

Here's a photo of sunrise over West Ruislip from a few weeks ago


Thursday 22 November 2012

Ah the run up to Christmas begins!  When I changed ends at EPP Plat 1 I was confronted by a pool of vomit by one of the doors, just the sort of thing that would have people already unsteady after a night of revelry going arse over tit and delaying my other, more sure footed, less “refreshed” passengers.  I called up Wood Lane and suggested a change over with the next train in but they thought there was a cleaner on the station and said that the Station Super would pop over to assess the situation.


The Super agreed with me that it was an impressive spillage and told me that Wood Lane had initially suggested he just sluice it away with a bucket of water though where the water was meant to go afterwards he had no idea.  The cleaner came over with a mop and bucket but on seeing the enormity of the problem hurried off to fetch “the Powder”.  “The Powder” absorbs liquid which makes it easier to sweep up the solid matter and having done so the cleaner then mopped up what was left.

The Super asked me if I could hold the train until the cleaner got back as I was the last WER and he needed to catch it to get home so I ended up leaving about 8 minutes late.  When I arrived at DEB there were two men on the platform with a large dog, possibly a mastiff, which was happily jumping up and down but didn’t appear to be on a lead.

For those of you who don’t know both the Railway Byelaws and TfL’s own Conditions of Carriage have something to say on the control of animals and the basic upshot is that dogs must be kept on leads for their own safety and that of other passengers.  I certainly didn’t like the idea of a loose dog of that size thundering up and down the cars so I called the Super to the front of the train and walked back to meet him.  Happily he confirmed that the dog was indeed on a lead but even so I was half expecting Fido to appear on the CCTV every time I opened the doors. 

Of course had it been a Staffie I wouldn’t have cared…….awwww.


Finally when I reached WER and was tipping out I woke a couple who were collapsed on each other by shaking the gentleman and letting the shockwaves carry over to his lady friend.  He actually complemented me on my waking technique.  Which was nice.

Monday 19 November 2012

Following my last post on the Boxing Day issue there have been several comments and rather than adding to them there I thought I’d add to them out here. One of the unattributed commenters asked “Why is there this need for everybody to not even be able to have just TWO days off with their families thats guaranteed time off.”

The last estimates I read were that around 5.8 million work on Christmas Day with 11 million on Boxing Day. Hospitals still have patients to look after, the ambulances still need to come out if needed, police still need to keep order, fires need to be put out when someone overloads the tree with too many fairy lights or incinerates the turkey, none of us would be able to listen to the Queen’s Speech or watch whatever movie comes on afterwards without someone being at the BBC. Add to that there are minicab drivers, hotel workers along with staff in pubs and restaurants.

Or are those people excluded from “everybody”?

Let me make myself clear I am not saying that the Tube should close on Boxing Day, I just don’t see the need for half of us to be there when it happens to be on a Sunday or even more when it’s a Saturday when we get along perfectly well with 1 in 4 every other Boxing Day.

Boxing Day has been a traditional football fixture since it started as a professional sport, a hundred years ago teams used to play on Christmas Day and Boxing Day usually with the same two teams playing each other. In 1919 West Ham beat Bristol City 2-0 at home for Christmas and then made the 120 mile trip west to secure a 0-0 draw 24 hours later.

Last year Arsenal postponed their Boxing Day clash with Wolves at the Emirates until the next day because of ASLEF’s strike though as Christmas Day was on a Sunday the Tuesday was also a Bank holiday. This year Arsenal are at home to West Ham so if the ASLEF strike goes ahead and they decided to reschedule the fixture I don’t see it being played on the Thursday as that will be a working day. Actually this will be the fourth consecutive Boxing Day (or day after) the Gooners have played at home and they won the last three which presents two questions.

Firstly does someone have a bias towards Arsenal, giving them home advantage for the match after Christmas, saving their fans an arduous journey the day after they've stuffed themselves full of turkey and mince pies?

And secondly should I vote for strike action simply because Arsenal seem to be on top form after Christmas so delaying the game might improve our chances of nicking a point?

Friday 16 November 2012

An example of Boxing Day working.

WER currently has 68 TOps, on a weekday there are 41 duties to be covered, which means you’ve got 27 on rest days, on leave, doing their ATOR or away for other reasons.  On Saturday there are 35 duties and on Sunday 26.  This Boxing Day there will be 18 duties so roughly 1 in 4 TOps will be working.  If ASLEF hadn’t kicked up a fuss in 2015 about half the TOps would be required to work 26th December as it is not a Bank Holiday.  Ho ho ho.
Not much happened this week apart from repeatedly getting stuck behind the Rail Adhesion Train which trundles up and down the open sections spraying sandite, a mixture of sand, aluminium and adhesive, on the tracks to reduce wheel slippage.  Despite the lack of incident out there on the rails we are having a lot of fun and games on the Boxing Day issue.

Having failed to reach an agreement with our elected representatives LUL have hit upon the brilliant idea of appealing directly to the ASLEF members, the same people who voted 8-1 in favour of going on strike for the last two years and will probably do exactly the same this time around.

The choice of carrots LUL have dangled in front of our noses to try and tempt us to vote against the strike or strike break if the worst comes to the worst are:-

• Volunteer to work on Boxing Day for double or triple time, in exchange for one or two days' leave entitlement respectively

• Volunteer to work on Boxing Day as normal but take the annual leave on another day (which is the current arrangement)

• Take leave on Boxing Day provided that there sufficient volunteers to meet our service obligations.  If there are insufficient volunteers to meet the service obligations, duties will be allocated starting with those newest to the train operator grade.

All very nice but unfortunately for our dark overlords slightly illegal.  According to the ASLEF website under the Working Time Regulations 1998 you cannot offer pay in lieu of untaken holiday except when employment is being terminated.  Also it fails to mention that when 26th December falls on a Saturday or Sunday we do not get a day's annual leave because the Bank holiday moves to 28th December.
Oh yes, my friends, we have the finest minds running things from the lofty towers of 55 Broadway.

Friday 9 November 2012

Not much to write about, the usual ATO/ATP failures, one of which stopped the train after I’d left NHG EB so the CCTV was still working and I could see the curious passengers on the platform staring inquisitively at my tail lights down the tunnel.  The TOp shortage is getting quite acute, we had 7 NCAs at LES yesterday and will have 11 today.

So with little of interest to report on the Tube I’m turning to another non-work related issue, Henry Moore’s Draped Seated Woman.  Moore sold the 1.5 ton, 3m tall bronze statue to the LCC for the knock down price of £6000 in 1960 on the condition that she be put on public display in a deprived area.  “Old Flo” sat on the Stifford Estate in Stepney until 1997 by which time the LCC had been replaced by the GLC and when that was abolished she passed into the hands of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.  She’d suffered numerous acts of vandalism over the years and with the estate due for demolition the council thought it best to move her to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield.

And there she stayed, mostly forgotten, apart for a rare trip down south for the Henry Moore retrospective at the Tate two years ago where she sat by the front entrance greeting visitors and where I had the pleasure of making her acquaintance.   According to the East London Advertiser it was around this time that the Tower Hamlets Conservatives discovered her whereabouts through a FIA request and started clamouring for her return.  Maybe one of them is an art lover and saw her at the same exhibition that I did.

Later that year the good voters of Tower Hamlets elected Luftar Rahman, an independent, as their mayor.   He’d been a Labour councillor since 2002 and leader of the council since 2008 but after a bit of scandal over connections with an Islamic fundamentalist group he was de-selected as their candidate.  Simply put Rahman is a bit of a political chancer in the style of George Galloway or Derek Hatton, he splashes cash around on his pet projects while at the same time pleading poverty, in that respect he should get on famously with Boris.

Numerous places have been proposed that would offer her a safe home including Queen Mary College on the Mile End Road and Victoria Park but Tower Hamlets say with insurance costs and the risk of metal theft they can’t afford to put the statue back on public display in the borough.  They have a very good point, two sculptures have been stolen from the Henry Moore Foundation in Hertfordshire in the past few years; “Sundial”, worth £0.5m, was stolen earlier this year and recovered a few days later but a 2 ton reclining figure, est. value £3m, was taken in 2005 and has not been seen since.  The thieves used a crane to lift it onto a truck and the whole thing was captured on CCTV; so much for security.

According to council sources the proposed sale of Old Flo would raise up to £20m but there are a fair number of experts who think that the figure would be much lower.  As it is £20m would be a drop in the ocean, Tower Hamlet’s budget is around £3bn and they are looking to make savings of around £100m, any suggestion that the money raised by the sale would make any significant difference is laughable.  Despite that the residents of Tower Hamlets are generally in favour of selling the statue with opposition mostly coming from the art and media world.

Boris has naturally stuck his oar in saying that Tower Hamlets should rethink the sale but without mentioning that they will be paying TfL £2m for extending the bike hire scheme into the borough.  Both sides are making political capital out of the issue, Rahman gets to turn the spotlight on how Coalition cuts are effecting one of the most deprived boroughs in the UK while his opponents get to shout about his £1000 a day “consultants”, £100k spent redecorating his office and £1500 a month for a chauffeur driven Merc leaving Old Flo sat quietly in the middle.

For myself I think it’s time to stop all the public arguments, for those who want to keep her in London to get together somewhere quietwith Tower Hamlets and cut a deal that keeps Old Flo in London

Wednesday 7 November 2012

I think I might be hitting one of my “down” phases, where I simply can’t be arsed to write anything.  Not much happened over the weekend apart from the Blockade, my first trip Monday was to HAI and you can see just how much work went on; new track, new ballast, embankments shored up and widened.  At HAI itself it appears that they’ve raised the track at Plat. 3, before the cab floor at the WB/OR end was a few inches below the platform but it’s now level.  Next time I’m there I’ll check to see if they’ve done the same along the whole of the platform which would be good news for those in wheelchairs and with buggies.

The only other thing of note was on Sunday my first train had PWM faults going EB.  I won’t go into the technicalities, basically what it meant was that in Auto it wasn’t getting above 40kph which isn’t great when line speed in tunnel sections is 65kph and by the time you got to the other end of the Pipe you’d have a long queue of trains stacked up behind.  The TOp I took off had informed Wood Lane but there was no Train Technician available to fix the problem and they’d chosen to keep it in service. The good news was that I could get full speed in Coded so I did two trips “on the handle” from WHC to WOO.  Humans 1 Computers 0.

I did attend my branch meeting yesterday but got confused about the times, turned up late and then had to take a phone call from a distressed friend who’d had a row with her latest love interest.  I still have no idea what’s going on with the detrainments but I did send my ballot paper off earlier.  It appears that there has been some “movement” on the Boxing Day issue, talks were taking place even as our meeting was in progress and hopefully by Monday we should be getting some news either one way or the other.   And just when we thought the Boxing Day strike would become a tradition!

Friday 2 November 2012

A couple of interesting days to start me back off leave.  I was spare Monday, got a couple of runs up the EPP branch and then I was given a train with a smashed window to take round to HAI depot via WOO and GRH.  Everything went well until I walked up to HAI station and remembered that there were no trains due to the Blockade.  I just missed the replacement bus and then got to GRH just as a train was pulling out.  D'oh.

On Wednesday I arrived just as service resumed after the shutdown at HOP.  I was told that my train would be leaving on time and when I checked to see where it was it was already on Plat. 1 waiting.  The problem was that the train on Plat. 2 was going to EPP which meant that no trains went WB for at least ten minutes and when I arrived at LEY the platform was very crowded for a Wednesday afternoon.

As expected the platforms were similarly crowded all the way into town and soon I was packed out, people were taking a long time to get off because of the crowded platforms and equally as long to get on.  Thankfully after MAA the platforms started to clear but by the time I got to WHC I had just enough time to change ends before I was off again and that remained the pattern for the rest of the shift.

Going back to the tricky subject of “No detrainment on 'siding reversing' trains” ASLEF have announced that they will be balloting members for industrial action short of going on strike.  I’ll be honest and admit that I have no idea what action we can take short of going on strike that will have any meaningful effect but I’m off to my branch meeting on Tuesday and will hopefully come back with a bit more information.   And naturally it being November our annual Boxing Day strike is looming with still no progress.  Can’t wait.

Saturday 27 October 2012

You may have heard that 750 jobs are to go when Ford close the stamping plant at Dagenham which will only leave the engine plant at what was once Europe’s largest car factory; actual car production stopped ten years ago. At its height it employed around 40000 and it had its own blast furnace with iron ore coming in one end and cars rolling out the other.

For long periods of the 70s wage rises around the country were measured by what Ford workers had got that year.  There was a sign instructing workers to "alight here for Ford" on the platform at Dagenham Heathway station and anyone driving down the A13 knew when they were approaching Dagenham thanks to the huge Ford sign that dominated the surrounding area. Since then the sign on the platform has gone, the A13 has been rerouted, the road sign seems somewhat smaller and the skyline is now dominated by a big wind turbine.

As a Dagenhamite Ford played a significant role in my life, my Grandfather on my Dad’s side moved from Scotland to work on building Ford in the late 1920s. While none of family worked there a large number of my schoolmates’ families did and careers advice at my school consisted of a simple “what do you want to do at Ford's?” Plenty of us paraded along the Heathway in the Ford donkey jackets given by friends and relatives who worked there and you can only imagine that the supplies department must have known what was going on when they got so many requests for a size “small”. And everybody knew that if you had keys for one Cortina there was a fair chance they’d work on any other “Dagenham Dustbin”.

Someday perhaps the only record of Ford of Dagenham will be a few chapters in the history of 70s industrial relations and the film “Made in Dagenham”.  Granddad Jack never liked factories anyway.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Ok, red face or what.  The dispute over Sunday working was at London Midland not East Midland, I made a ricket, mea culpa.  Once upon a time we had BR covering the whole of the UK railways, now we have lots of TOCs, like I'm the only one who gets confused, its my week off and I'm meant to be in Pittsburgh!

East Midland has been forced to cancel trains or alter services in recent weeks due to a lack of drivers though it has promised that the shortfall will be dealt with by mid-December.  For those of you interested EMT drivers are on a salary of £41187 with overtime for working rest days.  As I mentioned on here back in the Summer EMT were in the news for trying to mess around with the train drivers pensions with the threat of a strike over the Olympics but back in 2009 they had more fun and games when they decided to stop paying double time for working Sundays.

As most Sunday working was voluntary it shouldn’t have come as a big surprise when on the first weekend they introduced the new rates of pay none of the drivers chose to work on their day off and they had to cancel the majority of trains.  It would seem they still haven’t quite grasped the idea that trains need drivers but as they received £46m of taxpayers’ money between November and June why worry about running a railway?

Chris Hooper has won the 2012 Rail Engineer of the Year Award, he’s the man who made it possible for us to hear Boris’s announcements on the Tube during run up to the Olympics telling people to avoid the Tube.   They were subsequently dropped after a week or so when they left the system half empty, the West End deserted and businesses howling about the lack of customers.

Well done, Chris, Jesus and your peer group loves you; everyone else……….

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Worrying news, the company that manufacturers London’s black cabs has called in the administrators after failing to secure funding from their Chinese shareholder.  It had been operating at a loss for the past four years and things have been made worse this year when it had to recall 400 taxis owing to a steering defect.

The thought of London without black cabs horrifies me, I adore them, they are quintessentially London, I would use the “I” word but then I’d be no better than Boris.  Anyone living in or visiting London who wants to fully experience our public transport must ride the Tube, go on the top deck of a red bus and slide onto the sumptuously upholstered seats of a black cab.

There is nothing more welcome on a cold, wet night at 4am when the party’s over, you’re dog tired and can think of nothing but your bed or the club has closed, the bouncers have herded everyone onto the streets and you’ve met someone who can think of nothing but your bed than to spy that familiar amber light approaching.  And there is something reassuring about the distinctive chug of the diesel engine, sometimes when the streets are deserted you hear a taxi before you see it and you feel a surge of hope that your return home has just got that much closer.

Not that there won’t be cabs, Nissan has produced a taxi version of their NV200 4-door van  but it just looks like a people carrier painted black with a “taxi” light on top.  It will have a smaller, more efficient engine which is good for emissions but it just won’t sound right and next year they will trial an electric version which will have hardly any sound at all.  Not only is London set to get these charmless, characterless hulks but New York is set to have them too, painted yellow obviously.

So jump in a TX1, TX2, TX4 or if you are lucky enough to find one, a FX4 while you can, time is running out.  Though not the square, angular Metrocab, the one that looks like a Citro├źn 2CV’s big brother, it never had the panache of its well-rounded colleagues.

Am I missing something?  I had to cancel my trip to see Morrissey in Pittsburgh because my friend’s mother is ill.  Now Morrissey has cancelled the Pittsburgh show and four others because his mother is ill.  I saw my mother yesterday and she was fine.

Sunday 21 October 2012

When bored, as I am now, I Google “London Underground” on a regular basis and recently came across a Chicago Tribune article where the reporter claimed that the Tube was noticeably cleaner than the CTA.  Having been to Chicago last year I can’t say I noticed much difference between the two, it was certainly cleaner than the New York Subway when I was there a few years back.

The article also mentioned that some Tube stations play classical music over the station PA as this seems to discourage reprobates and their unsocial behaviour.  I get a taste of this every time I go back to Dagenham Heathway to visit Mother shrugged but for some reason it always reminds me of Kubrick’s “A clockwork orange” where a lot of the violence, which is rather tame when compared to today’s standards, is accompanied with selections from Beethoven and Rossini.

Real horrowshow, droogies.

Saturday 20 October 2012

When I booked on Thursday we had an on-going points failure at WOO which meant that trains couldn’t go WB from there to LES, instead they were going up to EPP, back down to WOO, reversing off the platform and then round the Loop to HAI to head off into town. I was spare but due to the number of uncovered shifts I was given a whole duty to cover within about five minutes.

I picked up on the EB but hadn’t reached SNA before Wood Lane announced that the points failure was fixed and we were running WB again through WOO. This was yet another denizen of the Control Room who can barely make an intelligible announcement who shall be referred to as “Errrrrr”, as this precedes every announcement and then reoccurs with an annoying frequency. Shortly after another voice contradicted this by informing us that a train would be going through to test the points and when I approached WOO it was only just passing the section with about half a dozen grim faced technicians in hi-vis stood in the Cess observing its progress (the Cess is what we call the area either side of the track, so called because its lower than the bottom of the sleepers in order to provide drainage; think cesspool, cesspit).

The announcements came thick and fast from Wood Lane with at least three voices telling us pretty much the same information. I got stuck outside LOU for a while and by the time I left EPP on the way to EAB I was 10 minutes down, by the time I reached LES I’d added another two minutes and by the time I made LIS it was 15. That was when someone decided to turn me at WHC but as there was a timetabled WHC train behind me I was going to tip out on the WB platform and go up the siding to the west of the station.

When I got to WHC there was no sign of any station staff so I started to close up the train myself. I closed up the front four cars and walked through the interconnecting doors to the fifth car to discover that someone had closed up for me, which would have been pleasant enough were it not for the two gentlemen still sat in the saloon deep in conversation. Despite English clearly not being their first language, possibly not their second or third, I explained that the train was not going to EAB and then managed to attract the attention of the member of station staff who’d closed the doors.

They operated the “butterfly” to release the passengers and I went up the sidings wondering if perhaps I should have checked the last three cars to see if they’d left anyone else on board. If that member of station staff had been on the platform when I arrived I’d have simply followed procedure, closed up the front two cars and then left the rest. Once I’d discovered the passengers on board I would have had to call Wood Lane to report a carry over and to get authorisation to bring them back over the shunt signal.

Just shows you how easy it is to make a mistake when the pressure is on, I made a huge one a while ago which I will tell you all about one day when I recover from the embarrassment. And I’m not talking about the beer, tequila and red wine that left me with my head over the toilet for two hours in the early hours of Friday morning. Or passing out in bed next to my mate Alex the carpenter afterwards; apparently we made a lovely couple. Thank you, sweetie, for having pity on us, not taking a photo or posting it on Facebook, especially as it was your bed we were in and you had to sleep in a chair; a big bunch of flowers coming your way.

That’s me done for a week or so, I was meant to be flying to the USA today but due to family illness my American friend is unavailable so rather than seeing Morrissey live in Pittsburgh from premium seats I’m stuck in London. Happy travelling, kiddies.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

There was something very wrong with the passengers yesterday, they were dropping like flies. Someone collapsed on the platform at TCR, another was having a fit on a train at BAN while I had someone pass out at STP. The first I knew about it was when I saw some passengers in the middle of the train waving to attract the attention of the SATS. Some BTP had boarded at TCR so they joined in and while they were dealing with things one of the passengers decided that this was a good time to pull down a handle.

To ensure that no one else joined in the belated handle pulling I made a PA to explain what the holdup was and then called Wood Lane. While waiting for them to answer the passenger was moved of the train by those in attendance and then a miracle. As I was informing Wood Lane that I would have to go back and reset the PEA someone, maybe the SATS or maybe another TOp travelling on the cushions, reset it for me. I closed up and got out of there pronto.

I have had a few notifications from a regular reader of this blog. Firstly management have made the timetables people aware of the problem with graffiti on the mainline shunt at LES and they are going to try their damnedest to get rid of that move. Which is nice.

The practice of flashing the saloon lights and making PAs for sidings reversers is “the old way”, checking that the cars are empty and closing up on the porter buttons was only introduced after a passenger was killed when they fell from a train going into LIS sidings. Trains going into a depot or being taken out of service for a defect are always checked.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Ok someone informed me that “London Poppy Day” has been going on for several years, happens in the week leading up to Remembrance Sunday and is when the British Legion chuggers hit Central London en masse to try to maximise contributions . I still find it very sad that either those who organise this feel that they need to use some sort of gimmicky drive to raise the profile of what should be an act of solemn dedication or that possibly our society has fallen so far that a gimmicky drive is needed to make us acknowledge our debt to those who fought, were wounded and died for our freedoms. As I said, old fashioned. 
I’ve just read that Boris has decided that more should be done for “London Poppy Day” so there are going to be a couple of trains and a couple of buses decked out in “poppy” livery, every train will on the Tube, DLR and Overground will have a poppy on it and there will be PAs on the stations to inform passengers.

Now am I old fashioned or does anyone think that somehow makes Remembrance Sunday into a sort of Red Nose Day without the jokes? We are honouring people who gave their lives and risked their bodies for our country and showing support for those who continue to do so. I find the whole thing disrespectful, undignified and cheap. I didn't believe that my opinion of Boris could sink any lower but he's proved me wrong, this is below contempt.

I will wear my poppy and remember Frederick Shepherd who served in the trenches of Flanders, lost his best friend, was wounded and after recovering in London returned to the front. While in hospital he met a nurse from Somerset, after the war they married and had three daughters, the youngest of which is my mother.

Saturday 13 October 2012

Thursday was a bumper day for sleepers at the end of the line, five in all when I reached EPP, two of whom I managed to wake but the other three resisted my best efforts; I shook one bloke so hard his iPod earphones fell out. When we got to LOU the Super managed to get one man moving quite easily but the last two took our combined efforts to dislodge. Friday there were no sleepers but several of the cars looked as if they’d been a fairly boisterous party going on from the number of empty bottles and cans littered around. Drinks ban, what drinks ban?

Further to my post a couple of weeks ago about “No detrainment on 'siding reversing' trains” there was an incident on the Bakerloo Line where this is already taking place. I’m sure you’ve read elsewhere that a 12-year old boy was taken into the sheds at Queen’s Park when a train was reversing, he opened the interconnecting door, managed to squeeze between the cars, jumped down onto the track and was heading off towards Kensal Green when the TOp spotted him.

Belatedly both unions are now questioning the safety of the procedure currently used up there and also I’m told at the northern end of the Jubilee. I am informed by various Bakerloo Line sources that this consists of making three PAs to say the train is going out of service while turning the saloon lights on and off. As mentioned in one of the comments on the earlier post since the introduction of this procedure carry-overs have become so common that the TOps have stopped bothering to report them.

LUL claim the procedure saves time and reduces delays to the trains behind but recently at WOO we’ve had occasions when there have been two members of station staff on the platform to close up reversers, each of them tipping out four cars while the TOps stays in the cab and that has really reduced the time it takes to get the train out of the way. So if LUL want to save time they need more station staff rather than less but we all suspect this is less about saving time and more about saving money in the first place.

Hopefully after this well publisiced incident we’ll see a return of the old way of doing things but if it does come to the Central Line I’ll still be checking my train on safety grounds, I was a H&S Rep on the stations and can argue the point until the cows come home. Bring it on, baby.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

So much for the test driving on the Jubilee Line, LUL have now announced that driverless trains will not be seen on the Tube until the 2020s which I will admit is later than I was led to believe. The news must come as a great disappointment to all those who voted for Boris in the belief that we’d all get P45s sometime before 2018 and the Tube would become blissfully strike-free.

Another last HAI train and another graffiti attack while doing the mainline shunt move at LES. It would be nice to see this removed from the new timetable due in June and the last HAI run through the Pipe rather than come down from EPP but I guess in order for that to happen you’d need the depot managers to communicate the problem to the Line managers and for them in turn to specify this to those who draw up the timetables and rosters at 55. I won't hold my breath.

Saturday 6 October 2012

There was nothing much to write about last week, everything went pretty much to timetable, it rained, trains stopped where they shouldn’t, ATP failed, rucksacks got caught in doors, football managers gave away team selection details to a car-full of total strangers, etc, etc.

Over on Boris Watch someone has been busy with the calculator and worked out that if the Borisbus is loaded to its full capacity of 87 it exceeds the maximum Gross Vehicle Weight allowed under the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. To comply with the current Regs it can only carry 78 people which when the open platform is in use will be 77 passengers and the second member of staff.

Maybe that’s why the “conductor” won’t be checking tickets, they’ll be fully occupied counting heads to ensure that the bus isn't overloaded and at least it will never be crowded as there will always be nine standing spaces unoccupied. Terrific.

Another thing that crossed my mind is just how much difference the Borisbus will make, there are only 600 on order to be delivered over three years but London has around 7000 buses, that’s not even 10%. Obviously the best way to make them noticeable would be to push them onto the routes that go through the City and West End so that they are seen trundling up Oxford Street, along the Strand and the Euston Road, sweeping past St. Paul’s and around Trafalgar Square.

However now that they will have to run at a reduced capacity one wonders just how much of hit they will they be with passengers after they have been refused entry because the bus is full when they can see empty spaces on board?

In other travel news Boris has turned down the suggestion that the Cable Car be included in the Oystercard and Freedom Pass systems as TfL were unable to predict how much demand there would be in the future. This uncertainty is in marked contrast to the way TfL took every opportunity before it opened to proudly predict that it would carry 2500 people every hour though figures from July in the weeks before the Olympics suggest that it might be attracting around 5-7000 passengers per day during the week.

Monday 1 October 2012

I’ve been checking back on the issue I mentioned last Wednesday of taking passengers up sidings when reversing and I’ve noticed a couple of things. Firstly OSN 101 came out at the end of last year which just goes to show that time flies by as you get older. Secondly we can only take passengers over shunt signals if we have permission from Wood Lane and if we’re closing the doors without going back to check that everybody has got off then we wouldn’t know that there was any reason to ask for it. The only place this wouldn’t apply is WOO where we get a green signal with an arrow giving us the direction rather than a shunt signal.

I suppose one way around this would be that every time one of us goes up a siding we call Wood Lane for permission to carry out the move on the off-chance there’s someone left on board however I think by the end of the first week the staff at Wood Lane would be going mental with all the extra calls and the time saved by not checking the trains would have been partially lost by the time spent waiting for the ok. Fun and games.

Last month I had over 5000 views, in fact in the last 12 hours I’ve had nearly 100, a large number of whom appear to have come here thanks to a mention on the excellent Diamond Geezer blog. Cheers, pal.

Saturday 29 September 2012

London was heaving last night, I had to wake a few sleepers up when I reached WER on my first trip and there were even more when I reached EPP. I must admit I sometimes feel as if I’m missing a great party out there, I’m seriously thinking about having a word with the Mafia and ditching the night shifts, the new timetable will mean more lates so that shouldn’t be too much trouble.

For all the praise we received over the Olympics some of my colleagues seem not to be as customer focused as they could. Recently when I was on a last train and was changing ends I could see the Station Super making himself busy waking people up. When I passed him he was rousing a gentleman, not too gently either, informing him that this was the end of the line and that he had to leave the train as it wasn’t going any further. I interrupted him to point out that I was going back a few stops before stabling if the passenger needed to head back the way they’d come and this was overheard by a couple who I’d seen the Super usher off the train earlier. They asked me if the train went to the station they’d missed, I confirmed that it did and they got back on.

The Super didn’t seem particularly pleased with my intervention, maybe he’s on commission from the local minicabs or simply that he gets a sadistic pleasure from stranding passengers when they could travel back at least part of their journey. I guess he must be one of the 20% who doesn’t want to give London a “World Class Tube”.

Friday 28 September 2012

Ok, I’ve had a quick shufty on the RMT website and initially the call for a ballot comes from the LU Fleet Branch which is made up of staff employed by Metronet and TubeLines including the Test Train Drivers. I still can’t find any source that actually says that driverless trains will be tested on the Jubilee at any time but that isn’t to say they won’t despite LUL’s denials back in July.

When the Deep Tube Railway document first surfaced LUL said it was a paper exercise for middle managers, a bit of “blue sky” thinking, quite believable when you read some of the proposals regarding staffing at stations, obvious that those who drafted the document have never worked down here with our passengers. It was only later they admitted that it was indeed their plans for the future of the Tube, little wonder 67% of staff think that management are being less than honest with us.

So the ballot will initially be restricted to those Test Train Drivers who are asked to work on the driverless trains over on the Jubilee or wherever and then will spread to any other grades that LUL asks to, er, drive them. I assume that infers that they haven’t set things up so the trains can get in and out of the depots on their own or that maybe it’s just they know that as with everything at LUL it will inevitably break down at some point and need a human presence to move it.

While were on the subject of RMT they’ve just announced that the joint working party that was set up after the strike at TubeLines over pensions and free travel back in May have failed to come to an agreement. While they now have their staff and family Oystercards the matter of parity with Metronet staff is unresolved and as a result RMT members will refuse to do any overtime over the first weekend in October.

Colour me confused. According to the BBC and just about everyone else the RMT are about to ballot over the testing of driverless trains next month on the Jubilee Line which was first reported back in July and strenuously denied by LUL at the time. According to the Deep Tube Railway Document, which RMT have provided online, the focus of driverless trains will be the Bakerloo, Piccadilly, W&C and Central Lines, no mention of the Jubilee which only started using ATO last year. I appreciate that the system there is far more sophisticated than the one we have on the Central but considering the problems they had ever since it was introduced I’d be very surprised if they were going to let trains run on their own. I wonder if they have the sort of problems we have when it rains?

The absence of the TOps that arrived for the Olympics is starting to be noticeable, once more there are NCAs on the booking on sheets, how long before we start cancelling trains for lack of drivers?

Wednesday 26 September 2012

A bloody awful night and a bloody awful train on which neither end liked the rain so I ended up driving Coded on all the open sections. We received a memo last week telling us that we’re going to have a new timetable in June next year with more trains running in the peaks, in the evenings and at weekends along with a later Saturday service and a Sunday service on the W&C. As long as they send us more TOps, most of those who were sent to the Central Line for the Olympics have already left for the Northern.

There is one disturbing little line in the memo which states that there will be “No detrainment on 'siding reversing' trains”. Now I’m not 100% sure what that means but I suspect it infers that rather than us or a member of station staff physically checking that the train is empty and using the porter buttons to close up when we reverse at DEB, NOP, WOO and NOR we will be expected to close up from the cab. At the moment if a member of staff is not available it causes a delay while we close up all 8 cars on our own and then walk back to the front end so obviously dispensing with the need for station staff will save money and delays.

Some of you may recall the hoo-ha caused by OSN 101 back in March and the rule change that allows us to carry passengers over shunt signals, maybe this is what LUL may have had in mind all along. The obvious worry is that we close up, go into the sidings then discover that we’re not alone, that we've inadvertently taken Mad Derek with us and he’s less than pleased to wake up to find himself trapped on a train. Now I’m a bit of a lump and can handle the occasional psycho (growing up in Dagenham helps) but a lot of TOps are smaller than me and an increasing number are women who might find the idea of being alone on a train with a possibly aggressive member of the public somewhat alarming.

If management think that either of the Unions are going to agree to this they must be mental, this stinks of a safety issue and whichever retard tried to stick this line in hoping that no one would notice deserves firing out of a cannon in the general direction of the Thames. All this does is reinforce the impression that LUL don’t give a rat arse about its employees’ safety, making a mockery of all the thanks and praise we’ve received from Boris downwards for our performance over the Olympics. If they’re trying to win our hearts and minds then they’re still failing miserably.

Monday 24 September 2012

A event free night on the Central though autumn arrived with much rain. In the absence of any Tube news my mind has turned to other Transport/London issues.

Daniel Moylan interests me. He was appointed Boris’s aviation bod two weeks ago and has been in the press regurgitating Boris opposition of the third runway at Heathrow, calling anyone who suggests this “deluded” while celebrating the merits of Boris Island. Before that he was at the new London Legacy Development Corporation that replaced the Olympic Park Legacy Company in the summer and while he was only there for four months it proved long enough to get Baroness Ford, the previous chair who everyone seems to have thought had done a good job, to quit prematurely.

Obviously as a lifelong West Ham fan the comings and goings amongst the people who will decide the fate of the Olympic Stadium is of great interest to me. While I think moving to a 60000-seater stadium when we only get crowds of around 35000 and will be watching football from the other side of a running track is a pretty sad prospect Boris taking over is pretty good news for the Two Davids, West Ham’s porn baron owners Sullivan and Gold. If they’re lucky we’ll see his huge face on TV saying that the plans for the Olympic Stadium are “a fantastic idea”, that it will be “iconic” and that it “won’t cost the tax payer a penny” which from past experience translates as the tax payer will end up footing the bill for everything while West Ham get full naming rights for very little; see Boris bus, Boris bikes, cable car.

Before the LLDC Moylan was vice chairman of TfL, quite an important job as the chairman was absent most of the time getting his face in front of any camera that pointed his way. Moylan was at TfL at the time the decision was made to give the design of the Boris bus to Heatherwick studios. When Boris became Mayor he said there would be a competition to design the new bus, various designs were submitted and while joint winners were announced neither of two winning designs or the associated bus manufacturers were awarded the contract. Heatherwick hadn’t entered the competition and had never worked on bus design before but they had done some work with Kensington & Chelsea Council at a time when Moylan was head of planning. Surely not……….

Away from the past and back to the future, Boris Island is a complete non-starter as the DfT’s own research says that London does not need two hub airports so Heathrow would close or be drastically reduced in scale. There are over 75000 people working at Heathrow and perhaps three or four times working for the businesses that rely on it. Thousands of companies have moved to West London and along the M4 corridor to be near London’s main airport and none of them would be particularly happy with the prospect of relocating to Kent.

All those people and their dependents would need homes and amenities, shops, schools, hospitals and everything else, a massive new town would have to be created on or around the Isle of Sheppey. Apart from the much touted high speed rail link from Boris Island to London other transport links would need to be expanded to deal with the mass influx of population. An airport isn’t just a few runways and the terminal buildings, Heathrow has grown over the years and the area around it has grown with it, moving London’s main airport 50 miles the other side of London would be an economic and logistical nightmare, costing far beyond the few billions casually mentioned.

The problem with the aviation debate is that just about everyone offering an opinion stands to profit from whichever scheme they are supporting. Obviously the owners of Heathrow want a third runway, the owners of Gatwick and Stansted each want a second runway, the architects and developers want Boris Island, the TOCs and ASLEF say HS2 will reduce domestic flights, everybody has a vested interest.

The Green Party don’t have much vested interest which is perhaps why they’ve suggested that the current situation could be eased by making more efficient use of the take-off and landing “slots” and by moving more short haul flights to the three other major airports serving London, something that makes neither Boris or Heathrow happy. Rather than HS2 cutting a big, noisy path through the Chilterns I suspect that demand for domestic flights could be greatly reduced if rail were made more attractive by cutting fares and the money spent on upgrading the current infrastructure. There was also a proposal to build a High Speed link between Heathrow and Gatwick with 180mph trains running alongside the M25, covering the 45 mile journey in not much over 15 minutes. A second runway at Gatwick would also cause far less disruption as the area around it is far less densely populated than West London.

Perhaps what we need more than anything is to view transport as a single issue rather than slicing it up into road, rail, air and the rest. No doubt I’ve missed some highly relevant point in all this which is why I’m just a train driver and not some senior civil servant at the DfT earning £150k pa. I’ll be flying to Charleston, West Virginia in October to visit a friend and go see Morrissey in Pittsburgh which is the extent of my interaction with air travel. If you think the security checks at Heathrow are bad you ought to try Dulles.

Sunday 23 September 2012

When I arrived to book on Friday I knew something was up as there were four managers stood around the desk all with Connect radios clutched to their ears. There’d been a one-under at OXO but happily the person had come out in one piece and in comparatively rude health. Service was about to resume after 20 minutes or so but when I checked Trackernet to locate my train I discovered that it had been put away in a depot somewhere. I also noticed that on the EB there was nothing between BEG and HOL and the train behind that was at SHB, it was going to take a lot of work at Wood Lane to get the service back to anything like normal for the evening peak.

Ten minutes after I was due to pick my train up the DTSM told me to go to HAI where one was waiting for me in the depot. Unfortunately the nearest train going to HAI was a good half an hour away at TCR so in order to get me back on time they decided that a spare would work the train out onto the platform while I travelled on the cushions to meet it.

Sadly something went awry, my train came out late, I got held at BEG and LIS to regulate the service and there was blocking back from WHC to NHG. By the time I reached NOA I should have been heading back EB from EAB and by the time I was supposed to be going into HAI depot I was only just pulling into LEY over 20 minutes down. And it was raining.

Fortunately the DTSM had been keeping an eye on things and calculated that by the time I got to HAI, stabled the train, walked out and then made my way back to LES there was the distinct possibility that there wouldn’t be enough time for me to have my meal break and then pick up my second half. So rather than have to send a spare to EAB and back I was taken off at LES by a spare with an umbrella. Which was nice.

Friday 21 September 2012

The evening peak was busy last night, perhaps a little more than usual, with the WB platforms from LIS onwards packed out. When I closed the doors at OXO I could see people still pushing on and as expected I didn’t get the blue door closed visual. I hit the “re-open” button which opens doors that aren’t closed but not those that are but before I could try closing them again the PEA alarm started squawking. I tried to talk to whoever had pulled the handle down but got no reply so I opened up all the doors and checked DTS which told me that the handle was down in car 1. I made a PA to inform the passengers what was going on and jumped out to check what the problem was.

I was pointed towards a young lady stood at the back of the platform who I was informed had got her head caught in the doors. She didn’t look badly injured so I said I'd get the station staff to come and deal with her. As she was off the train my responsibility was to the thousand or so passengers who were still on board along with the thousands more on the trains behind me so I reset the PEA and went back to the cab.

When I checked at the CCTV the SATS was still stood where they’d been when all this started so I made a PA asking them to come and speak to the driver, I even said it twice just to be sure, slightly hypocritical considering my last post. When he finally battled his way through the crowd to the front of the train I explained the situation and left him to deal with it while I got the service moving again.

I realised that the one thing I hadn’t done was contact Wood Lane to tell them what was going on; big error on my part. What brought me to this realisation was the wonderfully sarcastic tone of the Line Controller giving a “platforms and hold” for a problem at OXO, adding that he had no idea what the problem was. By the time I got through I was already on the move WB again and I was met at WHC by a DRM who asked me to give my account of the incident.

Now I worked stations for nigh on 5 years and when I was doing platform duties if a train wasn’t moving for no apparent reason I’d automatically make my way to the cab to ask the TOp if there was any problem and if I could offer any assistance. Station Assistant Train Services; SATS, that's what it means, you are there to assist the trains. There’s more to it than standing in the same spot for two hours sticking a baton up in the air and saying “stand clear of the doors” on the PA. If Station Staff are going to be any use then they need to be trained and understand their role in all this. Once again I thank the day I made the decision not to pursue a career on the Stations side and become a Super. Rant over.

Other than that we had a shut down between LES and HAi on the Inner rail later in the evening peak due to a “person taken ill on a train” at NEP. Most of the time this is someone fainting and that is quickly dealt with but when Wood Lane suspended service we knew it must be serious. All was revealed when I was taken off at the end of my first half by a HAI TOp, his wife had been on the train involved and had texted him to say they’d all been tipped out and sent to the buses as some poor soul had a suspected heart attack.

Enjoy life while you have it, folks, every day is a day closer to the grave.

Thursday 20 September 2012

I have complained in the past about some of the announcements Wood Lane have made but yesterday had me screaming abuse in the cab, Lord alone knows what the passengers sat the other side of the J door thought.

A PEA was activated at BOS WB and the news was conveyed to us by someone at Wood Lane who shall be referred to as Mumbles. When Mumbles said “BOS” he sounded like he was saying “WAN” and it was only a short while later when Johnny Two Times repeated the announcement I realised what he’d actually been saying.

Johnny Two Times was a character who appeared for a few seconds in “Goodfellas” who gained his nickname by repeating everything twice; the example given being “I’m going to get the papers, get the papers”. This particular member of staff has the same habit, example from a few days ago “Will the east end DRM please contact the control room, will the east end, east end DRM please contact the control room”

Last night we got “all westbound trains, westbound trains between LES and BOS platforms and hold, this is due to a PEA on a train at BOS” and he then repeated the whole phrase again. It got worse when we were given the “clear signals and codes”, he repeated the same message three times with variations each time as to which phrase or words he doubled up, like some freestyle railways obsessed rapper. A good few minutes later Mumbles repeated the “clear signals and codes” though I doubt if anyone would have missed J2T’s announcement as it went on for well over a minute, the Ramones would have had enough time to play one song and for Joey to count "1-2-3-4" for the next. And even then his BOS sounded like WAN!

Now J2T is annoying but with a little therapy I’m sure his verbal diarrhea could be treated however one has to ask how Mumbles and the equally bewildering Nasal, who sounds as if he's dealt with a chronic nosebleed by inserting a tampon up each nostril and whose announcements are sometimes unintelligible, managed to get the job making announcements over the radio to the whole Central Line. What next, Line Information Assistants with Tourette’s?

I often heard the phrase “a good face for radio”, I think I’ve invented another; “a good voice for silent movies”.

Monday 17 September 2012

Boris is at it again, slagging off the Unions in the Mail on Sunday saying that 50% of members balloted rather than 50% of those who bother to vote should be in favour of a strike in order for it to be legal, happily ignoring the fact that only 16.8% of Londoners eligible to vote made him their first choice for Mayor in May.

Somewhat bizarrely he claims that ballots "put a terrific psychological burden on people who don’t want to take strike action” though what can be so intimidating about getting a form through the post, putting a cross next to "yes" or "no" and then sticking it in a pillar box is beyond me. He went on to say that his proposals would “take away unions’ power to cause endless grief and stress by threatening strikes and causing endless disruption and buggeration”.

It is true that strikes have been mentioned on the Tube and in a few cases ballots have been held but most of the stress has been generated by the Tories and their supporters in the media. ASLEF have only held one strike in the last twelve months, our traditional Boxing Day walkout, while apart from a bit of trouble over at Tube Lines earlier in the year and a strike by the cleaners RMT haven’t done much since 2010.

To me it seems that all of our problems could be settled around the conference table but obviously Boris is trying to portray himself as the man to carry on Maggie Thatcher’s anti-Union policies in his poorly disguised effort to oust his fellow Old Etonian and Bullingdon Club member from the party leadership. Sadly it will probably work, the voting public seem to have reduced politics to a sub-X Factor celebrity contest and in ten years’ time I will not be surprised if the General Election debates included a swimwear section.

At next months’ Tory Party conference Boris will address a Conservative Home fringe meeting to divulge how we won the Mayoral election; I’d be fascinated to know just how he drove the people of London to such a level of apathy that the turnout dropped from 45.33% in 2008 to 38.1%.

Saturday 15 September 2012

Not much happening again, things pretty much back to normal. I did notice that the Boris Bus has returned to the news, as expected the bus operating companies have declined to buy them so TfL plan on purchasing 600 at £160m between now and 2016. Normally bus operators buy or lease buses and can move them around the country or even abroad, some of the bendies ended up in Malta, but with no demand for the Boris Bus outside the capital (or City Hall to be precise) TfL will be stuck with them until they fall apart.

In addition the bus operators have refused to fork out for the second staff member needed to use the rear platform so TfL will fund that at an estimated cost of £37m per year. As owners TfL will be liable for any claims for injuries suffered falling from the rear platform and as the bus operators don’t want them it seems likely they will ask for larger payments from TfL to run them on their routes. All of which points towards higher fares in future, not that I care as I get free travel with the job.

Don’t blame me, I voted for Ken.

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Back from a wonderful weekend at Bestival and back on the Tube things have got back to normal pretty quickly. The evening peak felt like a normal evening peak, the commuters have returned, the tourists have subsided and there is a distinct absence of purple and red volunteer uniforms. The big noise appears to be about whether the wheelchair access ramps which were introduced at 16 stations will be kept, whether they will be introduced at more stations and what plans TfL have for increasing step-free access across the Combine.

The problem with the ramps is that obviously it takes longer than the 30 second “dwell time” factored into the timetable to set them up, use them and then remove them afterwards. During the peak we only have 20 seconds and when you are trying to keep trains running at roughly one every 2-3 minutes every little delay mounts up. Another problem is that during the Olympics there were plenty of extra bodies drafted in from the non-operational parts of LUL/TfL to deal with the extra workload but they’ve all gone back to their regular jobs and Stations are now back to the normal level of staffing; would we have enough people on hand to deploy the ramps when needed?

As far as making the Tube more accessible currently out of the 270 stations only 66 stations are step free down to the platform and only 33 are fully step-free on to the train. Back in 2006 LUL promised that by 2013 a third of stations would have step free access but in 2009 lift installations were cancelled at six stations after some £20m had been already spent claiming that there wasn't enough money to finish the job. In addition at SHB £39m had been spent sinking two lift shafts and moving gas and water pipes before unforeseen complications were discovered and the project was abandoned.

The likelihood of the Olympics and Paralympics leading to a legacy of greater access to the Tube seems slim, Boris seems happy to throw money at big high profile projects which he’d initially declared wouldn’t cost the taxpayer a penny like the cable car or his bloody bus, especially if there is a decent photo opportunity to be had, but not something as mundane as making the Tube more disabled-friendly.

Meanwhile over at the TUC conference some cheeky chappy has caused some outrage by selling T-shirts bearing the messages “A generation of trade unionists will dance on Thatcher's grave” and “Hey Ho The Witch is Dead" beneath a picture of Maggie’s Spitting Image puppet.

Quite frankly I’m appalled; everyone knows it’s “Ding, dong, the witch is dead”.

Thursday 6 September 2012

A beautiful summer’s day meant that I spent all my time in the open sections (as opposed to tunnel sections) driving in Coded with the door open. Two things of note yesterday, first the points failure at LES which left us with only one WB platform in the middle of the evening peak and queues of trains backing up along the EPP and HAI branches. I joined the queue on the approach to LOU and ended up finishing 20 minutes late.

The other thing was the lady who came up the stairs to the EB platform at EAA and seeing the cab door open asked me if the train went to TCR. I confirmed that it did and she walked off down the platform making no attempt to board the train. As I pulled out she was still walking along towards the back end of the platform which is odd as the exit to TCR is at the front.

Anyway that’s me done until Tuesday, I’m off to Bestival for four nights of music, merriment and Merlot. Have a nice weekend, folks.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Sometimes the announcements from Wood Lane are clear, precise and understandable, sometimes they just spout garbage. Yesterday we were told that a passenger had collapsed on the WB platform at PER, that staff were dealing with the situation and that we should approach with “more caution”. About 20 minutes later we were told that the ambulance crew had removed the passenger from the EB platform and that we could resume “normal speed”.

Now I’m sure you all know that normally the trains on the Central Line drive themselves in Auto and they will run at whatever speed the system tells them to; in Auto there is “normal speed” and nothing else unless Wood Lane put in a “temporary speed restriction”. If they wanted us to reduce speed while going through PER then usually we would have been instructed to switch into Coded Manual between HAL and GRE or GRE to HAL depending on which side the passenger was; maybe the passenger was in such agony they rolled from one side to the other

All I can assume is that this particular bod has come over from another line that doesn’t use ATO and forgot that here we don’t normally drive “on the handle”. Or perhaps we just need a bit more training on announcements.