Wednesday 25 January 2012

Not well, chest infection, on meds and off work. I've got two weeks leave so unless something major happens I won't write again until Sunday 12th February by which time I will be a year older.

Safe travelling, everyone.

Monday 23 January 2012

I’ve just read on the BBC website that London Travelwatch made 130 visits to 57 stations at the end of last year and found that 48% of the time there was no staff presence in ticket halls despite LUL’s assurance that following the reduction in ticket office opening hours staff would be redeployed to provide customer service. LUL dispute the survey claiming that its own research suggested that “staff are present in ticket halls in 98% of visits”.

Last week as I was walking back to the locker room after finishing my shift a passenger asked me where to go for the next train to EPP. When I told her she complained that the member of staff on the gateline had seemed very unsure when she’d asked and that we shouldn’t leave untrained staff on their own. I agreed with her wholeheartedly but did point out that the man I’d just passed at the gateline was a cleaner employed by an outside contractor.

When I returned about five minutes later he’d gone leaving the barrier unmanned. I suppose no information is better than the wrong information.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Despite being a bit warmer last night ATO was still about as much as a chocolate teapot and I ended up going Coded on the open sections but at least there was a bit of entertainment to brighten the evening. At EPP both the Super and I tried to wake the “suit” but he resisted all attempts to wake him so I took him back to LOU.

Sometimes when we reach our destination a member of station staff will help us close up the train and remove stray passengers, sometimes they just leave us to it. My job is to get the train into the sidings or depot asap so that the cleaners and train maintainers can get it ready for the morning but also so they can switch off the juice and carry out any maintenance scheduled in that section. If the Super or a CSA is there helping me close up I will give them as much assistance as I can but I’m not there to deal with a drunk who’s ended up somewhere they didn’t want to be; once they are off my train they are the station staff’s problem.

While there had been a helpful Super at LOU the first two days this week the night shifts change over on Tuesday and we’d been left to our own devices. I managed to raise the suit in stages, like a strange inflatable doll with a slow puncture, every time I stopped shaking him or taking to him he started to slump back into his seat. When I finally managed to get him upright he stopped and surveyed the gap between the train and the platform as if it were the Grand Canyon before launching himself into infinity.

Having got him off I closed up the rest of the train before he could attempt to get back on and sure enough when I’d closed up the back end I could see him trying the door buttons in the vain hope that he could get home. I have no idea where home was as he never spoke a word the whole time. As I walked back the Super made a PA informing the gentleman that there were no more trains, the station was closed and that he should make his way down the stairs. And almost predictably he went and sat down in the waiting room.

When I reached the front end I looked back to see that he had resumed his forlorn wandering of the platform. The Super appeared at the top of the stairs shouting for the suit to come with him to the exit but then went back down without waiting to see if he was following. When I sat down in the cab I could see him on the CCTV still wandering about so I pulled out of the platform slowly until I saw him stumble back into the waiting room.

By the time I got back to the platform from the sidings there was no sign of him so I assume that the Super finally realised that if he wanted to get the man out of his station it would require his physical presence. Either that or he fell asleep in the waiting room and spent the night there. I’ve got a vague feeling that I’ve written a similar post before, about LOU, about this particular Super; strangely he's not popular with TOps.

As I said some Supers come up and give the TOps a hand closing up and making sure that the station is clear of passengers, some seem to prefer to sit in the nice warm station control room and do as much as possible with CCTV and the PA system. With LUL’s focus on “modernisation” and "automation" replacing staff I suspect that we’ll be seeing less of the former and more of the later in future.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

It must be the cold weather, there’s been very little to report over the last three nights. It’s also been dry so we’ve not been sent out on “sleets”, driving trains up and down the open sections with the de-icer units on to keep the “juice” rails clear in “engineering hours” (the bit between last and first trains). I would say that everything is quiet but the TOp I’m sharing the mess room with snores like a pig being dragged over corrugated metal.

The only problem was that a fine drizzle started while I was bringing the train out in the morning making the rails very slippery and ATO simply couldn’t cope. It failed twice between LOU and DEB on the EB so I went into Coded and when I gave it another chance WB it failed again. I just gave up, drove down the LES and told the TOp taking me off that this one really did not like the wet.

All we do is push buttons…….

Friday 13 January 2012

Wednesday and Thursday went without any major upsets, the only thing of note was that I spoke to a ticket office bod who’d been to “Fit for Nothing”. Apparently Mike Brown told the assembled throng that TOps have a job for life, that all of us currently working in the grade will go through to retirement as despite plans to automate three lines plus the W&C that will still leave 80% of trains needing a driver in the cab.

When asked if the same guarantee could be given to other grades, i.e. station staff and lower management, all he would say was they’d have to accept that modernization would mean changes. I'm so glad I moved from stations to trains when I did, I imagine that the mood must be pretty grim out there.

Love this, where can I get the t-shirt?

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Someone was having fun at Wood Lane yesterday afternoon. The problem started when the train behind me, heading to WOO via HAI, developed a problem and needed to go out of service.

The TOp on train in front of me, on Plat 3 at LES heading to EPP, was told to make his train into the defective one and send his passengers over to Plat. 2. I’d pick them up, head off to EPP as I was meant to, the defective train could come into the platform I’d just vacated and the passengers off that could cross over to the train that was waiting for them.

The first I knew about it was when the signal outside LES directed me over the points towards Plat. 2; I only found out what was going on by hanging out the cab door and having a shouted conversation with the TOp on the train next to mine. All this to-ing and fro-ing of passengers was going to delay the trains behind us so when the signal cleared I made a PA to say we were ready to leave, couldn’t see anyone in an obvious rush to get on board, closed up and headed off.

Sadly it seems that there were plenty of people still making their way across from Plat 3 and they were rather annoyed that I’d left without them and the station staff received the brunt of their displeasure as usual. Not a good day to be wearing LUL uniform at LES.

Sunday 8 January 2012

Ha ha, our new Gen Sec has a sense of humour! When he heard that Ladbrooke’s were offering 10/1 that ASLEF would strike during the Olympics he joked that he could put all the union’s liquid assets on it, call a one day strike, pay us for the day's earnings lost and still make a tidy profit. I’m surprised that Andrew Gilligan or the Evening Standard haven’t published it as they normally believe such things to be genuine.

I don’t know what odds the bookies are offering on RMT going on strike but they still haven’t signed up to the agreement for working 9 hour shifts on the weekends or finishing after 1:30am and in their usual “head in the sand” fashion LUL don’t seem in any hurry to get them on board.

But then if a strike does happen during the Olympics the senior management will still have their nice cosy jobs and big fat salaries so why should they worry?

Saturday 7 January 2012

The Tube is busier and performing better than ever according to the latest email to hit our inboxes.

4.17m journeys were made on Friday 9 December, 24.9m people used the Tube during the week ending Saturday 10 December while between 16 October and 12 November the Tube carried 94.6m people, 4m more than the same period last year.

The number of trains running, 97.5%, is up by 1% on the previous period, the amount of lost customer hours is down by 63,000.

I guess that makes the above infaltion fare rise feel a whole lot less painful to all you out there in the real world…….

If anyone left an iPad on a train going to EPP Thursday night I handed it to the Station Super at LES though by now it’s probably on it’s way to the Lost Property Office.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

The first train from WER to EPP was a little late this morning because when I reached my alloted train it was as dead as a doornail, shutdown and with the air-gage reading zero; see my previous post on the importance of air on Tube trains. I had to climb into the train next door just to radio the shunters to tell them that my train wasn’t going anywhere for a while and eventually a train maintainer wandered out of the sheds to tell me to take the train two doors down.

This had been shutdown too which meant that the pressure vents had been off all night and the saloons were freezing. As I changed ends on the platform at WER three passengers yelled out at me to turn the heating on but I didn’t have time to stop and explain that the heating was on, it would just take rather a long time for them to notice it.

To add to the delay when I got to LIS the CCTV was blank. LIS is Category A, a platform where you can’t see the back cars from the front cab and so I can’t dispatch myself; once more see previous post for details. There wasn’t a member of station staff around so I called Wood Lane and thankfully they could see LIS EB on their screens. They watched me close up, confirmed that no one was stuck in the doors and then counted the cars as they left the platform.

I think some people are unaware that the Tube is one of the safest railways in the world because we have these procedures that have developed over the years and we are subject to more legislation than anywhere else. Last year I saw a train driver on the Chicago El lean out of his cab to close the doors on what was obviously a Category A; sent shivers up my spine.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

London was quiet as expected, the extra Bank Holiday was just a day off too much for most people but not everyone. I thought at first he was wearing a sort of furry red tracksuit but as I approached the gentleman in question the Super, who was escorting him towards the stairs without making physical contact, declared “The state of that!” and when the stench hit me I realised that the red fur was in fact red wine vomit.

He was coated from his neck down to his feet, I hope he lived locally as it was bitterly cold and there was no way on Earth a minicab driver was going to allow him in the back. When I found where he’d been sitting you could clearly see the “void” in the “splatter”, as they say on CSI, obviously he’d sat down, passed out and then chundered over himself. I pity the poor cleaners who had to deal with that mess.

Last night was so windy that Wood Lane wanted the first train to go coded from WER to WHC in order to check if any trees or branches had blown onto the line. It would have helped if when I changed ends to go EB I discovered that the train that Ruislip depot gave me had more than one light working or that the one light that did work had been slightly brighter than a dead firefly in a dirty jam jar.

I suppose that would require Wood Lane to communicate with the depot during the night which is just too much to ask.

Monday 2 January 2012

The good news is that LUL appear to have had an unexpected attack on sense and after a quick chat with our brand new Gen Sec have promised “meaningful” talks soon, one would imagine this week. In response ASLEF has suspended the three planned 24 hour strikes in the hope that LUL’s interpretation of “meaningful” is approximately the same as ours.

Yesterday was my first night back, for some reason the timetable had us running empty from EPP before stabling at LOU and I had to wake one sleeper so I could close up. I explained that the train was going out of service and that there were no more trains from EPP that night. Without a word he stood up and staggered off the train, wandered aimlessly up and down the platform for a while, ducked into the toilets and then the waiting room before returning to the train.

He tried pressing the door buttons to see if he could get back on and when that failed he tried to force open the doors. All doors have a little “give” to them but they will only open a couple of inches or so. When strength alone failed to gain access he changed tactics and tried to squeeze himself through the gap he’d created. After a minute or so of watching this on the CCTV and with the time to leave fast approaching I left the warmth of my cab and headed back down the platform to see what was what.

I hadn’t walked more than a few cars back when I saw that he’d given up his attempt to board the train and had resumed wandering up and down the platform. By the time I’d got back to the cab and turned everything back on there was no sign of him. He failed to reappear before the signal cleared but as I sped down to THB I was plagued by a nagging worry; what if it wasn’t him I saw on the platform, what if it was someone else and he’d managed to squeeze on board. Needless to say when I got to LOU I went back for a quick check that I wasn’t carrying anyone I shouldn’t.