Monday 30 April 2012

A young pregnant black woman pops into KFC on her way home from work, gets racially abused by another customer and a fight ensues. Despite the police deciding that there were no charges to answer her employers obtain the CCTV footage and decide there is enough cause to sack her after 8 years service for gross misconduct.

Ladies and gentleman, coming to an Employment Tribunal and undoubtedly yet another threatened strike near you, I present the case of Customer Service Assistant Dayna Nembhard. London Underground, not content with the mauling they took over Arwyn Thomas and Eamonn Lynch last year, are poking the RMT pit bull once more, giving them another chance to display the depths of crass stupidity our management are prepared to stoop to.

And you wonder why we all join a Union.

The rain has been having it usual effect on ATO and the winds have been so bad that Wood Lane have been asking the first trains along the open sections to go Coded Manual in case anything had fallen across the tracks. I’ve heard that the “driverless” trains will have some sort of detection device that will stop the train before they hit any obstructions, let’s just hope that it will be able to tell the difference between a tree and a copy of the Metro or someone who’s fallen off the platform and a pigeon.

The only observation over the last few days is that the new blue upholstery seems to be far more comfortable than the old red stuff or so the number of people I’ve discovered stretched out on the seats asleep would suggest.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Yesterday the RMT confirmed that it has “commenced a High Court action for defamation on Boris Johnson over his Not Ken Again poster campaign which falsely portrays our General Secretary Bob Crow as being part of a culture of political immorality and as having caused serious harm to the interests of people in London.”

The last bit refers to Ken and Labour just in case you hadn’t worked it out.

We’re even shorter of TOps than last week; one of our number has a family bereavement to cope with while another had a one-under at DEB early Sunday morning and will be off until she gets the all clear from Occupational Health. The slightly worrying thing about this was that I said “hello” to the TOp involved as we passed on the stairs when she was going to pick up her train and I was heading for home. Half an hour earlier and it could have been me sending a “Mayday” to Wood Lane and spending months off with the shrinks.

The word going round the depot, not always reliable, is that the man survived but the TOp was pretty shaken up after she’d stopped as the victim had been dragged along and she could see his legs sticking out from under the train. As with every TOp who experiences something like this I wish her a speedy recovery and a quick return to work while to my other colleague I send my deepest condolences having suffered a similar bereavement myself last year.

Saturday 21 April 2012

It doesn’t happen often but last night I found myself wishing that I was spending Friday night out on the town like all the normal people; shift work can serious mess with any social life you have. Just as well I’ve got two weeks off in May, this job can wear you down.

A very placid week, not one sleeper to rouse when I reached the end of the line, no major incidents and then yesterday a true five-star moment as I took the last train through the West End. A couple staggered out of the front car at MAA, he sat on the nearest bench while she sat on the floor by the headwall or so it seemed from the CCTV. The member of station staff, I think it was the Super, who’d come down to see me out started walking up the platform towards them and I thought he was just trying to get them back on.

When I opened the cab door I could hear him furiously shouting for her to stop and looking down I could see that rather than sat against the wall she was squatting with her leggings pulled down and was busy creating an ever widening pool around her feet. She finished, pulled up her leggings and staggered to rejoin her companion. The Super demanded to know what she thought she was doing, suggested she should clean it up and told me to go. So I shut the doors and left them on the platform, if they wanted to get somewhere they were going to have to get a night bus or a taxi, their welcome on London Underground for that night had just expired.

Thursday 19 April 2012

Spare yesterday; no duties needed covering by the time I booked on but the Train Maintainers had a dud in LOU sidings so I was dispatched to move it down to WOO, round into HAI depot and then return with a replacement. Unfortunately by the time Wood Lane told us about the job there wasn’t enough time to do the trip and get back to LOU platform to catch the last LES train so they had to lay on a taxi to get me back again.

I took the dud to HAI, stuck it in the sheds, walked across to the far side of the depot and took the replacement back out. It was only when I changed ends at WOO that I discovered that not everyone had received the message that this train was going out and I still had a cleaner on board. The poor man had only realised that something was wrong when we went past GRH station. He called his supervisor and I left him waiting to be retrieved at WOO.

I’ve spotted a couple of the trainees trotting behind their IOps like obedient puppies just as I did so many years ago. When an IOp has a trainee they follow the roster rather than swapping shifts around, one reason I don’t like the idea of becoming one myself is it would mean doing earlies again. Another is that while it is pretty boring sitting driving a train I think I would find it even more tedious sitting and watching someone else do it. The minuscule increase in pay doesn’t seem much of an incentive either.

I listened in to one IOp quizzing their trainee on the procedure for the dreaded mainline burst and they made some easy mistakes which had they been on a train would have caused serious delays to the service but served as an example of why we spend months training TOps before letting them loose on their own.

But awwww, aren’t they cute when they’re new.

Further to my comments yesterday on RMT last month they confirmed their support for the Trades Union and Socialist Coalition, another rebranding of the no-hope loony left that can trace it’s roots back to Militant Tendency in the 80s. If they get enough votes to earn an Assembly Member then top of the list is RMT President Alex Gordon who has been leap-frogged over long-standing leftie lawyer Nick Wrack, former chairman of both Socialist Alliance and Respect, SWP member and associate of Gorgeous George Galloway.

So the next time someone mentions Ken’s links with Unkle Bob you can dismiss them as mere inventions of Tory scaremongers desperate for some mud to stick as Boris’s polices are proving to be rather less than inspiring. Vote Ken. Or Jenny with Ken second choice. Or ditto with Brian, even if he is a LibDem.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Whoops, I overslept yesterday evening and only woke up ten minutes before I was due to book on. I called the DTSM to let them know I wouldn’t make it, had the three Ss as quick as I could and jumped the first bus. Normally they would have stuck a spare on my train and I’d have picked it up when it got back but because we are so short staffed all the spares were out so it sat on the platform waiting for me.

By the time I pulled out I was 30 minutes down which would have made everything late so rather than going up to WER I was short turned at NOA. Note to self; check your alarm tonight.

One thing that I forgotten about the threatened RMT strike action next week was that when Tube Lines was formed along with the maintenance of the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly Lines they also took over the Emergency Response Unit who amongst other things deal with One Unders. That means that if there is an emergency anywhere on the Tube during the strike period next week there will be no one to come sort it out.

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, the folk who drag mangled corpses out from under trains, pick up severed body parts and mop up the blood from the tracks, the people who are so vital to the running of the Tube that during the Olympics will be driven around by the BTP with blues and twos are not being allowed to join (or rejoin) the TfL pension scheme and do not get free travel.

Unsurprisingly Boris’s people are making a big thing of Ken’s connection with RMT. The odd thing is they supported Lesley German of Respect/Left List at the last two elections and when they offered support to him earlier this year Ken told them where to stick it. Now RMT are seeking legal action against Boris for using Bob Crow’s name on it’s anti-Ken posters but none of that has stopped the Evening Standard and Sweaty Gilligan at the Torygraph linking the two.

Now Boris is saying he’ll take on the Unions, four years ago he said he’d negotiate a no-strike deal and I expect him to stick to his pledges with the same diligence as he did last time. I would note that in Boris’s tenure there have been more days lost to industrial action than in Ken’s two terms so perhaps if you want a quieter Tube you should vote Ken.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

A while ago I mentioned the situation at Tube Lines where unlike their colleagues at Metronet staff have not been allowed to join the TfL pension scheme, in some cases rejoin, and have not been given the free travel concession.

RMT have announced that Tube Lines staff will walk out for 72 hours from 4pm next Tuesday which will mean that there will be no maintainance work on the trains and signals of the the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly Lines between Wednesday morning and Friday night.

Don't say I didn't warn you.....
A piece of good news on the staffing front, I had another look on the boards and we currently have 24 TOps in training with another three starting this week. Fourteen of those are definitely coming to LES which is just as well as we had twelve duties uncovered yesterday while HAI had six and I imagine that the other depots were in a similar state.

Regrettably this deluge of new trainees has created its own problem as we don’t have enough IOps to cover them all and I do wonder if there will be enough time to get all the training in before the Opening Ceremony.

Monday 16 April 2012

I hope the new moquette cleans easily and doesn’t stain as someone had left a rather large memento of a night’s hard drinking on one of our nice, new blue seats last night. Normally I’d have asked if the station cleaner could dear it up and if they weren’t available taken it out of service but as it was past midnight on a Sunday night, I was completely empty and only had EPP to LOU left I thought it best not to delay things as the cleaners in the sidings are better equipped to handle such matters.

One alarming bit of news is that during the Olympics the W&C will be running until 01:00 every night and also running on a Sunday. As I’ve mentioned the Central Line will be running an enhanced timetable with more and later trains while the Games are in progress, my depot provides TOps for the W&C and we are currently struggling to provide enough staff to cover the current timetable. While we will be getting around a dozen extra TOps before the summer I can’t see how we are going to avoid cancelling trains but the duty rosters will make fascinating reading when they come out.

Thursday 12 April 2012

On Tuesday there was a one-under at EAA just as I was booking on so everything between WHC and NOA was shut down for two hours. I got turned at MAA, came back out of the siding pretty sharpish, went up to EPP and had only just changed ends when the signal cleared to send me back west again. I was due to hand over the train at LOU but as I was now running half an hour early my replacement was probably still driving down the M11.

I thought it prudent to make Wood Lane aware of the situation and fortunately there was a TOp waiting on the platform at LOU whose train was still out there somewhere in the confusion. I renumbered my train into theirs, handed it over and rode the cushions to LES. The service was still a mess on the second half and as I walked towards the bus stop at the end of my shift I could hear the station PA announcing that the next EPP train was at CHL; 19 minutes on the timetable but a lot longer once you factor in passengers struggling against each other to get on and off.

Wednesday was going smoothly until I tried leaving LIS EB on my last trip. The train moved a few yards forward and then came to a juddering halt with DTS declaring that I had lost codes. I went through the procedures with no joy so I called up Wood Lane who informed me that I wasn’t the first to encounter this problem and that I should carry on in Restricted Manual until I picked up codes again. So off I went at a stately 15kph, checking that the points were actually where they should be before going over them until DTS chimed up that codes had mysteriously reappeared.

Had this been one of those all singing, all dancing, driverless trains that Boris is so keen on the Attendant would have had to fight their way to the front through a train packed with a peak time crowd. Oh but that won’t happen as the system will be perfect and won’t suffer sudden unexpected failures, will it.

Friday 6 April 2012

The Long Good Friday?

Yesterday was odd. Although it was a Thursday it appears that a lot of people had headed off for their Easter weekend early and everything had more of a Saturday feel with the City comparatively empty while the West End was heaving with plenty of alcohol consumption in evidence. Despite that this morning also feels decidedly Saturday-like, not helped by the fact we are running a Saturday service and that West Ham are playing this evening.

Not that it matters, Saturdays, Sundays, Bank Holidays are all pretty meaningless to us as we work them regardless, the only changes being that the weekend timetables have less trains more evenly spread throughout the day rather than concentrating on the two peaks. Our shift patterns change accordingly and more of us get the day off. Sunday is my rostered Rest Day but while I should be working Monday as it’s also a Saturday timetable they’ve taken one of my days Annual Leave and told me to stay at home.

Maybe Monday will feel like a Sunday………

By the way, anonymous yesterday 09.09, West Ham was not a mistake as it wasn’t a choice. You latch onto a team during your formative years, mostly by dictate of location or family allegiance, like nationality or religion, and then you stick with that until you shuffle off this mortal coil. In fact in that respect football is far more persistent than religion, many convert in later life after much soul searching and internal debate but I’ve never heard of anyone changing football teams after attaining adulthood.

Thursday 5 April 2012

Drip, drip, drop, little April showers.

The good weather couldn’t last and with the rain came the predictable ATO failures. Monday and Tuesday passed without incident but from the amount of alcohol being consumed on platforms and trains on Wednesday it would appear that the drinking ban has been all but forgotten. There were a couple of star turns; the gentleman who lunged out the closing doors at QUE and then collapsed quite dramatically onto the seats, along with the gentleman sat on the floor asleep at CHL who required the CSA’s assistance to get upright and onto the train.

I found a mobile phone when I stabled the train, the owner phoned while I was walking out of the sidings to ask where it was and I told her I'd leave it with the Station Super; hopefully they were reunited this morning.

Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before

Just to reiterate I do not speak on behalf of ASLEF, I am not an ASLEF rep just a member, nor I do not speak on behalf of my fellow employees at LUL. This blog contains my own individual thoughts, observations and opinions, I represent a constituency of one.

Not all TrainOps support West Ham, think that John Peel was a godlike genius, that the Smiths were the greatest band ever or that with a few notable exception TV has become a virtually unwatchable parade of the banal. Some TrainOps believe in God, an afterlife, that 9/11 was a US government conspiracy or even that Boris has been good for London, I do not.

I believe that London is the greatest city on earth and like 80% of LUL employees I want to give our passengers a world class service. Like 62% I believe this is an achievable goal, like 73% I feel a commitment towards the Tube but like 53% I am less than satisfied with our leadership’s ability.

Unlike 32% of my colleagues I do not trust our senior management and unlike 33% I do not think the deal honestly or openly with the staff. The figures come from LUL’s annual staff survey Speak Up ’10; for some reason there was no Speak Up ’11, perhaps because of the ticket office closures and the unfair dismissal of two TOps.

Please do not take my words as gospel, I may have misunderstood or been misinformed or be completely wrong. I have made some serious mistakes in the past (motorcycle, marriage, Hawaiian shirts, beard) but if I make an error or mislead in any way I will try to correct things as and when. I also reserve the right to change an opinion, it’s called being human, if I say one thing and then say something contradictory later it could be that I’ve reconsidered, come to a different conclusion and simply failed to make a note of it.

I still have one Hawaiian shirt in my wardrobe……

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Evening sub-Standard

Yesterday the front page of the Evening Standard declared "Now Tube drivers get £6,000 bonus for Olympics". They claim to have seen a “confidential union document” and quote a “senior ASLEF source” as saying that “If a driver worked all the opening ceremony, all the longer weekend shifts and late nights then they could earn an extra £6,200”.

For a starter they claim we’ll be getting a £1000 “thank you for working outside your agreements” payment or as some describe it a bribe to stop us going on strike. The last I heard the figure settled between ASLEF and LUL was £500 but remember that was plonked on the table by LUL at the start of negotiations without ASLEF even asking for it; if that’s changed I’ll be very, very surprised.

It does add in the Opening Ceremony bonus which wasn’t part of the original deal. This has been brought in as we will be running beyond the expected 02:30 close of traffic; apparently Danny Boyle wanted to put the start time back from 6pm to 8pm as it would not be dark enough to fully appreciate his artistry. The problem with that is it would only give us about 75 minutes between the end of the show and the last WB train and there was no way we were going to shift 80000 spectators in that time.

They go onto say that this agreement will extend over 9 weeks from the start of the Games in August until the end in September. I think it highly unlikely that LUL will run the enhanced timetable when they don’t need to so the extra payment will only be available during the two weeks and one day of the Olympics and the one week of the Paralympics and no one will be getting anything extra in the intervening weeks.

Finally they’ve calculated this whole thing by thinking that someone actually could work a shift that gets extra every day and that simply won’t happen. There will be relatively few shifts that will be affected and they will be divided between us as equally as possible. I think it unlikely that any of us will get more than one shift per week that earns the higher rate so no one, I repeat no one, will be getting an extra £6000 for working the Olympics.

All this seems to be is another stone to cast at TOps and the Unions in support of the “get tough” stance Boris has decided to adopt for his election campaign. Perhaps we engendered too much sympathy over the last few weeks with the BBC’s documentary series about the Tube so this is the ES’s way of getting the mindless masses to hate us again and back Boris.

The only thing they left out was to remind their readers that ASLEF support Ken in his bid to become Mayor again. ASLEF along with every other union (except RMT) support every Labour candidate at every election, be it national or local; why should Ken be any different?

The ES, home of shoddy journalism, can kiss my fat, overpaid arse.

Monday 2 April 2012

Money for old cable part two

More cable theft discovered this morning between LOU and DEB, trains were running through but at reduced speeds while BTP went about investigating and the repair crew were hard at work trying to get things back to normal for the morning peak. A government report last November estimated that cable theft could have cost LUL up to £4m a year and though it is still not as frequent as on the mainline it does appear to be on the increase.

One interesting suggestion was the installation of 12000 CCTV cameras across the 140-odd miles of track that are above ground though as most cable thefts happen after dark they’d need to have some sort of night vision and you’d need somebody actually watching them for signs of scallywaggery.

I can’t see that ever happening as I somehow suspect that it would cost a lot more than £4m a year to buy the equipment, maintain it and employ all the staff needed to sit staring at the screens all night making it cheaper to let the nocturnal scavengers carry on nicking stuff and suffer the subsequent disruption.

Sunday 1 April 2012

Where did we go right?

Once again I’ve not written as there’s been nothing to write about, everything going to timetable while I’ve been on, no major upsets, the usual ATO/ATP problems, plenty of rucksacks holding the doors open but other than that it’s been smooth running.

I even had one day spare where the rosters and the Mafias conspired to give us no uncovered duties while I was there. I finished off an early turn with an EPP and back at the start but didn’t touch a train again until the end of my shift when I took a dud from LOU to HAI and then took a good train back to replace it.

On top of that the weather’s been so good I’ve been driving in Coded with the cab door open whenever I had the chance. All in all a good time to be working the Central Line.

It can’t possibly last……

I've just checked and in March I received 3700 views, my highest figure to date, just a shame there was so little to report.