Thursday 30 August 2012

I haven’t written as there hasn’t been much to write about, August Bank Holiday and the Notting Hill Carnival seemed very subdued compared to previous years which I guess is due to London having too much to do this year. The opening of the Paralympics means we’re back on the expanded timetable and as with the Olympics the post-1am trains are virtually deserted. Going from WER to EPP last night I’d only picked up three passengers by the time I reached MAA, there were only a dozen or half dozen at each station between there and HOL. I didn’t pick up very many more until I reached STR and the platforms were far from crowded even there.

The special timetable does appear to be causing some confusion amongst the staff, last night two of us turned up to take over the same train and we had to call the DTSM to find out which of us had got it wrong. Later there was a call asking us to do a PA enquiring if the TOp doing 723 duty was on board and if so could they please get off the train and call Wood Lane asap; one of our TOps is missing. Finally when I got off my second half this morning there was more confusion as to who was meant to be taking me off, not something you want when your bus is due to leave in 5 minutes and your duvet is calling you.

One non-train related matter is the ridiculous irony of ATOS sponsoring the Paralympics. If you don’t know ATOS is a French-based outsourcing specialist who are currently doing a wonderful job telling disabled people they’re fit to work and kicking them off benefits. The complaints against ATOS are well documented, just Google if you want more info but as the ex-Mrs shrugged is on disability allowance it is likely that at some point I’m going to have to push her wheelchair to an assessment. I just hope that wherever they send her is wheelchair-accessible, or to use her term “Crip-friendly”, as according to an investigation by the House of Commons Work and Pensions committee in May 2011 29 out of the 55 ATOS offices aren’t.

Thursday 23 August 2012

How quiet is the Tube? So quiet that for the second post running I’m veering away onto non-tube matters. While I was on my meal break I was watching the ITV news and they had a section on the proposed price increases by gas/electricity provider SSE which included a video from the CEO Ian Merchant. I thought it would be impossible to find a worse haircut than Boris but here’s a man who is on over £1m a year but can’t find a decent barber.

Set your faces to stunned……

When I showed it later to the ex-Mrs shrugged she declared “He looks like a boiled pig in a wig” but then added who the @&%$ would buy a wig that looked like that?

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Julian Assange - an opinion (non-train related)

Ok this is what happened as far as I can tell.

11 Aug 2010 - Assange arrived in Sweden for various speaking engagements.

14 Aug 2010 - First incident with Miss A who was involved with arranging his trip. She claims that they had consensual sex during which the condom split but when asked to stop Assange carried on. She claims that he had ripped it intentionally

17 Aug 2010 - Second incident with Miss W who he met at a seminar on 14 Aug 2010. She claims that they had consensual sex with a condom and then Assange started unprotected sex while she was asleep, he claims she agreed to unprotected sex.

At some time over the next three days Miss A and Miss W discussed the incidents and went to the police.

18 Aug 2010 - Assange applied for a residence permit to live and work in Sweden believing that the country’s laws protecting “whistleblowers” would make it an excellent base for Wikileaks. It was turned down in October.

20 Aug 2010 - An arrest warrant is issued for sexual molestation(subject to a fine or maximum 2 years) with Miss A and minor rape (maximum sentence 4 years) with Miss W.

21 Aug 2010 - The arrest warrant was withdrawn as the Prosecutors did not feel that the rape charge would stand and while the molestation charge was valid it wasn’t serious enough to justify a warrant. The women’s lawyer lodged an appeal.

30 Aug 2010 - Assange is interviewed for an hour.

1 Sep 2010 - The Prosecutor who handles sexual crimes re-opened the rape case.

15 Sep 2010 - The Prosecutor told Assange’s lawyer that he could leave Sweden at any time. When the Prosecutor asked the lawyer to arrange a second interview he claimed that he was unable to contact Assange.

27 Sep 2010 - The Prosecutor informed his lawyer that an arrest warrant would be issued to force him to attend an interview. Assange left Sweden later that day

22 Oct 2010 – Wikleaks release 391,832 US Army field reports from the Iraq War.

18 Nov 2010 – The District Court of Stockholm authorised an arrest warrant on a charge of rape, a charge of duress/unlawful coercion and two charges sexual molestation which was later upheld by the Court of Appeal.

28 Nov 2010 – Wikileaks release the first 220 of 251,287 documents from US Embassies.

6 Dec 2010 – Scotland Yard informed Assange that a European Arrest Warrant had been received and he handed himself in the next morning.

16 Dec 2010 – Assange is granted £240k bail provided he stayed at his friend Vaughan Smith’s home in Norfolk. Smith, a journalist and founder of the Frontline Club, put up £20k along with Jemima Khan, Ken Loach, John Pilger, Michael Moore and others.

Note. I missed a stage, I added this later

7 Feb 2011 to 30 May 2012 – the extradition process goes through the Magistrates Court, which he lost, onto the High Court, which he won and then finally to the Supreme Court who overturned the High Court decision.

14 June 2012 – The Supreme Court rejected Assange’s bid to reopen his appeal but granted a two week grace period before extradition proceedings could begin during which time he could have made an appeal to the European Courts of Human Rights.

Back to the original

19 Jun 2012 – Assange walked into the Ecuadorian Embassy and claimed asylum. Smith said he is shocked that Assange had breached his bail conditions and that he stood to lose the £20k while Khan expressed her surprise and that she had expected him to confront his accusers.

At worst he’s guilty of minor rape under Swedish law, at best he’s no gentleman. Any woman stupid enough to agree to have sex with him knows what to expect but at least it won't cost them £20k to get screwed by Assange unlike Smith, Khan and the rest. Maybe the lesson to be learnt from all of this is that when the lady says “No” she means “NO”.

Monday 20 August 2012

A lovely sunny Sunday, perfect weather to drive with the door open and sadly sometimes you get what you wish for. I’d been to EAB and back then round the loop to WOO via HAI with no problems but the moment I opened up the cab after changing ends on 21 Road I was assaulted by an alarm. DTS cheerfully informed me this was a “Round Train Circuit Fault”; the Round Train Circuit being one of the many safety features we have. Normally when the Round Train Alarm goes off you’ve failed to stow the TBC in the cab you’ve just come from or you’ve accidently knocked one of the Emergency Buttons but DTS will normally tell you where the problem is and this one was an unspecified fault without listing where on the train the problem was.

I tripped the Round Train MCB in the cab but that didn’t help so I called up Wood Lane to warn them that I might be late out and they said they’d wait until I gave them the all clear before letting me out of the siding. When I checked the DTS it had located the problem in Car 2 so I went back, tripped the MCB there but still no joy. Just to make sure I went back to the rear cab to check the TBC, the Emergency Buttons and the Round Train MCB there but they were all fine. Another try on the MCB in the cab and another try on the MCB in Car 2 did nothing.

Wood Lane then suggested the problem might be a figment of DTS’s imagination so they cleared the signal for me and I tried to get movement. No such luck; nothing with Coded or Restricted Manual and it was only when I operated the Round Train Cutout Switch that I finally got a brake release. So off I went round the Loop at a ponderous 15kph and into the depot via GRH. You can’t actually go straight into the depot from GRH, you have to go up the Wash Road, change ends to go up the North Neck which can be seen behind the platform at GRH and then into the yard itself. When I changed ends on the Wash Road I found that I had Coded Manual but when I went up the North Neck I still got the Round Train Alarm at the other end; this was one seriously messed up train.

I finally got off the train in the depot half an hour after I should have handed it over to the relieving TOp at HAI. By the time I’d walked out of the depot and got a train back to LES I had only 10 minutes before I was due to pick up my second half. Annoyingly Wood Lane had failed to tell the DTSM on the desk that I was the one having problems and he had to hurriedly summon a spare to cover my EPP and back so I could have my meal break. The worst thing is that I keep trying to think if I might have forgotten something that I should have tried. I’d checked all the manuals we carry around with us in our Train Equipment Bag and couldn’t find anything but still there is that seed of doubt that I missed something very basic that I’ll be kicking myself over later.

There’s never an IOp around when you need one.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Ok here’s something you might not know. In the cab of the 92s we have something called the countdown clock which basically does what it says; we open the doors, the clock starts counting down from twenty seconds or however much “dwell time” we have depending on time of day and/or location and when it reaches two seconds it gives us three loud chimes to tell us it’s time to close the doors.

It’s linked with the dot-matrix destination boards over the platforms and a clever little feature is that when the countdown clock reaches ten seconds and the “station starter” signal is clear the dot-matrix board starts flashing “Mind the doors”. If when the countdown clock reaches ten seconds the signal is at danger it will stop the countdown clock and delay the dot-matrix flashing until it clears. So if you see the dot-matrix start flashing then it’s time to go, stop faffing around and get on the bloody train!

If the gap between my train and the train behind is getting too long then Wood Lane can add time to the countdown clock and hold me at a platform for longer in order to "regulate" the service which was what happened yesterday during the evening peak when we had a problem on a train behind me.

If you didn’t know about the countdown clock and the dot-matrix board then you knew as much as 90% of the Station Staff doing SATS who stick the baton up in the air and inform the passengers over the PA that the train is ready to leave when I’m sat on a red signal or when I’ve still got 20 seconds on the clock. Kudos to LIS EB, the only person who got it right between HOL and MIE last night.

Hopefully now I've told you someone will tell them......

Sunday 12 August 2012

So that was the Olympics and apart from a few shut downs early on it wasn’t the transport apocalypse predicted. Although we were running an hour later than normal and the last trains were virtually empty there were still some die-hard drunks that gave some mini cab driver a welcome bonus. On Thursday there was a gentleman who got off at EPP and was heading over the bridge towards Plat. 1 in search of a train back into town but when informed that the last train was long gone admitted that this wasn’t the first time he’d found himself here.

At least he knew what to expect unlike the couple I discovered last night sleeping at WER, him with his head thrown back resting on the pressure vents and her collapsed on his shoulder with her hair all over her face, a scene so touching it almost seemed a pity to wake them. After I’d roused them from slumber they took a few seconds to take in their surroundings before eventually hauling each other off the train in a commendable example of team work and stumbling off up the platform without any complaint. I’d reached the front end of the train before the Station Super informed them that there were no more trains EB but I could still clearly hear her howl of “You’ve got to be joking!!!” from 130 metres.

Thursday 9 August 2012

LOCOG have got their knickers in a twist over a photo posted on Twitter by an Australian BMX rider of a bucket of condoms in the Olympic Village supporting the rumours that the athletes are celebrating their success to the max. LOCOG’s problem is that the condoms aren’t by Durex, the official supplier to the 2012 games.

Free condoms have been supplied ever since Sydney 2000 when demand outstripped the 70000 supplied, 100000 were handed out at Beijing and even more this year. Maybe if the government wants more sports participation then they should stop closing playing fields and starting handing out free rubber johnnies with gym memberships.

Where's me trainers.........

In a follow up to yesterday's post someone over at Londonist has been at the calculator and worked out that the cable car has actually averaged 906 passengers per hour as it is currently open until midnight rather than its usual closing time of 9pm. In addition the much hailed 10 year £36m sponsorship deal with Emirates is subject to meeting certain targets and will be reduced if these aren't met.

We’re still quiet down here on the Tube.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

The Olympic timetable appears to be coping with the 7% rise in passenger numbers, in fact if anything we seem to have overestimated the need. I’ve run several trains in the extra hour added on at the end of the day including a last WER and there’s hardly anyone out there.

On one trip I started at LOU around 01:00 and picked up my first passenger at SNA only for him to get off at LES where I picked up a couple. There were half a dozen at LEY followed by a couple of dozen at STR, most of who got off at MIE. I don’t think I saw more than a dozen people at any other station on the way with STP, BOS, LAG and QUE all being empty when I arrived and when I finally reached EAB there were only four people left. For a train that can hold over a thousand people I doubt if I had more than a two hundred on board over the entire journey

Another mode of transport suffering from underuse is the cable car across the Thames. Having boasted that it would carry 2500 people per hour or 35000 per day it has been revealed that over the first 14 days it was opened it managed just over 20000 per day. Despite these figures and despite splashing loads of tax payers’ money on it after promising that it wouldn't cost us a penny Boris boasted yesterday that it “is fast becoming an iconic way of traversing the Thames and an important link for Londoners living in the east of our city”.

I hereby promise that I will ritually disembowel the next person who declares something to be “iconic”. For the sake of the English language.

Sunday 5 August 2012

Apart from being obviously busier around Stratford yesterday was pretty normal for a Saturday, even noticeably quiet up the West End no matter what Jeremy Hunt says. I did overhear a signal engineer saying that the failure at BEG on Friday morning was the result of a part that had exceeded its life expectancy and perhaps should have been replaced some time ago.

It would appear that we are still struggling with the difference between economy and efficiency but then when the Treasury cut billions from TfL’s budget it’s ludicrous to expect the Tube not to suffer. One day someone will realise that investment in public transport is vital to maintaining a successful city, benefing the wider economy, enabling businesses to thrive thus generating more tax returns for HM government however I doubt if it will be in my lifetime. Rant over.

I ended the shift by closing up the train at WER and then taking it empty all the way back EB, I have no idea why this was but I wasn’t the only “Special” running after the last train had gone. I lost count of the number of stations I went through that still had passengers staring hopefully at the approaching train and then sorrowfully trudging away as I sailed past at a majestic 20kph without stopping. I almost felt guilty……

Saturday 4 August 2012

Please accept my apologies for not writing, not only I’ve been helping a friend who recently lost a close relative but I’ve spent most of the last few days spare so there hasn’t been much to write about. I wasn’t on duty when that train caught fire at LEY or the signal failed at BEG but hopefully I will be a bit more productive over the rest of the Olympic period.