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.