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.