Tuesday 31 December 2013

Yesterday as I was changing ends at EAB I was approached by a softly spoken young man who asked me if I was an Instructor Operator which would seem a strange question but was perfectly unsurprising to me as it was followed by a predictable request to ride in the cab.  Only IOps are allowed to have unauthorised people in the cab but they have to arrange it with their TOM or from 55 Broadway beforehand, you can’t just take people on board without prior permission.  Earlier this year a notice went up on the boards clearly stating who we could allow in the cabs so obviously this is something they’re tightening up on and I’ve no desire to earn a P45 or get shunted back down to stations.

He asked me if I knew if there was an IOp on the next train in but I hadn’t got the slightest idea, we have no idea who is in front or behind us unless we actually meet up while changing ends, and repeated that even if there was they weren’t allowed to take members of the public in the cab without permission.  He then told me that he’d just been on a Piccadilly Line train with an IOp, which I pointed out was a great way for that IOp to get the sack and then he claimed he had a video permit from 55 but while that allows people to film on LUL property it still isn’t a cab permit.

Finally he asked if he could have a look inside the cab before I set off and once again I refused; no cab permit, no entry.  Denied he wandered off, undoubtedly to try his luck with the next train.   And I thought train spotters were bad……..

Thursday 12 December 2013

Despite the whole Boxing Day dispute being settled in the summer it has suddenly become news again with the amazing talking genital wart who masquerades as Tory Assembly Member Richard Tracey expressing his utter outrage that on top of £46k pa and 43 days leave we're now getting triple pay if we volunteer to work 26th December.

I’m sure I’ve said all this before but for those who didn’t know our salary is on a par with train drivers working for the mainline privatised TOCs, if I spoke French I could go earn a hell of a lot more on Eurostar.  We get 28 days statutory paid holiday, 8 days for bank holidays, 6 days for working 36 hours but only getting paid for 35 and one day for no reason I’ve ever been able to work out.  All those days are split into four two week blocks which are allocated on a rota basis apart from one day which gets used for Christmas and two spare days.

By agreeing that TOps cannot move depots for 18 months we’re saving LUL the same as it costs to pay 800 TOps the Boxing Day bonus, they wanted something from us, we wanted something from them, we did a deal and everyone is happy.  Amusingly the word going around the depots is that so few people wanted to work Boxing Day this year that LUL had to use the option of telling those TOps who’d been with us the shortest time they’d have to come into work and get paid triple time when they would rather have stayed at home.

Lazy train drivers?  Maybe but greedy, apparently not.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Okay I’ve been looking at the proposals for stations, I think I understand but if I’ve got anything wrong in all this then I apologise and will happily correct my error.

At the moment stations are divided into 38 Groups with a Group Station Manager at the top and a bunch of Duty Station Managers under them, just as each Depot has a TOM with DTSMs and TOSMs.  Each station has Supervisors with CSAs on the barriers and platforms, ticket offices are occupied either by Station Assistant Multi-Functionals or the Super while the larger stations have Station Assistant Control Rooms monitoring the CCTV and making PAs.

Under the new system stations will be divided into categories; there will be 6 “Gateway”, 29 “Destination”, 102 “Metro”, 64 “Local A” and 61 “Local B”.  The Gateway stations will be Euston, Heathrow 123, King’s Cross/St. Pancras, Liverpool Street, Paddington and Victoria; these will be only ones to retain ticket offices although we won’t call them that, they’ll be “Travel Centres” or some such nonsense.  There’s already been a few mutterings about Waterloo and London Bridge being left off the list but no doubt they’ll sort that out.

“Destinations” are pretty much the same as “Gateways” without the Travel Centre and all but eight are in Zone 1.  The rest of the Zone 1 stations are “Metro” along with all the Section 12 and more complex stations in other Zones.  The rest are divided up into Locals with the Bs being the simpler stations where all you have is two platforms and a ticket hall with stairs or a ramp in between.

The groups will be replaced by 97 Areas, ranging between 1 to 8 stations, with an Area Manager-Stations replacing the GSMs.  Supervisors will be replaced with two grades of Customer Service Managers and Customer Service Supervisors, SAMFs and SACRs will be scrapped, CSAs will become CSA1s and there will be a new grade, CSA2, which will be a customer service only with no actual railway qualification.  Gateways and Destinations will be run by a CSM1 with CSS in the ticket hall and control room plus as many CSA1s and CSA2s as necessary.  Metros will have a CSM2 supported by CS1s, Local As will have a CSS and Local Bs will be staffed with CSA1s only with a mobile CSM2 supervising a number of stations.

Currently there are 38 GSMs, 190 DSMs, 1771 SSs, 1450 SAMFs/SACRs and 2224 CSAs, a total of 5673 station staff although that isn’t actual employees, that’s how many positions there are, no doubt a fair number of those have become vacant and haven’t been filled, something LUL allowed to happen before the last reorganisation.  In the future there will be 97 AM-Ss, 336 CSM1s, 635 CSM2s, 666 CSSs, 2500 CSA1s and 486 CSA2s, a total 4720 with 953 jobs disappearing. 

What is obvious from these figures is that what has been touted as a closure of ticket offices is actually a cull across the board above the level of CSA.  While the GSMs transfer smoothly into AM-S jobs it leaves the DSMs chasing the remaining 59 positions or competing for the CSMs positions with SSs. Similarly the SSs who don't get CSMs places are tussling with the SACRs/SAMFs for CSSs with the possibility that some of the latter could be downgraded to CSA1.   While I've been told that wages will be protected for three years the fear among station staff I've spoken to is that anyone downgraded could face a rather large wage cut in 2018.

Unsurprisingly all this change is not being received well down at the gritty end, the “uniforms” are confused, worried about the future, morale is rock bottom and there is talk of strikes while the “suits” inhabiting the lofty pinnacles of 55 Broadway seem to be totally unaware of the unrest and carry on serenely as if everything is wonderful.  For the train side there doesn’t seem to be much difference but should I have a problem at THB or PER in the future instead of a Super with many years of experience under their belt coming to my assistance it could be a CSA1 with only a few months on the job.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Staying on the subject of things that annoys me I use the bus quite a bit and I’ve noticed recently that some people have taken to getting off the bus by the front door rather than the middle with the obvious result of meeting those getting on.  When did that start and why does it predominantly seem to be the elderly?

There’s also a growing tendency for people to stay in their seat until the bus has stopped before standing up to get off which causes significant delays when they are on the top deck.  Now I happily accept that from the elderly, disabled and those encumbered with children or other impedimenta but this seems to be a growing habit among the perfectly able young and middle-aged who could quite easily move towards the exit while the bus is in motion.

Then there are those that stand in the doorway, blocking those getting off but making no effort to get out of the way along with those who stand on the stairs, they annoy the hell out of me.  Or the people who wait at the bus stop, watch it as it approaches then only search for their Oyster Card once they’ve boarded the bus.  Or those who are plugged into their iPods so they don’t hear that their Oyster hasn’t swiped, making it necessary for the bus driver to bellow in order to attract their attention.  It all seems so self-centred, self-absorbed, discourteous and plain rude.  Am I old fashioned or just getting old and grumpy?  Meh......

On another transport matter I’ve just read that he Chinese conglomerate that owns Manganese Bronze, the makers of black cabs threatened with closure recently, have announced that they will be keeping the company open, expanding the workforce and eventually producing an electric version.  I heartily welcome the news, I’m a huge fan of the old familiar, friendly rounded shape of black cabs with its welcoming amber light on top, a beacon of hope on a cold winters night, but I will miss the distinctive chug of the four cylinder diesel engine, the comforting noise heralding that home was only a cab ride away. Maybe they could fit the electric ones with a MP3 player that reproduces the sound.

Monday 2 December 2013

I seem to be regarded as a reasonably cheerful soul, in the past some have commented how happy I seem when I’m at work but I simply explain that every day when I book on I think to myself “at least I’m not on stations any more”.  However there are things that annoy the hell out of me (no, really, you all gasp in amazement) and anyone who has read this blog will be aware that I get rather irritated by the people in the Control Room at Wood Lane and their calls over the radio; yesterday they were exceptionally annoying.

Just like our poor passengers who have to suffer the automated announcements every ten minutes informing them that “there is a good service on all LUL lines” we get something similar from Wood Lane, except it’s only every half hour and it’s not a recording, it’s the Line Information Assistant.  This in itself is not annoying but for some reason yesterday after telling us that all was well in the world of LUL, LO and DLR he added that “the W&C will resume at 06:15 Monday”.  Even when he modified his half hourly announcement to mention a delay on the Circle and H&C he added the blurb about the W&C.

Now I don’t know if he’d been told to do this or if he thought this would be helpful but I doubt if there’s a TOp on the Central Line who doesn’t know that the W&C is closed on a Sunday and the only ones who care that it reopens precisely at 06:15 are the dead early turns from LES depot who will be driving the first trains down there.  We did get a reprieve for about an hour when there were no announcements at all, probably when our chatty friend was off on his meal break.

While he was absent another denizen of Wood Lane informed us of a delay caused by a defective train at WHC but rather than simply telling us that he also gave us the train number and that it would be going to HAI depot empty.  Five minutes later he declared that the train was on the move, again stating the number, its destination and that it was sans passengers then he came back a few minutes later to tell us that it had reached QUE.  I was wondering if we were going to get regular updates on the train’s progress all the way to HAI but the W&C obsessive returned from their break and we heard no more of the faulty train which we must assume reached its destination without further mishap. 

While I will admit that I complain about Wood Lane not giving us enough detail and in the last week we’ve had a repeat of the annoying “platforms and hold” with no explanation but there is a difference between giving us the relevant information when we need it and yesterday’s somewhat pointless announcements.  Nothing major but bloody annoying when you're on a six-pipe 8 hour turn on a pleasantly sunny winter's Sunday wishing you were at home, out walking the dog or sat in a pub watching the footy.

Friday 29 November 2013

I got a call from Wood Lane at BAN EB to tell me that I’d be met at LIS by station staff to investigate a report that some “Eastern European” men were being “aggressive” in Car 5.  At STP I’d noticed four men get off Car 5 who seemed to be engaged in a highly animated conversation, lots of finger pointing, confrontational body language, the sort of thing you learn to recognise when you’ve worked on a ticket barrier for five years.  I told Wood Lane that I thought they’d already left the train and said the same thing to the Super at LIS after he’d failed to find anything.  The BTP were also in attendance but I have no idea if they went off in pursuit of the offensive foursome or not.

Later at GRE WB I was closing the doors when a man staggered off the train around car 3, fell back onto the closing doors and then pitched forward again.  He was assisted to the bench on the platform by some other passengers and was sitting down on his own when I left.  I called Wood Lane to ask them to inform the Super at GRE that the first possible drunk of the evening had arrived and was at the far end of the platform, when I returned he was gone.  Once more I have no idea of the outcome, whether he was drunk or ill, whether he needed help or whether he left under his own steam but that is the nature of the job, we see things, we report them but rarely do we ever find out what happened.

Maybe I should start a book; “Half-finished tales of the Tube”.  Speaking of books I can thoroughly recommend Morrissey’s Autobiography, I’m not going to hazard a guess how much of it is true or how much of it is a product of his glorious imagination but it’s a beautiful example of the man’s love of words, like a Smiths song that goes on for 600+ pages.  If you like the Smiths buy it for someone you love, if you don’t then buy it for someone you loathe.

Monday 25 November 2013

I’m on Rest Day today and tomorrow and I think I need it.  Usually I start my PAs by saying “This is a (insert destination) train” or “This train calls all stations to (wherever)" however last night at LES EB I started by saying “This is a train", which while factually correct was slightly unnecessary as I think everyone knew that already.  I couldn’t stop giggling until SOW.

Saturday 23 November 2013

Two more things that have crossed my mind regarding 24 hour running, firstly is the trains, are they going to be up to it.  The timetable we started in September has meant that the trains are spending more time on the line than they did before which naturally means they spend less time in the depot with less time for maintenance and the rise in number going defective has been noticeable.   There’s a rumour going around the mess rooms that quite a few are being sent out with minor defects as the train maintainers simply don’t have time to deal with them, losing the whole of Friday and Saturday night will give them even less time to work so the obvious conclusion is that unless we hire loads more staff in the depots we’re going to see a lot more trains breaking down while in service.

The other thing that occurred touches on the City, we were told that the Waterloo and City Line was staying open later on weekdays and Saturdays due to demand but the Northern Line will only be running 24 hours on the Charing Cross branch.  If there’s enough demand to keep the W&C open then surely there’s a lot more demand for the City branch.  Just vaguely contradictory but I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation other than all of this is just an attempt to make it look like Boris has actually achieved something during his 8 years as chairman of TfL other than the pointless cable car, his unwanted bus and his increasingly questionable bicycle policies.
I had to smile at the suggestions in the media that Boris was doing this to make it easier for people to party in London, remembering that this is the man whose first action on becoming mayor was to ban alcohol on public transport.

Friday 22 November 2013

Well I suppose I’d better say something, how about “told you so”.

Apart from a few big stations all ticket offices are closing, exactly what I predicted when they announced the introduction of Oyster, exactly why I chose to switch from stations to trains over ten years ago.  Boris made a ridiculous statement when asked about his 2008 pledge to keep every ticket office open, claiming that the advances in technology over the last 6 years had changed things, laughable when this was planned before the position of Mayor even existed.  He also said it was doubtful we'd need "more old-fashioned drivers in the train" which contradicted LUL's statement that they’d need 200 more TOps to run the Tube all night on Fridays and Saturdays; obviously a detail he didn't do.

RMT and TSSA are predictably making a lot of noise but I doubt if the station staff have much enthusiasm for a fight after last time, the ones I’ve talked to seem reconciled to the inevitable so why lose a day’s pay in a pointless strike, it would just be banging your head against a brick wall.  Nearly a thousand jobs will go although we are told there will be no compulsory redundancies, they’ve probably already got rid of some by not filling vacancies over the last year or two, retirement will deal with a few more and some will follow my career path to fill those 200 new TOp jobs.

Apparently we’re copying some maintenance system they use in Hong Kong to make 24 hour running possible, I’m not sure if it’s a new machine or a different procedure but oddly the MTR doesn’t run 24 hours, it keeps pretty much the same hours we do.  We’ve got two years to sort out the timetables and rosters, to negotiate any changes to our terms and conditions but I’m sure none of you will be surprised to hear that I am somewhat less than enthusiastic about the prospect of having to work nights again.

Doing seven nights in a row messed with my sleep and health, what doing late shifts for three days, switching to two nights, having Sunday off and then going back to a late shift on Monday is going to do to  my system, or anyone else’s, is a worry.  I might consider putting in a transfer to Barking or Upminster as the District won’t be running at night, at least until they get ATO in 2018.  I might even look at Crossrail if they have a depot over this side of town and there’s London Overground at Stratford, that would suit me, I’m sure my contact there could sort me out.

Interesting times.

Saturday 16 November 2013

Sometimes you just have to smile.   This afternoon at LAG WB a party of about twenty small children got on the front car with their supervising adults and crammed into the seats directly behind the cab.  From there until they got off at EAB they squealed every time the train moved off, accelerated or braked, whether out of joy or fear or both I have no idea but I’ve never felt more like the operator of a fairground waltzer, I had to resist the temptation to pick up the PA and say “scream if you want to go faster!!!!"

Perhaps I should have checked the seats to see if any of them were damp.......

Sunday 10 November 2013

Friday was a bad day, at around 15:45 there was a “one under” at NOR which shut down the WER branch for 90 minutes, thankfully the victim survived but it seems that he tried to jump under a train at GRE earlier that afternoon.  The TOp involved will be off the trains until he and Occupational Health think he’s ready to come back, we’re unlikely to see him this side of New Year but when he does he’ll have an IOp in the cab to monitor him for the first few weeks.  Some TOps don’t come back at all, they simply can’t face driving a train again and end up getting a job elsewhere on the Tube.

Obviously with the WER branch suspended we had a lot of trains with nowhere to go so as I approached WHC I was told to tip out, go into the sidings and then come back out when it was time for me to go back east.  The EB platforms were packed from SHB to LES even though two trains had gone in front of me while I was on the platform at WHC, both of which were HAI via NEP and unsurprisingly when I got onto the EPP branch the platforms were abnormally busy.

Even when I got to EPP there were a good two or three dozen people waiting to go WB at a time when no more than half a dozen would be expected.  As I left DEB Wood Lane called up to inform me that the TOp who was meant to take me off at LOU was still somewhere around WER, there was no spare available to cover and I should put the train away.  Needless to say I encountered some rather frustrated passengers as I closed up, especially as the next train wasn’t due for ten minutes and they were still there when I got back to the platform after walking out of the sidings.

I got back to LES to find that my next train had been shunted away somewhere but while I was on my meal relief a train arrived on Plat. 2 with no one to take it over so they kindly made that into my train.  I ended up with the minimum 30 break between trains before I was away again, probably the only train on the whole of the Central Line running on time. 

One annoying thing I noticed recently is that one of the people up at Wood Lane makes “platforms and hold” calls without giving a reason, not much use when we are required to inform our passengers over the PA whenever we are being held at a signal or at a station and we can’t tell them why.  We have a choice of guess, make things up or share our ignorance; I opt for the later.

Friday 8 November 2013

Further information on the cat of NOA, apparently we did have a ladder long enough as it was LUL’s Emergency Response Unit who rescued it and it showed its gratitude by running off the moment it got back down to earth; if you’d been stuck up on a bridge for 24 hours or more you’d need to find a bush pronto.  How it got there no one knows and the cat was obviously too embarrassed to offer any explanation.
Meanwhile the jellyhead GLA Tories are at it again, telling TfL that they could cut fares with money saved through getting rid of Dependents passes, getting the private sector to sponsor stations and changing our pension scheme.

They claim that they could save £17m by assuming that every Dependent’s pass is the equivalent of a Zone 1-6 yearly Travelcard but the obvious flaw in this calculation is that very few dependents would buy a 6 zone Travelcard if they didn’t have their pass.  My “dependant”, the ex-Mrs shrugged (yes, we’re still sharing Chez shrugged, a somewhat less than perfect situation), uses her card two or three times a year to travel into town from Zone 3, there wouldn’t be much saved from withdrawing her pass.

As for the suggestion that stations could be sponsored they claim that TfL’s estimates are exaggerated and cite the cost of advertising the recent closure of Blackfriars, a mere £8500, but that didn’t involve an actual name change, as one TfL spokesperson said it was simply a case of putting a black cross over the station name on maps, cheap and easy compared to changing all the signage on a station, etc, etc.

While I might be critical of LUL’s management in this blog I certainly do not underestimate the enthusiasm of their advertising and media department who would happily sell their grandmothers with LUL logos on if there was a market.  I have no doubt that if they thought that they could raise extra funding by getting the private sector to sponsor stations they’d be doing it already, the fact that they had an opportunity once before and it ended up being too expensive is all the evidence I need that this idea is a non-starter.

However the pension scheme is the really dangerous suggestion and while LUL’s management have on occasions displayed the tact and diplomacy of a drunken wildebeest even they aren’t stupid enough to open up that can of worms.  Any attempt to mess with our pensions would lead to an unprecedented event, industrial action by all three Unions in combination.  Apart from the Boxing Day dispute we’ve not lost a single day to industrial action since RMT walked out over the unfair dismissals in January 2011, every dispute has been settled by negotiation and no one on either side wants to rock the boat let alone capsize it.
Perhaps the Tories want a strike, they keep going on and on about how strikes should be made illegal on the Tube, they even got David Cameron to parrot their line and it must be quite frustrating that 2013 could be the first year with a single strike in a long while.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

I'm back.  So what’s been happening in the last two months while I’ve been idle?  Not much really, just the same old same old, the new timetable came in, we have less turnaround time which seems to leave us constantly running late, I seem to be working down the W&C more often thanks to the expanded service but otherwise it’s pretty much business as usual.

The big news yesterday was the cat that got stuck on a ledge on a road bridge over the track just west of NOA, it was first spotted up there on Monday and wasn’t rescued until Tuesday.  From what little information I managed to glean the bridge belongs to Network Rail so we weren’t allowed to get it down, I don’t think we had a ladder long enough anyway and I have heard a rumour that one WHC TOp refused to take their train underneath the distressed moggy.  If I get any more details I will pass it on but at least there was a happy ending to the story, if anyone has a photo of the cat please send it to aslefshrugged@gmail.com
More to come later

Monday 9 September 2013

Over the last week I’ve managed to find out more about the incident at HOP through various sources and for starters it wasn’t a brake fault it was a “flashover” on one of the motors which sounds dramatic but in fact is no more life threatening than a dragging brake.

The train was stopped by someone pulling down a Passenger Emergency Alarm in Car 2 and the TOp tried to find out what the problem was by speaking to the passenger over the “talkback”.  The passenger must have said “fire” which the TOp misheard this as “fight”, not unexpected on August Bank Holiday in W11, but when you consider all the noise the other passengers were making in the background, the noise of the PEA alarm in the cab and that some of the talkbacks are about as clear as talking through two baked bean tins with a bit of string stretched between them it is not surprising the TOp couldn’t hear what the passenger was saying.

The TOp informed Wood Lane, as the train was partway into the tunnel they couldn’t open the doors so they had to walk back through the train to investigate and reset the PEA.  It was only when they got to Car 2 that they noticed the smoke, calmed the passengers, alerted Wood Lane of the situation, went back to the cab and opened the doors.  It was only when the TOp got back to the cab that they found that handles had been pulled down on every car from 3 back to 8 but all that, from the handle being pulled down to the doors opening, took less than four minutes. 

The reason why there were no station staff on the platform was that there actually was a fight going on upstairs and everyone was up there trying to deal with it so when they were told there was another incident going on down on the platform they had to scramble down the spiral staircase. The bloke in the green hi-vi who arrives first is the “team leader” and I have absolutely no idea what they actually do, we didn’t have them when I was on stations.

So what have we learnt from this; that smoke in a train doesn’t mean you’re about to die because there is very little on a Tube train that will actually burn, that if you say “fire” it could be misheard as “fight”, especially when the Notting Hill Carnival is on, so it would be better to say “smoke” and that no matter how many staff you have on a station they can’t be two places at once.

Sunday 1 September 2013

I suppose everyone has now heard about the smoking train at HOP on Sunday, from everything I’ve heard it sounds like it suffered the equivalent of driving a car with the handbrake on but as you can imagine 150 tons of BREL 92ts is going to cause a lot more smoke and dust than a Volkswagen Golf.

Apparently the train had partly left the platform so opening the doors was not an option until the TOp had herded the passengers from the cars already in the tunnel.  In this situation the station staff are meant to operate the “butterflies” which open one set of double doors on each car but as there were no staff on the platform at the time and HOP has lifts rather than escalators they had to come to down the spiral staircase and the Central Line is about 200ft below ground.


I did hear that there were only three station staff which I find a bit surprising, it was around 7pm on Sunday evening, HOP is one down the line from NHG and it gets very busy on Carnival weekend so I’d have thought they’d have put some extras on.  LUL always ask for volunteers to work that weekend but I have been told that a lot of staff will do it once and then don’t want to do it again.  A CSA told me that this year at QUE they got a lot of abuse because neither of the lifts were working and the Super got assaulted on Sunday because the last train had gone.  I only ever worked on Carnival weekend once when I was on stations and while it was busy it was quite a jolly time so I guess I was lucky.

Sunday 25 August 2013

My favourite broken record, Tory GLA member for Merton and Wandsworth Richard Treacy, is once more complaining about union ballots, in this case the RMT conductors on LO.  They voted 89% in favour of strike but only half of those balloted bothered so he’s bitching that the strike action is being pushed through by 43% and demanding that the rules be changed as it is wrong that a minority should cause disruption to London.

In the 2012 Treacy was elected on 43.1% with a turnout of only 40.9% which means he gets his place at the GLA thanks to 17.6% of the voters of Merton and Wandsworth.  Obviously we are left with the question of what has caused more grief to the lives of Londoners, the LO conductors two day strike action or four years of the tediously repetitive Treacy at the GLA.

Friday 23 August 2013

The vote on Boxing Day was announced last week, of the 2002 ballot papers posted out 1032 were returned (51.5%). 966 voted to accept the deal (93.6%), 65 were against (6.3%) and 1 was spoilt.

Here endeth the Boxing Day strike and about bloody time.

Thursday 22 August 2013

Some clever dick has been busy with Photoshop.

Monday 19 August 2013

A quick addenda to yesterday’s post, apparently RMT derided the deal on Boxing Day working at the end of last month as it doesn’t meet their aspirations which is all rather amusing as prior to this they’d shown little or no interest and to the best of my recollection had made no statement about it whatsoever.  The only interpretation I can come up with is that having sat on the side lines throughout this dispute RMT are now peeved that ASELF and LUL sorted this out without involving them.

I don’t see there being any actual consequences from RMT’s sour grapes as I’m sure the RMT TOps will be more than happy to either opt for the day off or pocket an extra £350 before tax.  What I do find mildly irritating is it’s only on LUL that we have this sort of inter-union rivalry, on the rest of the UK railways the unions cooperate quite happily, an example of this being up on LO where my good friend the RMT conductors’ rep was invited to speak at the local ASLEF branch meeting.

Sunday 18 August 2013

Yesterday my dear friend Treacle asked me why I wasn’t blogging and to be truthful my heart just wasn’t in it, whatever inspired me to start writing back in 2010 seems to have faded this year but then the last eight months have been rather stressful one way or another.  Another factor could be that since I’ve given up night shifts it seems that there is less to write about, I certain get far fewer amusing and entertaining drunks to wake up when I reach EPP than I used to but then there’s also far less vomit to deal with.

A couple of weeks ago I got my ballot paper for the vote on the Boxing Day deal, I happily voted to accept LUL’s offer and we should be getting the results soon.  Hopefully this will mean an end to the dispute and also that I never work another Boxing Day between now and retirement.  Someone else can earn the extra £350, I can always get more money, I can’t get more time before my date with the undertaker. 
It looks like RMT will go on strike over the planned ticket office closures although it remains to be seen if TSSA go out with them this time, the joint strike at the end of 2010 had absolutely no effect and I would imagine morale among station staff must be rock bottom.  This was the plan all along, from the moment LUL signed the deal on Oyster Cards in 1998 they were looking to take the human element out of ticket sales, that was obvious to me despite assurances from management that there would always be a need for staff in ticket offices.  That was one of the reasons why I asked for a transfer to trains, I knew that management were lying through their teeth and that staff cuts were on the way.
What is rather ironic is that when Boris was elected in 2008 he said that he’d stop the closures that Ken had planned and ensure that every station had a ticket office open but everyone seems to have forgotten that, maybe it’s because he’s broken so many of his promises that no one expects anything else from him.  It should be noted then although Ken was planning to close ticket offices he was intending to put more staff on stations rather than less.

Up on the Overground they’ve announced plans to move to “Driver Only Operation” and dispense with conductors which everybody refers to as guards just as everybody still refers to DLR PSAs as “train captains”.  RMT have voted for a strike but their claim that this will lead to safety issues is undermined by the fact that two of the lines on LO have been working DOO ever since the new trains were introduced.  As the trains currently operating with conductors came with CCTV in the cab it looks as if this was the idea from the start, just as Oyster was intended make ticket offices redundant.

I don’t believe that RMT think they’ve a hope in hell of saving the conductors’ jobs, they’re just trying to get as good a deal as possible out of LO for their members who will either be taking voluntary redundancy or being displaced to other areas of the business.  Having been told that there is going to be a lot of work done on LO stations with the introduction of ticket barriers and lifts I suspect that there will have to be the introduction of the equivalent of a station supervisor grade which the conductors that do stay will be ideally suited to step into.

Happy travelling, people.

Saturday 6 July 2013

Another break in writing thanks to another spell of ill health, in this instance my knees which have been giving me jip since my 30s or maybe earlier, I wouldn’t have noticed as I was “on one” almost constantly from 1986 until 1992 and did a stupendous amount of dancing during that period.  However I was never that far “off me nut” that I made the hideous mistake of wearing flares (Joe Bloggs being the label of choice) although I did possess an Inspiral Carpets “cool as fuck” t shirt.  Moo!

Apart from that there really hadn’t been much to write about, when the weather is nice I’ve been pootling up and down the open section in Coded with the door open, when it’s rained ATO has stopped halfway into the platform but there have been no interesting incidents while I’ve been around.  I’ve seen a large amount of wildlife, the rabbits up between DEB and THB are thriving, squirrels are everywhere, the occasional fox jogs along the cable runs but the highlights were a Green Woodpecker on the WOO loop and what looked like a heron or a crane flying over WOO junction.

Yesterday a notice appeared on the boards regarding the Boxing Day dispute, it seems that in exchange for agreeing a few changes to the procedures by which staff change depots and lines we’ve got management to agree to a £350 incentive to work December 26th no matter what day it’s on.  They’ve still got to sort out the details but if this deal is done it means there will be no strike this year and my remaining Boxing Days between now and retirement will be spent with cold turkey, pickles and the inevitable disappointment resulting from watching West Ham’s dismal post-Christmas performance.

Monday 17 June 2013

A reasonably uneventful week, the highlight was getting a call at MAA EB instructing me to go Coded up to BOS as someone had dropped their mobile phone on the track and they were going to use my train as protection.  I let my passengers know what was going to happen and when I arrived at a gentle 20kph a member of station staff was stood halfway along the platform giving me a red signal with a hand lamp.  I pulled up a metre or so short, closed down the train, handed my keys to the hand-signaller, someone got down on the track to retrieve the phone, climbed back onto the platform, gave the all clear and my keys were returned.

I took extra care in doing this because once when I was asked to drive a train part way into the platform so station staff could get something I missed the stopping mark and couldn’t get the doors open because of the Correct Side Door Enable, the clever bit of kit that ensures that we don’t open the wrong doors.  The CSDE can be overridden by standing up and pressing a button on the panel next to the J Door but obviously doing that means you can open the doors on either side.
Guess what I did?

It probably took me less than a second to realise what I’d done but it felt like an eternity.  I closed up on the wrong side sharpish, opened up on the right side, made a PA to ask passengers to pull down a handle if anyone had fallen out and then called Wood Lane to let them know I had made a bit of a faux pas.  There was no screams or any sign that anyone had fallen out, the handles remained unpulled, the train behind me was told to check the track when they came in just in case and the Super checked on me to see that I was okay to continue.
At the next depot I was taken off, interviewed by the DRM and then took a Drugs and Alcohol test which came up negative.  The next day I had a chat with one of the TOSMs, I was given a “corrective action plan” but as I’d followed the procedure basically that was that.  I doubt very much if I’ll ever open the doors on the wrong side again, once was certainly enough.

On Saturday I had to move a dud train from LOU to HAI and on the way back to LES I found a catalogue for an auction of travel related art.  One of the items really struck me, a LMS poster from the 1930s by Norman Wilkinson.  When I got home I Googled around and found that one of these was sold at Christie's last year for around £3750 so I downloaded the image instead; enjoy.

Monday 10 June 2013

A postscript to yesterday's post.
As if in response to the GLA Tories suggesting that businesses should sponsor stations and that fares rises were not a good thing Boris came up with the suggestion that Crossrail be named the Queen Elizabeth Line.  Obviously he thinks that naming the Olympic Park after Her Maj is not enough but she has plenty of things named after her, surely enough is enough.

In the London area alone they’ve renamed Big Ben’s Tower and the Great Court at the British Museum after her, she’s the toll bridge at Dartford, a concert hall on the South Bank, a pier next to the Millennium Dome, a college at London Uni, a conference hall in Westminster and a reservoir in Surrey.  Elsewhere she’s schools, parks, hospitals, courts, theatres, sport centres and a planetarium in Canada, she even used to be a boulevard in Tehran.

They’ve renamed Hungerford Bridge the Golden Jubilee Bridge and the Jubilee Line was named because it was opened in 1977 which coincided with her 25 years on the throne.  I would point out that the Victoria Line was not named after Queen Victoria, it was named after the station which itself wasn’t named after the Queen but the street it stood on although the street was named after the Queen.

Crossrail should remain Crossrail, otherwise you’ll have station control rooms announcing delays on Queen Elizabeth due to signal failures which just doesn’t sound right.

Sunday 9 June 2013

Okay I’ve been severely lax in the last six months about posting on my blog, partly because there’s been little to write about while I was at work, partly because a lot of the time I felt like I was repeating things I'd written before and partly because my personal life has been a bit of a train wreck but I’m going to endeavour to get at least one post a week, a summary of the last seven days.

I came back from two weeks off last Sunday, my rest days were Wednesday and Thursday so Friday felt like a Monday, Saturday felt like a Tuesday except I got half a dozen calls from friends asking what I was doing at the weekend and inviting me out all of which I had to decline.   My next rest days are Tuesday and Wednesday so Lord alone knows what they will feel like; shift work really does mess with your head and your social life.   

Not a lot going on out there, on Monday I was spare and ended up covering a WER shift which meant that the last hour was spent travelling back “on the cushions” to LES.  I was really glad I’d brought a book with me; I can thoroughly recommended Hilary Mantel’s “Bring up the bodies” if you are into historical fiction.  On Friday we were getting “platforms and hold” all over the place for handles down, one was even specifically for a fight at MIE (or BEG, there were so many I lost track), must be the weather …….. 

Earlier this week the Tories at the GLA came up with the idea of getting businesses to sponsor stations in order to keep fares down.  I read the report and as usual it was big on boasts but low on actual detail, such as any prediction of how much income this would generate.  There was an attempt by wine merchants Oxford Landing to “re-brand” Oxford Circus in 2011 for three months but the deal stalled over intellectual property law on the LUL roundel; apparently if the deal was less than ten years then it all became a bit complicated.

Here’s’ what they wanted to do

The report had quotes from a couple of “re-branding” consultants who unsurprisingly were in favour and they’d commissioned a survey of public opinion but noticeably lacking was support from the businesses that would be expected to buy into this.  What I found really interesting is that the GLA Tories suggestion that fares should be kept down is at odds with Boris’s commitment to above inflation rises, maybe they’ve realised that fares are a key issue for Londoners and with the Coalition offering no help by squeezing the TfL budget the post-Boris future is rather gloomy.

Over at the Stockholm equivalent of London Overground some train drivers are wearing skirts as Arriva, who took over operations in January, has banned them from wearing shorts but cannot stop them wearing skirts as that would fall under Sweden’s sexual discrimination laws.  TOps are allowed to wear shorts on the Tube but have to carry a pair of disposable trousers in their equipment bag which have to be worn if we get out of the train and walk around the track.

This is a health and safety issue; the trousers offer some protection from cuts and scrapes which could get infected with Weil’s Disease, transmitted by rat urine of which there is a plentiful supply on the Tube.  The danger is real and it can be fatal, all LUL recruits get told about it in their first week of training.  I don’t wear shorts on the Tube, this is not so much a health and safety issue as a public order one, the sight of my horrible, pale, hairy legs could be a cause of outrage and distress to the travelling public and my work colleagues.

Down on the South Bank management want to evict the skateboarders who’ve been doing their thing for years and become part of the whole South Bank experience in order to make way for more restaurants and shops.  Sadly commercial interests have a habit of destroying character and charm, the sort of things that make London special, replacing our odd English eccentricities with bland, identikit retail clones. 

Skateboarding has never appealed to me personally, frankly I find the sight of anyone past their mid-20s in a pair of shorts halfway down their calves trying to do an “Ollie” or “Kickflip” – I went on Wikipedia for those – vaguely ridiculous and makes me want to drag them to Burton’s (or equivalent) to get them into a decent, grown up suit.  However it is saddening to think that people who have made use of an area that was unwanted and turned it into an entertaining attraction should be booted out so visitors can have another Starbucks.  They’ve set up an online petition, here’s the link, let’s keep London quirky and odd.

As I mentioned I had two weeks off during which I got out and about a bit.  I’d like to recommend Bury St. Edmunds as an excellent place to go drinking, plenty of nice little pubs, a lot of very pretty architecture and a nice relaxed vibe.  If you are travelling there by train the station bar at Manningtree is worth a stop off on your way back to London and if you miss your connection at Ipswich then the pub over the road is not bad.

If you happen to be in Oxford try Kasbar on the Cowley Road for North African influenced tapas and pop into the Half Moon nearby for the best pint of Guinness in town (thanks, Treacle).  If you find yourself in Walthamstow Market in need of respite pop into The Chequers, now under new management and fully refurbished with an excellent selection of beers and a pinball out back; you might see the name ASLEF among the top scores.

Hopefully I'll be back in next Sunday....which will feel like a Thursday.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

There has been a disturbing number of “one unders” recently, four on the Central in the past months while yesterday we had two at the same time on the District and Victoria; very sad.

If you hadn’t heard last week RMT announced that TOps on the Piccadilly Line had voted in favour to strike action while action short of a strike was supported on the Metropolitan, H&C and Circle.  On the Piccadilly it seems that management have decided to do things different from everywhere else and make up their own procedures on attendance at work, SPADs, staff errors and the reopening of the depot at Northfields.  Unsurprisingly the Piccadilly TOps want to stick to the Tube-wide procedures agreed between management and unions. 
Over on the Sub-Surface the disagreement is over various issues arising from the introduction of the new S Stock which will eventually be introduced to all four lines but along with that there’s trouble brewing on the Victoria Line where management have also been making up their own rules.  We’ve only just settled the Bakerloo Line detrainment issue but all of this gives the rather worrying impression that management are testing the water for an all out attack on our working practises. 

ASLEF have informed management of their concerns and asked them to consider their response - very carefully. 

Monday 6 May 2013

ATO was having fun yesterday, on Sundays we’re mean to drive manual east of LES and west of WHC but I ended up doing plenty of driving in the “Pipe”.  Once on my “first half” the train pulled up in a heap when it had only just left the station, if forget where that was, and then it stopped only a couple of cars into the platform at SHB EB.  I also lost the CCTV as I was leaving LIS WB, had to knock out the TBC to activate the emergency brake and call up Wood Lane to monitor me leaving the platform.

This weekend there is engineering work on the District Line at MIE and as it would throw up loads of dust they decided to shut the station completely.  Wood Lane put in a “station skip” which meant that in ATO the trains roll through at 20kph which worked fine WB but for some reason both times I tried to start the train up at BEG on the EB DTS flashed up an “ATO not ready” message and I had to go Coded all the way to STR.  Not that that was a problem, it’s just rather amusing when loads of people think that driverless trains are just around the corner and that all we do is push buttons.

Wednesday 1 May 2013

I just noticed that today is May Day when we should be dancing round the Maypole and crowning the May Queen or if you’re a socialist marking International Workers’ Day, which commemorates the death of four protestors shot by the Chicago police at a rally in 1886, with a rousing chorus of “The Red Flag”.

Or if you’re a pagan last night you should have been lighting bonfires before heading off into the fields and woods to shag like bunnies as a fertility rite.  We have something similar at Hollow Ponds by Whipps Cross though I don’t think the activities there carry the same religious significance.
Me, I'm making asparagas soup......

Not much to write about, everything has been going pretty much to timetable.  On Friday I was spare and got sent to the Lower Depths aka the Waterloo and City Line which I find ghastly.  This isn’t because it’s all manual working with no codes, just coloured light signals, speed limit signs and tripcocks but because after a few “get on at Waterloo, get off at Bank, wait for the next train, get on, get off at Waterloo, wait for the next train, repeat” I lose all track of how many trips I’ve done and more importantly when I’m meant to go home.

My only reward was the Muppet at Bank who was darting from one door to the next trying to find somewhere to squeeze on and when he did he stuck his head out to call to his mate as the doors were closing.  There were more than a few sniggers from the passengers around me as the doors slammed on his ears, the look on his face made my trip down The Drain worthwhile.

I have noticed the number of traction faults that were getting are on the rise, normally passengers wouldn’t notice when we get an “aux set req” message on DTS but occasionally it will manifest itself by all the lights apart from the emergencies going off in the two affected cars.  What it means is that the motors on one of the four units won’t be working until we can reset which we do by pushing a button in the cab but a few months ago we were instructed to only to do this when stationary as if we do it on the move it can cause further faults.

Occasionally we get “traction fault” along with the “aux set req” which means that we can’t reset from cab and have to go trip an MCB in the car when we change ends otherwise we’ll be motoring with only three units.  This isn’t meant to be a problem, they’re supposed to run fine with one unit not working but some trains will take a long time getting up speed and some will never get up to full speed which causes delays to you and the trains behind.

I’ve also noticed that there seem to be a lot more stations where we have traction problems when leaving, the train will "shudder" much as when someone leans on the doors and we lose the interlock causing the motors to drop out except at these stations we don’t lose the pilot which suggests it is a traction problem.  I have no idea if any of these problems are related or what the cause could be but I'm certainly noticing more of them in recent months.

There have also been more radio problems, it used to be we only ever lost the signal on the EB platform at BUH for a few seconds but it seems to be happening at a lot more places.  If it were just on one train I put it down to a fault on that particular train but it has happened on separate days on different trains.  Once again I don’t know what is causing this but hopefully this doesn’t develop into a major problem as that could be a little embarrassing, the Connect system is only 6 years old, even though it wasdelivered 4 years late, and cost £2bn.

Yesterday the West End Commission, a body of “experts” set up by the Westminster City Council, issued a report which among other things such as a new body to run the West End, as if we didn’t have enough layers of bureaucracy in London, calls for the Tube to be run even later on Fridays and Saturdays than the extra hour proposed by LUL from 2015 with the suggestion that it run post-3am to deal with the “night club exodus”.  It also calls for the possibility of Crossrail and Tahmeslink running 24 hours to be “explored”.

The Evening Standard in a fine display of its usual level of accuracy ran the story with the headline “We must have 24-hour Tube to boost London, says major new report”.  Gotta love the sub-Standard………

And I've just noticed that Diamond Geezer has made the same observation, great minds thinking alike or fools seldom differing, I will let you be the judge.

Friday 26 April 2013

Thursday was chaos.  For some reason a signal fault in the LEY-LES area meant that we had no idea where any of the trains were, neither the predictor nor Trackernet was working .  I’d never experienced this before but it meant that the TOps had no idea how late their trains were, if they were going WB or EB, or even if they’d been cancelled.  Wood Lane were too busy trying to sort out the mess to answer questions so we just waited until a TOp arrived expecting to be relieved then called the DTSM to tell them which number train they were trying to offload so that the DTSM could call up the appropriate TOp.

My duty was a five and a half hour snip, LES-NOR-WHC with 45 minutes for grub then WHC-EPP-WER-LES but 10 minutes after I was due to pick up the DTSM told me that my train was in LOU sidings.  After two trains went through to HAI via NEP I got an EPP train which ended up terminating at LOU, not a good time to be on a train in uniform.  My NOR became a WHC but the time I’d walked into the sidings, got the train out and reached LES I was an hour down and should have been at NOR waiting to come back EB, I was only at HOL when I was meant to be getting off.

I arrived at WHC with exactly 30 minutes before my next pick up but that turned out to be running 10 minutes down.  I spent the rest of the shift heading off as soon as I’d changed ends and by the end I was back on time.  Then I had to spend an hour and a half moving the goldfish from one tank to another as the room where their tank is situated will be fumigated today as someone complained that they were bitten by something while in there.  Clive, Slick and Jagger looked about as happy as the passengers on the train at LOU, I never knew goldfish could look vexed.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Only one incident of note, a “platforms and hold” for a train with door problems at BOS WB around 17:15 Sunday evening.  I was at TCR gazing at the taillights of the train at OXO for ten minutes as my meal relief ticked away before Wood Lane announced that the door problem couldn’t be fixed and that the train would be tipped out.  Shortly after we were given “clear signals and codes” and when I arrived at OXO the front end of the platform was noticeably more crowded that the tail end, obviously as that is where people arrive on the platform and then don’t walk any further.

The difference was even more noticeable at BOS, about a dozen people on the back half while the front half was so crowded had you tried to get any more people on the platform you’d have ended up with bodies on the track.  And this despite the pleadings of the station staff to move down the platform away from the entrance, they just stood there like cattle.

People were still trying to cram onto the front half of the train at MAA but when I pulled out at LAG I could see on the CCTV that I had empty seats on the rear two cars even though hardly anybody had got off from that end.  What makes this even more bizarre is that at LAG, QUE and NOG where most people got off the exits are towards the middle and rear of the train so heading towards the back end of the platform would save time and shoe leather.

Answers on a postcard, please.

Saturday 20 April 2013

Okay I’m back again, I won’t go into the whys and wherefores for my absence but one is that there’s been very little happening when I’ve been at work.  We managed to have three “one unders” on the Central Line within two weeks but I was either having a day off or it was before I started so I only got the tail end of the disruption.  There have also been a number of “platforms and hold” for various reasons, handles down, signal failure, train faults, passengers ill but they all seem to have been either in the other direction, behind me or so far in front that they’d been resolved before I got there.

I actually had a new experience a couple of weeks ago with a signal failure at NOA, at STP I was told to reverse over the rarely used crossover at QUE, something I’d never done since I started as a TOp.  For years this was out of commission, I’ve heard various reasons, one being that when they introduced the 92 stock trains they were taller than the old stock and used to hit the tunnel wall when going across the points, another being that there were problems with the track bed.  Whatever the reason we perform the move at a stately 10kph.

Unlike MAA, HOL or LIS where you sit in the sidings until it’s time for you to come out again at QUE the WB train goes into the EB platform so I had trains stacking up behind me and had to head straight back as quickly as possible.  All I had left to do was go to HAI and into the depot which I did a lot earlier than timetabled but I didn’t get much of an extended meal break thanks to either the staff at HAI station’s dislike of making PAs or Wood Lane’s inability to communicate with them.

When I got back to the station there were trains on Plat. 2 and Plat.3 but the dot matrix board by the gateline indicated that the first WB train would leave from Plat.1 in 15 minutes.  A train duly arrived, I got on board, it sat there for well over the 15 minutes and then the train on Plat.3 closed its doors and left without a soul on board. Fortunately I was sat in the lead car and all the other passengers where further back along the train otherwise as the only uniformed presence I might have been the victim of severe scowling.

Last week I got held outside WOO on the WB, I could see the train on the platform and assumed that it was tipping out to go up 21 road.  I did my PA within the required 30 seconds to inform my passengers of the cause of the delay and after two minutes called up Wood Lane to see if there was a problem.  The train was indeed going up 21 road but the points had failed and Wood Lane told me that they were going to “jiggle them about a bit” to see if they could rectify the problem.  And so I passed on that information to my passengers, the first time I’ve been able to use the word “jiggle” in a PA announcement.  It will not be the last.

Sunday 31 March 2013

My apologies for not writing, my personal life has been rather fraught of late and frankly I simply wasn’t in a writing mood.  Since my last post we’ve had an outbreak of Spice Girls and royalty with Kate Midddleton being given a “Baby on board” badge.  Unsurprisingly they are now in great demand  having sat unwanted in boxes at 55 since 2006 but my friend was ahead of the trend, three years ago she asked me to get some for her and all the other ladies in her “Bump Group”.  Today is her daughter’s 2nd birthday, thankfully she wasn’t born a day later and thankfully she wasn’t a he, she’d have ended up as Humphrey.  Philip Larkin was right.....

There was a strike that didn’t happen on the Jubilee Line over aggressive management practises but which the media trivialised as being about tea and toilets.  Harry Beck has been honoured with a Blue Plaque at the house where he was born which is in the street next to mine.  As the wonderful Diamond Geezer pointed out he only lived there until he was two then moved to Highgate, the house he lived in when he drew his Tube Map is in West Finchley and there’s a Blue Plaque already there so this seems a bit of duplication.

There seems to be a shortage of TOps on the west end of the line, I’ve covered for WHC and WER over the last few weeks as well as the usual HAI and LOU duties.  At one point we had HAI spares covering LES turns because our spares were all running for the other end.  We’re supposed to be getting loads of new TOps to enable the introduction of new timetable with more evening and weekend trains as well as later running and a Sunday service on the W&C but we’re struggling for staff to cope with the one we have at the moment.

The new timetable has now been put back to September which isn’t anything new, I can’t think of one instance in the 15 years or so that I’ve worked for LUL when a timetable has been introduced when it was first meant to but this time the trouble of the Bakerloo Line with detraining at Queen’s Park seems to have given management reason to reconsider introducing the same regime on the Central.  No doubt the bods up at Timetables and Rosters are busy juggling times in order to give us the extra minutes to close up trains and make sure that they're empty.

The only major hiccup was with the planned engineering work last weekend, we were meant to be shut down both days between LIS and LES then round the Loop to GRH.  I was working Saturday with a rather bizarre duty, I started off on “Duty Manager’s Instruction” for a couple of hours, took the replacement bus to STR, jumped on the mainline train into LIS and then made my way to WHC.  Having watched “Kung Fu Panda” I went to LIS and back, had my meal break, did an EAB and back before heading back to LES to finish my duty.

Not that I was alone spending more time travelling and sat around than driving a train, there were some LES duties that ended at WER then coming back across London in taxis after the close of traffic while HAI TOps were getting taxied from there too.  The night turns were getting taxis to LIS, doing the last trains and then getting a taxi to LOU to bring the first trains out in the morning.  Because of the cold weather Wood Lane were thinking about running sleet trains and as both west end night turns would be coming east they were going to send the night spare in yet another taxi to WER.  Apparently we’re trying to cut costs on the Tube…..

All of this was pretty pointless as the shutdown got cancelled, the rumour being that someone left the juice on in a section where work was being carried out and a piece of equipment got welded to the track.  The engineers refused to continue on safety grounds and Wood Lane were asking if the DTSMs could ring round everyone who was due in Sunday to ask them to come in at the regular start times.  How exactly how five DTSMs are meant to ring up all the TOps late on a Saturday night is beyond me but the idea was quickly rejected and the next day we ran a special ten-minute service while the replacement buses sat unused at LES and STR.

Monday 11 March 2013

Fun and games on a Sunday.  The first half, a simple LES-WER-LES went without incident for me though when I was going WB trains were held WHC-HOL on the EB with the current discharged HOL-LIS for a “person on the track” at HOL.  It turns out someone thought it would be a good idea to step off the platform at the headwall to relieve themselves.  I bet they didn’t think it was such a good idea when BTP arrived and dragged them off to the cells.

My second half was a rather bizarre LES-WOO via HAI-WHC-LOU then empty to WOO, round the loop to HAI and into the depot before going back on the cushions to finish at LES.  For a start why go to HAI and have to change ends on the platform when you could just as easily go in via GRH?  Why go up to LOU rather than straight to HAI via NEP in the first place?  Why not put it into LOU sidings?  Why waste all that time running empty and riding the cushions?  Sometimes you have to wonder at the thought process that goes into writing timetables and duties up at 55 Broadway.

However I never got west of LES, on the approach to GAH on the way into town Wood Lane gave us a “platforms and hold” for a track circuit failure just west of BEG, a track circuit being part of the signalling system for those of you not in the know.  Trains were able to go through the section to LIS in restricted manual one at a time but we can only do 15kph while in RM rather than 65kph in Auto or Coded so it was causing delays and trains were moving up one station at a time. 

I was ten minutes late by the time I reached LES WB and as I was only due to go into the depot after one trip rather than add another train to the queue Wood Lane decided to send me up to EPP, back down to WOO in service, reverse off the platform back around the loop empty and into the depot early.  Subsequently I was rolling into the depot over an hour earlier than I was timetabled, just as Wood Lane announced that the problem had been fixed and we’d be running as normal.  Which was nice…..

Saturday 9 March 2013

Just a short note to say that my two weeks off were very enjoyable but returning from the sub-tropical delights of Miami to the frigid and damp climate of London in February brought my chest infection back with a vengeance.  Following another course of antibiotics I returned to work Monday but to be honest not much has happened so I’ve not bothered writing.

The introduction of the proposed new timetable, with us closing the doors from the cab rather than going back and checking the cars are empty when going up sidings factored into the timing, has been postponed until September possibly due to the current dispute up on the Bakerloo Line.  I have heard that they’ve managed to solve the delays caused by TOps refusing to reverse via the sheds at Queen’s Park unchecked by withdrawing a few trains from service though if that is true or not I have no idea.

Thursday 7 February 2013

The foul weather has predictably been playing merry hell with ATO but other than that not much to report. The only thing of note is that we get regular announcements from Wood Lane that all lines are providing a “good service” apart from the Bakerloo which is experiencing “operational difficulties”. That translates as subsequent to the “kid on the track” incident the TOps are refusing to close up the doors from the cab when reversing up the sidings and are walking back checking that the carriages are empty without any assistance because they were all relocated when they had the last major reshuffle of station staff.

I read on Mayorwatch that some of the Tory Assembly Members have come up with the wizard idea of taking away our nominee passes as they reckon that giving free travel on the Tube, Buses, London Overground and the DLR to one of a staff member’s family (who also has to reside at the same address as the staff member) is costing them £35.8m in lost revenue.

Now I’m not 100% sure but I’m reasonably certain that both staff travel and the nominee passes are included in our salary packages so if the Tories want to withdraw them then LUL will have to negotiate with the Union at the next pay talks. As there are currently 21788 nominee passes in circulation I calculate that we can be expecting £1643.11 each to compensate for the loss of the passes, something I’m sure a lot of staff will be quite happy to accept as not everyone has someone they can nominate.

Talking of London Overground they’ve recently been rated as the best railway in the UK which is amazing as it’s predecessor, Silverlink Metro, was regularly rated the worst. It’s been so successful that they are going to add a extra carriage to the trains to cope with the demand. A big “Congrats” to my friend Scottish Andy who joined as a guard when LO was just starting up and has risen to semi-managerial status.

Meanwhile the cable car continues to struggle to attract passengers and the bike hire operator Serco is criticized for failing to get the bikes in the right places, you either can’t find one or you can’t get rid of one because all the racks are full. The few New Buses currently in service are still trolling along Route 38 and they will take over Route 24 in it’s entirety by the summer but with over 6000 buses on the streets of London and with only 600 New Buses on order it’s impact is hardly going to be monumental.

The obvious difference is that Ken gave us LO, Boris gave us the rest. Giving the people what they think they want is one thing, giving them something they actually need and will use is another.

That’s me done for a bit, I’ve got one last trip up to EPP and then back to LES then I’m on Annual Leave for two weeks. It’s my birthday tomorrow and at midnight I intend to be in a pub with my best friend, Luvvey Darling, spinning vinyl on a pair of turntables and getting horribly, unahsamedy, pig-hugging drunk. Happy travels, folks.

Thursday 31 January 2013

3-2-1 I’m back in the room.  I’m still not fully recovered from whatever ails me, I have to go back to the doctor’s next week but I’m a hell of a lot better than I was.  I finally saw Morrissey after enduring a nerve wracking road trip over the Allegheny Mountains in a snow storm, Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh was a sumptuous venue, he was in good voice and my friend was utterly enchanted with her first live Mozzer gig.  Sadly for others he only managed one more night before succumbing to bleeding stomach ulcers; the poor lamb has no luck.

Anyway, onto things Tube related.  Yesterday our dark overlord, Mike Brown, gaily announced that as of 2015 we will be running an hour later on Fridays and Saturdays while at the same opening an hour later on Saturday mornings to facilitate engineering hours.  We’d heard nothing of this beforehand but then that’s nothing new, we’re used to discovering changes to our working lives from the Evening Standard rather than receiving prior warning from our employers.  This decision has been taken in the wake of the “success” of later running during the Olympics, “success” being a flexible term as when I was driving trains past 1:30am in the summer the platforms were virtually empty.

When later running was last mooted the biggest objector was Heathrow who pointed out that if the Tube opened an hour later on Saturdays the morning shift wouldn’t be able to get in on time.  This has been cleverly circumvented by excluding the Piccadilly from the plan, apparently they’ll still close at 1:30am while the rest carry on running.  The later service will be restricted to “core network” which I guess means we’ll get you out of Zone 1 and Zone 2 but after that there isn’t going to be much apart from night buses.

While we have two years to sort out the details as with the Olympics LUL will probably avoid negotiating with the Unions until the last possible moment, our current pay deal ends in 2015 so maybe they could roll the whole thing into one; two hopes of that and Bob’s dead.  Personally I've got nothing against later running, our lives are messed up already by shift work, another hour isn't going to make much difference.

Meanwhile over at Scotland Yard Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe called for all workers to be drug tested, naming transport workers as ones that should get special attention.  News flash, Bernie, we already have drug testing on the railways, get a clue, matey.

Saturday 12 January 2013

I told you I wasn’t well, yesterday my doctor told me that there seemed to be something in my left lung.  He asked if the mucus I’d been coughing up (proper “gold watches” as my Granddad would call them) contained blood (no) or if I’d suffered any weight loss (I wish!!!!).  He said he thought it was “only an infection”, perhaps the one time “only”, “infection” and “lung” can ever be used in the same sentence then proscribed me penicillin with a heavy duty cough syrup but told me that if those didn’t work after seven days he’d send me for a blood test and an x-ray.  Gulp.

Whenever we are on medication we have a legal requirement to declare it to whoever is passing us fit for duty, in our case the DTSM on the desk.  It was only when I was booking on that I discovered that the cough syrup I’d been glugging down contained codeine, a restricted medication, and that I could not l work on the railway while I was on it.  So I’m off work for the next seven days until I complete my course of medication.  So loads of time to blog!

Apart from that just as predicted ASLEF have called off their two extra strikes for “meaningful talks” which we all know won’t happen and we’ll be going on strike Boxing Day 2013.  Over on the Bakerloo Line the ASLEF TOps have voted to strike over the lack of station staff to assist with closing up when reversing after the incident with the kid back on 13th October last year.  As RMT are likely to benefit from more station staff I’m amazed that they’ve not joined ASLEF in a dual strike but then maybe this is an example of the rivalry between the unions.

Friday 11 January 2013

I’ve not written recently for a variety of reasons, there’s not been much going on at work, I’ve had lots to keep me busy outside of work, I’m still not entirely healthy and I’m off to the doctors later to see what’s what.  Most of all I just couldn’t be arsed, I was lacking inspiration, it was becoming a chore and I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I used to. 

I’m only writing this because a dear, dear friend and a long time follower of my blog asked me to when I met her up in town yesterday for a drink and so this is for Treacle, as requested, you’d better like it or next time the olives and the first bottle of wine are on you.

The ten things, places or whatever I love most about London.

I’ll have to start with the Tube, I’ve loved it ever since my Grandfather first took me on it when I was about 5 or 6, the epic journey all the way from Dagenham Heathway to Becontree in an old R stock train, the sights, sounds and smells are buried deep in my memory.  As I grew older my journeys expanded, going to Barking to the big library, to Upton Park to watch West Ham, all the way to Aldgate East to buy my first DMs at Blackman’s.

Longer trips included going to Embankment though back then it was called Charing Cross while what is now Charing Cross was Strand and Trafalgar Square.  From there I’d scurry over the Hungerford Bridge to attend classical concerts at the Festival Hall on a cheap tickets for schools scheme.  There were trips all the way to South Kensington for one or other of the museums during the holidays, with Mum at first and then just me and my older brother.

Then when I started work and had money of my own I was able to travel all over London discovering the delights it had to offer and I’m still discovering in the early stages of my fifth decade.  London is always changing, things come and go, a constant flux, if you can’t accept the change then it’s time to move somewhere less fluid.  Embrace the chaos or die!

Now I work on the Tube, something I’d never considered before I applied to join over 15 years ago, something I certainly never imagined when old Fred Shepherd took me to Becontree to….well, I have no idea why we went to Becontree, I’ll have to ask Mum.

Nine more to go.