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
More to come later