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.