Friday 31 October 2014

The Standard, LBC and other news sites are making a lot of noise over the forthcoming RMT strike ballot on the Northern Line in support of the TOp who got sacked for drinking even though his type 2 diabetes could have produced an inaccurate reading.  What they all seem to have missed is that only Morden depot will be balloted, the three depots at the top end of the line will be working normally so apart from a few cancelled trains the strike might go largely unnoticed, especially if the ASLEF TOps at Morden aren't supporting their RMT colleagues.

Saturday 25 October 2014

To the tune of "Blue Moon" by Rogers and Hart, Man City's "Bubbles"

We went and won 2-1
We went and won 2-1
We went and won 2-1

Alternate with this, to the tune of Dean Martin's "Valore"

oh oh oh
oh oh oh
He couldn't score a goal
Cost more than Carlton Cole

Sometimes it's great being a Hammers fan...

Friday 24 October 2014

I had a rather worrying experience last month, as I was booking on the DTSM on the desk gravely informed me that the TOSM wanted a memo explaining why I’d refused to allow a cleaner on my train when I went up the sidings at NOR one evening the previous week.  This came as a bit of a shock as I’ve never refused a cleaner at NOR or anywhere else, quite the contrary I welcome them as some passengers treat the cars like the local tip.  Once I even complained when a cleaner had been lax doing their job, picking up the newspapers but leaving a half eaten box of Kentucky Fried Chicken on the ledge behind the seats.

So we checked to see which duty was driving the train involved at 22:30 and sure enough I was doing that particular duty on that particular day but according to the timetable I would have been somewhere between CHL and STP on my last trip, finishing at LES on the EB around 22:50.  There were no reported delays and I’d not booked any overtime that night so there was no possible way I could have been the guilty party at NOR.  A further inspection of the timetable revealed that there were no booked reversers at NOR at that time of night, the last one is about four hours earlier so any cleaners should have gone home by then.  When we checked that particular train’s schedule in the timetable it does indeed reverse at NOR, at 10:30 in the morning.

You'd think that on a railway the one thing managers should be able to do is tell the time......

Thursday 23 October 2014

TfL have been very busy announcement-wise recently, as well as the driverless trains we’ve had the Bakerloo extension, the Silvertown tunnel and the cycle superhighways.  The Bakerloo extension seems like a reasonable plan, a new tunnel from Elephant & Castle to Lewisham then running over Network Rail’s Hayes Line but there are a couple of points that stood out.

Some questioned why it wouldn’t happen until after 2030, demanding that it should be done earlier but the reason why is quite simple, the Bakerloo doesn’t have enough trains to cover an extension that would nearly double its existing route and they won’t be getting replacements for the 1972s until after 2030.  There’s also the question of signalling, the Bakerloo operates on the most basic coloured light and trip cock system, why build a brand new section of line with outdated signalling that would be replaced in a matter of years?

Another twist is where to put the new trains, there’s about a dozen spaces at London Road next to Lambeth North station, another three in the sidings at the Elephant and Castle – which would probably be lost when the extension was built - but everything else is up at Queen’s Park or Stonebridge Park, if they’re going to extend the line an extra 12 miles or so into South East London then you’re going to need extra sidings down there somewhere.

And then there was the claim that the estimated £3bn cost wouldn’t be shouldered by the tax payer, one of Boris’s most regular jokes that gets rolled out almost every time he announces something.  He claimed that the extension could be funded in the same way that the Northern Line extension to Battersea was but what seems to have slipped his mind is that the only reason the Battersea extension is being built at all is that the developers offered to pay for the Northern Line to come to them.   To the best of my knowledge there currently aren’t any developers offering shedloads of cash for the Bakerloo Line to come to Lewisham or Catford Bridge, we’ve been on the receiving end of Boris’s hopeful punts for private funding before with the cable car and the public ended up forking out £65m for the pleasure.

Rather than jam tomorrow the Bakerloo extension is jam next Tuesday if someone else can afford it so why announce this and all the other future projects?  I believe the answer is legacy; Boris is set to make the move from City Hall to the House of Commons with possibly a view to a future move into No. 10, he desperately wants something that he will be able to parade as a positive result from his eight years in office because nothing he’s done so far has been an unqualified success.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Over the last year or two I’ve spent a fair amount of time on the 97 bus which runs from the end of my road to the Westfield in Stratford.  I’m no great lover of the place unlike the ex-Mrs shrugged who regularly calls upon me to push her around in her wheelchair but it does have a Vue cinema that does early screenings.  Old Father shrugged was a cinema manager in the 50s and 60s so I grew up with films, I enjoy the experience of sitting in the dark without any distractions, just the story unravelling before me on the vast screen, infinitely better than sitting at home watching a DVD where the narrative can be interrupted by the pause button while you answer the phone or get another cup of tea. Imagine going to a gig and asking the band to stop halfway through a number while you went to the toilet or popped outside for a fag.

The obvious problem is that some cinema patrons seem incapable of simply switching off, letting go and fully immersing themselves in the experience, they need to chat, keep their mobiles on and eat the noisiest food available.  Thankfully early screenings are not particularly well attended so I am able to watch films with little intrusion from the philistine herd and there have even been a few occasions when I’ve been the only person in the room. 

But I digress, back to the 97 bus.  A while ago the route changed, rather than going east from the bus station it now goes west around the shopping centre, past the Olympic stadium (we’ll never fill it), past Stratford International station and then up to Chobham Academy, a veritable tour of area currently under development.  Sitting on the top deck looking out at the new landscape I got the distinct feeling that something was wrong and it took me a while to work out what it was.

Everything is new.

London is made up of a mixture of old and new, we’ve got buildings from the last 100 years snuggled next to the Victorian, the Georgian and in some case the Medieval but everything in the E20 postcode has been built in the last few years, not a single scrap of anything pre-Olympics to be seen over a vast area, history has been eradicated.  The roads are wide and worryingly straight, with spacious pavements and plenty of green open spaces, it just doesn’t feel like London, more like someone has dropped Milton Keynes or some other new town in the middle of East London (not the East End, it’s the wrong side of the River Lea).  It’s alien, unnatural, it isn’t London.

It’s only when the bus crosses the bridge by Drapers Field and I’m confronted by Edwardian terraces that I feel as if I’m back on native soil. There were no pubs that I could see although there are spaces for shops at the bottom of the developments around Chobham Academy, one of which was emblazoned with a banner inviting onlookers to imagine a wine bar there.  I tried and the results were somewhat less than awe-inspiring but I could imagine that the rents on those retail spaces will be slightly more than those on the High Road so we won’t see them filled by anything like Pritesh News, the Eccentric Pearl Hair, Beauty and Health Studio or the Leyton Foot Clinic.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

I’ll start with an apology, writing my last post on the proposed changes to station staffing was very interesting and quite fun, it was only when I revisited it later that I realised how dull it was to read.  To my colleague who asked me if I was ASLEF shrugged yesterday please accept my assurances you have never featured in my blog, you were none of the people I mentioned in the past, possibly the lack of nicotine is making you paranoid…….

The picture on driverless trains has become a little clearer, everything seems to suggest that until all the old trains have been replaced and PEDs have been fitted where necessary and/or possible the new trains will have a temporary cab with a TOp driving.  For the Piccadilly this will mean the first new train entering service around 2022 but driverless operation not commencing for three years with a similar pattern on the other lines so the Bakerloo could still be operating with TOps in the cab well into the 2030s.

Rather than my initial idea that TOps would be displaced from the lines being converted gradually as the new driverless trains were introduced this will mean that LU will need a full roster of TOps one day and the next they’ll be surplus to requirement.  The problem is retaining staff, in order to have enough TOps to keep the service running LU will have to fill vacancies due to retirement etc. even though they’ll be going NoPO in the near future.

For those TOps in their late 50s and 60s voluntary redundancy becomes quite an attractive option but imagine you are a TOp in your 30s or 40s on a line that is going driverless in the next five years or so.  If you want to carry on working at LUL then obviously you’re going to put in a transfer request to a line that will need TOps in the future, as will all your colleagues faced with a similar dilemma.  So how does LU stop a mass exodus that would leave them without enough TOps?

The answer is that we've been in this situation before, prior to closing the East London Line management did a deal with the unions, they got the TOps to stay until the end by offering them a large wedge of cash and guaranteeing them future employment.  Shortly after the ELL closed a large number of the displaced TOps moved to LES, they were sat around doing nothing for months as none of them were licensed to work 1992 stock and we didn’t have enough IOps to train them all at once.  There wasn’t enough space for all the new arrivals so LU put some portacabins in the car park which became know as “Sangatte”.

For myself it means that I’ll probably be retiring while the Central Line is in the process of conversion so I’ll miss out on any large redundancy package but as Granny shrugged would have said you don’t miss what you never had.  What it does mean is that a year or two before I retire I will probably need to be retrained to drive a driverless train which is ironic almost to the point of peeing myself.

Friday 10 October 2014

There have been quite a few developments over the last month and as RMT were about to go on strike again I thought I’d share what I’d discovered about the future of station staffing.  Since I started writing they called the strike off but it still gives a bit of background of what the “ticket office closures” actually means.  Here’s how the stations on the eastern end of the Central Line will be affected and this appears to be a fair example of what is happening everywhere.

Apologies if my maths is wrong at any point, that's probably why I never went into the ticket office...

Let’s start with Epping.  Its currently home to five Station Supervisor 3s, one full time and two part time SAMFs in the ticket office with two part time CSAs working the barriers but in future there will only be four CSS2s.  I’ll admit that I’m not sure if the SS3s will automatically become CSS2s, they’re on pretty much the same money so let’s assume they do so they’re staying but the SAMFs and CSAs are being moved.  Theydon Bois, Debden and Buckhurst Hill each have four SS3s who will be replaced by four CSS2s plus Debden will also get two full time CSAs where they currently only have one part timer.  Buckhurst Hill and Debden also have a part time SAMF each.   Adding those to the ones from Epping that’s one SS3, three part time CSAs, one full time and four part time SAMFs who have been evicted.

Loughton is staffed by five SS2s who would have to take a £5k wage cut if they took the CSS2 jobs that will replace them.  Those five stations will be grouped into an “Area” and will be overseen by four mobile CSM3s so for arguments sake let’s say that four of those five SS2s will now step into those jobs.  In addition Loughton will lose a full time and a part time SAMF with 2 part time CSAs.  So we have vacancies for five CSS2s at Loughton and two CSAs at Debden while we have an SS2, an SS3, five part time CSAs, two full time and five part time SAMFs displaced.  Let’s assume that the SS3 from Epping gets one of the CSS2 spots at Loughton and that both the full time SAMFs pass the training for CSS2, that leaves………..

Area Vacancies; 2 CSS2, 2 CSA1
Area Surplus: 1 SS2, 5 part time SAMF, 5 part time CSA.
Area total; -7

Let’s take the stretch from Roding Valley to Barkingside, another Area overseen by four mobile CSM3s and conveniently Hainault has four SS2s ready and waiting to fill those positions.  The other stations will remain pretty much as they are, four SS3s transform into four CSS2s apart from Grange Hill where they currently have five SS3s, one of which is no longer needed.  Hainault also has a part time SS2, a part time SAMF, three full time and a part time CSAs all of which will be replaced by five CSS2s and three part time CSAs.  Move the spare SS3 one stop to a CSS2 at Hainault and we have....

Area Vacancies: 4 CSS2, 2 part time CSA1
Area Surplus: 1 part time SS2, 1 part time SAMF, 3 CSA
Area Total: +1

Newbury Park has four SS3s that will be replaced by CSS2s with five CSAs and a part time CSA who will all be staying but we can add a full time and a part time SAMF to the list of the homeless.  Gants Hill, Redbridge and Wanstead are Section 12s, combined they are home to 14 full time and one part time SS2s which in future will be reduced to 13 full time and three part time CSS1s.  There will be four extra CSA place in addition to the existing staff but with four full time and four part time SAMFs leaving.  The Area will have four CSM3s one of which might be the left over SS2.

Area Vacancies: 3 CSM3, 2 part time CSS1, 4 CSA1
Area Surplus: 1 SAMF, 1 part time SAMF
Area Total: +7

The next Area is Woodford to Leyton, currently we have 8 SS2s, 12 SS3s, 10 full time and 2 part time SAMFs with 25 CSAs.  In future you’ll have four mobile CSM3s, 21 CSS2s with 12 full time and four part time CSAs. 

Area Vacancies; 4 part time CSAs. 
Area Surplus; 4 SS2s, 1 SAMFs, 2 part time SAMFs, 13 CSAs.
Area Total: -16

Stratford is a Jubilee Line station and its staffing level will remain mostly unchanged apart from losing 14 full time and 2 part time SAMFs so there’s no room at the inn for any of our Central Line refugees.

Mile End and Bethnal Green have 10 full time and one part time SS2s, 9 full time and 2 part time SAMFs, 9 full time and one part time CSAs.  That will become 9 CSM2s, two part time CSS1s, 13 full time and 2 part time CSA1s with 2 part time CSA2, the new “customer facing” grade.

Area Vacancies; 1 part time CSS1s, 4 CSA1, 1 part time CSA1, 2 part time CSA2,
Area Surplus; 1 SS2, 9 SAMFs, 2 part time SAMFs
Area Total: -4

Along with the rostered staff who work a specific station there is also the Group Reserves who cover holidays, training and sickness, that currently stands at 37 SS2s, 12 full time and 2 part time SAMFs, 21 full time and 1 part time CSAs.  Under future arrangements that will now be 3 CSM2s, 4 CSM3s, 5 CSS1s, 26 CSS2s and 22 CSA1s.

Reserve vacancies: 14 CSS2s, 1 CSA1s.
Reserve surplus: 25 SS2s, 2 part time SAMFs, 1 part time CSAs.
Reserve total -13

So when we put all the vacancies and surpluses together, be a little optimistic and saying that the SAMFs all qualify as CSS2s then this is what we end up with the following...

Total Vacancies: 9 CSS2, 3 part time CSA1, 2 part time CSA2,
Total surplus; 28 SS2s, 13 part time SAMF, 5 CSAs
Total -32

Obviously things aren’t going to be as simple or straightforward as I've suggested, not all the SAMFs are going to walk into CSS2 positions, we don’t know how many of the existing position are currently vacant or how many staff have taken redundancy packages but it gives us an idea of just how much shuffling around there’s going to be.  LU claims that bringing the SAMFs out of their ticket offices will mean more staff to help passengers and in this case there are 38 full time and 15 part time SAMF positions that would give us an extra 21 staff on the stations despite losing 32 staff but 35 of those new jobs are management grades who will probably spend more time in an office dealing with admin that helping with customer service.

What is noticeable is the large number of SS2s no longer required. all on £47k, unlikely to want to downgrade and take a pay cut in order to fill the CSS2 posts.  Apart from that we’re left with a lot of part timers with nowhere to go, possibly some of them can go full time but from my own experience most people go part time for a reason and if they can’t take up a full time position then they’re pretty much screwed.