Thursday 22 January 2015

In addition to DLR being operated by a French/Spanish consortium it seems that subject to approval 28% of the UK’s passenger trains are now owned by the richest man in Asia.  Yesterday CK Investments aka Li Ka-shing, valued at $31.9bn by Bloomberg, agreed a deal to buy ROSCo Evershlot Rail which along with a large amount of freight trains leases rolling stock to various TOCs including those currently used on Southeastern’s Javelin service out of St Pancras, the soon to be privatised East Coast and Chiltern Rail Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill via High Wycombe and Banbury. 

Re-nationalisation isn’t going to be as straight forwards as some people might think.

Meanwhile over on the “driverless” DLR RMT members have voted overwhelmingly to strike for 48 hours over terms and conditions.  The DLR used to be run by SERCO, the UK “outsourcing” corporation that also runs the Woolwich Ferry, Boris’s bike hire scheme and is responsible for speed camera systems in the UK but in December the DLR was taken over by a joint venture between Keolis and Amey.

Keolis is mostly owned by French state railway SNCF and has a 35% stake in Thameslink, Southern, Southeastern and London Midland, most of which bump around the bottom end of the passenger satisfaction tables.  Amey was one half of the late, unlamented Tube Lines set up by PPP and is a subsidiary of Spanish conglomerate Ferrovial which also owns Heathrow airport.  All of which illustrates just how much of our supposedly public transport network is now run by private and non-UK operators.

Under SERCO a dispute would arise every other year or so, RMT members would vote for strike action but things would get sorted without too much disruption, whether the change of management at the top will means a less compromising attitude remains to be seen.  The one thing I will say is that whether or not DLR staff go on strike they are not, repeat not “Train Captains”, they are “Passenger Service Agents”.   The title “Train Captains” was adopted from the Far East where it is used in Hong Kong and Singapore but was dropped by DLR as it does sound a bit silly.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

I’m not at work this week but it appears that there is a bulletin doing the rounds appealing to RMT members to vote against strike action in support of the Northern Line TOp Alex McGuigan and in a strange twist JNP operations director Nigel Holness is now claiming that McGuigan actually admitted that he had been drinking before he booked on for duty.  As yet I’ve not seen any response from RMT but if he had been drinking then surely the urine sample – discarded by LU without testing – would have provided a positive reading.  Curiouser and curioser……

Friday 16 January 2015

I was talking to my good friend who works on London Overground yesterday and he told me that while he was at South Tottenham during the morning peak he’d been approached by an irate passenger wanting to complain.  The passenger was furious that for the third day in a row the pedestrian crossing outside the station wasn’t working, for the third day in a row it had made him ten minutes late as he’d been unable to cross the very busy road outside and he demanded to know what my friend was going to do about it.

While it is true that TfL are responsible for traffic signals in London exactly what an employee of a train operating company can do about them that an ordinary person could not is beyond me but I had similar complaints about the buses and mainline trains when I was working on stations.  It seems that if you’re wearing a uniform people assume that you have some sort of connection with everything transport related and feel that you are an appropriate target for their ire.

After the passenger had departed and my friend had a spare moment he went online to find where he could report the problem.  He finally found a telephone number tucked away on the TfL website and was rather perturbed to find that it was a premium line,  had he been able to get through he would have been charged for his act of civic consideration but for whatever reason no one was picking up.

With little other option he asked his controller to pass the message onwards although the controller was equally uncertain about who to contact.  This turned out to be a good idea as somehow the message reached the right person and a technician turned up to fix the traffic signal.  It seems that the traffic signal was supposed to send an indication to the control centre that it was malfunctioning but whatever bit of technology that sends this message was malfunctioning too.

Sadly the only conclusion to be drawn from this tale is if there’s something wrong with the roads go tell someone who works for the railways, who knows if you complain to Network Rail  you might get the potholes filled……

Thursday 15 January 2015

Last year I signed up to Twitter in order to get notification of developments during the ASLEF Central Line dispute in the summer but since then I’ve generally ignored it.  Today I got a notification that RMT are about to ballot all their TOps for strike action in support of Alex McGuigan, the Morden depot TOp dismissed for failing a random breath test.  As has been mentioned on numerous occasions he has Type 2 diabetes which can give a false positive reading on the rather simplistic breath testers that LU use.  There were other procedural errors committed by LU in this particular case all of which they’ve chosen to ignore.

RMT hailed the last strike as “rock solid” albeit in a limited way as it was only Morden depot that was affected.  13 out of 50 TOps booked on which while somewhat less than “rock solid” supports RMT’s claim that some ASLEF TOps supported the action.  Choosing to spread the strike across the whole Tube rather than balloting the three depots at the northern end of the line seems a little ambitious, especially as a recent article suggested that RMTs membership among TOps has dwindled from around 1200 to somewhere around 800-900.

Oh and Happy New Year to you all.