Observations and opinions of a Central Line Train Driver
Thursday 29 October 2015
Yesterday's editorial in the Evening Standard plumbed a new depth of stupidity and ignorance by claiming that "The DLR is indeed something of an oddity, since it is in fact driverless, but union pressure means every train must employ a “captain” on board." Okay. just stop and think about that; its 1986 or there about, the London Docklands Development Corporation is near to completing its new driverless railway when the National Union of Railwaymen demands that there be a human presence on the trains (all eleven of them). Despite the fact that the NUR has very few or possibly no members on the DLR at that stage the LDDC accepts the demand, creates unnecessary jobs and hey presto when the DLR opens in summer 1987 every train has a train captain on board. Now hands up who think that sounds like a plausible story? The rest is equal banal, despite admitting that the strike on DLR was "the result of a long-running dispute" it accuses the RMT of being "trigger-happy", "irresponsible" and "trying to live up to its tough reputation, as maintained by the late Bob Crow". It says that the matter should be resolved through negotiation, as if the RMT haven't been trying to negotiate a settlement all this time, and it calls on the union to compromise but doesn't seem to expect the same from KeolisAmey who've managed to achieve something Serco failed to do during its 17 year stint in charge by provoking two strike ballots in one year. For good measure the subStandard blames the failure of Night Tube to appear last month on "union intransigence" despite LU matching KeolisAmey's achievement by managing to create the first dispute involving all four Tube unions since 1926. At least we were spared any mention of the Delevigne sisters or "Two Beards" Lebedev's holiday snaps.
On Monday Manuel Cortes of TSSA called on Boris to personally intervene in the Night Tube dispute by meeting with the unions and the reply of the "Mayor's official spokesman" is hilarious. For starters the unions are condemned for not putting the latest offer to the members, the same offer management made five days before the second strike and which anyone with half a brain knows would be rejected. Secondly it says that all negotiations should be with LU management and that any intervention by Boris "risks undermining that process" which is ironic seeing as management have deliberately undermined the process themselves by putting their latest offer directly to the employees rather than through the unions.
Finally it accuse the unions of "needless headline grabbing" which is rich considering the countless times management have gone to the press to bitch and whine about the unions, doubly rich considering that Boris would attend the opening of a can of baked beans if he thought there was a chance it would get him some publicity. For me the most interesting piece of the statement was that "the introduction of Night Tube will not be at any cost" which sounds like Boris and management are giving themselves an escape route out of the mess they've created.
Actually its just as well that Night Tube didn't go ahead as planned, the 92s are suffering at the moment and we've had numerous cancellations due to not having enough available stock which has been most noticeable in the morning peak according to my good friend Chicago (he's not American but he is windy). They've even begun sending trains out with little stickers in the cab informing us that one of the units isn't getting any power and won't have any motors but its okay to remain in service on just three units. I've not spoken to any of the train technicians since the overtime ban was lifted but I'm guessing that this is just a further symptom of the same problem we've had since the latest timetable was introduced. With more trains in service during the "off peak" and at weekends the trains aren't in the depots long enough for the maintainers to service them properly, if we were also running them two nights a week you have to wonder how many would be available on a Monday morning!
What is truly astounding is that we don't need all these trains running during the "off peak" or at weekends. When I'm not working I'm a passenger like everyone else, naturally I avoid travelling during the peaks and I can see for myself how empty the trains are. Now its nice to have a train every three minutes on a Saturday afternoon but when its starting to effect the morning peak surely someone should be asking if its necessary. Instead it seems that management are more intent on being able to declare to the world that they're running more trains than ever rather than focusing on matching the service provided to the actual demand. This certainly doesn't strike me as the most efficient way to run a railway and I doubt if its the best use of what we are constantly told are increasingly limited funds.
Rather than trying to put as many trains out as possible or introducing Night Tube perhaps TfL should spend the money running more buses at weekends outside Zone 1. I've lost count of the number of times when I've been trying to get to work on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon I've counted around a dozen people waiting at the stop by Leyton Midland Road station, a bus has rolled up packed to the gills, the driver has opened up the middle door, a few people have got off and the bus has left without letting anyone on. Obviously there are not enough buses to meet the demand.
Perhaps what we need is someone at the top of TfL who will look at the situation as a whole with a Mayor whose interest goes beyond big flamboyant stunts. Sadly for the present we have Boris and a man called Brown so its all about showmanship rather than service.
Two weeks ago LUL announced to the press that the
unions had walked out of negotiations and that they’d offer a new pay deal directly
to us workers.My local rep tells me
that rather than a dramatic walk out everybody left at the same time because
the meeting had reached an end and it was time to go home.As far as I can see the “new” offer is the
same as their second “final” offer that came out a few days before the second
strike and is no closer to addressing our grievances now than it was then.
LUL have made a big thing over “demands” for a four
day week but there has been very little explanation of what they are actually
asking for.There seem to be several
ideas on “flexible” working, one idea is to condense our 35 hours a week over
four days rather than five, another is working a four day 28 hour week at 80%
of our current salary but this would only be for those who wanted to work this
way and most importantly it would only happen where there are enough volunteers
at a depot to make it viable.
Surprisingly for all the fuss they’re making about
this LUL say they have no objection to the idea of a four day week, the reason they offer for being unable to guarantee
it at this time is that it would take months to ask staff what they wanted and
then sort out the details. This is laughable as that is exactly what is being
proposed regarding how Night Tube will be run after the “interim period”, if management are going to ask us whether we
want part-timers or “fixed links” then why on earth can’t they ask us if
we want a four day week at the same time?
The other major sticking point is how Night Tube
will be staffed during the interim period, the unions want it to be completely voluntary
with extra money dangled as the carrot to attract volunteers while management say
that if there aren’t enough volunteers to cover all the duties then some who
don’t want to work nights will have to.This
is currently the situation with Boxing Day, last year the £300 extra failed to
get enough volunteers and those who’d been in the grade the shortest time –
including myself with 12 years as a TOp – had to work when we’d rather have
stayed at home.
The unions certainly aren’t going to agree to
another situation where people who don’t want to work nights are going to find
themselves in the cab of a train at 3am on a Saturday morning and if management
aren’t confident that £200 per shift is going to be a big enough carrot then
obviously they need a bigger carrot but they say they can’t afford any more.And so we are at stalemate with neither side
willing to budge and management insisting that until there is an agreement on
Night Tube there will be no pay rise.
What management seem to have missed is that for me
a 2% pay rise – actually 1% with a £500 lump sum for Night Tube – translates as
about £50 after tax per month and I’m sure that like myself the vast majority
of my colleagues are prepared do without our pay rise rather than accept a deal
detrimental to our working lives.In
2009 it took 14 months to settle the pay deal and inflation was a lot higher
then than it is now, we’ve got nothing to gain by accepting the current offer
and we can wait until LUL come up with a better plan or abandon the whole idea.
On Friday we had a one under at MIE around 12:30,
we resumed running around 14:30 but things were still a mess for the evening
peak as some trains had been stabled to reduce congestion.Between 18:00 and 18:30 there were no trains
to WER from WHC, everything either went to EAB, NOA or reversed at WHC.This was attributed to “timetable constraints”,
I’m sure someone somewhere could explain what these constraints were but I have
no idea and I’m reasonably sure that the station staff left to deal with the disgruntled
passengers unable to get home from work had no idea either.