Saturday 24 December 2016

As I said in my last post I've had a lot to deal with recently and also I had two weeks annual leave at the end of November so I've not been keeping tabs on anything that didn't directly involve me at work.  That was why I wasn't aware until recently that RMT station and revenue staff have been refusing to work overtime since 23rd November with TSSA members joining them on 8th December.

Conveniently each Tube line has a Twitter accounts which records every closure along with the reason why they were closed so it was pretty easy to scroll back though the history to check.  In the last three  weeks HOP has been closed ten times due to "staff absence", if the Twitter feed is accurate then the worst instance was when it closed on 17 December at 18:34 and didn't reopen until 07:21 the next morning.  QUE has been closed five times, CHL four times with single closures at BOS, LIS, BAN, STP and BEG.  I'm sure if anyone had the time and inclination they could check the Twitter feeds of all the other lines to record all the closures.

Of course these are all Section 12 stations with minimum staffing levels, what isn't recorded on Twitter are the non-Section 12 stations (like Latimer Road) that can be left unstaffed and still remain open.  What I find utterly amazing about all this is that it is less than a year since Fit for the Future - Stations was rolled out with a complete reorganisation of station staff and the 37 station "Groups" replaced by 96 "Areas" so staffing levels shouldn't be this low this soon.

What it suggests to me is that there aren't enough Reserve staff available to cover sickness and annual leave.  When I first joined the Tube as a Station Assistant in 1997 I was on the Reserve of Edgware Road Group which covered Paddington, Edgware Road and Bayswater, I was familiarised at all three stations but how it works now that Paddington is an Area on its own I have no idea.

When management announced that the ticket offices were closing they promised that all stations would be staffed at all times when trains were running but they've not even managed to last a year before that promise has been broken.  RMT and TSSA are going on strike over this on 8 January and I can't say I blame them.

Monday 19 December 2016

I’ve been rather busy with things recently and as I said in answer to a comment left by Lime Street Lad I’ve been feeling “blogged out”.  I thought I’d check in to confirm that I’m still alive and not retired, that’s still 11 years, 1 month and 20 days away – not that I’m counting.

When Fit for the Future - Stations was introduced TfL claimed that closing ticket offices would mean more staff available to assist passengers out on the stations but that didn’t seem to be the case Saturday night.  Around 19:00 we were told that HOP was closed although Wood Lane declined to give us a reason but when I checked the TfL website during my meal break it said that HOP was closed due to “staff absence” which made it sound as if it was all unexpected.  Temple was also closed for the same reason and around 23:00 CHL followed suit.

In the past there have been instances where stations in open section were left unstaffed if there was no Station Supervisor available to cover the night duty, SNA, BUH and THB were often candidates but apart from strike days I’m struggling to remember when Zone 1 stations were shut down because they fell below the minimum staff level.  So less than a year after LUL reduced station staff numbers by 952 and less than six months after Night Tube it seems that we don’t have enough staff to keep all our stations open, so much for promises of a world class Tube for a world class city!

In other news I’m sure some have noticed that recently the Central Line has got rather noisy, not with all those people listening to their smart phones on headphones but a very loud track noise.  At first it was noticeable at LIS-BEG EB and WAN-LES Outer Rail although now the LIS-BEG stretch doesn’t seem as bad as it was a few weeks ago.  Instead in the last few weeks it seems to have spread to WAN-RED Inner Rail and also to HOP-NHG EB where it seemed to get increasingly worse as the week went on.  Apparently there is remedial work planned involving some sort of rubber padding, let’s hope it works and it doesn’t spread to other sections.

Other than that I’ve had the pleasure to travel a bit and try public transport in other cities this year.  The Washington DC Metro seems quite dated and uncared for, the stations are almost Stygian in their depressing gloominess and the entrance to Dupont Circle station is like descending into the mouth of some benighted underworld on an endless escalator.  Some of the trains date from the 1970s and while some are only a dozen years old their design is virtually identical to the originals.  The brakes are savage, the seats are shiny plastic, my travelling companion was wearing a leather coat and the first time we came to a stop she slid off the seat.

I tried not to laugh.........

I went back to Paris in September although once again I didn’t get around to riding the driverless M1 or M14.  I like the Metro but at some stations the distance from the ticket hall to the platforms and the interchange between some lines can be so lengthy that you wonder why you bothered coming below ground as it might have been just as quick to walk it on the surface.  Oh the little cardboard five day tickets seem ridiculously flimsy and eminently loseable compared to Oysters

If you want a tour bus just ride the 42 which starts from the Gare du Nord, passes the Opera, the Eglise Madeleine, the Place de la Concorde, the Champs Elysees, the Champs de Mars and the Eiffel Tower although I could live without the cobblestones on the road.  I also discovered a taxi with a glass roof which was perfect for looking up at the architecture as we drove through the streets, we could definitely use some of those in London. 

Oh and if you’re going on the Eurostar book the 13:13 return from Gare du Nord as the complementary lunch was superb.  Finally I went to Manchester and was thoroughly impressed with the trams although the Old Trafford tram stop is a long hike from the stadium, especially after you’ve lost 4-1.

I'll be finishing before well before midnight on Christmas Eve, I'm not working Boxing Day or New Year's Eve so at least this year I'll be able to celebrate a bit.

Safe travels, peeps.