Tuesday, 31 May 2011

In the past I’ve mentioned the amount of empties I find when I reach the end of the line, like the bottle of vodka poking out of a mess of streamers at EPP on Sunday, but if I needed any further evidence that the drinking ban is fading from memory it was two blokes, one at NHG and the other at HOL, actually drinking on the platforms as I pulled in on the last train.

Other than that Sunday was timetable and due to personal reasons I was off Monday.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Actually I think it was Caroline Pidgeon, chair of the transport committee, and not Val Shawcross, deputy chair, who was speaking to Bob Crow. Both have short dark hair but are in different parties, my apologies to both ladies for my error.
Szia to whoever is reading this in Hungary as we call it or Magyar Köztársaság as they call it.
Sorry for the delay in posting but I've had trouble logging in.

Wednesday was timetable and when I booked on Thursday I found that the person who’s duty I was covering had returned to work so I became an additional spare. Less than half an hour later I was off up to EPP and back in heavy rain, so heavy in fact that BUH was closed due to flooding. When a station is closed Wood Lane will put a “station skip” in place which tells trains in auto not to stop there and it will go through the platform at 20kph.

BUH reopened EB just after I’d passed through and reopened WB just as I was leaving LOU on the way back. Halfway to BUH “auto station skip” flashed up on DTS which obviously meant that auto would not stop at the station. I waited till the train had slowed to 20kph then knocked out the TBC to put on the emergency brake, switched to Coded and pulled into the platform.

As with the signal failure on Tuesday shortly after one person made an announcement from Wood Lane someone else repeated the same message; henceforth I will refer to this phenomena as “Little Sir Echo”.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

I’ve watched the webcast of the GLA Transport Committee from last Tuesday again and Bob Crow made an interesting point. He claimed that between 1926 and 1975 industrial relations on the Tube were so good that there were possibly only two days of strikes on LUL. I will try and verify this but I'm asuming he meant after the General Strike.

One of the factors he blamed for the number of disputes in recent years is the fragmentation of the Tube under PPP where rather than just dealing with LUL the unions now have separate disputes with the infracos and subcontractors.

As for the £500 bonus “being demanded” here is what was actually said (or as close to it as I can be bothered to transcribe).

Bob Crow – There’s been no formal position put by London Underground to us, as of yet, on an Olympic deal, we have got a deal with Network Rail, the biggest rail operator obviously in Britain, and we’d be looking for the same if not better with London Underground.

Val Shawcross – Peter Hendy, this morning I’ve read in the press, is saying they’re considering paying a Games bonus of up to £500 which is similar to Network Rail, is that the first you’ve heard of that?

Bob Crow – It’s the first I’ve heard of it so it must have been a good deal last week if Peter Hendy has recommended it.

If you want to check it yourself go to


and click on “Transport Committee – Tues 17 June”. Start around the 16:30 point.
Only one major hiccup Tuesday, towards the end of the evening peak there was a signal problem at CHL EB, just as I was arriving at SHB. I sat there making PAs for about ten minutes before someone at Wood Lane instructed all trains to move up to the next station.

Things got a little confused after that as someone else at Wood Lane started issuing instructions to move up so it wasn’t clear if we were to move up one station or two and I ended stuck in the tunnel outside QUE staring at the taillights of the train sat in the platform.

On the approach to MAA Wood Lane happily announced that the signal problem had been fixed but even before I’d opened the doors it had unfixed itself and we started the whole process over again. Thankfully it was fixed again by the time I reached OXO and this time it stayed fixed though by then I was 20 minutes down on a trip that normally would have taken 14.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Saturday night was timetable, the only thing of note was that my duties for next week have already been covered as I was off sick. I went through next week’s sheets and there were plenty of duties marked “NCA” – no cover available. I picked three late turns, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, but there will still be plenty for the spares to do.

With things the way they are there is absolutely no way we are going to be able to provide the level of service planned for the Olympics without us TOps working our rest days.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The toe is much better so the night spare did my WER and back while I went through the “return to work” interview with the DTSM. When I took over the train at LES it was only a minute late which isn't bad for the last EPP on a Friday night. I could see on the CCTV that the CSA on the platform was involved in something on my rear car but I made the assumption that if there was anything serious I would be summoned to the back of the train.

After a lot of gesticulation and animated conversation between him and whoever he was in discussion with along with a few PAs on my part to explain the delay to the other passengers I was given the “right” to leave. As I left SNA Wood Lane informed me that the delay had been caused by a passenger who had intended to leave the train at HOL but had resisted all attempts to wake him and that the Super at WOO be waiting to remove him.

This raises the obvious questions of why wasn’t he removed at LES and if his fellow passengers were aware that he intended to get off at HOL why they didn’t alert someone there? Sadly I suspect the reason was that they didn’t want to delay their own journeys and only mentioned the poor fellow’s plight once they were safely at their destination. Back when I was working stations I was once called up to deal with a passenger lying unconscious on the floor of a train at STR and he’d been there since MAA.

The milkman of human kindness needs to leave an extra pint on a lot of doorsteps in London.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The toe has refused to deflate so I took it back to the doctors resulting in stronger medication and a blood test.

Speaking on BBC London Monday Peter Hendy mentioned that LUL are considering paying staff an Olympic bonus similar to the one offered to Network Rail which the news media have interpreted as us definitely getting £500 for the Olympics.

On the pay deal he first said that there was a two year deal under discussion then amended that to a five year deal on offer but that LUL would not settle for anything less than a two year deal.

And so it goes on....

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

On Friday the doctor advised me to take ibuprofen and keep my foot up. By Sunday night my toe was still painful but I managed to get my shoe on with some difficulty and made my way into work.

Unfortunately I had got my shifts mixed up so I arrived to discover that I was 40 minutes late and that my train was waiting on the Plat 2, I was supposed to go to WER but because of my tardiness I was “short tripped” to NOA.

As I changed ends I was in so much pain that I had to accept that there was no way I would be able to walk out of the sidings at LOU and then walk back in again in the morning. I called up the DTSM on the desk and the night spare took me off when I arrived at LES.

I don’t like being off sick and I don’t like missing night turns. Not a happy bunny

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Two reasons why I didn’t post yesterday, firstly the blogger site was unavailable and secondly the big toe on my left foot is swollen to the point that walking is uncomfortable and wearing my LUL issue DMs downright painful. Consequently I phoned in sick and will have to go through the tedious “return to work” process at some point next week.

I can’t remember the last time I was off work due to sickness, I think it was back in the autumn, but this will effect what happens next. LUL’s sickness policy is based on a suitably Byzantine equation of how often you take time off in a given period and for how long though to be honest I can’t remember the exact details so I will explain more after I’ve had my “return to work” interview.

In the meantime LUL have amended their pay offer, up from the "fair and affordable" 4% they tabled a month ago to a "very fair and affordable" 4.5%. As I mentioned before the normal starting point for pay negotiations is RPI in February which this year was 5.5% so at this rate we’ve got another two months to go before proper negotiations commence.

Then the LUL management will announce that they are off on their summer hols so talks will be delayed till the autumn.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

I enjoy checking on where I’m being read, it comes as no surprise that people in the UK are viewing this but that anyone out there in rest of the world should be checking in amuses the bejesus out of me.

Our cousins on the other side of the pond are always second but this week Iran has leapfrogged Germany and Norway into third while Spain, Hong Kong, Sweden and Russia have been outdone by new entry Slovenia.

For that you get a cheery zdravo!
Shift work can mess you up, yesterday I felt like it was Friday, today also feels like a Friday, Lord alone knows what tomorrow, Friday, will feel like. At least this will bring an end to three weeks of early turns and I can return to relative normality, after work I can rarely motivate myself to do anything other than vegetate on the sofa so the dishes have started to pile up and the contents of washing basket are starting to colonise the surrounding floor.

I was spare yesterday, did one trip up to EPP and a trip around the loop to WOO. LUL have re-employed Eamonn Lynch, though not as a TOp, and RMT have called off the strike. Uncle Bob is going to a have sit down with the LUL bosses to discuss the disciplinary process. Interesting days.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

A beautiful sunny day of which I saw very little as almost all my day was spent downstairs. A signal problem at LAG meant that I was ten minutes late finishing my first half and fifteen minutes late picking up my second. I shuttled back and forth between WHC and NEP and each time I changed ends I had just enough time to sit down before I was off again so by the time I finished I was only a couple of minutes late.

The RMT are still planning on strikes next week, a complex system that means that the night shifts won’t turn up on Monday, early shifts on Tuesday and Thursday and the late shifts Wednesday and Friday. I have heard a lot of mumblings around the depot canteens that the ASLEF reps are running out of membership forms.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Saturday it rained and the trains were slipping around so much that Wood Lane told us to drive in Coded Manual if we felt it was necessary. I’d already switched by then as the train had nearly gone through a red signal at WHC WB in Auto.

Sunday morning I had the pleasure of taking the first WB through the pipe. There is a lot of dust down there, normally just floating around but after the last train goes through it settles and in the morning the air pushed ahead of the first train sends it up again. These clouds of dust are clearly visible in the headlights and are quite entertaining. However there have been a few occasions when the dust has been so bad that passengers waiting on the platform have mistaken it for smoke and reported a fire in the tunnels.

The other thing with running the first train on a Sunday is that we open an hour and a half later than every other day, people forget this and the platforms are as crowded as in the peak hours. When the train arrived from EPP it was quite busy but after the first train from HAI had pulled in and the passengers had been decanted onto my train it was so full that when we arrived at LEY some people couldn’t get on. The same thing was repeated all the way through to HOL.

When I was waking across to get my train one poor soul asked me how to get to Chigwell and I had to tell him that the first train wasn’t for over an hour. If you are travelling anywhere and you’re not sure about what time things run I can thoroughly recommend TfL’s journey planner, it’s on their website, I use it all the time and now I know that if anyone wants to go to Chigwell at 7am on a Sunday morning they can go to Buckhurst Hill and get a bus.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Nothing of note train-wise Friday but a development in the wacky world of industrial relations. Earlier this week the RMT announced that it’s members had voted in favour of strike action in support of the two sacked TOps and would be staging a series of strikes. On Friday the employment tribunal declared that the Bakerloo Line TOp had indeed been unfairly dismissed and now we are all waiting to see if LUL will reinstate him and if RMT will call off the strike.

The tribunals findings make great reading, it’s on RMT’s website, it describes the manager who chaired the disciplinary panel as “an unsatisfactory and unreliable witness” and that the manager who handled his appeal was more concerned with covering up the mistakes that had been made at the initial hearing.

Something about a brewery and organization springs to mind

Friday, 6 May 2011

More trouble Thursday, as I was leaving BAN WB the train behind me was stopped by an “obstruction on the tracks”, something we normally hear when a branch falls off a tree during a storm or bored children on school holidays find an amusing use for shopping trolleys, certainly not something you expect at LIS at the end of the morning peak.

In 2003 the whole Central Line was closed down for months after a train was derailed at Chancery Lane when a motor that fell off so I was a little anxious when Wood Lane asked if I was having any problems and then a train technician got on at WHC to run a system check. Thankfully it was nothing to do with the train itself, the cover of a junction box had fallen off and got stuck underneath.

For the want of a nail......

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Sunday was my rostered Rest Day and Monday I was given the day off as Annual Leave again. It was very odd to be starting work at 5:30am Tuesday, normally I’m finishing but it was a truly beautiful spring morning and everything went timetable. The rabbit population of South West Essex is thriving as the embankments up towards EPP testify. Rest Day again today, Wednesday, then back on till next Tuesday, I’m not spare at any time so there is no danger of a return to the dreaded W&C.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

More merry mayhem just as I was starting, this time the culprit was a signal failure between MIE and BEG and the line was suspended LES to LIS in both directions with all WB trains reversing at LES. I kept busy fielding passenger questions until one of the trains set off EB and made room for my train could come in. The TOp I was relieving had no idea where they wanted me to take it and though I did try calling Wood Lane they were obviously busy so I had no choice but to sit and wait.

After ten minutes I was told to go to EPP and then come back to LES again. Twenty minutes after that I was finally on the move and on the way up I passed a queue of eight trains stacked up all the way past WOO but absolutely nothing after that. This meant that when I returned I would be the first train WB from EPP for well over half an hour.

As I pulled into EPP, one hour after I’d started, Wood Lane announced that hopefully the problem was fixed and they were going to run a “test train” through the section. Thankfully it worked but I was held at EPP for another 20 minutes before they let me out again and the platforms were understandably crowded.

I still had no idea of where I was meant to be going, I still had LES up on the front and it wasn’t till five minutes after I’d arrived there that I was told to do a mainline shunt and go back to HAI via NEP, which was nice as that was where I was due to have my meal break in half an hour. There was general confusion as TOps who were due to get off at LES were arriving to find that the TOp who was supposed to relieve them was somewhere else on the line and the DTSM on the desk had run out of spares long ago.

The problem with the mainline shunt is that it blocks the WB line out of Plat.2 and as that was where the only WB train was, packed out with the passengers I'd picked up, it would have made sense to get me out of the way asap. Instead I sat there and stared at the headlights on the train facing me for a good ten minutes while trains went by EB. Eventually they let me go and I got to HAI almost on time, possibly the only TOp who was!

By the time I’d finished my meal relief everything was running to timetable or near as damn it though I was held at WHC for about ten minutes while the train in the middle platform had the green light but no one in the cab; obviously there were still TOps wandering lost out there.

Just be glad it didn’t happen Friday.
I was spare on Friday and for the first couple of hours I sat around drinking tea and watching Hitchcock’s “Spellbound”. I’m a big film fan, my dad was a cinema manager in the 50s and 60s so I was brought up watching a lot of old movies. Hitchcock grew up in Leytonstone and the subway to the station is decorated with mosaics depicting his life and movies, well worth seeing if you are ever over this way. Salvador Dali was hired to help with Gregory Peck’s dream sequences but sadly the studio cut the original 20 minutes worth and other than a few stills the extra footage is lost.

After that I was sent down to the Waterloo and City, the first time I’ve ever actually worked there rather than go for training. I’ve never liked the idea of going one stop, changing ends, going one stop, going up the sidings, getting off, getting on the next one, going one stop, changing ends, repeat until your brain starts dribbling out your ears. Some people love it but I was bored after the second trip.

I can’t have had more than six passengers on at a time and once I left completely empty. After about two and a half hours of that I was on my way back, the Tube was virtually deserted and everyone seemed to have something with a Union Jack on it except me. Very odd.