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.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

I try to avoid reading the Evening Standard but yesterday I neglected to take a book to work and there’s not much to do when you’re sat at the end of the line waiting for the signal to change.  I picked up a stray copy and having completed the Sudoku in far less time than it’s supposed to take I was left with the choice of either staring into space or reading the damn thing.  Amongst the usual puff pieces about the owner, friends of the owner and various members of the Delevingne clan there was a small article at the top of page 4 in the “News in brief” section about the introduction of one-hour “hopper” bus tickets next Monday.  Buried right at the bottom was a rather interesting and I would say rather important bit of news.

Apparently when Sadiq Khan appoints his new TfL board it will include a union representative, to be chosen by the unions.  This is nothing new, the New York Transit Authority has representatives from three unions on its board while union representation on boards is quite common in Germany.  Back in February Khan said that he’d “make sure there are zero days of strikes” while he was Mayor, hopefully having someone from the staff side at the heart of the decision making process will mean that in future LU management will be less confrontational in its approach to its employees.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

My apologies to Olivia, the new TOp who forgot to open the doors on the first weekend of Night Tube, it seems whoever told me the story embellished it somewhat and she never actually left the cab.  To be fair at one time or another we’ve all forgotten to open the doors when finishing our shift or going on a meal break but none of us were unfortunate enough to have a BBC 3 camera crew in attendance.

I’ve not heard any entertaining stories from the second weekend of Night Tube but there was a rather unpleasant rumour going round that some female TOps were refusing to walk down Wood Lane between WHC station and the sidings under the Westfield as it was unsafe to do so alone.  I've asked around - DTSMs, union reps, Night Tube TOps - and it seems it simply isn't true, it never happened, a steaming pile of grade A bullshit, complete and utter bollocks.

One of the people I spoke to even gave me the name of the person who started the rumour and sadly it doesn't come as a surprise, the person mentioned has made disparaging remarks about female TOps in the past.  Thankfully I've also been told they're going to be leaving soon and I suspect they won't be missed.

The Notting Hill Carnival came and went, despite there being record arrests this year we didn't seem to have much trouble on the Tube apart from the overcrowding.  The platform at NHG got so crowded on Sunday afternoon that we were having to hold trains on the WB, moving up one station at a time while the platform was cleared and by the time I left NHG I was 16 minutes late.

Yesterday was my rest day so I went to Dagenham to see Old Mother shrugged which now takes a lot longer as the Gospel Oak to Barking Line is closed for electrification work but travelling on the District Line I saw a gentleman returning home with his costume after what appeared to have been an exhausting weekend.  Must be hard work dancing two days straight, no wonder he'd dropped off!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Two more jolly tales of Night Tube, the first concerns the much publicised simulation of vomit with vegetable soup during the test run on the weekend before Night Tube started.  Allegedly the staff given the task of applying the “vomit” were instructed to distribute it as widely as possible and they accomplished their task with such enthusiasm that the next morning we had to cancel a few trains as they were still being cleaned when they were supposed to enter service.

As the first night was undoubtedly a big event there were plenty of press and media in attendance along with more managers than you could possibly need.  One film crew was allowed to accompany one of our more photogenic new TOps as they worked their shift, filming events as they unfolded.  As the new TOp finished their shift at LES they closed down the train, removed their RKL220 key, stepped onto the platform and handed over to the relieving early turn TOp, all with the cameras recording every moment.

The relieving TOp pointed out that they’d forgotten to open the doors so the new TOp jumped back in the cab and pressed the open buttons.  The relieving TOp then suggested they might want to put their key back in because the buttons don’t work when a train is closed down.

All with the cameras recording every moment.

Monday, 22 August 2016

And so Night Tube has finally arrived.  The predictions of trains being mobile Sodom and Gomorrahs proved to be unfounded, perhaps deterred by the noticeable presence of the BTP who seemed to be everywhere, desperately roaming the line trying to find a train or station that didn’t already have BTP on it.  While things seem to have gone well from the public perception there have been rumours that things didn’t go quite so well behind the scenes and while I would usually try to verify whether these rumours are accurate I’m going to share them anyway simply because its too tempting not to.

The first thing I heard was that a number of the part time TOps didn’t last long enough to even see the start of Night Tube, the numbers quoted vary but it seems that when finally confronted with the prospect of working Friday and Saturday nights for the foreseeable future it was too much for them.  The plain fact is that we do have a high turnover with staff, for some the reality of working on the Tube isn’t quite as attractive as they imagined it to be, whether it be the shifts or what the job actually entails.

As most staff start out as CSAs this usually isn't a problem but it slightly different if they’ve spent four months training up as a TOp only to decide they don’t want to be a TOp after all.  Even if they’ve been a CSA or some other job that involves shift work they aren’t necessarily going to enjoy being a TOp, when I trained there I was with an SAMF for London Bridge who was also going to WHC, they lasted 6 months after their "sweat day" before they went back to stations because they couldn't stand the isolation of being in the cab on their own.

Another rumour was that there was a signal failure at LOU at some point which as I mentioned has trains moving in and out of the sidings throughout the night, something I’m told has already been the subject of complaints from the residents in the vicinity.  Also at LOU one of the new TOps supposedly managed to SPAD the signal on the middle platform coming out of the depot, not easy as the signal is a long way past the stopping mark.

However the prize for most interesting rumour must go to the tale of the TOp who went into HAI depot and seems to have got somewhat confused.  From the platforms at HAI there are two ways into the depot, either you go straight in or you go up the wash road, into the sidings behind GRH (known as the North Neck), change ends and then into the depot itself.

Allegedly the new TOp took the train through the wash, up into the North Neck, thought that was where they were to stable it and started walking back to HAI station.  All ended happily but I’m sure somebody will be checking to see which IOp signed off that particular TOp as fully trained on their HAI depot moves.

If any of it happened, of course……..

Friday, 5 August 2016

Recently I suggested that the rise in accidents at the Platform Train Interface was a result of stupid people paying more attention to their smart phones than where they were going but it seems the stupidity level has been given a boost.  Earlier this week “HSE Bulletin 22 in 2016” went up on the notice board to highlight the danger of Pokemon Go on the railways.

No, honestly, this is not a joke.

According to the bulletin “There have been reports of players attending railway stations and level crossings to try and capture the Pokemon characters they believe to be around.  Players are often so absorbed in the screens of their phones that they fail to appreciate their surroundings and the inherent dangers around them or whether access to an area is restricted.”

Got to catch 'em…SPLATT

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Today is the start of the last week of WTT67 as next Sunday we enter the wonderful, wacky world of Night Tube, indeed one of the LES Mafias has already out up duties for the week ending 13th August.  Chris Taggart's objections were overruled on Tuesday and according to the report of the RMT National Executive Committee the Victoria Line “have had their roster issues amended” although I’ve not heard if the amendments meet the approval of the TOps on the Victoria Line.

We are told that LU will be "managing the noise and vibration issue that Night Tube presents to many residents living above or near the Tube".  Apparently the Central Line Track Team have installed "resilient track fastenings" which act like shock absorbers to muffle sounds at "key rail noise locations".  Obviously this will have no effect on the train whistles as they go in and out of LOU, HAI and WHC at regular intervals throughout the night.

Yesterday when I Googled "London Underground" and "news" I was presented with a story about a fight at York Hall in Bethnal Green which ended with a man being fatally stabbed on the forecourt of a BP petrol station.  Most news agencies described the incident as taking place "outside" the Tube station, with the Daily Mail describing “massive puddles of blood”.  It is higly unlikely that any Mail reporter actually went to the scene to verify this as if they had they might have noticed that both York Hall and the BP petrol station are a good 200 yards up Cambridge Heath Road from BEG.  Sadly this is just one example of many over the years where reporters seem eager to link the Tube with any negative story regardless of how tenious that link may be.

On the subject of "inaccurate" journalists I have been told that recently a pair of reporters turned up at an address in East London wishing to "doorstep" a senior union official at his home about an upcoming strike.  When they discovered he wasn't there they proceeded to question the lady who answered the door about her opinion on the subject and when she asked how they'd come to have that address they told her they'd been given it by the union.  This seems highly unlikely as while the lady in question was once in a relationship with the union official they separated more than a decade ago and she moved to that address after the separation so he's never lived there.

Obviously things are harder than they were back in the days when if the newspapers wanted to know something they just hacked your phone......

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

WTT69 is due to be introduced on the Central Line from Sunday 7th August to allow a test run of Night Tube services on Friday 11th and Saturday 12th with services to commence on Friday 18th.  Last week we were told that the new rosters had finally been agreed and that Night Tube was good to go but it seems that not everyone is happy.

Central Line General Manager Chris Taggart thinks there are too many DMIs (Duty Manager’s Instructions) where TOps become “spare” at the end of their shift although as I mentioned earlier the Duty Manager’s instruction is normally “sod off home”.  What makes this slightly bizarre is that the agreement was signed off by managers further up the chain than Taggart so effectively he’s arguing with his bosses.  There’s going to be yet another meeting over this and we should know what’s going on later this week.

Despite all that it seems that things on the Central Line are positively rosy compared to the Victoria Line where once again DMIs seem to be an issue although in this case it’s not management but the unions who are arguing against them.  I am told that at Brixton there is a local agreement that TOps work a maximum of five “rounders” – Brixton to Walthamstow Central and back – on a duty but some duties on the new roster have five rounders with a DMI on the end which means they could be asked to do a sixth rounder.

The situation has got so bad that RMT are balloting for strike action while I’m informed that the local ASLEF reps at Brixton and Seven Sisters have resigned en masse because they don’t feel they are getting enough support for the Functional Reps.  One suggestion is that this could go to ACAS with a six week “cooling off” period but that would mean Night Tube on the Victoria Line being delayed until September and whether they’d go ahead with Night Tube on just the Central Line is questionable.

If I've got any of the facts wrong please feel free to correct me, I'm simply reporting what I've heard around the depots (and I only got back off Annual Leave yesterday).

Alfred Hitchfox is doing well, I saw him picking through a box of KFC yesterday

Thursday, 14 July 2016


I’ve checked WTT69 and it seems that a lot of the depot/sidings moves I mentioned yesterday are actually stabling trains before our “normal” finish time but there will be 26 depot/siding moves between our “normal” last and first trains on a Friday night/Saturday morning; five starts, five finishes at HAI, four of each at WHC and LOU.  LOU and HAI are right in the middle of housing estates so I suspect the number of complaints to TfL from residents there, along the Open Sections of the Central Line and next to Northumberland Park depot on the Victoria will significantly rise after the second weekend in August.

I met Alfred Hitchfox in the staff car park yesterday as I was going home after work, I'm informed not only does he have a taste for pigeons but he's also doing his bit to reduce the local rat population and seems to enjoy digging up the flowerbeds of the Train Crew garden.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

I was given my copy of Working Timetable 69 a few days ago with orange pages for Fridays added to the white (weekday), green (Saturdays) and yellow (Sunday).  The proposed rosters are still under negotiation, management and our union reps have been discussing them for several weeks with the main bone of contention the distribution of "dead late" and “middle” turns.   Previously HAI and LOU had more dead lates than middles while LES had more middles than dead lates but when the first draft of the rosters came out it had switched around so some people are less than pleased (apart from me, I love later starts).

Since then there’s been a bit of swapping and as well as disagreement with management there’s also been disagreement between union reps, not RMT vs ASLEF but the reps of both unions from one depot arguing with the reps from another!  I think we’re up to version three now and it does seem as if things are slowly taking shape although one rather bizarre detail is still there. Up until now WER duties were numbered 200-something, WHC 300, LES 400, HAI 600 with the W&C duties 700.  For some reason the suits have decided to change this after all these years, in the new rosters WER are 900, LES are 600 and HAI 400.  I’ve no idea what WHC and LOU or why they’ve decided to do this but it seem rather an odd thing to do.

Even odder are the actual Night Tube duties that the part timers will be doing, for starters all duties are eight hours long although most of them aren’t driving up until the end of their shift, getting relieved a good while before their finish time but at least it will be unlikely they'll be claiming for overtime if there's a sigal failure.  One of the strangest duties drives a train for 2 hours 50 minutes, stables at LOU, brings a train out of WHC sidings 3 hours 10 minutes later and finishes at LES after 1 hour 42 minutes with 47 minutes left before their official booking off time.

Rather than trains running through the night it seems that trains will be taken out of service at regular intervals throughout the night which I assume is so the train maintainers can do their stuff.  There are fifteen night turns on Friday at LES and in those fifteen duties there are 28 instances where the train either goes in or out of a siding or depot.  So rather than drunks sleeping from one end of the line to the other until they eventually wake up they will have to be roused and persuaded to leave the trains before they can be stabled which from my many years of doing last trains I imagine will lead to a degree of aggravation. 

It’s also going to be very annoying for the residents of LOU, WOO and HAI as the trains have to sound their whistles when going in or out of a depot or siding as a safety measure to alert the staff working there.  I've no doubt this all looks pretty easy and problem free when you’re sat in an office somewhere but I suspect not only will there be tears before bedtime there will also be tears during and after.

On a somewhat happier note LES has a new attraction, if you’re coming out the Grove Green Road exit in the evening keep an eye out for the fox that appears to have taken up residence in the car park.  It’s perfectly relaxed with people, as long as you don’t threaten it then it will let you get quite close and just carry on sitting around or wandering about sniffing things.  Its not quite so tolerant of the local pigeon population from the occasional stray wing I've seen lying around but with its obvious taste for death and destruction I think we should name it in honour of the area’s other famous resident 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Alfred Hitchfox

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Yesterday for an hour and 40 minutes there was no service between MAA and LES due to a "one under" at LEY.  Had this happened last year we could have reversed at LIS or HOL but as mentioned last month Museum siding at HOL has been removed and currently LIS sidings are being used for storage.  Reversing over the crossovers at LIS and BEG would mean using one platform for arrivals and departures which would lead to serious overcrowding so instead the main central 16km/10 mile stretch of Central Line serving a dozen stations was shut down.  This is progress?

By the time I started work we were running again but obviously everything was late which was further exacerbated by a signal problem at WHC.  Things were still running late when I finished 7 hours 20 minutes later with all WB trains running to WER and a shuttle service running NOA to EAB plus no outer rail service on the HAI loop.  Strangely the platforms were more crowded around 20:00 than they were at 17:00 and my last EB trip wasn't helped by the train repeatedly changing the destination describer from EPP to WER or occasionally sounding the chimes to warn that the doors were closing after they'd started to close.  Not a happy train.....

We had conformation of the TOp reductions for Night Tube, LES will lose 5, HAI 14 and WHC 6.  As I mentioned this is not because the rosters were expanded for Night Tube last year and are now being reduced, this is from the full time TOps we had under WTT 67.  I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens next.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

When I joined LU nearly 20 years ago as a humble Station Assistant last trains meant that one of us would go down on the platform while another waited at the ticket barriers to call down over the radio if any last minute passengers were on their way.  When everybody was on board the bod on the platform would give a signal to the TOp that it was okay to proceed.  In April we received a new issue of Rule Books and one little amendment seems to have been overlooked. In the last issue of Rule Book 8 "Managing the platform train interface" under Section 3.6 "Last Trains" station staffs’ responsibilities were listed as....
"When the last train to a destination is departing you must:
  • hold the train as necessary to maintain connections
  • the announcements to tell customers this is the last train
  • dispatch the train using the appropriate dispatch sign.” 
The first line has now been amended to read "For the last train booked for connection to a destination you must"
The booked connections are listed on page 5 of Working Timetable 67, they are the last EPP and HAI at LES, the last WB and EB trains at MIE to connect with the last District Line trains and the last WER and EAB trains at WHC.  Anywhere else the TOp is no longer required to wait for station staff to show up, this seems to have caught out a few people including so I'm told the controllers at Wood Lane and when I got back from annual leave a few weeks ago notices had gone up pointing out the rule change.  No doubt this is another result of FFTF, it just gets better and better……..

Monday, 6 June 2016

Yesterday at 11:14 the Victoria Line Twitter feed announced that King’s Cross had been evacuated and closed due to “staff below minimum numbers” although at 11:35 it was announced that it had re-opened.  I’m pretty certain that King’s Cross has the largest staff of any station on the Tube, according to the Fit for Future station by station review for the Metropolitan Line it now has 7 CSM1s, 14 CSS1, 91 full time and 7 part time CSAs although some of them are the new “customer facing” CSA2 grade.
On a Sunday the minimum staffing level is 11 rising to 15 between 11:00 and 20:00 but on this particular Sunday there was no Circle Line due to engineering work with the Met and the H&C reversing at KX so for that 20 minutes it must have been pretty hectic at Euston Square or wherever they decided to tip out the trains.  My guess is that one or two members of staff who should have been there at 11am were delayed, possibly because like the District Line TOp I had in my cab on Saturday they forgot there was engineering work and their usual route to work was unavailable.  I guess it isn’t just the passengers who don’t check engineering work notices!
On Night Tube it seems the general opinion is to wait and see what happens.  One thing I neglected to mention about the TOps being displaced is that neither WHC or LES were getting any extra TOps for Night Tube.  Had the original plan gone ahead both depots would have had the same number as under WTT67 so these are not extra TOps who were added for Night Tube, under the current proposals both WHC and LES will have fewer TOps
Please feel free to correct me if I've got anything wrong, I usually do.........

Monday, 30 May 2016

And just when we thought everything about Night Tube was settled it seems that management can't leave anything alone.  The week before last I heard that when the new timetable is introduced along with the introduction of 37 part time TOps working Friday and Saturday nights the number of full time TOps will be reduced,  I've now learnt that there will be 8 less places at LES, 10 at WHC and 15 at HAI with the WHC TOps said to be going to Queen's Park while the ones from the east end of the line will find themselves at Earl's Court on the District Line.  What makes things even more unpalatable is that the number of TOps at LOU has been expanded, I'm informed they've had 25 brand new TOps join over the past year and I believe that WER has also had some fresh arrivals.

Management will give a annual bonus (I believe the figure is £6k) to the displaced TOps but as with Night Tube they don't seem to realise that money isn't everything.  One of the LES TOps who will be forced to move only got here from WHC recently and understandably she is less than happy, had she stayed at WHC she'd have been better off.  This issue will be raised at branch meetings over the next few weeks but even among those of us senior enough not to be effected the overwhelming attitude seems to be that this is grievously unfair and we are prepared to take strike action if necessary.

Maybe management could try asking for volunteers rather than imposing displacement, maybe there are some TOps who would take £6k for a move but speaking for myself its not worth having to get a staff taxi back across London after a dead late.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Back in December when we had a knife weilding maniac causing mayhem at LES I found myself stuck up the west siding at WHC next to an engineering train and got talking with the driver. The drivers of engineering trians get to work all the lines apart from the W&C so unlike most TOps they can compare and contrast. According to him the Central Line is not the worst at recovering the service after an incident, that honour goes to the Piccadilly but the Central is definitely the second worst.

The Piccadilly could have some serious competition in the near future as from 21 May the British Museum siding west of HOL will be decomissioned and it seems at some point soon we will also lose the little used crossover at QUE. Our reversing points for the middle of the line will be at LES, the crosover west of BEG, the two sidings east of and crossover west of LIS, the siding west of MAA and WHC. At the moment the sidings at LIS are unavailable as they are being used for some sort of storage, no idea what that's for and no idea when we'll be getting them back.

I'm certainly glad I won't be working at Wood Lane the next time we have a service suspension

Saturday, 7 May 2016

While I'm overjoyed that Sadiq Khan will be our mayor for the next four years I'm rather saddened by the news that Richard Tracey, purveyor of moronic opinions on how the Tube should work since 2008, will no longer be around to entertain us.  Maybe he simply ran out of stupid ideas or maybe he finally realised that everything he had said that related to transport was so much dingoes kidneys but for whatever reason he decided that he'd had enough.  Even if he had decided to carry on it would have been the same outcome as Labour won Merton and Wandsworth.

Friday, 8 April 2016

This week Zac Goldsmith announced that he would raise £25m to pay for an extra 500 police on the Tube by scrapping TfL staff nominee passes, a variation on last year’s proposal by Andrew Boff and the Tories on the London Assembly to “save” TfL £22.3m a year, utter nonsense then and utter nonsense now.  Rather than being the equivalent of a Zone 1-6 travelcard as claimed nominee passes are valid on TfL services only so if TfL were paying £22.3m for free travel they be paying themselves.  What the Tories actually mean is “lost revenue” rather than cost, what the nominees notionally would have paid in fares if they didn’t have the free pass but I suppose if you say that TfL are spending tax payers’ money on free travel it sounds “sexier”.

How did they come to the figure of £22.3m?  In 2014 nominees made just over 3.6m Tube or rail journeys and just under 4.8m bus or tram journeys, the average Tube fare was calculated as £3.60 by taking the arbitrary figures of the cost of a single Zone 1-6 peak time journey, £5.00, and a single Zone 1-2 off peak journey, £2.20.  The average bus and tram fare of £1.92 was reached by simply adding the single bus fare, £1.45, to the single tram fare, £2.40, and dividing by two regardless of the fact that far more journeys are on the buses than trams!

TfL disputed these totally worthless figures and estimated the lost revenue as not more than £7m although even that might be an overestimation as there’s no guarantee all the nominees would continue to use public transport if their free travel was withdrawn.  So rather than funding an extra 500 police on the Tube withdrawing nominee passes would provide 140 at the very most but even that raises the question of whether the Tube actually needs more police or whether they’d be more useful elsewhere in London where officer numbers have dropped by 1535 according to Sadiq Khan.

Maybe Zac Goldsmith shouldn't have been so keen to adopt one of Boff's ideas, the party faithful had so little regard for him that he came fourth out of four in the mayoral candidate selection ballot with just 4% of the votes although their judgment of him seems well deserved.  Last August Boff put a video clip of himself on Twitter saying “I love the DLR, no driver, no one to strike” but three months later a strike by RMT meant there was no service on the DLR for two days.  That’s pretty stupid but not as stupid as the clip still being there six months later.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Boris has poked his head up to make his somewhat muted Night Tube announcement although in contradiction to earlier reports he claimed that Night Tube will start running “towards the end of July”.  I suspect that not for the first time he’s misunderstood how things work down here, in order to run the Victoria and Jubilee Lines overnight on Friday 5th August the new timetables and rosters would be introduced on Sunday 31st July so maybe he didn’t understand the difference.  The reports say that Boris made his announcement at the controls of a train simulator being used by some of the new bods and there he is, sat at what is easily identifiable as a mock-up of an S Stock cab.  Of course S Stock works the Sub Surface Lines and Night Tube won’t be introduced there until 2018 at the earliest so highly unlikely any of the part-timers will be trained on that particular simulator.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Last week on LBC TfL Commissioner Mike Brown was asked about Sadiq Khan’s plan to freeze fares over four years, he explained that the discrepancy between Khan’s estimated cost of £450m and TfL’s estimate of £1.9bn was down to different “assumptions” about inflation along with the fact that TfL were working to a five year business plan whereas Khan was looking at the Mayor’s four year term of office.

Brown said that either set of calculations were "perfectly legitimate"  and when asked if he would be happy to work under Khan he said that he was excited at the prospect of working under whoever was elected as his new boss, all of which sounded to me like someone who has seen the writing on the wall and does not want to be part of the flab trimmed from TfL after 5th May.  Strangely this little bit of revisionism doesn't seem to have been as widely publicised as the original TfL statement that freezing fares would open up a £1.9bn black hole.  I wonder why........

Here’s the link for Adam Bienkov's article I came across yesterday

And here’s the link to the interview on YouTube, start watching from 13:00

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

More on Night Tube, the Moring Star initially said that Boris would make his grand announcement today at Ashford depot which I found rather odd as that is where Southeastern keep their Javelin trains, nothing to do with TfL, and it was suggested that this was an attempt by Boris to steal a bit of the limelight ahead of George Osborne’s budget on Wednesday.  Later the Evening Standard added actual dates, 5 August and 23 September, also from an unnamed ASLEF source, along with the news that the announcement will be made some time after the budget at Ashfield House, LU’s training centre next to West Kensington station (that big tower block behind the east end of the Westbound platform that looks like Gestapo HQ).

While there he will meet some of the new TOps which Boris and his media circus no doubt imagines will be a splendid photo opportunity but I’m not so sure it will be quite as expected.  Rather than former members of the public who’ve signed up to be train drivers I suspect that this batch of trainees will mostly be made up of station staff who’ve been squeezed out by Fit for the Future and as RMT or TSSA members would have been on strike last summer.  Just what sort of reception Boris will get from people he has taken every opportunity to insult I’m not sure but if the visit does go ahead it could be quite amusing (for everyone except Boris),

Monday, 14 March 2016

The Morning Star has been told by an unnamed source at ASLEF that Boris will announce that Night Tube will start running on the Victoria and Jubilee Lines from August with the Central, Piccadilly and Northern Lines to follow in September.  Obviously this will depend on LU actually finding enough part-time TOps from the 6000 or so applicants and on whether the new mayor actually wants to go ahead with scheme although current favourite Sadiq Khan has made delivering Night Tube one of his manifesto pledges.

Khan has also promised no fare rises for the next four years which TfL predicts will leave a £1.9bn funding hole although other sources have calculated it as a good deal less.  His manifesto describes TfL as “inefficient and flabby”, it says that he intends to cut “duplication and waste” and will halve the £383m spent on “the overuse of consultants and agency staff”.  With more than 400 executives on £100k or over it is little wonder the suits at TfL are less than happy with the prospect of the gravy train being cancelled.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Boris's alcohol ban on the Tube may have been forgotten but at least the Central Line seems to be attracting a more sophisticated class of drinker…

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Much has been made of the news that RMT members have voted to accept the pay deal with claims that this brings us a step closer to Night Tube but it isn’t as close as some people might think.  Night Tube will only start once 180 part time TOps are in place, back in January LU announced that it had over 6000 applications, some of which were existing TfL or LUL employees while the rest were from the general public.

I’ve not met or heard of a single TOp on the Central Line who has applied to go part time, if anyone knows a TOp anywhere who has then please let me know but I think it’s safe to say that there aren’t many.  I have been told that some other existing employees have started the training course while the task of sorting through the external applications was completed about a month ago and the ones that weren’t obviously bat-shit crazy or otherwise unsuitable are currently going through the assessment phase.  After the assessments there are the interviews, the medicals and the background checks still to go, if my own experience back in the late 90s is anything to go by it could be another 2-3 months before anyone starts training

Training will take 16 weeks, if it hasn’t changed in the last 12 years the first four weeks are classroom based but due to the lack of trainers and limited space they can probably only take 20 at a time.  The next four weeks will be line specific stock training but the last eight weeks is on a one-to-one basis out on the “road” with an IOp and there are only a limited number of them per line.  I think the Central has less than 20 and obviously not all of those will be available at any given time.

At a rough guess I don’t think we will be seeing Night Tube until the late autumn, maybe even winter but there is no guarantee that out of all those applications there are 180 candidates who can actually get all the way to the final Road Test.  As I’ve mentioned before when LU last advertised externally for TOps – full time rather than part time – they got far more applications and only about 30 candidates eventually passed out as drivers.

This is why I suspect LU haven’t said much about the news from RMT, they simply don’t know when or even if Night Tube is going to happen.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Two weeks ago it was revealed that the number of accidents at the Platform Train Interface had risen from 56 in 2003 to 298 in 2014 which seemed striking compared to the rise in passenger numbers; 942m in 2003, 1.26bn in 2014.  RMT blamed the rise on a “poisonous cocktail of station staffing cuts and severe overcrowding” but I’m not sure that is the main cause.  Looking at the figures for the intervening years in 2004 the number climbed to 91 but never rose higher than 103 until 2010 when it hit 119.  2011 it went up slightly to 123, then up to 154 in 2012 followed by a big jump to 223 in 2013 and finally all the way up to 298.

From my own observations I think the answer is a little less obvious; smart phones.  Back in 2003 the most you could do with your mobile was call or send texts, today we can surf the net or listen to music on our phones and what I’ve noticed as I pull into the platforms in the last few years is a lot more people wearing headphones or starting at intently at their hand.  In June 2012 LU started rolling out Wi-Fi on 40 stations, the year before we had that big jump in accidents, by the end of 2014 it was available on 150 and today there are only a few stations where you can’t get connected.

Rather than a lack of staff or overcrowding I suspect that more people are not paying attention to what is going on around them and consequently they don’t hear the chimes warning them that the doors are about to close or they don’t see the gap between train and platform.  Technology may have given us smart phones but sadly it cannot make the people  using them less stupid than they already are.

Careful now….

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Yesterday Alstom, Bombardier, CAF, Hitachi and Siemens were invited to tender their bids to build 250 new trains for the Piccadilly, Waterloo & City, Bakerloo and Central Lines for delivery in the early 2020s.  You would have thought that a step closer to the arrival of Boris’s much publicised “New Train for London” would have had LUL’s media team pulling out all the stops but it seems to have gone completely unnoticed apart from a couple of mentions in the railway press (and the Derby Telegraph).  Maybe the Standard etc. were far more interested in doors opening between stations on the Piccadilly.

The announcement is pretty much the same as last time; faster, more frequent, air cooled (hopefully better than Boris’s air cooled buses) with walk through carriages but as with the advert for part time TOps there is a link for FAQs which sheds a little more light on perhaps why this announcement has been allowed to slip under the radar.  As before it says that when the trains first arrive they will operate with the existing signal system – ATP for the Central, coloured light signals and trip cocks for the others – until all the old stock is replaced and the new control signalling systems has been installed.   It also repeats the earlier statement by one of the Browns that once all the old stock has been replaced and the new signal system is working they will be driven under ATO with a TOp in the cab until PEDs can be fitted which won’t be until the 2030s.

What is new is that the Bakerloo will not be getting PEDs “due to interoperation of services with national rail at the northern end of the line”.  If PEDs are essential for driverless operation then unless London Overground forsakes the line between Euston and Watford Junction the Bakerloo will need someone in the cab and the assumption is that the same holds for the Richmond branch of the District.

The FAQs also reveal that the reason the four lines currently operating with ATO can’t go driverless is simply that they would need significant upgrades along with PED doors.  Whether the ATO signalling system Thales are working on for the Sub Surface Lines will support driverless operation isn't mentioned but even if it does the District would still need TOps for the Network Rail bit.  They admit they are still considering just how driverless trains would be staffed but I wouldn't imagine a DLR-type person is going to be a lot of use stood in the middle of a train at 08:30 on a Monday morning in Zone 1.

Back in 2012 when Boris was running for mayor he gave the impression that driverless trains on the Tube were just around the corner, perhaps the lack of fanfare is to save him from having to explain that its going to take longer than he led the public to believe and that some lines cannot go driverless.

Meanwhile on the Night Tube front Unite has called off their strikes but TSSA has said they will join ASLEF and RMT.  The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.....

Saturday, 16 January 2016

It’s quiet.  Too quiet.  Apart from a brief quote in the Standard from Our Man Finn describing yesterday’s talks as “useful” and that there will be more talks next week we’ve heard nothing so fingers crossed, no news is good news and we’re actually moving towards settling the Night Tube/pay deal.  There’s an interesting article by Finn in The Morning Star because obviously no other paper is interested in telling our side of the story.

Meanwhile the Heavy Overhaul is underway and the first evidence is……….the air vents.  If you’ve been on the Central Line you may have noticed that the air vents behind the seats have grown fins however this is not a homage to 1950s Cadillacs or Ford Zephyrs but to stop them being blocked when passengers leave their Metros behind.  What you probably won’t have noticed is unlike the old vents that were vertically straight these ones sort of zig-zag with a little shelf halfway down to catch anything small enough to fall through.

The real important bit of the Heavy Overhaul will be replacing the DC motors with AC which will eliminate flashovers and reduce the number of trains going out of service although as that will only reach the “Pre Tender” stage in June or July we’ll probably still be suffering from a shortage of serviceable trains for a few more years.  I suppose as this is the Heavy Overhaul this could be called the Great Pre Tender ……........or maybe not.

Monday, 11 January 2016

On Friday while I was off Steve “Not Brown” Griffiths emailed us an update on Night Tube and it’s worth noting a few points.

“We have listened to your trade union representatives who have been very clear that your work-life balance is a priority. It is for this reason that we have recruited part-time staff on stations and are doing the same in train operations as it minimises the impact of Night Tube on existing employees”

Night Tube was initially announced back in November 2013, two years and two strikes to come to this decision can hardly be described as effective management from a bunch whose salaries make ours look like "chickenfeed".

“This recruitment will mean that our existing train operators will not have to work Night Tube shifts, unless they choose to do so. It also does not impact on our existing agreements with the unions.”

Now maybe I've misunderstood or maybe its poorly worded but that seems to suggest existing TOps who choose to work Night Tube don't necessarily have to become part-timers.  The existing agreement is that we run trains overnight on three “special events” a year which LU want to expand to seven so to say this doesn’t impact on existing agreements is utter nonsense.

“Since October 2014 we have held an extensive number of meetings with your trade unions and also involved the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).  We believe that we have addressed all the points that have been raised and exhausted all reasonable negotiations.”

Despite the unions repeatedly offering to have “a period of concentrated discussions on the outstanding issues” (from Our Man Finn’s Facebook page) there haven’t been any meetings since November and the recruitment of part time drivers has gone ahead without any consultation.

Griffiths then goes onto the pay deal which includes “a £500 consolidated flat rate increase to recognise our transformation to a 24-hour passenger service operation – Night Tube” and a “£500 non-consolidated launch payment to all staff on Night Tube lines”.  Obviously accepting this pay offer would be accepting Night Tube, we still don’t have any guarantee that the recruitment of part timers will deliver the 180 extra TOps needed so we certainly aren’t about to agree to anything that includes Night Tube.

ASLEF’s Executive Committee will meet today with our reps recommending further strike action which BBC claims will be on 27th January, 15th and 17th February.   ASLEF aren’t opposed to Night Tube or part-time TOps but they aren’t going to accept anything without negotiation.  As Our Man Finn says on his Facebook page "we want to make sure that working conditions for both existing and new staff are protected" which includes all those potential part-time TOps.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

It is often said that Boris doesn't do detail and he was certainly short of information on LBC's Nick Ferrari show on Tuesday.  He announced that recruitment of part time TOps for Night Tube had just opened even though the advert has been online for about three weeks and was due to close that evening.  He said there would be 300 new jobs which TfL later corrected to 180 and that there have been 4300 applications for the post with an unspecified number from existing TOps.  That probably isn’t going to be cause for celebration at 55 Broadway as the last time they tried to recruit directly from the public the response was significantly higher and it only produced about 30 TOps.

He didn't say when Night Tube would start which seems reasonable as in all probability they'll have to readvertise and also its going to take a while to train 180 new TOps.  The last 8 weeks of the 16 week course is done on a one-to-one basis with an IOp in the cab of a train with passengers on board, of the 450-odd TOps on the Central Line we've only got about 20 IOps and no doubt the other lines are similarly limited.  He didn’t know how much they’d be earning and jokingly suggested that Ferrari apply for the job.  While it is true that TfL will allow its employees to do other jobs they have to be approved and as Ferrari pointed out his show ran until 10:00 on a Friday morning which wouldn't give him the 12 hour rest period prior to the earliest booking on for Night Tube at 21:00.

Maybe whoever briefs Boris was still recovering from the Festive Season......

Saturday, 2 January 2016

The closing date for the part time TOps job has moved to 11pm Tuesday 5 January so obviously the response to the offer has not been as high as expected.  In an interview with the FT published yesterday Mike “Brown” Brown was asked about the funding gap created by George Osborne’s spending review which over the next five years will leave TfL short of an estimated £2.8bn or £4bn depending on whether you believe him or the GLA transport committee.

He trumpets their grandiose plans to build homes and offices over depots and stations, what I like to think of as the “Railtrack” approach, predicting that this will raise £3.4bn over the next ten years.  He admits that some projects could be cancelled but they will try to find ways to make others cheaper which is bitterly amusing as LU’s track record of doing things cheaply is less than stellar.  One fine example is the current dog’s dinner they’ve made of resignalling the SSLs which Mike Brown knows all about as when Bombardier were awarded the contract in June 2011 he was managing director of LU.

On Night Tube he said “I am not going to just pour money to sort out disputes.  That may have historically been what has happened in this place but it’s not going to happen anymore because it can’t.  I don’t have the money”.  As TSSA revealed this time last year LU’s own estimation was that Night Tube will lose £19.6m in its first year of operation and isn’t expected to break even for 17 years.  If that estimate was calculated using the original plan with existing TOps working nights and accepting their first “final” pay offer then it’s safe to assume that figure has gone up a bit.

I know £19.6m isn’t much but if Mike Brown is looking at ways of saving money cancelling Night Tube would a good start, we can forget all the changes to life/work balance with bonuses for this or that and get on with sorting out a straight forward pay deal.  Telling Joanna Lumley she can pay for her own Garden Bridge would be another and selling the Cable Car as scrap metal would probably raise more money than it costs to run it.  Sadly we can’t do much about the Borisbus, we’ll be lumbered with those until they rust because nobody else is stupid enough to want a bus with three doors, two staircases and are so heavy they can’t legally be at full capacity.

I actually had the misfortune to get on one, a 73 going down Oxford Street, on my way from having a gander at the new TCR (impressed) to Marylebone Farmer’s Market (the only place I know where I can get Crispins which Old Mother shrugged swears make the best baked apple).  I went upstairs and can confirm the reports that the roof is very low, the windows are small and the general ambience is pretty gloomy compared to other top decks.  When I got to my stop I went down the rear stairs and it was only when the door opened that I noticed that this was one of the “new” NB4L with a normal “plug” door at the back instead of the sliding door, pole or rear platform.

Boris may have only four months left as mayor but we’ll be paying for his incompetence for many years to come.

Happy New Year, folks, vote Sadiq!