Thursday, September 14, 2006


Hey everyone! Apologies for the lack of updates lately, but between my daughter crying and me working almost 24/7 I just don't seem to have time!

What a culture shock it's been to be back working on the buses! Instead of having 12 hours off between shifts, we only get 8.5 hours, which doesn't include travelling time etc, so I could be rostered to finish at midnight, wait for the staff bus home at 1am (I don't have a car at the moment), get home and unwind for an hour - that makes it now 2am and I could be due to book on again at 8.30am the following morning, meaning I'd have to get out of bed for 7am!

The shift lengths are quite long too. Some of them are over ten hours, which is a bloody long time to be driving for. We only get 35 minutes break out of that ten hours, so all those adverts telling drivers that "tiredness kills - take regular breaks" are obviously not aimed at poor bus drivers! There is very little time at termini, so you could be driving for 5.5 hours non-stop, dealing with traffic and passengers etc, have your 35 minute break then do another 4 hours solid driving.
I know it's my choice to drive buses, but I'm still quite shocked at how we're treated. The company I work for even charge us for using the depot car park!
We've just had a pay rise, but I'm still having to work an average 60 hour week to make ends meet. It's shocking that for such a responsible job, we're so badly paid! It's also shocking that in 2006, 95% of the drivers at my depot are so hard-up they're claiming various family tax credits etc to make up the pay.

There are actually a million whinges I've got to blog about, but I'll save them for another day! Taxi drivers: beware - you're the first to be whinged at when I have time!!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Please say hello to...

My latest arrival!

May I present to the world Rihanna:

Born in the QE Hospital, Gateshead at 1010 this morning, 8lb 1oz.

Mother and baby doing well!

By the way, apologies for the delay in posting updates to my blog but I've been pretty much working 7 days a week lately. Further updates added soon!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Back up in the, erm, 'frozen' north!

Well, I made it! It was a nightmare journey for my daughter and I as we drove from Newcastle to London to collect my belongings, then to Chadwell Heath in Essex to collect some stuff from my sister, then back home to Newcastle again!

In all it took us from 8am on Monday morning until 2am on Tuesday morning. The worst part of the journey was going to my sisters house, as there was an accident on the A12 and I didn't know of an alternative route. We sat in traffic around Gants Hill for about 2 hours!

Anyway, we have now sorted all of my stuff out and put it away. My wife, daughter, dog and cats are all pleased to see me home! My wife still has another four weeks or so to go before the baby arrives, but I think it will arrive earlier than planned. I'll keep you all informed.

Not sure why they call us the 'frozen north' as ever since I arrived back on Saturday afternoon, the temperatures have been in the 80s with bright sunshine. We've been forecast thunderstorms for the last 5 nights but they never arrive! The poor garden is looking parched, but at least up here I'm not subject to a hosepipe ban!

By the way, many thanks to all of you who left goodwill messages in my comments or sent me an email. All very much appreciated.

I start working back on the buses again on Monday so I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Last Post!

Yes, the time has arrived to pack up my PC and prepare for moving back north. I will update the blog once I'm back in my new job driving buses to keep you all informed how it's going and whether my wife has a boy or a girl!
Speaking of my wife, she got bit by a dog while out walking our dog yesterday. It took a chunk out of her hand so after a trip to hospital, she now has to wear a sling for a few days and take loads of anti-biotics.
I wish I knew whose dog it was, I'd go and have a 'quiet word'.

Anyway, at the time of writing (approx 6am) I only have two more days at LUL, and I'm spare both days. If I don't get any jobs to cover, that means that I'll have officially said goodbye to Upminster and the east end, to Richmond and Wimbledon and indeed to the entire District line.
It's a bit sad really. I will miss the job, despite my moanings. But even more, I will miss my colleagues. I've made so many friends from all grades of staff while I've been down here, and I know some of them read this blog, so to all of you THANK YOU!

AOL have switched off my broadband connection in readiness for my move, so I'm now on a very slow dial-up connection. I'm on packing my stuff... I didn't realise I had so much! Mainly clothes which are still in plastic bags from the last time I moved!! They'll need washing when I get them up north!

It seems that a couple who currently live in a downstairs room in this house are wanting to take over this room when I move out. That would bevery useful seeing as my landlord is insisting I continue paying rent until my contract expires if someone doesn't take over the room. I've already cancelled his direct debit, so I hope they do take the room!

So, on Saturday I will take the train back to Newcastle, then hire a van from a local company, come back down with my daughter on Monday, load up the van, pick some stuff up from my sisters in Essex then back home. Monday will be a busy day! People keep asking why I don't get a one-way van hire, but they were asking huge amounts of money! Hiring from my local company is only £35 a day, where a lot of the one-way hires were asking about £200! Even taking into account my train fare back to Newcastle and extra fuel, it's still cheaper!

Seeing as I won't be able to do my review of the year, I thought I'd do my six-month review of the year!

Overtime claimed due to late stabling because of signal failure:
74 minutes
(2005 = 723 minutes.)

Overtime claimed due to late stabling because of drunks:
18 minutes
(2005 = 165 minutes.)

Overtime due to incompetent signallers (this is where they put you into Ealing Broadway platform then simply forget about you, or leave you at a red signal for ages somewhere between Ealing Broadway and Ealing Common depot):
128 minutes
(2005 = 508 minutes.)

Trains with broken windows:
(2005 = 4.)

Drunks unconscious on train at terminus requiring assistance either from BTP or other station staff:
6 (4 since the World Cup started!)
(2005 = 18.)

Incorrect routes set for me by signaller:
(2005 = 5.)

Number of near-misses (people trespassing or pretending to jump in front of me):
(2005 = 4.)

So you can see that things have improved since last year! I know that last years figures are for a twelve month period, but even so, there are definite improvements, especially in the broken windows and near misses.
Sadly the signaller incompentence figure is still quite high. Every single night for the past few weeks I've been claiming overtime for that reason.
The other night I got 25 minutes of overtime because of it! Firstly he holds me in Acton Town platform (heading towards Ealing). I call the controller on the radio, he informs me to wait and the signal clears.
On leaving Acton Town, I get held at the next signal, although the adjacent line is cleared (usually used by the Picc line). It is after 1am so the last Picc has departed. I call up the controller, and again he tells me to wait. The signal on the Picc goes back to red, and mine clears.
He holds me in Ealing Common platform. Controller tells me to wait... Signal clears.
He holds me at Hanger Lane Junction. Controller (sounding sick as a chip) tells me to wait. Signal clears.
He holds me at the home signal to Ealing Broadway. Plats 7 & 8 are occupied but platform 9 is empty. I wait a few minutes before using the signal phone (I thought the controller would have a fit if I spoke to him again!). The signaller tells me to "wait for the signal" and hangs up on me before I have chance to ask why he hasn't cleared for platform 9.
Another few minutes pass, then the train in platform 7 departs. I sit for another minute then the signal clears... Into platform 9 which he could have cleared at the start!
Then we (myself and one of my colleagues in platform 8) are held in the platform for ten minutes before he lets me go. Then he held me at Hanger Lane Junction again.

By the time I stabled, I was 25 minutes later than booked, and was very lucky that the staff cab waited for me.

Something needs to be done about this. I mentioned I'll miss my colleagues, but I'll certainly not miss the Earl's Court signallers!!

Anyway, that's it for now, and that's it from London! My next post will be from the North East.

Take care of yourselves.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Been A While!

Well, I had a great time up north although I never stopped working! I've laid laminate flooring in the living room, stripped the wallpaper and applied new to two bedrooms and painted the bathroom and laid new lino!! Dealing with drunks on a Friday night has nothing compared to dealing with a heavily pregnant wife who wants the house put right before the big day!!

Speaking of the big day, the baby is due on August 2nd. I have therefore put in my notice to London Underground, and will be leaving the job on June 30th. I will then have a week off and start my new job (in fact it's my old job back on the buses again!) on July 10th.
This will mean a substantial drop in wages and mean I have to work a lot more hours than at present, however at least I'll be with my family again, and I'm sure we'll cope financially with only having one lot of bills to pay instead of two.

I'll keep posting of anything exciting which happens between now and then, and afterwards I'll have to decide on whether to keep the blog going under a new name or just scrap it.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Expect Severe Delays!

Just a warning for those of you who usually use the east-end of the District... Metronet have taken an emergency engineering possession to deal with the problem of the overheating rails. Unfortunately, because it's an emergency possession, there is no specific timetable in place, so it will be a very hit and miss service up towards Barking today and Sunday I think.

Friday was a bloody nightmare for me! I managed to stable almost an hour late thanks to some drunken prat at Earl's Court managing to break one of the train doors.
I always get annoyed when people hold the train doors open for their friends, but this dickhead tonight managed to cause a long shutdown in platform 2 while we tried to repair the door. We had trains stuck out in the tunnel coming from Wimbledon and a train in platform one who couldn't go because I had been given the route, but couldn't move because of this door!

Eventually the train technician came over and got it closed and I set off (with the technician in case it happened again). Luckily it didn't, but by the time I got to Mansion House and back to Ealing Broadway then into the depot, I was very late and very stressed!

However, the perfect cure for stress is a holiday which leads me nicely to my next topic: It's holiday time again!
I'm away from today (Sat 6th May) for approximately two weeks, so this will probably be the last entry until my return.

Take care of yourselves and see you all in fortnight!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Metronet Disgrace

Well, what a cock-up today was! It wasn't just a few temporary restrictions in place... ALL parts of the District line above ground were subject to a blanket 20MPH restriction.
This was due to the fact that Metronet had failed to treat the tracks in preparation for the hot weather. According to the BBC London News, All LUL senior managers are absolutely furious about it, and I'm not surprised. As usual though, it was us in the front line who got the flack for it.

Can you imagine having to travel all the way from Upminster down to Bow Road (where we enter the tunnel) at 20MPH? The average speed is usually 45MPH so it was taking almost an hour to do this journey.

To make matters worse, the controllers were still sending loads of trains all the way to Upminster. Bearing in mind that trains were opnly travelling at 20MPH, it took a long time for the train in front to clear the signal sections, so we spent more time sitting at red signals than actually moving!
It would have made a lot more sense to reverse more trains back west from Barking rather than trying to keep up their 'mileage quotas'.

It wasn't just the east end of the line... As I said earlier, ALL external sections were subject to this restriction!

I hope someone gets a damn good bollocking for this, but (call me cynical if you wish) but I suspect nothing will happen to anyone at the top of the Metronet tree.

Goodness knows what's going to happen if we have any more hot weather before Metroshite have had a chance to treat all of these rails.

By the way, PLEASE don't blame train drivers or station staff! We can't do anything about it! We don't like running late, we don't like running slow and we don't like being diverted at the last minute but we only do as we're told.

A Bit Of Hot Weather..

As I type, the outside temperature is apparently 26 degrees Celsius (which is almost 79 in Fahrenheit for those of us old enough to remember that scale). I'm just getting ready to go to work, but I know I'm going to be running late all day before I even start! How do I know this? According to the TfL disruption info, we have severe delays occurring due to temporary speed restrictions.

These restrictions were also imposed yesterday, which wasn't nearly as hot as today and are caused by the tracks apparently not being able to cope with the heat! This happens every year as soon as we get a bit of sunshine, as it's apparently to do with sections of long welded rail expanding (I'm no scientist!) but surely there must be a solution?

In the winter we get frozen points and the 'wrong type of snow', during wet weather we get track circuit and signal failures due to the damp, and in the summer we get buckling rails! This doesn't just affect LUL, I remember hearing similar tales of woe from the mainline too.

How do they cope in other countries which have extreme temperatures?

Anyway, I'll let you know what happened when I get in from work tonight!