Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Hello Again!

You may recognise the title of this entry as the name of a Neil Diamond song! I use it very deliberately this evening after having a trainload of Neil Diamond fans on board this evening! They were certainly a different crowd from the Kylie fans I referred to a few weeks ago, but at least when the singalong started in the saloon behind me, I could actually join in because I knew the words!! In fact, my kareoke song (very rarely used these days and I have to be very drunk to volunteer to get up!) is "Love on the Rocks" by Mr Diamond, although I think anyone who has ever heard my version would certainly agree that Neil's version is slightly better!

I noticed in this evenings Evening Standard that mobile phones could be used underground before too long. To quote the report: "All 275 London Underground stations are to get full mobile phone coverage within three years."
God help us.
Much of the District line is overground, and it's guarenteed that someone sitting behind my cab will either have that awful Crazy Frog ringtone, or will hold a conversation so loudly it competes with the train PA system to be heard over all six carriages! At least the tunnel sections are a break from that... For now.
I can see it will have advantages, in an emergency, but for the vast majority of journeys, surely people can manage without a mobile phone for just a short while?
Interesting that they reckon this technology will be network-wide within three years... We've been waiting about five years for a decent (and essential) train radio system! The new train radio (known as the 'Connect' project) was originally due to be unvieled in about 2001, and is now scheduled for later this year, at least on the District line. I'll not hold my breath.

I don't want to sound like a total whinging git, but is anyone as sick of Big Brother as I am?
I very rarely buy newspapers these days, because there are enough left on the trains to start my own branch of WH Smiths, but glancing through the Sun and the Mirror etc over the past few days, they've been full of Big Brother stories. Who gives a toss? Presumably someone must be interested or they wouldn't keep running the show, but let's face it: They're a bunch of wannabe-famous people in there simply to try and get a modelling/singing/presenting job out of it.
Good luck to them, but I certainly wouldn't want people watching my every move live on TV! It's bad enough having your every move tracked on CCTV at work!
I notice on E4 (which was previously a premium channel, but now is free) they relay BB live through the night! What is the bloody point?! They're all asleep! If I want to watch someone sleeping, I'll watch my wife!

Apparently the refurbished D78's are indeed still scheduled to make their first public debut tomorrow (Wednesday 1st June). They will be running on the Olympia to High Street Kensington services all day, and if you get a chance, they're well worth having a look at to see what's new... You won't even recognise them compared with the old silver beasts which are still running around on the line! Apparently HM Railway Inspectorate have now approved them to operate in passenger service, so there should be no reason to delay them again! By the time I write tomorrows blog, we'll know if they ran or not!

Monday, May 30, 2005

We apologise for the delay...

Yes, I'm back from my holidays! Actually, been back for a week, but I returned to find my BT landline was completely dead. The first thing I thought of was "did I pay the last bill?", but thankfully it was paid and it was just a technical error at the little green junction box outside. Still, it's taken them all week to repair it, but I'm back!!

My holiday was very nice since you ask! I returned to work on the hottest day of the year so far, which is very uncomfortable. I know it's bad travelling as a passenger in a packed train during the rush hours, but at least the average journey is only 10 minutes or so. Compare this with the 4 hours which we drivers could be sitting in a sweat box for! No air conditioning, although (as I think I mentioned in one of my earlier entries) we do have a 'Norvent' which sucks in the air directly from outside without any sort of filter, so you end up with a cab full of insects, leaves, dust etc. Strange how wasps tend to be rather upset at being sucked into a boiling hot cab! Bees are ok(ish) because they just bounce off the windows trying to find a way out, but wasps are nasty, vindictive insects who set out to make my life hell! I knew there was a good reason for carrying my working timetable with me!

Apparently the newly-refurbished trains will be finally making their debut this Wednesday on the Olympia service, but I'm not holding my breath... We've been given dates so many times which have then been cancelled for some reason. At least the new refurbs have proper air conditioning in the drivers cab.

As I write this, it is now officially bank holiday Monday. The LU network is closed all over the place for engineering works. The District line is suspended Earl's Court to Whitechapel for the ongoing rail replacement works through the city. The new track is certainly much smoother than the old track - I didn't think there would be much difference, but even travelling as a passenger I can instantly tell the new sections. Hopefully they won't leave them for another 50 years before they replace them again!

I'm actually off today (the first bank holiday I've had off for quite a while!) so it's probably going to be cold and wet all day... Good old bank holiday weather!

Next update on Tuesday...

Saturday, May 07, 2005


As I mentioned previously, this will be the last entry for a few weeks as I am now officially on holiday!
Normally the last shift before my holidays throws all sorts of problems at me, but today was actually very quiet!
I did think things were going to go 'up the wall' at one stage when there was a power cut at east Hame which caused a signal failure. Luckily the signal started working again, although East Ham station was closed for a while because it had no lighting.

I also mentioned previously that politics bores me senseless, however I noted with interest that the Putney constituency has voted in a young conservative by the name of Justine Greening. One of the things she campaigned for is a better service on the Wimbledon branch of the District Line.
I wish Ms Greening good luck in trying to improve the service, but to be honest, the capacity on the Wimbledon branch is pretty much fully used anyway. In other words, the infrastructure couldn't cope with any more trains unless there is a huge investment in new signals etc to provide more signalling sections, therefore allow more trains to follow each other.
The Wimbledon branch gets an excellent deal as it is, with trains every five minutes for most of the day. I know it's a very busy branch but it already gets a better service than the Ealing Broadway or Richmond branches, which only have trains every ten minutes.
Obviously this is affected by any number of problems which can cause gaps in the service, not least on the Wimbledon branch where there is a long-standing problem of signals failing in the Southfields area every time it rains. The signals between Putney Bridge and Wimbledon are actually owned and operated by Network Rail rather than LUL, as South West Trains also use the line for empty train movements to/from their depot at Wimbledon Park.

So if Ms Greening could somehow persuade Network Rail to fix the signalling problems on the Wimbledon branch, maybe my faith in politicians could be restored! It would also save my blood pressure levels, because the nature of the signal failures means that the signal is showing a green aspect right until you are about to pass it, then it suddenly reverts back to red! This obviously stops the train rather abruptly, and causes stress to the driver and of course the passengers who are thrown down the train.

Anyhow, I wish you all a happy fortnight while I'm away! No trains for a fortnight (at least not London Underground trains anyway!).

By the way... Keep your eyes open for the refurbished D stock trains which should start running on the District Line on Tuesday 10th May. They will initially run only on the Olympia services, but they're worth having a look at! Digital displays inside and outside the carriages, a digital voice announcer to annoy you at every station, CCTV constantly recording every carriage... Very nice!

Friday, May 06, 2005


A day which only comes around every 5,000 years apparently. It's also the 5th day of the week (Thursday), which makes it apparently a one in 7,000 years event. I can't confirm those figures, so don't quote me! I just heard something about that on LBC earlier this evening listening to the election coverage while on a short break at upminster.

As I write this (2am on Friday morning, having just arrived in from work), it looks like the Labour party is heading for a third term in office, although with a reduced majority. To be honest, I find politics so boring, but I like to know who is going to be (legally) robbing me blind for the next 4 or 5 years.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we had a major signal failure in the Turnham Green area, meaning trains coming from Ealing Broadway were having to run down the fast (Piccadilly) line instead of the local (District).
This is fine, although means trains can't stop at Chiswick Park or Stamford Brook due to there not being any platforms!
The trains must also be routed back over to the District at Hammersmith, otherwise we end up going down the 'pipe' which isn't big enough for a District train... We do have safeguards in place to prevent an oversize train from going down the pipe, but luckily they didn't have to be used!

I stabled quite late this evening because of the knock-on delays caused by this, however it can't be helped.

Only one day to go to my Annual Leave... Two wonderful weeks away! Therefore my Friday blog will be the last for a fortnight!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Many of my colleagues do not like going all the way to Upminster, because of the trouble we tend to get at the east end of the line. Some duties have a trip to Upminster on both halves, as was my luck today.

To be honest, I'd rather do a long trip like Upminster and back rather than lots of small trips like Olympia to High Street Kensington (which is one of my most hated duties!).
My first trip out east was mid-afternoon. Very sunny and very warm. Now, at this point I should mention that you'll quickly discover I like to have a bit whinge about things... The problem is with the warm and sunny weather is that it brings out all sorts of insects. I'm not too worried about little flies, but the wasps and bees seem to get bigger every year... And more aggressive!
I'm a big softy when it comes to wasps and other stinging insects, and today being rather warm I was driving with the offaside cab door open to provide a slight breeze of ventilation. Unfortunately, on that breeze flew in the biggest bee I've seen in my entire life! With no exageration it must have been about 2 inches wide!
I apologise to any of my customers reading this who may have been on my train between Dagenham East and Dagenham Heathway, but I dropped the deadmans handle and cowered out of the way of this beast. I thought it was a humming bird at first until I spotted the yellow and black stripes (and probably the 'love' and 'hate' tattoos on its' arms).
My train came up in an emergency brake, and I cautiously tried to grab a copy of the Metro newspaper which I had in my bag. At this point, the bee was bouncing off the drivers windscreen, and my blood pressure was up beyond the safe level. Goodness knows why, but I am so terrified of these things!
Anyway, I opened the other cab door and at arms length, I managed to persuade the bee it would prefer to be outside on such a nice day.

I quickly closed both cab doors again and proceeded on my way, having been delayed for about a minute. Obviously I did make an apology over the PA, and I'm sure I heard people laughing behind the cab when I told them I'd been fighting a bee!

The other problem with the insects is they have a nasty habit of splattering themselves all over the windscreens. Unfortunately, the powers that be decreed that screenwash was not needed, so when we have windscreens with a better display of insects than the Natural History Museum, it becomes a safety hazard as we can't see the signals or any person on the track etc.
I always carry a bottle of water and an old rag with me for cleaning the windscreens, but surely in this day and age they could actually retro fit the trains with screen wash?! I've discovered that even the refurbished trains which should be entering service in a few weeks haven't got screen wash. Typical. They've made them nice and attrractive, but haven't bothered with safety things like screen wash or a light on the speedometer so we can actually make sure we're travelling below the speed limits at night or in the tunnels.

Rest Day tomorrow (Wednesday) so next update probably Thursday!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Normal Service on the District..!

One of the things I love about our beloved leaders are that they are forever thinking of ways to get the message over that we are actually running a decent service.
Not-so-very-long-ago, the expression was "A normal service is operating", but many customers rightly assumed that the normal was to have signal failures and no trains for ages! We now use the term "Good service" to differentiate between a decent service and a 'normal' service.

On booking on for my duty bank holiday Monday evening, I was informed that there were severe delays to all destinations due to a signal failure at West Kensington. Hmmm.
It worked out ok for me though, because instead of running to Upminster and back, I ended up going to Earl's Court and running to Wimbledon and back.

The second part of the duty was what I call boring... Earl's Court - Ealing - Tower Hill - Ealing - Tower Hill - Ealing - Depot. Exactly 4 hours and 15 minutes of work, which is amazing seeing as that is the maximum amount of driving we can legally do without a break anyway! Good old schedules department work everything out to the second!
Anyway, on arrival at Ealing on the first trip, I exit my cab and spot two sealed shoe boxes which have been left directly behind the cab. Now (and excuse my ranting here, but it needs to be said) Who in their right mind, in this day and age of terrorism, leaves two sealed shoe boxes on a tube train? It really makes me wonder whether some of these people should actually be out on their own.
So I called in to the station supervisors office and explained the problem to him. As far as I'm concerned, they're suspicious, and the Supervisor is trained to deal with them better than me.
He comes out of his office and takes a quick look. He goes towards them as I run the other way. "All clear, just rubbish" he announces. That man must have x-ray eyes! There's no way I was going to pick them up and shake them!
Personally I'd have waited for the police, but thanks to the supervisors bravery (or stupidity, depending on how you look at it) we weren't delayed or anything.

The rest of the shift goes without any problems (other than the Kylie fans again!). However on my last trip to Tower Hill, I notice the describer on the platform reads "Parson's Green" instead of "Ealing Broadway".
I ring the controller up to query it, and he informs me that my train is being reformed at Earl's Court.
This means that another driver takes my train, and renumbers it to what he's should be doing. In fact it is renumbered to 152, which has been cancelled all day because of the signal failure. This train is one of the last eastbound trains, so has to run.
I have no complaints, it means I get off at Earl's Court and just hitch a ride back to Acton... Saves the walk out of the depot!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Kylie Mania!

No, I'm not referring to Bob Kiley, I'm talking about the little Aussie lass with the nice butt!
As I went to Earl's Court to pick up my first train this evening, I was wondering where everyone was heading, then I noticed the sign outside of the Earl's Court Arena announcing Kylie Minogue - apparently on for a week!

It certainly boosted the passenger numbers! Normally Sundays are quite quiet! My last train heading back to Ealing Broadway was packed with Kylie fans who had been to the concert and insisted on giving me (and the first carriage) a rendition of every song! They actually brightened my journey, and I thanked them for the 'in-flight entertainment' via the PA system when they got off my train!

I'd rather have singing teenagers than drunks anytime!

Not a lot else happened today. I noticed when I was at Ealing Broadway about 2330 waiting to go to the depot that the Central Line alongside us had traction current discharged and a few people with high-powered handlamps were walking along the track. Must find out what that was! I know it didn't affect me, but I'm nosey!!