Thursday, June 23, 2005

What a day!

If you were a passenger on the District Line today, you have my sincere symathies.
When I booked on at about 1530, there were 'minor delays' reported on the Wimbledon branch because of a signal failure at East Putney.
About 10 minutes later, the Wimbledon branch had been suspended because of a fire alert... Not good heading towards the peak, and with Tim Henman playing at Wimbledon.

Anyway, the fire alert clears up, but the signal failure remains.

Then it is announced that there is a signal failure in the Mansion House area causing delays to the Circle and District lines.

Then, just as I'm arriving in Barons Court eastbound, there is a major problem at West Kensington, and I'm stuck in the platform for FIFTY minutes while it is sorted. In retrospect, I'm glad I was in the platform, because at least my passengers could jump on the Piccadilly line, whereas if I'd been between stations, we would have been very hot and sticky by the time we got into a platform.

It took me over four hours to get from Acton Town to Upminster and back to Earl's Court!

Then this evening, Tower Hill had a mjor signalling failure, meaning a shutdown and suspension of service between Earl's Court and Whitechapel.
Eventually this was also cleared, but then just as I was booking off, I heard the controller mention a signal failure at Barking!

I can only assume it must be the heat and humidity which is causing so many signal failures.

Anyway, I'm off until Tuesday now (cue the cold weather!) so that will probably be the next entry! Have a nice weekend!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Maybe I'm just getting a bit old now, but I do tend to laugh at the way some of the 'yoofs' dress these days.
One young lad at Dagenham East was wearing a baseball cap sideways, then a hoodie, then on top of them, another basedball cap! Eh? Has he got bad hair that he's ashamed of? I can accept a baseball cap or a hoodie, or maybe a combination of both, but surely the extra cap is going a bit far?

I had to stop myself taking a photo of a lad on the bus going to the station this afternoon, or I'd have been branded a pervert!
The lad (probably aged around 18 or 19) was wearing a pair of jogging bottoms which were hanging below his arse! I must have looked a right idiot on the bus because I couldn't help laughing! The guy gets off at the station with me, and I think "ah, maybe they just came a bit loose with sitting on the bus", but no! He walks into the station with his arse (thankfully covered with a pair of boxer shorts) hanging over the top of these jogging bottoms!

You certainly see some sights!

I see the powers that be have decreed that the C stock in the 'Back The Bid' livery should be running on the Wimbledon service for the next fortnight instead of going round and round the Circle. It was like being a celebrity driving that train, with loads of peeps taking my (or rather the trains) photograph!
The above photo was taken in an underground station, so is quite dark, but just so you know what I'm talking about!

Whether London will actually get the Olympics is another debate entirely!

Monday, June 20, 2005

I Can't Win!

Yesterday I mentioned the countdown thing at my local bus stop which tells me how long I'm going to have to wait for my bus.
Well, this afternoon I arrive at the bus stop and amazingly enough, the display shows my bus is the 2nd one due in 3 minutes! Great!
The first bus came and went, and my bus duly stepped up to being number one on the scrolling list, now due in 2 minutes. The display then changed to 'due' which normally means it's just around the corner. I waited... And waited... The display updated itself and my bus just disappeared off the face of the Earth! Where the hell did it go?! I can only assume it did a U-turn round the roundabout at the top of my road and diddled back the other way!
My next bus (remember this is a 'ten minute frequency service' was now showing as number 5 to arrive... 18 minutes away. Yet another walk to the station!

I was driving my train this afternoon enjoying the sunshine (although with both doors closed and the vents closed because of the amount of insects which I seem to attract) when I arrive into Becontree on the east. As soon as I've opened the doors, a lady comes banging on the cab door pointing furiously. I have no idea what she's trying to tell me, so obviuosly I open the cab door.
"That girl was smoking on the train" she informs me, now pointing to a young chavette who was halfway up the stairs now.
"Hmmm" I reply politely "At least she's off the train now."

However this isn't good enough for this woman. She says I'm not doing my job and my attitude stinks!
What the bloody hell does she want me to do? Shut the train down and chase this girl up the stairs? I explain to the lady that if she'd told me sooner, I could have had her met by station staff or police, but as she was now leaving, there was nothing I could do.
She's still not happy and demands my name and number. I instead give her my train number and the time and inform her that the company can easily trace me through that. She re-boards my train and off I go.
At the next station (Dagenham Heathway) the woman gets off, but not before banging on the cab door again and trying desperately to make my life hell.

My station colleagues will certainly know what I'm talking about here, but do you ever get the feeling that no matter how polite you are, no matter how out of your control the situation is, that these people just see a uniform and expect you to do something?
Maybe I should have chased this girl with a fire extinguisher to stop her from smoking?

You can't win in this job!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Heat Stroke!

I'm sure by now, you all know how much I enjoy a good whinge.
About anything.
Well, it's time to whinge about the heat again! Had a late shift this afternoon and I was soaked with sweat within 10 minutes of getting out of the shower. Not a good start!
Anyway, I cover myself in deodorant and put on my uniform. Luckily, Train Operators don't have to wear a tie at all these days, in fact we're currently being issued with polo shirts instead of the normal shirts... Most lines have them now, but being the District, we're going to be last again. We'll probably get them just as we head into the winter.
Anyway, I set off down to the bus stop to catch my bus to my local station. The bus stop is one of these with the electronic countdown timers which tell you how long the next bus will be (no jokes about being 32 feet, I've heard it before!).
The scrolling information shows the next six buses. Unfortunately none of them is mine. This is actually a regular occurance now with this particular route. The timetable says 'every 10 minutes' but the bus stop tells me that the sixth bus is still 18 mins away, and that isn't mine!
I wonder if the Trades Descriptions Act relates to bus services?

Anyway, I have no choice now but to walk to the station (it's only about a mile, but feels a lot further in the heat!).
Arrive at the station just as a train is pulling in. Unfortunately, my staff pass decides it wants to be awkward and not work on the Oyster reader on the gates. There's a big crowd at the ticket window so I can't attract attention to open the 'wide gate' for me. Sadly the train pulls away just as the gates finally realise that I'm a member of staff and that my ticket does not have a negative balance!

Finally arrive at work. I'm supposed to be spare, which means just covering anyone who is absent etc. As is the norm these days, I'm given a full duty to do... Apparently there had been about 4 people phoned in sick with heat-related illnesses!
Just as I pick up the train, I hear a radio message saying there are problems on the Wimbledon branch. Apparently a set of points have failed, probably due to the heat. The tracks are regularly checked during the hot weather by the infrastructure companies anyway, as they have a tendency to buckle in extreme heat like today. If the temperature at ground level was 30 C, the rail temperature is a LOT more than that!
Anyway, I realise I'm not going to Wimbledon so I'm not too concerned. However, I am between Sloane Square and Victoria when I come up against a red signal. This particular signal is very rarely red, so I'm quite surprised to be held there... And held there...Eventually the controller breaks the news that the starting signal at Victoria has now failed. This means that we've been stuck in the tunnel in ridiculous temperatures now for ten minutes (although I've been making plenty of announcements to reassure the passengers) but finally we're moving.
We got through Victoria eventually, by applying the appropriate rule to pass a failed signal and got to just outside of Tower Hill only to be offered the wrong signal by the signaller! I'm supposed to be routed into the bay platform, but am given the route to the main (through) platform. This means another few minutes delay while I call the controller and he informs the signaller who then has to 'take a release' on the signal in order to change it. For safety reasons, if a signaller takes a release on a signal in front of a train, it takes two minutes before he can then set up a different route.
Anyway, we eventually get into Tower Hill bay platform 15 minutes late, which meant I was also 15 minutes late leaving and getting off for grub at Earl's Court.

You would not believe the temperatures in the driving cabs! It's bad enough in the passenger saloons, but the cab has glass on three sides and the sun makes it so unbearably hot, I get through gallons of water! Thanks to the SS at Tower Hill for allowing me to keep topping up my bottle from his water cooler!

Yes, it's that time of the year for Wimbledon fortnight! Thousands of people descend on SW19, alighting at Southfields to watch some people hitting a ball around. Let's hope that the signals on that branch don't fail for the next two weeks! It would be sods law to have failures down there for the start of Wimbledon!

To those people who e-mailed me about my near-miss last Monday evening. It did indeed shake me up at the time (as you can probably tell by my blog entry), however I managed to get some sleep, and returned to work the following day.

I don't know how I'd have felt if I'd seriously injured or killed someone though. The human brain is a strange device!

I also apologise for the fact I haven't made a blog since last Monday! I can only assume I must have had a very boring week!

Monday, June 13, 2005

I thought Mondays were quiet!

Usually, Mondays are one of the quietest nights of the week. The normal, working population who like to enjoy themselves at weekends are obviously working the following day.
However, this doesn't stop the 'yoofs' from buying cans of lager and causing problems.

This evening, I've had to finish work early and be given a special taxi home after suffering a double 'near miss' on the Wimbledon branch.
A group of youths (complete with cans of lager) were standing on the edge of the platform when I was approaching. One of them decided it would be hilarious to pretend he was going to jump in front of me, but I've seen that a million times, so it didn't bother me too much. However, another member of the gang decided to stick his leg out as I was passing him.
I have no idea if I actually hit his leg or not. I put the brakes into emergency, allowing all the air to escape from the system so I didn't hear a bang, but it certainly shook me up - In fact it's shaken me up a lot worse than I would have thought!

Obviously the incident was reported to the BTP, and the stations CCTV tapes will be watched.

I have no idea why people think it's so amusing to pretend to jump in front of a train, but as I say, I'm immune to that now having seen it so many times. But how thick do you have to be to stick your leg out in front of 200 tons of train?

Hopefully I'll have calmed down enough to get back to work tomorrow.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Friday Nights

Always worrying for me, as someone who always does late shifts!
Incidentally, you may notice that these blogs are published at around 11pm or so each day... In fact, I'm still working at that time! Like this blog for example: At the time of writing it's actually 0230 on Saturday morning, but I always save it at a random time on the previous day, so that the relevant dates are displayed. Hope that makes sense!
Anyway, as I was saying, Friday nights are always a nightmare. People always have too much alcohol and end up puking all over the place, falling all over the place, fighting each other etc. The worst thing they do, though, is think they can beat 200 tons of steel hurtling towards them.
I was approaching Earl's Court tonight when one of these drunken idiots (seemingly showing off to his girlfriend and mates) decided just as I was entering the platform, he'd like to wave one arm and one leg over the edge of the platform. Obviuosly I slammed on the brakes and blew the whistle, and thankfully he moved or it could quite easily have cost him more than just an arm and a leg. Bloody idiots. Goodness knows what it will be like when Uncle Ken introduces the extra hour of Tube services at weekends.

It was a great joy to see so many police officers out and about at the east end of the District line this evening! It's the first Friday night in a long time I've passed through the likes of Elm Park and Dagenham East without having gangs of chavs sitting smoking on the platforms!

I had a passenger alarm activated this evening at a station at the west end of the District. You never know what you're going to encounter when you walk back to investigate and reset the alarm, so I approached the carriage cautiously.
As it turns out, there's only three Australian people in the carriage, one of whom is looking very sheepish.
I asked them if everything was ok, and he replied "Yeah, sorry about that mate, I thought it was a bell, like you get on a bus!" The poor guy had wanted the next station and decided he'd better press the bell!
Classic! You couldn't make it up!!

Thursday, June 09, 2005


A very worrying new 'craze' revealed on todays ITV news. Apparently kids are now recording themselves on mobile phones playing chicken with trains. How stupid can you get?
Railway trespassing is extremely dangerous anyway, but deliberately standing in front of an approaching train until the last second, and being recorded doing it just defies belief.
There are some very worrying statistics about the number of people killed or injured on the railways each year on the website TRACKOFF.
Quite apart from the dangers they are putting themselves in, there's also the stress and worry it places upon the train driver and anyone else who witnesses such foolishness.
Mainline trains can travel upto 125mph, and at that speed take over a mile to stop, even in full emergency braking. Add to this the risk from overhead cables or electrified rails.
Which kid in their right mind would want to play on a railway line? I'm trained how to avoid tripping hazards and avoid electrocution etc on the railway, but I still hate having to walk near the line. It's only a matter of time before one of these kids jumps out of the way of one train straight into the path of another one.

Yes, my faith in human nature was boosted today by a little old lady who offered me a bag of peppermint humbugs for helping her to board the correct train at Earl's Court! Bless her! I'm one of these people who genuinely enjoys helping others, and when someone takes the time to say thank you, it makes it all the more worthwhile.

After reading a very kind article by my colleague on his blog (The Station Logbook), about having sympathy for us train operators, I felt I would share this story which occurred a few months ago at a busy station in the rush hour.

One of my colleagues was called into the Duty managers office where two British Transport Police officers were waiting to interview him about a lady who apparently got her leg trapped in a door on his train and he pulled away with her dangling there.
Now before I go any further, let me tell you that this is impossible! Anything wider than a few millimeters caught in the door would cause the door interlock not to illuminate, which in turn would prevent the driver from moving even if he wanted to.
Anyway, this woman had said she had then fallen backwards onto the platform and hurt her back. Obviously she was considering suing London Underground.
Luckily, the BTP, station staff and Duty Managers reviewed the CCTV and found that the driver was totally innocent. What they did see, however, was this woman running straight into the side of the train as it was already moving, then bouncing back onto the platform. Obviously the driver had passed the mirrors etc, so was completely unaware.

We may whinge about CCTV, but it certainly saved one drivers job, and maybe even a prison sentence. This is just another side to our job which the Evening Standard still insist we are being overpaid for. Would they like to have allegations made randomly against them and just pray that the CCTV clears your name or risk being sacked and arrested?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


I know you see footballers spitting constantly, and many people feel the need to spit their germs onto our pavements, stations and trains, but there are a minority of people who seem to prefer spitting at people.

Spitting is a disgusting habit and is a notorious way of spreading disease, but LUL (and many mainline train companies) have recently been introducing 'spit kits' to stations. Basically, these kits contain sterile equipment and swabs so that if a member of staff is spat on, they can take a swab and seal it, and the police can then attempt to match the DNA to anyone listed on their files.

During the year 2004, London Underground recorded more spitting offences than any other BTP area. There were 54 swabs submitted, resulting in 16 being prosecuted, 38 with no match or still awaiting results, and a total of 23 matches.

This may seem like a minor crime, but if you've ever been spat at by an unknown person, you'll know how disgusting it is. Apparently, this is classed as an assault by the police.

If you've ever travelled on the District line heading westward towards Acton Town and been held outside for a few minutes at a red signal, the chances are that the Piccadilly line train approaching on the adjacent line was given priority over the District train into the District platform!!
I was held for almost ten minutes outside of Acton Town today while the signaller put two Piccadilly trains into my platform at Acton. This is a regular occurence, and after a bit of research, I discovered that since PPP, the signallers for that area are actually employed by the Piccadilly line (or the JNP group)... No wonder the District rarely get a clear run!

No, this isn't going to be another rant by me! It's a story I was told today by one of my colleagues concerning a steam special excusrsion on the District they were running a few years back from Upminster to Ealing Broadway.
Loads of people had bought tickets for the event, but as the train was heading west, LU were getting complaints from loads of people (including the fire brigade) that the steamer was setting fire to allotments, garden sheds, grass, in fact anything alongside the track as it was going,
The line controller made the decision to "get that piece of junk of my railway", so it was shunted back to Upminster.
Now the passengers were all understandably upset at not getting their trip on the District hauled by a steam train, so they came up with a novel solution... They attached a battery locomotive on the front of the steamer to haul it to ealing Broadway, but so the passengers wouldn't be disappointed, they still pumped smoke up the steamers chimney!!
Wouldn't happen these days!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


When I first started out on the long and winding road which is blogging, I intended to post at least every other night that I was working. Sadly this hasn't happened!
My latest excuse is that every time I start to blog, the bloody electrical trip switch trips out. Someone in one of the flats below me is using something which is causing the main switch to trip out, instantly plunging us into darkness. Obviously this is now being investigated by an electrician, as there's a serious fault somewhere, but he seems to work similar shifts as me, so when I get in from work and put my PC on, he does something shortly afterwards which blows the switch!
It's really annoying either waking up and realising I've slept in because the clock is simply flashing 00:00 at me, meaning the power has been interrupted while I've been sleeping, or coming home from work and having to reset my video, clock etc. In fact, I've now given up resetting everything until the fault is traced.

Not much to report really, which is good! I haven't experienced a signal failure, points failure or any type of failure for quite a while!
I did have a pratt of an SA at a station (which I'll not name) somewhere in the City who waved a red handlamp at me as I was approaching a platform. This is an emergency stop signal, so I dropped the deadman's handle applying full emergency brake, and stopped about quarter of the way into the platform.
I refused to move my train forward until I got an explanation and a green hand signal in front of the CCTV cameras (to cover my own arse, you understand - I don't want allegations of ignoring an emergency stop signal made against me!). As it turned out, I got the green handlamp, but no explanation.
I didn't make a complaint this time, but if it ever happens again, I most certainly will. Drivers always fear the worst when they see an emergency stop signal, and it certainly gave me a surge of adrenaline!

Yes, the new refurbs have indeed started running this week! They're still confined to the Olympia service, but at least they're in service. Within three hours of the first train entering public service, it had already been vandalised by some form of sub-human, braindead scum. But, as I mentioned in a previous blog, the new trains have various hidden CCTV cameras on them, constantly recording to a hidden hard drive. Hopefully LUL can provide the police with a nice photograph of the vandal.

The Acton Town remote booking on and off dispute is still ongoing. Sadly it seems there is no obvious solution, with the staff refusing to back down and the management saying it would cost too much to get rid of it. Hopefully, the travelling public are unaffected by the dispute as we aren't trying to disrupt journeys. We're trying to make a point to the management.
We held a meeting last week to decide which way the action should go (either step it up to one day stoppages or continue as we are) and thankfully we unanimously voted to continue as we are.

Anyway, that's enough rambling for now! Electricity allowing, I'll be back tomorrow!