Sunday, October 30, 2005

Almost a fortnight!

I can't believe it's almost a fortnight since I last blogged! I apologise most sincerely, but I've had a lot on my mind lately!
The latest thing is promotion! Well, sort of! My colleague the Station Master has mentioned he's applied for various jobs. Now, let me say that I love driving trains, so I never want to leave the trains grade, so I noticed that in this weeks Traffic Circular [our weekly information booklet with temporary speed restrictions etc listed] they're advertising for Instructor Operators at both Acton Town and Earl's Court!
I meet all of the requirements, and although it's a lot more work and responsibility and not a huge amount of extra money, it's something I'm sure I'd be good at and I'm sure gives a lot of job satisfaction to see someone you've trained still driving on the line years later!
I know the District line inside out, so I may as well apply! I'll keep you informed how I get on. I'm quite lucky in the respect of being good friends with most of the Instructors on the District, particularly Solidbond (not his real name, obviously!) and District Dave, both of whom have offered me advice and encouragement since day one of me coming to the District, so thanks guys and expect the worried phone calls if I get an interview!!

Yes, it's that time of year when the clocks all go back an hour! So as I type this, my clock is showing almost 4am, but in fact it would have been 5am, before I adjusted everything.
I hate having to adjust everything: clocks, watches, mobile phone, video etc etc. I always discover at least one that I haven't changed about a week later!

Now, call me Mr Scrooge if you wish, but how the hell has the celebration of Hallowe'en became so popular and commercialised in the UK? When I was a kid we used to hollow out a turnip and make a lantern (we couldn't afford pumpkins!) but we'd never think about going around the neighbours saying 'trick or treat'!
Surely in this day and age this is a very dangerous thing to be doing? I know most of the kids who come around my house are with an adult, but there are still a few who aren't.
While I'm in my 'Scrooge' mood, why the hell do we have fireworks from the middle of October usually until after the new year? Guy Fawkes night is 5th November, and there are plenty of organised displays. I understood that it was going to be illegal to buy fireworks (particulary those bloody loud 'air bombs'), but it seems that if such a law was passed it is most certainly the most ineffective law ever.
All the way from Bow Road (where we emerge from the tunnel at the east end) through to Upminster is like a constant firework display. I don't mind the nice, colourful ones, but what on earth is the point of sending a rocket up which goes up, then just makes an extremely loud BOOM frightening people and animals for miles around.
Apart from anything else, I'm still a bit edgy because of the 7/7 bombings, so I almost shit myself when I hear a loud explosion now.

As well as that, why don't kids put any effort into their 'guys' these days? I can remember making a guy with an old pair of jeans, and old shirt and stuffing it with newspaper. We made a face for him out of papier mache (you know the stuff I mean - I just can't spell it!) but we never sat outside a railway station/pub/bus stop begging 'penny for the guy'!
Kids today seem to put a mask on a black bin bag, and call it a guy! No imagination or effort! Then how insulted are they when I offer them 1 penny for their guy! I do this every year, I raid the copper jar and when the kids accost me asking for 'penny for the guy, mister' I give them a single penny! Just my stingy sense of humour!

Taking The P*ss
I noticed no fewer than four people urinating on station platforms tonight on my way from Upminster to Ealing Broadway. Can these people not hold their bladders? Can they not go before they leave the pub? Can they not find a proper public WC?
If they are caught short, at least find a quiet place. All of the people I saw tonight were quite blatantly pissing on platforms against the wall, or in one case against the OPO CCTV monitors! If they can't hold their bladders then they shouldn't drink so much in the first bloody place. It's no wonder our stations stink.
Unfortunately I've broken my digital camera, or I'd have taken photo's of these people and published them here. I'd also have taken a photo of the state of my train when I arrived at Ealing for the last time tonight.
The carriages were covered in vomit, urine, newspapers, empty bottles, cans, half-eaten food etc. I've never witnessed anything as disgusting in my life, and Ken wants to give these tossers an extra hour at the expense of the serious people who need to use the Tube early in the mornings? The man isn't right in the head.
I also noticed when I arrived at Acton Town to put my equipment bag away that the ticket barriers were still closed and the amount of people who were jumping over them was amazing. So they spend God-knows how much money on alcohol, but then they can't afford another few quid for their fare? We obviously provide a free train service to anyone who is drunk, as well as a convenient place to dump any rubbish they want, a place to piss or vomit etc... So if Ken Livingstone does indeed start these later services, there'll probably be very few people who will pay for their journeys anyway, so it'll be running at a loss, not to mention the extra cleaning costs!

HOLIDAYS (almost!)
Only another week to go! On Friday 4th Novemeber, I'm away for a fortnight. Nowhere very exotic unfortunately, but it will be nice to get out of London for a while!

I'll try and blog a bit more in future instead of bottling it all up for one post! But until next time... Byeeee!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Firstly, I'm glad to say that it looks like the Northern line will actually start running a 'reasonable' service from later this morning! I assume the trains have been modified and extensively tested so they're safe to run again.
I notice that the drivers have been getting some stick on the Evening Standard forums. This really makes my blood boil! only a few months ago, we were heroes for helping rescue people trapped on trains and evacuating the system etc, and now we're all back to being "overpaid, underworked idiots" (to quote one poster on the forum).
I wonder how it would have been had this problem not been discovered, or the drivers still drove the trains with this problem and we had a crash resulting in many deaths? I assume that would have been our fault as well?
Being a tube driver requires an extremely thick skin these days, because no matter what we do, it's always wrong.

Anyway, now that's off my chest, what a boring few days I've had! I was working on Sunday when we had the engineering works in the Hammersmith area, which meant most Acton drivers were simply operating a shuttle service between Acton Town and Ealing Broadway. How boring was that?!
On the subject of the engineering work (and you can find the official information about it HERE because it's happening again next weekend), what a farce those replacement buses are!
The District is suspended between Acton Town and Earl's Court, and the Picc is suspended between Acton Town and Hyde Park Corner.
The replacement buses are operating from Acton Town to Hammersmith, then if you want to go to Earl's Court you have to plod over a few streets away to get on another bus which doesn't go to Earl's Court, but to West Brompton! Then you have to plod down to West Brompton station to get the train to Earl's Court!
Anyone with luggage has my sympathy! I suggest that anyone heading into central London goes to Ealing Broadway and take the Central line, changing where neccesary to complete your journey... Unless you're feeling particularly brave (and have a few hours to spare!)

By the way, could I say thanks to one of my nightshift colleagues who took me off my train at Acton Town tonight... He stabled my train for me so I could catch the last Piccadilly line train home instead of waiting another hour for the staff cab! Much appreciated, Ray!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Northern Line Closed

Yes, earlier this evening, LUL (or more accurately, the staff) decided that enough was enough and that the Northern line was going to stop.

The problem lies with the tripcock system. obviously no train driver deliberately passes a red signal, but just in case we do, there's a fail-safe emergency brake system. This system is basically a lever next to a signal called a Train Stop:

Anyway, this train stop will catch onto the tripcock hanging below the front of the train if a signal is red. When operated, this will cause the train emergency brakes to apply, thus safely stopping the train quickly. If the signal is green, the trainstop is lowered and the trains tripcock passes over the train stop without problem.

(Please note that my description of the system is extremely 'laymans' to avoid confusing non-technical types! If you'd like to discover more about the tripcock system, you can read the 'signalling' pages at District Dave's website, from where the above photo of a train stop came!)

On the Northern line, it has been discovered that some of the trains are not being 'tripped' by this system when a signal is passed. This is obviously extremely unsafe. As I said, no driver will deliberately pass a signal at danger, but if he does and the tripcock doesn't work, then there's a very high probablity that the train will meet the one in front and a collision would occur.

We obviously do not want this to happen, therefore I fully support my colleagues on the Northern line in their actions of refusing to work on the grounds of health and safety. I know it's very inconvenient for you commuters, but I hope that you'll understand why this is happening and will support the drivers.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Sense of Humour!

Not much to blog about today, other than I've heard through the grapevine that the District controllers, signallers and even the Duty Ops Managers are extremely pissed off now because they've been told to work their full hours instead of the fiddles that they work at the moment. Apparently the line controllers are also 'working to rule' - Will we notice the difference?
It should make things better, because if they're working to rule, then the rules state that they have to answer the radio when we call them instead of just ignoring it...

Anyway, I have to say thank you to the station staff at Dagenham Heathway for the following:

I particularly liked the "We love LUL" speech bubble! Thanks whoever-you-are, it cheered me up!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Blogger Meet!

Unfortunately, I'll not be able to attend because of other commitments, but I'm sure there'll be a good turnout, and I know you'll all have a brilliant time!
For more information e-mail or download a flyer in pdf format.

If Only It Worked...
Have you ever seen something which you wish did something else? I know, that doesn't make much sense, but if you see the photograph below, you'll probably work out what I mean!

The 'Passenger Mute Switch' actually refers to being able to mute a passenger alarm until it can be dealt with and reset, but I thought it would be wonderful if I could just press that button and shut all my passengers up! Particularly the 'hoodies' who sit behind the cab listening to some wierd rave-style music blaring through a tinny speaker on their mobile phone!

Anyway, no whinges today! Friday nights always seem to produce more than a fair amount of trouble on the District, so I'll let you know if any manages to find me!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A Sad Day For Comedy

Before I write about what's on my mind to do with work, I'd just like to mention that one of my all-time comedy favourites died yesterday. I was rather upset by the news that Ronnie Barker had died, as I grew up with sitcoms such as "Open All Hours" and "Porridge", not to mention the Two Ronnies.
Ronnie will be remembered with great fondness by comedy fans everywhere.
RIP Ronnie.

(Above picture taken from Open All Hours, co-starring David Jason.)

Fares Fair?
London Mayor Ken Livingstone has today announced that fares are going up from next year.(TfL Press Release HERE.)

Basically, what this means is that the minimum Tube and DLR adult cash fare rises to £3 and the cash single bus or tram fare to £1.50. That's a HUGE increase!
However! There is some good news! The prices will actually be lowered if purchased using an Oyster pre-pay card.
The obvious intention is to get people using the Oyster pre-pay cards rather than cash. Is this a good idea? I'm not so sure. I agree that the fare decreases for Oyster customers will be most welcome, however maybe I'm too cynical, but once everyone swaps to the Oyster, what's to stop Ken then stopping their discounts and everyone will be paying full whack?

Signals (again!)
Two serious signal problems this evening. The first one at Ealing Broadway around 1600ish (just after I'd left!!) and then a little later at Wimbledon, which is actually controlled by Network Rail.
Both caused lots of cancellations, including my train which the controller asked me to leave in Barking sidings to save getting caught up in the chaos in the west! Unfortunately, I still had to catch a train back to Earl's Court to pick up my second train, so I was still late. Ah well, that's life!

I wrote a while ago about some people who were obviously leaving packages on trains and stations deliberately to see what reaction they could cause.
One of my colleagues was telling me that she had to evacuate the train and Westminster station on Sunday night because of such an occurence.
The train had stopped in the platform when the driver noticed a man running down the platform towards the cab. She opened her cab door to be told of two men who had been acting suspiciously in the rear carriage and had legged it leaving a bag behind. Obviously with this sort of behaviour, no chances could be taken, so the train and station were immediately evacuated and the bomb squad called in.

Apparently the bomb squad were very quick to arrive, and after a short while announced the bag was... full of rubbish. Obviously left deliberately.
I only hope that the police will take the CCTV tapes and try to find the two men, and charge them under the terrorism act. Lock them up for a few years, that would soon knock some sense into them. Bloody idiots.

Anyway, that's it for now!

Monday, October 03, 2005


It seems that the last week or so has been almost completely incident free, at least while I've been at work!
However I was interested to read a message sent to me by a friend of mine who is a signaller somewhere on the District (I'll not reveal his location!) informing me of a bit of a cock up on Sunday night on the line. Now I was rest day (thank God!) so I wasn't there to witness things, but apparently a set of points at Tower Hill westbound failed.
These points are set to run into a sand drag when the signal is at danger (red) in case the train should accidentally pass the signal at danger, thereby protecting a train leaving the bay platform at Tower Hill.

Unfortunately, the person who went down to 'secure' the points (to allow the train to apply the appropriate rule and continue on his way) decided to secure the points as they were already set (ie into the sand drag). The driver failed to notice his error until he ended up in the sand. This made things even worse, as now the train had to be set back into the platform to have another go!
I've added the photo below showing the sand-drag (indicated by the yellow arrow). Apologies it's such a bad image, but those tunnels are dark, and I've just taken the picture as a still from our route-learning DVD!

To make things worse, there was a train held in the tunnel east of Tower Hill which was there for quite a long time before someone in the 'Ivory Tower' could make a decision on moving the train either back or forwards to at least get part of the train in a platform so the poor passengers could get off and stretch their legs.

Three things struck me about this:
1. Why on earth did the person securing the points decide to secure them into the sand drag?
2. How did the driver of the train not spot that the route was not secured correctly?
3. What is the point of having Duty Operations Managers if they can't make a decsion as to detraining passengers instead of holding them in a tunnel.

As normal, the driver and whoever secured the points will no doubt be bollocked, and have all delays attributed to them, but those in charge of the operation sitting in the control room will be cleared of all blame as usual.

The company keep going on about how we should all work as part of a team. Most of us 'front line' staff do! Train Ops and station staff usually get on fine and work well together during incidents. The people who do not play as part of the team are the controllers and Duty Operations Managers who make the rules up as they go to suit themselves (and to minimise any liklihood of them losing their Performance-Related pay bonus).

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: The words "piss-up" and "brewery" spring to mind!

Back to work tomorrow...

By the way, if you are interested in the history of London Underground, the Acton Museum is open on 22nd and 23rd October. The depot houses a lot of examples of old buses and trains along with loads of other LT stuff. It's a fascinating place if you're interested in this sort of thing (and I have to confess to being a bit of an anorak!).
The prices are Adults £6.95, Concessions £4.95 and accompanied children under 16 go free. This admission is valid for both days.
The description of this months open event is described by the LTMuseum website as detailed below:

"Do your children know how to use London's public transport safely? Learn safety tips and much more with staff from London Underground, London Buses, River Services and Surface Transport. Handle real museum artefacts and take part in poetry and craft workshops and loads more. Suitable for all ages. "

Unfortunately, if you are attending, be aware that bad planning means that the District and Piccadilly lines will be suspended between Acton Town and Earl's Court on this weekend. You can find alternative routes via the LUL website.