Thursday, December 29, 2005

Happy New Year from the RMT

While I've been away, I've been following the ongoing discussions online between the RMT and LUL, and what a surprise: they've called a strike for New Year's Eve!
Now I'm an ASLEF member, therefore will not be on strike (before anyone posts comments flaming me!) however I'm wondering how much of a service we'll be able to run if the station staff are on strike.
Now don't get me wrong, I've said it before and I'll say it again, I am always in favour of strike action as a last resort and only for safety reasons. There are always other options open like working to rule, which incidentally the drivers at Acton Town (District) have been doing for almost a year now. This hits the management because we're refusing to remotely book on or off at Earl's Court (Why should we - my depot is Acton Town!) but doesn't effect the travelling public. In fact the vast majority of our passengers probably would never guess that there is a localised dispute ongoing on the District line, however the management are most certainly aware of it (although they don't seem to be doing anything to resolve it, but that's another story!)

So, back to my station colleagues. Over the years that I've been driving trains, I've had to have assistance from station staff on average once a week for one reason or another (usually to assist with evicting unsociable passengers). This works very well: I blow my whistle or call up on the radio, the assistance arrives and the train can be moving again very quickly with minimum delay to my 'proper' passengers.
OK so station staff can't realy help with all situations, but it's always nice to have more than just me trying to deal with situations!

I just feel (as many others do judging by comments left on Annie Mole's blog) that Bob Crow and co have deliberately decided on New Years Eve to have this strike to cause misery to thousands of party-goers and revellers! I know it's not much fun for us staff working NY Eve, with the extra hassle and grief we always get from the drunken idiots, but surely the idea of London Underground is to provide a service?
The very fact that Bob Crow has decreed the strike should begin at midday on NY Eve until midday on NY Day is proof that he's deliberately trying to cause problems. All previous strikes have been from 9pm to 9pm.

I do have some sympathy for my station colleagues - it's NOT an easy job, and they take the brunt of the flack from disgruntled customers. However, in my opinion, they would have had much more public support if Bob Crow had decided on a midweek stoppage rather than NY Eve.
To be honest, I personally think that this ballot was illegal anyway, as they didn't bother to ballot their members who are drivers, yet there are notices up all over the place urging RMT drivers not to report to work! The drivers aren't invoved in this dispute (despite what the Evening Standard would have you believe) and if RMT drivers refuse to book on, they'll be facing disciplinary charges because they aren't officially in dispute because they weren't ballotted! Or maybe that's Bob Crow's plan? To get as many drivers disciplined as possible then have another strike to get those overturned?
I wouldn't put anything past Bob Crow.

I see the grafitti vandals have been up to their usual tricks during the shutdown on Christmas day. This happens every year without fail, with no trains running, the vandals take advantage of the traction current being off to get into tunnels and other inaccessible places to scrawl their 'tags' all over the place.
These people need to get a life. What possible pleasure can they get from seeing an illegible scrawl on a train or wall?

Speaking of bloody idiots, I almost killed a young boy last night. I was departing Parsons Green station heading towards Earl's Court when a young lad dressed all in black (aged only about 12) ran straight accross the tracks in front of me from the sidings.
I obviously blew the whistle and applied full emergency brakes, and I missed him thankfully but it shook me up. I have no idea what he was doing in the sidings (probably applying grafitti) but when he'd made it to the other side of the track as I was on the radio reporting the incident, he was standing laughing at me making hand gestures.
What a complete dickhead. There have been loads of stories in the media about young people killed on railway lines lately, and this would have been another one if I'd been going any faster. Apart from the trains, he sprinted over the lines and if he'd tripped or touched the live rails, he'd have been fried. These people who trespass on the railway just don't realise how dangerous the environment is. I am a fully trained driver and sometimes need to go on the track in the course of my duties, and I hate it! I do what I have to do with extra caution and then get back onto the safety of my train. If I need to step over the live rails, I do so very cautiously! Especialy last night with the rails and sleepers being covered in frost.

Anyway, that's enough for now! I'm just off to face another night on the District!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Time For Tea!

There's a rumour that the Underground runs on electricity. Let me tell you that it doesn't! It actually runs on tea!
I'm referring to a ridiculous, scare-mongering story in the Evening Standard on Thursday. The story featured pictures taken by a commuter who spent four hours on a bridge just taking photo's of Northern Line drivers. The photo's shown included one of a driver apparently bending down to get something out of his bag, one of a driver drinking a cup of tea, one of a driver glancing at a notebook and one of a driver with a young girl in his cab.

Now, the last pic of the driver with the girl in the cab is worrying. It appears that the door to the cab is standing open and the girl is in the doorway. This is a definite no-no for obvious security reasons.
The other pics are everyday occurences!
The driver bending down was probably just putting his duty book away or something. I do it all the time approaching a terminus station. As long as you know the track ahead is clear and the signals are clear, your eyes are only off the track for a few seconds! If someone suddenly jumps in front of the train at the exact moment you happen to have your eyes averted, then that's just bloody unlucky.
The driver glancing at what appears to be a duty book was probably making sure he wasn't running early or late. Again, something I do myself as it only takes the eyes away from the track for a second.
The one which made my blood boil was the poor driver drinking his tea. Almost every driver on the Underground has one of those thermos mugs and we are permitted to drink tea as we're driving! The only thing is that we're not allowed to make the tea on the move, for obvious reasons.

The Evening Standard have always disliked us Tube Drivers, and personally, if I was the driver with the tea (who can easily be identified), I'd sue the Evening Standard for obtaining and printing my photo without permission making it look like I was doing wrong when I wasn't!

As I say, the only worrying picture was the one with the youngster in the cab. That driver needs to be reprimanded, but all the others certainly don't.

Interestingly, I can't find the story on the Evening Standard website.

It's Christmas Time!
Yes, it's that time of year for us all to get into even more debt to please our kids! I'm actually on holiday for Christmas this year, so this will be my last blog until about 28th December.
So, may I take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a

Monday, December 12, 2005

A long weekend!

Yes, I've been away for the weekend! Not that it's been a relaxing weekend, as I've been doing the lighting for my church Christmas show. This is something I've done for about 5 years now, and I enjoy it very much! I'd love to have a look at the lighting board of somewhere like the London Palladium or a proper theatre!
I'm not a qualified lighting designer or operator, but (if I say so myself) the lighting always adds that bit extra to any performance! We only had 10 spotlights, but getting the positioning and colours right is an art form, and I always enjoy the setting up!
Anyway, the performances on Sunday went very well with a capacity crowd (about 300 people for each performance, which is good for a church play!) and now I'm back to my proper job of driving trains!

The worrying thing is it only seems like a few months since I was doing the lighting plans for last years play! In fact I still have them in a folder on my desktop! I really don't know where this year has gone!! It'll probably only seem like a few months until the rehearsals start for next years production!

By the way, if anyone knows of any local AmDram groups in West London who want someone to help with lighting, please let me know! I'm always keen to learn from someone who does it professionally!

Welcome to the DSM! DSM (Duty Station Manager) is the latest addition to our ever-increasing family of LU bloggers!
I look forward to reading your blog, DSM! If you're based on the District, say hello to me when I'm passing through!!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Incompetent Lawyer?

On checking my train for lost property this evening before returning it to depot, I found what can only be described as a highly classified file which had been left on my train.
Obviuosly, as soon as I saw 'classified' on the cover, I had to have a sneaky peek, as I thought it was maybe a wind up, but it turned out that this file contained a lot of details about a recent "armed operation" and seemed to contain statements and FULL details of all witnesses and police officers involved.

Obviously I didn't read the file; I simply glanced through it and made sure it wasn't just rubbish. I immediately handed it to the station supervisor with the advice that maybe he should contact the police to tell them he had it. The supervisor was as shocked as I was!

I'd love to know who left this file on a train! You read about such things in the Sunday newspapers! I can only assume it was either a very incompetent lawyer or senior police officer.

Very worrying, especially if the file had been found (and used for whatever reason) by some of the types we usually carry on our last trains.

Hopefully it will be returned to its rightful owner ASAP, or if it was given to the police then whoever left it should be disciplined.

Other than that, a very uneventful Friday night!