Saturday, April 29, 2006

Later Weekends

I see TfL have now announced that they will be running later weekend services to cater for the pissheads at the expense of people who need to be out and about early on Saturday or Sunday mornings.
From June next year, the Tube will operate approximately half an hour later than they currently do, whilst starting about an hour later to allow for engineering works to continue.

This all follows a long consultation, although I suspect even if the results had been 99% against later trains, Ken Livingston would have introduced it anyway.

It's the poor early-morning commuters and travellers I feel sorry for. The extra time on a Friday and Saturday night will lose a lot of money for LUL (after all, would you insist on checking a drunks ticket at 1am? I certainly wouldn't. Many of them are incapable of buying a ticket anyway.

I've seen people queueing outside of Acton Town station to catch the first Picc train of the day to Heathrow on a Sunday morning. The train is usually quite busy, leaving Acton at approx 0645. The first train will in future be at 0745, which I'm sure the taxi firms will be quite happy about, but not the punters!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Back to Normal!

Well, we've now been booking on and off at Earl's Court again for about a fortnight now, and I don't like it one bit! It's not so much the extra travelling time, it's the fact I have to make sure I read my duty book correctly to see if I'm supposed to be at Acton or Earl's Court to book on!
I still have to go to Acton every day first anyway, as this is where I book off on a late duty (after stabling the train in Ealing Common Depot) and I leave my equipment bag (which is quite heavy) in my locker. So I need to pick this up before I then go to Earl's Court to book on.

One thing I've noticed more lately though is the crap service offered by the Piccadilly line on the Rayners Lane branch where I live! A wait of 15 minutes is not uncommon. As soon as there's a sniff of a problem on the Piccadilly, which is quite regular lately, the Picc controllers divert loads more trains towards Heathrow and seem to forget they have a Rayners branch.
During the signal failures at Arnos Grove last week, I waited almost 25 minutes for a train into work. It's incredible how a failure at the other end of the Picc line can have such a knock-on effect. Obviously I understand how it happens being in the business and having seen it first hand, but it should be the job of the line controller to ensure that there's still a decent service being offered to us Rayners branch punters as well as the Heathrow ones!

Not a lot been happening at work to blog about lately really! I had to run a train out of service on Monday night from Barking to Ealing depot due to some drunk puking all over one of the carriages.
I suspected something was wrong when I was heading towards Barking and people were getting off the front carriage and getting on the one behind, or looking into the car then changing their minds and running for the car behind. This immediately made me think that something was up in the first car, but as I was close to Barking (where I was due to terminate anyway) I just continued allowing for extra time for people to change carriages if they so wished.
Anyway, on arriving at Barking, I went into the first car and was almost sick myself... The overpowering stench of alcoholic vomit literally covering the floor of the entire car!
If the person who did that amount of puking is reading, I'd suggest you go to your doctor: there must have been about 20 pints, mixed with the obligatory 'chunks'!
There's no way I could risk running that back in service due to Health & Safety considerations (passengers slipping or possibly catching some disease from the fluids) so I had to run empty back to Ealing.
On the mainline when I used to run empty, the signaller would give you priority a lot of the time as he knew you weren't going to be stopping anywhere, so I'd go non-stop down the fast line to wherever I was going. Unfortunately on LUL, running down the fast track overtaking stopping trains isn't an option! Therefore I was following directly behind a service train which was stopping at every station as normal, so my average speed running empty was probably about 15mph!
It's nice not having to worry about passengers on the train, but it's a lot of stress having to follow another train and go from one red signal to the next, especially late at night!

By the way, my wife has had her first scan at last! The baby (and my wife) seem to be absolutely fine and officially due on August 2nd. My birthday is on 31st July, and my mums 60th (she'll love me for saying that!) is on August 9th, so it will be a great birthday present for us!
I'm up north in May for a fortnight to sort out various things, including seeing my old boss on the buses to see if I can get my old job back. Shouldn't be a problem, although it'll be a hell-of-a shock going from driving trains and getting reasonably well paid for it to going back to driving buses (which I hated) and getting reasonably well UNDERpaid for it. However I don't have any other vocation behind me, so I don't have much choice and I can't stay down in London leaving my wife and my baby up north!
I'm sure everything will work out nicely, and of course I'll save a fortune in only having one set of bills each month instead of two like at present.

Anyhow, enough ramblings! I'll keep you posted if there are any more developments on my moving back up north or of course if there's anything worth blogging about at work!!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Stitched Up By Our Own Union.

Thanks ASLEF.
This month marks the 16th month of the longest-running dispute ever on LUL, namely the Acton Town remote booking on and off dispute.
I'm not going to get bogged down with the details, but as of this Sunday, Acton Town is back to the position we were in before the dispute started! We're back to remotely booking on and off at Earl's Court with no extra pay for doing so. However this is only until June when the new timetable is introduced, then the remote stuff will be abolished, however at the cost of upto 25 drivers being displaced from Acton Town to Earl's Court, losing the middle duties and nightshift duties to Earl's Court and possibly losing the rest of our so-called 'family friendly' rosters at Acton.

We were all invited to a meeting to discuss the latest position, and we duly attended only to be lectured to by president of the ASLEF EC (Executive Committee) that they'd secured a deal already and we weren't going to have a say! HOW THE HELL can they agree to a deal without asking the people it involves for their opinion first?

I could probably write a 10,000 word essay on this subject because I feel so strongly about it, but I'll not, as this is a public blog and you never know who's reading. However let me say that ASLEF have certainly gone down in my estimation and they are very lucky that the vast majority of ASLEF members at Acton Town aren't leaving the union in disgust as we were originally thinking about doing... Instead we are going to attend the branch meetings and actually try and make a difference to our depot's future as well as kicking our current reps out.

The RMT missed a trick as well! At the time of the meeting, they hadn't accepted the deal. After a show of hands, we overwhelmingly voted against what was on offer (a waste of time having the vote seeing as it was a done deal, but we did so anyway to show our disgust at the ASLEF committee). The RMT saw that vote and they could have rejected the offer. As much as I hate Bob Crow, I would have considered switching to the RMT if they had rejected the offer, but no... They followed like meek little kittens and accepted the deal after the meeting despite the result of our vote and hearing how angry we were.

Yes I know I'll be leaving LU in a few months, but it still annoys the hell out of me that we've been stitched up by the union we trusted.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Deal Or No Deal?!

During the time I was on the sick, I had the 'pleasure' of watching a lot of evening TV which I normally miss because I'm at work. One such show is Deal or No Deal on Channel 4.
This is a really simple format but is nerve-wrecking for those people sat in the chair! After each round, Noel Edmonds asks the question "Deal or no deal?".

What's all this got to do with the District line? Well, it's all in relation to the managements offer of a long-term deal for our pay and conditions. NO DEAL say I.
The thing which annoys me is the management want to give us a type of performance-related pay which will depend on certain criteria being met, such as cleanliness, reliability and overcrowding.
Now call me thick if you wish, but how on earth can someone driving a train have any effect whatsoever on those three things?
If the company wish me to clean my train after every trip, then I shall stick a broom up my backside and sweep the train as I'm walking through looking for lost property. Otherwise, how do they expect us to contribute to cleanliness standards? We employ cleaners at all the termini to clean the trains, and if certain punters want to fill the train with crap in between stations, there's nothing I can do about it, so there's one part of my PRP gone.

Then there's reliability. How on earth can we do anything about this either? If a signal fails in front of us, we drivers know how to get around it following the relevant rules and regs. However we aren't qualified to go down on the track and fix it! Similarly, if it's a signal protecting a junction, the points need to be secured. This needs to be done by a station supervisor or similar rank. This all takes time, but is neccesary for the safety of the train and the passengers. There's no way to speed up the process. So there's another part of the PRP gone.

So we have overcrowding left. How do I deal with this? Maybe the company want me to close the doors on people to stop them getting on to my train? Or perhaps I should wander down my train at every station to count the amount of passengers in each carriage and throw off the excess?
OK, so maybe it should be our station colleagues who have to control the overcrowding? How do they achieve this? Obviously they have to stop selling tickets and opening the stations. We'll just run empty trains all day! That should solve the problem.

In all seriousness, how do the management expect us to have any control over any of these issues? I hope the unions will also say NO DEAL. I know I'm leaving in a few months, so it doesn't really affect me, but I'll be leaving behind a lot of very good friends who I know work damn hard (despite what the Evening Standard may say) and I don't want to see them stitched up in a long-term deal by a very cunning management.

By the way, my missus has her first scan later this month. Sadly I'll not be there to see it, but she's promised to get me a photo if she can! Oh no, I'm turning into a baby bore!!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Nearing The End Of An Era!

Well it looks like I'll be leaving London Underground in the next few months.

Allow me to explain! My wife and daughter are still living up north while I'm down here earning the money. My daughter is now 18, and after she was born, we were told that the chances of having any more kids was virtually nil. This has remained for 18 years... until now!
My wife has been putting on weight lately, and her mother 'bullied' her into taking a pregnancy test which came back positive! The doctor has this morning confirmed that she is approx 24 weeks pregnant, so I'll be a daddy again in only four months!

Sadly, this means having to leave my job and move back up north to be with them, but that's completely outweighed by becoming a dad again!

Obviously I'll keep on blogging until I leave (probably in a couple of months) and after that I'll have to change my name from DistrictDriver to Bus Driver until I can find something better in the area!