Saturday, March 29, 2008

To strike or not to strike?

Ok... the pressure is building.

A joint strike is planned on the London Underground from 1830 BST on 6 April to 9 April by the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union and Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA).

At this stage in the proceedings I suspect that there is more than a 50% probability that the industrial action will not happen. This is based on observation of many many disputes involving London Underground over the last two decades.

It has proven incredibly difficult to find any quality information about the dispute, so that I could present an informed view. Anyhow, here is what I have found:
  • It seems to be about safety issues. Here are the blunt facts as presented by the RMT. It seems that 1,673 RMT union members voted for the action. This seems like a really low number of people across the whole of London Underground. This implies that either many people really couldn't be bothered to vote, or that this dispute doesn't involve all types of staff working on the underground.
  • The TSSA have 3,000 members working on the underground. They had an 81.2% vote in favour of industrial action, but their media release does not say how many members actually voted.
  • London Underground have responded to the strike announcement by saying "There is simply no reason for a strike, or even the threat of one, as all of the issues being raised can be resolved".
My personal views are:
  1. Every station on the London Underground ought to have a physical ticket office that is open between, say, 6 am & 9 am and between 3 pm and 7pm every working weekday. The hours can be worked on, the concept is not negotiable. Bricking up a ticket office, such as happened at Regents Park during last year's refurbishment is a big no-no.
  2. Health & Safety legislation in the country is very strong. If LUL decide they want to vary an aspect (S 4.2) of THEIR Congestion Control and Emergency Plan, then that is down to them. If the unions believe that a proposal is unsafe, they should challenge the matter through the courts, using injunctions if necessary. I suspect this is about job protection, not safety.
  3. I agree with the unions that only directly employed LUL staff should be used for stations and ticketing operations, however I disagree with them about security staff being directly employed by London Underground.
Please note: I dislike Ken Livingstone, I am against the monolithic nature of 'Transport for London' and I have seen evidence that London Underground has bullied those with whom it deals.

Please also note: I view Bob Crow as a dinosaur and the way that the RMT behaves as belonging to another era.

We should not have to deal with incessant strikes or threats thereof. I really don't know what can be done about it, but I am fed up to the back teeth with a small number of people being able to hold London to ransom.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Chiltern Railways problems in Birmingham resolved

The National Rail website confirms that Chiltern Railways are today offering a normal service to/from Birmingham following removal of the derailed freight train at Birmingham Moor Street.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Alternate day problems for Chiltern Railways

I have already mentioned that, on Good Friday, Chiltern Railways had to suspend services between London Marylebone and High Wycombe for almost three hours due to signalling problems.

At about 8.00pm on Easter Sunday services were affected for a while by a broken down train just outside High Wycombe.

Today (Tuesday) services are badly affected by a derailed freight train in the Birmingham Moor Street area, causing all Birmingham services to start/ finish at Dorridge. The derailment means that this disruption is likely to continue until the close of play tomorrow (Wednesday).

Chiltern have published an emergency timetable for tomorrow (pdf). Be aware that it appears to only cover trains that would have been north of Banbury for any part of their journey. People wishing to travel are advised to check any of the following information sources:Please note that the Chiltern Railways website gives explicit guidance on other train operators acceptance of Chiltern Railways tickets.

Some London Midland routes are also affected by these problems - I am afraid you will have to do your own digging for more information on that Train Operating Company. This link is currently active.

I hope this information is of some use.

Important: This blog is not actively updated during incidents such as this. Please ensure that you check alternative sources of information. All information is believed to be accurate as at 21.15 on Tuesday 25th April 2008.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Boring pictures

On this Easter Day, the 1/2 hour of Breakfast/ BBC News 24 that I have just watched was totally devoid of any meaningful reference to Easter. There were plenty of pictures of snow sent in by viewers but, to be honest, they were all pretty boring. A photograph of Dr John Sentamu tobogganing down the slopes of Clifford's Tower - that would be more fun and perhaps of some relevance to the day.

On Friday afternoon I went to the cinema. When I got back to the station I commented to someone what a beautiful day it was.

My train journey home was less than 15 minutes - in that time the sun disappeared, the sky darkened and white stuff started to fall out of the sky.

Not white fluffy snow, but hail stones. Tumbling as though someone above was tipping them out of bags as fast as they could go. The hail storm lasted a couple of minutes, but it was enough to whiten things over. These anonymised pictures show the immediate after effects of the hail on this green and pleasant land immediately around my home.

I suspect that the hail got into the railway cogs somewhere, because shortly afterwards Chiltern Railways suspended all services between London and High Wycombe due to a signal failure between West Ruislip & Gerrards Cross. It took around three hours to resolve, so it looks as though I just got home in time.

A little bit of suffering on Good Friday is good for the soul!

Yesterday (Easter Saturday) I was at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff for the semi-finals of a rugby competition, sponsored by an energy company that has resorted to initials because it otherwise sounds too French.

I am not going to mention the rugby - I am a Saracens season ticket holder. It had been a gloriously sunny afternoon for the first match- then briefly the weather closed in and a brief light sprinkling of snow obviously made everything so slippery that it was enough to cause Saracens significant disadvantage. Hmm. This picture is more exiting than the Saracens -v- Ospreys match. The better team won.

For information, we drove along the M4 to Newport (Gwent) and then caught the (arriva) train to Cardiff. This seemed like a sensible option, though we never did find the long-stay car park at the train station. I did wonder whether they take all the signs down for event days?

Back to today: I live in the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire, to the North West of London. We are supposed to catch every snow flake as it travels towards London to create its own national emergency.

I look out of the window and I see green. I see birds flying around. I see ramblers. In short, I see a typical day. Two main differences- It is a special day when god fearing folk are supposed to be at church and one when you will have great difficulty in shopping as, by law, all but the smallest of shops are closed.

We did have a bit of the white fluffy stuff earlier, but it has all gone. For the latest weather, visit the Met Office website.

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How was my first day back?

Yesterday was my first day back at work and it was not good!

It started off well, with my train into Marylebone arriving 3 minutes early. Actually all trains are timetabled to arrive 3 minutes early, though they rarely do.

Each of the Bakerloo Line and the Central Line were absolutely heaving (big gaps in service on both).

Still, looking on the bright side, given the atrocious weather yesterday (storms lashing much of South England and Wales), at least I got to work with no cancellations or service suspensions.

Coming home in the evening, London Underground were announcing delays on the Central Line and the Bakerloo Line. The Central Line was fine, but the brown line was just that.

Chiltern Railways were clearly suffering with operational difficulties at Marylebone. I don't think it was due to the weather, just a broken down train. The train that was causing problems eventually left late and subsequently had to be taken out of service at Gerrards Cross.

Chiltern operate what I think is an unusual sort of timetable- there is no discernible stopping pattern to peak time trains. Train times and their stops are precisely managed to follow passenger flows. This is fine until you dump a couple of hundred people at Gerrards Cross who want to get to a range of places from High Wycombe to Stratford-on-Avon.

The station staff did little other than talk loudly at their customers while at least two nearly empty trains went through (each of which would have stopped at High Wycombe, where most people wanted to be).

It was certainly not an evening where the staff at the 'Integrated Control Centre' excelled. Chiltern Railways might think they did, but that particular train operating company lost a lot of Brownie Points last night.

Choices: Ski Lift or Commuting. I know which I prefer!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Excuses excuses...

Well, my PC had the Blue Screen of Death for a few weeks and I have also managed three weeks skiing in the last month.

The BSOD appears to now be fixed and it looks as though my panda eyes are going to recede rapidly, given the current weather forecast.

The usual intermittent service will now be resumed.