Thursday, January 25, 2007

Water shortage

The glorious day of steam have returned. Consider this reason, posted by London Underground today on their website, for closing Bounds Green station – “no water supply”.  Now this cannot be anything to do with staff because plenty of stations operate with no staff at all at certain hours, my home station at Ruislip Manor being one of them. And by the same token it cannot be to do with fire safety because, if this were a concern, then there would not be any unmanned stations at all. So I assume that it is because the trains need to take on water there.

I picture Bounds Green as a little halt, near the village of the same name, with a quaint Victorian brick waiting room, toilets in a little wooden shed, faded posters advertising long-lost railway companies like LNER or the Somerset & Dorset and a trolley with a few battered old luggage cases propped up against a wall where a machine dispenses chocolate bars for a penny.  Birds twitter in the nearby fields. Cattle crop the grass by the sidings. There is a distant whistle. A man wearing coal-dusty overalls and green-peaked cap consults his fob watch and ambles out toward the water tower. He looks up. He scratches his head. He jogs back to the platform, lifts the phone, winds the handle and in a rustic accent informs someone “higher up” that there is no water. The response is immediate. The station is closed and as the train approaches the attendant waves a green flag, gestures to the tower and the train continues on its way.

Later in the morning the message vanished from the web site so it seems either they found some water to put in the tower or maybe they cancelled the steam trains and ran one of these beastly new-fangled electric johnnies instead.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A little light snowfall

Less than an inch of snow fell in Southern England last night. It was forecast a few days in advance. The winds this morning are light. The weather is calm with sunshine and varied cloud. Naturally there is total chaos on the underground. You don’t believe me? Well, you should. Here is the proof. BBC London Tube news – this was the position at 9:30 am today. Just about every line on the system has problems. Amazingly none are attributed to the snow or the to weather. Our trusty old friend signal failure, bolstered by the odd faulty train, is the prime suspect in this case. So, let’s examine this one. Normally there are one or two lines with problems. Today the jackpot. What has changed? Apart from the snow, I can’t think of anything. I put to you, m’lud, that the evidence, albeit circumstantial, is overwhelming and devastating. Whether the snow makes the signals fail or perhaps it’s the cold hands of the bloke who pulls the string to make the lights change, well, I’m not able to say

Monday, January 22, 2007

A wind up

Winds gusting at nearly 100mph battered England a few days ago. The whole country was affected; predictably traffic chaos ensued. Fortunately, unlike in the “hurricane” of 1987, there was no widespread felling of trees and far less building damage. Down in sunny Ruislip, two panels from my neighbour’s fence fell into my garden and that was about it.

London Underground put on their usual good show. I did not go to work until early afternoon, following a hospital appointment. The LU web site suggested the trains were ok so I left home. No sooner was I standing on the platform at Ruislip Manor than they announced the suspension of the Metropolitan Line due to obstructions on the track. They suggested we use alternative routes. As the alternative, the Piccadilly, was not apparently operating either and is any case just as vulnerable to trees falling, I called it a day and went back home. And discovered that, yes, there were now problems on the Piccadilly as well. In fact several lines were out of action until the following morning, and a number of people in my office at Waterloo had very long and difficult journeys home that night.

High winds are going to be a fact of life as global warming takes off. The Met Office provides good forecasts of impending storms. Why oh why, he asks without in the least expecting an answer, does it always take our transport providers by surprise?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The fashionable way to go

“If I should fall under a bus” is often quoted as an illustration of the unpredictability of the future and our frail mortality. Given the number of buses clogging up the streets of London these days it is more than a cliché. But of course death by bus is pretty unusual compared to the carnage wrought by other vehicles on the road. So why not choose some other form of transport?

My journey to work is way safer than it used to be. Prior to moving to Waterloo, I faced the twice-daily ordeal of crossing the A4 at one of its busiest stretches, where drivers ignoring red lights and no right turn signals were a very real danger. Now I have one easy road to cross, York Road that leads from the big roundabout at the southern end of Waterloo Bridge down past County Hall towards Westminster Bridge. Today the traffic was moving fast and it was not so easy to judge the right moment to cross. Just when a tempting gap appeared, I noticed a truck in a familiar green and gold livery looming up fast. This was the moment of truth. Should I stay put and let it pass or dash over? If I got the timing wrong, well, going under a Harrods van is surely a classier way to go than being crunched by a double-decker.

In the event I chickened out and waited for a longer gap. But if this blog mysteriously ceases to exist, maybe I will have been flattened under the wheels of an delivery lorry for a rather upmarket and expensive store. This does have a certain cachet, almost enough, one feels, to compensate for the inability ever to shop there again.*

*Editors note: it is not thought that AnthonyG actually does shop at Harrods very often, if it all.