Monday, June 27, 2011

The cold whisper of air-con

I wrote last week [he's getting very self-referential, I'm not sure the readers like this sort of thing: Ed] about the coming heatwave and how the new "S" stock trains on the Metropolitan would cope. This morning I planned to catch number 441, starting from Uxbridge at 8:16, as the first test (The estimable Metcontrol on District Dave having kindly published the timetable of S stock workings). The weather certainly obliged with a real hottie but alas as 441 hove into view at Ruislip Manor it was an A stock.
Time for plan B. The day proved as hot as had been forecast and the Bakerloo up from Waterloo at the end of a long day's deskwork was as sticky and uncomfortable as you may imagine. An S stock service was scheduled to leave Baker Street at 18:22 and I was there with minutes to spare. To my joy the S train was sitting at the platform, with all its doors tight shut. I pressed the button, the door flew open and I was hit with a blast of chilled air like walking into the frozen food section of a supermarket. Glorious. The system works. 30c outside and a perfectly comfortable atmosphere in (it wasn't really that cold but the contrast with the steamy heat of London made it feel well nippy).
We left several minutes late, as it happened, but I couldn't have cared less. Simply not being on the hot, crowded and sweaty A stock trains that came up from the city and were sent out ahead of us, hence the delay, made it all worthwhile.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The strike that wasn't continued

As a postscript to my last piece, the tribunal found in favour of the dismissed driver, LT have reinstated him and the strikes set for next week have been called off by the RMT. And just as well given that it is the second week of Wimbledon and, more important, the musical ensemble looked after by Mrs. Commuter need to be able to travel freely round town.

And in other news, whilst it has continued to rain almost every day recently, the weather does seem to be brightening up with some real hot stuff coming our way. For about two days. Monday is forecast to reach 27c - an interesting test for the new, air-conditioned, "S" stock trains that are steadily taking over on the Met. Then it gets cool and wet again. Not sure if this is all the summer we are going to have this year but on the record of the last four years, it could well be.

Services on the underground have been fairly good in the past couple of months. I haven't put in a Customer Charter refund claim for a while, A few years ago, when commuting regularly on the Piccadilly, I even kept a log of the claims because I was making so many. On the other hand, the drivers are becoming increasingly chatty. The moment the train stops they either tell you, or play a recorded announcement, on the lines of "This train is being held at a red signal and should be on the move shortly". Yes, we know that. We know that if a train stops unexpectedly then it is because the signals are red. Otherwise it would not stop. We also know that they expect to be on the move shortly. This is because when you are held at a signal it is because there is either a train in the next block or the points are switched the wrong way and if there is no major problem on the system then the track will soon clear. If there is a major problem we would hope that the driver had been informed by radio and would then inform us. So we really don't need the routine announcements at all.

Even more irritating was the driver on the Bakerloo the other morning who lectured us all about using all available doors to leave the train because there were people waiting to get on. She even tried this line at Regent's Park, one of the least-used stations on the system where if a single person actually enters the carriage one raises one's eyebrows to register surprise (or at least I do, or at least metaphorically, as I save my real eyebrow-raising moments for more gob-smacking events such as people switching off their music players when asked). The underlying subtext about this sort of announcement is "what a wonderful service we could run if only these wretched people did not insist on using our trains".

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The strike that wasn't

On Sunday night the RMT union called a strike in defense of a member whose employment with LT is currently subject to a tribunal hearing. Your correspondent was, as it happens, due to travel into town. Was his journey disrupted?

Not a bit. The TFL website advised passengers to travel as normal and a normal service was what we got, including the late-night service back to beautiful Ruislip. No donkey-jacketed strikers grouped round the braziers outside the stations. No chants of "What do we want? A huge pay rise and guaranteed jobs for life even if there are serious disciplinary proceedings and regardless of which way a tribunal finds". Not a single placard or discarded flyer. Bugger all.

I learn from the ever-valuable District Dave site that the union, having held a ballot some time ago, had to call action or lose the right so to do. It was presumably premature to have a real strike right now So they picked a time when it seems all their members were working normally anyway, and honour was satisfied.

I guess the next one, scheduled for the 27th, will be for real. Here's hoping that the two sides can sort it out before then.