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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

RMT holding strike ballot over Tube job cuts

Looks like
last week's negotiations with London Underground haven't worked, as thousands of Tube workers are to be balloted for strikes in the ongoing row over job cuts.

RMT Leader Bob Crow

Bob Crow, leader of the RMT said the Union would host a public meeting on the cuts on Wednesday.

Nothing on the RMT's site about this at moment and no statement from London Underground.

Around 10,000 Tube workers will vote in the coming weeks on whether to take strike action. It could be timed hit the run-up to the general election, expected on May 6.


; Posted by Annie Mole Tuesday, March 30, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tube issue open letter ahead of strike deadline

Unions have given the London Underground until 5pm tonight to abandon plans to
cut 800 jobs, otherwise they will ballot to go on strike. Ahead of this Howard Collins, Chief Operating Officer at LU has written an open letter laying out their commitment to Tube safety. LU will be holding a Company Council meeting with all of their Trades Unions, today where they will be briefing them on the proposals.

The letter stresses that ticket office purchases have declined sharply in recent years, due to the success of Oyster card, while LU passenger numbers have continued to rise. See the graph below:

Sales v Journeys graph from TfL

Collins writes: "Let me be absolutely clear – safety is at the heart of our vision to transform the Tube and we make the following commitments to all of our customers and staff:

1. There will always be staff present at every station to help customers

2. All stations that currently have a ticket office service will continue to have one

3. There will be no compulsory redundancies

We are proposing to reduce ticket office opening hours because our customers are just not using them as much as they used to. Use of ticket offices is down around 50 per cent on five years ago. Today, only 1 in 20 journeys starts with a visit to the ticket office and this number continues to decline. 80 per cent of all Tube journeys are now made using Oyster.

So we don’t need or want our staff to be stuck behind glass in under used ticket offices; we want them out on our stations where our customers need them – on platforms, in ticket halls and at gate lines.
"

Bob Crow, RMT leader, is putting safety at the heart of the matter as he knows this will gain more sympathy than purely striking over job cuts and said "We have already warned that the cuts that are being planned by TfL will turn tube stations into a muggers paradise and it now appears that the company are speeding up the process and are already leaving stations unstaffed, or babysat with just one member of staff, without any consultation.

That is a scandalous dereliction of duty and it is only a matter of time now before TfL and Boris Johnson have a tragedy on their hands as a result of their cavalier disregard for public safety
."

Collins letter says: "In addition to our ongoing commitment to having staff where customers need them most, there are also more police patrolling the Tube network – 700 officers – than ever before. This helped to reduce crime by eight per cent last year. While one crime is always too many, there are now just 12 crimes per million Tube customer journeys.

We’re also installing more and improved CCTV cameras on stations and trains, to more than 14,000 in years to come, to help us look after you.

All of this must be done in a way that delivers the best possible value for money for Tube customers and taxpayers.

It’s a fact that, like any public service, we have to be as efficient as we can, particularly in the present difficult economic times. It’s true we are reducing the number of staff we have overall; but by putting our staff in the areas they are most needed, we can do this without affecting your journey or compromising your safety.
"

The full letter will be on TfL's website soon. We'll know by tomorrow whether these efforts and the discussions with unions will be enough to stop the strike threats.


; Posted by Annie Mole Thursday, March 25, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What will Crossrail uncover?

Last night I attended a great talk & reading by Iain Sinclair & Rachel Lichtenstein at
Clerkenwell Tales book shop. They are both great writers of London's history & their recent works look at Hatton Garden (a stone's throw away from the shop) and Hackney. Both have an extensive knowledge of the area around Farringdon & Rachel feels she can "smell the farmland & hear the River Fleet", when she walks around the area. Iain brought up an interesting question

"I wonder what history will be dug up or uncovered in the Crossrail construction & will any of it be preserved?"

Demolition for new Farringdon Crossrail station by renaissancechambara

Apparently where possible "archaeological sites will be preserved in situ; otherwise they will be excavated and recorded" say Crossrail.

The company acknowledge that it has the potential to encounter some really important and interesting archaeology across the route including prehistoric, Roman and Medieval artifacts. But will they go as far as the Athens subway and display what is found in the stations?

Athens monastiraki station from mic-ro.com/metro

Syntagma station by mic-ro.com/metro

The audience in the shop were quite sceptical about this happening, but agreed it would be great to see.

So far some human bones which are 200 to 300 years old were found in an exploratory borehole close to the planned Farringdon Crossrail station on Charterhouse Street. A Crossrail spokesperson said "They probably came from the former burial ground at St Sepulcher’s Church, which had a workhouse attached to it." However, there's little chance they'll be on display at the new London Underground station, as they were tested for bubonic plague. Once tested, they will be re-buried in consecrated ground or kept in the archive of the Museum of London.

London Reconnections wrote that "Anthrax can lie dormant in spore form for centuries, but if disturbed it can spread through the air. When the Metropolitan Line was dug in the mid 19th century, anthrax spores were released, killing several people. The bacteria that causes bubonic plague may also survive, and dealing with ancient remains is an occupational hazard for rail projects in the City."

Iain Sinclair in Clerkenwell Tales Book shop

Interestingly, both Iain and Rachel talked about the massive change Crossrail will bring to the culture of the area, which reminded me of last year's Transformed by Tube talk at the London Transport Museum. In fifty years from now, will we be musing nostalgically, about the little newsagents, bars, shops and KFC outlets, that have been cleared by Crossrail?

I learnt last night that Farringdon Road used to have a daily book market on it (about 20 years ago & evocatively described in Iain's book White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings) and there's clearly no evidence of that now. I was happy to hear that people like Iain & Rachel are still uncovering the history of less famous London streets and long may it continue.


; Posted by Annie Mole Wednesday, March 24, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Roundels not on the London Underground

There's a food and drinks bias to this round of roundels spotted outside of their original home on the Tube. Firstly
Jemimah Knight found a brilliant spot of a puntastic restaurant sign in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi

Piccadelhi

I like how they've added a trademark to font & imagery on the sign. This is either them being super cheeky or a case where they've actually got permission from TfL to use it!

Charlie spotted the less imaginatively named "Underground" cafe while on holiday in Na'ama Bay, near Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt last week.

Roundel in Na'ama Bay by Charlie

Finally, to complete the round up of Tube eateries, we have Soho 8 in Hong Kong, spotted by James B and taken by g189

Soho 8 by g189

Thanks all. It seems that the roundel is popular choice for eateries, pubs & bars including Damon Albarn's famous bar in Reykjavik.

Please keep the photos coming and I'll blog the best. It's nice to know that you're still thinking of the Tube when you're on your holiday! You can see previous sightings of the travelling roundel at the Roundels not on the London Underground set.


; Posted by Annie Mole Tuesday, March 23, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Tube Pic of the Week - Dirty Tube

I haven't seen too many white van "wash me" style scrawlings or "reverse graffiti" on the London Underground. So it was a nice surprise to see one that made me chuckle this morning.

Dirty Tube

Wonder how long it will take to get cleaned off? I'm assuming that Tube trains don't get a daily wash!


; Posted by Annie Mole Monday, March 22, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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Friday, March 19, 2010

Tube Ad of the week - Love your Lady Garden

A rare occasion where London Underground's advertising censors haven't got their knickers in a twist about what might offend us, poor easily offended commuters. You've probably seen a spate of ads on the Tube with slang terms for "lady bits" , with just the intriguing tag line loveyourvagina.com

Lady Garden Tube Ad from door

CBS Outdoor, the people that oversee the ads on the London Underground, seem happy with Lady Garden, Fru Fru, Coochie and VaJaJa being flashed around the Tube. Yet the minute an ad that vaguely reminds us of graffiti - or actually has original graffiti re-added, it's ripped down in an instant.

Coochie Tube Ad 2

Luckily, in the approval board room no one thought it was a worry for parents to have to explain to their kids what a Lady Garden or a Coochie is.

At least the ads are not encouraging us to whip our lady bits out on the Tube and this is an encouraging sign of CBS Outdoor not being as prudish as normal.

Lady Garden Tube Ad

By the way, you might be quite surprised if you click through to loveyourvagina.com - it's a product that divides opinions with women. However, it's advertised in a fun way and there's even a tag cloud to find the UK's most popular name for a vagina. Depending on where you work, it might not be safe for the office!


; Posted by Annie Mole Friday, March 19, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tube Ticket Office Closure Document Leaked

There have been a number of rumours about a document which showed TfL's plans to close a number of London Underground ticket offices. Last week LU stated again there would be
no ticket office closures. However, yesterday's Mayor's Question Time, the question of office closures was put to Boris once more. His reply: "The first and most important point to make is that no ticket offices will be closed, alright? They're not going to be closed."

Boris signing petition against ticket office closures
Picture on poster being used by union TSSA in demo at LU's headquarters

At which point a document put together by London Underground on the 10th March was revealed which proposed closing the following:

Jubilee Line - Canary Wharf (East), Waterloo (Main – Excess), Waterloo (Shell), Wembley Park (Bridge Road)

District Line - Earl’s Court (Warwick Road), Aldgate East (East), Cannon Street

Central Line - Chancery Lane (Saturday), South Woodford (West), Woodford (West), Monument (mentioned but TfL claim this is a typo)

Bakerloo Line - Charing Cross (Trafalgar)

TfL have confirmed the document is genuine said that all closures would be open to consultation.

There's also some weird decisions around opening hours at major tourist hubs like Heathrow, Victoria, Euston and King's Cross - see BorisWatch.

London Reconnections has done an excellent job of highlighting the keypoints of the document.

Labour Assembly Member Navin Shah who has been a long time campaigner against ticket office closures told the BBC:

"Boris Johnson has misled Londoners. These documents released today show that he was not telling the truth. Several ticket offices will close, others will close for most of the week and large numbers of offices will see their opening hours drastically cut. Nearly five hundred ticket office staff will be lost under these Conservative cuts and many stations will feel less safe and less friendly as a result."

Torytroll concludes: "Asked about the Mayor's comments today a spokesperson said:

"This Mayor takes his promises to Londoners extremely seriously. Every station that has a ticket office will continue to have one."

Even if there's nobody actually in them".


; Posted by Annie Mole Thursday, March 18, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Circle Line, the new Misery Line?

TfL have confirmed what most commuters thought about the extended Circle Line, there are longer waits between trains and fewer trains. It's now the
worst performing line on the network. Since the changes to the London Underground line in December, the frequency of Circle line trains has been cut from seven to six an hour and there's a gap of 10 minutes between trains.

Circle Line delays at Aldgate Tube

I took the above picture of the platform indicators, this morning while I was waiting as normal for the Circle Line to move at Aldgate station. Richard Parry, LU's iterim Managing Director told the Evening Standard's Ross Lydall "that passengers should have to wait on average much more than five minutes - assuming they arrive midway between trains. The "worst case" would be a delay of 11-12 minutes". Sadly I see more than the worst case in the picture above. Many commuters report that the situation is worse at Edgware Road, with up to 20 minutes wait for a train.

Murad Qureshi, a Labour member of the London Assembly, told the Evening Standard: "As someone who welcomed the operational change, I'm very disappointed. There doesn't seem to have been a better service as a result.

"I think the problem is still Edgware Road station. The Circle is the one service that seems to go down immediately when anything happens on the District, Metropolitan or Hammersmith and City [lines]
."

London Underground poster by Bowroaduk
Less reliable and more delays

Parry tried to play down the bad performance and said: "What people forget is that the service wasn't as good as what people want to remember," Mmmmm, is that true and is that even a good way of justifying a supposedly 'improved' service? What are your memories of the old Circle Line? What are things like for you on the new line?


; Posted by Annie Mole Wednesday, March 17, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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Monday, March 15, 2010

IKEA furnish Paris Metro platforms

First
Japan, now Paris. IKEA have kitted out four Parisian subway stations with their sofas and lamps for two weeks. The main point of the publicity is to demonstrate the quality and strength of IKEA products through the ‘bum test’ of thousands of Parisians. There's more behind the campaign at the PSFK blog


If you're going through St. Lazare, Champs-Elysées Clémenceau, Concorde, and Opéra Metro stations, you'll have a comfortable rest on the platforms. Just hope that the Parisian homeless don't catch on to this too quickly, as IKEA may find they'll also be testing whether their sofas are stain resistant.

There's a great set of pictures on Flickr by Les Favoris where you can see commuters spending more time looking at the sofas rather than actually sitting on them. Thanks to FreshPlastic for finding the IKEA links.

IKEA decks out Kobe train

After IKEA in Kobe, Japan put their furniture in train carriages (see above), we just need IKEA in the UK to get in on the act. It would make that wait for your delayed London Underground train, much more bearable.


It's only one step on from the current round of Homebase TV ads where a station in Carlisle is decorated! Come on IKEA, London awaits.


; Posted by Annie Mole Monday, March 15, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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Tim O'Toole may return to run Tube Lines

London Underground's former managing Director has had preliminary discussions with Tube Lines about possibly becoming the contractor's chief exec. This could be interesting as O'Toole strongly criticised Tube Lines while he was in office. Perhaps it needs someone like him to help the current acrimonious
disputes between LU & Tube Lines.

Tim O'Toole TfL Prss shot

Tube Lines hasn't had a permanent chief executive since February 12, when Dean Finch resigned & became chief executive of National Express. Tube Lines, which works on the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines, has been the sole surviving contractor since July 2007 when Metronet went into administration. Tim O'Toole left the London Underground in April last year and returned to Philadelphia to spend more time with his family.

David Begg, Tube Lines' chairman, says he had the highest regard for Tim O'Toole's reputation. But added: "I haven't offered Tim O'Toole a contract, so I cannot say whether or not Tim O'Toole is coming."

However according to the Evening Standard a Tube Lines spokeswoman said: "I can confirm that we are in contractual negotiations with Tim O'Toole over the chief executive's job. We are hoping to conclude these discussions soon."

The FT said that Boris Johnson declined to comment, although they believe that Tim O'Toole has also held discussions with him.


; Posted by Annie Mole Monday, March 15, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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Friday, March 12, 2010

Brunel Thames Tunnel Tour in Words & Pictures

A number of people were lucky enough to bag tickets to a walking tour of the world's first tunnel under a navigable river. Victorians last walked through the tunnel in 1865 & now, 145 years later it was opened to the public for two days. The tickets sold out incredibly quickly, but luckily for us a number of people have blogged & very kindly shared photography.

Rotherhithe Thames Tunnel - Walking back towards Rotherhithe by webponce

Matthew Knight aka webponce has an amazing set of pictures from the Thames Tunnel Tour. I love the detail of the original brickwork on the archways below.

Rotherhithe Thames Tunnel - Original Tunnel Section by webponce

He said "I've always wanted to walk down a Tube line, and to be able to walk along the Marc Brunel Thames Tunnel was even more special - as the world's first underwater tunnel. Much of the original tunnel is still visible at the Rotherhithe end. It is amazing to think there were stalls and shops down here. Thanks to the guides who showed us around.

The Thames Tunnel is an underwater tunnel, built beneath the River Thames in London, United Kingdom connecting Rotherhithe and Wapping. It measures 35 feet (11 m) wide by 20 feet (6 m) high and is 1,300 feet (396 m) long, running at a depth of 75 feet (23 m) below the river's surface (measured at high tide)
."

Peter Watts was also on the tour this morning "along with every other transport nerd". He said: "the tunnel reopened as a foot tunnel for what we were assured will be the very last time in its history, which is just the sort of hyperbole I like to hear on a Friday morning....

The tunnel is now pretty much indistinguishable from any other underground line. The only sense you get that you are heading under the river is that it is rather damp and chilly. Although most of the tunnel’s original brickwork has been concreted over, there are some areas where you can still the original bricks, beautiful but damaged.
"

Darryl Chamberlain from 853 blog also went along and said "The brickwork had concrete applied to it in the 1990s to protect the tunnel – said to be the leakiest on the Underground network – but after a row broke out between London Transport and preservation agencies, a small part close to Rotherhithe station was left alone. Rather than a reminder of how the tunnel was, the existence of the exposed bri just seems to justify the decision to cover it in concrete in the first place."

Rotherhithe Thames Tunnel - original tunnel section by webponce

Peter continued: "Arches bisect the tunnel throughout its length. These were originally used as small shops, as the tunnel became the world’s first underwater shopping arcade. These spaces are tiny, and would have been cramped, dark, cold and damps places to work from. I imagine they are rather like those booth-cum-shops you get along Brixton’s Atlantic Road, where people flog phonecards and reggae from the stairwells of blocks of flats.

Here, though, you can get a sense of the detailing that distinguishes so much Victorian architecture
.

Peter's visited a number of other subterranean parts of London (deep-level Tube shelter at Chancery Lane) & you can learn about what got him initially hooked at the rest of his great blog post.

Thanks to both him, Darryl Chamberlain & Matthew for sharing the experience & photos. If you managed to bag a ticket, it would be great to hear what you thought too.


; Posted by Annie Mole Friday, March 12, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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What's in a Tube Name?

Remember the days when you could smile smugly in a pub quiz to answer "What's unique about St John's Wood London Underground station?" It's the only Tube station that doesn't share any letters with the word mackerel. A couple of week's ago, you might remember I asked
what was unique about Pimlico Tube. Only one person worked out that it was the only station that didn't share any letters with the word badger!

Now some clever person, Ben Green, has built a great time wasting tool "Badgers in Pimlico" so you can type in words and see which stations do not contain its letters.

Debden Tube by Mike Knell

Amazingly there's only one station that doesn't have any letters of the word "Underground" in it (thanks to @qwghlm for that) and that Debden is unique in at least two ways (thanks to Paul Clarke & Richard George for that).

Have minutes of fun seeing which other Tube stations are unique. Thanks to Fimb for the initial heads up on this!


; Posted by Annie Mole Friday, March 12, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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Thursday, March 11, 2010

London Underground to cut up to 800 jobs

In a bid to save £16m each year, LU has announced it will be losing around 700-800 roles on the Tube. In a
press release today (where the focus is on "vision for a safe, efficient and transformed Tube" - sad how lots of visionary releases tend to hide bad news for other people), London Underground stated there would be no compulsory redundancies and they would look to re-focus staff to areas of greater customer need.

Tube Running a Skeleton Crew by Mark Ovenden

No changes will be introduced without consultation with staff and trade unions. It's unlikely the unions will take news of cuts lightly, so I bet the likelihood of threats of industrial action to be high.

Union leaders have already told the BBC of their disappointment with Bob Crow leader of the RMT in bullish mode & dismissive of LU's safety reassurances: "If these cuts to jobs are bulldozed through by Transport for London it will turn London's Tube stations into a muggers' paradise."

London Underground were clear to state that there would be no ticket office closures. It was rumoured earlier this year that 1,000 jobs would go due to ticket office losses. However the value of service provided at ticket stations, particularly in peak hours, was noted. "The LU proposals would also ensure, therefore, that all stations with a ticket office will continue to do so, with opening hours reduced in some areas to reflect the decline in demand but remaining open at the busiest times to serve customers."

However Gerry Doherty, general secretary of the TSSA, said Boris Johnson had betrayed staff: "He was elected promising to keep ticket offices fully open and fully staffed.

"He has now broken that promise. We shall fight this all the way if any of our members are threatened with compulsory redundancy
."

Tube officials said the cuts would include 100 managers, 450 ticket office posts and up to 200 other jobs.

Basically we have the "huge success" of the Oyster card to thank for the job cuts. Since its launch there has been a sharp decline in ticket sales at station offices with just one in 20 journeys paid for at the counter.


; Posted by Annie Mole Thursday, March 11, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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Tube Refund apps for your iPhone

iPhone users can submit refund claims for London Underground delays pretty quickly with the launch of two apps. Under the Customer Charter, if you're delayed by more than 15 minutes, you're entitled to claim the cost of your single journey on the Tube. TfL's website actually is fine for making a
claim, but with an iPhone app, many people might be more likely to remember to do it. You can literally claim while your delay takes place.


The company behind Tube Refund, one of the apps, says that there were approximately 1,996 delays across the Tube network last year (38 delays a week). Hopefully you're not going to get that amount personally, but the which only costs 59p, could pay for itself pretty quickly.

The other app iRefund is $0.99 has fewer ratings than Tube Refund.


If you have an iPhone give one a try, when you're next delayed. They'll make a useful edition to the other London Underground iPhone apps reviewed last year.

Thanks to TechCrunch for the heads up on this.


; Posted by Annie Mole Thursday, March 11, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

TfL consider legal action in Tube Lines funding row

In the ongoing funding row with Tube Lines upgrade work, TfL are considering legal action after arbiter, Chris Bolt says London Underground has to raise £4,465m for PPP costs.

In a final determination of the costs, the arbiter believes that Tube Lines' increased estimate by £65m for the cost of the next seven and half years of work is correct.

Tube Lies by Utku

Boris Johnson & TfL are none too happy about this and with a rebel rousing yell, Boris said "The Arbiter has ruled that the costs should be £4.46bn, thus demonstrating that Tube Lines' breathtaking original demand for £6.8bn was simply an attempt at daylight robbery.

"Londoners will also be outraged that the Tube upgrades promised to them are now threatened.

"Simply put, we are being asked to write a blank cheque in order to prop up an ailing and failing Tube Lines, and to guarantee massive and secretive payments of £400m to its shareholders, Ferrovial and Bechtel.

"In other countries this would be called looting, here it is called the PPP
."

The fighting talk continues with "We will fight this to the last and are seeking urgent advice on the Arbiter's idea to pass Tube Lines' obligations to raise finance on to London's fare and taxpayers.

"We are therefore examining all our options, including legal remedies.
"

Tube Lines are quietly saying that co-operation is needed "It will be essential that it (the contract) is underpinned with a strong partnership between Tube Lines and London Underground and that both parties embrace the parameters of the agreement."

Unlikely with talk of a legal fight & Boris's sparring words.

Andrew Cleaves, Tube Lines' acting chief executive, said "It is clear that the Arbiter has relied on international benchmarking to help drive down public spending and is expecting both us and London Underground to become more efficient still by adopting some of the delivery methods used by other, more modern Metro systems around the world. This will require a step change in the way that Tube Lines and London Underground work together. We will wholeheartedly welcome working more closely with LU to simplify and modernise working practices on the Underground and give Tube passengers more, for less."

Also earlier in the week TfL's interim managing director Richard Parry wrote to Bolt warning that the missing £400m would have to be found by taxpayers, in the form of higher fares, or else planned upgrade work to the Piccadilly Line would have be shelved.

In today's press release Parry said "The Jubilee and Northern line upgrades are seriously delayed and over budget as a result of Tube Lines' failure to deliver, a fact now confirmed by both the PPP Arbiter and an independent QC earlier this year."

Looks like the war of words could be moving to legal arena and in the meantime, us commuters continue to bear the brunt of the stupid PPP plan, with delays to upgrades & increased fares to fund the mess.


; Posted by Annie Mole Wednesday, March 10, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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Bing's TV campaign launches with Tube question

Microsoft's search engine Bing kicks off its UK TV advertising tonight with a London Underground setting. Looks like the simple question of where to catch a Tube to Euston is taken to extremes - unless they've been looking at the
Human Body as a Tube Map diagram.


Hopefully, this won't lead to a round of information overload for people asking for directions on the Tube.

And welcome if you've come here, after searching for the London Underground on Bing. You might not find what you're looking for, but hopefully can have fun on the way.


; Posted by Annie Mole Wednesday, March 10, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Win a licence to busk on the Tube

Boris Johnson launched the latest version of 'Busking Idol' at London Bridge London Underground station today. As well as the 'coveted' prize of a year's busking on the Tube, the lucky winner will also bag studio time, live gigs at various venues and musical instruments.

Boris launches busking competition at London Bridge Tube
Is it just me or does Boris's guitar look really small?

Johnson said "As the View so purposely said on their album 'Hats off to the Buskers' - it is high time we recognised how marvellous our buskers truly are. I'm searching for the finest act to join the myriad of talented musicians on the Underground.

"This is a brilliant opportunity for young people to get their music heard and to practise performing live. Last year's winner Jamie West strummed orphetic tunes masterfully on his guitar and has proved a popular fixture both on the Tube and the live music circuit. I really look forward to hearing 2010's young Underground star
."

If you'd like to enter (you have to be between 16 & 25 years old) you need to upload a video clip of yourself performing on the ‘Rhythm of London‘ You Tube page and complete an online registration form at www.london.gov.uk by April 6th 2010. Judges will then select 100 people to be filmed performing at busking slots across London on April 24th. Then we get the chance to to vote for our favourite busker. The top ten will then perform live later this year at a ‘busk off’ for the final prize.


; Posted by Annie Mole Tuesday, March 09, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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Monday, March 08, 2010

The Tube's first female driver

It's International Women's Day and what better way to celebrate it than by dedicating this post to Hannah Dadds - the first female driver on the Tube.

Hannah Dadds was born in Forest Gate on the 16th October in 1941. While growing up in London's East End, little did she know that she would create history, as London Underground's first female Tube driver.

Hannah Dadds - First Female Tube Driver  - London Transport Museum

In October 1969, she saw a "railwoman" position advertised, and applied for the role as she had just been made redundant from a job in a cigarette factory. On the day of the interview Hannah was clearly no expert on the Tube. "I didn’t know where I was going at first, because I didn’t know the Underground. I hardly went on it. Tower Hill was the furthest I had travelled!" she joked.

Despite this she sailed through the entry exam. Hannah's Cockney sense of humour and irony shine through as she recalls the "idiot’s test", as she coined it: "Well, it was so stupid. ‘Pick the wrong one out: A boat, a car, and a bus. So obviously they’ve all got engines but the boat goes on water, the other two go on the road. I mean that’s a silly question. Then you’ve got the adding up ones, that a kid of five could do".

After eight and half years as a collector, Hannah applied to become a guard and to travel on the trains with drivers in 1978.

She knew that with her length of service, that after six months working as a guard, she could apply for a driver’s job. "Sometimes you are there for a couple of years before you’re approached to go from guard to driver", she said "After all a guard is an emergency driver. That’s part of their grade. They’ve got to be able to drive the train in an emergency, even if the driver’s OK, he’s in charge of the brakes. But sometimes you have to have someone to drive and someone to brake, depending on the defect."

Even though the Tube drivers’ position was technically open to both men and women, very few women applied for a driver’s role prior to Hannah. Legal changes with women’s rights, such as the passing of the Equal Pay and Sex Discrimination Act in 1975 appeared to have very little effect on women’s enthusiasm to apply for what was seen as a very male job.

On the 20th August 1978, Hannah set off for Tube driver’s school and was the only woman in the class. Strong willed Hannah always felt that she had to be better than the men and that there was pressure for her to do this.

She recalls her training. “I was asked more questions than any man. There was five of us from the District Line together in the classroom – four men and me and I was definitely asked more questions. After one morning I said, ‘They haven’t half asked me a lot of questions. Have you noticed?’ The men said, ‘Yeah we’ve noticed that’. So in the afternoon I put strokes, like the date method, on my cigarette packet, and I’d been asked 19. The next day, the trainers did the same thing, and I’d been asked 18 in the morning and 19 in the afternoon… 37 questions in the course of the day. You added the four men’s questions up and they hadn’t been asked 37 questions between the four of them! Even if a question wasn’t directed at me to start with the trainer would come back and say ‘Do you agree with that, Mrs Dadds?’

By the 5th October, Hannah had passed, but she seemed shocked by the level of publicity her achievement attracted. Especially as her story was leaked to the press a few weeks before London Transport were to officially announce it.

Hannah Dadds - First Female Tube Driver - London Transport Museum

Hannah recalls one of the very few occasions when something derogatory was said about her. "I hadn’t long qualified for driver, and my driver, Bert, was sitting in the Mess Room at Earl’s Court in the canteen, and this guard was running me down and said ‘Yeah, I heard she’s a nasty bitch! Passed first time’ he said. ‘So big headed that even her driver don’t get on with her. Always arguing and rowing’. So Bert’s taking this all in and all of a sudden, a driver from Upminster turned round and says to Bert, ‘Ere, Bert, where’s your mate?’ ‘Oh’, he said, ‘She’s out driving. She’s got so much seniority, she doesn’t get to work with me any more’. And then the guard who’d been running me down, went all red and walked out!"

The unions also had a slightly sexist attitude to women staff, but during the period that she worked for London Transport, Hannah clearly noticed their behaviour towards women change. “I was in the NUR the whole time I was on. The day you join London Transport, you go and pick up your uniform then sit in the canteen. Then you’ll have the Union reps come round. If it was ASLEF they used to walk past you. When my sister joined, ASLEF said, ‘Oh you’re the wrong sex’ and ‘Don’t want you, you’re a woman’ that sort of thing. But it all changed when Women’s Lib came in. You had them coming round canvassing and wanting you. I then turned round and said ‘What have you ever done for us?’ "

Hannah continued working until she was 53 & retired to Spain. She had always wanted to take an early retirement and not work all of her life. She recalls how she was going to approach her last days on the London Underground. "I was going to pack up working when I was 50. I said I wouldn’t work until I was old. My mum died before she was 61 and I said I was going to have a bit of life and not be like my mum. But when I was 50, the depot clerk said ‘Don’t yet Han, they go into the Common Market and you’ll have the Citizen’s Charter and all that, you might get a better pension’."

As much as Hannah was a pioneer – her position didn’t suddenly open the floodgates to women drivers pouring into the London Underground. By 1990 there were only 30 women out of 2,500 London Underground drivers. Diane Udall, a driver who became an NUR Union Branch Secretary said at the time, "There are opportunities for women, as good as any other type of job. You don’t need skills or formal qualifications to enter and if you’ve got commonsense you’ll be OK. It’s less boring than shop or office work and probably better paid than many jobs women do. The problem is getting accepted in the first place; you need skin like crocodile hide."

However, numbers of women drivers, were and still are comparatively low. Diane Udall also felt that the problem was that women didn’t actually think about becoming Tube drivers. She believed that London Underground ought to do something to change this perception. "They should target advertising towards women and liaise more with the careers service so young women get to hear about the opportunities."

In 2001 London Underground started just the type of advertising that Diane referred to. They began their recruitment campaign in one the glossiest women’s magazines in the UK – Cosmopolitan. Hundreds of women responded to the half page ads. Mark Summerfield, then Head of Resourcing at London Underground, said "We believe that London Underground should reflect the community it serves and we are determined to take positive steps to encourage women to apply for jobs in every part of the railway."

The recruitment drive continued for 18 months, in 2001, 75 out of the 3,000 London Underground drivers were women, by the end of the campaign this had risen to 167 women drivers. It appears that this increased female touch had a positive effect on the system. An article in The Times in 2002 said that "London Underground recorded a record peak-time performance last month, largely because of the impact of women drivers. They have endured taunts from male colleagues and abuse from passengers but the army of women drivers recruited by the London Underground have proved that they are better than men at making Tube trains run on time. Managers believe that their influence has helped to end a culture of absenteeism and militancy in the workforce."

When Hannah retired to the sunshine of Spain in 1993, she probably thought that she had had her last experiences of being in the public eye. However, in 2004 she was invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen as part of the first Women of Achievement lunches. Hannah was amazed, "I thought someone was having me on, when I found out, but it’s great to be recognised for making a contribution".

As one of only 200 women invited to this VIP occasion for her special contribution to society, Hannah had not realised the inspiring effect her role had on equal opportunities and women being able to break into “male industries”.

Her first brave steps of getting into the driver’s carriage in 1978 were far reaching and Hannah's recognition by the Queen truly deserved. Women drivers may now still face the odd joke by passengers, but the London Underground itself has tried to stamp out any workplace problems. In 2002, Cherie Booth QC presented London Underground Ltd with an award from Opportunity Now, for the excellence of its harassment policy. These policies make it much easier for women entering as Tube drivers now. But it is lucky that Hannah Dadds had the personality to hold her own and ignore any taunts to become the very first woman to take on this traditionally male role.

Update: Sadly Hannah passed away on 28th November 2011. She is sadly missed by her family, friends and ex-colleagues at London Underground.


; Posted by Annie Mole Monday, March 08, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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Friday, March 05, 2010

Human Body as a Tube Map

It might be easier to imagine the workings of our body if it were mapped out like the London Underground map. With "Under Skin" (you can see what's she's done there), Dutch designer & illustrator,
Sam Loman has charted the interchanges in our body to various "lines" on the map.

Human Body as a Tube Map by Sam Loman - click to see full size via Vizworld.com

If you look at the actual size (via Vizworld), you can see the full beauty of her mix of design, science & cartography. There's a nice touch with Sam giving the copyright to Transport for Body.

As Gizmodo said "And no matter what the locals tell you, don't take the pink line to the yellow line. That's nowhere you want to go."

Thanks to MichalD for letting me know about this. It's a lovely find and just when you think you've seen almost everything visualised as a Tube map, something else like this pops up. Harry Beck would be proud!

You can see more of Sam's work at Just-sam.com


; Posted by Annie Mole Friday, March 05, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Tube Map Tapestry

Brighton artist, Lucy Sparrow, took 220 hours, 2,400 metres of thread, 142 buttons and three metres square of white felt to turn the London Underground map into a modern day Bayeux Tapestry. Called the The Bakerloo Tapestry, she decided to embark on this labour of love after the July 7, 2005 bombings and the subsequent rebuilding of the network in the following months and years.

Lucy Sparrow & Tube Map Tapestry

Lucy said: "This is my biggest achievement to date. It is a modern take on such a recognised symbol for those living both in London and commuting from Brighton."

Unfortunately you won't be able to see the art on the Tube itself though. As TfL bosses say she'd have to pay to get it exhibited on the network. Ms Sparrow said: "This is something that as an artist I stand strongly against – much art is a labour of love and its a bit of a kick in the teeth to an aspiring artist to put heart and soul into a novel creation only to be asked to pay for other people to enjoy it."

Hopefully she might have better luck with other networks as she to make tapestries of other subway systems at home and abroad and eventually to make a full-sized car out of felt.

Perhaps we can convince her to make a full sized Tube carriage out of felt too. That, I'd love to see. More of Lucy's felt works can be seen on www.sewyoursoul.com


; Posted by Annie Mole Wednesday, March 03, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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Monday, March 01, 2010

What's unique about Pimlico Tube?

Apparently there's something special about Pimlico London Underground station. It's one of those things that I thought only one other station had a similar sort of unique-ness about it.

Pimlico Tube by Colm McMullan

However, thanks to bbqbob I learnt that you may be able to add Pimlico to your pub quiz or London trivia quiz knowledge. No prizes for guessing, but feel free to leave guesses below.

While we're on the subject of pub quizzes, I must thank J20 for inviting me, LJ Rich, Quartistice, Claire W & Lateral to a great pub quiz last week. For once I thought we were actually in with a chance of being placed in the top three. Although as it turned out, we woz robbed. You might fancy having a go at the picture quiz below.

Mangled Mugs at J20 Pub Quiz

Two celebrities are mixed up in each picture & it's a lot harder than it looks. Ignore our scribbles underneath two of the pictures, sadly they won't help!


; Posted by Annie Mole Monday, March 01, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon
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