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Annie Mole's, daily web log (blog) & “guide” to the London Underground
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Signs of Christmas on the London Underground

You know it's nearly Xmas on the Tube, when there's a lot more empty seats in the morning. When there's weary shoppers hoping to make it home with their bounty intact (great picture of one such shopper by
Mevan Babakar below).

Leonard Q. Bearrington on the tube by Mevana Ana

When TfL positively encourage you to take bits of the Tube home with you:

Take the Tube Home

Obviously not pulling up seats or stripping off the moquette upholstery, but giving gifts made with their likenesses. Nice seeing the London Undercover Tube Umbrella on the poster.

When your local station puts its "Festive" opening times up.

Festive opening times for the Tube

Luckily my station is running pretty normally, but don't forget to check out TfL's site for Tube travel over Xmas.

Finally Christmas on the Tube wouldn't be complete without a picture of Santacon.

Saturday 14:58 by Zbigniew Osiowy

Great shot of a group/herd of Santae legging it onto the train before the doors shut by Zbigniew Osiowy of Tubephotography.net.

Hope you all have a brilliant Christmas and here's hoping that travel in 2010 won't be too much of a challenge!

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, December 23, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What the Northern Line could have been

Fun short pilot for a TV show called 'Unfinished London'. It's about the incomplete Northern Heights plan for the Northern Line and how its failure affected how North London looks.

Covers similar ground to the
Transformed by the Tube talk I went to last month at London Transport Museum. Building the London Underground had a massive impact to the suburbs & literally creates new towns.

Thanks to Will B for sending it on to me and for Jay Foreman for making a good short film, pondering whether we're any worse off because the Northern Heights was never finished.

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, December 22, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, December 21, 2009

Adless Tube

King's Cross London Underground station won't look like this for long. So
James Cridland took a shot of the new recently-opened access tunnel there.

No advertising in the Underground by James Cridland

He said "Imagine what it would be like if this stayed like this?".

Looks like an art installation to me and some of the commuters look as though they're discussing something in the Tate!

; Posted by annie mole Monday, December 21, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tube power staff in Xmas strike over pay

Hopefully, this will not have serious consequences for the overall London Underground service, but 100 EDF Power staff will walk out next week over a pay dispute.

The engineers will not work from 8pm on Tuesday 22nd December 2009 to 8am on Christmas Eve. Further action might also take place in the 12 hours from 8pm on Boxing Day.

RMT leader Bob Crow says: "Our EDF Powerlink members are furious at the failure of the company to make a meaningful pay offer. Instead of entering into serious talks they have run to the courts and have wheeled out the anti-union laws in an attempt to shackle RMT. Unless we receive a positive offer this action will go ahead and the consequences for the Underground will be serious."

Transport for London say they're confident that "this action does not present a significant risk to the operation of the Underground."

However, Unite members have been balloted and may be taking the same action as RMT members at the same times.

There is also a separate dispute with LUL Willesden Green Group Station Staff over alleged victimisation of a staff member. "The union has therefore decided to use the mandate for industrial action and our members on the group have been instructed not to book on for any shifts that commence between 04:59 and 23:59 on Wednesday 23rd December 2009."

Update: 22nd December 2009 - Unite members will definitely be taking strike action from 8pm 22nd December 2009 until 8pm 27th December 2009. No updates from TfL as yet as to whether this will cause a disruption to services on the Tube. Although Unite say "EDF has failed to reach a compromise with Unite and now there is a high risk that the tube will be brought to a halt at the busiest time of year."

; Posted by annie mole Friday, December 18, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Will Tube Lines hand back Tube contract?

Yesterday the Rail Arbiter favoured the London Underground and said that Tube Lines' estimate to complete line upgrades was higher than it should be. Chris Bolt
said "I have reviewed carefully the submissions from Tube Lines and London Underground, and taken expert advice. On the basis of my analysis, I consider that a company operating in an overall efficient and economic manner and in accordance with Good Industry Practice – the test in the PPP Agreement – could deliver its obligations at a substantially lower cost than projected by Tube Lines, though not as cheaply as suggested by London Underground."

Tube Services at Risk

He's come in with a middling figure of £4.4 billion, whereas Tube Lines wanted £5.75 billion and London Underground believed they should do it for £4.0 billion.

This is only a draft decision though and Tube Lines sound like they might prepared to walk away from the contract. In a press release on their site, they said that the arbiter agrees that London Underground are a "difficult client" to work with.

Currently they say it will be difficult to complete the work at lower figure proposed. Dean Finch, Tube Lines' Chief Executive said "The Arbiter has acknowledged even at this level that LU has a stark choice to make - either to do less work or raise additional finance. However, this document is a draft and we have a further six weeks to make representations which we will do robustly."

Engineering Work by kpmarek

So what will happen if the arbiter sticks at £4.4 billion? What if London Underground still say they're not prepared to pay more than £4 billion? Is Boris going to wade in and demand that it's completed at that price? Will Tube Lines seriously walk away from the contract? If so what does that mean for us commuters? Even more delays to the Jubilee Line work? Any improvements on the Northern Line by 2012? Questions, questions, questions.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, December 18, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tube Philosophy at King's Cross

Taken at the exit of the King's Cross H&C/Metropolitan/Teacup line this morning, by Matthew V.

King's Cross - Quote of the Day by Matthew V

Is this an instruction to us all? Or just the philosophy of the London Underground in general?

Plus on another thoughtful note, Rammi saw this at Sudbury Hill on Monday:

Seen at Sudbury Hill by Rammi

Let us know if any of your station staff are giving other philosophical offerings or veiled instructions on how to cope with life on the Tube. Perhaps they're competing with each other in an effort to be the most erudite.

Finally, the staff at Caledonian Road decided to use their Service Information board for a rather impressive Christmas message:

Seen at Sudbury Hill by Yaili

Thanks to Yaili for alerting me to this. Have a look at all the effort that was put into it on the large size!

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, December 17, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tube Lines' Delays may spread to Northern Line

After a recent media war of words about the finish date for the
Jubilee Line upgrade, it appears that TfL now aren't confident about Tube Lines being able to complete Northern Line updates in time for the Olympics. Bloomberg reported yesterday that TfL is "concerned" about Tube Lines meeting the January 2012 deadline for the Northern Line work.

Beck by Gregory J Smith

The same Jubilee Line team will be used for the work on the Northern Line. Boris Johnson had written to the Head of Tube Lines demanding assurances of the finish date of the Jubilee Line work. However Tube Lines said in an e-mail on Monday that 'the delay to the Jubilee line does not necessarily impact on the Northern line upgrade.'

This Thursday rail regulator Chris Bolt will issue a draft decision on a related dispute between the London Underground & Tube Lines' about the cost of the contractor's work from 2010 to 2017. London Underground estimates the cost to be 4.2 billion pounds, while Tube Lines says it will be around 5.7 billion pounds.

RMT Leader Bob Crow leapt on the recent disputes as a chance to lay into Tube Lines and hasn't minced his words. He told the BBC:

"Tube Lines should be sacked now, without compensation, before the final death throes of PPP on the underground do further damage to London's transport system.

"This chaos management of an essential service for millions of Londoners cannot be allowed to continue
." He believes that the work should be bought in-house (probably giving him even more opportunity to determine when workers should lay down their tools).

The Northern Line is one of the busiest on the Tube & many people are worried about the Tube's ability to cope with the influx of travellers due to the Olympics. So Tube Lines are under a lot of pressure to get work completed on time. At the moment it's early days, but doubtless the battle of words will continue.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, December 16, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How's the new Circle Line?

According to
The Independent, the new Circle Line (or lasso line, or spiral line, or @ line) is causing some confusion for London Underground passengers. Writer, Andy McSmith calls it "incomprehensible".

Paddington Underground station by bowroaduk

He points out what is making things confusing: "To add to the perplexity, Transport for London (TfL) insists on calling the trains that are going by the long route to Hammersmith "eastbound", although they go south, west and north until they get to Liverpool Street, and then start travelling west. "Westbound" trains between Tower Hill and Gloucester Road, are, in fact, heading east, and "eastbound" trains are heading west. Clear enough?"

What we can only hope are just teething problems, added to the confusion at Edgware Road yesterday:

"At the entrance were notices telling you that westbound trains to Hammersmith left from platform 4, and the "eastbound" trains that took you south towards Victoria left from platform 2. But any unwary passenger who believed the notices and got the first train on platform 2 was likely to be whisked away to Hammersmith, because the train drivers were using the wrong platforms."

A number of comments on Twitter show that the line "sucks" or people are reverting to buses instead. Thanks to Seant666 for the heads up to the Indie article.

Have you used the new Circle Line yet? Has anyone tried getting it to Hammersmith, as that's supposed to be the main benefit of extending the line?

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, December 15, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, December 14, 2009

Farringdon Tube Announcer's running commentary on delays

A disgruntled station assistant at Farringdon London Underground station decided to give commuters a 20 minute blow-by-blow account of delays to the service last week. Apparently his manager complained that he didn't communicate enough so he decided to go all out with sympathy instead.

"Is this what having a nervous breakdown feels like" he said. Not too full of suggestions as to how to speed up the journey his philosophical offerings included: "You’ve got two options – apart from shooting yourself, and who could blame you."

Farringdon Tube by mattbuck4950

"Once again I do apologise for the disruption to your journey this morning, it has upset me easily as much as it has upset you. Do trust me, that is coming from the heart"

You can hear part of his rant on the Bitter wallet blog.

Thanks to Jon Justice who spotted in the Telegraph.

Interesting that they decided to focus on him telling passengers that they should consider shooting themselves. Obviously it's a better approach than threatening to push passengers off a train.

Have you heard or seen any other drivers or station assistants become so exasperated with the system, they had to let loose?

; Posted by annie mole Monday, December 14, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Roundels Not on the London Underground

Thanks again to all you globe trotters who have been spotting the Tube roundel outside the system.

Adam S was on holiday in Delhi and his friend took the picture below:

City Secret - Delhi Kishenganj Railway Station by Mayank Austen Soofi

Jemimah Knight also spotted the roundel in India at Bangalore

trainstation-sign by Railway Station sign by Jemimah Knight

Michael Windsor saw a roundel for Camden Town not in North London by in a shopping centre in Gdansk Poland:

Gdansk Poland by Michael Windsor

My favourite and one that will certainly have TfL's lawyers jumping up and down was taken by The Londoneer

Reeperbahn in Hamburg by Londoneer

He said "You're really not going to like this - they clearly have absolutely no shame on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg!"

I love it, please keen them coming and I'll blog the best. You can see more at the growing Roundels not on the London Underground set.

Speaking of Germany, I'm off to Berlin for a few days. Hopefully I'll be able to add a few pictures of the metro system there!

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, December 10, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Robert Downey Jr at Baker Street Tube

Interesting way of promoting the new Sherlock Holmes film. A waxwork figure of Robert Downey Jr has been put on a number of platforms of Baker Street London Underground station looking as though he's waiting for a train.

He was also seen inside the carriage, with commuters naturally looking as though it wasn't out of the ordinary to see him there!

Great photos by Scott Monty and there are more in his Flickr set here and on his Baker Street Blog.

I'm not sure if he'll be there every day. But on the December 14th he's moved to the nearby Madame Tussauds. Thanks to Paul B for the hat tip to this.

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, December 10, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

London Underground Tube Tour

It must be extremely hard to pack more than 150 years of London Underground history into a two hour tour, but the people from Insider London make a great stab at this. Last week, I was treated to one of their
guided London Underground Tours, along with fellow London chroniclers at Londonist & LDN.

London Underground Tour starts at Farringdon

The tour starts at Farringdon where the first trains ran underground in 1863 and ends with a look to the future at Westminster station.

Rather than ruin the tour by telling you everything that's on it, some of the things you'll experience are discovering which line may have been called the Viking Line, seeing where a "ghost Tube station" is and learning about some of the interesting things encountered when the Victorians were digging tunnels by hand.

As someone who uses the Tube at lot and has been writing about it for years, I was pleased to see some new things to look out for. The tour would a good way for tourists to while away some hours & speak knowledgeably about the Tube when back home. Tube experts or those with a more geeky knowledge may want to get something a little more tailored for their "specialist" subject. But Insider London would be happy to do this.

Naturally, the tours don't run in the rush hour, as we all know how much we love to see groups of people standing around pointing at things on a commute! However, as long as there's a minimum of two people, you can get a tour to suit the day & time that's best for you. There are also discounts for 10 or more people.

If two hours sounds like a breeze, there's a six hour London Underground Epic Tour for the hardcore Tube enthusiast. Although I'd imagine for the next six or twenty eight weekends, there'd be an alternative way of getting from Green Park to Westminster - d'oh to Jubilee Line weekend engineering closures.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, December 09, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Fox on the Tube

Amazing photograph by
Kate Arkless Gray who spotting an urban fox travelling up an escalator at Walthamstow London Underground.

Underground Urban Fox by Kate Arkless Gray

She said "This cheeky chap was snapped at around midnight on 5th December 2009 at Walthamstow Central tube station in London. As I got of my train I'd seen him dashing down the escalator, and when the workmen shoo-ed him back up again he sat near the top for the moment - enabling me to grab these two pics." The other one which shows him in close up is here. Thanks to many people for the heads up on this. As Sizemore noticed it's even standing on the right side of the escalator. Big thanks to Kate for letting me use the picture on the blog!

I've been shocked by seeing foxes in many unexpected places, but never in a fairly enclosed & crowded place like the Tube. This little creature must have no fear.

What's the strangest animal you've seen on the Tube?

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, December 08, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, December 07, 2009

28 or six more weekend closures of Jubilee Line?

A disagreement seems to have broken out regarding the number of weekend closures required to finish the ongoing improvements on the Jubilee Line. Media reports have suggested that a further 28 weekend closures could be needed, taking us up to halfway through next year.
Londonist report that this has led Boris Johnson to wade in to Tube Lines' head with demands as to the true extent of closures that are needed.

Tube Lies taken by Utku
Taken by Utku

However, Val Shawcross on the London Assembly has no idea where TfL's figure of 28 weeks has come from: "There has clearly been some kind of breakdown in communications between the two parties, as I met with Tube Lines today and they have told me that they have only requested six more full weekend closures, and even if that increases to accommodate things like training time, it should be no more than ten". (via SE1)

She continued "Rather than a war of words in the press, everyone needs to sit down together to work out a sensible programme so that passengers know what to realistically expect.".

Caroline Pigeon, chair of the transport committee at City Hall echoed this view "The Mayor now needs to call a Tube summit, get all the players round the table, and bang heads together. This must include the owners of Tube Lines, Bechtel and Ferrovial, who pull Tube Lines' strings. These parent companies need to understand a better way of working has to be found. These delays cannot go on indefinitely."

Do you live on the Jubilee Line? Have you been sent anything about the works being extended into the middle of next year? You really have my sympathies. I've only tried to use it for a couple of weekends since the regular closures, so didn't have to put up with too many replacement bus journeys. I'm assuming you can't claim Customer Charter refunds for this as there's already been advance notice?

; Posted by annie mole Monday, December 07, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, December 04, 2009

Tube Photo of the Week

Great spot by
CdL Creative going through Canary Wharf London Underground station. He said "The guy sitting opposite me on the tube was wearing a suit.


Dress sense?

The trousers were completely inside out. Either he was totally oblivious to this or it was some sort of Masonic ritual."

The mind boggles. Even if you're in a massive rush, you'd have to struggle somewhat to put your trousers on inside out.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, December 04, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Amazing Hair style on the Tube

First time I've ever seen a London Underground member of staff with a hair cut like this.

Mohican Station Assistant

Bet he never makes a rush for the doors on a crowded train for the worry of getting his hair stuck.

Mohican Station Assistant 2

I took this photo while I was on an interesting tour of the London Underground, which I'll blog about later.

But as I held back a little to take this guy's picture, the lady who was running the tour said that she'd been on a Tube journey once where a man with very long hair got it stuck in the doors. He was quite nonchalant about it and said he'd be able to escape at the next stop. Typically though, he was unlucky enough be to trapped on the side where the doors didn't open for a number of stops.

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, December 03, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

New Art Below Tube Campaign

There's a new collection of Art Below posters on the London Underground running up until 13th December.
Art Below was set up in February 2006 and came about when two brothers, Ben and Simon Moore, wondered if they could use surplus ad space on the Tube and use it to display friends' artwork.

Art Below poster at Marylebone Tube

Ben Moore said "The Tube is an iconic, vast space, plus users are almost immersed in advertising on it, so why not turn ad space into art space,"

Art Below poster at Baker Street Tube

It's a great way for artists to get their work seen by millions of people. Submissions are made online and then selected on their contemporary relevance and standard. The poster scheme has also been rolled out on metro systems in Tokyo and Berlin. So far, over 500 artists have had their work displayed

Art Below have secured very central sites including Bond Street, Gloucester Road, Old Street, Angel and London Bridge. Overall they're seen by over 38,000 people every fortnight.

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, December 03, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Amazing & Extraordinary London Underground Facts

That's the title of Dr Stephen Halliday's
new book, which he will be signing this Friday evening at London Transport Museum & co-hosting a kitsch quiz as part of the museum's "Lates" series.

Amazing & Extraordinary London Underground Facts by Stephen Halliday

Halliday's book "Underground to Everywhere" is one of the most recent definitive books about the Tube, but his new book sounds much lighter and would make a great stocking filler. He gave a great talk which I was lucky to attend a few years ago on the history of the underground.

Lates at London Transport Museum

The quiz starts at 7.30pm and Stephen will be available to sign books from 8.30pm to 9pm.

Also at this Friday's event you can get crafty with The Make Lounge & make magnets and envelopes using London Underground maps and posters. There's also semi-detached bingo (no, I've no idea what that is either), a curatorial tour of the Suburbia exhibition.

Sounds like it will be a really fun night. Tickets are £7 Adults, £5 Concessions and £5 per ticket for each group of 4 or more. Admission for over 18s only. Friday Lates start at 18.45 and go on until 22.00, booking and further details are here.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, December 02, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Tube Travel makes us aggressive

A new report from the London Assembly "Too Close for Comfort" has revealed what many Londoners already know. Overcrowding on the London Underground gives us a "dog-eat-dog" attitude where we turn into "a different animal" in a fight for seats or space on a train.

Sardines on North London Train from the London Paper

The report shows there is severe overcrowding on the Tube, with 80% of commuters saying they experience overcrowding which causes discomfort and over half saying they can't get on their first train in the morning. The worst lines for overcrowding are the Central and Northern Lines. At peak hours you'll often find four travellers into a square metre of carriage space.

The report says that people are "going after a seat regardless of who else might want it, ignoring pregnant women and people carrying babies".

People mentally prepare for their journey on auto pilot and psyche themselves up for a packed journey as though they're going into battle, rather than simply travelling into work.

Caroline Pigeon of the London Assembly spoke to The Guardian and said that the report offers suggestions as to how the situation can be improved. In an audio interview she also points to Madrid metro and how they tackle the works of improvements to increase capacity on trains. "If Madrid can upgrade their system without any closures then London Underground ought to be able to do the same". she says. "Too Close for Comfort" criticised the "chaotic" upgrade of the Jubilee Line extension, which has meant that sections of the line being closed for whole weekends several times in the last few months.

The report also calls for a "traffic-light" system in ticket halls so people can judge exactly how packed the trains will be.

What more do you think can be done to ease overcrowding? Is your journey to work overcrowded? What are your strategies to avoid packed trains? Do you travel in later? Walk more or try to use music to put your head in another place?

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, December 01, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE