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Friday, October 29, 2010

WiFi Test on London Underground starts Monday

A six month trial of WiFi at Charing Cross station covering platforms and the ticket halls of the Northern and Bakerloo line begins this Monday 1st November. BT’s service will piggy-back onto an existing wireless network, currently used by TfL staff, which apparently makes it much cheaper to deploy.

Photo by Alexander Boden

In the trial, designed to gauge customer interest, commuters with a WiFi-enabled smartphone, laptop or other device will be able to read travel information for free. Other services require a subscription to BT’s Openzone network of WiFi hotspots, which is bundled with BT Broadband and mobile contracts with Tesco Mobile, Vodafone, O2 and Orange. More on this from Seek Broadband and TfL's site.

BT Openzone’s WiFi is already available at nine London overground stations, including Liverpool Street, Victoria and Charing Cross. The Cloud, a competitive hotspot network, also provides wireless access at several stations.

Finally we seem to be catching up with other subway networks. Mobile phone coverage works on many other underground systems including Glasgow, Beijing, Stockholm, Washington DC and Moscow. Kulveer Ranger, the mayor’s transport adviser acknowledges the demand in London and said "An ever growing commuter populous has been clamouring to be able to check their e-mails and browse the net whilst on the go".

Boris has pledged to enable wireless service across the whole Tube network in time for the Olympic Games in 2012. A TfL spokesperson said: "Given the current pressures on TfL’s budgets any solution would need to be funded through mobile operators with no cost to fare or taxpayers. Discussions are ongoing."

Hopefully the service will be put through a rigorous test at Charing Cross. It's one of London's busiest stations with passengers making 68,000 journeys every day.

For coverage elsewhere on the network, you might also be interested in our quest to find mobile phone hotspots on the Tube.

Related post: Best London Underground iPhone Apps

; Posted by annie mole Friday, October 29, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Police appeal for information on Tube Death

Many of you have probably heard about the horrible incident on Monday when a man fell to his death beneath a London Underground train. I was on the Westbound Piccadilly Line train just before this happened and it felt awful to know that if I'd been a few minutes later, I might have seen the accident.

Police appeal for information on Tube Death

Strangely enough, and I don't think about this often, while I was on the platform that night waiting for the train to come in, I decided to stand "side on" rather then face the train as normal. A friend of mine had told me a nasty story, where a friend of his had been pushed face on into a moving train as it was pulling into the station. I've no idea what made me think about that story then, it wasn't some "Mystic Meg" premonition, just something that strangely popped into my head.

Our driver made an announcement a few stations down that this was the last Piccadilly Line as someone was under a train behind us. He advised people to get on the train if they could as there wouldn't be more trains in either direction for quite some time. Most of us just thought we were lucky to be on it and I gave an idle Tweet when I emerged at Hammersmith, trying to give notice about the line closure.

The next morning news came through that a couple had been "playing around" on the crowded platform and pushing and pulling each other until one fell. I'm sure we've seen teenagers doing this, but the mind boggles as to why a woman in her mid thirties and a man in his fifties were doing this.

It was 6.30pm on a Monday evening, hardly the time for drunken high japes. It's a ridiculously stupid thing to do on an empty platform. But it's even worse doing this on a crowded rush hour platform, when simply by just walking near the yellow line, you feel like you could potentially fall or be bumped into at any minute.

Piccadilly Line apology

Yesterday the police were in full force at King's Cross and I was handed the leaflet pictured in the first photo. If you saw the incident please call the British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40.

I seriously hope this acts as a cautionary tale for anyone who thinks it's funny to play "chicken" in front of a speeding Tube.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, October 27, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin subway map

If you're looking for an unusual pumpkin carving idea for Halloween, why not follow in the footsteps of Elliot who cleverly worked
Washington's metro map into his jack-o'-lantern. Zone one of the London Underground map would look pretty cool, shining out in the night.

Pumpkin Metro Map by Elliot Pumpkin Metro Map by Elliot

Hat tip to @Jemimah_knight for letting me know about this. You just need a spare Tube map or download a large one from the net, lay it on your pumpkin and punch some holes into it of selected stations and Bob's your uncle!

If you're looking for spooky Tube Tales, Mags Halliday sent me a link to a round up of ghosts on the Northern Line from London Particulars. Plus don't forget the great guest blog post from CTrouper on Mysteries and Ghosts on the Tube, from a talk last month.

Now you just need a copy of Creep (reviewed here) or if you can stomach Raw Meat aka Deathline (so bad, it's bad) and you're set for ghoulish Tube themed Halloween.

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, October 26, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, October 25, 2010

Converse takeover Old Street Tube

It probably didn't take Converse too long to think of an appropriate London Underground station to "takeover". While I was on holiday, the footwear brand of any self respecting London hipster took over the escalator panels and much illuminated ad space around the station. In fact, I was surprised not to see "Old Street sponsored by Converse" roundels on the platform walls.

Old Street Tube escalators - Converse takeover

The ads running up (and down) the escalator are pretty striking and I could see a number of young Shoreditchians working out if they had the latest albumns of the musicians displayed. That's assuming they are all musicians and not other hipster icons (to my shame I only recognised Paloma Faith).

Old Street Tube Converse barriers

The ads also greet you at the barriers, perhaps with the subliminal message that if you're wearing Converses, the gates will magically open before you, or at least it'll make it easier to leap over the barriers.

Converse haven't just left their takeover to Old Street tube, as my friend Michal noticed part of the ad forming a giant mural on wall in Shoreditch:

Shoreditch by michald
Shoreditch by MichalD

Perhaps the branded London Underground Map shouldn't be just a collection of puns of station names that sound like brands. If we had cheaper fares as a result of stations being named after brands, would that really be such a terrible thing?

Sponsored London Underground Map - click to see in full

What do you think? There's certainly a number of railway stations that have "The home of rich estate agent" or "The home of large insurance company" on platform signs. Why shouldn't we have the same for the Tube?

You might also like: - Converses on the Tube.

; Posted by annie mole Monday, October 25, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, October 22, 2010

100 Years of Iconic Tube Posters - 27th October

Apple Store, Covent Garden London Transport Museum's Senior Curator Claire Dobbin will be giving a fascinating introduction to the London Underground's rich poster history.

The illustrated talk will show highlights from a century of outstanding design, which transformed the Tube into London's longest art gallery. Featured artists include Man Ray, Graham Sutherland, Howard Hodgkin and Sir Peter Blake.

Admission to the event is free. No booking required, so just turn up on Wednesday 27th October at 7pm - Apple Store Covent Garden, No. 1-7 The Piazza, London, WC2E 8HA

As a background, you might also like:

London Underground Art of the Poster Exhibition - celebrating 100 years of poster art.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, October 22, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tube Fares Rise

Boris couldn't have picked a better to day to announce the annual London Underground and bus fare rises. Yesterday while the public spending review was hogging the headlines, Mayor Boris
announced "I am able to confirm an average fares increase at the level we declared it would be last year, the absolute minimum required to secure vital investment in London's transport network and protect frontline services."

The fares will increase in January 2011. Based on July's RPI figures of 4.8%, it represents an average 6.8% fare increase across TfL services and Oyster pay as you go. The Zone 1 Oyster tube fare rises 5.5% which takes it to £1.90.

London Underground, DLR, Oyster and London Overground pay as you go, cash and Travelcard prices

Mmm, so a increase of inflation + 2% might not seem too high. But delve a bit deeper and you'll see that certain one day travel cards are being scrapped. The zone 2-6 card is being withdrawn. So travellers who bought that card and never had the need to come into zone one, will have to buy a 1-6 card instead. That's a jump from £8.60 to £15 during peak times or an increase of 74%. Even if you buy it off-peak, it's a rise from £5.10 to £8.00 – a jump of 57%.

Caroline Pidgeon, Vice Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee and Lib Dem Assembly member said today:

"The Mayor was insulting Londoners by burying bad news like this on the day the Comprehensive Spending Review was announced. Boris Johnson was elected promising to stand up for outer London. He specifically promised to make orbital journeys far easier. In practice the Mayor is hitting hardest the people who travel around, rather than into London.

People living in outer London will be badly hit by the scrapping of the Zone 2-6 travelcard. It will force people off public transport and back in to using their cars, just adding to the congestion on our roads

For more blogger reactions see - 853 and Adam Bienkov.

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, October 21, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

London Underground boss apologises for track evacuation distress

London Underground apologised after two days of problems on the system which meant that thousands of passengers were stuck on trains and had to walk down tunnels to make their way out.

On Monday, a Jubilee Line power failure meant five train loads of rush-hour passengers had to walk along tunnels to escape. Joan Lockwood one of the passengers described her experience to the
Ham & High newspaper: "Being left underground for close to an hour with minimal communication left the people in our carriage anxious and frightened of what was happening. It was very hot, with no air and not knowing what was happening".

Photo by @HitGirlAssassinl walking through tunnel on Jubilee Line
Photo by @HitGirlAssassin walking through tunnel on Jubilee Line

Then on the following day 400 had to walk down a tunnel on the Victoria line because of a defective train.

Mike Brown, managing director of London Underground, said: "I know that having to walk along the track through a tunnel is distressing. It is not something our customers should have to expect, and is something we always seek to avoid.

"Nevertheless, on the rare occasions when a train is stuck in a tunnel, as soon as it becomes clear that we will not be able to arrange for it to be moved within a reasonable timescale, the safest and best option is to take customers off of the train.

The RMT were quick to jump on these problems and saying they resulted from the overtime ban and cuts in maintenance schedules. Bob Crow said: "We have warned repeatedly that LU/TfL's cuts plans are playing fast and loose with safety and will turn the tube into a death trap. It is a scandal that the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, and his transport officials have chosen to ignore those warnings. The anger of our members who carry out the safety-critical function of maintaining the Tube fleet at the cuts being imposed from above is reflected in this massive vote for action."

However Mike Brown denied this and said: "Despite claims by the RMT that all of these problems result from their current overtime ban this is not the case, except on the Metropolitan line where a programme of essential maintenance on some trains is indeed being delayed by the current disruptive and unnecessary practices urged by the RMT leadership.

"Our customers deserve much better than the service they have had in recent days and all our energies are focused on delivering a fast, reliable and safe service

The release with Brown's statement reminds people of the Customer Charter where if you're delayed for more than 15 minutes by disruption on the Tube you can apply for a refund of your fare. To me, it doesn't seem quite right that the standard charter applies in the case of these passengers though. Shouldn't there be a sliding scale involving incidents where you have to be evacuated?

Update - Random Reflections was also stuck on the Jubilee Line and you can read her post about what happened here.

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, October 20, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, October 18, 2010

Win an Underground Film Map

TfL have teamed up with the London Film Festival to produce the first ever (official) London Underground Film Map. Station names have been changed on the familiar Tube map to represent the past 70 years of films and TV shows shot on location at or near Tube stations. For example, Chalfont and Latimer turns into Lolita , Walthamstow Central becomes An Education and Euston becomes Somers Town.

Detail of Underground Film Map

In some cases the station is named after a famous film star or film maker born near the Underground station. So Rayners Lane in Harrow becomes Dev Patel and Barking turns into Dame Maggie Smith.

Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London, said: "On average there are approximately 35 crews shooting on location in the capital every day and that wealth of film-making can be seen in this wonderful Underground Film Map.

"From the obvious titles such as Bourne Ultimatum at Waterloo Station and V for Vendetta blowing up the Houses of Parliament at Westminster, to the more surprising including The Dark Knight's Batcave in Vauxhall and An Education filming in Walthamstow, this map plots out the capital's credentials as one of the world's most popular film cities

The Underground Film map is on sale from the BFI Film Store at BFI Southbank, London Transport Museum Shop, Covent Garden and online from TfL's shop at £9.95.

There's also 50 posters being given away by TimeOut if you answer the film and Tube related question below, by 28th October:

"Why has TFL replaced 'Leytonstone' with Alfred Hitchcock on their new version of the Tube map?"

I blogged about the Leytonstone & Hitchcock connection a few years ago, if you need a little help!

Thanks to Richjm for letting me know about this & good luck if you enter the competition.

; Posted by annie mole Monday, October 18, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Samsung Galaxy Tab Tube Test

From 18th October, Samsung are offering London Underground commuters, the chance to test drive their new Samsung Galaxy Tab. The device is going head to head with the iPad and Samsung want to prove it's good for using one handed on a morning commute.

Test Tube the Samsung Galaxy Tab

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Tube test programme will offer up the device for a 48-hour loan on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week up until the product's official launch on November 1st. To get in on the action, you need to email galaxytab@tubetest.co.uk or just turn up at one of the stations (Ealing Broadway, Liverpool Street, Highbury & Islington or Balham) and talk to a Samsung promotionbot. Full details on T3's site.

iPad on Tube

Let us know if you test drive, sorry, "test Tube" it. I'll also have a look out for them, although I imagine it will be a while before I see them more frequently on the Tube, like the iPad. Hat tip to Michal for letting me know about the trial.

; Posted by annie mole Monday, October 18, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thunderbirds on the Underground

I can't help but notice that in the future vision for most sci-fi TV shows, the London Underground is no longer used by humans. Either humans have been wiped out, which sort of justifies why the tube network is derelict, but sometimes it seems that the idea of Londoners in the future still using an underground train is beyond comprehension.

Who would want to spend time travelling underground when air-cars or personal hover bikes are available?

Well, think what the sky would look like if every commuter and traveller wasn't on the road or under the road, but flying above us in personal flying vehicles. Personally I think the skies above us would look awful.

video clip below is from iconic 60s show, Thunderbirds and shows the characters making a journey through a very dirty Piccadilly Station and ending up at Bank station.

Thunderbirds on the London Underground

Tube geeks may now debate the route taken.

Did they swap onto the Central Line by travelling through the passenger parts of Holborn station, or carry along the Piccadilly Line towards Kings Cross and then use the King's Cross Loop tunnel that links the Piccadilly Line to the Northern Line, then head down to Bank?

Curious minds want to know!

Hattip for the video clip to District Dave.

This was my last guest post before I hand back to AnnieMole who returns from luxuriating in Bali to the wintry London skies next week. You'll find me returning back in my hole over at IanVisits. Hope you enjoyed, or at least, tolerated the interlude.

; Posted by IanVisits Friday, October 15, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, October 14, 2010

More industrial action on the Tube network

I am starting to lose track (pun intended) of how many different bits of industrial action are currently taking place, or being planned on the London Underground. Maybe I should start compiling a spreadsheet?

Anyhow, yet
another vote, and yet more industrial action was announced yesterday (on the 13th!) - this time for "action short of a strike".

Pointedly, and for the first time in ages, the statement from the RMT noted that turnout was over the magical 50% mark that Mayor Boris suggests should be the minimum for a ballot to be valid. The RMT used to publish the turnout figures, but some years ago stopped doing so, and when I once asked for the turnout figures got a rather terse reply back from their media office.

Commenting on the current dispute, RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: "RMT members have been forced into a position where they have no choice but to take action on behalf of Londoners who depend daily on a safe transport system.”

Whether Londoners are quite as appreciative of Bob Crow's actions as he thinks when strikes shut down the network next month is possibly a matter for debate.

Fortunately, news media reports yesterday suggest that the talks over staffing cuts in stations might have gone well, and that some sort of resolution could be possible. We might just be able to avoid the strikes next month if that proves to be correct.

; Posted by IanVisits Thursday, October 14, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Acton Depot Open Weekend

If you have managed to sate your thirst for transport history at the Covent Garden museum, then you might want to visit the overflow site next to Acton Town tube station which is holding one of its
periodic open weekends this coming Saturday and Sunday.

The place is rammed full of old trains, buses and the like - plus a large raised area full of memorabilia ripped out of stations that have been refurbished.


There are usually a few extras laid on, such as the usual "train geek" stalls and a miniature railway, plus rides on a heritage bus.

If going, a couple of tips:

Buy tickets in advance - they last all weekend, and avoid the often lengthy queues on the door.

If taking a bag, make it a very small one as larger bags have to be left in the cloakroom. My camera bag just happens to snugly fit in their airport style measuring box - so I don't have to queue up to get my bag back when leaving.

Adults £10; Senior Citizens £8; Concessions/ Friends £6; Accompanied children under 16 / TfL staff free. Book in advance on 020 7565 7298 (or in person at the Covent Garden museum).


; Posted by IanVisits Wednesday, October 13, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, October 11, 2010

Underground Posters

If like me, you are drawn to the early posters used to advertise the London Underground network, you might be interested to know a batch of them are coming up for sale shortly.

Sadly, they come with the sort of prices that result in my simply looking and not touching. So far.

It was an interest in Transport posters that resulted in my
first meeting Annie Mole, at an exhibition at the Transport Museum in Covent Garden.

The good thing is that there website of the auction house is rather good at displaying the wares for sale so the rest of us can at least look at what richer people are buying.

To see the whole lot, click here - and if necessary click "Grid" to make it easier to see the posters.

A few of my favourites...

And not about transport, but in the same auction - erm isn't that Ken Livingstone?

; Posted by IanVisits Monday, October 11, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, October 08, 2010

For 2 weeks only - alternative tube maps on display

Imagine for a moment if the familiar tube map didn't have to look the way it does today. How could it look if we sat down and gave it a fundamental rethink?

That question is the long running obsession of psychologist,
Dr Max Roberts who has given the familiar tube map a makeover and put on occasional displays of his work.

Although the maps have been on display elsewhere before, for the next couple of weeks they will be making their first ever appearance in London itself, giving Londoners who are terrified of leaving the confines of the M25 a chance to see his ideas up close.


At the heart of the work is subtle, but equally radical - a simplification of the angles that the tube lines follow. The classic schematic map designed by Harry Beck in 1931 insisted that all lines ran either horizontal, vertical or at a 45 degree angle. All very familiar, and still largely followed today.

What happens if you change the angles chosen though? Surprisingly, a simple change as that can make the map seem a lot easier to use, if initially a bit disconcerting.

Is this the perfect tube map?

In addition to the "perfect vision" on display, there are quite a few other maps which are more playful, from the probably fairly famous curvy map...

Curvy Tube Map by Maxwell Roberts

...to recreations of the modern network if it were laid out in a pre-Becks style.

The modern network in a pre-Becks layout

One map which looks oddly good if totally unusable puts East at the top instead of North. Curving the Northern Line down the side seems to shrink London to a much smaller city and make the tube lines seem more densely packed. It is these oddities that fiddling with the map can sometimes show up.

East is North

One map which I thought was very interesting is one where the distances between the stations is reflected more accurately. Although it still scales in the same way as the modern Beck-style map, the stations are reflective of the journey time between them.

Displaying journey times

A few others, such as the Rennie Mackintosh map are visually pleasing, if impractical in function. Do notice though that the Central Line is in blue - the colour it had between 1908 and 1933 - not red that we are familiar with today.

Mackintosh Style

Another thing to note is the different ways the River is displayed on the maps, from chunky blue lines to more subtle pale threads. Would be interesting to see each map with each different river scheme and see what impact that has on the maps legibility.

The big question that I am sure most people will want to know, is London Underground looking at his maps and thinking about them?

Well, after the fuss caused by the removal of the River Thames from the map last year, would you want to be the person who agrees to a radical redesign of the map layout?

I promised not to say what it is, but there is a mistake on one of the maps that was only noticed last night - so you'll have to spend quite some time to see if you can find it yourself. Assuming he doesn't get a corrected version made up over the weekend.

The exhibition is only a sample of the maps that Dr Roberts has devised, and there is talk of a possible larger exhibition taking place in London, but on the off-chance that doesn't happen, you might kick yourself if you miss this teaser.

A few more photos over here. I didn't photograph every map on display, and a computer screen can show the ones he hasn't brought along with him.

Diamond Geezer was at the event last night as well - he had also visited the exhibition when it was down in Southend on Sea.

The exhibition is FREE, but only open Mon-Fri 10am - 6pm, which is a bit awkward for most people. However, it does have a late night viewing on Thursday till 8pm for those of us who can't get away during the working week.

Your mission is to get to the gallery at Scott Brownrigg, 77 Endell Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9DZ before Friday 22nd October.

; Posted by IanVisits Friday, October 08, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

London Overground - Scavenger Hunt

Just a quick reminder that the Transport Museum is running one of their occasional "scavenger hunts" on Saturday along the newly extended East London Line.

You need to reserve a
free ticket in advance - erm, today. Full details on this earlier blog post by Annie Mole.

; Posted by IanVisits Friday, October 08, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Jailed for spitting and assault on the tube

A man who spat at and punched a Tube passenger in an unprovoked attack at Clapham Common Tube station has been sentenced to 12 weeks in prison after
British Transport Police used CCTV images to put him at the scene of the violence.

Clive Collins, 45, spat at the 26 year old man on the platform at Clapham Common and followed him onto a northbound train where he punched him repeatedly. Members of the public separated the pair on board and Collins remained on the train as the victim escaped at Clapham North.

While attacks of this sort are fortunately quite rare on the tube network, they do happen, and although CCTVs are not perfect - in some places, downright controversial - they do at least help to identify the person after the event.

I've been spat at once myself on the tube. A guy was had his bag on the seat next to him - the only one available - and I actually had to ask him to remove it. As I got off the train later he spat at me through the crowded train. A bit urgh, but at least I was spared a assault that the above victim was subjected to.

There was also a quite nasty fight on a rush hour Jubilee Line train at Canary Wharf last year. Didn't see what caused it, but there was a loud "watch it" sort of shout and then the carriage shook as a fight broke out between two rather large looking figures. I presumed someone was trying to barge onto the train without letting people off first. While the reaction was extreme and totally unwarranted, I do sometimes find myself snarling a bit at people who block Jubilee Line doors as I am trying to get off.

Quite why people stand on the Jubilee Line extension platforms right in the centre of the double-doors, and then express surprise that someone on the train might be on the other side and wanting to get off the train still puzzles me.

I keep thinking it would be quite fun sensibly educational to get a load of people with crutches to spend the day using the extension line and hobbling off the trains at each station - maybe people blocking the doors will move sharply out of the way when faced with a person in crutches and plaster cast legs?

Then again, I suspect they might not.

; Posted by IanVisits Thursday, October 07, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

London Bridge tube station appearing in a TV Advert?

Leaving the TV on as background noise the other day, I happened to look up just as an advert came on which seemed to be set inside London Bridge underground station. As I only just caught the advert out of the corner of my eye - which is apt as it was for mascara - I had to hunt around on YouTube to find the advert again.

Hang on, that isn't London Bridge station - or if it is, there is a very clean looking section of the tunnels I am not familiar with.

I presume the entire background is a "green screen" special effect, and although they have an authentic looking tube roundel, a fashion label wouldn't want to be too closely associated with the tunnels of the tube network itself.

Personally, I think if anyone goes to the trouble of licensing the tube roundel (they do have a license don't they?), then they should be required to use a real tube station for authenticity. Especially as they would probably have to hire a disused tube station and we can then get excited by the fleeting glimpses of the hidden world that lurks under our streets.

Incidentally, while I gather from the advert that it makes eye lashes appear longer, what is the Lash Accelerator they talk about? Does it make your eyes blink faster?

Yes, I just wrote a blog post about ladies makeup. I need to go down the pub and watch football to reclaim my masculinity!

; Posted by IanVisits Tuesday, October 05, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, October 04, 2010

It's tube strike day - again

The tube map isn't look that healthy this morning as the strike did its best to ruin the commute for many people this morning.

The coloured lines are the ones affected by strike action

Most noticeable for me is that while the Jubilee Line is largely unaffected as far as trains are concerned, the station at Canary Wharf has been closed. The moment of delight as commuters find a train that works, only to be hit by the fact that one of the more isolated locations on the network is inaccessible save by switching to the DLR.

The Central Line looks totally suspended, and while the Northern Line seems fine in the suburbs, it is when you get to the destinations in the City that a slew of stations are closed, leading to lengthy above ground journeys. The Boris Bikes are going to be busy.

The strike officially ends at 6:30pm, but we wont see things returning to normal until much later this evening, so that is two rush-hours affected.

Boris has again this morning called for changes to the strike laws so that you need not just a majority vote in favour of strike from those who choose to vote, but from the majority of those who are eligible to vote.

Most of the ballots in favour of strike action on the tube network are called by a minority of the potential electorate, but when political elections are often decided by a minority of the electorate, can you implement a different criteria on unions?

Update: A press release from TfL this morning is headlined "Unions fail to bring London to a halt", and then admits that nearly 70% of the tube trains are not running due to the strike.

However, three-quarters of the stations are open.

As it is the stations that will be affected by the planned staff reductions, and not the tubes, there is a slight question mark hanging over why the majority of the stations staff are not supporting the strike - while the majority of the train drivers are.

; Posted by IanVisits Monday, October 04, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The 2nd Tube Strike Looms

And so it begins again - later today the RMT and TSSA unions will start the second of their 24-hour strikes.

Although starting tonight has led to some wags to comment that with so much weekend engineering work going on, you might not even notice the strike. However, the main impact will be tomorrow morning, with effects still being felt on the way home in the evening for most lines.

The strike formally starts at 6:30pm tonight (7pm for Metronet staff), but as last time, the trains don't all suddenly stop at once, as staff continue working until the end of their shift. Likewise, on Monday evening, the restoration of services is staggered based on working shifts.

Specific advice from TfL is that there will be no service on the Hammersmith & City line after 9pm; No service on the Jubilee line between Waterloo and Stanmore after 10pm and no service on the Metropolitan line after 10pm. On Monday, they expect to be able to run some trains on all lines except the Circle line, but some sections of lines may have no service.

Depending on how strong the support for the strike is, the trains could be largely unaffected, or so scarce as to render the service impotent.

As last time, more buses and staff are being deployed, and the DLR, River and Overground services are largely unaffected.
Canary Wharf Jubilee Line Station
Closed Jubilee Line station at Canary Wharf

While the strike is the most visible side of the dispute, there is also an ongoing overtime ban by staff, which is presumably there to show how the network needs the staff that London Underground says are not necessary.

In addition though, the Friday before last, the RMT stepped up its action by instructing staff to ignore a requirement that Oyster top-ups have a minimum value of £5 when processes by the ticket office. Also, staff are not to substitute for the Station Supervisor when the Supervisor is not available.

Whether that further escalation has any real impact is maybe something our readers can comment on?

With both the Mayor's office and the unions refusing to budge on the need to reduce manpower on the network, and the unions slowly escalating the non-strike action, it looks likely that this will be a long running saga.

At the moment, the next two 24-hours strikes are pencilled to start at 9pm on Tuesday 2nd November and 7pm on Sunday 28th November.

Maybe we should take our cue from Annie Mole and book a holiday for those days?

; Posted by IanVisits Sunday, October 03, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, October 01, 2010

TfL being Slow with Information Requests

I had expected my first attempt to guest blog for AnnieMole to be about the upcoming tube strike, but this, slightly obscure issue caught my eye this morning...


Transport for London has been put on a naughty list by the UK's doughty defender of our rights, the Information Commissioner.

As TfL is a public body, it is required by the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) to reply within 20 working day to any request for information, although exemptions can be agreed to if the information is particularly difficult to get at.

In a statement issued this morning, the ICO said that it will put organisations onto its watch list if it has had at least six complaints within the past six months; or one request was particularly badly dealt with; or it appears that less than 85% of requests are receiving a response within the appropriate timescales - which is particularly applied to organisations that publish data about timeliness of their service.

The ICO will now be beaming its Sauron like eye at TfL - amongst others - over the next few months for being rather tardy when replying to such requests.

Sadly for an information organisation, the "naughty list" doesn't offer any information as to why TfL has been slapped on the wrist. The full list is available on this pdf file.

UK - London - Westminster: Big Ben
TfL and Parliament - Photo by Wally Gobetz

Actually, it surprises me that TfL would be put on such a list, as I once worked for a company that submitted a bid to run some of their mobile services and the paperwork went into quite considerable detail about what information in our bid documents would be released if someone filed a request with them.

Then again, if you have ever struggled to find out why the train you are on for your daily commute hasn't moved for the past five minutes, maybe you are less surprised?

The What Do They Know website keeps a self-selecting list of FOI requests, along with the responses. Most of the stuff is quite dull or technical, but you can sometimes glean the odd nugget of juicy gossip or get a feeling for a protest that is about to be launched by some local campaign group.

You can also sometimes shake your head in slight bewilderment at some of the rather strange questions asked and maybe feel a bit sorry for the staff having to deal with them.

I've submitted the occasional FOI request in the past, although never to TfL. I doubt they keep an accurate count on their mouse population anyway!

Have you ever tried to make use of the Freedom of Information act?

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; Posted by IanVisits Friday, October 01, 2010 Permalink COMMENT HERE