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Annie Mole's, daily web log (blog) & “guide” to the London Underground
If you like this you'll LURVE One Stop Short of Barking, the fun and informative book about travelling
on the London Underground.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Tube Halloween from Bolli & Annie Mole

My cat Bolli should be in his element today. He's a black cat & should be out tonight jumping on witches' shoulders as they zoom around on broomsticks in the sky. Quite frankly he's a little bored with Halloween, but managed to humour me enough to have this photo taken

Bolli says Happy Halloween

The look in his eyes says: "Get this over with quickly, so that I can go back to sleeping".

I quite liked the following "out-take" as he looks kinda spooky.

Bolli Halloween Outtake

I'm a little more into Halloween this year than normal and actually got all American & baked a pumpkin pie which I'm taking into the crew at Great British Chefs today.

Pumpkin Pie

Over on Facebook this opened up a lot of discussion about whether pumpkin pie should be served hot or cold & other pie related questions.

Halloween Tube  by spiritquest
Halloween Tube by spiritquest

Expect to see more people on the London Underground dressed up as ghouls, goblins, witches, devils & a whole load of other scary things tonight as the Halloween parties come to an end. And as usual as Spiritquest's  (@Ketan) great picture above on the Northern Line (taken en route to BarCampLondon) from yesterday shows, expect most Tube travellers to think it's all totally normal & ignore them.

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Scary Tube Books for All Hallow's Read

; Posted by annie mole Monday, October 31, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, October 28, 2011

Old Posters found at Richmond Station

Not strictly Tube related but because I use Richmond Station a lot, it was great receiving an email from Simon Hickman from
English Heritage with the following pictures.

Old poster found at Richmond Station - Open & Shut by Simon Hickman

He said "South West Trains is replacing the poster boards on the footbridge stairs, and in removing the old ones has uncovered some historic late '70s / early '80s ones underneath. They're very well preserved. One is a stylised advert for sleeper trains, but my favourite is the one instructing the good burghers of Richmond how to open train doors with a button!"

Old poster found at Richmond Station - sleepers by Simon Hickman

Love both of them, especially the reminder of the "We're getting there" slogan. Wonder how much longer - getting there takes?

Pleased that photos were taken before they were lost forever.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, October 28, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bolli with Tube Map Beach Towel for Black Cat Awareness Day

Bolli with Tube Map Beach Towel

Bolli posing with my belated birthday pressie of a Tube Map Beach Towel - thanks Trish! We're both proud to support Black Cat Awareness Day - so surprised people think they are unlucky & they are harder to find homes for than other coloured cats - he's top!

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, October 27, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Scary Tube Books for All Hallow's Read

In case you haven't noticed it's Halloween on 31st October. Expect to see the London Underground filled with all sorts of ghouls & goblins over the weekend (well people dressed up as ghouls, goblins & the like on their way to Halloweeen Parties).

I was delighted to discover that one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman has come up with a great concept for the day for people who're not into "trick or treating", or sweets or dressing up. It's simply giving or sharing a scary book -
All Hallow's Read

Neil wrote the fantastic Neverwhere a dark fantasy with loads of Tube related themes - real Barons at Barons Court, the dark Angels of Islington, people living in an alternative subterranean world partially populated by King Rats and travelling around on those "Special" London Underground trains with the windows blacked out.

Reading Neverwhere on the Tube

The Guardian are totally behind his campaign and are giving a way a free book of short stories this weekend which includes a scary story set on the Piccadilly Line.

End of the Line

Other scary fictional Tube reads that would make brill All Hallows Read gifts or shares include The End of the Line and Barbara Vine's King Soloman's Carpet.

For those who want non fiction spooky Tube Tales there's Underground London by Stephen Smith, Peter Ackroyd's London Under and Railway Ghosts by J A Brooks. Supernatural Steam also by J A Brooks isn't Tube related by if you're a railway enthusiast is is full of strange steam railway sightings  (the latter two are super cheap on Amazon as they're pretty old).

I'm sure I've missed other scary Tube, train or London Transport reads and feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, October 27, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

RMT in a stew over Driverless Tube Trains by 2021

The old chestnut about the prospect of driverless London Underground trains is in the news again after the RMT "
leaked" a TfL paper stating that driverless trains could run across the network within 10 years.

Driverless Tube Trains by 2021

The Operational Strategy Discussion Paper says that this along with mass ticket office closures and a contactless method of paying for London travel (bye bye Oyster) could save £2 billion by 2018.

The RMT's leader Bob Crow said the plans were "a blueprint for jobs and safety carnage". He continued "Every single ticket office would be closed, stations left unstaffed and drivers would be thrown out of their cabs without a single thought for passenger safety.......RMT will work with our sister Tube unions and passenger groups on a campaign to ensure that this document and its proposals are consigned to the dustbin of history".

London Underground Managing Director, Mike Brown, responded with the following comments to The Evening Standard

"This plan shows how the LU operational model will evolve to meet the changes of the next decade. It delivers taxpayer value through a significant reduction of the cost of operations"

"The Tube is now carrying 1.1 billion passengers a year. Londoners want a modern, safe, economical and efficient Underground. This discussion paper contains some suggestions as to how that might be achieved

On the front page of The Standard, the story continues inside with thoughts from commuters who seem more than happy with the prospect of driverless Tube trains. The Victoria, Central and Jubilee lines already run in semi-automatic role and apparently little practical change is needed to operate without a driver. The DLR also has driverless trains.

One of the people that The Standard interviewed said "Driverless trains are a fantastic idea. I think Tube drivers are the most overpaid people in London."

Another said: "I am totally behind anything that would make London transport quicker than it already is."

A third agreed: "I think this is an excellent idea, efficiency and effectiveness are necessary. We can put savings to good use."

The jury's still out for me. Sure I get that there are lots of efficiencies to be made, personally, to me, it still feels a little weird not seeing a driver on the DLR (even though I know it's been like that for years and years and there are also people on the train to make sure bags and coats and limbs don't get stuck in closing doors). The RMT's argument is that a lot of drivers also helped passengers during the 7/7 terrorist attacks and there would be no-one to assist in another emergency like that.

Even if there were automated trains it's not likely to stop strike action (this whole thing is definitely a move by Boris Johnson to take away the unions' power to hold the country to ransom over strikes). Someone somewhere still has to operate the computers that operate the trains & the likelihood is that those people will belong to rail unions.

At the moment these are only plans but like it or not, I believe that in time more driverless trains will be rolled out. Smart ways of paying your fares will also be rolled out & unfortunately that means that fewer people will be needed to run ticket offices & get involved with managing the Oyster system.

What are your thoughts? Are you concerned about the safety issues of not having drivers? Do you think that mass ticket office closures will lead to platforms & stations becoming a "paradise" for vandals & muggers as Crow suggests?

Related Posts
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; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, October 25, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Paris Subway Challenge by Adham Fisher

299 stations. 16 lines. 133 miles of track. And some "Je ne sais quoi". That is what was involved when
Tube Challenger, Adham Fisher, applied the challenges of travelling around each station in the fastest possible time on the London Underground, to the Paris Métro in mid August 2011.

Meeting guy from North Carolina on Métro

Adham tells his story:

"I had heard of a couple of other attempts at this (http://www.rioleo.org/guinness-world-record-subway.php and http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/3681672.print/). No participant was Parisian or even French. We are used to some Londoners knowing the Tube inside out, being enthusiastic about subterranean travel and therefore being the most likely to try and attain a record there, but if one suggested to the average Paris resident that she or he spend 15 hours on the Métro, one might be banished to the suburbs.

Métro T-shirt

"Le Blog en Commun first broke the news across the Channel and I went to all Métro stations in 13 hours, 37 minutes and 54 seconds.

"Highlights of the expedition were:

- The song, Métro, which we wrote for the occasion. Thanks to Annanem. "Baffling, pointless, therapeutic genius" say the Parisians.

- My companions. Very well done.
- My interview on French radio.

- Meeting the Metro map master himself, Mark Ovenden, whose book, Paris Metro Style In Map And Station Design I had read in preparation. I had an orange juice with him the day before and he offered great words of encouragement and a little metro quiz. His new book, Great Railway Maps Of The World, is out now.

- The family who gave me a pencil after I had lost two pens in as many minutes so I could continue writing. I offered them two euros for it but they said "It's for you."

Being lent a Pencil on Métro

- I was on a train with an American chap and asked if he knew about the New York Subway record. He replied that he was from North Carolina, and apparently there are no subways there. Nevertheless, he was so intrigued by what I was doing that he insisted on having his picture taken with me.

- The  Métro driver who, after hearing what I had done the next day, let me ride in the cab for a few stops. That makes two cities where I have had a driver's eye view.

Driver's eye view Métro

Métro panel

- The people sleeping on station platforms. I hope they were not disturbed.

Homeless  guy sleeping on Métro

- There were many bad points, but none compare to the creperie in the Chatelet area where I bought the team a celebratory round of drinks afterwards. Ten euros for a small vase of cider. That's £9.99!"

Thanks Adham for that great story and you can read more about Adham's Subway Challenges including his Chicago Subway Challenge here.

; Posted by annie mole Saturday, October 22, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

National Baking Week Tube Map made from Cake

Next stop Charing Hot Cross Bun. The cooks and even the non cooks amongst you may know that yesterday saw the launch of
National Baking Week to celebrate the UK's love of baking. The launch event in London was genius as bunch of cooks went into St Pancras station and made a London Underground Map out of cake (what's not to like about that?).

Imperial Mint Wharf Cake - Gary Morrisroe

Photos by Gary Morrisroe 

I love the bakery & cake puns on the Tube station names. So above we have Imperial Mint Wharf Cake, But there was also Charing Hot Cross Bun, Victoria Sponge, Wimbledon Parkin, White Chocolate Cheesecake Chapel, Puddington, Swiss Roll Cottage and the more recipe orientated - add 250ml Waterloo.

National Baking Week Tube Map - Garry Morrisroe

London landmarks such as Marble Arch, The London Eye, Tate Modern and Big Ben were also made out of cake and placed on the Tube Map.

As a number of you know, I'm an enthusiastic cook and in addition to running Nom Nom Nom, the charity MasterChef contest for bloggers, for the last four years, a few months ago I became Head of Social Media for Great British Chefs (yes, I get paid to eat, cook, talk, blog & Tweet about food - there's worse jobs). Each day, for National Baking Week, we're focussing on some baking goodness on our Facebook page. So I really love this map.

You can see how the Cake Tube Map was put together in the video below:

Kudos to the guys and girls at National Baking Week, they've certainly put the event on the (Tube) map in my eyes.

Any other Tube Station Cake or Baking puns you think they could have considered for the map?

UPDATE - Just discovered through the comments after TRT had suggested Manor House Cake (BTW thanks to all for your great suggestions) that TfL actually have worked with Mr Kipling to make some Tube Station name cakes to cover some stops on the Piccadilly Line.  Smoke magazine (the very irregular but amazing London "fanzine") covered this back in Issue 8 and its co-founder Matt Haynes kindly sent the following screengrab of the piece. Love it!
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Tube Train Cake
Tube panel discussion on Londonist Out Loud (where I talk about NomNomNom)

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, October 18, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Nine Thoughts from 9 years of Blogging

Hard to believe it, but at the end of this year this blog will have been around for nine years. If someone had asked me in 2003 whether I would have still been doing this in nine years time, I'd have probably laughed at them. It's not been an easy nine years. It's had a lot of ups and a shedload of downs.

Ever met Joe Bloggs Tube Ad

In those nine years I've split up with my husband, seen a book I did research on get published, witnessed the nightmare of July 7th, had an almost two year relationship with a fellow Tube geek, won a few blogging awards, had a number of jobs, helped to raise a few thousand pounds for some charities (including Tube Relief with Geoff Marshall & Action Against Hunger), interviewed authors I really admire (including Neil Gaiman & Christopher Fowler), been on national TV & radio a few times, run Nom Nom Nom four times, met & had tea with Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy, spoken to a number of celebs including Al Gore, Ken Livingstone, Alistair Campbell, Jon Snow, Piers Morgan, Mr T, Craig out of Big Brother, Roland Gift and Stewart Lee, witnessed some of the worst riots this country has seen and now I'm about to be Social Media Consultant (on a voluntary basis, I'm not giving up my day job) for The Old London Underground Company (some people will stop reading now - I can guess who you are).

What have I learnt in nine years? Hard to say, but here's nine observations that may or may not be of interest.

1. I will give up blogging one day, but only when it becomes much more of a hindrance than fun or I'm too old to travel on the Tube often enough to blog.

2. I've met some AWESOME people who've become good friends through blogging and value their friendship more than I can say.

3. I still get a big kick out of seeing my blogging mates' achievements, whether that's winning Observer Food Monthly's Best Food Blogger (well done Niamh), producing their second album (well done Laura), getting their blog made into a Channel 4 TV Series (well done Brian/Tom), getting books published or about to be published (well done Zoe, Malcolm, Julia, Tom, Londonist guys, Collin & Mark & I'm sure I've left out others), seeing them on TV (L J Rich - you're brill), hearing them present radio shows (Jamillah, Zoe and Chris - always thought provoking, professional & quirky), seeing their writing get made into TV pilots or on stage (well done Mike), seeing them pick up OBEs with their families (Gia - still slightly freaked out by seeing Brian's face on cover of Wired last month) or the many, many, other achievements that would be enough for most people to dine out on for months.

4. I know that I upset a lot of people and I've finally got to the stage where I don't care that much any more. I don't mean that in an arrogant sense, but in the sense that I don't lose sleep over it any more. I used to. I wondered what I'd done to piss off someone so much that they parodied my blog. I used to lose sleep about the comments I got on controversial blog posts. I don't think I'm a fundamentally evil person. I know I can be annoying. Sometimes I can be too honest for my own good. I don't suffer fools gladly. I can get impatient, but generally I try to listen to what people have to say. In conference or seminar situations (unless I'm the speaker) I try to follow the premise of "You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that order". Thanks @sleepydog for being the first person I heard saying that.

5. I know that blogging will be around for a long time and may possibly outlive Twitter and will certainly outlive a lot of other social networks.

6. Getting a cat of my own has been one of the best things to ever happen to me.

7. I don't like numbers when it comes to blogging. Numbers don't really mean much by themselves. Traffic, numbers of followers, numbers of Facebook Fans, number of blog posts a week, word counts. It's all pretty irrelevant unless you have some passion behind it. Don't settle on being average, no one is average, everyone has something unique about themselves, find your uniqueness & enjoy it. This presentation I did in 2008 still has some thoughts on blogging that you might find helpful today.

8. Maybe one day I'll get rid of this retro yellow background & design. Maybe I won't.

9. It is possible to carve out a niche for yourself through blogging. It is possible to get The Mayor to read your blog posts. It is possible to get journalists to read your blog posts & Tweets on a daily basis and look to you as a "news source". It is possible to get TfL and the British Transport Police to keep an eye on your blog. It is possible to be more influential that you possibly realise, and that realisation is always a shock. Because in your heart you know it's just you, a computer and a lot of other people who've trusted you for many years.

To those who have trusted me & the blog and those who will, I'd honestly like to thank you all. I know I'll never meet the vast majority of you in person, but you've changed my life. I owe you a pint.

; Posted by annie mole Sunday, October 16, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Guess Where Tube 12 - Slave Clock

Another in the series where I ask you to try to guess from exactly where on the London Underground, the following picture in the
London Tube Flickr group was taken from.

Slave Clock

With the last Guess Where Tube 11 most people guessed that it was on the Victoria Line, which was pretty obvious because of the moquette. A number of you thought it was Seven Sisters. But it was in fact at King's Cross on the Southbound platform. Antje got it right, so well done to her.

This week try to guess the exact location of where I spotted this London Underground clock. I really like the detail of the roundel at the bottom of this and would have certainly been a contender for my Unusual London Underground Clocks post. It makes was could have been a very dull station clock and turn it into something that has a slightly art deco feel about it. It doesn't appear to amongst the great set of London Underground Clocks collated by BowRoadUK

Yet again, there's no prizes for getting it right, just the satisfaction of knowing you were right.


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Guess Where Tube 11

Guess Where Tube 10
Guess Where Tube 9
Guess Where Tube 8
Guess Where Tube 7
Guess Where Tube 6
Guess Where Tube 5
Guess Where Tube 4
Guess Where Tube 3
Guess Where Tube 2
Guess Where Tube 1
Guess Where Tube Quiz
Guess Where Tube Quiz Round Two

; Posted by annie mole Wednesday, October 12, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, October 07, 2011

Tube Drivers Strike Ballot over "Worst Week" of Service

For once I'm actually with the RMT. Tube drivers are
considering a ballot for industrial action over safety in what has been the "worst week" of chaos on the Tube because of signal failures, faulty trains and staffing problems.

District & Piccadilly Line 28th September 2011

The District Line has been absolutely rubbish this week and also last week (see picture above). There's been no other way to describe the delays, gaps between service and track problems on that line. I've been putting in a Customer Charter form for compensation almost every day.

The Evening Standard said "District Line passengers were worst hit with nine severe delays, suspensions and closures, while users of the Circle Line suffered inconvenience following four line suspensions, said Labour, adding that in the last six days the District and Circle lines were both suspended three times and the Victoria, Hammersmith & City Line and Northern Line were all part-suspended once."

Labour's transport spokeswoman Val Shawcross said in The Guardian: "I can't remember a worse week of delays on the Tube. No line has been spared delays this week with severe delays and whole line suspensions causing huge inconvenience to the daily lives of millions of Londoners.

"It's simply not good enough when Londoners tell me that delays are the norm, not the exception, whilst they are paying record high fares to use a Tube service which we cannot rely on.

"While Boris Johnson was boasting about how great London's Tube services were to the Conservative Party conference this week, millions of Londoners were stuck on Tube trains

Bob Crow, in normal bullish mode said "RMT has demanded an end to the reckless policy of expecting drivers to override door fail-safe systems after a potentially fatal incident in which a passenger jumped from a moving train and another was caught in its open doors.

"Despite that, the 'sensitive edge' procedures, along with a whole bunch of other unsafe procedures, are being bulldozed through in the dash for cuts, and to cover up the impact of reductions in station staff, under the guise of "operational effectiveness".

"It is our members who have to deal with the consequences of these ill-conceived policies. We have tried to get LUL to see sense, but they have continued to put cash and job cuts ahead of passenger safety and we now have no choice but to ballot for action to put a stop to these dangerous proposals being imposed without agreement

TfL Survey

Interestingly I've had no word back from @TfLOfficial on my tweets last week asking why the District Line was so shocking last week. I was particularly galled as TfL were handing out a survey on a day when the service was really, really bad.   Perhaps now the unions are threatening to strike they may start to look at why the service was so bad in the last couple of weeks.

; Posted by annie mole Friday, October 07, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Rihanna on the Tube

Hot on the heels of my post about
Tube stations at music arenas, Rihanna took to the London Underground last night to get to her gig at the O2.

Rihanna on the Tube - Taken by Lisa-Marie O'Keeffe

Lisa-Marie O'Keeffe who took the photo said : "I met @Rihanna on my way home, told her she was crazy for taking the tube she said 'Dunno how you guys do it' "

The Sun report "The 23-year-old singer astonished passengers by travelling to London's O2 Arena on the Jubilee underground line using her Oyster travel card.

Shocked fans, who the star dubs her "navy", watched as she left a packed Tube train at North Greenwich station.

The story is kind of spoilt to hear that when she left the station, with her security guards she then "jumped into a waiting car which drove her just 100 yards to the backstage area of the huge venue".

The Sun continued and report that a source said: "Fans couldn't believe they were sharing a carriage with a world famous pop star.

"She was just like any other passenger, except accompanied by a huge entourage. She was happy to pose for snaps and talk about the gig. She was so down to earth

Have you seen anyone famous on the Tube lately?

Related Posts
September's Celebrity Tube / Spot Stalk
Celebrity Tube Spot Stalk

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, October 06, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, October 03, 2011

Worst Tube Station to Work At?

What's the worst London Underground station to work at? I reckon that the ones around Wembley are pretty ... err.... challenging for staff. One minute they could be putting up with drunken football fans, the next the platform is invaded by hordes of pre-pubscent girls wearing pink rabbit ears & cowboy hats.

The Wanted Children invade The Tube

This was the scene I saw at Wembley Central yesterday. The platform was chock a block with all these girls with constant announcements from station staff to "Stand back from the yellow line", to "Move down the platform so we can all fit you on", to "Mind the gap when getting on the train". All the while, having to hear excited chatter, whistles and the general noise that several hundred 9-14 year old fans of The Wanted make when having a trip to London.

Station staff at Wembley Central and Wembley Park, you have my utmost sympathy.

Related Post
Take That on the Tube

; Posted by annie mole Monday, October 03, 2011 Permalink COMMENT HERE