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Annie Mole's, daily web log (blog) & “guide” to the London Underground
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on the London Underground.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

RMT Strike Ballot over Driverless Tube Trains

The RMT have just announced they will ballot their members for strike action  in protest at plans to test driverless trains on the London Underground.  The union
said it will initially ballot members who are set to take part in the trials, but RMT leader Bob Crow warned that other workers could be balloted as well.

Driverless Tube Trains by 2021

Crow said: "RMT reiterates this union's complete opposition to driverless trains. Every train must have a driver, to ensure the safe and effective running of the Underground.

"Plans to scrap drivers or reduce their driving duties are risking safety, services and jobs and are motivated by saving money and undermining trade unionism.

"We will be campaigning for a massive yes vote in this ballot and with further packages of Tube staffing and service cuts expected to be unveiled by the mayor and Transport for London shortly, RMT is on high alert to use every weapon in our armoury to resist attacks on our members and the safe running of the Tube network."

Earlier this year in July the RMT said that London Underground had a secret document "“Deep Tube Railway – Generic Operations and Maintenance Concept – 2020” which  planned to move the entire Jubilee line to driverless operation within three years, with trials starting later this year, and that other lines would  follow.  However TfL denied these trials.

LU's Gareth Powell stressed that consultation with staff would always take place before driverless trains were introduced: "We will always consult with staff on any changes and, because of the timescales needed to develop and introduce new trains and to phase out older fleets, we will continue to need drivers well beyond the point when driverless operation could come into effect."

Are the RMT now proposing strike action for plans that currently don't exist?

Related posts
TfL deny "driverless Tube" trials
Tube Driver saves fallen Child as Arguments for Driverless Trains continue
Tube MD hits back at Driverless Train Job Loss Figures
RMT in a stew over Driverless Tube Trains by 2021

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, September 27, 2012 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, September 21, 2012

TfL help Apple Maps Users

Those people grappling with Apple Maps on the new iOS6 have some sympathy from the staff at Hackney Wick London Overground station.  Apple Maps has come into major criticism and
most tech press basically think it ... err ... sucks (for want of a better word)!  Apple Maps also doesn't include public transport & Ben Mathis @binny_UK noticed this "helpful" sign adding to Apple's woes.

Thanks to @MichalD for bringing it to my attention.

You might also like
Olympic Legacy: Tube Photo of the Week
Station Whiteboard Message Wars
Angel Tube's Thoughts of the Day go Online
Tube staff direct commuters to new Banksy at Turnpike Lane
Tube Staff that make you smile 

; Posted by annie mole Friday, September 21, 2012 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Underground Orchestra Preview

You may remember I blogged about a Tube orchestra challenge a few months ago.  I'm pleased to say that things seems to be coming along rather nicely for it.  Tube Challenger Adham Fisher went along to a preview concert last week and has kindly written a guest post of the event.

String Quartet at the Jubilee Line Opening

"This year, a goal is set to recruit people for an orchestra to play at a prestigious London venue on the 12th of December 2012. The orchestra will comprise of musicians met on the London Underground only; if they are seen with an instrument, they must be approached. Original music will be performed, scored by someone who neither reads nor writes music. This is the 121212 Challenge. And on paper, it shouldn't work.

Shaun Buswell is the man behind this, and as the lead singer in the more-than-15-strong "folkchestral" band bearing his last name, is used to managing big groups. Things are coming together now and material is being previewed. After a London Eye concert, Buswell took to the Union Chapel last Friday (September 14th) with four members of the still-forming Underground Orchestra.

Gaz Brookfield opened proceedings, a most energetic man-and-guitar combination. So overawed was he at playing in the Chapel that he turned deftly away from the microphone for rude words and played his ode to the West Country unamplified. He made way for Cook And The Case who constrast with darker, brooding melodies.

Buswell and the orchestra filed on stage; the total number could be around 21. "This song's called Tuning Up," says Shaun, as strings, brass and electric pitch the customary A. Three songs later, most of the ensemble departed to leave Shaun to perform a stripped-down Sleep with his producer who had flown in from Gothenburg, and returned with more superb classical arrangements to complement Buswell's songwriting.

Tuning Up is reprised by Shaun throughout, as the orchestra wait for him to align to certain songs. He makes up for this with his banter, however, announcing it was his birthday (he'll be in the bar afterwards until further notice) and having Happy Birthday sung to him from the reasonably full house. He introduced all of the musicians, spoke about his challenge and even mentioned some chap named Adham Fisher and the Guinness World Record for visiting all Tube stations, which he might try at some point. His Guinness application for "largest orchestra consisting of people met on rapid transit" has not been confirmed yet...

With the 10:30pm curfew looming, the orchestra launched into Lebanon - which in full flow has a tiny hint of Live And Let Die about it - and end with The Road, an uplifting piece written specifically for the 121212 Challenge. A standing ovation ensued; the audience loved what they have heard.
The venue has not yet been announced but the full Underground Orchestra will be in concert on 12/12/12. Reserve that date, for based on tonight, it works. "

Many thanks Adham for the review and look out for more updates as the orchestra forms.

You might also like:

; Posted by annie mole Thursday, September 20, 2012 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How others see the Tube

Having just got back from Bangkok, I spent some time travelling on the BTS (Skytrain) and Bangkok's Metro system looking at the whole system as an outsider. There'll be a post on my thoughts soon.  This reminded me that Jon Justice had recently seen a Japanese animation with some surprisingly accurate renditions of the London Underground.

"K-ON!" is a Japanese animation about a group of teenage girls who form a band in after-school hours. Recently I was watching the film version where the girls visit London and I was really rather amazed at how accurately they depicted the Tube. I was rather expecting something more along the lines of the fantasy London that most Japanese imagine (do you realise that, according to her official biography, Hello Kitty was born and still lives in London?). 

But no, this was the Tube looking pretty much as the Tube actually does. The accompanying "making of" DVD shows members of the animation staff visiting London and taking lots of photographs.

I was quite astonished. Even in pictures where the station name isn't visible, I still recognised them" (ie Earl's Court is shown above).

I agree with Jon on this and there's a lovely feel to the illustrations, particularly this last one which is incredibly detailed with the level of signage & signals.  Thanks Jon for sending this on.

You might also like
Thoughts of Angel Tube Big in Japan
Japanese Subway Behaviour
The BBC Borrowers live in Disused Ghost Tube Station 

; Posted by annie mole Tuesday, September 18, 2012 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, September 13, 2012

How the Tube Network Coped with the Olympics

On Tuesday evening, a
lecture was held at UCL to look at how the various transport networks coped during the Olympics. The talk was arranged before the Olympics, when there was still a lot of doom and gloom so there was a risk it would be a wake for the service - but who knew that wouldn't be needed.

As was pointed out, in fact that lack of total collapse of the network means that Londoners may look at how the network performed in a nearly flawless manner during the Olympics might then wonder why it isn't always like that. Of course, part of that was thanks to the total suspension of all road works and weekend engineering closures on the railways - which sadly have to return.

Transport for London naturally collects an awful lot of information about people moving around the city, and some of that is made available under controlled conditions to researchers at UCL.

However, what was the impact of the past year worth of warnings that the tube network would be hideously overloaded? Based on what is still very preliminary analysis, of those Oyster card users considered to be regular commuters, some 87% did not change their journey.

The impact was considerably greater though amongst the occasional travellers - with around half adjusting their trips in some way.

One of the difficulties of the Oyster card system is that it records the entry and exit points, so if people altered when they travel, then that shows up - but if they catch trains at the usual time, but change the route they take once on the network, that would not appear in the data.

There is also the impact of Olympic ticket holders, who were also given a magnetic card based train ticket. For example, I went to the Olympics, and also traveled around a bit on my paper ticket - so my occasional Oyster use seems lower than it was in fact.

It's worth looking at those numbers again though - 13% of regular commuters and about half of occasional travellers adjusting their travel. Put another way, that released capacity on the Underground equivalent to an entire Crossrail project.

Yes, Crossrail arrived this summer - or at least a simulation of it. And that was despite the network carrying more passengers than normal for this time of year. Which shows just how significant encouraging working from home occasionally or traveling a bit earlier in the morning could have if maintained long term.

In the recent TfL board minutes, it was noted that West End Tube station demand during the Olympic Games was up by an average of seven per cent compared with 2011, with a peak uplift of 27 percent on the afternoon of Saturday 4 August.

During the Olympic Games, over 62 million journeys were made on the Tube -- up 35 per cent on normal levels. Tuesday, 7 August was the busiest day in the Tube’s history, with 4.57 million passengers, while Sunday 5 August saw 78 per cent more passengers than a normal Sunday last year.

Back at the UCL lecture, some frankly slightly confusing graphs were shown with more detailed analysis of the passenger traffic volumes on a per-day basis, but one was quite funny.

The sheer size of the TV audience for the Opening Ceremony had an impact on public transport with people staying in pubs or at home to watch it. But once the theatrics were over, and the athletes started the long parade around the stadium, traffic on the tube started to rise before dropping as journeys finished - then spiked back up again at the end of the Opening Ceremony.

It seems the athletes parade really wasn't that interesting. Need to persuade the National Grid to release details of the kettle surge on the electricity demand!

There was a lot more at the talk about other transport networks, and TfL will be publishing its own medium-term analysis on the Olympics in December, with a more in-depth report due next year.

UCL video their lectures, and you will be able to see the whole lecture on their YouTube channel shortly.

; Posted by IanVisits Thursday, September 13, 2012 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Banana peel hazards at Waterloo tube station

Passing through Waterloo tube station yesterday my eye was drawn to this hazard just in front of the doors on the platform.

I'm not sure if it was a casually discarded hazzard by some lazy idiot, or a cunning plan by London Underground to encourage people to stand away from the doors and let passengers off first.

Talking of which, wouldn't it be great to have some sort of
ED-209 type voice barking at people to stand away from the doors when a movement sensor detects someone is standing right in front of them. You have 5 seconds to comply!

Impressively, most people seemed to notice the banana peel and step over it. Well, I say impressive, in a way, slightly disapointing that my camera didn't end up with a more amusing, if potentially harmful photo.

Incidentally, the reason I was passing through the station was to get to a lecture at UCL with analysis charts showing how passenger numbers fluctuated during the Olympics. More about that later this week.

; Posted by IanVisits Wednesday, September 12, 2012 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Weekend closures resume on the London Underground

Now that the Olympics are over, the Tube and Overground networks start to return to more conventional working.

The smiling happy faces heading to Olympic venues have been replaced by glum commuters reading the Metro or studiously ignoring each other.

...and the weekend engineering works have returned.

Considering the lack of works carried out over the past 6-weeks, they are of necessity returning with a vengeance. In fact, looking at the tube map for
this weekend, it might be easier to summarize it as "stay at home". Which coincidentally was a part of the message to encourage people to work from home during the Olympics to help reduce overcrowding.

TfL is rather pleased that a decent percentage of those who could change their travel plans actually did so, and it will be interesting to see just how much of that change continues now that the Olympics are over.

When you think how much extra capacity was released by people spreading their commute around a bit or working from home occasionally, and at a time when the network carried record numbers of passengers - it would be wonderful if we could keep that going.

Back to the weekend works, and TfL says that the effect of the works has been reduced by 10 percent compared to last year and by 25 percent compared to two years ago. Although that comparison is affected by the Jubilee Line debacle which saw parts of the line closed almost every weekend.

Something to look out for though if you use the Central Line - they warn that there will be a longer closure on the Hainault loop in the last week of October and the first few days of November.

One small crumb of comfort - there will be no weekend works at all on the Underground during December.

Enjoy your Christmas shopping! 

PS - whenever the East London Line is closed, and the tunnel isn't part of the works, they should try to let people walk through it again. That was incredibly popular last time.

; Posted by IanVisits Tuesday, September 11, 2012 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, September 10, 2012

Death Line on the London Underground

The tube network has been the venue for a good many films over the years, including quite famously An American Werewolf in London - where a commuter is stalked by the wolf down unrealistically empty corridors.

However, another film followed the stalking theme, but this time the villains are two cannibalistic descendants of the Victorians who built the tube tunnels!

Neither man nor woman any more, they lurk in an unfinished tube station and venture out for fresh meat amongst the commuters around the Holborn area.

Incidentally, this is set around Holborn - and the American Werewolf film was based in Tottenham Court Road. Evidently that bit of the Central Line is to be avoided if you don't want to end up dead!

Death Line (Raw Meat in the USA) was filmed in 1972, and curiously for a horror movie, was filmed on the actual underground network at both Holborn and Aldwych tube stations, although the cannibals lair was evidentially filmed elsewhere.

Staring Donald Pleasance, it also features a fleeting appearance by Christopher Lee.

The film trailer though is to our modern eyes hysterically funny.

I suspect that the scared student grabbing the station staff and shaking him wouldn't be approved of today though.

The best bit though is the final note on the trailer - that the film is "an experience in ultimate terror so fearful, that no additional scenes can be shown in this preview."

You have been warned!

A final note - eagle eyed tube geeks will notice that
video cover in the USA features a New York train, not the London Underground. How dare they!

; Posted by IanVisits Monday, September 10, 2012 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Friday, September 07, 2012

The tube map - as a radio circuit board

Oh look, yet another variant of the London Underground tube map, how tediou.... oh, my goodness, that one's rather good!

An "artist in residence" at the Design Museum,
Yuri Suzuki -- in collaboration with Masahiko Shindo -- has built this circuit board based tube map.

But no mere aesthetic concept, it is also a fully functioning radio. Fortunately, the river is described as part of the electronics, as I doubt actual water would have been a wise idea.

The layout reminds me of an electronics toy I had as a kid, which I slightly miss as it comes from the days when being able to read the colour codes on resisters was considered a valued skill as opposed to today where it would probably be hipster nerdishness. A bit of hunting around on the web and some luck with google keywords tells me that the "toy" was the Gakken EX-System which encourages you to experiment with building electric circuits.


Incidentally, the story that Harry Beck based his original map design on the electronic circuit board is a myth. There is indeed a Beck style circuit board design tube map in the archives, but it was apparently a joke that was presented to him long after the tube map had been adopted by London Transport.

The artist in residence programme runs until next January, and the circuit board tube map will also be on display at the late-night opening on the 21st September.

; Posted by IanVisits Friday, September 07, 2012 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Vintage film explains how to use automatic ticket machines

What links elevator music, a dozen or more fonts, garish colours and dubious fashions? Why, an information film from London Transport in 1969 explaining how to use its newly designed automatic ticket machines.

The British Film Institute has just released the archive film, which must have taxed the film makers in terms of coming up with as many possible different fonts and colours that could use for writing text on a screen as possible.

In fact, considering London Underground's slightly obsessive attitude to fonts on its signs, it's surprising the film was even allowed to be so adventurous in this regard.

The department store style elevator music seems curiously calming - or maybe that is just me.
The film is part of a 2-disc BFI DVD 'British Transport Films Collection Vol. 10 - London on the Move', which will be
released later this month.

A curiosity is that whereas today we have wide gates for people carrying luggage, the original design had airport style luggage chutes to slide bags through instead. I wonder what they did with prams?

; Posted by IanVisits Thursday, September 06, 2012 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Two opportunities to see some vintage tube posters

Next month, the auction house Christies is to sell off around 300 posters from the "golden age" of advertising by London Transport - both tube, tram and bus services.

The sale is being organised by the London Transport Museum itself, and the funds raised will go towards conserving their existing collection or buying more posters that they are currently missing.

You can browse through the entire catalogue on the Christies website, or see some of them in person during public viewing days later this month at their South Kensington showroom.
  • Sep 29 11am - 5pm
  • Sep 30 11am - 5pm
  • Oct 1 9am - 7:30pm
  • Oct 2 9am - 5pm
  • Oct 3 9am - 5pm
The Transport Museum is also selling some postcards associated with the sale if you want a cheaper memento and cant quite afford the real thing.

However, the Transport Museum's overflow depot at Acton is where the museum stores its vast archive posters not on display elsewhere, and they run very occasional tours of the climate controlled room where the posters are stored.

Tours last approximately 75 minutes and include a Q & A session, and due to the cramped nature of the room are limited to 10 people per tour.

There are two tours each day, with the first starting at 11:30 and the second at 13:30 and the next dates are Friday 26 and Saturday 27 October 2012. Cost is £10.

Book Online or telephone on 020 7565 7298.

Annie Mole and myself took a look around last year.

; Posted by IanVisits Wednesday, September 05, 2012 Permalink COMMENT HERE

Monday, September 03, 2012

Two heritage train trips on the Underground this month

Once the Olympics are out of the way, for tube heritage fans, there will be two opportunities to sate your hunger this month - one this coming weekend and another very different event at the end of the month.

Firstly, this weekend there will be one of the occasional outings for the restored
1938 tube train in all its art-deco glory, and 1980s adverts. The outing is part of the Amersham Heritage Open Day, in addition to the vintage tube train, there are trips on an old Routemaster bus and on an early Met Line electric locomotive.

Trips on the tube train start from £10, and on the Met Line locomotive at £5 each. The bus will be free.

Book tickets online here or by phone at 020 7565 7298.

The other event later this month is a sad farewell to the oldest trains still running on the Underground - the venerable Met Line trains which have been slowly replaced over the past year with the swanky new air conditioned models.

Two things are happening.

It is likely -- but not officially confirmed yet -- that the very last trip by the last remaining train as a passenger service will be on Wednesday 26 September.

However, there will then be a last grand send off on the following Saturday (29th Sept) and the last remaining train will run along the entire length of the Metropolitan Line, calling at every single station served by the trains.

As with the Victoria Line farewell tour, the train will have a commemorative banner on the front of the train to mark the special trip.

As that is an all-day event, tickets are a more pricey £40 each, with the funds going to charity. Of course, you don't have to pay to stand on sidelines and wave goodbye to the old train as it passes.

Tickets for the farewell tour go on sale later today - 020 7565 7298

More details here.

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; Posted by IanVisits Monday, September 03, 2012 Permalink COMMENT HERE