London underground workers to strike; drivers to film everything.

Take that, Gertrude Stein: I love semi-colons!

I woke (late) this morning to discover a strange spike in activity on this blog (there are as yet relatively few readers, so). The spike consisted entirely of a pile of people reading this post about Metronet Rail vs. Transport for London in the Great GB1bn Cost Over-Run. With no explanation why. Nor was it linked from a source, to my knowledge. The searching appeared, in my blogstats, thus:

blog search terms

Very odd. It did remind me, however, that I had wanted to talk about a Tube-related story. As luck would have it, another came along a couple of days ago, also. That first: several days ago, now, a train on the Central Line of the Tube derailed. Two trains were stuck (it and the one behind) for a couple of hours (900 or so people), with 37 injured. So much for that. The story – at least in ‘headline’ form – placed the blame on “debris”. In fact,

The Rail Maritime and Transport Union, which represents drivers and station workers, said it warned London Underground in April about equipment left on the tracks by Metronet crews in the area of today’s derailment, according to an e-mailed statement.

Metronet maintains two-thirds of the London Underground, doing repairs at night when the railway is closed. The union opposed the private company taking over track maintenance.

It was the fourth incident of debris on the tracks in 18 months, and the city should fire Metronet “in the interests of public safety,” said Bob Crow, the union’s general secretary, in an e-mailed statement.

Metronet said “a bale of material became dislodged” from a storage area, and that it’s checking all storage sites on the nine London Underground lines it maintains.

Score! Take the Tube, you might smack right into stuff! This will surely not endear Metronet Rail to the referree, Chris Bolt, in their dispute with TfL.

Tube strike

So when I caught sight of news that Tube workers were calling for a strike over ‘safety concerns’, I figured this was it. Nope.

Tube staff to strike over safety

Tube workers have voted for a 24-hour strike on the Bakerloo line next week over fears for workers’ safety.

The Rail Maritime and Transport Union said it is in response to plans to make staff remove passengers from trains north of Queen’s Park station unaided.

The union insists two station staff and the driver should empty trains but managers say one member of station staff and the driver can do it safely.

The strike will begin at 2200 BST on Thursday 19 July.

No wonder the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union bills itself as England’s fastest-growing. It is also involved with strikes over pay on the Silverlink service, which runs up from London to the Midlands.

Back with the original derailment, though, little enough seems to have arisen, besides the Rail Accident Investigation Board having a look at it. According a statement on their website, there was “no evidence” that the driver, the condition of the train or the signalling system were at fault – not a good sign for Metronet, because that means everyone but them has a chair, now that the music has stopped.

The other response to this derailment that I found, I found to be the best – that of the Socialist Party. As well as the article’s headline (“Kick out the dangerous profiteers!”, they cried), they also noted that Balfour Beatty, a sub-contracting unit of Metronet, has this job – not Metronet themselves. Ah, sub-contracting.

On, then, to the story I’d wanted to discuss.

YouTube shows Tube driver journey

You read correctly. Tube drivers are filming their journeys! I think it’s great. Check YouTube for “train drivers view” (no punctuation required – this is web 2.0, after all). Here are a couple to save you the time.

I think it’s fascinating, but, then, I’m not a passenger (that’s for Harold Ross). Passengers don’t seem all that pleased. Safety-wise, I can see their point, up to a point of its own. What if the drivers are using tripods? Surely if police cars can be operated safely with a pre-set camera facing out the windshield, so too can trains? Sure, if my Tube train passed into the station with an operator driving with one hand and filming with the other I’d worry – but then most of the motorists I see here in New York do the same with mobile phones, without punishment. I still have to cross the road.

So enjoy the Tube films while they’re there. They’re still enjoyable to watch.

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