You are sitting on a platform, waiting for a train, and the tannoy goes off and says "Due to a signal failure at Somewhere, there are severe delays on the District line..." Yeah, me too. I work on the Tube myself, and no - I don't earn enough to come in and park my Beemer in the company car park. I take the tube like everyone else, and get all the inconvenience and hassle whenever the service breaks down. The only difference is that my fellow passengers somehow expect me to fix things.
So let me tell you a bit about the Tube and how it works.
Decades ago, before some of you were born, there was a big pile up at Moorgate. to this day, we don't know what happened. If a driver were to collapse at the controls, the 'dead man's handle' would be released and stop the train. For reasons still unknown ( many theories have ben suggested, but nothing has been proven) the driver of one train , back in the 70's did not stop when he reached Moorgate, he just ploughted full speed into the buffers and ran on into the wall beyond, dying along with many passengers in the resultant crash.
so, it was decided to re - engineer the system to include ATP, Automatic Train protection. what happens now , is that if a train goes through a red light for any reason, there is a small switch on the tracks, and it stays down if a signal is green. if a signal goes red, the switch goes up. Any train going over the switch willtrigger a mechanism that will put on all the brakes and stop the train dead - however fast it is going.
When you join LUL, you getshown this system and how it works - there is a full scale set up at the transport Museum at Covent Garden , if you wanna take a look. the thing to remember is that the whole thing is set to 'fail to safe' and not ' fail to danger', to use engineering terms. This means that the whole thing is constantly running to check itself. There is a 10 volt current running up the running rails, for instance. this is not the same as the power in the traction rail that drives the Train. If the rail is cracked or broken, the circuit gets broken and the sysem shuts down. But that is only one safety system at work.
If anything gets into the ATP switch and jams it, the system will also close down. So, if people throw coke cans, plastic bags, old newspapers and whatever away, and it blows along in the wind and gets on the tracks, it could end up getting caught in the points, or the ATP switch, or anywhere else - and a light will go on in a control room somewhere, and the system will shut down automatically until an engineering team goes out and walks to the place where the fault is and fixes it. Thess poor bastards may have to walk along the track for miles in the pouring rain on a cold dark night, just to get a coke tin out of a set of points - because someone could not be bothered to take it home and put it in a bin. About 70 percent of signal failures are litter getting caught in the works - not loose screws or broken rails - just crap that people throw away without thinking.
Even so, there are less pile ups and other incidents on the Tube than on the other rail networks. I asked the instructor on my training course how come they did not have the ATP on National Rail. He said he could not comment ( officially) but asked me to remember that the Tube was a public service, not a private company. "How much do you think it costs to fit the system and run it?" he asked...
Sure, not every stoppage on the Tube is down to 'signal failure'. I was going to catch a train to work last week, and as I went in, some guy came running past me as I walked down towards the platform on the station. I knew that it was a train every 5 mins or so, so I did not see why he was hurrying. Half a minute later, two men in white coats came rushing by, with a woman right behind them , also with a white coat on... "Ey up" I thought to myself "that's a bit odd".
"Should we call the police?" a woman asked me. I went over to the other side of the platform and saw that the man who rushed past me first was now on the tracks - a train was approaching and the driver was sounding his whistle. the bloke in blue jeans who had gone haring past me at the top of the stairs was running up the tracks, with the two guys in white coats in pursuit. By now, the staff on the station were calling them back. Never mind the oncoming train - there was over 500 volts going up the juice rail on each track, and there was more than one track to cross.
It turned out that the first bloke was not an escaped mental patient - just a shop lifter. He had nicked some stuff from the local chemist's shop, and the people in the white coats were a bunch of pharmacists and whatnot who were chasing him. So this dude was risking his life to escape with a jar of hair gel! He got over a garden fence, but I don't know how it ended - the juice was still on and the trains still ran, so I got to work on time for once!
I could tell you some more stories - about things that happened a while back. Not happened today or last week, but things that show how things really are and what really goes on. If the mods don't mind long posts, and a bit of technical detail, I will be happy to tell you about what happens after somebody falls under a train, and about the terrorism and securty situation right now, as well as all about some of the colourful characters we meet on the job. I have a few years service behind me, and quite a backlog of amusing as well as hair raising incidents that I recall all too clearly!
LUL make everyone sign a contract to say that we will not misrepresent the company or its employees. I have to be careful what I say for legal reasons. However, there is quite a bit that I think that people *should* know, and some info could be useful - I will be passing on tips for how to get about with less hassle and more safely, if that is ok. If this post was too long, I will amend it if the mods wish, but I hope to post again soon, after a bit of mod input. the message for tonight folks is 'Please - take your litter home'!