More Trouble With MEL

Posted in Tubeworker's blog on Wed, 04/01/2006 - 09:37,

The introduction of MEL (Manual Electronic Logging) to signal cabins is sputtering and stumbling its way forwards. In some cabins (especially the busier ones) using MEL is adding a significant extra work-load to the signal operator's job, as it is more time-consuming to use than paper sheets.

The location of the equipment in some cabins is causing problems. At Harrow on the Hill, the screen causes problems even if it is not being used - if it is up high then it obscures the bottom of the diagram (especially for the shorter people) and if it is lowered then it partially obscures the lever visuals. Funnily enough management were told this was a potential problem with where it was being installed before the screen was put in, but they went ahead and did it anyway. There have been 2 incidents recently relating to the location and size of this screen - in one case a signal was put back in front of a train (as the visual was obscured) and in the other a train was given a wrong signal because the S/Op couldn't see the train description. At Whitechapel there is now a requirement to have 2 members of staff on duty in order to operate MEL (this is currently rostered as a one-person cabin so you never know, it might mean more jobs) because of the extra time it takes and the frequency of the service.

Some signal operators are reporting headaches and eyestrain from using the screens for long periods of time. Just remember - this is still a trial period for MEL, management are under pressure and keen to get it in and approved, but that doesn't mean it's ok for them to bully and intimidate staff to do things they are not happy with. Any signal operator who is having problems with MEL should detail them to their manager - and health and safety rep - ASAP, and you are well within your rights to refuse to use the system if it is detrimental to health and safety.
We are not opposed to the introduction of new technology, and the idea behind MEL (making more real-time service information widely available, especially to station staff and hence to the public) is not a bad one. But trying to bolt new technology into antiquated and often cramped signal cabins is bound to be problematic. The system must be made user-friendly for all staff, and if it makes the job more difficult, more stressful or less safe then it should not be accepted.

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