“I should have come in on the local really”, says another driver, as I stand on a platform. “He’s routed me here because I’m early but it doesn’t really make sense. I thought I’d get cancelled but there are gaps going west. If you get the stick [signal] first I’ll ask them [the passengers] to go across to you, alright?”
“That’s fine”. But as I look at the next train coming in, I can see it isn’t mine.
“You’ll need to tell him that, I must be the one behind”. “Bollocks, has he got the stick?” He looks up, yeah he has.
“Right, I’ll tell them to get over”. I reckon I will be here for the next 5 minutes or so.
The heavens open when my train pulls in. I set up and the wipers go on.
Nothing is louder in the cab when the wipers and the air-con are running together. I turn the train radio all the way up just in case I need to hear anything on the general announcements.
My next pick-up [my next train to drive] pulls into the platform. “Right, this end is good, but that end has got bad flats [poor rail adhesion leads to wheels slipping and skidding and can then lead to the wheels developing flat areas, think of a £1 coin]. The controller knows, it’s in the defect book today and yesterday, so if you report it again, they might do something”.
I don’t look forward to changing ends on the train at the terminus and dealing with those flats if it’s still wet; and then I’m on that end for the rest of the shift.
Sure enough, as I pick up some speed I hear, “thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk”. I know it is going to be much louder in the tunnel. To top it off, the brakes on this are slow.
I think I’ve got the train under control and then it slides just that extra foot forward. I slam on the brakes and stop and work out how I am going to adjust what I’m doing. If we are running stick-to-stick [red signal to red signal, with lots of stops between stations] this is going to be a real pain.
While I am being held at a signal, I think I will let the controller know about the flats. “Train 321 to control. Are you receiving? Over”. “Control receiving 321, pass your message over”. “Hello controller, leading car number 192 has flats on this train, I’ve recorded in the defect logbook”. “Driver that is all received, the depot are aware. Controller out”.
For the first time I have to re-open the doors a few times through central London: it’s starting to get busier.
More people are rushing around, but on a weekend more than in the week.
“Probably good for us in the long run”, another driver says. “More people get back on, the less reason they [central government] have got to screw us over”. “That’s one way of looking at it, but I wouldn’t be quite so sure,’’ says another.
• “Jay Dawkey” is a driver on London Underground.