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318 Duty

318 Duty

As I've mentioned before, every duty is different, and the theory is that everyone gets to do all the 'turns' over a period of time.

Some of these turns are actually quite important - for example as an Acton driver you don't often get to stable a train or bring a train into service from Upminster Depot, stable a train in Triangle sidings or go onto some of the sidings at Parsons Green - as they keep you 'current' with some moves.

Some duties, and how they are allocated, do seem to be a bit of a mystery! 318 Duty is one such.  The work involved in it is very routine, there are no unusual moves in it.

From our Duty Book it looks like this:

Now, in itself, nothing seems too odd about that - until you see where you get off the second train that is! You drop the train off at Barking eastbound at 1217. So, you're an Acton driver and you're now at Barking, with no more work to do.  But you will observe that the duty actually books of at Earls Court at 1323, so what they've done is built in time for you to travel back 'on the cushions' to finish, so allowance is amply made for this 'quirk'.

But, even odder, is that on our current roster you have this duty four days in a row!  I'm sure Scheduling Services have their reasons for both of these slightly odd arrangements, but I'm not privy to their thinking.

However, it's a duty that's actually quite easy to exchange. We have quite a few drivers for whom a Barking 'finish' is quite close to home, so they'd rather have this than finish at Earls Court and have to travel home in their own time - maybe only a few minutes away.

I had this situation recently, but hadn't noticed until it was too late to organise a changeover with any of my colleagues, so I just carried on as normal.

However, this did give a great opportunity to compare how things can be affected when the service does and doesn't run smoothly.

The first two times I did it, all went exactly to timetable and without event. Not so the second two - so I relate what happened to make it all go pear shaped!

The third morning got off to a bad start right from word GO. The line had suffered a points failure at Turnham Green, though I don't know which set, so the Richmond branch was out of action.  As a result of this trains were late out of Ealing Common.

I left the depot 40 minutes late, got down to Ealing Broadway. The signal cleared at 0700, so I thought I was on the way to recovering a bit of time. But it was not to be!  The normal running time from Ealing Broadway to Earls Court is twenty minutes, but I didn't finally arrive there until 0740 as trains had been nose to tail practically all the way from Turnham Green to Earls Court - I was now almost an hour behind schedule.

As I continued east the Controller called me up at about 0815 - 'Reverse Barking driver'.  So I changed my destination blind, made a PA to the passengers (we were only at about Whitechapel at this time, so few would be affected by the change) and continued on to Barking.

A few trains ahead had also been turned 'short' so reasonable progress was made. The train was detrained at Barking and I made my way into the sidings, changed ends and the signal finally cleared for me to leave the sidings at about 0855.  This has recovered some of the lost time, but I'm still about 30 minutes late.  I wonder if it's still planned for me to go through to Ealing Broadway and back to Earls Court as booked.  This was doubtful, as it'd put me over the four hours fifteen minutes maximum driving time.

So I'm not surprised when I'm called up at about 0910 on my westbound journey to be told that I'm to go to Parsons Green - the intention will be to bring the train out as close as possible to put it back onto its correct time.

All this is pretty well achieved.  I leave Parsons Green sidings at 1010 and arrive at Earls Court only about ten minutes late - my relief's there so the train is handed straight over and off I go for breakfast.

Whilst sitting in the canteen I hear broadcasts from the station staff's radios that there is a security alert somewhere on the Wimbledon branch and the service is suspended between Putney Bridge and Wimbledon in both directions.  This is followed in short order by a further suspension through the city as there's a person on the track in the Embankment area.

However both these problems are resolved pretty quickly and by the time I go down to pick up my next train the service is back to normal.

The rest of the duty is uneventful - I get to Barking pretty much on time, make my way to the westbound platform and get a train to make my way back to Earls Court to finish.

Later this same day is the great power cut, but I'm long at home by now!

If this seems complicated enough it's not a patch on what happened on the fourth day!

Bear in mind too that this is the morning after the power cut, and there are not the normal number of trains in Ealing Common Depot, so some of our drivers are having to travel up to Upminster to even get a train into service.  Amidst all the chaos resulting from the previous evening more trains than normal had to be stabled at Upminster and late turn Acton drivers were on overtime and being ferried back to Acton by taxi.

I was about twenty minutes late coming out from Ealing Common (reasons unknown, but probably a knock on effect from the previous night!) and leave Ealing Broadway about twenty-five minutes late.  This is bad enough a start to the day, but - again - the journey to Earls Court is quite slow and by this time news has come over the radio that there's a signal failure in the Whitechapel area. It's on the westbound side and trains are having to be allowed through 'under rule' (see my description of this process in the Passing Signals at Danger tale).  As I'm sitting at Earls Court the Controller calls up and says 'divert to High Street and then back to Ealing Broadway. Call me on the autophone when you're their and we'll decide what's happening then'.

So, up to HSK, change ends, and the signal clears pretty well immediately for me to go to Ealing Broadway. I phone the Controller for instructions and am told to go to Mansion House and 'call me once you're there'. I set off at about 0815 and work the train without any delays - not surprising really as a lot of them are trapped at the east end of the line!

The process is repeated at Mansion House and I'm told to go back to Ealing Broadway 'for your own working'. This means that the train should be in the right place at pretty well the right time to resume its proper schedule.  I depart Mansion House at about 0915.

The trip west is still pretty packed, passenger wise, as the signal problem is still unresolved and there's still a shortage of trains at the west end of the line.  So we make our way back to Ealing Broadway.

As can be seen from the details above, I should leave Ealing Broadway at 0949, so a departure of 0959 is pretty good in all the circumstances. I get to Earls Court without any problems, although there are now a few delays with drivers being relieved late, at about 1020 and look for my relief. There's a clutch of drivers waiting on the platform but no-one wants my train!  I call the DMT - there's a silence which indicates life's pretty fraught and he's trying to juggle the resources he has available.  'I'll send someone over' he says. About five minutes later a driver appears and I hand the train over to him and head of to the canteen for my breakfast.

I get into the canteen and am greeted by one of my colleagues. He should have been taking my train over from me, but had been so delayed coming west that he'd arrived on the westbound platform as I was coming into the eastbound! Hence the consternation on the part of the DMT.

Whilst I'm in the canteen drivers are coming in with tales of taking three hours to get from Upminster to Earls Court - a trip that should take only just over an hour! The problem at Whitechapel is still ongoing and they're having a problem even finding the cause.  The east end mobile DMT's apparently riding up and down in cabs with a thermal imaging device - this can be used to detect breaks in track circuit wiring, damaged insulated block joints and any other pieces of kit that seem to be overheating and thus causing a problem - but so far to no avail. It's now almost five hours since the initial failure and still no sign of it being resolved.

I'm having to contemplate the prospect of taking a train up to Barking and then getting stuck as I try to come back west to finish.  So I make my way to the DMT's office to find out what's occurring.

I'm relieved to find that an emergency timetable has been initiated - Earls Court/Acton drivers are manning the Ealing - Tower Hill, Olympia - High Street Kensington and Wimbledon - Edgware Road services. Barking drivers are doing Barking to Wimbledon and Upminster drivers Upminster - Richmond trains.

So my second half is cancelled, but I'm now 'spare' until I finish.  After about half an hour I'm called.  'Take train xx to Ealing Broadway and when the signal clears bring it back to Earls Court. Phone me when you arrive on the eastbound platform and we'll see what's what' says the DMT. So I depart from Earls Court at about 1150 and make my way to Ealing Broadway.

After about ten minutes the signal clears, and I head off back towards Earls Court.  On arrival at Acton Town though I'm met by another driver.  'This is my train and I'm to take you off - go upstairs and see the DMT'. So I go up to the booking on point and am told to go - so - despite all the problems I've actually finished about an hour early - quite remarkable!

Checking on later in the day it's apparent that the line's still a mess. There's even an appeal for passengers to use alternate routes if at all possible.

As I write this I've been on Rest Days since, but if anymore interesting stories come to light, or more details of what had caused it all I'll update this tale!


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