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Delays on the 'Met'

Delays on the Metropolitan Line

One of the problems we occasionally encounter is when delays are caused on lines other than our 'own'; this occurs with mainly the 'Met' and with the 'Picc' - both of whom can impact on our running, though it's the 'Met' that has the biggest affect as there are a number of areas were this can occur, either directly or where it has a knock on effect.

This situation occurred where we actually run in their area; it also demonstrates how a relatively minor incident can have a severe effect on services over a wide area.

It was on a Friday evening, which always is busy, and as the weather was good this had encouraged quite a few people to go out on the town, so it affected quite a few passengers.

I'd had a quiet first half, and my second half to the close of traffic was on the Edgware Road service. I picked up my train right on time at about 20:20 at Earls Court and headed off towards Edgware Road and there was nothing to give a clue to any problems ahead. As I approached Notting Hill Gate I could see that my route to the platform was clear, but the station starting signal was red. In itself this isn't unusual - it means that there's a 'Circle' not far in front and - usually - the signal will clear either by the time you arrive in the platform or quite soon thereafter. Tonight was different. At Notting Hill Gate we switch our radios to the 'Met' frequency and - initially - all was quiet. The station starter stayed stubbornly red, and I was just about to call the Line Controller (thinking that the signal may have failed) when I heard him respond to another train's call. The gist was that there were delays in the Edgware Road area which was causing 'blocking back' (queuing into the area).

I'd now been in the platform for about five minutes and had made PA's to my passengers letting them know what was going on. Finally the signal cleared and we set off towards Bayswater. As it was apparent there was a train not too far ahead I headed off at a leisurely speed, hoping that the signal between the two stations would clear by the time I reached it so that we wouldn't get further delayed and stopped in the tunnel between the stations.  This was not to be; On approaching the signal it was red, and I could see a train in the platform at Bayswater - this is quite unusual in this area - so it was clear that there must be another train ahead of him between and more ahead of that!

Finally, after about five minutes, the train ahead moved off and in turn we got into Bayswater. 

This process effectively repeated itself at each signal all the way up to Edgware Road; I should have arrived there at about 20:35 and departed again back to Wimbledon at 20:42 - I finally arrived at Edgware Road at just after 21:00.

As we'd headed up to Edgware Road there was talk on the radio of problems at Hammersmith depot and it seemed that trains due to go into the depot were unable to do so. The Controller was trying to use what available sidings he has to get trains which should have gone in there out of the way and a combination of a lack of space and the hold ups caused as trains were shunted around was the problem.  As I'd approached Edgware Road the two sidings there were already occupied and it sounded like everywhere else was full too.

To try to thin out traffic between Baker Street and Aldgate East many of the trains on the 'Met Main' (the routes covered by the A Stock trains) booked to go to Aldgate were being reversed back north at Baker Street.

I finally departed Edgware Road at about 21:05 - almost twenty-five minutes late.  An uneventful trip to Wimbledon followed and on arrival there I changed ends and was able to depart almost straight away. This recovered about five minutes.

Almost as soon as I'd left Wimbledon the Controller called me, and instructed me to reverse at High Street Kensington. This would help to recover some of my late running and would also avoid getting caught up again in the congestion at Edgware Road.  Passengers were advised, and the destination blind changed.  At Earls Court I again announced 'one stop only to High Street Kensington' and at High Street Kensington did the 'all change, this train terminates here. Passengers for stations to Edgware Road should make their way to Platform 2'.

I shut the train down, left the cab and started to make my way towards the other end of the train to get ready to head back to Wimbledon.  But I immediately came across a quite distraught young couple; they were German and though their English was quite good, they had become totally lost around the Underground; I think they'd been going back and forth between Earls Court and Gloucester road for quite a while! They were in fact only trying to get to Notting Hill Gate and were late for an appointment, and were getting quite desperate. I lent them my mobile phone and they were able to contact the people they were trying to meet; As luck would have it, a Circle Line train arrived almost straight away and I put them on it and they went on their way; that was my good deed for the day!

I left High Street at about 21:15 and am now pretty well back on time. The next departure from Wimbledon was on time and the rest of the duty followed pretty much the appointed timings.

The final challenge though was that the train finally terminates at Earls Court, and is then stabled in Triangle Sidings. In itself simple, but - as I started to close the train up - I found I had two 'sleepers' in the font car.  Sleepers are what we refer to passengers who've fallen asleep as. One revived quickly, but the second was out for the count. I employ all the usual tricks, but to no avail! A fellow driver is just finishing and he comes to help wake the sleeper, as does a member of station staff. After much banging of windows and panels and finally much shaking the 'sleeper' comes to; confused and disorientated (not unusual). He's obviously over indulged in alcohol (again not unusual, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights) but finally we get him off the train, which allows me to do the 'moves' needed to get the train into its appointed siding.

The post script to this tale is the reason for the delays. The next evening as I started work I was able to look at the Network Control Centre (NCC) Daily Report to find out what the reason had been. This report is produced each day and summarises the 'notable events' which had occurred across the system.

Apparently at about 17:00 an empty stock 'move' in the depot had resulted in a train becoming derailed by one bogie. This meant that not only did traction current have to be discharged across much of the depot itself but this also affected platform 3 at Hammersmith (H & C) station. Initially the service was not affected.  The initial assessment was that the train would be re-railed by about 21:00 but a further hour would be needed to repair the resultant track damage.

In the event the depot was finally 'handed back' at about 22:20 - a little later than originally envisaged, with one of the 'roads' out of commission.

The reason for the delays outside the depot was that the trains which normally go out for the evening 'peak' and then stable back in the depot during the evening were unable to do so, hence the problem that the Controller had been experiencing in getting trains stabled.

The obvious answer would probably seem to be 'just keep them running', but it's not as simple as that!  Many of the drivers on these trains would be reaching the end of their permitted driving hours, so they must be relieved. The rosters allow for a certain number of 'spare' drivers, but there would not be sufficient to keep all the trains involved out running, nor would there be sufficient 'paths' around the lines involved for this to be achieved anyway, at least without causing even more problems and delays.  Finally there is the matter of trains being available in the right place to start up the next day's traffic.  All very complex, and it's where the Line Controllers really earn their money!


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