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The stations on London Underground are divided into Groups - some are relatively small in terms of the numbers of actual stations, others quite large.

The division is a combination of a number of factors - partly geographical but also related to numbers of staff making up the Group.

The stations are also 'owned' by one of the lines - in many cases this is quite straightforward (there's only one line being served by that station) but in other cases the 'main' station on the Group may serve more than one line, so it is the related stations that may cause the allocation to that line.

I'm going to use the Acton Town Group as my example - partly as it's quite a large and varied Group, but also I am reasonably familiar with it having worked on it prior to becoming a Train Operator. It also has one or two features which make it a little unusual!

So, lets have a look at the composition of the Acton Town Group.


The Group itself is a large one in terms of the number of stations making it up.

The Stations are: Acton Town, South Ealing, Northfields, Boston Manor, North Ealing, Park Royal, Alperton, Sudbury Town, Sudbury Hill and South Harrow.

In terms of the total number of staff on the Group I believe this in the region of 120.

As is common to most aspects of London Underground, the staffing of the Group is broken down into various grades, and I'll deal with these one by one.

The staff work to a system of rosters - most staff are permanently rostered to a particular station, but there is also a team of staff who are available to provide cover for uncovered duties - perhaps due to vacancies, annual leave, refresher training (station staff licenses have to be annually refreshed and recertified too) or sickness. These staff are known as 'Group Cover' and they are of all the grades that I will be describing, up to and including Station Supervisor. In some ways similar to Train Operators rostered for a 'Spare' duty.

Below is a structure chart for the Group - please click on it to open the full sized version.

As you can see there are several grades involved, and I'll give a brief description of the role of each

Station Assistant

Station Assistant is now the basic recruitment grade to the operational side of London Underground. At most stations they are the ones who you'll see working on the barriers, providing assistance with ticketing problems, working on the platforms, giving advice and travel information and making Public Address announcements.

At some stations, particularly in the central area, SA's also carry out the platform duties with the white 'bats' - these are SATS - Station Assistant Train Services.

Their role is to try to assist the loading and unloading of trains, to encourage customers to move away from entrances to the platform and to help keep the 'dwell times' (the time a train is stationery on a platform) down to a minimum.

SA's are very much the worker bees and, as the first line of defence, often the ones who have to try to placate members of the public at times of disruption. They should be out and about in all weathers and when all is running smoothly it can be a pretty tedious and monotonous job!

They may also be required to 'babysit' a smaller station on the Group - this means that their is no Supervisor or SAMF available, but their presence at the station means it can remain open. No station can remain open unmanned.

SA's do not routinely work 'nights' - their rosters are based around when the stations are open to the public. There are a few exceptions to this in the largest of stations in the central area, although even these are pretty few and far between.

But it's the first step on the ladder and, providing that they perform adequately and complete their probationary period the opportunities that then open up are many! Some may choose to go through the ranks step-by-step, but even at this level some choose to go straight to Supervisor or even for a Duty Manager position. Alternatively some will apply to become Train Operators and some may go for Signal Operator, should vacancies arise. Another route they may wish to pursue would be on the Revenue Control Team as Revenue Control Inspectors (RCI).

All of London Underground's recruitment and promotion system is based around 'Competency Based' Applications and Interviews. Irrespective of grade an applicant is considered on the merits of his or her application in the first instance and then whether they fulfil the necessary requirements at Assessment and Interview.

Station Assistant - Multifunctional

Strange title! These are actually the staff who (particularly in the larger stations - so on the Acton Town Group this means Acton Town itself and Northfields) work in the Booking Office.

Their job is of a higher grade as they have received the additional training required to deal with the sale of tickets and, of course, they have the responsibility for the cash and accounting procedures.

They also have the authority to deal with matters concerning unpaid or underpaid fares and can, if they feel it appropriate, levy Penalty Fares.

On some of the smaller stations which is supervised by a Station Supervisor Multifunctional they may also be employed at the busiest times of the day when the SSMF alone would otherwise be unable to properly cover all the roles expected of him. Some of these SAMF's may be part-timers or cover may be arranged through the Group Cover procedure.

At some of the larger stations there will be several on duty at any one time - this enables the ticket office to remain open at all times - and it can be a relentless job, with little respite from queues of customers.

An additional level to the grade of SAMF is that of Ticket Office Coach. These are staff who have been identified as having the appropriate skills, knowledge and experience to assist in the training programme of others aspiring to qualify in the ticket office - these may be newly trained SAMFs but may also be Station Supervisors in training - they too must be qualified in the ticket office routines and procedure.

As with the SA's, SAMF's are not rostered for night duties.

Station Supervisor Grades

Station Supervisors are responsible for the immediate running of their station, and the grade is split into several levels - which really relates to the size of station at which they are located.

Because of manning requirements, all stations have a Station Supervisor on duty at all times, so they work nights as part of their rosters. The only exception to this is over Christmas day when the whole system is totally shut down.

Another reason is that it is at night that the Contractors carry out much of the maintenance work to both the tracks and stations, so they must be able to gain access. The Supervisor is the person who will sign them in and out,

The levels are:

  • Station Supervisor Multifunctional - SSMF
  • Station Supervisor 2 - SS 2
  • Station Supervisor 1 - SS1
  • Train Services Supervisor - TSS

SSMF is the lowest level of the grade, they are at the smaller stations - in our example here this means all the stations on the Group except Acton Town and Northfields - and not only have the responsibilities of all Station Supervisors but they also work routinely in the ticket offices - this is in fact the majority of the work they carry out.

However, should there be an incident or they need to carry out routine checks of their station then the booking office will be closed, as it will be too whilst they take their mealbreak.

SS2 is the next level and, as I mentioned above, only two of the stations on the Group require Supervisors of that grade.

Their function is, broadly, similar although they do not routinely work in the ticket office. However they are ticket office qualified and are available to be able to assist the SAMF's in the ticket office should they have a problem. They will also have responsibility for the ticket office being 'signed over' to them each night.

TSS is a grade almost unique to Acton Town - I believe the Supervisors at Arnos Grove are also involved in this role. It may have been introduced elsewhere across the system but I have not heard of it.

It is carried out by the SS2's at Acton Town in addition to the grade's normal duties. When it was introduced the complement of Supervisors was increased to cover the role.

Their purpose is to assist the Piccadilly Line DMT's with their role. At Acton Town the Train Crew accommodation for the Piccadilly Line is located remotely from the station in Bollo House. This presents certain problems as the DMT's are not 'on the spot' should their be problems with drivers being late to pick up their trains or if trains need 'reforming' following disruption to the service. It was felt that there needed to be someone closer to the action to monitor these situations, and this is how the problem was addressed.

Particularly at peak times the TSS is on the platform fulfilling this role - he keeps a log of the train service and a watchful eye that there are reliefs waiting for trains due for crew change - he is aware of this from the train schedule sheets he has in his possession. So if he is aware that there is not a relief waiting for a train he can act proactively and contact Bollo House to chase the driver up through the DMT's.

From what I've seen the system has worked well and has resulted in a considerable reduction in the number of trains 'sat down' in platforms and overcoming the potential delays caused by the 'blocking back' of trains waiting to get into the station.

In fact this last situation can impact on the District Line service too as the signal operators may have to divert Piccadilly Line trains through 'our' platform in order to keep trains moving at all!

SS1 is the highest grade of Station Supervisor, and they are in charge of the largest of stations. There role is similar to that already described but on a larger scale! Indeed at some stations there may be several Supervisors on duty at any one time.

Group Cover Staff

I mentioned earlier that there are also Group Cover staff and that they're there to work as directed to cover various situations. Before moving on, I'll expand a little about these.

On the Group there will be cover staff of all the grades I've mentioned, but although they can work 'below' their own grade they cannot work above it. So an SS2 on Group Cover can do an SSMF's job but not vice versa. Similarly an SAMF can do an SA's job but not the other way around.

But why should this situation arise? For example, if a member of staff is an SS2 but there are no SS2 duties uncovered he or she will be allocated the next uncovered post below their grade. Similarly an SAMF may be required to cover an uncovered SA duty.

And if there are no duties uncovered? In that case the available person will be sent to a station - usually Acton Town - where he can be usefully employed. The Administrative personnel (more later!) will know in advance of any planned absences (training, refresher training, annual leave and so on) and will post a list of Group Cover Duties to let everyone know who's doing what and when.

In theory this roster should be posted 28 days in advance, but of course it's never a totally final document, and often staff will know that they are due to work between certain hours but have no idea at what location! Of course the whole thing becomes not much more than a guideline, and if you're on Group Cover you need to make sure you keep up to date with the latest changes.

So the similarities are with Train Operators in the 'Pool' - you may have an idea of what you're working, but possibly only the bare bones - the flesh will be added later!

Does this arrangement suit everyone? No it doesn't - although some (particularly Supervisors) do like to remain on the Group in this way, but most SA's and SAMF's only remain on Group Cover until they can get a rostered post at their station of choice.

So, that's covered the staff actually working on the stations - next I'll look at the role of the management grades and the support staff.

Duty Station Manager (DSM)

These are the station team's equivalent to the DMT's on the trains side.

There are a number allocated to each Group - if I recall correctly there are about six on the Acton Town Group - and (again as with the DMT's) they are shift workers so that there is always a DSM available on the Group at any time.

The responsibilities for various matters - personnel, premises, ticket office performance, certain stations, community liaison are a few I can think of - are divided between the various DSM's.

In the same way that there are mobile DMTs's there is also a mobile DSM available, although I think this is less formally arranged than with the DMT's. So should there be an incident or an emergency there is always a Manager from the stations side available to become involved in the incident if necessary.

On many station Groups the DSM's have their office on one of the stations - again Acton Town's a little different, and the DSM's (together with the administration staff and the GSM) there are also located in Bollo House.

DSM's are the highest uniformed grade on the stations side. As with the DMT's they can be easily be identified by wearing white shirts (rather than the blue items as worn by staff up to SS1) and if wearing their hats, they have three rings round the hatband.

On the question of hats, it is expected that station staff will wear their hats whenever on the station. Station Supervisors have two bands round their hats, SA's have one.

Group Station Manager (GSM)

In station terms he or she is top of the food chain - the boss!

He's responsible for everything on the Group - the buck stops with him! As is common with most businesses these days, budgets are a big part of the job - he is expected to maximise the income generated by the Group, whilst at the same time controlling expenditure.

If, for example, he wants to increase the staffing on the Group, he needs to make a business case for the increase in the complement as obviously it will cost the company more money. Such a request will have come via a DSM and they, in turn, will have to have proved their case to the GSM before he's going to approach the next level up.

Whilst at Acton Town I got involved in assisting one of the DSM's building such a case to increase the ticket office staff complement at Acton Town itself. This was done (as with most things) by using the statistics produced in terms of ticket sales at certain times of day. Fortunately these came in the form of Excel spreadsheets, so (having a little knowledge of the program) I was able to produce graphical information to show the high and low demand times.

Administration Staff

In the same way that the train depots have an administrative staff to assist the TOM and DMT's, so do the station groups have a similar arrangement, and they fulfil an almost identical function.

Again, their efficiency plays a big part in the smooth running of the Group.

So, there we have it - a brief outline of the stations staff structure.


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