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There is a general theory amongst drivers on the tube that there are two ways of presenting our job. And how we present it depends on to whom we are talking. Between ourselves we will naturally dismiss the complexity of the job and call it easy. In front of anyone else we will emphasise the level of knowledge we must have, the skill it takes to drive trains well and the hardship inflicted on our lives by the hours.

The hours are awful. Truly, bloody awful. Although the tube shuts down for a few hours at night there are staff on duty at all hours of the day. After the last passengers have gone we need to shunt trains about so they are in their proper places for the morning. And on many lines there is a small crew on overnight in case de-icing units need to be sent out to keep the over-ground tracks clear. They are also on standby in case they are needed to move trains about for some reason. Though most of the time night duties are spent with nothing to do. Many drivers will try to grab a few hours sleep but there isn’t time for a proper sleep so they’ll have to spend more time sleeping the following day to catch up.

And if it’s not nights it’s early mornings. Or lates. And then we get suddenly hurled into the 9 to 5. It’s generally exhausting trying to cope with the weekly change in time. Sometimes it feels like do nothing but work for LUL and making a PA will be the only social contact of the week. Often it’s hard to fit in time to see people outside.

I’ve been on a dead late shift finishing after 1am and then given a day off before being required to do a dead early which requires getting up before 3am. When exactly does one sleep doing that? Pretty much on the train it turns out – although once you realise you are too exhausted to concentrate properly you get off the bloody train as fast as you can. It’s irritating for everyone if a driver is too tired to work properly. The driver feels exhausted, the DMTs have to find a replacement driver to cover while he rests, the Voices may have to deal with the train going out of service, the spare drivers will have to go do extra work and the passengers will lose out if there’s no spare and the train is cancelled. Why they persist in doing these crazy schedules I have never worked out.

No, I didn’t get any sleep last night. What makes you ask?

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