There now follows my annual rant about the weather.
Well it would do if it wasn’t so damn hot. It’s a staple of London newspapers to wander into the tube on a hot day and take a reading of the temperature. Then interview some passengers and bingo! You’ve got yourself a story about how terrible it is to travel on the tube in summer. What I want to know is, why do they never mention the staff? A tube journey is going to be maybe 90 minutes at the absolute most. Yet we’re down there for eight hours in it with nobody being remotely sympathetic.
I will readily admit that it’s much worse for station staff than drivers. Most stations don’t have much in the way of cooling devices so if you are stuck on a platform then you’re really in the heat. Gatelines are generally much better as there’s some hope of fresh air circulating in from outside. I suppose the one mitigating factor is that staff are generally only on the platforms for an hour at a time before they swap round. They’ll also be allowed to nip off to Tesco and spend half an hour examining the bacon in the chilled-foods aisle.
Drivers are pretty much stuck with the tunnels but of course we have air-cooling units in there. Generally these are sufficient to keep the cab down to about ‘warm’. But in the current heat they are not really doing much. Yesterday I had a weird Mexican standoff with myself over how to run the air-con. Run it on low and I’m going to be hot, sweaty, uncomfortable and dehydrated. Run it on high and I’m going to be cooler, deafened, uncomfortable and with a headache. Those things are really loud. In the end I had to go for maximum as the damn thing wasn’t working well anyway. So I got all the options plus feeling really, really tired.
For the most part LUL have realised that if there’s one thing they are going to *have* to keep functioning it’s the driver. Not only does heat-exhaustion increase the likelihood of safety incidents but MORE IMPORTANTLY it reduces the likelihood of trains running. There is some extremely official documentation on which defects have to be fixed and when and this states that if the air-con is not working then the train must go out of service. As is their normal practice LUL ignored this rule until a few years back when the drivers realised that complaining about the defect yet continuing to run wasn’t accomplishing anything. A summer followed with trains being taken out defective and LUL quickly realised that it would be cheaper just to get the problem fixed.
There are limits though. The heat is just too much for the air-con to cope with at the moment so it’s often a case of just trying to put up with it. Yesterday left me feeling tired, headachey and nauseous though I’m not sure if that was due to heat or noise or both. In the end I decided to call in and get a spare driver to take my train for a while whilst I took corrective action. I’m sure it will tickle passengeraction no end to be able to add to the list of outrageous reasons I’ve stopped working.
Yesterday I took a break so I could have an ice lolly. 🙂