Thursday, 20 December 2012

OK, can't resist sharing this little tidbit...

My morning train is the second-most overcrowded in the country, running at 164% capacity.  Nice.

Think I may have to change my commuting patterns next year...

Last post this year?

It seems likely this will be the last post from Signal Failure this year (as I'll be working from home tomorrow and out of the country thereafter for Christmas), though I'll be making every effort to go on strong once the New Year starts.

Last night, the tube was on time to take me to Waterloo, then I took the train to Hampton Court, where my wife had parked the car after dropping our daughter off at the childminder's.  The train was four minutes late arriving.

This morning, the train was a minute late arriving in Waterloo (because it simply sat outside the final station for ages, otherwise it would likely have been early), and the tube was delayed by four minutes.  That brings the grand total since the last update to nine minutes and £22.50.

And finally, I leave you with a little news digest:
  • TfL's commissioner has called for sustained investment in the network as passenger numbers rise faster than expected.  If you read the article, he takes rather more pride in what they've delivered so far than I personally think is warranted, and he doesn't say where all this money is going to come from - which makes me worry it's from price hikes - but at least he actually does seem to 'get' what we, the customers, want from his organisation.  Which is an improvement, as far as I can see.
  • Good news for wheelchair users: it looks as though TfL will actually be keeping those manual ramps they employed during the Olympics.  Though that's very much still to be confirmed, I'll risk saying I'm coloured surprised: the previous statement, that they'd 'consider' it, felt very much like a statement to get people off their backs while they quietly shelved the plan.
  • If you live in Sutton, it's the safest place on the network for public transport, though I'm not providing a link because the Sutton Guardian's James Pepper is an ignoramus and doesn't know when to use 'less' and when to use 'fewer'
  • The mid-Winter Arsenal vs. West Ham game has been called off thanks to the London Underground strike, which puts me in the unusual position of sincerely thanking those who decided to quit working and start shirking: less football on TV is always a good thing.
That's all I have the time and energy for.  Or, more grammatically (since I don't want accusations of pots calling kettles 'African Kitchenware' flying around), that's all for which I have the time and energy.  If I don't talk to you beforehand, have a great holiday season and New Year - thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

An old story

I knew it couldn't last.

Last night was a journey home from hell.  The tube bit to Waterloo actually worked fine, but all trains out of Waterloo were subject to horrendous delays and cancellations thanks to a person hit by a train 'in the Earlsfield area'.  Arriving at the station, I hopped onto the (delayed) 17:50 to Hersham.  It was rammed, but by going right down to the very tip of the platform, I managed to find a seat just before that carriage too became not only packed, but with a crowd outside the doors 10 people deep,pushing and shoving.

Sat on the train for a further half hour, before the driver announced it was being cancelled.  Got out.  Crossed the entire station to get on the (delayed) 18:24 to Hersham.  Just as rammed.  Found seat just in time in the same way.  Was smug.  Sat on train for another half hour.  Less smug.  Train cancelled.  Getting a little irritated by now.  Announcement that the 17:50 would now depart after all.  Couldn't make it back to that platform before it set off.  Got on train to (ironically) Hampton Court, thinking I could change at Surbiton to a suitable one (working on the assumption they're run services up to there and then turn them around so at least that part of the line would be frequent (wrong, by the way).

Sat on that train for ages, and it eventually left.  Changed at Surbiton.  Train to Hersham coming in from Waterloo about 20 minutes later.  Impossible to get on - for me, or any of the 100 or so other people waiting for it on the platform at Surbiton.  Had enough.  Got taxi home.  Made it home for 21:15 against an original (planned) arrival time of 18:21.  That's a one hour, 54 minute delay.  £285.00.  Plus £20 for the taxi: £305.00.

This morning, the 06:20 from Hersham to Waterloo was five minutes' delayed, and the connecting Bakerloo Line tube to Edgware Road as further two minutes.  That £17.50 more for a grand total of two hours, one minute and £322.50.

I am very, very unimpressed.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

A new beginning

I moved house last week, and accordingly my travel situation has changed.  I now take South West Trains from Hersham to Waterloo, and then the usual Bakerloo Line to Edgware Road.

And it was a promising start this morning: 'just' one minute's delay on the train and a further minute on the Bakerloo Line.  Total of two minutes and £5.  (Please note, the train goes into TfL's network, so I'm adding delays on this line to their charges - only, however, if the delay accrues after I have departed Surbiton, a stop on the way (or, on the reverse journey, before Surbiton), since delays before (after) then are not within zones 1-6.  That's being fair, see?  Clear?  Tough!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

About last night... and this morning

UPDATE: two minutes' delay on the Bakerloo Line to Waterloo from Edgware Road and then four minutes' delay on the connecting train to Hampton Court.  £10 (since the first delay doesn't count as I didn't miss the connection because of it.)

In reverse chronological order, just to confuse you.

Train into Waterloo delayed by three minutes.  A further two minutes on the connecting Bakerloo Line.  Seven minute delay against original arrival time in total.

Last night, a two-minute delay on the District Line to Wimbledon would have caused me to miss my connecting train, though that was happily delayed too.  Arrived home seven minutes late.

7 + 7 =14 minutes, which is equivalent to £35.  Ta muchly.

EXCITING NEWS: on Thursday, NFC payments go live on TfL buses.  If you see someone smugly tapping their mobile phone against a reader, rather than an Oyster card, it could be Signal Failure.  I pity all you technology have-nots.

Oh, and London's black cabs are to offer you free WiFi, as has been reported by nearly everyone and in a variety of languages.  Just do a news search: I can't be bothered to pick a link, nor to use the likely ad-riddled service which would in any case make me feel travel sick.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Boxed in

Well, this week is the big house move for Signal Failure: is it a coincidence, or have things gotten so bad that I'm moving house to try and get a better commute from TfL and friends?

The current home is getting more and more full of packed boxes, while the new home soon will be, thence to be unpacked.  And then there's all the cleaning and repairing and decorating of both places.  Upshot is, I'm taking Thursday and Friday off this week, so it'll be another short week as far as updates are concerned.  Perhaps it's best, since the silly season is starting for most all of us.

This morning, my train into Waterloo was 10 minutes late, and the connecting Bakerloo Line added another four.  Overall, that means I was 17 minutes late to work this morning for £42.50 (because of differing connection times).

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Alright then, one more update!

UPDATE: trip home was today (Friday).  Just one minute's delay, but it's £2.50 I need to log.  See you next week!

Travelled in to Clapham Junction this morning for my two-day corporate off-site.  Got a 14-minute delay for £35.  Several excuses offered: congestion caused by an earlier broken down train, and also held at a red signal.  Updated Tube Bingo card below.
Not sure when further updates will follow this week, but there'll be at least one more before the weekend.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

By a long margin, the biggest delay yet!

OK, so I normally just update the morning's blog at the end of the day, but this whopper deserves its own again.  Excuse was simply the weather again, so no Tube Bingo bonus there.  And I'm not even going to bother with the tube delay because it pales into insignificance next to the trains.

Waterloo was chaos.  A huge number of services had been cancelled or were operating a reduced service.  All - without exception - were running with severe delays.

My wife had warned me that there were problems as she went earlier to pick up our daughter from day care.  So I checked the TfL web site before I left work.  Nothing mentioned on my route.  So I checked the South West Trains web site: only one train an hour now to Hampton Court, instead of the usual plethora of two.  Never mind, at least it's still running.  I aimed to take the 19:36.

I got to Waterloo in plenty of time to make my way through the heaving crowds and waited.  And waited.  No information on the big screens about my train at all.  No PA announcements about that service either.  Plenty of trains calling at most of the same stops still running, albeit massively delayed.

Because my wife had had to get off at Norbiton and use the bus to pick our daughter up in anything vaguely resembling the right time, our car remained at Hampton Court station.  Because we will need this for the drop-off and pick-up tomorrow, and because there was no advice that my train was cancelled - even on repeatedly checking the South West Trains and TfL web sites on my mobile phone, and because it's really cold out and I wanted to endure the least number of changes on freezing platforms possible while my direct service was still running, I waited.  And waited.

A little while after 20:00, there was still no news, though the big screens were still featuring trains originally scheduled to depart before 19:00 that were idling - sorry, 'boarding' - on the platforms.  I looked around for a station employee to ask.  Not a one in sight.  Then, I found a single, roughly 39-inch flat screen TV, conveniently located about 10 feet above head height displaying a rolling text of several hundred words in micro-font from South West Trains.  And when I say micro-font, I mean it: I've had my eyes fucking lasered to get perfect vision and I have to stand on my tip-toes (I'm over 6 feet tall) and squint to make it out.

'Blah, blah, adverse weather, insincere apologies, lots of delays, reduced services, blah, blah.'  And then, as an afterthought 'there is a train shuttle service operating between Surbiton and Hampton Court'.  No hint that there might not be a full service running, but I know rank fucking inefficiency and thinly-disguised contempt for customers when I see it (I should do after more than a decade using London's transport 'services').

I hopped on the next severely delayed train passing through Surbiton and was off.  The train's automated station announcement told me every station on the way to Surbiton was Surbiton, which was helpful, and at the real Surbiton, there was no mention of a train to Hampton Court at any time whatsoever on any of the boards on any of the platforms.  Nor were there any station or rail employees around anywhere.  Not even the nominally open ticket office.  I finally found some 'rail community support' officers outside the station standing around chatting.  They had no idea when the next train to Hampton Court was running, but advised me the shuttle had been running for hours (why wasn't it updated on the South West Trains web site?) and if I just stood around on the platforms one would turn up sooner or later.

Back into the station.  A few minutes later, a screen told me the next Hampton Court train would arrive at 21:05, roughly 20 minutes away.  Well, better than nothing.  Went down to the platform just in time to jump, Indiana-Jones-escaping-the-closing-cave-walls-style through the closing doors of an unadvertised train to Hampton Court.  Wankers.

Upshot: I left work in time to get the 19:06, had it been running.  I should have been at Hampton Court, therefore, by 19:42.  Instead, I arrived at 20:51.  All because of a quarter inch of snow, mostly melted away by the time I travelled.  That's a 69-minute delay.  I'm pretty sure that's a record.  I'm also damn sure I can claim even under TfL's and/or South West Train's stringent rules to prevent people claiming money back.  But I'm not going to, because I'm owed so much more than that.  A total of £177.50, in fact.  And that's not even adding a special tax for denying me time with my infant daughter and pregnant wife tonight.  Damn, but those fuckers are lucky I'm such a reasonable man.

Nighty, night readers.

Let it snow! (It makes me money.)

My wife, who leaves the house earlier than me so I can do toddler drop-off and she be home early for pick-up, texted me minutes after leaving today to warn me to plan extra time for de-icing the car windscreen, since she'd noticed ice and heavy frost on a number of vehicles on her way to the station.  Said ice and heavy frost turned out to be snow when I left an hour later.

To be fair, she claims it only began snowing later, but it reminded me of the first time I saw snow.  I was brought up an ex-pat in the Middle East, so I was 11.  I also remarked to my bemused dorm mates (I was at boarding school in Derbyshire at the time) that the frost was particularly heavy that morning.  Still, despite the travel chaos that ensued, it was nice to see Bushy Park covered in snow once more before we move house.

Now, about that chaos: a 31-minute delay on the train into Waterloo, accompanied by a veritable bonanza of excuses.  Adverse weather, leading to slow moving trains ahead of us, leading to lots of being held at red signals in order to regulate the service.  Add to this the one-minute delay on the connecting Bakerloo Line to Edgware Road for no explanation offered, and it's quite the Tube Bingo entry this morning (see below).
I believe there were quite a few problems on the TfL network this morning: can anyone top my Bingo experience thus far?

Sadly, it might be the last significant update of the week: I'm away all tomorrow and most of Friday for a company off-site.  Still, we'll see what we can manage - I don't want to leave you all bereft this close to Christmas!

And before I forget, last night's journey home (which I was too lazy to update then) was not without its minor difficulties.  The tube ran late but didn't cause me to miss my connection; however, there was a three-minute delay on the train.  All in all, that's £87.5 to add to the tally this morning.

Finally, a little tidbit of news for you: TfL is a good neighbour!  After refusing to do anything for a year, an intervention by Iain Duncan Smith caused TfL to cut back ivy on its side of the fence that was destroying someone's property.  Of course, it claims no such thing was happening and that this is simply a gesture of good will (duly praised by IDS).  Shame the good will had to be scared into them after 12 months of gleefully cackling and ignoring the poor claimant, but it's better than nothing.  Nice precedent there now, though, so if you live anywhere affected by the tube, I'd start thinking of good will gestures they could make towards you right about now.  It is Christmas, after all!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Good afternoon!

Sorry to have had no updates for you yesterday - decided to work from home last minute as was shattered after a few early starts last week and a busy weekend what with the toddler and the upcoming house move.

The biggest news is, of course, the pregnancy - not the royal one, which is boring, but my wife's: we found out this morning our second baby will be a boyby (there's a new series of Peep Show out, so I'm quoting again)!  One of each, that'll be, so I think I'll retire from the baby-making business now.

The less important, though strictly more relevant to this blog's mission, stuff is as follows:
That's all for now.  Busy day ahead!

Friday, 30 November 2012


UPDATE: three minute delay on the Bakerloo Line home, which didn't matter as I still made my connecting train to Norbiton (picking up the Tiny Terror again).  One minute delay on that for just a miserly £2.50.  Still, better than nothing.

Train in this morning was six minutes delayed, despite the early start, though the connecting tube ran on time.  One out of two is a 50% success record.  Must be some sort of record.

Off to event just over the road now.  Next update likely to be late this evening.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Just an itty bitty one

Well, the Bakerloo Line managed to get me to Waterloo on time this afternoon, even if it was late arriving at Edgware Road.  And just three minutes' delay on the train, tonight to Norbiton as my early start meant I had to do the pick-up of the tiny terror today.  So, another £7.50.  Maybe more tomorrow, but I honestly hope not as I have on an event I'm organising and I could really do without being late - or all the attendees being late.

Some pieces in the news this morning I thought worth sharing

 With only minimal commentary as I'm busy...
  1. Could public transport in the UK ever be free?  It's about to be in Tallinn.  It is in a number of other places in the UK.  TfL thinks the idea's laughable in London.  They make some fair points about the respective levels of passengers, but one gets the feeling they haven't ever actually seriously considered whether it might be possible
  2. TfL continues with its plans for world domination
  3. Good news for Tescos employees: Jim Connor has joined your ranks.  He was formerly in charge of TfL's employee engagement plan around the Olympics, which saw, I believe, four strikes over wanting bonuses in order to engage with the Olympic spirit.  A successful campaign for internal communications to raise the Blitz spirit, then.  More money can only be coming your way soon, my supermarket friends

A cold and frosty morning

There's not a lot to say (points for recognising where the quote comes from without Googling it, though).  TfL broke with its record of timeliness outside of rush hour a little, with a four-minute late arrival of my train in Waterloo, and three further minutes on the Bakerloo Line to Edgware Road.  Six minutes late to my final destination in total: £15.

The cold and frosty morning interests me, though, because after all the recent rains, you'd think conditions would be ripe for the 'slippery rail conditions' delays I've heard a couple of times recently.  Was TfL just better prepared this time, or is it just evidence of the fact they just make up the excuses as they go along because they don't really give a shit?  Maybe it's a game for employees to see who can come up with new excuses?  Categories for outlandish, believable, how long you can get away with saying nothing, etc., etc.?  Try out the random delays excuse generator for yourselves to see how much fun this can be.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

What is it with pretending everything's hunky-dory?

UPDATE: a minute's delay on the Bakerloo Line to Waterloo coming home fortunately didn't cause me to miss my connecting train.  Sadly, that train was eight minutes late by the end of the journey (no explanation), so that's another £20.

Elsewhere in the wacky world of TfL, there's another strike a-brewin': cleaners and security staff this time on the DLR.  Pay and benefits squabble.  I've written about this before, and to be honest cleanliness is one thing I don't really have a problem with on the network, so I quite support this action, even if it does involve the odious Bob Crow...

Smart move to join it up to the security staff action: that's something I think TfL will find a little trouble ignoring, even if it is criminally irresponsible, like a police strike.

Yet again, no excuses or apologies offered: a 12-minute delay on the train into Waterloo this morning which, although the connecting Bakerloo tube was on time, lengthened to a 14-minute total delay because of the altered connection timings caused by that initial delay.  That's £35, but it would be nice to know why my journey is so significantly delayed (bear in mind that portion of the commute is supposedly a 36-minute stretch, so 14 minutes' delay is pretty spectacular).  And would an apology be too much to ask for?  Still, I guess no apology is better than a nakedly disinterested and insincere one...

Elsewhere on the TfL network, if you're a north Londoner, don't rely on taking the buses as there'll be a 24-hour strike over - what else? - pay.  I guess a £500 bonus simply for doing your job for two weeks is not enough to cut it these days, what with Christmas just 'round the corner!  And in case any bus drivers are reading this and thinking of complaining because (a) 'everyone else' got a bonus (I didn't, neither did millions of other Britons who were also potentially facing severe disruption, and those that did get one, should have) and (b) it was soooooooooo busy those two weeks, with X million extra passengers and Y million new trains, blah, blah, blah.  So you had a heavy two weeks at work?  Get over it you pathetic children: it happens.

Meanwhile, if you've bought an eco-friendly car and are enjoying congestion charge-free benefits, get set to lose them.  You've not got long to register your disapproval of this either.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

UPDATE: a total of 19 minutes' delay on the trip home today, making for another £47.50.  This consisted of 11 minutes on the District Line to Wimbledon, which caused me to miss my connecting train to Hampton Court. Seeking to save time (which I did), I took a train to Kingston, earning another seven minutes' delay.  From there, I had to take a bus home, adding another three minutes' delay to the journey (though still saving TfL money over the alternative of simply waiting half an hour at Wimbledon for the next train to Hampton Court: you're welcome).  At no point on this journey was an explanation or an apology offered.  Nice.  Especially after a gruelling night shift with my daughter, the worst in months.

And finally, some welcome news: TfL is looking to raise funds to buy new trains and buses and to drive down fares by hiring its experts out to India as part of a proposed new consultancy arm (no snickering).  Apparently, around 20 Indian cities with populations of more than two million are upgrading or planning to start building their metro systems.  Having travelled a reasonable amount in India and with a half-Indian wife and extended in-law network, I find this to be a win-win proposition for TfL: even they couldn't exactly make things worse.

Six minute delay on the train into Waterloo this morning, followed by a further three on the connecting Bakerloo Line.  Eight minutes late to my final destination in total for another £20.

In other news, that estimable journal Ham & High has an amusing take on TfL's insistence that escalators cannot be repaired in under six months.
"In the time that it will take Transport for London (TfL) to carry out the maintenance work, 381,000 babies will be born in the UK and the moon will travel 10million miles around the earth.
"In China, a construction company once managed to build a 15-storey hotel in six days."

Monday, 26 November 2012

Back in the office

UPDATE: Despite leaving Paddington a minute early (unlucky for some!), my District Line train still managed to get to Wimbledon three minutes later than it should have.  Fortunately, this didn't matter (to me) because I still made my connecting train to Hampton Court as it too was late in arriving (four minutes).  That had lengthened to eight minutes by arrival at my final destination for a grand total of £20.  The reasons for these delays were, respectively, none and inaudible.  That's two squares for Tube Bingo.

Whew!  Bit of a weird week, last week, what with barely being in the office!  Still, so far as I'm currently aware, I'm in every day this week, including - controversially, Friday.  So hopefully a lot more updates for all y'all.

Starting with this morning.  No explanations at all, but five minutes late on the train coming into Waterloo, and another two on the connecting tube to Edgware Road.  That's a total of seven minutes for £17.50.

In other, well, let's call it 'news', shall we?, do you remember the fanfare with which TfL rolled out Oyster?  It was a good system, and a massive improvement on what went before.  Probably necessary, despite the fact it was clearly of limited lifetime use because of some of the other ticketing technologies that were already being brought into play.  Well, TfL's talking about contactless payment ticketing technology now (I don't know for how long, hence the use of the term 'news', but it'll be available next year).  Basically, you can use your contactless credit or debit card as you would an Oyster to swipe in and out of the gates and buses, etc.  Money for the trip hence goes direct from your account, with no need to top up cards, queue for tickets, and all that jazz.

That sounds awesome, but it's another stop-gap measure.  TfL says it has trialled NFC technology (which would allow you to do the same but with your mobile phone) and finds it too slow.  I know quite a lot about this because of my profession and, while that's more or less true for a high-volume, rapid-transaction system like the tube, it's clearly not always going to be so.  And with more and more retailers supporting both payments and intelligent loyalty and vouchering schemes, it seems a foregone conclusion that the traditional wallet (including all its cash and cards and receipts) will migrate to the smart phone over the next few years, which means TfL ticketing is going to have to follow suit.  It's already the case in buses in some locations outside of London.  The difference is, it's harder to see this time why we, the customers should pay increased fares to fund this temporary and marginal improvement over Oyster - and then the one to NFC later, rather than just wait for NFC with trusty Oyster in place.  TfL will tell you it's because they can realise savings in the cost of ticketing infrastructure, but do you think we'll see those savings passed on as cheaper tickets, or even a freeze on price increases?  Don't hold your breath.  Basically, this is just another sign of TfL's short-sightedness.  Any savings they do realise (and I doubt there will be any, at least in the time frame before they rip out this system and replace it with NFC, particularly as they're not even removing Oyster) will line their own pockets.  And, of course, the pockets of the constantly-whinging, overpaid staff.

Finally, on an "also in the news..." style vein, can someone please explain to me the basis for this being a story?  While I don't doubt TfL Lost Property works hard, and while I agree these unclaimed toys are going to good use (though the partnering with the overtly religious - to the extent of not being above the occasional religious bigotry - charity the Salvation Army, rather than a more secular one is questionable in my book), why is it anything to shout about?  What were TfL doing with the toys before?  Destroying them?

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Well now: what's new?

I had a slightly different journey to make today.  Pretty last minute yesterday I was asked to take part in a research workshop with one of the financial companies out Canary Wharf way first thing this morning, so I had to rearrange child care duties with my wife.

TfL managed this in just two days!  If
only I were at the office more this week
it would have been a Tube Bingo for
My train into Waterloo was as normal, both in the route, and in the delays, which amounted to 16 minutes owing to a combination of overrunning engineering works and earlier defective trains.  After that, there was a one minute delay on the Jubilee Line, which was so small TfL didn't feel the need to apologise.  Overall, then, I got to my destination 17 minutes late.

Because of the child care switcherooney, I decided there was no point going to the office after my meeting only to leave it shortly before 16:00, so I headed straight home, where I could at least work till 17:30, and since the office would have been in the opposite direction.  Happily here, both the tube and the train were on time, probably because we were outside of rush hour.

There was an annoyingly loud brat-pack of American children being ineffectually supervised, but I guess I can't blame TfL for that one.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012


Woohoo!  One thousand unique visitors to Signal Failure: 1,000!

Help me celebrate by telling everyone so I can get the other 9,999,000-odd commuters in London.

I'm back!

UPDATE: staggeringly good service from TfL tonight (!): I was the victim of a concerted effort to block the journey home.
  • The Bakerloo Line was suffering delays due to a person taken ill at Maida Vale
  • The Circle Line was suspended Westbound from Paddington owing to an earlier signal Failure
  • The District Line was also suffering minor delays for some unexplained reason (but, I'm guessing to do with the Circle Line's woes given that they seem to share the same track in a lot of the place, though why A Circle can be suspended on a track and a District not on the same track is beyond me - TfL logic, I guess, though if John would care to explain I'd honestly be very interested)
So, District Line's my best bet, right?  Turns out 'minor delays' mean 10 minutes late arriving at Paddington and 14 minutes late by the time we get to Wimbledon for the connecting train (extra delay caused by being held at a red Signal outside Waterloo).  Too late for it.  Had to wait for the next one.  This one more or less ran on time.  "Wait!" I hear you say, "how can something be more or less on time?  It's either on time or it isn't!"  OK, then, it wasn't: it was a minute late.  Total delay of 31 minutes over expected arrival time for a grand total of £77.50.

That's one hell of a journey as far as Tube Bingo is concerned, as you can plainly see!

A total of five minutes' delay this morning, gained entirely on the train journey to Waterloo, and due to "slippery rail conditions" again.  I wonder if this will become the favoured excuse this winter?  It's even quite mild today, and only a little rainy.  Wouldn't have thought that was anything out of the ordinary for an overground train in the UK, but apparently planning for weather wasn't part of the system's construction.  Shame, really.

That's just £12.50 for now, but I expect it'll rise on the journey home tonight!

In other news, look forward to a 24-hour strike this Friday.  I wonder if you'll all be given full refunds for the day's travel (I'll be working from home)?  That would seem fair, so I doubt it.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Probably only news today...

...if there's anything interesting.  Haven't checked yet.  But the reason for that is not adequate performance by TfL today, it's because I'm working from home.  You see, as the final part of the fall out of last week's work 'emergency', I needed to be on a call this morning first thing, which I wouldn't have been able to coordinate with dropping my daughter off at the child minder's and going into work.

Of course, that call was moved last minute to midday, so in the end I could have gone into the office, which would have been useful, but I found out too late.

I've also got the day off on Thursday as we're moving house over the next few weeks, so I'll have to have the occasional day.  And likely working form home as usual on Friday.  Don't foresee an exciting week at Signal Failure therefore.  Sorry!

Unless you're from TfL, in which case: congratulations - you've lucked out this week!

Friday, 16 November 2012

TfL shows me the money, but not the Bingo

UPDATE: in the end I took two more journeys today: one to a meeting with an advertising agency (the ultimate source of all the problems I mentioned yesterday, which by the way I fixed, John), and one from there directly home (since the meeting ended up requiring about two hours more than they had originally budgeted for).

The first journey was from Edgware Road to Chalk Farm, requiring a change from the Circle to the Northern Line at King's Cross.  The original tube was three minutes late arriving at Edgware Road, but we'd made up a minute by the time we got to Chalk Farm.

The second journey was from Chalk Farm to Hampton Court.  The tube to Waterloo was actually two miuntes early arriving, but as this wasn't enough to enable me to catch an earlier train to Hampton Court, it doesn't garner a refund, since I was still delayed by another eight minutes on the train that represented the final leg of the journey.  The two tube journeys came with no excuses (or boasts, in the case of the second, to give TfL its due), while the train journey blamed 'congestion' around Waterloo, so that trains were 'being held' (delayed) in departing in order to regulate all the services so that none suffered especially bad delays.

That excuse puts a new scratch into the week's Tube Bingo card.  However, as those of you who've been paying attention will already know, it's not the right square to allow me to win this week's game.  Still, it has left me geared up for next week's, and I hope you'll join me too.  The final scorecard for this week is directly below:
Busy weekend ahead, so don't expect any updates - though I may find time to bring you far-flung TfL news updates.  We'll see.  Ten minutes and £25 up, thanks to TfL's performance this afternoon.

Six minutes late into Waterloo this morning, and the conencting tube another two minutes late.  No excuses, despite announcements claiming all lines were operating a good service, with no reported blah, blah, blah.

Overall, I got to work seven minutes later than I should have for another £17.50.  But no Tube Bingo, and only one more chance with the journey home this afternoon (since I've no public transport travel planned this weekend).  I'm sooooooooo close...
So near, and yet so far...

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Super exciting update!

There will, after all, be another chance for a Tube Bingo this week - at least two, in fact!  You see, somewhat amusingly after telling my new friend Anonymous John (scroll to the comments) about work ethics and the like, I'm now going to have to go into the office tomorrow to deal with a minor emergency, rather than work from home as I usually do on a Friday.

Basically, someone has made a balls-up and, while it's not my fault (it's a legacy thing from before I started my current role), I do consider it my responsibility to fix it.  So despite the fact that I could simply let it happen and shrug my shoulders, I'm going to take on a lot of extra work and flak to pick up the pieces and make something useful out of it.

Of course, anyone who takes even a modicum of pride in their work, or indeed in themselves, won't see this as particularly heroic.  However, people like John (and the downtrodden tube employees for whom he has appointed himself champion) clearly need this basic sense of responsibility spelling out for them.

Whatever.  The point is that I will have to brave the London and surrounding environs' transport system again tomorrow at least twice.  Which at least has an upside in that I have two more chances of making that bingo, since I did not tonight.  I did experience delays.  Just a couple of minutes (or £5), and therefore of course without excuse, since wasting a couple of minutes of 1.1 billion people's time nearly every single journey is nothing to whinge about, or indeed even remark upon.  Oh, how I love perspective.  Especially mine.

Just one chance left this week...

... for me to win my first game of Tube Bingo.  I had a two-minute delay on the journey into Waterloo, and a further two minutes on the connecting Bakerloo Line to Edgware Road, which made me four minutes late overall, including factoring in having to take a later tube than should have been possible.

That's another £10, but sadly no excuses, so nothing to add to the Tube Bingo card.  If I didn't know better, I'd think someone had tipped TfL off to my card's progress...

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

I know why you're all suddenly converging on Signal Failure

UPDATE: Sadly, still no bingo for me.  Just another two minutes final delay today, accrued on the train from Wimbledon to Hampton Court (there was a minute's delay to the preceding tube journey, but as it didn't cause me to miss my connection it doesn't count).  Still, that's another £5.

You're hoping to see the first Tube Bingo announced this morning, aren't you?  I know we were tantalisingly close yesterday, but I'm afraid the delays this morning did not come with any excuses, so no new strikes as yet.  Still, there's always this evening and both of tomorrow's journeys to go so stay tuned.

Now, as for this morning: three minutes late arriving into Waterloo, forcing me to take a later connecting Bakerloo Line train, itself a further minute delayed.  Six minutes in total to add £15 to the tally, which brings the grand total up to over £2,000 in almost exactly two and a half months.  If TfL actually coughs up at the end of the year, this could prove very lucrative.

Well, exactly as lucrative (theoretically) as if they hadn't wasted so much of my time...

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Poor show, TfL!

 An interesting journey home tonight to say the least.  Somehow, I'm always buoyed up when TfL performs as it says it will or, like this morning, even better.  Probably because it's so rare.  And that's probably why I can't shake optimism that things might be about to get better.  But tat optimism is always ill-founded, and I'm glad I didn't make my briefly-considered pledge to forgive TfL any delays for the next 24 hours.
It's only Tuesday evening: surely this week's card will be a winner!
So, then, as you can see from the updated Tube Bingo card, it's been an eventful evening.  I took the District Line from Edgware Road to Wimbledon, which arrived with a delay of six minutes, owing to two excuses: the first was a slow moving train in front of us, the second its causing overcrowding of the platforms at Wimbledon.
This didn't matter, as I'd factored on getting the 18:52 train from there to Hampton Court, due to arrive at its final destination at 19:14 (which is what Journey Planner still tells me, insultingly enough).

I actually got to Hampton Court at 19:43 for a 29-minute delay and £72.50.  But this journey itself was exciting.  And by 'exciting', I mean infuriating.  After a good 15 minutes or so waiting on the platform at Wimbledon, TfL finally deemed it worth announcing that there weren't going to be any trains to Hampton Court for the foreseeable future, and that I should board the next train to Guildford, changing at Surbiton.  No explanation was offered for this turn of events.

On the train to Guildford, we were told there had been/were signalling problems at Waterloo, leading to fewer trains leaving there at the present time.  This meant that the trains that were running were heavily overcrowded.  And all we selfish sardines were leaning on the doors, causing further delays.  So, a couple more excuses for the card.  All I need now is the relatively common 'signal failure' excuse for which this blog is named, and I can scare my carriage by shouting 'BINGO!' at the top of my voice.  I realise this might compromise my identity if one of you happens to be on that carriage.  Don't be scared, though.

Bravo, TfL!

No, seriously.  Remember that the unions are threatening the traditional Boxing Day strike again this year?  Well, TfL just publicly announced its latest, eminently reasonable, offer.

Oh, this is priceless!  Look at what Steve Grant, district rabble-rouser for Aslef said:
“These talks have been sabotaged by them choosing to put out this particular offer out to all parties in public.”
You can almost hear the whining in his voice.  Now that the offers are public, the public can see just what greedy bastards these people really are.  I quoted The Young Ones not long ago, and I will do so again - this time in the wise words of Rick:

"Aslef is an anagram for total and complete bastard."
(Image credit:
I think that settles it.  Brilliant tactic by TfL.  I'm almost tempted to declare a 24-hour amnesty on delays.  Almost.

UPDATE: incidentally, this post marks my 100th since beginning Signal Failure.  Think I'll go out to dinner at Jamie's Italian tonight with the wife to celebrate.

Tubes and trains run early shock horror

Well, sort of.  Last night I was delayed going home by a total of four minutes (I was not delayed on the preceding tube, got an excuse for the Tube Bingo card: 'I don't know why we're being held up' - despite the fact it made no difference to the journey).
This morning, however, despite a train stopping between stations for no apparent reason, and thus being six minutes late into Wimbledon for the connection, I arrived at my final destination (Paddington this morning) a whole minute early (according to Journey Planner), so I have to take £2.50 off the bill.

Still, I end up with a total of three minutes' delay and £7.50 since the last update.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Beer, bouncy castles and bingo

UPDATE: A very happy birthday to London Overground, which turned five today.  Said London Mayor Boris Johnson (with his usual apparent complete unawareness that he's just said something very, very funny):
"London Overground has become a shining example of how railways should be run..."

Bit of a bumper crop of delays for you this morning, since I'm including a couple of trips over the weekend that I was just too tired to write about.

On Saturday afternoon, I took my daughter into Kingston so she could visit the Jellybugs play cafe (she is obsessed with the bouncy castle there at the moment).  I would have taken the car, but she insisted on the bus.

The bus in was three minutes late, and I'm calling it eight minutes late returning, since the first bus (a 216) that arrived refused to let on any more passengers as it was so full.  This entirely avoidable situation is due to poor planning of Saturday afternoon services by TfL, so they have to pay for it.

That evening, I spontaneously decided to meet my best friend for a drink (at Stein's - where else?).  The bus in was on time (though we did have the bus driver shout at all his passengers generally to stop pushing the button more than once for a stop.  Given that it was pushed twice, in quick succession, and therefore likely either someone thinking they hadn't pushed it firmly enough the first time, or just two coincidentally close pushes by separate people on different decks, the driver's reaction seems a little extreme.  Of course, I don't know how long he'd been putting up with this terrible, terrible situation, but it still seems to me he should either grow up or get another job.  The trip back was delayed by three minutes.

This morning, I got some good delays and some new Tube Bingo scratches to begin the week: the train into Waterloo was nine minutes late, owing to a passenger taken ill, and the connecting tube to Edgware Road was three minutes' delayed due to being held at a red signal.  I arrived at my final destination a total of 11 minutes late.  Added to the weekend's adventures, that makes a total of 25 minutes (or £62.50) since I last updated.  A promising start.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Scrooge sees the error of his ways

Remember the story about TfL sucking the joy out of the universe by cancelling Christmas?  They've caved under pressure.  They claim to have found a 'workable solution' but don't provide details.  Hardly surprising, as they were previously hiding behind health and safety, and explaining why that's not important now must be hard.


Mike TheCoolPerson
This is, to quote Mike from The Young Ones, is the moment of not telling too many lies...

I've got NFC payments enable don my phone.  If you don't know what that is, I would suggest that you may as well just about go and kill yourself right now, but because I'm feeling merciful today, I'll explain: it's contactless payments for small amounts (no more than £20 at present).  You know those contactless debit/credit/pre-paid cards that have been slowly increasing in circulation for a few years?  Where you can just wave the card over the chip & PIN device thingy and it just deducts the money from your account, no change, no fuss?  Well, now you can get it as an app on your phone.  Assuming your phone is one of a limited (but rapidly increasing) number of devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S3 but, notably, not any of the iPhone iterations. 

The phone doesn't even need to be switched on and it still works and you can manage your account from the app and everything.  Pretty cool, right?  And soon there'll be all sorts of loyalty and travel and ticketing and ID services on it too.  Admittedly, I'm biased because I work in this industry, but I cannot wait until the full potential of this is realised.  It's a little slow to take off at the moment, since retailers need to upgrade to contactless point of sales systems en masse before it can be used everywhere, but there are already many more places than you'd expect that you can do this.  And that's bound to accelerate even more rapidly when Apple decides to pretend it invented NFC, I'm guessing (and I stress guessing - no insider knowledge) with the next iPhone iteration.  Or to be fair, when clueless iPhone punter-slave-fans assume Apple invented it and Apple simply fails to correct them.  Par for the course these days.  Did you know, for instance, that Apple invented the rectangle?

What's all this got to do with TfL, I hear you asking.  Well, hang on: I'm getting there.

Nectar of the gods
When I said I cannot wait until the full potential of NFC is realised, I meant it.  I love watching people (including the retail assistants who, presumably trained on the system, should know better) gawp like morons when I wave my phone in the direction of the cash register to pay for things, as happened this morning at the tiny corner shop in Kingston which just so happens to sell root beer, also known as 'what god would drink if he existed'.

Even more fun, I thought, to use my phone to travel the TfL network, instead of the sooooooooo 2011 Oyster card.  Sadly, it's not possible to do that yet.  So I cheated.  I shoved my Oyster card behind the back casing of my phone: invisible, but effective.  I thought.  Capable of fooling the public and gormless TfL staff alike into thinking I, or at least my phone, had superhuman powers.  I thought.  Perhaps likely to lead to there being some sort of cult founded in my name.  I thought.

Yes, all of these turned out to be true.  OK, not the cult bit but do you have to be such a pedant?  Sadly, there's very little space between the battery of an S3 and the back casing.  Over the course of the last five days, the additional pressure bulging caused by the millimetre or so thickness of the Oyster card has kept causing the back case to come off, seriously damaging my street cred.  I kept forcing it back on until, yesterday, it suddenly became much easier.  Because the casing just snapped.  Oops.  Anyone have a spare?

Thursday, 8 November 2012


Just in case you noticed, I have had to revise my tallies this evening.  Somehow, my minute and associated cost had become disconnected.  I blame my accountant, not my inability to perform simple addition and multiplication tasks.

Anyway, new totals are now correct and actually higher than they were before.  A happy coincidence for me, though I accept not for TfL.

Doesn't look promising

UPDATE: just two minutes' total delay (£5) on the journey home - no excuses offered.

So here's my Tube Bingo card for the week so far.  I guess it was only to be expected with two days from home and very-far-out-of-rush-hour travel, but it's not looking promising.  Still, there's always the journey home today to come, and with TfL, you never know!
This morning's train to Waterloo was delayed by a minute (no explanation), while the new cross above comes from the 'defective' train ahead of us on the Bakerloo Line which took me from there to Edgware Road at a further three minutes' delay).  That announcement followed immediately by one stating there were no problems on any line.  Apparently with not even a hint of a blush at that little bare-faced lie.
Total delay of five minutes (£12.50) when you factor in the later connection I was forced to take.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

No news is good news

UPDATE: a couple more news updates for you: want to know the details of the annual fare increases?  No surprises here - well over inflation and therefore what can be justified by any reasonable person.  It includes doubling the cost of the ruinously loss-making Boris Bikes, primarily because they're too good for the environment and people were enjoying them too much.

Meanwhile, here's more news showing that the Olympics saw the best Tube service ever, despite record business, again begging the question: why can't it be like this all the time - or even half as good?

Here's TfL crashing people's house prices, quality of life and the environment, all while claiming that's exactly what they told everyone they'd be doing and everyone agreed.  Because that's the kind of thing people are usually only too happy to agree to.

I'm working from home today, so there'll be no travel updates from my personal life.  Still, I can report on TfL's continuing plans to suck all the joy out of the world, this time by suddenly changing requirements for hanging up Christmas lights in an effort to squeeze more money out of struggling businesses.

Well, the Christmas lights may not be up, but tube drivers are already gearing up for the annual strike to bring Boxing Day misery to London.  Why?  Why else: more money is wanted for working on the day.  Never mind the fact that they all knew when they took the jobs that they would be required to work weekends and bank holidays occasionally.  Contract?  What contract?  Heed my advice: it's not often I support TfL, but you should write to TfL and pledge not to travel on Boxing Day.  Take the teeth out of the strike threat.

The Times is carrying an interesting story about 'Peak Car' theory.  Proponents of the theory essentially argue that car use in cities has passed its peak and that a massive redesign of city centres to focus around pedestrians, cyclists and a cafe culture is necessary over the next 20 years.  I just hope they don't forget to plan on special lanes for the flying pigs that will also be present when it comes to pass that cars will be a thing of the past in London.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

They will all die

I ducked out at lunch time to try and find a copy of Assassin's Creed III to play tonight once my daughter is asleep, since my wife is away on business again.  Assassin's Creed is an amazing series of games, and I'll deck anyone who says otherwise.

But that's besides the point.  Owing to the lack of decent games/DVD stores near Paddington, I had to mosey on down to the Whiteleys Centre in Bayswater for my nearest HMV.  Though it's only about a 20 minute walk from here, I thought to hop on the tube, as the station is basically on the way and that, in theory at least, would leave me a few more minutes' lunch break to carry on reading The Hydrogen Sonata, Iain M. Banks' latest offering (pretty good so far, but then I'm only halfway in so I'm more amused by the Culture ship names than by the plot, which so far is still keeping me guessing why all the main characters are in such a tizzy).

Not to be: three minutes' delay on the tube there, nine minutes delay on the tube back.  Both times, spent simply waiting on the platform for the tube to arrive or leave, while being smugly informed by periodic announcements that - despite all evidence to the contrary - all lines were operating a good service.  That's £30 so far.

The trip home netted me another three minutes' final delay (£7.50), three on the Bakerloo Line to Waterloo (some kind of inaudible excuse offered) and three on the connecting train to Hampton Court (no excuse offered, despite the conductress announcing the scheduled arrival time that we missed several times).

Another early start avoids delays

Another business trip for my wife tonight, which means we have to swap shifts so I do the toddler pick-up instead of the drop-off.  Also that I'll be working from home tomorrow.  The upshot of that is, again, that I have experienced no delays this morning.  Read my soon-to-be-Nobel-prize-winning theory on why this is here.

Last night's journey home came complete with a little delay - a minute on the Bakerloo Line and another three on the connecting train to Hampton Court (three in total to my final destination), adding another £7.50 to the pot.
Other than that, very little news of note (that I could uncover at any rate) on all things TfL since last week, other than this little nugget from the BBC.  London's 'living wage' has increased 25p from £8.33 to £8.55 per hour (let's ignore, for the moment, the BBC's maths, which does not add up at the time of writing, and the fact the living wage is stupid since it's entirely voluntary for businesses).  TfL's cleaning staff, however, are paid national minimum wage, a more paltry £6.19 per hour.  I don't for a moment claim that tube stations are clean enough to eat your dinner on - or at certain stations and times of day, clean enough to want to pass through - but in my experience, the cleanliness of the tubes is usually about the only thing about them that isn't terrible.  Maybe cutting the rest of TfL staff salaries down to minimum wage is the answer to making them work harder/at all.  After all, if they can't be in it for the money, maybe all that's left will be pride in a job well done.  Yeah, right.

Finally, and on a completely unrelated note (an F-sharp), results of the US election start rolling in tonight, something I always like to monitor as closely as the time difference allows.  So, Americans reading this blog, will you opt for another four years of uninspired leadership under Obama, or the even more worrisome gun-loving, serf-crushing, abortion-denying, women-and-minority-hating, planet-destroying, oil-guzzling religious lunatic* that anyone with half a brain knows Romney patently is.  And I only say that because I like him so much.  I don't envy you your choice.

While we're on the subject, can someone please explain to me why it is that every election seems to be described as neck-and-neck, when results often show this is far from the case?  Granted, some have actually turned out close in recent memory, but everyone was calling Obama-McCain close until the final minute and in the end it was fucking landslide for Obama.  Something to do with all-or-nothing electoral college votes, no doubt.  Seems to me it would be far fairer to split them proportionally, but there you go.  No one asked me.  That bit of inspired political advice was a freebie: Signal Failure for Prez 2016!

* I say religious lunatic not because he is a mormon, but because he is religious - and proudly, avowedly so - at all.  Religion being the last socially acceptable form of severe mental disorder I can think of.  If you are offended by this sentiment, I really don't give a flying fuck.  You might be worthy of respect as an individual, your puerile superstitions are not.  And if you associate yourself so strongly with mumbo-jumbo that you have a crisis of identity any time your beliefs are questioned, then you're unworthy of respect too.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Ice, ice, baby

Another new excuse for me: slippery rail conditions, which delayed my train into Waterloo by a minute (it was nine minutes' delayed arriving at Hampton Court in the first place, so I guess all the ice melted along the way, or else stopped the brakes working properly and slid us home in record time...).

This was followed by another minute's delay on the Bakerloo line (no explanation offered) for a total delay of three minutes (because of missing my original connecting tube) and £7.50.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Sometimes the fates conspire against you

Look at all those crosses - and still no bingo!
It's just not fair, it really isn't.  Not only did last night's trip net me an extra £15 (one minute's delay on the Bakerloo Line and then another six on the connecting train to Hampton Court, but only the latter counts money-wise as I still made my connection), it gave me two new excuses: a faulty train in front of us and something muttered about 'security'.  And yet they're all in the wrong places.  There are enough excuses this week to win at Tube Bingo twice over.  Grrr!  I'll get one yet, though.

I'm working from home today, so no more personal travel adventure stories to follow till (likely) Monday.  I'll share any interesting generic news as and when I find it, though.


Thursday, 1 November 2012

Back to the regular delays schedule

Thankfully - and I never thought I'd be thankful for TfL delays - just a six-minute delay coming into Waterloo this morning (though I did have a small heart attack on seeing the Overground was part suspended on the TfL homepage just before setting out; the usspension didn't apply to my route).  Had to take a different connecting tube than planned, itself a minute late.

Ended up at my final destination seven minutes late for another £17.50, which seems quite paltry compared to yesterday's gains.

In other news, the Evening Standard tells me that if you were unlucky enough to need the Jubilee Line this morning during rush hour, a cracked rail combined with a strike by maintenance engineers meant delays for you when bosses insisted trains could only travel at 5mph.  Bob Crow and his cronies up to money-grubbing tricks again, I've no doubt, but what was really interesting is that London Underground is insisting there were, in fact, no delays and that all services were running normally.  Was that your experience?  I'd be interested to hear from someone at LU quite how slowing trains down to 5mph has no effect on the service.

The Standard is also carrying a story about a junction in Islington that saw its traffic light phasing changed during the Olympics and Paralympics and resulting in 4,286 penalty notices being dished out by TfL for the period 27 July - 7 September, for which daylight robbery the organisation netted £557,180.  The same period a year previously saw not a single penalty notice issued.  Hmm.

And finally, remember yesterday I wondered if we'd ever know how much TfL pays people to strike?  Well, now we do - again thanks to the Standard, which is having a banner day today!  The answer is just shy of £1,000,000 last year.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

This update deserves a separate post

My wife, who works the early shift so she can pick our daughter up from day care (while I work the late shift so I can drop her off), texted me today about an hour and a half before I left work to warn me that there were severe delays on the trains heading out to Hampton Court, Richmond, Kingston and the surrounding areas in Surrey thanks to yet another person throwing themselves in front of a train, this time at (or near) Wimbledon.

Duly armed, I checked the TfL live travel news moments before leaving work, and was pleased to find that there were no reported delays to my journey.  Not even when being specific and using Journey Planner.  So, I set out to use the District Line to Wimbledon and the connecting train to Hampton Court, since the timings worked best that way.

Best laid plans and all that...

The District Line was delayed five minutes after being held at a red signal.  Fortunately, I'd factored in plenty of time to make my connection.  Unfortunately, it became apparent after much, much waiting, that there were not going to be any trains to Hampton Court in the foreseeable future.  There were no announcements or notices to this effect, it's just that none appeared on any of the boards.  Station staff were nowhere to be found either, when usually there are plenty of them loitering about the platforms at Wimbledon.

So, I got on the next train I could to Kingston instead.  From there, I took the bus. Which was a further three minutes late.  In all, I arrived at my destination 37 minutes late for another £92.50.  That's a total of £200 from TfL today.  Generous!

Oh, and here's the updated Tube Bingo card.

How much do TfL's trade unions cost us?

It may well be impossible to say.  Certainly, I haven't turfed up any reliable figures.  However, has an interesting article on the cost of trade unions in the UK to the tax payer: £113 million.  £92 million of this is in 'facility time' (basically time in which we are paying the staff their salaries to do union work - organising strikes, as best I can tell).

The article references the Metropolitan Police and TfL in particular, saying:
"The Metropolitan Police has the equivalent of 16 members of staff working full-time on trade union activities, with Transport for London having the equivalent of 34 staff."
I did a quick search for the sizes of those organisations and, while the figures may be a little out of date, I suspect they're not horrendously wrong.  Here's what I find illuminating:
  1. TfL had 17,735 staff members as of 2004 (source)
  2. The Metropolitan Police had 55,377 staff members as of January 2012 (source)
  3. TfL is less than a third the size of The Met.
  4. TfL has more than double the number of work-shirking, strike-planning leeches on the public purse.  And that's excluding the cost of actual trade union action to businesses and consumers, not to mention the wasted time in delays this blog was set up to document.
TfL: in a world all of its own when it comes to public service.  My cup positively runneth over.

Another record-breaking score from TfL

TfL's really going for gold.  A bit late for the Olympics, but perhaps in keeping with the secret ideals of what I will laughingly refer to as their 'service'.

This morning, my train in was delayed by 10 minutes owing to congestion/overcrowding ahead of us.  I found out just before Vauxhall (when it was too late to do anything about it, like change at Wimbledon for the District Line) that the Bakerloo Line was suspended between Elephant & Castle and Piccadilly Circus (so including the bits of it I need) due to a person under a train.  Take a look at the Tube Bingo card now.

All this meant I had to take the next best route I could find (since I also discovered there were delays on the Victoria and Central Lines, for reasons that were completely inaudible): Northern Line to Euston, change there for King's Cross, and change again there for the Circle Line to Edgware Road.

I got to my final destination 39 minutes later than I should have, missing almost the entirety of a meeting with my boss.  This while I'm in my probationary period still.  Thanks TfL.  Thanks for nothing.  That'll be £97.50.  And I'll be blaming you if I don't pass my probation or receive a bonus and tardiness is in any way mentioned.  Oh, and charging you for it too.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Nope, right back on form again

I have a messy head cold at the moment, so after being in the office for about three hours, I decided to head for home during lunch and work from here to spare everyone else my germs.  Timing seemed to work best for the District Line route, so I aimed for the 12:45 from Edgware Road to Wimbledon, which would give me plenty of time to change to the connecting train to Hampton Court.  I forgot that 'plenty of time' is a relative measure.

The tube arrived at Edgware Road nine minutes late, and this had lengthened to 11 minutes by the time we got to Wimbledon, causing me to miss my connection and wait half an hour for the next one.  That train arrived four minutes late, and was six minutes late by the time it got to its final stop.

That gives us a grand total of... wait for it... 36 minutes' delay over Journey Planner's advertised times.  No explanations were offered at any point.  So that's another £90.  Is that the record?  I can't remember.  And, for those curious, my Tube Bingo card stands thusly for this week, just two days in:

TfL apologises for yesterday by doing its job properly this morning

Just a one minute delay yesterday on the Bakerloo Line going home for £2.50.  The connecting train from Waterloo, and indeed the whole journey in this morning, ran smoothly to the published schedule.  Presumably this is in apology for yesterday's troubles, and one I'm willing to accept (though not refund).  Long may it continue - though I doubt it.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Public transport back on form!

Well, after a quiet week last week, owing to illness and working from home more than usual because of my wife's business travels and our infant daughter's needs, TfL and South West Trains are back in the saddle.

This morning's train into Waterloo was delayed by 28 minutes, owing to overrunning engineering works.  Then by a passenger taken ill on the train in front of us at Clapham Junction.  Then by another passenger taken ill on my carriage as we waited to pull into Clapham Junction.  Flu season, eh?

After that, the Bakerloo Line was delayed by two minutes (no explanation offered), so that I arrived at Edgware Road (my final destination) 31 minutes late (remember the connecting tube wasn't the 08:34 I should have been able to take).

After that, not that it's relevant to my travel, I'd just set up at my desk when we were evacuated for a fire (a real one, not a drill), and I got to go back out into the cold.  I'd also forgotten to take my security pass with me, so I had to argue my way back into the building.

So a flying start to the week, which at least gives me £77.50 in honorary money (yes, I realise the irony in describing anything about TfL as 'honorary') with which to console myself.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Cheese and wine evening

Decided to have a little cheese and wine evening with my best friend, who lives a couple of kilometres down the road.  (I know, you didn' think I was such a civilised sophisticate.)

Took the bus in and back.  The weather, if you've not been abroad today (as I hadn't since dropping the little one off at the child minder's), is somewhat on the nippy side.  For that reason, it was more than usually annoying to be left waiting for a bus to arrive for what felt like hours, but turned out to be only three minutes - a delay it kept on the short way into town.  Coming back, I waited two minutes longer than should have been necessary for my bus, but it arrived home only a minute late.

Still, it's another four minutes and £10 to the tally.

A couple more news updates

Hey, remember that awesome Skycycle idea?  It's not going to happen.

And here's a rather more direct example of TfL's attempts to remove passengers from its network by any means necessary - whether temporarily, or permanently.  Little as I've come to expect from TfL employees, that one surprised even me.  Still, I suppose it's only fair: if bus drivers are expected to have and use specialist skills (in this case making change), they should receive spot bonuses for it.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

News round-up

So there have been some interesting stories around TfL this week.  We'll start with this story on the upcoming recreation of the first London Underground train journey.  Despite not being an accurate recreation of the route (it includes the original stations, but is a longer journey overall), it's quite a sweet little story.  I do wonder what effect it will have on journeys for normal purposes on the day in question, but I'm sure that's been considered and discarded as unimportant.

Next up, The Guardian reports on the closure of the Hainault loop of the Central LineTwelve days without, commuters there will have to go for.  But TfL assures us that this action will save it £2m (in comparison to a string of weekend closures), which it will undoubtedly spend on giving its tube drivers more money.  It further assures us that this is the least disruptive way these essential maintenance works can be carried out.  As opposed to, say, the usual practise of overnight repairs.  Who knows?  There might even be a reason that overnight repairs won't work, but TfL isn't telling.

Next, we can all look forward to a game TfL has spent money on that's targeted at teenagers to help reduce the number of road casualties caused by them pissing around with phones and other mobile devices and not paying attention to the road.  A worthy goal.  The game will see players 'avoid traffic as they navigate themselves and lead a group of friends on a walk across a city'.  In a world of Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and the like, I'm sure it will be terribly popular, but I hope no-one takes my sarcasm amiss, since this might actually be a good thing.  After all, how embarrassing would it be if even one of next year's teen road casualties was found to have been playing TfL's game at the time of the accident?

And finally, the Evening Standard tells us that tax payers bailed out LOCOG to the tune of £41m.  Why is this relevant?  Apparently, some of the total £1bn cash paid by us has been passed on to 'other public bodies such as Transport for London'.  So that's the tube and bus driver Olympic Blackmail Bonus again.

That's all for now as I'm working from home today.  Merry Thursday all!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Why are commutes always more delayed in rush hour? -- REVEALED

So I need to work an early shift today as my wife's away overnight on business and that means I have to pick our tot up from daycare rather than drop her off.  It also means I'll need to work from home tomorrow in order to manage both drop-off and pick-up, since the missus won't be home in time to do either.  Given that I generally work from home on Fridays, don't expect much from Signal Failure for the rest of this week, unless I come across some really interesting news.  Oh, and I caught norovirus from our daughter, so was off work sick yesterday, hence the lack of updates.

Anyway, what I wanted to say was that I experience no delay whatsoever in this morning's journey into work.  In fact, I got to my final destination a whole one minute earlier than I had catered for (-£2.50 from TfL's invoice in the interests of fairness)!

This confirms something I've often noticed - namely that commuting seems to be less plagued by delays outside of the typical rush hours.  Like most people, I've generally assumed that this is because with more people needing trying to get on and off trains during rush hour, the trains spend longer in the stations than they otherwise would, and we accrue delay over long journeys accordingly.  Well, that and the occasional passenger action, which is more likely when there are more people around.

This morning, however, I've had an epiphany: you see, that can't be the problem because it would be so easy for TfL to rectify, for instance by amending journey times during peak hours so that, say, a 36-minute journey off-peak takes 40 minutes at rush hour.  This would mean TfL could claim a higher percentage of its services run on time, lead to fewer forward-planning passengers having cause to complain, etc., etc.  And, of course, it's inconceivable to even think that everyone at TfL is too thick to realise this and amend things accordingly.  All of which means the additional delays in rush hour must be caused by something more integral to the transport vehicles themselves.  Something, perhaps, a little insidious...

Here's the theory: trains can't function property when they approach (or exceed) capacity.  Naturally, every theory needs to be backed up properly, and luckily I have done that work for you too.  Here comes the science part, as those smarmy L'Oreal adverts would tell you: when you get trains that are too full, they quickly heat up.  This heat causes expansion of all the trains various parts (this is basic science, and if you don't understand it, go read a primer - I'm not your science teacher!), including - crucially - the wheels and locomotive mechanisms (so I'm not too technical on the names, big deal!).  But, because of the different parts' varying distances from the heat-radiating passengers, plus the exposure of some, but not all, of those parts to the cooler external atmosphere, they expand at different rates and to different degrees.  The parts no longer fit together as well as they should.  This causes friction, which reduces smooth locomotion and leads to inefficient travel and delay.  Furthermore, when the trains are hot, passengers often selfishly open the windows, letting in air that slams against the walls of the backs of all the carriages, increasing drag coefficient and thus exacerbating the delay problem by slowing the trains accordingly.

Here's the solution: more carriages on trains.  Of course, this means longer platforms at every station too, which is a major undertaking, but at least a one-time expense that would ensure trains are never running at anything close to capacity and therefore fully fix the system, with potential operating cost savings paying for themselves in just a few short years.  Oh, and adding air conditioning while sealing shut the windows couldn't hurt either.

The only problem to beware of is that, if the trains become too efficient, we may suffer from a macrocosmic version of the relativity effect, which I am the first to discover.  In its most basic form, the theory of relativity states that, the closer a moving object approaches to the speed of light, the slower time becomes for it.  If trains were to travel close to the speed of light, as they doubtless would with my improvements, those on the train would experience time more slowly than the rest of the world.  This means that as a commuter, your journey would subjectively last just fractions of fractions of fractions of a picosecond.  In the world outside the train, however, many years or even centuries might have passed (I haven't finished tinkering with the maths yet).  This would clearly make the problem of delays far worse than it already is, so perhaps we should choose just one of the above suggestions: either air conditioning or longer trains and platforms.  Air conditioning sounds cheaper, so I bet they go for that, TfL the stingy bastards.

So, yeah, Signal Failure's had a brief hiatus recently, and will likely do so again for a few days, but what have you done for science and public transport lately?  Man, I hope it's not too late to enter for this year's Nobel Prizes; I expect to at least be on the shortlist for this one.  Oh, and for Literature too.  And why not Peace, while we're at it, since fewer delays will mean fewer "random" acts of violence from frustrated travellers.  No need to thank me, just put my name down for the Nobel nominations.

On the other hand, maybe TfL has already worked all this out and done the maths, and have concluded any improvements along the lines of the suggestions I have made will lead to delays stretching into the millennia, and so have discarded the notion.  Yes, that must be it.  And that's why trains are always more delayed during rush hour than at any other time.  We got there in the end.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Did you miss me?

Sorry, I was working from home on Friday (I almost always do at the moment), and and offer you no updates from the weekend as there was no relevant travel.

This morning, though, I experienced a five-minute delay on the train to Waterloo (no explanation offered), which caused me to get a later connecting tube, which was on time.  It still meant I was six minutes later overall than I should have been, so that's £15 added to the total.

UPDATE: Trip home involved a delay of five minutes on the train from Waterloo to Hampton Court, equating to another £12.50.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

A metre of German sausage

UPDATE: Just to round up the end of the day: three-minute delay on the train from Waterloo to Hampton Court for £7.50.

Last night's Oktoberfest at Stein's in Kingston was awesome!  The five of us, in addition to drinking lots of beer from two-pint steins, accepted the metre of sausage challenge:

(almost) Before


The slightly demonic look on that chap's face is known as 'meat rage', and is a good thing.

OK, no-one challenged us to eat this in any way, other than ourselves, and OK, I never want to eat another sausage ever again EVER, but overall this can only be described as a life-altering event.  This platter is designed for eight people and was eaten by five (excluding the filler foods of potato and salad - schoolboy error to fall for that!).  We are members of an elite group.  You, dear reader, are not, though you can always attempt to join.  I daren't even tell you the professions of the people around this table: it would shake your faith in the way the business of the country is run.  Quite frankly, I'm embarrassed by the behaviour of such captains of industry, and I count them as friends.  What you would think doesn't bear thinking about, if you'll pardon the wording.

Now, on to the travel updates.  To get to this salubrious event yesterday, I of course travelled to a different station than usual: Kingston.  That train got delayed by eight minutes, owing to signal failure (another scratch for Tube Bingo).

The night bus I took home from here was 12 minutes late, according to the notes I've found on my mobile phone, even if the typing is somewhat suspect.

This morning, we did fairly well: just two minutes' delay on the train into Waterloo, and the connecting tube was on time, though of course it was a later tube than I would have been able to catch had the initial train been on time, making me in total five minutes later than I should have been.

So, since yesterday morning, that's 25 minutes and £62.50 added to the tally.