Thursday, 31 January 2013

London Funderground, to steal The Independent's headline

Somehow I didn't get around to updating you on my trip home yesterday.  Despite leaving a minute late, the tube arrived at Waterloo on time, so I made the 19:02, which only accrued a two-minute delay.

This morning, after dropping my daughter off at day care (she slept through the night, but surprised us this morning at just after six by getting out of bed, letting herself out of the room and wandering around the corridor - have to get those stair gates up again, or risk bleary eyes causing a nasty fall), the train from Hampton Court was four minutes late by the time it arrived at Waterloo, and the tube added a further minute - though overall I arrived six minutes later than I should have if I'd been able to take the intended tube.

So, all in all eight minutes' worth of delays, amounting to £20.

In less personal news, from 2015 tubes will keep running till later on Friday and Saturday nights (reported elsewhere first, but it's the first link I cam across).  Trade unions are already whingeing.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

And the delays update...

Ten minutes late from Hampton Court to Waterloo after dropping off my daughter at day care.  Tube was on time, though.  Well, arrived at Edgware Road on time, left Waterloo a minute late.  Still, taking that tube rather than the one I would have been able to get had the train been on time made me 11 minutes late overall.  £27.50

Record levels of satisfaction with London Overground

Are we all riding the same trains?  A new survey by independent passenger watchdog Passenger Focus indicates that 94% of passengers are satisfied with the service provided by London Overground - the highest in the country!

I too the liberty of examining the original survey.  The headline finding is that
"Nationally the percentage of passengers satisfied with their
journey overall was 85%. This is significantly improved
compared to Autumn 2011 (when 84% of passengers
were satisfied). 83% of passengers were satisfied overall
with their journey in Spring 2012."
Leaving aside the fact that a one percent increase is hardly a 'significant' improvement, the survey methodology makes no mention of error margins, which is highly suspect.  Error margins in surveys are often in the range of 2-5%, which could completely (and 'significantly') reverse this claim.  Hmm.  I wonder what else is wrong with this survey...

Oh, here's one (on the same page, no less):
"For regional operators 86% of passengers were very or fairly
satisfied with their journey overall, not significantly different
to Autumn 2011, when 87% were satisfied."
So a one percent increase is significant, but a one percent decrease is insignificant.  Yeah, that makes sense.  I'll stop short of calling the watchdog far from as independent as claimed, but those are some pretty major flaws in interpretation.

Diving further into the report, one can find numerous instances of a 2% change (up or down) being described as insignificant, but a 1% change as significant.  And still, though sample sizes are provided, no margin of error.  And a quick glance shows me at least one instance of a single percentage point rise in a small sample being treated as more significant than a larger percentage point rise in a big sample.

You can download the report yourself (free) from here to check out your individual train operators, but frankly I've seen enough to ignore all the findings as fundamentally flawed.

In other news, if you're the conspiracy theory type, you can find 'evidence' here that TfL is experimenting with nerve gas to kill its customers directly (rather than as is the current favoured method: indirectly by frustration).

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

By way of apology for yesterday's absence...

Here's a news round-up for you:
  • TfL is moving forward with its plan to move the congestion charge goal posts and screw over people who bought hybrid or diesel cars to avoid the charge
  • If you make use of the 24 bus between Pimlico and Hampstead Heath, you'll be looking forward to the new Boris Bus come summer - I'm afraid TfL can't be more precise than that.  Also, no word on how long before they double the fares on it, like they did for the Boris Bikes
  • An update on Wi-Fi on the Underground (headline: it's no longer going to be free - big shock)

The journey so nice, I paid for it twice

UPDATE: Tube to Waterloo running two minutes late, but didn't affect my connecting train to Norbiton, so no charge.  However, that train was two minutes late arriving at Norbiton, so that'll be another fiver.

Sorry about the lack of update yesterday: I had a traffic nightmare, compounded by managing to leave my laptop bag at the child minder's and having to return for it.  Long story short, the way the trains would have then worked out for me meant it was likely I wouldn't have got to work before 11:00, so I elected to work from home instead, having mostly a series of conference calls to attend anyway...

The train from Hersham to Waterloo was seven minutes' delayed this morning, causing me to be late for a breakfast meeting at Soho House.  Thanks for that.  Incidentally, the connecting Northern Line train I had to take to Leicester Square was also a minute delayed.  Finally, the Bakerloo Line from Oxford Circus to Paddington after the meeting added another two-minute delay for a grand total of 10 minutes and £25.  Plus £6.80 for my second ticket: £31.80.

On top of this, the ticket machine at Hersham took my payment for a single to Waterloo and then proceeded to print on air - I received no ticket or receipt.  So when I got to Waterloo, I had to pay a second time for my delayed journey.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Something about air quality claims stinks to high heaven

UPDATE: Well, I said I'd be taking a slightly unusual journey home, so I guess I'd better share (though I'm afraid it's anti-climactic): Gunnersbury to Norbiton to pick up the daughter, then drive home from there.  The reason for this is that I had a meeting near Gunnersbury to round out the day.  My tube was delayed by four minutes.  £10.

Two minutes late arriving into Waterloo from Hersham this morning, and though the tube ran on time, the fact that it was a later one than I should have been able to take made me three minutes late overall.  Not bad, but that's still another £7.50 you owe me, TfL.

Meanwhile, TfL is claiming success in improving air quality in the capital, despite stories earlier this year reporting some areas that had exceeded annual smog limits just 10 days into the 2013.  Something doesn't tally there, and I suspect I don't need to spell it out for anyone.

Have a nice day, everyone.  I'll have a slightly unusual journey home this afternoon, and will try update again once (if!) I've got my daughter safely tucked up tonight.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

A more mundane update

UPDATE: Tube from Edgware Road to Waterloo this afternoon was four minutes late, causing me to miss the connecting train to Surbiton at 16:25.  Had to take the 16:33 instead, itself a further six minutes delayed, so arrived at my final destination 24 minutes later than I should have.  That's another £60 to round off the day.  Incidentally, the latter delay was due to 'emergency engineering works' between Surbiton and Berrylands.  The former, I assume (since no information was offered), was due to rank incompetence.

I fear I'm never going to be able to top the 'swans on the line' story, but feel honour-bound to continue griping about the boring delays too.

No reason given for this morning's three-minute delay arriving in Waterloo.  The tube was on time, but I still arrived three minutes late, since it wasn't the tube I should have been able to get.  £7.50, please.

The BBC's got a story on how well transport operators coped with the snow in this corner of Blighty.  I tend to agree that it was a lot better than I'd feared it would be, but still an unacceptably poor show all-round.  Other countries don't have these problems, or at least not nearly to the same extent.

I also see from a separate source that TfL had 89,000 metric tonnes of salt stockpiled for this snow outbreak.  That's a typical PR tactic (and I know whereof I speak): to give the public big figures that sound impressive but not to give us any context.  How much salt would actually have been needed and how does that compare to what TfL had ready?  That is the information that we need in order to judge them.

Is this the weirdest excuse ever?

UPDATE: thanks to my Phather the (retired) Inglish teecher for spotting a typo, now corrected.  Shame on the rest of you for not spotting it (or, worse, for spotting it and not letting me know).  And, no, I will not tell you what it was.

I think I've asked before if anyone cares to share their weirdest or most amusing delay excuses, but I'm going to have to open the floor again as I've just been apprised of a doozy: my friend Tim, who I strongly suspect is more often than not my masked commenter "anonymous" (though not the dastardly "Anonymous John") reports that his girlfriend Kate's (who I guess I should really start calling my friend now too: sorry Kate!) train was delayed because of - wait for it:
"two swans on the line"
I can't decide what's the most disturbing about this excuse: is it the reason itself, or the scary specificity about the number of swans.  Would a single swan have been OK because the train could have sort of sidled past?  Would three or more swans be OK because the Kate Middleton had pregnancy cravings and this would save money on sourcing fresh bird for her to spend on doing up the nursery?  (Hey, even our royal family's feeling the pinch - oh, no, wait: that's just those of us not destined to live in obscene luxury our entire lives due to an accident of birth.  Not that I'm bitter.  Or an anti-royalist.)  Seems almost too weird to believe, but I found out there's actually precedent.
Swans: the scourge of the railway lines.  (Image credit: Metro)
Although that's only one swan.  Perhaps they normally work in pairs but the other one was on strike that day?

Tim's text ended with the challenging note: 'beat that!'  Which got me thinking about the craziest excuses I've ever heard on public transport (though I've also always been partial to BA's perennial '[this delay] is due to the late arrival of the incoming aircraft' - so we're delayed... because we're delayed?  Yeah, that makes sense.).

Unfortunately, I don't think I can beat 'two swans on the line'.  I've had a car on the track ahead (presumably some dickhead trying to dodge the level crossing.  I've had a fatality on the train in front (which turned out, from watching the news later that night, to not be a fatality: turned out some 12-year-old hooligan had been thrown off the train at a station for not having a ticket, then tried to jump back on the moving train, fell on the line and had his arm severed.  The local hospital was apparently able to re-attach it, though given that it gave me a three-hour delay (the route was Hastings to Chichester, if you really want to know), I wish they hadn't bothered so he could have had a constant reminder not to be an inconsiderate, fare-dodging prick.)

Swans, though.  That's a good one.

What about you?  Heard any good mitigating circumstances recently?

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Plague victim

UPDATE: Hats off to TfL this afternoon/evening.  My tube arrived at Waterloo a whole minute early, so there was no problem catching my connecting train to Surbiton (we're experimenting with traffic and where to park the car for the toddler drop-off/pick-up routine, and if you're still reading after learning that, I admire your ability to absorb thoroughly dull information without losing the will to live, let alone read on), which was bang on time.  No score draw this evening.

My daughter caught the Plague at nursery last week, and gave it to me this weekend, so that I had to take yesterday off with my lurgy (hence no update, for which apologies).  I love the way she always times these things so she recovers just in time for the weekend, the exact time I begin to suffer, and the exact time she insists I spend every waking hour (and she knows it's a weekend, so gets up even earlier) playing with her.  I was not good company.

On to this morning: my train from Hersham arrived seven minutes late while I and my fellow commuters waited in sub-freezing conditions, but this delay occurred before entering TfL's jurisdiction, so it doesn't count.  And we even made up a minute by the time we'd reached Waterloo.  Add, however, a two-minute delay on the connecting tube to Edgware Road and we get a grand total of two minutes and £5.

Finally, if you have the stomach for it, there's a long article in the BBC about the effect on fare prices of rail privatisation in this country.  In a fit of impartiality, author Tom de Castella has gone out of his way to make the conclusion confusing (are they up or down?), but if you have the inclination and will to live after the first few paragraphs, I daresay you could puzzle it out.  Any of my readers perchance remember the good old (or were they bad old) days and feel like commenting?

PLUS: TfL tries for a piece of the X-Factor action, instead of spending time and money on doing their jobs.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Sure am glad I'm working from home today!

Started snowing here at around 07:45 and as of this writing (09:11), it's still falling thick and fast with getting on for two inches on the ground.  Not quite sure how I'm going to manage getting back to Kingston to pick up the Tiny Terror at the end of the day if this keeps up...  Guess I'll cross that bridge (or be snowed off it) when I come to it.

Luckily, there was no snow last night on the way home, so I ended up with just a two-minute delay for £5.  (The Bakerloo Line was relatively severely delayed too owing to 'operational issues' - well duh! - though of course TfL said it was only suffering minor delays.  The delays would have caused me to miss my train if I'd believed the 'minor' part and not planned in a great big wodge of extra journey time, so basically I'm great and TfL should be very grateful that I've saved them money after all the cash they've had to hand out recently.

Don't think I'll bother trying to use public transport again this weekend, at least not while the snow storm rages, but you can check back for news updates if you're so inclined.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Fiery shitstorm

The tube from Edgware Road to Waterloo was delayed by a minute going home yesterday afternoon, which didn't matter as it did not cause me to miss my connecting train to Hampton Court (pick-up shift for my daughter).  The train was a couple of minutes late, however, so that's a fiver.

This morning, I had drop-off duty, and the train in from Hampton Court was seven minutes delayed.  This caused me to miss my conencting tube, and the one I did take was two minutes late arriving at my final destination - overall a 10-minute delay on the published arrival time.

So that's £30 altogether since yesterday morning.

In other news, Victoria station was evacuated this morning owing to a fire on a Gatwick Express train.  A horrifically busy interchange at the best of times, that must have been fun if you had to travel through it this morning.

Far be it from this blog to resort to toilet humour, but on a lighter note, Morden station is kicking up a shit-storm about the lack of toilet facilities - more than a decade after they were decommissioned.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Did anyone see the helicopter crash?

For those who don't know, a helicopter crashed into a crane near Vauxhall station during rush hour this morning.  I was already at work (doing the early shift on daughter duty today) and have been reading about it on various news sites throughout the day.

Did anyone see that?  Were you there?

Eat your own dog food!

Never mind the MP expense scandal(s), what about TfL?  MayorWatch reports the evil company's seven most senior executives claimed expenses (paid for by the public, ultimately) totalling £22,000 between 2010 and September 2012.  That acutally doesn't seem like a huge amount for roughly two years: it's just £1,500-odd a year per executive after all.

Except that it isn't:
"Of the overall sum, £16,125 was claimed by Transport Commissioner Sir Peter Hendy"
In 2012, he claimed hundreds of pounds on meals and £99.60 for a subscription to Ville Rail & Transports magazine.  Fair enough; I also get peckish from time to time.  But he also claimed more than £2,500 on taxis and travelling costs, which begs the question: what's wrong with taking the public transport he works so tirelessly to provide?  Why won't he eat his own dog food?

TfL explains:
"Sir Peter Hendy travels to and from work by public transport and he also regularly uses public transport when travelling in the capital on business... there are occasions when his full schedule and late hours necessitate the use of taxis (which, of course, TfL licenses).”
Really?  Tube and overground tend to run till around half midnight.  Has he really been working past this time so often as to necessitate such large taxi bills?  It's possible, I suppose, but I doubt it.

Hit me baby one more time

Last night, I had a five-minute delay on Bakerloo Line from Edgware Road to Waterloo caused me to miss the connecting train.  The next one left 18 minutes later and was four minutes late by the time it passed through Surbiton (the last stop within Zones 1-6 and therefore within TfL's network, though not my final destination).  Overall, I arrived 30 minutes later than I should have, which caused me to miss the NCT class I had with my wife.  If there are any complications with the birth of my son in April that I don't know how to handle, that might well be TfL's fault now.

This morning, there was a nine minute delay from Hersham (Surbiton) to Waterloo, then the tube delivered me one minute earlier than expected, making for an eight minute delay overall.

Since yesterday morning, therefore, TfL has wasted 38 minutes of my time, which equates to £95.  No explanations were offered for any of these delays at any point.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Remember to touch in and touch out...

You've probably heard that announcement so often it doesn't even register anymore.  But the Islington Gazette, that bastion of the free press, recently published a short article that shows why it pays to do so.
"Passengers were charged about £4million in maximum fares for incomplete journeys – when people fail to touch their cards in and out – at 20 Tube and train stations in the borough or on its boundaries, according to a freedom of information request submitted by councillors."
Ouch!  It's worse at King's Cross, where Oyster users have been charged £1.3m for the same offence.  TfL of course points out that figure includes the full amount of the ticket price, not just the penalty portion, which makes a difference (though it seems they're keeping schtum on how much of a difference).

I tend to agree with Cllr Greg Foxsmith in that there's got to be something pretty basic wrong with the system to see such levels of overcharging.  I certainly don't find it helpful to have some stations operating closed barriers, which are also left open at random times, and some stations having an understated reader and no gating.  I've never tried to fare-dodge, but have certainly fallen victim to occasionally forgetting to touch in and out, mostly because I sometimes have pay as you go and sometimes a season ticket, and sometimes want to travel outside my season ticket's limits but forget that quaint touchy-feely business when I do.  Well, not so much now, but in my 11+ year history as a TfL abuse victim.

I somehow doubt all this money has been collected from legitimate fare-evaders (some, for sure) rather than busy and forgetful loyal customers.  What do you think?  Ever fallen foul of the system in this way?  Did you appeal?  Did you get a sympathetic ear?

Blast from the past

Well lookee here: seems you've all discovered Signal Failure again after your holidays, at least if my traffic is anything to go by!

Had drop-off duty for the Tiny Terror this morning, so took my old route into work (Hampton Court to Waterloo, Waterloo to Edgware Road).  First leg was two minutes late, which is not all that bad considering some of my recent run of luck.  Had a 16-minute delay on the tube leg of the journey, however.  First, we stopped in a station and were told we were being delayed because 'the controller had asked us to stay here', which is an interesting interpretation of what constitutes an explanation.  Better, of course, than subsequently stopping in tunnels three times with no explanation, which is what followed.  And, finally, being told that the rest of the journey would be delayed so we could all get off and choose other routes if we wanted to go to Wembley.  Which was both bizarre and uninformative.  So a pretty interesting morning, all in all!

Here are those totals for you: 18 minutes and £45.

How was your commute?

Monday, 14 January 2013

And now for the finale

No delays on the tube from Edgware Road to Waterloo.  The train from Waterloo to Hersham was six minutes' delayed, netting Signal Failure another 15 quid.  Bit of a let-down that finale, wasn't it?

South West Trains opens prison?

Just checking for updates on the train and tube services, since I imagine I'll be in for another roller coaster ride home this evening owing to the surprising confirmation today of the existence of weather, and I came across this gem on South West Trains web site:
"14:24 Portsmouth & Southsea to London Waterloo due 16:13
This train will no longer call at Clapham Junction.  This is due to disruptive passengers."
Does not stopping at a scheduled station somehow prevent passengers from being disruptive (rather than, say, inconveniencing all the non-disruptive passengers on the train who (a) wanted to get off at Clapham Junction or (b) would have preferred disruptive passengers to be removed rather than be forced to endure their company for another stretch)?

And speaking of stretches, did I miss the announcement that South West Trains were now operating mobile prisons?  Answers on a postcard, please.  Or the comments, if you're too cheap to buy a postcard.

The weekend is just the beginning

Just a two minute delay caused by the snow this morning on the Hersham to Waterloo journey, which is fairly impressive.  Especially when you consider the Bakerloo Line had a one minute delay from Waterloo to Edgware Road, which is fully half that of South West Trains.  And the tube's underground!  Though to be fair, the delay there was attributed to 'earlier signalling problems'...

Less impressive was the coda to last week's experiences, which saw me go to a party in Clapham Junction on Saturday night (thanks Time and Kate: it was awesome!) and receive a delay coming home of exactly two hours, also owing to signalling problems (at the Hampton Court junction, for those who care).  It wasn't a total bust, of course, because there was a nice big pool of congealed vomit in my carriage too.  Lovely.

So, altogether, I make that a delay of 123 minutes for another £307.50

Interestingly, Thisiscroyden reports that TfL is reporting no disruption on bu routes, whilst simultaneously blaming snow for the slow running of services, which as fine an example of doublethink as I've seen for a go while.

Also interesting is that TfL apparently collected around £251m more in fares than they had forecast in the last two years (though I don't know the source for this claim and can't vouch for its veracity, coming as it does from a politician).

That ought to do it for now.  May your journeys home not be delayed.  But I won't be holding my breath.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Just to round off the week

Working from home today, so last night was my last pain from public transport this week.

The tube was one minute late getting from Edgware Road to Waterloo, despite the fact I left the office at 16:00 to do the pick-up shift for my daughter, which ought to have let me avoid the rush hour phenomenon.  The train to Norbiton (picking up my daughter, remember?) was also a minute late, so overall a minute late to my final destination for 2.50.

Amazingly, TfL felt it worthwhile expressing its sincere wish to apologise for the minute's delay, though of course the reason for said delay was inaudible.  Still, it's a step in the right direction to recognise that all delays should be apologised for.

Here's my Tube Bingo card for the week, by the way.  Lots of lovely crosses, but an outright win still eludes me!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Apology not accepted

Just want to go on record as saying I do not accept South West Trains' apology for the disruption to my service last night, in particular as it meant I missed seeing my daughter before her bedtime.  That's priceless.

Also because this morning's service into Waterloo was delayed by four minutes, owing to a slow moving train ahead of us in the Clapham Junction area.  The connecting Bakerloo Line to Edgware Road was a further minute delayed.  That's four minutes overall over when I would have arrived had the initial train been on time.  £10.

Incidentally, what's with the phrasing 'We'd like to apologise...'  That's not actually an apology, is it?  We'd like to apologise, but... we don't want to/don't care/did it on purpose.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

UN-Happy birthday!

Happy birthday London Underground: 150 years young today!  In a fit of largess, I am discounting the minor delays I suffered on the way home yesterday as a present.

This morning, however, I dropped off my daughter at day care and took the Hampton Court train into Waterloo, earning a 13-minute delay owing to a person taken ill on an earlier train leading to a proliferation of red signals to be held at.  The connecting tube to Edgware Road was delayed by one minute.  That's a 14-minute total for £35.

UPDATE: make that an un-happy birthday.  Tube from Edgware Road to Waterloo might have been on time, keeping within the spirit of the birthday celebrations and New Year's resolutions, but the trains were playing silly buggers again.

Allegedly, 'signalling problems in the Barnes area' were causing delays.  Quite why this should affect my train, which does not lie on a line remotely near Barnes, was not made clear.  I got on one train which, after a half hour sitting at the platform beyond its scheduled departure time, told me to get off and get on another train, which did eventually depart - only about five or six minutes after it was supposed to.  In all, I got home 46 minutes late.  That's another £115.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Not bad at all!

TfL and its partners in crime South West Trains are making an effort in the New Year, I have to give them that.  I'm not sure how long they can carry on with what I assume must be their Resolutions, but last night the tube ran on time and the train was only one minute late.  This morning, the train arrived two minutes early, while the tube was two minutes late, owing to being held at a red signal.

That's a total of just one minute's delay for £2.50.

Tube Bingo card coming later this week.

In news today, I'm glad I didn't have to use the Central Line last night (or ever): big congestion at Oxford Circus as the stations falls apart.  I'm also glad I rarely use the buses anymore, since 'eco-upgrades' planned by TfL are likely to cause major havoc for months, I strongly suspect.

Monday, 7 January 2013

New Year, new news

As well as the delays updates, it wouldn't be Signal Failure without the occasional news round-up, so here we go:
  • Leave your car at a station before travelling TfL's network?  I bet you thought the fare price hikes were extortionate, but compare them to some of the car parking charges: 18% rise?  Squeal, piggies!
  • That TfL employees are the victims of verbal, and sometimes physical, abuse won't surprise any of us.  Even if we don't approve of this (and we shouldn't), we can readily understand tensions run high when faced with the appalling rudeness of both the system and its staff.  Here's where it's been worst for TfL employees.  Particularly of interest is the staff all reporting this was mostly a result of people pushing through barriers without paying and then being confronted by hard-working staff.  I find this hard to believe, having had a staff member at Waterloo verbally abuse and lay hands on my pregnant wife when she went to him to say her Oyster card wasn't working (it turned out a technical error had caused the auto top-up to cease functioning).  She didn't try to push through the gates but went voluntarily to him to try and sort out the station.  With attitudes like that, I wonder at the causes behind this violence.  Certainly, if I had been there to see someone offer physical intimidation/violence to my wife, Waterloo would have enjoyed another attack on a TfL staff member.  Incidentally, the TfL employee was acting illegally in this instance (they are allowed to detain travellers who have attempted not to pay and refused to provide on request their name and address - neither true in this case).
  • More news on TfL's project to take over the world and run it like as an evil corporation: they've successfully caused Foyle's book shop's (the largest in the world) profits to drop by 25% in an effort to make us all illiterate.  The way they accomplish this is simple: keep the building works up around Tottenham Court Road Station for at least 47 years (and counting), thus making a trip to the flagship store such a pain in the arse, people just don't buy books anymore.
That's it for now, but there'll be more to come, of that you can be sure!

Happy New Year!

Salut les enfants!

I hope you all had restful holiday periods, those of you who took them.  Today marks the first day back at work for Signal Failure, so how did we do on our first trip of 2013?

Well, the train from Hersham to Waterloo arrived a full minute early, so I have to give £2.50 back.  However, the connecting tube to Edgware Road was three minutes late by the time it arrived at my final destination, so overall I'm 'up' £5 for a two minute overall delay.

Not a bad start, all told.  Let's see if we'll continue as we've started...