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A Monday on this Job

by Ross Hamilton, Birmingham, UK


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The Roster

NS431SnrCondr DaysSX  
158CRENew St06.022F51
06.52 - 07.12
(via Leicsr & New St.)
Lime St10.3610.491L16
( to Stansted Airport)
New St.12.33
(CA402 )
PNB12.38 -13.23
(NS446 )
323New St.13.412C49
(13.04 from Coventry)
(to Wolverhampton)
New St.16.07
Off16.21 Hrs10.34 

LBLLabel train (reservations and window labels).
PNBPersonal Needs Break
SHORT BREAKA sort of PNB that was introduced to get round the maximum hours on-train restriction, which for a CT guard is 5h45 continuous.
( xx999)Relieving/Relieved guard
NSNew St


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Onward with the Story

A Monday in April:

I don't really like starting at this time of day, but trying to get a swap for this weeks work is nigh-on impossible, so here I am. The only real advantage to this job is that I can get the first bus in, get in for 05.00 and either have a gentle half hour getting into the swing of it, or if everything's gone pear shaped, I might be stepped up onto another (better?) turn. Not today, though, so I book on, sign the booking off sheet (saves doing it later) and then it's time to fill the flask, grab a coffee from the machine - I drink hot chocolate out in the wilds - get a SPORTIS machine and generally do all the things people do before starting work.

No point going down too early; the set comes in from Tyseley Sidings DOO (which normally guarantees problems as the train preparers are almost guaranteed to miss something in their rush to get done and away home from their night shift), and it's attached to the 156 that works the 05.59 Skegness. So, it's a stroll down with the guard for the 05.59's, get to the platform at about 05.58 - should be 20 seconds before departure now, by rights - and make sure that everyone is on the right unit. My 158 is still locked up, which is good, and all the faces are regular...

So, let's see: let myself on, close the unit up behind me. 158.844, not a bad set as I recall. Wander through, nothing wrong, even the toilets look to have been tanked for once. A good start. Down to the front, put my head round the cab door, say "Hi" to Clint, the driver and then open the train up from the front panels as the Skeg leaves. Walk back down the outside, close all but the crew doors and wait for the tip. Right time away, not bad at all, not for a Monday morning.

Settle down, first. Stuff tickets for a bit; they're all regulars, should all have seasons. Finish my coffee and get my journal book sorted out. No time to do that at the depot anymore, not with 10 minutes booking on time now. All stations to Burton, then Derby, so I think I'll have a look at tickets after Tamworth... No-one on or off at Water Orton, two off at Wilnecote, one through 'my' door. Doesn't so much as grunt at my "goodbye", miserable sod. No-one off at Tamworth but about 5 on, so I'll take a stroll through, "mornin'" Don't even have to ask for tickets, it's almost automatic for them now. Back to the back cab for a quick snooze until Burton.:) Quick walk through off Burton, yup, the lady for Loughborough is on, so she'll stay on at Derby rather than getting the London from there with the rest.

And into Derby 2 minutes early...

Platform 2, which is good, 'cos the managers office is there, and hopefully... Yup, she's on today. Brilliant... And the right manager too. I like this: she's taken a shine to me, so it's a quick hug for me, which really racks off the duty boss - she reported him when he tried that with her. 20 minutes here, theoretically a break but it's too early in the morning, so stay with the train, field Birmingham punters and put them on the 07.10 via Tamworth, same for Liverpool - change Tamworth and Crewe, gets there an hour earlier than I will. The Assistant Ticket Examiner turns up, wonderful - means I've only got to do 1 coach myself, she'll take the front vehicle. Have to wait for the 07.10 to clear, a couple of minutes late in from Lincoln this morning, so at 07.17 we're off, a final hug and a quick peck on the cheek for me from the lass on the platform, to the obvious distress of the idiot in the office who's spying on us and that's me happy for the morning - or at least it'll keep me going until Brum...

We don't really like F33 - it's a commuter train calling Long Eaton & Loughborough to Leicester, then you swap for a second batch of commuters boarding at all stations (except Water Orton) to Brum and then pick up the students to Wolverhampton and Stafford. Three loads of standing passengers if it gets a bit busier than normal - but today is quiet, fortunately. Start tickets after Long Eaton and then just keep on trucking. Because it's quiet I get chance to talk to the ATE and discover she's just bought her first PC... Go through again after Loughborough looking for an Asian girl in her mid-20's who has a habit of buying Child tickets from the machine; last time I did this job I warned her that if I caught her again I'd arrest her for fraud there and then. Seems to have done the trick, I can't find her, but the ATE does and she's got an adult ticket. A clear run to Leicester gets us in 2 minutes early thanks to the recovery time at Syston. Standing in the platform a man approaches from the car park bridge, asks if he can buy a ticket. "Yep, given that you've had the decency to ask. I'll come through to you when we leave".

Now the real work begins: we've already got one or two standing when we leave Leicester, but they're locals who never do bother sitting, not for 1 or 2 stops. For once we both get through our vehicles, although I've got the man from Leicester who's going to Telford; I'll have to go back to him once I've looked it up in the book. Quick run through off Narborough, renew a couple of season tickets, deal with the Telford. Same off Hinckley and it's getting busy now, standing passengers in all the vestibules. Why do they stand instead of sitting next to people?

Nuneaton... A few off, but lots more on and that's it. We could get through, but I don't like standing on peoples toes, so we won't. I have a couple in my vestibule want tickets so I deal with them and that's it. Approach Brum and they can have the benefit of my massive long spiel, complete with a little French and German just to annoy the bosses - it was on this train that a manager complained about my using other languages as well as English. Oh, well.

A signal check in the dip outside New Street so 1 minute late into the platform and it feels like the whole world is getting off this train. Change of drier too, this time Andy, an instructor driver with two trainees, both ex-guards. Could be interesting this: Andy and I as a team are jinxed, hopefully the trainees will beat the curse. 3 minutes late away, 08.54 instead of 08.51 and which idiot allowed 2 minutes for a peak hour arrival to detrain and reload?

Forward calling Galton Bridge, Wolverhampton, Stafford, Crewe, Winsford, Hartford, Runcorn, Mossley Hill and Liverpool. I take it easy on this stretch, I'm not interested in the students fiddling, it's a losing battle and I can do without the aggro now my earlier happiness has been worn away. So, I'll keep out of the way until Stafford. No-one on or off at Galton, which isn't surprising, but plenty off at Wolves and a load more students on. And a trolley, too - wonders shalt never cease! Sometimes we get them on these runs but it really does depend on who turns up that day; the Aberystwyth runs have priority for these staff, who are based at Shrewsbury. Send her through, see if she can get any money off the students; highly unlikely but you never know. Clear them at Stafford and it looks like I've less than 20 on now, and we're Fast Line to Crewe. Better and better, we've lost a few minutes having trainees on so this is a chance to recoup. Wander through and check the tickets, including one or two who've travelled through from Leicester side. As ever you get the one in the front coach who gets narked because he's go to show his ticket again - tough. Get them out of the way, have a quick looksee in case anyone has left me an Independent - they haven't - and back to the rear cab to make myself a drink and daydream about young ladies from Derby station... :)

2 minutes early into Crewe, good, time to get my newspaper... But then 2 minutes late away for a light loco move. <sigh> No more tickets, not interested now, so a pleasant ride to Liverpool, catching up with happenings in the world and arriving 2 minutes down. Only 10 minutes turn round, so a quick trip to Boots on the concourse, pick up a sandwich and a yoghurt and just time for a pre-departure announcement before we go, right time.

Held outside Runcorn for a minute or two; you'd think the London's really would do better than this, we're always having to wait for them to clear and they're supposed to be 5 minutes in front... Still, it means there's no rush from Runcorn, which is good because there's a bloke in a wheelchair to get on, travelling to Brum and then on to Taunton with his family and most of their possessions by the look of it. One thing about Liverpool, they're pretty good with reservations, so I knew he was coming.

On to Weaver, and they still haven't reinstated the high speed crossover so we have to wait for the London to clear the loop before we can crawl along there too. 4 minutes lost there... 4 late through Crewe, that London is still crawling along, wonder if he's got trainees on the front too? Still, he builds up a bit on the Fast towards Stafford and eventually we lose him - or, rather - he loses us, we're only 90 to his 110 and it does show in the end. Gives me chance to wander through and check a few tickets, answer a few questions and sort out some connections. I'm glad I bought that palmtop PC now, people take the times off the planner as gospel and don't argue the way they did when you worked it out from the GBTT in front of them. Weighs less, too.

Into Stafford and - another wheelchair. Oh, hell. Where for? Peterborough. Bugger. Reserved? Yes. Double bugger. So, 4 minutes standing at Stafford while we figure this one out. In the end they agree to stay in the vestibule to Birmingham then slot in to the proper place when the other wheelchair gets off.

Oh, well, it all adds to the fun, I suppose. 7 minutes late now, I could do with losing a few more as this is cutting into my break. But, there's nothing I can do, so we'll see what happens. Through Wolves and Stour line as booked to Brum. And a signal check at Smethwick Rolfe St - my break is getting shorter, I don't like this... A slow run into New Street ensues and we're 13 late arriving.

Right, I need to think about this. Yes, gotcha - 2 minute late start on 2C49 for my PNB. They're standing on their rights with diagrams, so I'll do the same - letter of the agreement, not the spirit. And I know there are plenty of local-only guards spare, or there certainly should be, we're doing their work again. Yes, there is: tell the TCS there'll be a 2 minute delay, £60 off his budget and magically one of the new starters gets called out to cover my Wolverhampton trip for my PNB. Brilliant, that's created a break until 14.48, and it's all exactly within their rules. Gotcha! Sometimes late running can be a blessing and this sort of thing makes up for all those times I've had to phone the girlfriend and tell her I'll be late back and it's touch and go whether or not we'll be able to go out. Not good service, I guess, but it's kinda difficult to feel sorry for the inconvenience caused when you know how little TPTB care any more.

Oh, well, time for something to eat and a natter with the lads, and pay the SPORTIS in as I'm not interested on the Coventry and there's no point carrying dead weight with me.

Down to 323.219 on the 14.48 Coventry off platform 1, always good 'cos we can use the stairs by the locker room and save a minute or two. 219... That's a hybrid unit, the 65 end vehicle is from 222 unit after a smash or something. Not that it matters, but it's something to remember for my journal [Ed. Note: and in true style I forgot it, or perhaps they've finally renumbered the vehicle]. Off we go to Coventry, all stations, no tickets. I've taken over 70 quid, not a lot but enough - this turn varies from £50 to £500, averaging high 70s. A quiet run into Cov, 1 minute late arriving because there just isn't enough time allowed from Canley. Right time all the way back, too, hand over the unit and away quick. Should make the 16.18 local home with a bit of luck - and back Tuesday morning for the same job again...


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That one I picked because it's average. Nothing drastic went wrong, just a couple of minor problems. The Tuesday we had some too, so I didn't do the Wolverhampton trip that day either. Someone else did the job the rest of the week, and I believe that they didn't do the Wolves trip at all... I suspect that some of you reading are going to think I was downright awkward for the sake of 2 minutes. There's a lot of background to it I won't go into here, but let's say that bad faith is met with bad faith and leave it at that's.


Editor's note:

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