21
Aug
2009

Weekend Engineering Works

I’m going to seduce you with three little words. Ready?

Weekend Engineering Works. Mmmm. Doesn’t that just make you feel all warm and tingly? No? Oh.

What, you mean after you’ve spent weekday rush hour sitting – no, sorry, ‘standing’ – on a stationary train while they fix something, the prospect of doing it all again at the weekend doesn’t do it for you?

Apologies. I must have you confused with the bosses of Transport for London. Quite an unhealthy fixation with Weekend Engineering Works in that camp, you see. They chant those words over tannoys, send weekly emails about them and write them on boards for all to see. It’s like a weekly festival. Don’t worry, it won’t affect you though. There will still be ‘a good service on all London Underground lines’; probably because there’ll only be two actually running. 

Here’s the thing: I understand that a Tube line which has been open since the 1800s will have to be repaired once in a while, but every sodding weekend? Really? What are these tracks made of, Lego?

See it’s alright for you zone one-ers who can just hop, skip and tumble into your weekend fun, but spare a thought for those of us in zone five. And no, that’s not a made up place. Unlike platform 9 3/4, zone five does actually exist, and we who live there do occasionally like to leave leafy suburbia and venture into central London. Mostly just to point and laugh at all the people paying £900 per week for a rented shoebox in Shoreditch, but still. 

Each weekend, massive chunks of the Metropolitan and Jubilee lines are closed for repair, leaving legions of north-west Londoners stranded, with only a village fete for company. In fact, out of 11 underground lines, only five actually had a full service last Saturday and Sunday. The rest were running what TFL ambitiously calls a ‘Rail Replacement Service’.

Now, don’t be fooled by this fancy Tube jargon. ‘Rail Replacement’ is just TFL speak for ‘a bus whose speed is rivalled only by the giant mountain snail of Alaska’. In short: a 40-minute journey from Harrow to Green Park now takes the best part of a week. 

Perhaps if engineering works actually improved anything, I wouldn’t be so cynical. But they don’t. Signal failures, overcrowding, bears on the line, or – my favourite – ‘we’re stuck here because of a train ahead of us’ (isn’t that a given?) are a daily occurrence. Better still, we pay for the inconvenience. Our fares get higher, the repairs take longer, and TFL still fails to get Londoners from A to B without pissing us all off in the process. 

I’ll tell you what London needs: a huge international event that will bring an extra million people into the capital. Ha, Imagine that. Mull over this olympic dream next time you’re late for work, stuck between stations and sniffing the armpits of your fellow passengers. 

That’ll be tomorrow morning, then.

Image by ewen and donabel courtesy of Flickr

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