Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Train driving

When I was a little devil, I wanted either to be a train driver or a knight in shining armour (maidens not included). Alas, the latter of these ambitions has fallen by the wayside but I might resurrect the former, if only for financial reasons.

Whilst plotting the best route to Pater Devil's place yesterday, I had a look at the website for South West Trains. It seems that they are having a spot of bother.
ASLEF drivers' union has announced that its South West Trains' driver members are planning to strike on four dates—March 31, April 1, 2 and 3.

ASLEF have announced the strike dates—which will run from 0001 on 31 March to 2359 on 3 April—over a pay dispute.

Oh, dear. Are the drivers getting really piss-poor pay?
We met with ASLEF on Thursday 20 March for informal talks in an effort to avoid strike action, and another meeting is planned for next week. They have been offered a pay increase of 4.5% which would give a driver working in the London area a basic salary before overtime of £40,447 for a 37-hour, 4.4-day week.

Forty fucking grand for a 37 hour week doesn't sound too fucking shabby to me, frankly. In fact, for doing little more than staying awake and pulling a lever, it sounds absolutely fucking amazing.

And a 4.5% pay rise is very nice, when the public sector (and much of the rest of the private sector) is getting 2%, if that.

So, where do I sign up? Oh, and while we're about it, ASLEF can shove their shitty union dues right up their big, fat, sweaty arseholes.


Anonymous said...

I don't know the specifics, but I'd imagine the holiday allowance is pretty fucking special too, and I'm sure those poor bastards don't have to toil on until they are 68 with a pisspoor pension if they are lucky.

Anonymous said...

Every time there's a strike I ask myself why the hell I don't quit my job and become a driver...

Dull work but at that money, who's complaining?
(Rory Meakin)

Bishop Brennan said...

And they get to sit in a seat, rather than 'stand', sardine-style in a carriage that smells worse than an old people's home that hasn't been cleaned for 50 years.


Time that unions were brought under the legislation that prevents abuse of monopoly positions...


Anonymous said...

Devil - South West Trains are part of the Stagecoach group, a large concern operating bus, train and tram services both here and North America.

Stagecoach grew to be a major player after the British coach market was deregulated during the early 80's - not bad for a couple of Jocks (Ann & Robin Gloag) who started off with a small minibus hire service in Scotchland.

Privitisation of rail services enabled South West Trains to be added to their growing transport portfolio and the wiley Gloags have recently sewn up a 10 year extension to the current SWT franchise.

Stagecoach became notorious for predatory acquistion of smaller firms and found itself on the wrong side of the Competition Commission more than once.

The Gloags are now drowning in cash after muscling out smaller operators (irrespective of the effects on local communities) - and when not busy closing down less frequently used routes Stagecoach have been busy discriminating against Aberdeenshire gays for having the temerity to put their arms around each other on one of their buses.

Now if the rapacious and homophobic Gloags can afford to pay their train drivers £40k, how much do you think they and their fellow fat cats are earning - maybe somebody standing in the pissing rain waiting for a bus in Darlington might not begrudge the train drivers their modest rise knowing the damage caused by the Gloags to the citys transport system ?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Stagecoach made a meagre £150mil profit of the back of the train and coach drivers (2006 figures) - lean times for the fat cats, eh ?

Newmania said...

Jesus that is not shabby although there are quite a lot of people earning a lot more in TFL..

John Trenchard said...

average pay for a web developer (last time i checked back in december) with database and scripting skills was anywhere between 32k to 44k.

so that pay level isnt too shabby at all.

however, i did read somewhere, ages ago, that there is a shortage of train drivers - so no doubt there's a bit of market forces at work here, in addition to the union stuff.

to be honest with you - fair play to them.

just think of the alternative - bored illiterate minimum wage monkeys controlling the 8am into Paddington, with 500 commuters aboard. not a pleasant thing to even contemplate.

John Trenchard said...

fuck it. i think i'm going to apply for a job as train driver.

getting a bit bored of the I.T. work.

could do with a career change.

Devil's Kitchen said...

A £ E,

You work in a hospital: what was their profit? And what was your pay rise?


John Trenchard said...

"lean times for the fat cats, eh ?"

i really fucking HATE this attitude.

what the fuck is wrong with a company making a profit?

here's a simple equation:

company makes profit = more people employed.

company doesnt make profit = more people fired

Anonymous said...

"company makes profit = more people employed."

Not necessarily. The company will employ as many staff as it needs. A monopoly provider such as SWT can cut staff while increasing profits, what alternative do customers have?

Longrider said...

Assuming that you get through the psychometric testing - and being a reasonably intelligent cove, there's no reason to suppose that you wouldn't, and pass through the training process okay, there are a couple of downsides. The hours are dreadful - not so much the working weekends and bank holidays, but shifts that start at all hours. Then there's the little matter of driving trains. They have a device called designed to make sure the driver stays awake - this is for a very good reason; one bit of track looks much like another, and although you have to learn your route for the signalling and station stops, it is mind numbingly dull. You'll be bored long before you earn forty grand, take my word for it.

Anonymous said...

What the fuck is wrong with a company making a profit ?

Well, Passenger Focus claimed that commuters were being 'exploited for profit' after a 20% fare hike by South West Trains.

Of course, the fat cats did not worry too much about consultation, nor did they make any attempt to explain why such a hefty increase was the order of the day (although I could take a wild guess thinking about the £150mil profit made by Stagecoach, the parent company).

Good for the fats cats perhaps, but less good for the poor old commuter expected to shell out a kings ransom each time he/she travels from Reading to London.

Jon Worth said...

I think there's a fair measure of free market economics in all of this...

Since the breakup of British Rail there has been a shortage of training new train drivers, as each train operating company has tried to pinch drivers off the other ones, rather than training up new ones. You can't import workers (like you could if there's a lack of bus drivers) as the standards are different in different countries.

The unions realise this, and hence know that if rail drivers demand a lot more there's not much the rail firms can do about it... Unless the rail firms get their act together and train more people.

Anonymous said...

I think there's a fair measure of free market economics in all of this.......'

Oh, absolutely JW, there is no way South West Trains would cough up £40k (to the train drivers) if they could get away with paying them less.

If the feuding Gloags could not treat each other decently, then why should we expect them to behave civilly with anybody else ?

Anonymous said...

"Jon Worth said...
I think there's a fair measure of free market economics in all of this..."

Can I just remind people that they're discussing a strike? If it were 'a measure of free market economics' then why would they need to collude with each other to conspire against their customers to raise their prices? Why not simply look in the market for a customer willing to offer a better deal?

Can someone explain to me why we even need any train drivers in the first place (especially on the tubes!)
(Rory Meakin)

Longrider said...

Can someone explain to me why we even need any train drivers in the first place (especially on the tubes!)

The explanation I was given some years ago was that passengers would be somewhat disturbed by the sight of a driverless train rolling into the station. True? Who knows...

At present, the stock running around on our infrastructure needs drivers to operate it and shifting to automatic stock would take time to thoroughly test and the cost would be huge - just shifting to different signalling systems to bring us in line with European systems (in-cab signalling for example) is taking decades.

In the meantime, yes, market forces are at work - you want drivers to drive your trains, you pay a rate that will attract them - the best way is to attract them from other TOCs so that you can have them up and running more quickly.

Anonymous said...


Enjoyed this one last time round.

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