The One Where London is Olympic Ready
Tube 20 - 28th June 2012
Hello London. The Olympics are coming. Did you know? You can't really fail to notice it now as the pink signs have now gone up all over the network, there are posters everyone - and hopefully too, there's been a lot of investment into London's Transport Infrastructure to make it run flawlessly during the time that whole of the world focuses on our capital city.
We thought that The Tube might want to play ball. We thought we might have a day when it ran without problems. We thought we'd have a day when we made all the trains as we're meant to and get a record time ... we we're wrong
We've been going for less than 20 minutes, and we're three stations in at Amersham when the text message comes in:
'Points failure at Moor Park, services to Watford have been suspended'.
I want to say it's unbelieveable, but of course it's entirely believeable because it's not even 8am, and our day is effectively over.
I hate the feeling you get when you realise the attempt has effectively collapsed. With three of us doing it, and four support team it was our biggest coordinated day for ages. Especially as the Olympia exhibition service was only running on just two days in the whole of the summer - this being one of then. Chris and I had worked out the week before in a massive planning session our fastest every time on paper, and on the Saturday just gone, i had run my fastest ever 5Km at a parkrun. Everything had built up today, poised and ready, and so soon near the start it had fucked up already.
There is a moment though when we think we might benefit from us. Kate is at Watford and a few minutes later on the phone tells us that a train got diverted there via the north curve - it's the one from Chesham! That would be brilliant if they did that to our train as we could leave Rickmansworth, go round the curve through Croxley to Watford and then leave again without it affecting us - in fact, it would most likely gain us time! But ... no.
(We later found out that Chesham trains were being diverted on the curve to Watford, but not Amersham ones. If the points failure had happened earlier, we could have started at Amersham, gone up to Chesham, and then taken advantage of the failture, and gone round the curve to Watford - definetely - doing it faster than would normally be possible, and putting us up on schedule. But no. Life it seems is just not that kind.)
At Rickmansworth there is no announcement from the driver that we're being diverted, so a regular change at Moor Park it is, where we wait longer than we should for a Watford train, which is now running a 'special timetable'. where we do crawl into Watford, wait longer than we should, and then crawl out again. I check my watch - we are already almost 20 minutes down, and we've been going less than an hour
It gets worse - of course it does! Where did you think this story was going? We make a run in 6 minutes that normally take us over 7 to catch a train - we really bust a gut, and we missed it. We later worked out the our train in was over 30 seconds late, and the one out we wanted to get was running early. Net result? Another train down, about eight minutes - which by the time we got to West Ruislip (even with the help of the U1 bus, which was running behind to timetable, and yet for some inexplicable reason the driver decided to stop at bus stop for 30 seconds, even though no one was getting or or off) we were now 29 minutes behind schedule.
The madness continues. We get onto the District Line to see a whole queue of people on the platform waiting - there has obviously not been a train for a while and there is not one in sight, in short - the District Line is broken, so we run on foot - a run that we didn't want to do - to our next station instead.
We get down to Richmond, to find the trains are all over the place and not leaving on time - something had definitely happened to the District Line, but we repeatedly being told (as we had with the Met this morning, when the service was broken) that there was a 'Good Service'. There isn't. We get a District Train into Richmond, and almost straight away an Overground service out ... but we need a District, so we have to change and wait at Gunnersbury anyway.
We ploughed on, clearly because are fools and we like punishment. More mayhem when we get to the Hammersmith & City / Circle Line, and a timetabled train simply failed to show up with no announcement - nothing. Well apart from a 'Good Service' obviously being advertised all the time though.
Bizarrely we then make a connection that we wanted to when we got back on a District Line train who's doors opened and closed four times before it pulled out - running late, and at the next station down, the platform was rammed with people who had obviously been waiting a very long time for a train - longer than the 4 minutes that it should be on this stretch of the network, but again 'Good Service'.
We're aiming to take out Olympia now - we'd chosen this day because there is an exhibition service running at half hourly intervals - but when we get to the station to connect to it, we find out pointman Kate who tells us that the previous one had left twelve minutes late, and then the next one wasn't in yet. There was nothing we could do except sit and wait for it, and when it eventually did, it left fourteen minutes late. I looked at the times, we're now 44 minutes behind schedule. Hopeless.
The final straw came after a hot sweaty run on a day that temperatures hit 28C (not pleasant) that took us from Olympia to Shepherds Bush to connect to the Central Line. We make the run (my fitness is just great, thanks for asking!) in really good time ... to the platform where - no! We just miss a train. Hang on a sec, no we haven't, its doors open again, and then close. And then .. hang on, they've opened again. That's not good. Is something stuck in the doors?
What we do know is that ten minutes later we are still stuck at the same platform with the train not going anywhere - there has been a problem with the driver getting the 'all clear' from the doors, and he couldn't proceed, meaning that he took the train out of service. I've no need to tell you have I that at this moment, an automated PA announcement echoes down the platform telling us there there is a 'Good Service' on the Central Line.
I look at my watch, we're 55 minutes behind schedule, and everyone turns to look at me because they know I'm about to call it.
I call it.
"I'm calling it. It's off. This is hopeless". And so, shortly after midday, a quarter of the way into the day, and it was over.
Tube 20 stats
Stations visited: 55
Start time: 07:31
Finish time: Around midday
Total time: Stopped after four and a half hours
Number of people: 3
Support team: 4
Tube 1 | Tube 2 | Tube 3 | Tube 4 | Tube 5 | Tube 6 | Tube 7 (World Record)
Tube 8 | Tube 9 (Tube Relief) | Tube 10 | Tube 11 | Tube 12 | Tube 13 | Tube 14 | Tube 15 | Tube 16 | Tube 17 | Tube 18 | Tube 19 | Tube 20 | Tube 21 | Tube 22 | Tube 23 | Tube 24 | Tube 25 (Second World Record)
We are good people - we held the doors, even when it wasn't for us. A woman getting on the Circle Line said to us "is this train for King's Cross?", "yes!", and we held the doors back to she could get her buggy with child in, then the front wheel got stuck in the door.
Kate made us all really laugh when we got to Watford, and she said "Welcome to Twatford", instead. It summed up our mood nicely at the time.
We laughed even harder, where someone on the District Line, Anthony used his walkie talkie to try and talk to Chris who was nearby. Instead we heard some chatter from someone else nearby using the same channel. So I opened up a channel on my walkie talkie and said "Yeah .. hello Dave, we'll need those boxes delivered by 3pm this afternoon if that's ok with you". And an unknown voice responded with "What was that? I didn't catch that, go again?", and it all made us burst into laughter.
We all went on a ride on the ArabFly Dangle way (that's the new London Cable Car) to cheer ourselves up afterwards. in a moment of pure serendipity it stopped halfway across leaving us dangling and swaying in mid air for a whole nerve-wracking minute.
Vicki got a cotton bud when she got home and cleaned some gunk out of her nose. It came out jet-black, The Tube . .. it gets up your nose.