A recent development for the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog has been the appearance of Techno Guido. Whatever the attributes of the person behind it, it is clear from an intervention late last week that the level of accuracy exhibited by the rest of the Fawkes folks has not been improved upon, but then, given the readership, and the one-eyed man being king in the land of the blind, that’s no surprise.
Fart in Tube lift Inquiry fails to reach platform level
So what’s the story? “Another year, another tube strike on the cards. The RMT union are balloting members on Monday and could be launching industrial action as early as 17 February. This time the militants are upset that one their comrades was fired for turning up to work boozed up. All out… on the lash!” tells the post, which, to no surprise at all, is not what the dispute in question is about.
As the Standard told last November - and it’s the same dispute - “Tube drivers on the Northern Line are set to go on strike next month in protest over a driver being sacked for allegedly drinking on duty”. Moreover, “Defending the sacked tube driver in a statement, RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said his fellow member had a ‘specific medical condition’ and accusations that they had been drinking on duty were ‘totally untrue’”.
So The Great Guido is peddling the usual level of accuracy, then. And it soon gets worse: “It seems as good a time as any to remind downtrodden London commuters that we don’t actually need drivers. By Guido’s arithmetic there are at least 63 fully automated subway train systems in world, including Dockland’s [sic] Light Railway which has been happily driver free since its construction”. That would be since its opening, you mean.
The test for automation is whether the system concerned can function without human intervention. The DLR, as any fule kno, cannot, and had the Fawkes rabble bothered to do their homework, they would have seen that the RMT had called a 48 hour strike there over terms and conditions (the announcement was published the day before the Fawkes blog posted on the possible tube strike).
“So why isn’t the rest of tube network automated? Well, much of it kind of is; the Jubilee, Victoria and Central lines are all semi-automatic” tells Techno Guido, trying to explain Automatic Train Operation, or ATO, asserting “‘drivers’ literally have to press two buttons at the same time once and the train drives itself”. Not quite: the Train Operator (note correct title) has to look after the doors, liaise with controllers, and intervene when required.
Then comes the pièce de résistance of howlers: “The RMT’s stranglehold over the Underground is so great that even though Boris’ soon to be delivered 250 new trains are capable of running on auto, they will have drivers until the 2020s”. Soon to be delivered? If that’s referring to the “New Tube For London”, there’s no money to even order them. The Bakerloo Line fleet may be turned 60 before replacement comes.
This piss-poor slice of applied ignorance ends with the observation “robots don’t strike”. What is not told is that the existing Tube network would requires so much work as to make full automation both eye-wateringly expensive and many, many years away. There will be someone in the front cab not just into the 2020s, but after 2030.
No research, no result, Fawkes folks. Another fine mess, once again.
The DLR train captains usually end up driving the trains anyway.
Also, even UTO would probably still mean someone in a control room releasing the trains from each station, checking for passengers over CCTV, which would still mean that the RMT could strike.
In addition the above ground ATO trains on the Central, Jubilee and Northern have problems when they come above the surface. When they come up they encounter problems with poor adhesion for instance wet rails, leaves etc. The Northern and Jubilee lines go to a braking curve that is very gentle which decimates the service, the Central tends to hand over to the man in the cab.
When the DLR opened, the train captains were members of the EEPTU (electricians), which at the time was seen as being very "moderate". It was said in certain sections of the press, at the time, that this would mean that there would be no strikes.
Eventually the train captains began to feel that the EEPTU wasn't representing their interests and made overtures to RMT. After a lot of arguments with management, the train captains transferred to RMT and got recognition for RMT.
Which suggests that, in the long run, transport workers will want to be effectively represented and this can mean disputes with management.
"robots don't strike" is very true.
Also true is that robots don't fix things when the trains break down. So something a simple as a circuit breaker tripped will require a man in a van.
Robots don't confirm to bewildered Sun readers/ BBC3 viewers that they are on the right train.
Robots don't help evacuations when there is a fire or worse.
But worse of all, robots don't argue when given commands that are technically valid but obviously stupid. Hence the fatal collisions on the automated metro in Washington DC. As one example http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/RAR9604.pdf
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