Archive for The Underground

Construction Inflation

Posted in Irregular Features, The Underground, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , on August 26, 2010 by awickerman

Today I found myself going through the big book of costs at work and was interested to come across the pricing for the previous Bond Street station upgrade, this was from the 1995 attempt at CrossRail not the current one. It was a similar scheme (bigger ticket halls, better access, CrossRail connection, etc) but the price was a surprise.

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Excellent News!

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, The Underground, Tunnels with tags , , , , , , , on May 9, 2010 by awickerman

The Tube has now fully returned to national ownership, Boris and Transport For London (TFL) have brought out Bechtel and Amey and nationalised TubeLines. While this is bad news for me as a tube user and taxpayer it is outstanding news for me as a tunneller.

On the bad side there is a £310 million hit this year to buy them out (this is pure extra money and so will have to either come from the LUL budget or somewhere else in London) and there is the problem that TFL can’t manage a contract to save their life. All in all I expect to see less improvements costing even more money, hardly a good sign.

However on the plus side we wont have to deal with Bechtel, they are hard arsed contractual bastards and really squeezed their sub-contractors and stuck to deadlines. Tube work on their lines will become a great deal easier and a great deal more profitable for us tunnellers, which is always nice. Sure it wont be as easy as the good old days under Metronet (they were not only inept but also very, very dodgy) but it’ll be close.

I suppose it is technically possible it could work out, there are a few million quid that could be saved on Bechtel’s secondment rate (basically the outrageous rates they charged for using their staff at TubeLines, a fairly cunning tax dodge and PR ploy to artificially lower TubeLines profit while still making money). But that does assume that TFL will raise their game massively and start doing the job to the same high standards, the evidence from their work since Metronet’s nationalisation suggests they’re at best average.

Still those of you who use the tube or  have to pay for it should hope that happens, personally I’m just looking forward to a less demanding client who’s easier to bluff and confuse with long words.

The Inevitable General Election Post

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Mining, Tunnels, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , on May 2, 2010 by awickerman

Having resisted for much of this seemingly endless campaign my will power has snapped, in this vital last week I now present the official Wicker Man electoral guide. Dismissing such common sense ideas as analysis or indeed actually reading the manifestos we will be using the tried and failed technique “Counting the words in a manifesto and pretending that has any relevance to anything”. You may think this is a stupid idea, and you’d be correct, but it hasn’t stopped the ICE from pissing my money against a wall by doing it.

For this exercise I will be using the keywords of “Tunnel” and “Mining” and limiting ourselves to only manifestos. I did also check for “Wicker man” but sadly, if not surprisingly,  absolutely no-one included it. So onto the summary;

  • Almost Every Party – 0
  • The Communist Party of Great Britain – 1
  • The Official Monster Raving Loony Party – 1
  • The English Democrats – 1

So therefore your choices are; Loonies, Communists or the only party publicly committed to moving Monmouthshire from Wales to England. Having actually read said documents it comes down to the Communists want to keep the Channel Tunnel Rail Link in public hands, the English Democrats wanting more Tin Mining and the Loonies wanting the Channel Tunnel to be a no fly zone.

Frankly from that shower of  ideas I have to go Loony. As far as I know nobody is proposing sell the CTRL (if nothing else who would risk buying it after Labour illegally nationalised RailTrack?) while deep level Tin Mining died out for a reason; there is no cheap tin left, if you want to restart that industry you will need massive subsidies to compete with dirt cheap dredged Malaysian tin.

So there you have it, the Wicker Man advises you to vote Monster Raving Loony Party as they have the best (and possibly only) policies on tunnels.

Northern Line Ho!

Posted in The Underground, Tunnels with tags , , , on March 4, 2010 by awickerman

One of the problem with being in an relatively small industry which doesn’t move that quickly is the difference between rumour and news is vanishingly small. If you hear job ‘x’ is going to happen then chances are it will, at worst you will have heard that of a friend of a man working on the job and the chain is just to short for Chinese whispers to distort things.  As such I’ve been aware for ages about the Northern Line extension and just sort of anyone who cared was as well, however my most recent trip to the pub has disabused me of that impression. So what is this plan? I will reveal it through the medium of fairytale;

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Another Day in the Life of a Tunneller

Posted in The Underground, Tunnels with tags , , , on March 1, 2010 by awickerman

Today I returned to the finite element mines, for many tunnellers a grim and confusing fate that leaves them bewitched and angry.  Personally though I quite like it down there, as no-one really trusts computer modelling (and rightly so given you can prove almost anything with modelling) it operates on a ‘I know the answer lets produce that’ basis. This leads to the perfect combination of low pressure (unless you make the mistake of producing an unexpected answer) that management have no idea about how long it takes or what is involved.There is an xkcd comic that describes this situation perfectly.

So much of today was spent ideally reading books, browsing the net and answering any question with ‘Model cycling’ when question what I’m doing. All in all not a bad day, I’ve certainly had worse.

Why my industry has thus far avoided a host of exciting blogs

Posted in The Underground, Tunnels with tags , , on February 8, 2010 by awickerman

As has been mentioned before there is an explicable lack of tunnel blogs, somewhat unusual when there is a blog on seemingly everything else (doubtless there is a rule of the internet codifying that requirement).

But if it is explicable what is the explic? Rest assured I will now explain. This very day I became aware of an industry rumour that would actually be understandable by non-tunnellers without pages of technical explanation. What is more it involved classified (possibly even secret) information, government incompetence and general fail all round. Hell it might even have a noticeable impact on people, depending on how things pan out. And yet, it would still be a dull story to most people.

Even with all those ingredients I suspect it rates, at best, a ‘Meh’ from anyone not in tunnels while I imagine the average response is probably be far lower, somewhere around the ‘Why have you wasted my time making me read this?’ level. And bear in mind this was actually one of the more interesting stories, normally it’s a lot less exciting.

So there you have it, an explanation for a question you have doubtless never asked yourself. Things are probably going to be all downhill from here for that poor doomed ‘Tunnels’ tag…..

Inching Slowly Towards a Point

Posted in Tunnels with tags , , on February 4, 2010 by awickerman

Though it may not look it, this is a post of destiny. For there were two ways it could have gone; recanting the frankly  somewhat banal problems I’m having with my router or to aim for some kind of theme that may be of interest to other people. I have selected option two, though that does leave the problem of what on earth to do.

Fortunately a particularly inaccurate recent news item has given me a solution; the joyus world of the London Underground. Sure that does somewhat limit the appeal to those living in London but it also has advantages;  I know about it from an almost insiders viewpoint, no other bugger is doing it (or so a fairly lazy google search indicates) and it may serve as a form of therapy to get a few things off my chest and exorcise a few of the more lingering memories.

For those wondering where the ‘Destiny’ part came in I suggest you brush up on the definition, destiny does not have to be important, large or even particularly interesting.

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