Liveblog: Episode 6 of The Tube

Guys! It’s nearly over! I know, it’s been emotional. Feel free to make a poster commemorating the occasion and to applaud when it’s all over. I know it started a bit slowly but it really got quite good, didn’t it? I’m not sure I’m ready to end this. Maybe I’ll do The Railway next…?

3:45: We’re following the tube’s 6,000 night workers this episode.Tunnel cleaner Alan loves the night time journey to work. Maybe that’s the secret? Just do a job where you get to ride the tube almost entirely alone, accompanied only by sleeping drunks and homeless people?

4:19: Engineers are getting ready to start on the overnight works. They’re all hanging out in what looks like a sixth-form common room, except everyone’s wearing hi-vis orange vests.

4:40: Except for Chargehand (no idea) Marshall Lewis, who is wearing a fetching white turtleneck and a jazzy striped scarf, which may also be another jumper tied creatively around his neck. He says night work is the “best thing that ever happened to him”. Thank God for people like you, Marshall.

4:53: IT’S FATHER CHRISTMAS! Or at least the jolliest man I’ve ever seen!

5:48: We’re at Camden Town watching people run for the last tube. Why? Because it’s entertaining and there are lots of people in fancy dress?

6:46: I feel very smug that I always get the second-to-last train just to be safe. Ha! Someone’s missed the last train and has to get the bus and he is furious – Oh. No, wait, he’s giggling. Boo! Where is the outrage?

8:00: Ah, the obligatory black and white shots of men running down escalators to  cheery jazz music. We see a chap sweeping away at some deep dark part of a tube station as a rather gleeful voice over tells us to “just look at all this dirt! 100 tonnes of it every year!”

8:51: Now Marshall’s got an orange jacket on, so he clearly means business. He and the team are on their way to Regent’s Park to do some stuff. (I’m sorry, I missed it, but even if I didn’t we probably wouldn’t understand anyway, would we?)

9:30: “I call us the invisible rats,” he says. “We go down there and do what we have to do, they don’t know we’re there.” Don’t put yourself down, Marshall! The difference between you and rats is that we want you guys to be crawling around beneath our feet, we just don’t want to know about it.

10:30: Ah, the last train’s gone at Camden! Bliss. Except for that one drunk guy slumped in the chair on the platform. Station worker Debbie gives him a shake, tells him the last train’s gone, and walks off. Job done.

10:40: Uh-oh, a bit of argy bargy as they try to shut the gates. The last train has gone, people! Even if you could get in the station there wouldn’t be any trains to get on! WHY IS THAT SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND?!

11:12: “It’s definitely early for the last train,” says one thwarted traveller. “We need to be going home now.” Alarmingly, the tube doesn’t cater to your individual timetable, man. I know! What are we even paying taxes for?

12:00: It takes over an hour to batten down Waterloo’s hatches. I’m not surprised. Waterloo station is what I imagine the Tardis would look like inside, if the Tardis was a spaceship. Wait, is the Tardis technically a spaceship? It’s not really, is it? I mean it’s no Millennium Falcon.

16:21: There’s a shot of a man’s silhouette as a serious voiceover tells us that an important decision is about to made by this man at a secret location in North London. Who is it?! Is it Boris?? It’s totally Boris.

16:42: Oh, sorry, my bad. It’s power controller James White. He describes his job as “like an air traffic controller but with electricity”. I think we get it, James. You turn stuff on and off.

17:09: He used to work with the track maintenance teams, wearing overalls. He says he still gets a rash on his neck from his collar. Bless. Apparently “people speak to you in shops a lot more nicer” when you wear a suit. I’ll have to try it.

17:27: “I could make a mistake now, turn on the wrong section and potentially kill people,” he says. I’m really sorry, James, but I’m still not convinced your job is very exciting.

18:10: We’re back with Alan and the fluffers. No, it’s not a weird Ground Force musical tribute act – “fluffers” is what they call the people who dust down the tube’s tunnels at night.

 In case you’re wondering, the nightly dusting isn’t for aesthetic reasons – it’s fire prevention work. It used to be mainly done by women, but now it’s all men and vacuum cleaners.

23:06: Huh. Apparently in west London there’s more cotton and wool particles in the dust; in the east, there’s more polyester.

28:45: Awww a tube love story! Mike and Fiona, who both do point maintenance , met because their dads were apprentices on the underground when they were 16, and have just got married. That’s the most romantic thing we’ve ever heard! It should be a film. We’ll write the script. Let us know if you’re interested and we’ll whack it on Kickstarter.

30:51: We’re at Down Street, an abandoned tube station, with Roy Kenneth, who’s checking the security of the station. There’s some lingering shots of crumbling old tunnels and some seriously atmospheric music. This is what we pay the license fee for, people. 

31:40: He tells the camera crew to watch out because “It’s dark and very smelly”. They can probably figure that out for themselves, Roy.

31:53: 75 people worked ate and slept down there to keep the railways running, even during the height of the Blitz. I resist the urge to punch the air and shout “YES LONDON!”.

36:44: 24-year-old Harry Reeves, who’s in charge of tonight’s team of fluffers, is asked what he’d like to do if he wasn’t Head Fluffer. He says he’d like to study “Astrophysics and particle physics and go and be a scientist in Cern”. Hey, just because you’re fluffing right now doesn’t mean you’ll be fluffing all your life, Harry. FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS!

40:25: We’re introduced to Adam Lenski, who puts up the adverts in London’s stations. He and his team try to do 7 hoardings a night. The next few minutes is just them tearing down adverts, but it’s actually quite therapeutic. I start to wonder if “Multimedia Technician” (aka Ad Man) is the best job of the series.

42:22: Adam says he enjoys travelling on the tube so he can point out the posters he’s put up to his girlfriend. Good for you, Adam! It’s like his very own Sistine Chapel.

43:30: Now for a strangely intimate chat with pest controller Mick. He has ten kids, apparently, including a hairdresser and a fellow pest controller, but says he probably won’t have any more: “I work nights, the missus works days – when would we have the time?” “You’ve done alright so far,” the interviewer points out. Really top-notch journalism.

44:00: Mick is on the way to deal with some pigeons. I really hope that doesn’t mean what I think it means.

44:41: Yeah, no, it does. He kills them. At least he says sorry every time he pulls the trigger?

45:50: We’re following some “industrial abseilers” at Canary Wharf. (That’s city-speak for “window cleaner”.)

48:14: Back with Marshall and the team, who are just finishing laying the new track. Sure, lining up the rails is a tricky job, but I think I’m more impressed by Adam the Ad Man’s ability to line up the tiles of each huge advert, and on a CURVED SURFACE, no less! My awe of the Multimedia Technician remains intact.

49:27: The fluffers call it a night. “It’s not the greatest job in the world,” says Harry. “I think I’d rather win the lottery, buy about ten houses, and sit on my bum all day and do nothing.” But Harry, what about Cern?! Hope is dead.

50:01: Alan is far more enthusiastic. When asked how he feels about getting up and doing it all tomorrow he positively seal claps with excitement. “Love it! I’m looking forward to it – I could be at a different station tomorrow. Got to be optimistic, ain’t you? Always look on the bright side of life.” What a man.

51:44: Oh lovely, we’re with Anne O’Grady again. She’s telling us that her train is HER train, not the supervisor’s train, not the line’s train, not London’s train – it’s HER train, get it?! Anne is queen of all she drives!

54:11: We’re back with our favourite couple, Mike and Fiona, and they’re racing against time (and I guess trains?) to get a broken point back online. To try and fix the fault they have to go into a big room full of wires and look at what I think are like wire maps? They’re looking very closely at everything and making concerned faces. I have a strong feeling they have no idea what to do.

55:29: Aha! Power’s back! They fixed it! Right? Er, not quite. “What happened there?” says Mike. “I dunno,” says Fiona. Impressive stuff.

57:57: “Passengers only worry about us if we delay them. But that’s life. I’d probably be exactly the same as them. It’s a thankless task,” says Marshall. Well, I’ll say it, Marshall, and mean it: thank you. You’re the best.

And that’s a wrap, people! If, like me, you find it hard to let go of things you invest a significant amount of time in, you can re-live every single liveblog all over again by clicking here.


One thought on “Liveblog: Episode 6 of The Tube

  1. Pingback: Why can’t the tube run 24/7? | London LOCO

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