I'm a CSA - Customer Service Assistant, formally known as Station Assistant. I'm also female (we are vastly outnumbered in this job!).

I work at a large Zone 1 interchange station.

My staff oyster: http://i.imgur.com/aSReD.jpg

And ID card (identifying details removed): http://i.imgur.com/LZgSu.png

Edit: Wow I'm totally overwhelmed by the interest in this! I need to take a break but I'll come back later on and try to answer as many of your questions as I can. Thanks guys. :)

Comments: 2482 • Responses: 40  • Date: 

little_fish972 karma

  • Am I the only one who thinks 'Cockfosters' is a hilarious name for a station and giggle everytime the announcer says a service terminates there?

  • Did you see the BBC documentary on the tube? What did you think?

  • Did you know that the only underground station that does not contain a letter from the word 'algebra' or 'mackerel' is St. John's Wood?

And thank you, I think tube staff are under-appreciated, I think you do a sterling job, keep it up.

Edit 1: Link to documentary added

flr89526 karma

Cockfosters is a great name. Brightens up my morning when I hear it.

I really enjoyed watching that documentary. A few people I know were filmed for it. The one thing it didn't show though was the quiet times where nothing happens for a few hours and time seems to pass very slowly. Not so much for me in central London but in the outer stations staff can spend a lot of time just sitting around doing nothing. It's not all excitement 24/7.

seebs611 karma

As an American who literally just returned from his first trip to London a few days ago, I wanted to relay how impressed I was with the London underground. It was well-organized, and easy enough for a group of ignorant, stupid Americans to figure out. Thanks!

flr89300 karma

Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed your trip!

relevent_hagakure211 karma

I'm a british man from a different reality to user seebs.

How on earth to you survive down there with all the constant breakdowns and strikes that occour.

Other than the golden fortress of solitude you can afford on your salary ;)

flr89337 karma

Most of us thrive on the craziness to be honest. I love a good service meltdown, especially during the peak.

letsgocrazy527 karma

What train do I want to get from Paddington to Greenwich mate?

flr89672 karma

Bakerloo to Charing Cross and then the national rail.

20Charactersisntenou375 karma

What is the strangest/weirdest drunken act you've seen happen on the underground? Actually, what is the weirdest thing you have seen someone do on the underground, ever?

flr891246 karma

A lot of people sliding down escalators after the recent Bond film. And getting a nasty surprise halfway down when they hit the metal "stand on the right" signs.

docmuppet281 karma

Why is the northern line so slow?

flr89554 karma

The northern line is still driven by drivers. The fast lines (central, jubilee) are automatic, the drivers just open and close the doors, and have a fancy new signalling system so trains can go much faster and closer to each other.

king_walnut321 karma

People are paid 52k to open and close doors? Damn..

flr89370 karma

They do drive the train when necessary as requested by the controller. But most of the time it is just the doors, making PAs, and looking out for hazards on the track.

Wiki_pedo279 karma

How often is "signal failure" actually a signal failure?

flr89353 karma

About 50% of the time. The rest of the time it's either a points failure - the moving parts of the track - or sometimes a driver who has passed a red signal, or a computer failure in the control room.

NihilisticToad223 karma

sometimes a driver who has passed a red signal

Sounds...errrrr... reassuring.

flr89328 karma

There is a system in place which stops trains straight away if they go past a red signal, which is why it causes delays - everything has to be reset.

seebs268 karma

Have you ever witnessed what happens when someone doesn't "mind the gap"?

flr89368 karma

I've seen a few people fall down the gap when the train was stationary. A woman a few weeks ago hurt her leg badly enough for an ambulance when she didn't look where she was standing as she got off the train. I've never personally witnessed anything worse though (touch wood).

People drop all kinds of stupid stuff down the gap as well. We'll normally stop a train and go down to retrieve it for them in case they decide to take matters into their own hands.

weavin223 karma

  1. Have you ever met the Michael Caine Voxxelgänger (voice doppelgänger) who does the announcements at Southwark? He used to brighten up my day; 'You were only supposed to mind the bloody doors'

  2. On that note, are your bosses aware of how cheery/quirky announcers can make hundreds of peoples days better?

  3. Why are the Jubilee line stations so cool? I used to live by Southwark, and now live near Canada Water, so have visited every Jubilee line station. Were they built by Aliens?

  4. Why can't we have Oyster card chips implanted in our wrists yet? we could call them 'Mussel Chips' (or 'moules frites')

  5. Why is the terminology for somebody getting hit by a train, or committing suicide 'person under the train at _____', it's always seemed quite detached and cold. I'd hate to become a 'person under the train', they don't even seem bothered about it, is this to keep everybody calm and to not put people in a bad mood? How many people die on account of being hit by trains every week?

  6. What are your top tips if I ever get stuck on a train in the middle of a tunnel?

  7. Who's the most famous person you've ever seen get on the tube?

edit: jubilee extension station

flr89168 karma

  1. I haven't but I know a lot of people who like to do similar things.

  2. Apparently not because they tell us not to! We're not supposed to deviate from the script.

3.Yeah they're beautiful. Sadly I'm not lucky enough to work in one.

  1. They did a trial a few years ago with oyster chips in watches. Maybe implants will be next!

  2. I agree, it's a bit creepy. The public have said they like to know exactly what happened, that's why we're so specific. The number of people who get hit varies, around one every 1-4 weeks.

  3. Accept your fate. And get off at the next station if you can get another route.

  4. Michael Parkinson recently.

shadowedrazor177 karma


flr89278 karma

No idea. I would guess maybe it comes from the phrase "the world is your oyster?". Ask Boris I suppose.

stay_sea175 karma

So, in some stations there are announcement boards that are magnetized. How often are the magnets stolen?

Cause I might have a Victoria line magnet on my fridge right now and it might currently have good service.

flr8961 karma

Haha. I've never had one stolen. People don't seem very interested in them.

tibiafibula166 karma

Do a lot of people fall up the stairs? My first trip to London I tripped up the stairs on the way out during rush hour and two tube employees quickly rushed and picked me up. Was thankful but so embarrassed I almost cried!

flr89227 karma

People fall over all the time. Especially running for trains. I've seen far too many people end up in an ambulance bleeding from their head because they couldn't wait 2 minutes for the next train.

mrmanager28143 karma

Have you seen Skyfall? Having just visited London, I was fascinated by the Underground sequences. Any comments on those?

Related: My favorite stop is Bond Street. James Bond Street.

flr89259 karma

The platform scenes were filmed on the disused Jubilee line platforms at Charing Cross. The film refers to it as the District line but the trains are Jubilee. As I said earlier, the escalator scene has seemed to inspire many aspiring James Bonds!

idimmu140 karma

Why do you think the London Underground runs at a massive loss whilst also at the same time is one of the most over crowded and expensive underground systems in the world?

Politics? Maintenance? Subcontracting?

flr89208 karma

It's very expensive to maintain. It's very old and is basically falling apart. Lots of work has to go through long approval procedures because of "heritage" issues.

Staff costs are high (no surprise there). Organisation isn't fantastic.

will851137 karma

  1. Other countries have mobile phone reception in their subway systems, why not in London? Cost? Surely there's demand?

  2. What's the oldest train still in use? I make a point of looking on the metal plate on the steps when I get on.

  3. How long does it take to do a lap of the circle line?

  4. What's your favourite station and why?

flr89172 karma

  1. Cost. Virgin Media have recently installed wifi in a lot of central stations, so it might be something an external company are interested in in the future.

  2. There are steam trains which run on the Metropolitan line occasionally for special events.

  3. At a guess, around an hour? I really don't know.

  4. I love the Jubilee line extension - Westminster, Canary Wharf etc. Very atmospheric stations. I'm also a bit of an Art Deco nerd and the Piccadilly line has some beautiful examples.

isthisfunnyenough130 karma

I was on the tube a couple of weeks ago, and there was an announcement over the tannoy that there was a 'code 2' in progress. What is a code 2, and what is a code 1? How many of these are there?

flr89131 karma

Some stations use codes for the cleaners over the PA. The numbers refer to things like litter, blood, vomit etc.

JudgementsONtheRUN125 karma

  • How do you feel about the drivers always striking ?
  • Your thoughts on loud people on the tube.
  • I made the mistake of telling a group of spanish people who were singing and dancing on the tube (Everyone around them were pissed off) that there are other people on this tube .......... They spat on me .

flr89161 karma

I don't generally agree with the strikes unless they're for good reason. Most of the more recent driver strikes have been due to drivers getting sacked, and it's always difficult to know in those cases who is really in the wrong because the unions do tend to go a bit overboard with cries of discrimination and being sacked for union activity. We very nearly went on strike just before the olympics because of LU counting trained but inexperienced volunteers towards minimum staffing levels on stations.

Yeah I don't care if people want to be loud in the station but if I'm on the train on my way home it pisses me off.

dollars2donuts116 karma

Does the Underground still employ Fluffers?

flr89151 karma

Yes. I see them on late shifts just before I go home. Not a nice job and they're not paid very well.

Steffi_van_Essen113 karma

Hi! I use the tube quite a bit. It can be a stressful and hectic way to travel, but there were two times tube staff have (inadvertently) really brightened up my day.

  • Coming up off the escalator from the central line at Liverpool Street during rush hour there had been some kind of spillage. An employee was standing in front of it directing the heavy flow of passengers, while someone else was on the tannoy saying "Please walk around the LU staff member, I repeat, walk around the LU staff member". Obviously the man on the tannoy was also watching the CCTV, because when one commuter in a hurry tried to disobey the voice suddenly said "NO, you twat! Walk around him, not behind him!"

  • More recently, during a really bad day on the Northern Line the driver came on over his tannoy to say "I apologise for the delay... this is due to incompetence in the signal room".

Are these people likely to have been in line for disciplinary proceedings for unprofessional conduct? I hope not. They have my utmost respect, and their attitude makes the crowds and the delays bearable.

flr8941 karma

Probably not unless a manager happened to be there at the time and heard it. We would get disciplined for swearing over the PA (I heard of someone who was sacked for swearing on the radio) if we were caught.

squeedlyspooch96 karma

First off, thank you for all your hard work and enduring some of the morons that use the tube.

Have you ever visited, or do you have access to the secret/abandoned parts of the underground? I for one would love to go explore some of the abandoned tunnels and stations.

flr8999 karma

I've been in the disused parts of my station - a couple of old ticket offices with some of the old equipment still there, and some service tunnels which still have signs from decades ago. My station group looks after two disused stations but I haven't had the opportunity to visit those.

squeedlyspooch47 karma

Can the public ever see these parts? If so, how does one go about getting access?

flr8986 karma

They do tours of Aldwych disused station. I think you have to pay and go round with a guide.

optical_toaster82 karma

There are loads of signs on the underground saying to beware pick-pockets. How bad a problem are they?

Also, do you have any crazy/weird/funny stories? :D

flr89153 karma

Pickpockets are a massive problem. People tend to be so careless with their stuff though, especially tourists. I've seen tourists have their wallets grabbed out of their cargo shorts pocket, cameras grabbed from around their neck, one guy who was using his oyster through his wallet and dropped the wallet, someone grabbed it and ran before he could pick it up.

I have too many crazy stories to mention! Recently we had a guy who was felt sick and decided he wanted a bit of privacy to throw up, so went past the barrier and jumped down onto the side of the track, causing a driver to freak out and the line controller to cut the traction. And he wasn't even drunk haha.

Immortal_Baron68 karma

SO ive heard oyster cards can be hacked, have you ever caught anyone using a hacked oyster card ?

flr89126 karma

Nope, I've seen plenty of stolen cards though. We know it's been hotlisted as stolen from the error code which comes up when they try to use it on the gates, which is always a funny conversation.


By funny do you mean stabby?

flr89104 karma

To be honest they tend to act all surprised like they had no idea. Or they tell me "no it's not, my friend sold it to me" haha.

RodgersGates53 karma

What do you do if they've blatantly stolen in? Or if you believe they've just found it on the floor?

flr89125 karma

We're supposed to "seize it" from them. But I value my life too highly for that.

osborn8941958 karma

Is your area dangerous? Was it the area hit by the bombings? Do you like cake?

flr89109 karma

It was in the area hit by the bombings but the train was closer to the next station so that's where people were evacuated to. I wasn't working there at the time but I've heard plenty of stories from those who were - apparently it was absolute chaos, nobody knew what was going on and the supervisor evacuated the station on an instinct when he saw all the trains being held in platforms.

Who doesn't love cake?

wyrdyr56 karma

Have you ever had a legitimately scary moment at your job?

flr89184 karma

Idiots jumping onto the tracks to retrieve their dropped phones. A man had a heart attack in the station last week and we had to use the defibrillator. He survived though and is now back home which is nice.

The_general_reaction45 karma

Have you ever been attacked or been suspicious of people walking down there? Like, nervous about getting jumped? What is the creepiest thing you have seen?

flr89105 karma

I haven't been physically attacked, I think being a female helps with that. I know many people who have though. I've had plenty of people shouting at me, calling me all sorts of names, threatening me etc. Commuters are usually the worst for this. I feel sorry for their wives/kids if they get that aggressive over a delay to their journey!

The creepiest thing was probably a middle ages man who was exposing himself to a young teenage girl on her own on the train. I didn't see anything but he was escorted off the train by my supervisor and some helpful members of the public and met by the police.

Jono2020144 karma

I take it a staff oyster card allows for unlimited free travel within the TFL network? Also, best way for me to get from Liv. Street to St Pancreas tomorrow please?

flr8998 karma

It covers Zone 1 to Watford Junction, buses, trams, Overground and DLR, and some National Rail routes within London. We also use it at work to let customers through when their tickets don't work etc.

I'm always surprised at the number of posh sounding men in suits who still say "st pancreas".

sniperlilly37 karma

Ever found a dead body in a cupboard?

flr8986 karma

No but we do have a designated "room" for that purpose on my station.

laddergoat8928 karma

On a scale of 1-10 how reliable would you say the tube is?

I don't live in London (Hampshire) but whenever IO go there I expect chaos and am pleasantly surprised when the tube tends to run like clockwork.

of course.. I'm not there for the morning communte..

flr8947 karma

Far more reliable than it used to be. Certain lines tend to break down more than others, the District line Wimbledon branch for example is down all the time.

It also depends on the time of day, if there's a problem on the Circle line in the early afternoon it will cause minor delays and then be fixed quickly, if it's during the morning peak there will probably be a suspension and then severe delays impacting on 2 or 3 other lines.

HughO225 karma

Here's a bit of a sensitive one, and I totally understand if you don't answer but... What's your salary?

I know tube drivers are on ~£46,000 (or $72000), which has always seemed like quite a lot to me.

flr8938 karma

It's in the 25-30k region. I'm very grateful for my salary.

FAFASGR18 karma

Why does the Bakerloo line smell so bad?

flr8934 karma

It's old and filthy!

redshirt317 karma

Last year I lived near wood green. Within roughly 2 months we had 2 people 'fall under the train'. Are there specific stations that seem to have more deaths than others and are they mostly suicides?

Also, ive seen docs about the underground being particularly haunted, any stories/thoughts on this? Thanks

flr8939 karma

Stations where the trains come in fast are more popular for suicides. I think around 80-90% of deaths on the track are suicides.

I've heard a story about a "ghost handsignaller" who was killed in the 30s and wanders the tunnels at night scaring the contractors. Not entirely convinced by that though!

JinanReddit16 karma

In Hong Kong we have the Octopus card which does what the Oyster card does and more, like paying for food and shopping and even clocking in at work. I heard from someone back home that the Oyster card is heading this way too. Is this true? Because seriously, it's an awesome thing.

flr8921 karma

I reckon they'll phase out the oyster card as the "wave and pay" bank cards get more popular, and people will touch in and out directly with their debit/credit card.

clarkie2215 karma

As a tourist who was in London for the Olympics this summer I have a few questions: - How much busier than usual was the tube during the Olympics? It seemed everybody was freaking out in the lead-up and during the actual event people kind of just shrugged it off. - What is the most surprising thing about the tube that ordinary people don't know? - Does anyone actually take the stairs at Covent Garden???

flr8941 karma

The olympics was hilarious, the peak was so empty I think everyone decided to take 2 weeks off work! I think Boris's scaremongering worked a bit too well. The tourists were great though, really friendly. And we had loads of extra staff to help out.

I see loads of silly people take the stairs at Covent Garden. I bet they regret it halfway up!

radeonalex15 karma

As a daily commuter on the underground and FCC overground, I still have absolutely no idea what the pink oyster scanners are for. I understand the concept of tapping in and out... but then there are the renegade pinkies just sitting in the middle of nowhere.

What are they? I've never touched one and seem to still be alive and well...

flr8923 karma

They're "route validators", basically you touch them in order that the system knows you travelled a certain way, and avoided Zone 1. The TFL website explains them in more detail if you're interested. I don't think many people really know what they're for.

aynez14 karma

HAve you been to many other large cities? And if so. Rate their tubes scale 1-10. I must say I really like the London tubes, much better than New York. Still behind Berlin and Stockholm.. but that's understandable considering how massive the London tube system is.

flr8935 karma

I didn't like the New York subway, found it really confusing. The Washington DC one was nice and clean, but the stations were a bit weird and dark. The Paris Metro is alright, some of the trains were really slow though.

I've been to Berlin and their train system was awesome. A million miles ahead of us.