diamond geezer

 Friday, January 24, 2014

TfL volunteers set to help Londoners on the Tube
24 January 2014

Transport for London today set out plans to bring greater front line support to the Tube. TfL's plans include the deployment of hundreds of volunteers who are trained to help at Tube stations, to assist customers and to keep London moving.

These volunteers have been recruited from London's vast army of Tube enthusiasts. Thousands of men and women, but mostly men, make it their business to know everything there is to know about the London Underground. Now TfL will be putting their expert knowledge to good use as frontline staff in stations across the capital.

Hilary Benson, LU's Chief Operating Officer, said:
'We all know that a lot of Londoners are obsessed by the Tube. They ride the Circle line for no reason, they know the difference between 1972 Stock and 1973 Stock, and they fret over inconsistencies on the tube map. Now we plan to capitalise on their enthusiasm by signing them up for station duty across the network. And it won't cost taxpayers a penny.'


These new volunteers will be called Semi-Professional Operating Deputies, or Spods for short. Spods will be deployed on a variety of duties in stations, ranging from giving directions to helping out at ticket machines. You might find a Spod updating the message on the whiteboard or picking up litter from the far end of the platform. Spods will also be able to advise you on the best route avoiding Zone 1, which carriage on the train means you'll be nearest the exit at your destination, and where you should look out of the window to see the abandoned station. Best of all, Spods will get to wear a special badge with a roundel on it, which will make them very happy.

Kieran McKenzie, one of TfL's inaugural Spods, said:
'I've always hung around my local tube station, so moving up to become a Spod was a natural step. I can still loiter by the tube map on the platform offering advice like I always used to, but now people actually seem to be interested. Last week I shared a packet of biscuits with passengers to celebrate the 79th anniversary of the heritage lamp fitting at the bottom of the stairs. But my favourite thing so far has been explaining to a grateful commuter how those pink Oyster readers actually work and saving them £528 on their Travelcard.'


Spods have been recruited via the usual social media channels. Vacancies were advertised in the nerdier topics on recognised tube forums, and individuals on Twitter who responded to @TfLOfficial with especially pedantic tweets were offered immediate positions via Direct Message. Attendees at steam railway galas were also targeted, as was anyone who went upstairs in the TfL Shop at Covent Garden. All successful applicants have completed TfL's usual Health and Safety course and are fully licensed. However no further work-based training has been required because these Spods know far more about the network than many long-serving staff.

Candice Patel, LU's Chief Recruitment Officer, said:
'The best thing about Spods is that they're willing to work long hours without being paid, thereby helping TfL to bear down on fares. Spods always help ladies with pushchairs up long flights of stairs, which our staff aren't allowed to do for reasons of litigation, plus they bring their own smartphones, so we have no need to issue them with tablets. Indeed, so long as we promise every Spod a free trip down Aldwych tube station once a year, they keep coming back for more and doing sterling work.'


The rollout of Spods will continue throughout 2014, with the expectation that every station will be staffed by at least two Spods by this time next year. Together they will help increase staff visibility in ticket halls and on platforms, helping customers to buy the right ticket, to plan their journeys and to keep them safe and secure. It may be that fewer existing employees are required on customer-facing duties as the role played by Spods increases in scope. However TfL have promised that there will be no compulsory redundancies amongst their new band of volunteers as this modernisation programme drives forward.

Hilary Benson, LU's Chief Operating Officer, said:
'Our customers can rest assured that all our stations will always remain staffed at all times when our services are operating. Even during next week's threatened tube strike, our army of volunteers will be out in force to provide advice and apologise that there are no trains. In consequence we see the future of the Tube very much in terms of non-unionised labour and greater automation, and Spods will play an increasingly important role in keeping London moving and open for business.'


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