Transport Watch - April 2011
The Transport Minister, Theresa Villiers, was full of praise for First Great Western when she met their management team and passenger group representatives at Paddington on Tuesday. First Great Western’s Chief Executive, Mark Hopwood, told the assembled group that FGW were now nearing the end of a complete refurbishment of the Turbo fleet at a cost to the company of more than £8m, well in excess of the amount they had contracted to do by the terms of their franchise agreement. Mark was particularly proud of his team for performing the work in-house rather than sending the trains away to outside contractors thus enabling the trains to be returned to service in a faster time.
Ms Villiers took the opportunity to tell
the group present that in spite of the difficult financial situation facing the
Government, investment in the railways was still being made and she reminded
everyone that Crossrail and the electrification of the lines to
Mayor Boris Johnson has also been
announcing plans to improve transport. This week he unveiled a massive
investment plan, said to be the biggest transport improvement plan for 80
years. Improvements to three tube lines and extensions to the Barclays Cycle
Scheme have been promised plus a cable car across the
750,000 Oyster Cards marking the Royal
Wedding go on sale in time for the big day joining the 43 million already
issued since the scheme started. Over 80% of journeys in
Many bus routes in central
Taxi fares across
Continual pressure by EPTUG and Brent and
Kensington and Chelsea Council’s decision announced last week that it was prepared to underwrite the estimated £33m cost of a Crossrail station between Paddington and Acton Mainline has thrown yet another spanner in the works for Crossrail’s planning team. Already the news of a possible major interchange with the planned HS2 at Old Oak has led to a re-think of plans and causing residents in the eastern end of this borough to keep a close watch on plans for their area.
Though Crossrail’s budget survived the 2010
round of government spending cuts, overspending by the project management is
now believed to be leading to the scaling back on several parts of the original
planning. Plans to provide three escalators at Tottenham Court Road are
believed to have been reduced to two escalators in order to save money.
Detailed plans for stations across Ealing have yet to be revealed in detail but
rumours suggest that scaling back in the designs may be necessary. EPTUG is
concerned that scaling back may mean that adequate lifts might not be provided
at Ealing Broadway and is urging residents to write to both Ealing Council and
the Gazette stressing the need for lifts at this busy station. You should also
copy EPTUG at
Yet more delays to the upgrade of passenger information signs on both FGW and the Tube. First Great Western are providing much of the infrastructure to enable Network Rail’s contractors to finish the job and it seems to EPTUG as casual observers that liaison between the interested parties is not working as well as it should. Meanwhile there are no plans, through lack of funds, to upgrade the Underground’s information services but later this month members of the EPTUG committee are due to meet with the general manager to see what interim steps can be taken.
Informed industry sources have advised EPTUG that First Great Western will not apply to extend its franchise when it runs out in 2013. If so this will leave the DfT with a major headache because the new franchisee, if one can be found, will have to contend with major disruptions to services including the complete upgrade of the region’s signalling system, electrification of the lines from Paddington to Oxford, Bristol and Cardiff, and the construction of Crossrail to Maidenhead. Add to those headaches, the notorious overcrowding and the absence of any new rolling stock to resolve those issues and provide flexibility in the timetable and it is easy to understand why FGW might take that decision.