Transport-Watch August 2010


The bus network in Ealing last received a major overhaul when the “E” routes were introduced many years ago. Since then much industry has been lost in the area, especially around Acton and Southall, whilst elsewhere new large business parks and distribution centres have sprung up, many outside the borough boundary. And when you add to this the many housing developments both large and small it is easy to see that the travel needs of Ealing’s residents have changed considerably. Yet the bus network has by and large remained the same.


Now Ealing Council’s transport planners have been asked to look at the changed commuting patterns and to sit down with Transport for London’s bus planners to see how improvements can be made so that buses will run where they are needed. To do this they need the help of everyone in the Borough, including car commuters. You can help in this important revue by telling Ealing Passenger Transport Users' Group of changes which you would like to see or by contacting your local councillor direct. EPTUG can be contacted via 3 Gordon Road, W5 2AD. Part of the planning exercise will also be taking into account the start of Crossrail in 2017 and the termination of the Greenford Branch Line at West Ealing. 


If during the recent hot weather you have sat on a bus and thought, “the driver's got the heater on”, then you could well be right. It seems that many modern buses, even the newest designs, require the services of an engineer back at the garage to turn the bus heating on or off, But even then the problem is still not solved so easily. Early morning services can be very chilly and so can some late night and all night services. But the problem is exasperated when a sudden downpour causes the drivers windscreen to steam up reducing his visibility and without the heater the demister doesn’t work. It seems that the iconic double deck British bus has some iconic British design faults.


Heathrow Connect claims it provides an essential service for local people working at Heathrow but from the 12th September, the Sunday service, a normal working day for Heathrow employees falls to one train an hour throughout the day.  No reason has been given for this reduction in service and all EPTUG’s attempts to speak to either Heathrow Connect or First Great Western have so far failed. The reduction in service will also adversely affect passengers who rely on the service between Southall or Ealing and Paddington on a day that attracts much traffic. Tourist traffic to Southall rises dramatically on Sunday and visitors are often unable to board the overcrowded First Great Western trains. But now with four trains an hour reduced to three trains per hour the overcrowding becomes more severe.


Delayed, deferred, delayed, now cancelled. The ongoing saga about the delivery of new trains for the Piccadilly Line has at last been resolved but not in the way we would have liked. On the 9th July the order for the new trains, which was to have been finalised by the end of June, was cancelled, and the two bidders for the supply of the new trains were told that procurement of new trains would be delayed by at least eight years. Offers to supply had been submitted two years ago but problems with the PPP arrangements had added to the indecision.  


Hastened no doubt by the rumours of a preservation order being made for the building, the historic transport landmark, Acton Tram Depot, has been demolished. The site, it is understood, is being developed to provide more housing but it does seem strange that at a time when bus operators are trying desperately to find garages for the ever growing bus fleet that this piece of local transport history should be lost to the transport industry.


If you are waiting for an Underground train and you see a train with a smart blue front and large yellow safety patch instead of the customary red and silver front, don’t be surprised and don’t try and get on it. It will probably be London Underground’s newly acquired Asset Inspection Train which is full of test and recording equipment. The train enables engineers to check the quality of the track and detect faults during the working day without interrupting normal services.


Several users and would-be users of Acton Mainline Station have welcomed the suggestion that Heathrow Connect services should stop at that station but still more signatures and letters of support for the proposal are required if the idea is to be adopted. If you are one who would benefit please write without delay to First Great Western, Freepost SWB40576, Plymouth PL4 6ZZ and be sure to send a copy to EPTUG. The final decision does not rest with the train operator but armed with letters of request from would-be beneficiaries the chances of success are increased.


Bus users in London have been warned to expect above inflation levels of fare increases when the annual January fare changes are announced. The Mayor of London is determined to reduce what he calls an unacceptable level of bus subsidy. London fares are well above the level of fares charged in some major UK cities, cities which don’t benefit from the all day tourist traffic numbers. Opponents of high fare increases claim that cancelling the Western Extension to the Congestion Charge Zone will cause a loss of £55m which could be used to keep fares low.


EPTUG was invited to meet the two Labour Party members seeking nomination to be the party’s next Mayoral candidate and was able to ask them how our overcrowded transport facilities could be improved but as expected, no clear answers emerged. 

London’s last Mayor, Ken Livingstone has still not totally accepted that the West London Tram would have created more problems than it would have solved even though he is now a lone voice amongst his political colleagues. He has though accepted that the greater need in outer London is for better orbital transport links rather than improved radial routes and has suggested perhaps an orbital tram is needed. Ken has also said he favours bringing back the “Workman’s Return” ticket to popularise early morning transport services whilst his rival for the nomination, Oona King, has suggested that less expensive 8-seat taxis could replace early morning bus services. Clearly neither of them have tried to board a Heathrow bound 105 or 140 service at five o’clock in the morning.


Crossrail has survived the economic downturn and HS2 in one form or the other is still on the agenda. But what threats are there to Freedom Passes, or to the need for integrated bus stations at Ealing Broadway and Southall Stations? And what is the future of the Greenford Branch?  More than ever before there is a need for users to bind together and be represented. Membership of EPTUG provides a simple step to take.  The membership fee remains at £5pa