Transport Watch – August 2012


The number of people using London’s buses is now running at its highest level for more 50 years. Last year 2.34 billion journeys were made, an increase of 2.4% over the previous and 60% higher than in 2000. The rising numbers of passengers may well have come as a shock to London’s bus managers for no new routes have been introduced for almost 5 years and none appear to have been planned.


Overcrowding on First Great Western has, according to some regulars, eased recently thanks, perhaps, to the allocating of surplus diesel trains for use on the Reading to Basingstoke service enabling turbo units, the type used on local services, to be transferred. This month First Great Western are bringing 5, 5coach, Adelante trains back into service on the Cotswold Line routes enabling four Turbo units to be added to the Inner Thames Valley services.


No such luck for users of the Piccadilly Line who regularly find their City bound trains full on arrival with not only Heathrow arrivals on board but their baggage too. By contrast the Heathrow Connect service carries few passengers from the Airport, thanks no doubt to the high fare charged but operators, BAA stubbornly refuse to accept that the transfer of just 1% of passengers from Tube to Connect even at a nominal fare would quickly fill their coffers.


The introduction of the London Underground Reliability Programme in 2011 has, according to the Mayor, substantially reduced delays on the network. Ironically it is mostly the lines that have received the most investment and attention that appear to be giving the most trouble but the Mayor is determined to press on with the programme aiming for a 30% improvement by 2015.    


Will it, won’t it. After months of indecision we have now been told that the extension of route 27 to the Chiswick Park complex will definitely start on the 10th November 2012. Or will it?


Ongoing pressure by MP Angie Bray has secured an undertaking that improvements to Ealing Broadway Station will be completed by December 2017 rather than 2018. Crossrail are also pressing Network Rail to accelerate the work and to remove this blot at the centre of the Borough to the sidings of history. 2018 has been given as the finish date for Acton Mainline Station which will, when Crossrail services start, be an important transport hub and interchange. 


Crossrail’s new trains are expected to be delivered from December 2016 onwards. Initially they will be used on the existing Liverpool Street to Shenfield service. This is to enable any teething troubles with the new design to be sorted out before they enter service with Crossrail in May 2017. Services on the Western section of Crossrail, the section that we are keen to see, will not start until at least a year later. In the meantime, Rio will have hosted the 2016 Olympics and we shall all be a great deal older.


The Department of Transport have also been window shopping for trains to replace the much loved HSTs that rattle through Ealing at great speed. They plan to order 49 new electric trains and at the moment the Japanese firm Hitachi are the favoured supplier. 38 of the trains will be bi-mode design enabling them to run beyond the soon-to-be-electrified section of the network. In the meantime of course government may well plan to extend the overhead wires further into Devon and Cornwall removing the need for the heavier, increased maintenance  bi-mode trains. Hitachi trains are currently in use on HS1 services from St Pancras to the south coast and have proved to very reliable. If the order goes forward the new trains will start to arrive early in 2017.


London United, one of Ealing’s major bus operators, is still taking delivery of new double deck buses which have been well received by passengers and drivers alike. There is a limit to the weekly production figures at the factory gate but United say, “as soon as we get them we will press them into service”.  Having an easier to drive, more comfortable bus makes the job of a bus driver more enjoyable and companies are noticing increased interest from people, especially women, wishing to take up a driving career. 


At the time of writing London’s transport system seems to be coping with the surge in passenger numbers brought about by the Olympics. They have had 7 years to plan for this increase and clearly forward planning has paid off. Well done all those involved. But in 7 years from now the natural increase in passenger numbers will probably exceed those in the Olympic peak. EPTUG hopes they will continue to work together and to plan ahead. Crossrail will ease loads on the Central Line but Chiltern seem hell bent on abandoning commuters in the north of the borough and, unless more Heathrow passengers can be attracted to Connect’s Crossrail successor, the Piccadilly Line nightmare will grow worse. Importantly the bus network must change and adapt to new loadings and rail connections. Ealing Council has been busily engaged looking at our transport needs, please TfL keep the close contacts alive and decisive.