Transport Watch – December, 2009


It is all change on the Circle Line for next week the Circle Line will disappear from the Underground map and be replaced by what is being dubbed, “the Tea Cup”. From the 13th trains will start and finish at Edgware Road and run via Kensington, Victoria and Kings Cross returning to Hammersmith. This say LUL will enable a more frequent reliable service to be provided but for FGW passengers arriving at Paddington and travelling onwards to Baker Street and beyond the advice will be board your Underground train at Platform 16, the Hammersmith & City Line platform.


Most of us agree that December can be an expensive month but for travellers January is the month they dread for it is the month that traditionally rail fares and London bus fares rise. This year is no different except that some of the regulated rail fares will be reduced by a few pennies reflecting the drop in the cost of living index reported earlier this year. Nevertheless if you can afford it might pay to renew your season ticket this month rather than next.


Changes too to the railway timetables, so be sure to check the time of your customary train before rushing to catch it. Sadly neither the poorly served stations along the Chiltern Line into Marylebone nor the users of the overcrowded First Great Western line into Paddington will see any improvement to the service they depend upon but elsewhere on the national network major improvements are being implemented including the start of the UK’s first high speed commuter service from North Kent into St Pancras.


Residents in the south of the borough are at last able to use pre-paid Oyster Cards on South West Train’s services into Waterloo bringing them into line with customers of both Chiltern and First Great Western who have enjoyed this facility for some months. It means that daily usage of the Oyster Card can be capped at the one day travel card level including the SWT part of the journey. Now that national rail operators have agreed to accept Oyster Cards the Mayor has announced that from January sales of One Day Travelcards will end.


Southall’s MP, Virenda Sharma, is only too aware of the severe overcrowding many of his constituents suffer on train services into central London and recently asked the Secretary of State why the allocation of extra carriages promised for 2011 had been cancelled. But when the Department answered his enquiry they carefully skirted round a direct answer referring simply to the proposed electrification of the line and the allocation of new trains in 2017. Both EPTUG and Virenda Sharma intend to pursue the matter and to resolve what they consider to be a totally unacceptable situation.  


Mayor Johnson is known to be concerned about the cost of subsidising public transport in the capital even though fares charged are amongst the highest in Europe. Now representatives of EPTUG and other user groups across the Capital have been invited to City Hall to be told about plans to cut investment in the bus network. The meeting will be addressed by members of the TfL Board and the Mayor’s Transport Advisor, Kulveer Ranger amongst others.


The need to make cuts in funding is also being quoted as the reason why it has been decided to stop work on the installation of a lift at Greenford Station. Critics of the decision say it makes no sense to abandon work already carried out and cannot understand why instructions cannot be given to finish the work. Often lifts and escalators at London Underground stations are tailor made for the site and scrapping the scheme now could well cost more than completing the scheme. TfL however remain adamant claiming the Mayor’s decision is final,


Major improvement work on the London Overground will continue unabated and regular Sunday closing will continue whilst capacity on the line is increased enabling Ealing residents in the Acton area to enjoy a better, more reliable service. Further along the line work to extend and improve the East London Line continues within budget and on target with test trains already running from Dalston through to New Cross via Shoreditch.


North Acton residents living near the Tube Station are also in for disturbance brought about by engineering work. TfL expect a further three months of night time essential work on the bridge over the Central Line at the station. TfL say the work cannot be done whilst the trains are running.


The second phase of upgrading passenger information screens at Chiltern’s stations has been reached with orders being placed with the manufacturer for the new IT equipment. Stations included in phase two include Northolt Park, Sudbury and Harrow Road and Sudbury Hill. In the meantime there is still no news about the new information screens on First Great Western, (promised as “being imminent” by Thames Trains and repeated by FGW ever since). Replacement of London Buses’ Countdown System also seems to have stalled and now, in view of the Mayor’s cut backs, seems likely to be abandoned. If it is, EPTUG would like to know how much has been invested in the new technology and how much compensation is to be made to the contractors.


As forecast, Ealing Council’s Crossrail Scrutiny Committee would like to see the southern exit at Hanwell Station re-opened even before Crossrail services start. This would make access for people living to the south of the station much easier and would also enable a midi bus service to run to nearby Ealing Hospital and the Armstrong Way Industrial Estate. Unless this is done it is unlikely that Crossrail will improve its plan to serve the station twice hourly,


London Buses’ statement that, “they would not review bus services until 2 years before the introduction of Crossrail”, was met with gasps of dismay when their spokesperson, Chloe Smith, announced this to the recent Crossrail Scrutiny Committee. Passenger numbers at all stations to be served by Crossrail are expected to soar and catchment areas widened once the service starts. The biggest increase is expected at Southall where a rise of over 500% is anticipated and where at present buses stop on the roadway outside the station to load, bringing other traffic to a halt.  Not surprisingly Committee Chairman, John Cowing has asked TfL Buses to hold urgent discussions with TfL Crossrail and the council to prepare an integrated transport plan. It is hoped that EPTUG will also be involved to present the customers’ views.       


Controlled Parking Zones, or CPZs, can certainly make life easier for residents who often find that roads outside their homes become car parks for commuters for most of the day but when a CPZ is introduced it often means the unofficial car park simply moves a short distance away creating even more chaos there instead. Recently thoughtless parking in Lynwood Road, Ealing led to delays of over an hour to bus route 226. CPZs are always under review and currently the council is also reviewing bus lanes. Perhaps if you have views you could contact EPTUG at 3 Gordon Road W5 2AD or by using the message line, 020 8998 0999.