Transport Watch – June 2010

 

Both the Mayor of London and the new Minister of Transport, Phil Hammond, have said that Crossrail will go ahead but as always, ”the devil is in the detail”, and rumours about Crossrail still abound. Will it still open on time? Will it run west of Old Oak? Will it serve Heathrow but not Maidenhead? And will the underground platforms still be able to accommodate 12 carriages? For Ealing’s passengers all these things matter greatly. We have stood back whilst stations across the country have been modernised and made more accessible, and we have been told that the gross overcrowding of our Paddington trains will persist until Crossrail opens. We must make it clear to politicians both local and national that any further delays or cut backs will not be acceptable.

 

As users of public transport we are perhaps accustomed to delays but explanations and apologies are always welcome. We were told that the busy 427 route would be extended further into Acton in April but this still has not happened and trying to find out from London Buses why this should be has met with silence. Now TfL have broken that silence and indicated “by late summer”, but no explanation has been forthcoming. London Buses also inform us that the improved frequencies on the notorious 120 service between Northolt, Southall and Hounslow, which were promised for this month, have been deferred until September, and again no explanation or apology given.

 

London Buses do not have a monopoly of “delays”. More than 5 years ago First Great Western promised that new information screens will be installed on platforms across their network improving reliability and giving more information to waiting passengers. For users of the Greenford Line this would have been very welcome for at the time the frequent cancellation of services on the branch were only announced minutes before the due arrival time leaving commuters to scramble for the nearest bus or taxi and almost guaranteeing a late arrival to school or work. FGW say new style screens are on trial, something they told us months ago, but as yet no firm dates for their installation at local stations have been given.

 

One delay that will be welcomed perhaps is the information that the plan to terminate Greenford Branch services at West Ealing has been deferred to 2013. After that date a higher frequency service will be introduced together with the need to change trains at West Ealing in order to reach Ealing Broadway or Paddington.

 

First Great Western have commenced refurbishing their fleet of turbo trains used on local services into Paddington and this work includes modernising the on-board information displays so that they will no longer show stations already passed as stations still en route. New flooring and upholstery together with improved lighting will be installed but plans to replace the three and two seat arrangement with a two and two layout thus providing more standing room have been thwarted because the new anchor points needed would puncture the under floor coolant reservoirs.

 

London Underground have taken over the ill fated Public Private Partnership contract with Tube Lines and this should lead to substantial savings. TfL say that the upgrade of the Jubilee Line will continue but work on the other two lines, the Northern and the Piccadilly may be delayed. The Piccadilly Line was already known to be the last line destined to be upgraded. Now it seems we must wait even longer for our new trains.

 

The London Overground service through South Acton and Acton Central has been a nightmare for its regular users because of the decision to close the line for long periods of time and to virtually rebuild the railway along much of its length. But the good news is that that work has advanced well and is on target. London Overground hope that services on the North London Line will return to near normal in June. Initial feedback from customers also confirms that the new trains, (22 of the 24 new trains ordered for their services have been delivered), are also proving popular with travellers. Though fitted with fewer seats, the open aspect of the trains, the improved lighting and the use of on board CCTV, all combines to win passenger approval.

 

Night owls and late night workers accustomed to returning home on the N207 will be well advised not to wait for it in the vicinity of Holborn anymore. The service now terminates at Oxford Circus in order to avoid the traffic disruption caused by Crossrail engineering at Tottenham Court Road, before returning via Oxford Street, Marble Arch, Notting Hill and Shepherd’s Bush to Uxbridge. The large number of shift workers returning from bar and restaurant jobs to homes in West Ealing and Southall is given as one of the reasons why the N207 in the early hours is regularly full by the time it reaches Shepherd’s Bush leaving passengers there stranded. EPTUG has asked London Buses why buses on the daytime 207 service, returning empty to their Hayes garage cannot be used to take these unfortunate passengers but as always a reply is awaited. If you are affected by this issue please tell EPTUG by ringing 020 8998 0999.

 

The N11 service follows a devious route before terminating at Ealing Broadway. However on its approach to Ealing Broadway it shares the road with other routes operating through the night and it would therefore make a great deal of sense if it followed a different route terminating at, say, Greenford. Not so say London Buses with their usual “we know better air of authority”. They have turned down the suggestion and allocated a new identical contract to serve Ealing Broadway Station.

   

The “ghost bus” that ran once a week between Ealing Broadway Station and Wandsworth which grabbed the local headlines some months ago was due to be replaced last month by a new train service operated by Southern, but Network Rail have stepped in and stopped the service. The odd situation came about when Cross Country Rail stopped running its daily service from the Midlands through Ealing Broadway Station, along the West London Line via West Brompton to continue on to the South Coast. The train did not stop at any station in the area but since no other passenger service now traverses that part of the route, statutory closure procedures apply and until the closure procedure has been followed, a replacement bus service, open to all valid ticket holders, must run.    

 

Crime on the Tube and DLR has fallen once again with public disorder offences falling by around 23%, vandalism by 17% and drug related offences by 21%.  Violent crime also showed a drop, (by around 8%), but pick pocketing offences rose by a staggering 11% during the same period. On the London Overground there has also been a further fall in reported crime, though the drop was not so dramatic as the record fall recorded when the policy of manning station platforms was first introduced.