Transport Watch – March 2011


Representatives from Ealing’s travel watchdog volunteers, EPTUG, took the matter of overcrowding on local First Great Western trains to the very top by meeting Transport Minister Theresa Villiers, in person on Monday 28th February. At the meeting Ms Villiers was shown pictures of passengers trying to board overcrowded trains at Southall and was told that even during the day or late evening passengers could be left behind, a situation which Ms Villiers found totally unsatisfactory. Ealing Central & Acton MP Angie Bray, who was also present, confirmed the situation and expressed the view that waiting until Crossrail starts operation was not a suitable answer.


The EPTUG volunteers, quoting from the Borough’s Draft Local Implementation Plan, advised the Minister that 14,000 new homes are to be built as part of the Borough’s commitment to the GLA, and that 94,500 sq metres of employment land would be provided. The land along the FGW and Crossrail route would provide the main thrust of this expansion and this would inevitably add to the overcrowding situation well before the start of Crossrail.


The Uxbridge Road corridor was already one of London’s most congested roads and pollution levels were already above the London average. This too was something which the Minister felt was unsatisfactory and she promised to take note of this and all the other points raised. She confirmed that the government was committed to reducing all rail overcrowding by 2014 and told the delegation she would be making a statement about providing extra capacity across the national network shortly. We will of course now have to wait and see if local commuters will benefit but in the meantime please let EPTUG know of your travel experiences on FGW.    


Overcrowding is also a problem on many of the Borough’s bus routes too and London Buses’ reluctance to short-work bus routes does not help. Often buses leaving Hammersmith cross into Ealing without picking more passengers but then run less than full for the remainder of their journey. Route 65 often leaves the Ealing Broadway Station stop completely full, but from South Ealing onwards has space to spare. Now EPTUG has suggested that route 112 or E9 should continue to the Great West Road to overcome the problem. Their reply is awaited.


When the 207 route changed to a bendi-bus operation the well used stop in the Mall used by passengers transferring to and from Ealing Broadway Station was moved well back towards Florence Road adding quite a distance to the walk between the two. Now of course conventional double deck vehicles are scheduled to take over by December and there is no longer a reason to impose such a long walk on passengers but TfL have refused a request from EPTUG to return the stop, ( K), to its original position quoting lack of funds as the reason.


Paddington Station is London’s 7th busiest station with just over 29 million passengers using it annually. If, as rumoured, Ealing Broadway’s combined National Rail and Underground passenger flows exceed 22 million, this places the borough’s principal station 12th in the table just behind Glasgow Central, with 23.8 million passengers annually and Birmingham New Street, with 24.8 million.


While passengers all agree we need more buses there is less than general agreement as to where these should be garaged and serviced. First Bus however think they have found a solution which will please everybody, a site in Atlas Road, Park Royal which, if approved, will ensure we have the scope for more frequent services in the future.


More and more buses are now entering Ealing’s roads showing just a single destination name only and many passengers, unfamiliar with the area find this is more and more confusing. There are after all several different routes to Hounslow Bus Station and trying to fight your way to the head of the bus queue to read the timetable, (if it's there), is not an easy solution though this is what London Buses say we must do. Once upon a time London’s iconic red bus showing all the major points of call en route was held up as example of good practice but now no longer. At the same time London’s lead with Countdown shone out as an example of good practice but now the capital lags well behind most provincial towns and cities.


More than 2 million journeys are made every week on London’s commuter rail lines using the popular Oyster Card and all National Rail operators report a surge in passenger numbers since they were obliged to accept the card. Soon the cards will issued sporting a new plastic jacket for the successful sponsorship of the cover by the well known Swedish home products chain is coming to an end and a new sponsor, MasterCard, takes over.


Passengers on the London Overground services through South Acton and Acton Central have long been accustomed to losing their complete service for days on end and may be a small consolation to them to know that they can now change from the line to the extended East London Line without a short walk between stations. However from last Monday it has been possible to do so since the line to Croydon does now terminate at Highbury and Islington Station. This link has opened three months ahead of schedule.


Meanwhile passengers using the Chiltern Line will need to get accustomed a complete lack of service for the London end of the line is due to close for two weeks at the end of August to enable engineers to virtually rebuild the line at the point where the Paddington Branch parts company with the Marylebone Branch. This work is necessary to facilitate faster trains to Birmingham Moor Street and the new service to Oxford. Because of this work time table enhancements planned for the “London End” for May 22nd have been shelved until later in the year. 


However there might soon be some good news for people living near the two Sudbury Stations. Bowing to continued pressure from EPTUG and from Brent Council, Chiltern are considering improving the services out of both stations. The proposals are still at an early stage and require the agreement of Network Rail and others. More details will appear in the next Transport Watch column.