Transport Watch – May 2010

 

Perhaps by the time you read this we might have a better idea who will be controlling our destinies both from number 10 and our local Town Hall but it will be some weeks later before we know exactly how the new government will address the important topic of public transport. The suggestion made during the run up to the election that Crossrail may be cancelled or curtailed came as a major shock for it is a project that has all-party support at both local and national level. Station improvements, already long overdue, were, we were told, going to be addressed “when Crossrail comes”. But if Crossrail hangs in the balance then we must expect local politicians to demand that improvements, especially disabled access, must be addressed regardless.

 

Running Crossrail to Heathrow and no further will not help local people who find travel to the airport by bus, tube or even taxi both simpler, cheaper and quicker. It will mean that the many local people wishing to travel between the Borough and the Thames Valley will suffer a reduced service and probably a change of train too. The users of the Greenford Line will be particularly worse off with their trains terminating at West Ealing to enable handfuls of east Londoners to get to Heathrow in comfort.

 

Meanwhile to the east of London, the London Overground has started running services on the former East London Underground Line and already in Dalston and along the new line there are signs of regeneration blossoming forth. At the moment trains run Monday to Friday (08.00-20.00) terminating at New Cross or New Cross Gate but by the end of the month a full service through to Crystal Palace and East Croydon will operate seven days a week. Elsewhere on the London Overground work continues a pace to link the North London Line, serving Acton Central and South Acton, via the new station at Dalston Junction providing simpler ways for Ealing residents to reach south London.

 

The controversy surrounding plans to reduce the number of hours many station ticket offices open continues. Unions are of course opposed but passengers appear to be quite apathetic about the issue. Ealing Passenger Transport Users Group would like to see staff redeployed to the more visible position, on the station platforms, and has reminded LUL that this plan, when carried out on the North London Line, led to a 40% reduction in reported crime on the line. However it is widely felt that booking office staff displaced by the plans will not be redeployed in this way.

 

Members and guests who attended the recent talk at Ealing Town Hall by Tim Bellenger about the sterling work done by London TravelWatch will realise how important this passengers' voice is. But now the Greater London Assembly who finance this vital work is asking travellers for their views about TravelWatch. Could it be that they want to give this consumer watch dog more teeth, more researchers, more case workers or are they seeking reduced powers, lower funding and a changed, less effective role. Whatever their reasons it is important to know your opinion especially as we now seem to be entering a period of reduced investment in our railways and local bus services. Please write to EPTUG at 3 Gordon Road, W5 2AD.

 

Malachy McGirr has the unenviable task of managing Chiltern's stations from Gerrards Cross to Wembley. He is concerned that the perspex roof over the staircase at the poorly served Sudbury and Harrow Road Station is causing undesirables and others to congregate there and adding to the litter problem that we are all too aware of. Would removing the roof, and thus the only shelter, reduce this problem or simply create a bigger problem. Tell EPTUG what you would do in his place by writing to EPTUG at 3 Gordon Road, W5 2AD.  

 

Christmas comes but once a year – and so does Vaisakhi, but whilst London Buses plan for Christmas and other Bank Holidays, Vaisakhi and other festivals celebrated in Southall always catches them out and the result for travellers in the Southall area is chaos. This year’s parade through the centre of Southall was the biggest yet and spectators and celebrants from across Europe were attracted to the town. Brightly coloured food stalls lined the roads in the town and a procession of coloured floats proceeded through the towns streets. But instead of laying on extra buses to bring people to the town, they abandoned it. Some drivers followed unadvertised diversionary routes round the town whilst others simply abandoned all thoughts of proceeding and turned round leaving their passengers stranded. EPTUG received calls from passengers who had waited over an hour for a bus that never came and early morning workers trying to return home from Heathrow were left marooned and without information.

 

Ealing Passenger Transport Users Group is determined to see that the residents in the west of the Borough do not suffer in this way again and they are demanding a round table meeting with London Buses, local councillors, gurdwaras and other interested parties to resolve the issue. If you were affected by the bus network chaos or would like to join the consultations than please let EPTUG know by ringing 020 8998 0999.

 

London taxi fares were increased on the 10th April but it takes time to reconfigure all taxi meters immediately. TfL, who now control taxis in London, insist that all meters must be re-set and showing the correct fares by the 9th May,  So if after that date a London cabbie is trying to add something extra on to the metered figure then he probably isn’t a genuine London cabbie.

 

The Mayor of London is determined to reduce the subsidy paid to London Buses even though the capital’s bus fares are amongst the highest in Europe. A further rise in fares to be introduced midway through the year has not been ruled out but now seems unlikely, whilst other measures, such as reducing night services and some early morning services still seems a distinct possibility. The replacement, open-platformed, Routemaster may be abandoned even though the prototype is already being built in Northern Ireland, and the much maligned bendi-bus may continue in service on London’s roads for some considerable time yet.

 

Our local railways are also feeling the pinch and all of them are offering some special bargains to win customers over the summer. Chiltern offer fares to Birmingham well below those charged on other lines and reaching there is simple without the need to go into Marylebone. First Great Western offer their customers free bus travel in Bristol and a range of special offers to the West Country resorts (St Ives £15 single, Bath £.9.50), and South West Trains are trying to also tempt us with similar offers to the South Coast towns. All these details can be found on the various company websites.