Transport Watch – October 2010


First Great Western have pressed ahead with their plans to severely reduce the Sunday service at Southall and Ealing Broadway in spite of last minute attempts by Ealing Council and London Travel Watch to get them to think again. At Southall, where tourist and shopping traffic rises sharply on Sundays, the four trains an hour service was slashed to two trains per hour both departing within fifteen minutes of each other. FGW say planned engineering work is the reason for the cuts but on the first three Sundays of the revised timetable no work has been carried out between Paddington and Slough.


Meanwhile during the morning peak, volunteers from EPTUG have started giving out questionnaires to passengers at Hanwell, Southall and West Ealing to try and establish how often they fail to board the train because of overcrowding. At a meeting with the Minister of Transport in the previous government they were told that no extra capacity would be provided before 2017. EPTUG are anxious to meet the new Minister and replies to the survey will be helpful when they do.


London Buses are looking at the possibility of changing route 105 (from Greenford via Southall to Heathrow), ceasing to serve the Compass Centre at Heathrow but instead proceeding directly from Bath Road to Heathrow Central. Traffic to and from the Compass Centre has dropped significantly since British Airways transferred their cabin crew base from the Centre to Terminal 5. An announcement is expected later in the year. However they have already, and without making enquiries, rejected London TravelWatch’s and EPTUG’s protests that the withdrawal of route 435 has created unacceptable difficulties for Southall residents to reach the south side of the airport.


No changes are planned for route 140 linking the north of the borough to Heathrow even though both Harrow and Ealing Councils, together with their local user groups, have complained about frequencies and reliability of the existing service. London Buses have also turned down proposals to investigate a limited stop service on this popular orbital route even though this would speed journeys for many and be a more efficient use of drivers and vehicles.


Ticket machines on National Rail stations should have more clarity and an improved layout of the screens, according to an extensive survey carried out by Passenger Focus. Better use of colour and highlighting the step back screen are amongst the many suggestions made. Where there are large numbers of screens, such as at many mainline stations, floor walkers to assist customers should be provided.


For passengers on London Underground the ability to use Oyster or Freedom Passes removes the need for many ticket machines but also, say TfL, it removes the need for ticket offices. In support of its case LUL quote North Ealing Station where the ticket office is open from 7.30am to 10.00am during which they claim 14 tickets were sold, making it they say the lightest used ticket office on the entire system. What isn’t recorded is the number of enquiries handled by the staff.


The once a week “ghost bus” service from Ealing Broadway to South London is still operating as a cheaper alternative to following the statutory closure procedures needed following the withdrawal of the Cross Country service that ran from Manchester via Reading to Brighton. Now the rail operator Southern has applied to operate a late evening Clapham High Street to Ealing Broadway train service. If agreed this would replace the “ghost bus”. EPTUG would like to see this service introduced and extended to Greenford and not just limited to a once a week service.


A new company has been given a three year contract to manage Oyster Cards. The new company, Cubic Transportation Systems, will pursue the option known as the Future Ticketing Agreement and also provide TfL with a saving of £10 million a year. In January this year Oyster usage was extended to all local national rail services helping London to buck the national trend of recession-led passenger downturns.


EPTUG has been trying since April to meet with London Buses’ Operations Division to discuss ways that bus services to Southall could be improved when the town centre is closed to enable festivals and celebrations to take place. The simple lack of advance warning on bus stops for example has led to passengers waiting at bus stops in excess of an hour for a service that does not arrive. Countdown, where it exists gives little if any information. In mid September they were told that plans had been lodged with Ealing Council but enquiries made suggest that this is not so. Perhaps by bringing London Buses reluctance to discuss services with the people who use them into the open we may see a measure of co-operation.  


This year the annual Underground in Bloom competition organised by TfL has introduced a new Fruit and Vegetable Category and North Acton Station on the Central Line has become the first winner of the trophy. Strawberries and sweet corn are amongst the unlikely fruit and veg to be found at this busy station.


Trains on the North London line through Acton Central now have 4 carriages (part of the promised upgrade) and this increased capacity together with greatly improved security measures has led to the line carrying more passengers than ever before. But upgrade work has not yet been fully completed. The line will undergo further closures around Christmas and the New Year. Services to Willesden will be suspended from the 27th December to the 3rd January.


A new chairman of the North London British Transport Police Passenger Forum has been appointed. He is Supt Gareth Willliams. He joined the force in 1992 and has spent some time with the Metropolitan Police with whom the BTP work very closely. The North London Region is one the country’s busiest region but Supt Williams has pledged to ensure that stations and journeys within Ealing remain under constant police vigilance. Nationally the BTP are very concerned about increasing number of thefts of metal taking place on the network. Thefts of copper cable from signalling systems create havoc leading to the cancellation and slow running of trains and impacting adversely on thousands of passengers. To help combat this rise in crime BTP would like anyone seeing something suspicious to ring Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Rewards are offered for useful information. Railway staff are applying Smartwater to cable and metal to deter theft and help identify stolen metal


If you have any comments about these or any local transport matters please tell EPTUG on 020 8998 0999.