Transport Watch – September 2011

by John Beeston - one of our committee members

 

September, the traditional month for returning to work or to school or college traditionally means a return to overcrowded roads and overcrowded trains. Perhaps that is why the authorities traditionally use quiet month before to announce the inevitable, “fares are going to rise”, and, “trains remain overcrowded”, statements leaving us to ponder which is greater evil.

 

In August the Office of the Rail Regulator published their annual report which showed that overcrowding on commuter trains into London had risen from 2.2% in 2009 to 3.0% in 2010. Overcrowding on morning peak arrivals into London ranged from 0% on London Overground to 5% on Southern but a massive 18.5% on First Great Western, a new record high. Evening overloads were lighter, though FGW at 14.4% stood out like a sore thumb alongside the Capitals next poorest service at 4%.  The ORR is an independent publicly funded body set up to oversee the privatised railways. Their report is there for everyone to see and use. It provides excellent reasons for increased capacity now, not when Crossrail starts. MPs and councillors please note, and note too that the figures at Paddington would be even higher if it were not for the massive transfer from FGW to the Tube at Ealing Broadway.

 

The other August ritual, announcing fare increases scheduled for January also drew the ritual moans and groans from passenger and press alike. None of the changes take immediate effect but give the train operators the chance to fine tune the individual fares in readiness for the New Year, when once again we can raise our collective groan. It is of course hard to see why our fares remain so much higher than elsewhere in Europe especially when getting a seat, or at many of our stations, forcing ones way into a carriage, in order to travel, becomes the order of the day. If it is any consolation at all remember that the taxman allows you to charge your company up to 45 pence per mile for journeys made by car for business and yet the motoring organisations say this inadequate. Most season tickets fall below this level so if only we could get a seat. maybe the cost of the ticket would be acceptable.

 

It has been over a month since the 607 eastbound stop near Christ Church in central Ealing was removed without warning leaving travellers a stark choice of leaving the bus at West Ealing or a mile or do further on at Ealing Broadway. Ealing Passenger Transport Users Group have been struggling to get a meaningful reply from London Buses and has now asked for an on spot meeting. If you work in an office or shop affected by the absence of a convenient stop could you and your colleagues sign a simple petition and posting it to www.eptug.org.uk.

 

Perhaps you could also tell EPTUG what happens when the onboard announcement states that the next stop is at Bond Street but then the driver refuses to stop there. Or perhaps of  instances where the 607 has been turned short at Ealing Broadway. Did the driver deposit you at another 607 stop or not. Perhaps a message on EPTUG message line, 020 8998 0999.  The 607 has since its introduction been a growing success and amongst the Uxbridge Road passengers there is a loyal patronage. But London Buses appears to dislike limited stop services frequently turning down requests from local councils and user groups. Can their current attitude be part of a plan to break the 607 service?    

 

Overcrowding on the West Coast Mainline to Birmingham has prompted Chiltern to start a fast service to Birmingham from Marylebone operating 6 times a day and bringing back into use the classic BR style coaches to tempt business travellers. Later Chiltern plans to compete with FGW with a new Oxford to London service but there I still no mention of improved London metro service nor the hoped for West Hampstead station.

 

Regulars on the 105 Greenford to Heathrow service say the service has improved since Metroline took over in July but late evening time keeping has been affected by road works on the A4. The 105 service was one of many routes affected by the recent Hindu celebrations in Southall. London Buses once again seem to have been caught out by the celebrations and appeared to have made no alternative plans or announcements.

 

The Circle Line is back after a summer break during which the engineers, we are told, virtually rebuilt the Victorian track bed and drainage. Sewers dating back to 1850 and lengths of rail from 1940 have been replaced and power supplies enhanced in readiness for the introduction of new air conditioned trains to be introduced next year. Work on the Hammersmith Line has also been carried out noticeably extending platforms to enable longer trains to operate between Hammersmith and Aldgate. Old habits die hard but if you are travelling onwards from Paddington to Euston or Kings Cross, for example go direct to Platform 16 rather than the Circle Line since the Circle Line terminates at Edgware Road.

 

Discussions continue with London Buses over the location of the replacement Countdown signs. London Buses were known to favour restricting the signs to Countdown’s former sites whilst the Council was keen to see these installed at sites where a choice of service might be available. Outside Southall Station, both heavily used stops and served by 6 routes all going in slightly different ways, seems an ideal candidate for a Countdown sign but there are others. Tell EPTUG on 020 8998 0999.

 

London’s most successful railway, the Overground, has confidently announced yet more expansion plans for the next decade and these include increasing the service frequency through Acton Central to 5 trains comprising 5 coaches per hour. Surely London Buses must now consider serving the station with a direct bus link to maximise the station’s catchment area.

 

Fare avoidance, theft in another form, continues to rise even though stronger measures are now in place, including the conversion of articulated vehicle routes back to double deck operated routes. Now the Mayor has opened the debate by asking, “should the penalty fare be increased?”  

Please make you views known by contacting www.eptug.org.uk or via 020 8998 0999.