Transport-Watch March 2012

 

News about the revised bus arrangements at Paddington was received just too late for inclusion in last month’s column. Eastbourne Terrace, alongside Platform 1 closed on the 12th February to enable the new Crossrail Station to be built. Buses will use Westbourne Terrace and Craven Road necessitating changes to bus stops. Taxis will load from near the Hammersmith and City Line Platforms, (15 & 16), and new escalators to the taxi rank, and new pedestrian access point have been installed midway along Platform 12. New ticket barriers have also been installed to enable the rearrangement.

 

Elsewhere in central London, Blackfriars Underground Station has re-opened after many months, part of the major Network Rail modernisation plan. Not wishing to be left out of the “improved stations list”, First Great Western have announced that WiFi is being installed at 13 of its stations this month including Ealing Broadway.

 

The penalty fare for travelling on Transport for London services was increased to £80 on the 19th February in an attempt to cut down fare evasion. The penalty fare drops to £40 if paid within 21 days but failure to pay can lead to court proceedings, a criminal record and fines of up to £1,000.

 

We all know how distressing it can be when the Tube breaks down and minutes delay can seem like hours. Getting the Tube restarted is not helped when the engineers trying to reach the incident are themselves delayed by the chaotic travel on the roads above ground but now, with the Olympics very much in mind, permission has been given to attach blue lights similar to those used by ambulances and police cars to enable repair vehicles to make more rapid progress to the scene.

 

Congratulations to Gary Jones, a driver with London United. Gary recently won the much coveted “Top London Driver” award, winning against stiff competition from across London and proving that not all London’s bus drivers see driving as London’s version of Ben Hur. The judges consider mystery traveller reports, driving standards assessments, internal driving monitoring and of accident records. All London drivers are required to attend regular training by TfL. This can range from better driving skills to disability awareness.

 

           TfL have announced plans to issue a credit card size card to alert staff to the fact that the passenger may need support and may have invisible disabilities. This say TfL should boost their confidence in approaching staff. The card is being introduced following discussions with disability charities and support groups and is part of a £6.5 billion investment in infrastructure improvement. 166 TfL stations have been refurbished since 2008 and 15 more stations made step free. The TfL press release did not state whether the £6.5 billion included the cost of abandoning and removing the lift installation at Greenford Station, one of the highest in the Borough and one with several bus routes feeding into it.   

 

Thanks to pressure from Ealing Council, EPTUG and other local action groups, Ealing Broadway should be getting a lift in advance of the wider station improvement programme. It is one of 8 stations listed on the TfL “plan to do” list. The lift will access the main platform area, (platform 4) but not the busy westbound platform 3 or the frequently used District Line platform on the station’s north side. By mid 2016 new trains should be operating on the District Line with, we are advised, better access for wheelchair and other less mobile passengers. In the meantime we have again asked that grab handles be fitted to the existing rolling stock enabling easier access when platform levels are lower than the train.  

 

Chiltern are replacing the canopies at the lightly used Sudbury and Harrow Road Station in the hope that this station, probably London’s most underused station, will have an improved appearance. They are also providing toilet facilities for the drivers of buses which terminate near the station. Chiltern have been told that what is really needed in order to improve the station is a more frequent service. Sudbury and Harrow Road enjoys London’s poorest service and with little prospect of improvement.

 

By contrast to the lack of rail service in the north of the Borough, South West Trains are extending trains serving Brentford to 10 coaches and adding additional peak services. The additional services will use the former Eurostar platform 20 at Waterloo.   

 

Drivers on night bus service N207 are complaining that they are increasingly being verbally abused by passengers unable to board the overcrowded buses but London Buses show no willingness to increase the frequency. The problem is particularly bad at the Central London end of the route on Fridays and Saturdays. Night buses provide a cheap alternative to taxis but for the many bar, club and other staff working until late in Central London, many of whom live in parts of Ealing, the buses are an essential part of the transport system.