Londonist was fortunate to attend TravelWatch’s transport services committee meeting yesterday to catch up with some of the road and rail challenges facing the city. For anyone not familiar with them, London TravelWatch is the official watchdog representing transport users in the capital.
It wasn’t quite as dramatic as Boris Johnson’s Talk London event or the legendary London Assembly walkout of the Plenary Session but it certainly offered us a useful insight into what goes on behind the scenes.
Northern Line Upgrade
‘The upgrade is well needed and overdue’. Amen to that. The troubled Northern line will be the subject of an upgrade project which is due to end in 2014. TfL shared their vision with us on how they plan to make the process slightly less painful than Tube Lines’ original estimate of 65 weekend closures:
- Eight full line weekend closures (five in 2013 and three in 2014).
- Eight additional weekend closures but of shorter sections.
- Six holiday closures over Christmas and Easter of shorter sections of the line.
- New signaling and control systems.
Take a look at the TfL project page for more details on how upgrades will affect you. The TravelWatch committee were keen to find out if any lessons had been learned from the severely-delayed Jubilee line upgrade. TfL were quick to reassure us that yes, they had, and Northern line staff will spend training days with their opposite numbers on the freshly-upgraded Jubilee line.
But what about alternatives for passengers on closure days? Well, it should come as no surprise that Oyster data is used to work out the best routes and journey times for replacement services. It doesn’t stop there; planned roadworks and congestion are also taken into account.
Walking routes are also promoted using signposted routes – a walkway is planned between West Ham and the Olympic park to relieve the pressure on the Jubilee line. Other sporting events which have benefited from walking routes are the cricket at Lords and West Ham football matches, though according to TfL, the signs used for the latter can be ‘borrowed indefinitely’ by fans on the lookout for souvenirs.
It has the second highest demand behind the Northern line and those of us using it on a regular basis have certainly felt the strain in the last couple of months. With a large contingent of RMT members on the Central line, strikes were the biggest slice of the delay pie chart. Trains too crowded to get on have the double sting in the tail of extending TfL’s average journey time and increasing delays caused by passenger alarms when heat and crowding get the better of us. The Central line has also been hit by cable theft in recent months which caused long delays earlier this year.
There’s a refit of windows and seats going on, so at least we won’t get wet bums when it rains. Oh, and those two big questions about the Central line; overheating and the Epping-Ongar connection? Sadly, the window refit doesn’t allow for improved ventilation and an experiment with tanks of coolant under the carriages was prohibitively expensive. The Epping-Ongar section is still considered to be not viable, as well as being now under the control of Epping Ongar Railway Ltd.
Some Central line stations will feel the eventual benefit of upgrade work too. Bond Street will have a new north entrance, an interchange with Crossrail, a new interchange for the Jubilee and Central lines and shiny new escalators. Bank, which has been the subject of seemingly never-ending work, will finally have step-free access to the Waterloo & City line and by 2015, a new entrance in the basement of the forthcoming Walbrook Square development.
London’s pedestrians will be pleased to hear that the countdown trial has been a resounding success (report here). A formal request has been made to the Department for Transport (DfT) to deploy them in other areas of the capital. There was evidence in the reports that suggested that some pedestrians perceive their road-crossing capabilities as more Usain Bolt than perhaps deserved with that last-minute dash before lights turn green.
Despite Boris Johnson’s threat to take it away following No To Mob protests, the British Motorcycling Federation wants this trial to become permanent. London TravelWatch are less sure. An increase in collisions involving motorbikes and left-turning traffic resulted in the Mayor launching a campaign of education and enforcement, ironically to combat a problem which was apparently the result of the original trial. TfL’s report suggests that buses are not impeded by motorcycles and there’s no detrimental effect on pedestrians or cyclists so watch this space.
For more information about London TravelWatch, visit their website.