Update added 26 January 2005
"Works to Improve District and Circle lines continue"
London Underground has issued a Press Release on this subject which outlines 'progress to date' which can be read here.
Whilst this progress is of course commendable, there is still an enormous amount of work to be done, and the press release announces a further ten weekends (including two Bank Holiday weekends) when closures will take place, and a further two weekends which have yet to be confirmed. However, given the progress to date, it seems inevitable to me that this will still not be the end of the work and that more such closures will be required.
Interestingly, on the BBC News web site here is the news that there are now plans to close whole sections of lines to enable these replacements (and not just on the Circle and District) to take place. There is of course an acknowledgement that inconvenience will occur, but it seems that in general the idea is being supported by user groups.
I watched the item on the BBC London News programme about this last night and liked the approach that now seems to be being taken by Tf L and the comments by commissioner Bob Kiley - it seems that he wants real progress in the shortest possible time, and this seems totally reasonable to me.
Certainly in discussion with colleagues at work today the general view was 'about time too' - many of us had previously aired the opinion that someone needed to take the hard decision, and now this seems to have occurred. As the progress on The District line shows weekend closures are not an ideal solution, so 'blockades' of whole sections of lines seems a far better approach, providing of course that they are planned properly.
Of course there will be disruption and inconvenience caused, but, as was shown by the unplanned closure of the Central line after the Chancery Lane derailment, people do quickly find ways round the problem and if there is a commitment to get the job done in the shortest possible time and that it will deliver real benefits surely this is better? I have to say that I was a little disappointed by the views expressed by a few customers interviewed - they seemed to take a very narrow view, rather than the long term approach. I bet they are amongst the first to complain too when failures and breakages delay their journeys and cannot see that these plans should reduce these significantly.
On the topic of failures, if you use the Wimbledon branch of the District line, I'm sure you're well aware of the delays caused now over a number of years because of signalling problems when the weather is wet.
Finally this coming weekend this will, hopefully, be addressed this coming weekend. The line will have no service between Putney Bridge and Wimbledon to enable works to take place. Details can be found on London Underground's web site here.
Update added 29 January 2005
Work in Progress
As if on cue, Phil Wimbush had an opportunity to visit on of the sites where there is an ongoing programme of track replacement.
He's added his photographic record of the visit to his own web site, and these can be seen here. He also gives a narrative to each picture, and really gives a feel for what is involved in such an undertaking.
Update added 23 March 2004
As it's been a while since I last updated this page, I thought I would mention a few things which I've noticed recently that might be of interest:
Baby on Board Badges
The first item that I'd like to briefly raise is detailed on London Underground's web site here.
If you live in the London area, you'll probably have seen this idea - it received quite a bit of coverage, and I think, essentially, it's a good move. But I do have a few reservations about it.
Firstly, there is of course the question of it being abused, by an admittedly few, selfish people who'll do whatever they can to get a seat during the 'peak'. I don't seem to have seen anything about how persons requesting such a badge are being asked to justify their request, and I suspect that it's a bit of a grey area as to how this could be done.
Secondly, apart from making others feel 'guilty' there is no compulsion about it and I worry that too many 'transgressors' will simply just go 'head down' into their copy of the Metro and pointedly ignore others needing a seat more than they. But perhaps that's no different from the current situation!
Finally (and this is the one I worry about most) there are a large number of people around with other physical problems that give them just as much (if not more) of a need for a seat than mum's to be. Is Tf L intending to consider such badge schemes for people who have such mobility problems? And even if they are I have my doubts that many with such problems want to wear their hearts on their sleeves so overtly. Many sufferers of neurological and physical conditions do their absolute best to lead a 'normal' life and do not want to 'stand out' (perhaps a poor choice of words) from their fellow workers. But even getting to work is an achievement in itself.
I have a close family member who is in this situation, and can give an example (though bus rather than train related) which perhaps puts my thoughts into context.
A few months back she was going through a period where her stability was not great, but was continuing to go to work. The bus was crowded, mainly by youngsters who attend a local college, and all seats were occupied. She was in some difficulty keeping balance, probably enough that the youngsters were aware of her problem, but none offered her a seat. Would a badge have made a difference? I wonder...
The antithesis of this was her return journey (possibly not on the same day, but around the same time) when she had got herself a seat on the bus, having done her days work - not without some difficulty. It was at about 13:00 and the bus was predominantly occupied by senior citizens who, frankly, were probably in better physical shape! But she 'sensed' that she was being frowned and scowled upon because of her 'lack of respect for her elders', and felt guilty! Again, would the wearing of a badge have alleviated either her guilt or the vibes she was being sent?
Food for thought perhaps? I intend opening a 'thread' on this on my forum, and would be interested for comments and contributions on the topic!
New Staff Uniforms
On a more light-hearted note, London Underground have announced the introduction of revised uniforms for staff and details about this can be read here. One of the contributors to my forum has also scanned the leaflet that's been issued to staff and more images can be seen on the forum.
The reaction seems generally favourable; the 'Royal Blue' of the current issue hasn't been universally popular - it is a pretty impractical colour for working on a railway - and the new darker colours look far more practical.
The driver's are being offered a far more 'flexible' choice with the inclusion of Polo style shirts
The uniform is being rolled out at the moment on a line by line basis, and all lines will have 'gone live' with it by 4th July 2005.
Vandalism & Assaults
Many of you will be aware that these acts have been an ongoing problem on the east end of the District line for many years and, despite a number of 'initiatives', they still continue.
It appears that the matter is coming to a head, and staff are considering industrial action to try to force the issue once and for all. Again this is discussed on my forum. If you are someone that will potentially be affected by this, please have a read, and I hope you'll appreciate the sentiments of those staff who've contributed to the discussion.
Mobile Phone Plan for Underground Users
There was a report yesterday on the BBC London News about this, and the report, and reactions, can be read here.
As you will see, the plan includes stations, but not trains.
On a wider, but related issue, many of you will be aware that there is a now long overdue project - Connect - to replace the whole of London Underground's radio systems with a new integrated one. This new system is being dealt with under part of PPP, and I'd been under the impression that the supplier of the system would recoup its outlay by allowing mobile phone companies to hire time and capacity on the system so that passengers could use their mobile phones both on stations and trains. I presume there must have been a rethink on this.
There has been much disruption to a number of lines recently because of radio related issues which underlines the urgency that this new system is sorely needed. We're now starting to be briefed on some of the details, and hopefully the rollout will finally be commencing in the near future. I know that it's (to say the least) a sore point with our Managing director, and I saw him interviewed on TV some months ago now saying that the delays are likely to be the subject of litigation.
Update added 26 May 2005
Redesign of the Transport for London web site
If you visit the 'old' London Underground web site, you will, I am sure, have noticed it's been redesigned, and is now much more integrated into the Tf L set up.
I know that one gets very 'comfortable' with things as they are, but I'm afraid that whilst I understand the motives I'm not entirely convinced of all the changes.
The 'old' site seemed to me to be easier in terms of being able to quickly check for travel disruption - it now seems to need several pages to be gone through before I find what I'm interested in, and the press section also seems to have been lumped in with the whole of London's transport news; again not so easy if one is principally interested in one aspect.
Perhaps it's just me being slow in finding my way around........
Industrial Action on the District line
As I mentioned above, there has been a long history of vandalism and assaults at the east end of the District line, and this came to a head recently when a ballot was taken by ASLEF to propose Industrial Action to get progress on this being addressed.
The vote was strongly in favour of action, and this was due to commence on the 23 May 2005. However, as a result of further talks, ASLEF have agreed to delay the action for one week. London Underground's statement on the topic can be read here.
I understand that some proposals have been put forward, but I await further details of these, and if they will be sufficient for the action to be cancelled entirely.
Tube breaks passenger and train records
In a statement released by Transport for London on the 18 May 2005, the figures for the numbers of passengers carried and distances covered were released.
The full press release can be read here but I'll summarise the headlines:
- During the period a total of 976 million passengers, beating the previous record of 970 million set four years ago
- Trains covered a greater distance than ever before - a total of almost 70 million kilometres - the equivalent of 1,753 times round the world
Those are only the highlights - have a look at the release as there's some interesting comments and statistics contained in it.
London Underground in Washington D.C.
And now for something completely different!
My friend and colleague Chris Adams, many of whose photos can be viewed elsewhere on these pages, recently spent a couple of weeks on holiday in the USA. He's taken a load of photos of the New York subway system and I hope to be able to bring you a selection of these in the not too distant future.
But whilst in the States, he visited the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. During his tour he stumbled across something which surprised him a little - he sent me the following e.mail and the photo which follows.....
'When I was in the U.S. I took a trip to Washington.
During my trip I paid a visit to the National Air & Space museum to see aircraft like the Bell X1 and the Spirit of St Louis.
In the museum there is a section about WWII where there was a section about London and the blitz.
The photo attached is to represent a tube station so I thought you may like it for your website.'