Overground redevelopment (just about) on track

It’s been a year since the redevelopment of the Overground station started in earnest and it’s taking a while. Inevitable, as TfL chose (wisely) to keep the station open during the works, even though that also means higher cost.

Before… and after. Image: TfL

For those of us using the station, it’s been impossible to miss the arrival of the new footbridge. This was installed just before Christmas and is expected to open in March 2018, three months behind the original schedule.

Image credit: TfL

Since the station is remaining open during construction, TfL will install a temporary walkway behind platform 2, and a new temporary station layout. By Easter, we should also see the wider platforms and the new waiting shelters too. But the really exciting news is that the elevators are scheduled to be operating by September. Woo-hoo, step-free access.

The new station building (adjoining West Hampstead Square) is scheduled to open in December 2018, with some landscaping to do after that.  Finally, the old station will be knocked down and new retail space constructed but with the frontage set back to widen the pavement (hurrah).

 

No step closer to step-free access for West Hampstead tube station

Many local organisations have been pushing for step-free access to West Hampstead tube station over the past few years – even if opinion diverges on what the solution should be. It was therefore disappointing, as local residents association WHGARA pointed out recently, that West Hampstead was not included in the recent batch of stations to benefit from the Mayor’s £200 million fund for improvements.

At the end of 2017, TfL announced that “the next stations to benefit from step-free access will be Amersham, Buckhurst Hill, Cockfosters, Mill Hill East, Osterley and South Woodford.”

Collectively, these six stations have 15.5 million journeys each year (Mill Hill East has only 1.3 million journeys, the fewest on the Northern Line). West Hampstead station has 11 million journeys!

When we totted up the numbers last year, the three West Hampstead stations combined have nearly 20 million journeys a year and that’s up from 16 million in 2014.

Over the past five years we have had step-free access installed at the Thameslink station, and it is being fitted as part of the redevelopment of the Overground station. The Overground lifts were partly funded by £1.8 million from the Department for Transport’s Access for All fund.

Hope remains for the tube station. Georgia Gould, the leader of Camden Council, added her support when she came up to West Hampstead in her ‘tour de Camden’ to talk to local groups, and local tube staff have been tweeting about the issue and being more pro-active (thanks to new area staff) as they too can see it’s a sensible move. They deal with customers on a day-to-day basis (not just at West Hampstead but at other stations too) so have a sense of what needs doing.

“We are asked all the time to assist passengers,” said one member of staff. “Of course we’re happy to do it, but it takes us away from other work – and this is a station that is never not busy”.

Unsurprisingly, the issue comes down to money. TfL has said that it can cost up to £1 million to install a lift and the budget for a station refurbishment is about £10 million. At West Hampstead, a new lift and entrance is estimated to cost substantially more: £15 – £16 million, due to the engineering constraints of having the station on the bridge.

The Neighbourhood Development Forum has drawn up proposals for a ‘new’ station on the other side of the road. This would keep all the pedestrian flow between the stations on the same side of West End Lane, but has been costed at £25 million.

A cheaper option, suggested by station staff who know the layout of the station, is that a lift shaft could be installed where the now-defunct gent’s toilets were. Because West Hampstead is a single platform station, only one lift is needed. In response to a question from staff, TfL said it is minded to have a more comprehensive scheme that includes a lift and expanded access, as it expects further growth in passenger numbers once improvements to Thameslink are fully operational. However, it indicated it would be looking at doing a feasibility study.

The problems at West Hampstead are lack of step-free access and congestion at the entrance (improved by the recent addition of the extra gate). The platform itself is nice and wide and platform over-crowding is not a problem. If a lift could be installed in the gent’s loos would it be possible to take back space from one or other of the shops adjacent to the entrance to create more space and reduce overcrowding?

What is the best solution? It’s not obvious, but solving these problems rarely is. As the NDF put it “all ideas should be considered, but we are not in a position to judge on the feasibility of schemes”. It seems like it is time for TfL to come to a public meeting and explain its thinking.

West Hampstead passengers top 20 million a year

As long-suffering commuters in (and through) West Hampstead are aware, it’s feels ever more crowded at our stations – especially the tube station. But do the numbers back up that perception? We crunched the numbers, and we were surprised at the results.

Passenger flows at West Hampstead’s three stations – the Underground, the Overground and Thameslink – are measured separately, but Oyster card data allows reasonably accurate tracking of people changing trains as well as those who enter and exit here and don’t change.

To better understand how tube passenger numbers have grown, we compared West Hampstead to neighbouring Kilburn, Finchley Road, and Swiss Cottage stations. Passenger numbers at these stations have been essentially flat over the past 10 years, but at West Hampstead they are up 50% from 7.5 million to 11 million entries/exits p.a. (a whopping 3.5 million extra passengers a year).

West Hampstead passenger numbers surge from 2010 onwards

West Hampstead passenger numbers surge from 2010 onwards

The growth spurt began in 2010, but what has driven it? Part of the rise is due to development here, which looks set to increase with more recent development in and around the stations. Just 100 additional residents commuting to work 48 weeks a year is 48,000 additional journeys. However, the real driver has been, the upgrade of and the extra passengers on, the Thameslink and especially the Overground.

Thameslink use has risen steadily from 2.2 million to 3.7 million over the past ten years, but it is the Overground that has seen the real growth. In 2006, there were 1.9 million entry/exits in 2006, dipping to just over 1 million with disruption of construction. This year, that is expected to surpass 5 million.

Longer trains and a more integrated network have pushed Overground numbers up

Longer trains and a more integrated network have pushed Overground numbers up

Add them all together and total passenger entry/exits for the three stations have risen from 10.7 million in 2007 to 19.6 million in 2016 (and should be more than 20 million by 2017). That’s a doubling in ten years.  That includes an increasing number of interchanges – the data here is not perfect, but we estimate there were about 250,000 in 2007, last year it was more than 1.5 million. West Hampstead it doesn’t  just feel more crowded – it really is!

Woo-hoo a new gate at the tube station. Actually it's a real improvement. What next?

Woo-hoo, an extra gate at the tube station. A real improvement. What next?

To cope with this growth, TFL is upgrading the Overground to expand the platforms and add step-free access. At the tube station it has  added and an extra gate – which will help when it’s finally working. But this is unlikely to be the silver bullet that solves the overcrowding, although it’s a sensible step in the right direction

Another major issue we face is the lack of step-free access at the tube station. Thameslink has it, and the new Overground station will have it. The tube station is the last piece of that particular puzzle. Last week TFL announced six stations were getting funding for step free access from a £200 million pot, but depressingly, this didn’t include West Hampstead.  One of those stations is Mill Hill East station, the least-used station on the Northern Line (with 1.3 Million entry/exits p.a.).  Doesn’t quite compute.

Council listens to Maygrove parking problems

Photo via Colin Bridgewater

Photo via Colin Bridgewater

If you’re following the Maygrove Road parking story, then you’ll be interested in this update from MILAM (the local residents association) chair Monica Regli.

Monica presented the MILAM deputation on parking and traffic issues to Camden’s environment and cultural scrutiny meeting at the town hall. She says that councillors were largely sympathetic to the problems but there was still a feeling that they need to see 800 signatures from CA-Q residents before they engage in any more formal consultation or discussion with residents.

MILAM argued that 800 was too high a barrier for such a small and very defined area. The petition currently has 200 signatures, and it is possible apparently for the council to use their discretion in terms of enforcing the 800 level.

Camden built its position heavily on the car-free developments, pointing out that while residents of these developments shouldn’t have cars this should not prevent relatives and visitors with cars visiting them. Restricting parking at weekends therefore, would mean these residents would have to buy visitor permits for relatives or friends.

The idea of creating a subzone was not dismissed out-of-hand, but it would require further consultation given the inevitable knock-on effect to other roads. MILAM argues that its streets are more or less boxed in by the railway tracks and thus realistically there aren’t so many roads for cars to spill over into, without then requiring a long walk to a front door.

Developments pile pressure on street parking

Some residents of Maygrove and Iverson Roads are fed up with the increasingly difficult parking situation they face in light of all the new developments on these roads.

The local residents association, MILAM, wants to see a review of parking hours and is suggesting a sub-zone that has different rules to the CA-Q zone in which these streets sit. Specifically, it would like to see controls extending past 6.30pm.

CA-Q is a large zone that runs along Kilburn High Road from Quex Road all the way up to Cricklewood. It has controlled parking between 8.30am and 6.30pm. Camden is reluctant to sub-divide the zone although subdivisions are not unusual – there are already two within CA-Q. However, any change to zone rules inevitably has knock-on effects and therefore not everyone is automatically in favour of change.

CA-Q parking zone runs from Cricklewood to Kilburn

CA-Q parking zone runs from Cricklewood to Kilburn

Camden has said that for any review of parking it needs a petition signed by 800 residents of the affected parking zone. As it happens, a petition has already been set up by a resident of Maygrove Road. She was fed up of not being able to park as she used to before the recent developments opened. If you want to sign it (and you live or work in the CA-Q area) click here.

What’s the problem?
The new developments on Iverson and Maygrove – The Residence (91 units, Maygrove Rd), The Central (33 units, Iverson) and The Ivery (19 units, Iverson) – are designated “car free”, like every other new development in Camden. This creates a ‘carparteid’ between residents of new developments and existing residents.

“Car free” means no parking spaces for residents (although The Residence does offer some underground parking for disabled drivers) and in theory, these residents are also not allowed parking permits for street parking. However, as MILAM residents are finding, theory and reality are two different things. Some new residents appear able to get round controls; of course they can legally park outside the controlled hours, some can get hold of a blue badge for disabled drivers, it’s possible to get a local friend to register the car to get a permit, or to hire a local garage space, displacing another car onto the road that can legally obtain a permit, or use visitors’ permits.

Anecdotal evidence from longer-term residents such as Monica Regli, chair of MILAM, suggests that while there used to be spare parking spaces, these have filled up and people have started to park on single yellow lines.

@NW6_residents: Once again no parking for residents! Instead more arguments as not one-way!

@NW6_residents: Once again no parking for residents! Instead more arguments as not one-way!

Now the single yellow lines are filling up, which creates additional problems. Cars parking on the single yellow lines mean that traffic can no longer pull over on Maygrove Road to allow oncoming cars to pass. The result: cars getting stuck head-to-head and road rage incidents. According to Monica, there are now calls for Maygrove to become a one-way street.

@NW6_residents "Another horrendous morning in Maygrove road! Screaming arguments, reversing full length of road! Wake up @camdentalking #congestion #help!"

@NW6_residents “Another horrendous morning in Maygrove Road! Screaming arguments, reversing full length of road!”

Will it get worse?
Yes. Almost certainly. The new school on Liddell Road opens this September. At first it will be year one pupils only; but each year a new class will join. The head teacher won’t have to worry though, she gets her own parking space.

The problem is set to get worse still with phase two of Liddell Road (the flats and business space) as Camden seems to have ignored the GLA guidelines on parking. This development will have 106 residential units and 3700m2 of business space, which is approximately enough for 40-50 people. All served by two and a half disabled parking spaces.

Let’s not forget that West Hampstead Square is about to open with 196 new flats, and some employment space, and Camden will decide shortly on  156 West End Lane with most likely another 164 units and 1,800m2 of employment space. It’s true that many residents won’t have cars – car ownership in this part of London is very low, but it isn’t zero. The excellent transport links mean that employees can probably get to and from work on tube, train or bus, but firms have clients, deliveries and disabled employees.

It also seems unrealistic to think that none of these residents will have cars already, or may need a car for work (doctors, midwives, plumbers, etc.). Are more car club spaces the answer? Possibly, though demand is lower than you might think – West Hamsptead Square actually removed some car club spaces.

What are the objections to parking changes?
James Earl, chair of the Fordwych Road residents association (and of the Neighbourhood Development Forum) is not in favour of wholesale changes to the parking zone rules because of the possible knock on impact to other streets outside any sub-zone. A new resident of the Residence on Maygrove Road has also objected to any changes. She said that she was aware of the existing hours of parking control when she moved in, and that was fine, but any changes to hours now would be very problematic as her husband could no longer park!

MILAM is getting support from local councillors, Phil Rosenberg and James Yarde. Monica had hoped to put the issue as a deputation to the council, but was instead offered a chance to put the issue to a scrutiny committee.

‘West Hampstead’ to disappear from northbound 139 bus signs

Proposed changes to bus routes will mean ‘West Hampstead’ may fall out of London’s collective consciousness as the words will no longer appear on the 139 bus as it heads north from Waterloo.

Having pulled an earlier consultation on changes to the bus routes that run north on the Baker Street corridor (funnily enough right before the Mayoral elections). TfL consulted again on the same proposals in August, and this time the outcome is to push through the proposed changes, which are due to be implemented from the late spring. A former councillor once explained this approach as being ‘consult and ignore’.

The TfL report reveals that only 32% of respondents supported or partially supported the changes to route 13, even fewer (26%) the changes to the 82 and 25% supported changes to the 189. Changes to the 113 were more popular with 48% support or partial support and there was actually a majority in favour of one change: 52% supported the changes to the 139.

Soon to vanish? destination - West Hampstead

Soon to vanish? destination – West Hampstead

Disappearing signage aside, the changes are probably overall good news for West Hampstead (hence the majority support for the 139 changes). The 139 will now run all the way to Golders Green, which will mean the end of ‘ghost’ buses that run empty along Mill Lane as they return to the Cricklewood depot, and that have been such a bugbear. It will also increase the frequency of buses between Golders Green and West Hampstead.

Proposed changes to 13, 82 , 113, 139 and 189 bus routes. Image: TFL

Proposed changes to 13, 82 , 113, 139 and 189 bus routes. Image: TFL

The other change that affects West Hampstead less directly is to remove route 82, but increase the frequency of the 13. Not that the 13 will be the bus it once was – it effectively becomes the new 82 (still with me?). The 13, which currently terminates at Golders Green, would continue to North Finchley (where the 82 currently ends). Southbound, it would no longer terminate at Aldwych, but instead finish at Victoria (where the 82 currently terminates). To recap: new 13=old 82.

For occasional users of the buses up and down the Finchley Road, the overall loss of frequency during the morning rush hour is likely to be the biggest negative change. More regular users might notice a bigger difference.

The other (minor) proposed change is that the 189 would end at Marble Arch instead of Oxford Circus. This means that neither the 13 nor 189 would run down Oxford Street, helping to reduce the excessive number of buses along there. If you want to come back to West Hampstead from Oxford Street, you either take a bus to Marble Arch and change, or wait for a 113 or 139. The new one-hour hopper fare (or transfer) means anyone using an Oystercard or contactless card does not have to pay again for a second journey taken within one hour of joining the first bus. So no extra cost, but more waiting around potentially.

Meanwhile, we shall mourn the loss of that small sense of pride of standing by Piccadilly Circus as the 139 to West Hampstead hoves into view. And no more will Emma Hignett, the voice of the bus announcments, chime out with, “This is the 139. To. West Hampstead”. End of an era.

Vintage Porsche crashes into Lena’s cafe: Two injured

Shortly before 3pm on Friday afternoon, a vintage Porsche veered off West End Lane, mounted the pavement and crashed into Lena’s cafe trapping a female customer. The customer, Abigail Cinnamon, was sitting outside with a friend, Jessica Klein. The two 20-year-olds don’t live in the area but had decided to meet up for a ‘quiet coffee’ and chose West Hampstead.

They were sitting outside the cafe when all of sudden Jess, who was sitting facing down West End Lane saw a Green Porsche racing towards them and screamed. Abi, who was facing away from the on-coming car had a split second to register before it crashed into her, throwing her though the plate glass window.

“The next thing I knew I was underneath the glass, in a foetal position. It took a while for the firemen to arrive to get the glass off me. I didn’t feel any pain, however, as the adrenalin had kicked in”. The police and fireman arrived quite quickly but it took time for them to work out how to remove the sheet of glass and release Abi.

Once she was released she was taken to St. Mary’s hospital, as the hospital has a specialised trauma unit and a crew of 11 or 12 were waiting for her. She has two broken bones in her leg, which require an operation. Her friend, Jess, was less seriously injured suffering three fractured ribs and some scratches.

Police and ambulance on the scene of the accident. Photo: Cllr Phil Rosenberg

Police and ambulance on the scene of the accident. Photo: Cllr Phil Rosenberg

The driver was shaken by the accident but was unscathed. It is not entirely clear how the accident happened with some witness reports saying the car swerved to avoid a pedestrian. Violet Ceniceros, who had been sitting in Lena’s just five minutes earlier, was waiting by the bus stop by Sainsbury’s when the accident happened. She reported, that “the car turned left [from Dennington Park Road] on West End Lane from the junction and started speeding then went out of control and crashed into the café”.

A policeman on site explained that the 1967 Porsche was rear-wheel driven and probably ‘kangarooed’ (juddered) on acceleration causing the driver to lose control and for the car to veer across the road.

Councillor Phil Rosenberg who was holding a surgery next door in the Library was one of the first on the scene.  A nearby business owner who heard the crash thought it was a terrorist attack and sought cover at the back of the shop.

Porsche 3

West End Lane was initially closed, but after an hour was reopened to traffic.  The crash scene was still cordoned off with a lone policeman on the scene. He was waiting for the owner to arrange for his insurers to tow the car away.

The dramatic pictures and the novelty of the vintage Porsche have led to the story making both the BBC news and Saturday’s Times.

Overground redevelopment starts in earnest

Just as West Hampstead Square is entering the home stretch to completion, building work is starting on the redevelopment of the Overground station right next door. Expect some noisy work during the days, and the occasional bit of nighttime work when they need access to the track.

Work has indeed started on redevelopment of the Overground

Work has indeed started on redevelopment of the Overground

The reason for the works is that, as you are aware, the Overground has seen a dramatic rise in passenger numbers. Last year nearly 5 million passengers used West Hampstead Overground, compared to 1.5 million in 2008/09.

The station will be kept operational during construction, so the work is being done in phases. Buckingham Group, the contractors, started on-site works in November 2016. For the first half of this year, it will build foundations, and conduct ground and drainage works. In the second half of the year, it will install the new footbridge, which should open by the end of 2017.

In 2018, lifts will be installed (making the station fully accessible, like the Thameslink), and the planned* opening of the the new station building in August 2018. Then the old station will be dismantled (and a new retail space built in its place) and – hallelujah – the footway will be widened. Finally landscaping will be completed by the end of 2018. Some way to go then.

Buckingham is trying to keep inevitable disruption to a minimum and the line will not be closed during the work. Working hours are expected to be Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm and 8am to 1pm on Saturdays when necessary. There will be some work outside these hours.  Last Sunday in the early hours, for example, the surveyor did some track inspection works and this coming Sunday morning (15th) there will be hoarding adjustment works again in the early hours, though Buckingham claims this will not be noisy. No-one’s moved into West Hampstead Square yet, so there should not be too many people affected anyway yet.

When the work is all completed the new station should look like this.

New Overground station, view from platform. Image via TfL

New Overground station, view from platform. Image via TfL

And like this on West End Lane:

Overground station new entrance. Image via TfL

Overground station new entrance. Image via TfL

*already works are running a couple of months behind schedule.

Network Rail brings clarity to Black Path

Industrial strength machinery brought in to tackle Black Path

Industrial strength machinery brought in to tackle Black Path. Photo via Richard Olszewski

Months of recent community work and lobbying came to some fruition on Tuesday 20th with a site visit to the Black Path and meeting with local residents by representatives from Network Rail, the British Transport Police, Camden Council and the West Hampstead Safer Neighbourhood Team.

They were joined by two very welcome maintenance workers from Network Rail, who were armed with machinery more suited to the task of cutting back years’ worth of overgrown vegetation than that with which we came to the WHL-organised community clean-up day back in September. As a result regular users of the path will notice a huge improvement in some of the most obstructed stretches.

David Rose, from Network Rail’s East Midlands team and Tim Ramskill, who works on crime prevention for the BTP, came to discuss safety and maintenance issues on the path. In the wake of a small number of attacks on the path in the last few weeks, Jim Craig and Simon Bishop from the SNT were on hand, as was Fortune Green councillor Richard Olszewski – who himself uses the path regularly.

Personal security and the vexed question of overhanging vegetation were top of the agenda of course, but discussion points also included safety issues around the tarmac surface, walls and lighting, as well as ownership and responsibility for the path itself.

L-R, Network Rail's David Rose, local resident Julia Deakin, Cllr Richard Olszweski, Simon Bishop and Jim Craig from West Hampstead SNT discuss safety and maintenance on the Black Path.

L-R, Network Rail’s David Rose, local resident Julia Deakin, Cllr Richard Olszweski, Simon Bishop and Jim Craig from West Hampstead SNT discuss safety and maintenance on the Black Path.

Mr Rose was able to confirm that Network Rail owns all the land from the railway line up to – but not including – the walls and fences that border the backs of gardens along Sumatra Road, which belong to the respective property freeholders. However the path itself (not including fences on either side) is leased to Camden, so the council is responsible for the surface, lighting and security. He also raised the question of what might happen if or when government policy forces Network Rail to sell off the land in the future; an unknown quantity obviously, but a potential concern if the path were to fall into private hands and be taken out of public ownership.

The SNT told us that it is currently advising people not to use the path for the time being whilst their investigation into the recent attacks is is ongoing. If you do choose to continue using it, the police recommend carrying a personal alarm. All at the meeting agreed that installation of CCTV would be hugely helpful, but cost and logistical issues may make this unfeasible: the path is 500 meters long and would have to be cabled all the way, even before accounting for the expense of upkeep.

Whilst some of the worst of the overhanging tree growth was cleared by the Network Rail team and their chainsaws, many of the most obtrusive plants are impossible to deal with effectively from the path and would need to be tackled by their owners from within Sumatra Road gardens. By coincidence, later that same day, detective work on the part of a particularly diligent local campaigner revealed that the freeholder of one of the worst-offending gardens is a West Hampstead businessman. Residents are now urging Camden to issue an enforcement notice to the freeholder in order to oblige him to maintain his garden and repair its damaged fence, which intrudes onto the pathway.

It was a productive meeting that ended with a real sense that all the stakeholders were engaged with the problems faced on the path as well as other local Network Rail-owned properties, such as Billy Fury Way, and that solutions could be found for some of the most pressing issues. With vegetation cleared, sightlines would be improved along the whole length of the Black Path, giving better visibility both to pedestrians and cyclists – and fewer places in which to hide. There will be further challenges along the way, as budgets continue to be slashed both at Network Rail and Camden, but the willingness at least is clearly there.

Meanwhile, if you live on that side of Sumatra Road: please, find some time over the holidays to get down the end of your garden with a large pair of shears

How can you help brighten the Black Path?

Every morning, and every evening, hundreds of West Hampstead commuters use the Black Path that runs along the railway line to get to or from the stations.  But at several points along the path they need to either dodge mounds of ivy or duck beneath tunnels of over-grown shrubs. During the summer this is annoying but, as winter draws in, the overgrown foliage makes parts of the path dark and unsafe. So unsafe that one user ended up in hospital after damaging his eye.

The Black (Eye) Path was cleaned up in a blitz a few years ago but has since deteriorated. So why does nobody do anything to get it sorted again… and that includes all those commuters?

Duck! Image: Caroline (who is tall and has to duck as well)

Duck! Image: Caroline (who is tall and had to duck as well)

The big challenge is that nobody seems to be ‘responsible’.  It is, as I was once told, S.E.P. (Somebody Else’s Problem). The path itself is not a council-maintained path, it’s on Network Rail land and some of the foliage is also on Network Rail land, so no doubt that Network Rail bears some responsibility. But the biggest cause of the problem is foliage over-growing from gardens of houses on Sumatra Road (and it is often difficult to work out which ones).

Council officers are, if not pro-active, then at least willing to help, even in times of tight budgets. The path is kept fairly well swept (around the growing mounds of ivy)! But the council has employees (and councillors) who could report these larger problems and come up with solutions.

West Hampstead also has local civic groups such as WHAT or the NDF, but they have limited resources and are focused more on lobbying and policy than getting their hands dirty. It’s certainly not clear what role they should play.

Rubbish behind the fence is also a problem image: Shelley

Rubbish behind the fence, on Network Rail land, is also a problem. Image: Shelley

The Black Path seems to be a Grey Area, where the role of the individual, the council, and the state in the form of Network Rail is still unclear. What are our rights and what are our responsibilities? Where do the council’s responsibilities end? And what happens then? There seems to be no clear answer.

One of the main issues that arose during the NDF consultations was the poor state of local streets and dumped rubbish – so it is an issue high on resident’s list of concerns. How to do something about it? Should residents abdicate all responsibility even when it is they (collectively) that do the dumping, or let their trees overgrow? Whatever your political persuasion, having a decent, pleasant local environment (where people care) is surely something everyone agrees on?

Tunnel of shrubs - time to do something about it?  And throw some light on the Black Path

Tunnel of shrubs – time to do something about it? And throw some light on the Black Path

In the meantime it’s getting darker earlier. So rather than talk about it more, isn’t it time to do something? If you are one of those commuters who is constantly ducking under trees, or even if you just live locally and care about this kind of thing, then please email and join us on Bank holiday monday from 2pm in the afternoon to help clear up the Black Path. Even if you can’t make that date (and it is a bank holiday weekend) then still drop us an email, as there will probably be another date in September.

The very nature of nature means that this can’t be a one-time thing. And yes, of course, also speak to local councillors about finding some longer-term solutions and liaising with Network Rail.  Plus this has taken on an added degree of urgency in the light of the attempted sexual assault on Billy Fury Way last week.

Will it be ‘all change’ on the 139 bus?

TfL is consulting – for the second time recently – on changes to buses that run north from the Baker Street area (so not the C11 or 328).

The biggest change for West Hampstead is the proposal to extend the 139 route from West End Green to Golders Green.  This would have the benefit locally of removing the ‘ghost’ buses that run empty along Mill Lane as they return to the depot, and that have been such a bugbear; and it would also increase the frequency of buses between Golders Green and West Hampstead.

Proposed changes to 13, 82 , 113, 139 and 189 bus routes.  Image: TFL

Proposed changes to 13, 82 , 113, 139 and 189 bus routes. Image: TFL

The other change that would affect us less directly would be to remove route 82, but increase the frequency of the 13. In the consultation in the spring, TfL proposed removing route 13 but this caused some uproar and was dropped as a political hot potato (in the run up to the mayoral election).

Same plan, different number. Changes to route 13 would effectively make it the new 82. The 13, which currently stops at Golders Green, would go on to North Finchley (where the 82 currently ends). Going south it would head to Victoria (where the 82 currently terminates) not Aldwych. For sometime users of the buses up and down the Finchley Road, the overall loss of frequency during the morning rush hour might be the biggest issue. More regular users might notice a bigger difference.

The other (minor) proposed change is that the 189 would end at Marble Arch instead of Oxford Circus. So with both the 13 and the 189 no longer going down Oxford Street it would slightly reduce the excessive number of buses along there but also give locals coming up from Oxford Circus fewer options to get home. Perhaps changing buses would be required – but that means paying twice doesn’t it….?

Not necessarily. In September, TfL will introduce a one-hour hopper fare (or transfer) allowing anyone using an Oystercard or contactless card an extra bus journey within one hour of joining the first bus. The link to the consultation is here and it runs until the 30th September.

Is it Ginger, or Toxic Orange?

LondonOverground_IainSinclairIain Sinclair came to West Hampstead library on July 4 for a Q&A about his latest book, “London Overground: A Day’s Walk Around the Ginger Line”, and before too long the colour question came up.  The Hackney-based author, who walked along in hearing distance of the 33-station ring at the heart of the Overground, called the branding for the ever-expanding network “toxic orange”.

But his imagination had been caught by a group of fancy-dress partygoers he met on his way who organise flash gatherings at stations on the ring and call themselves the Ginger Liners.  “Maybe it’s only in the Hoxton/Shoreditch hipster area that it’s called that,” he told the sixty-strong audience at the free event run by the Friends of West Hampstead Library  At least it has a nice bright colour now.

The 35-mile ring, in some ways a Victorian railway just stitched back together, was completed in 2012.  “It connects a necklace of places that are unfamiliar and lets you get to places you did not know.  Inglis agreed. “Now in some ways we feel closer to Dalston than to Cricklewood.”

Local author Simon Inglis reminisced about the Overground’s drab predecessor in these parts — the underused North London Line, with its empty, gloomy stations, ghost trains that just wouldn’t turn up, and where you could fear for your life once darkness fell.

The reconstruction of our overcrowded Overground station is about to start, but Sinclair’s talk was more of a deconstruction of the line, its past, the developers moving in to build what he has called parasitical flats on every bit of spare trackside land, and how its success has reshaped the mental map Londoners have of how their city is connected.

Sinclair was left with a strong impression of how noisy the railway was. He has called it “a 14-hour sigh of mounting, but never-quite-satisfied sexual bliss”. I wonder what he would say of the nerve-shredding metallic grinding of the old North London Line trains.

“What’s it like to live there in a new-build flat right by the train line and hear the announcements from the platform?” he said.  Hundreds of new West Hampsteaders will soon find out – in stereo, Inglis joked. Developers of the new West Hampstead Square blocks rising up between the Overground and Underground have decided to rebrand it as Heritage Lane.  “What heritage?” Sinclair asked.

West Hampstead does not having a starring role in his book, but is wedged between expanded musings on Willesden-based expressionist painter Leon Kossoff and Freud up in Hampstead’s Maresfield Gardens.

Sinclair, from Wales himself, has written many books focusing on sense of place in London including London Orbital, about a bigger circular walk he took around the M25.

If you would like to support the library’s future via the Friends, click here.

Overground redevelopment starts soon… and takes how long?

The long awaited redevelopment of West Hampstead’s Overground station is poised to start in August. And to finish two years later.

Not that you need reminding if you use it, but this is to cope with the exponential growth of Overground use since the line was upgraded.  In 2009/10 there were 1.3 million entries/exits from the station. By 2014/15 this was 4.7 million, up over 250% and by 2015/16, on current growth rates, it should be more than 5 million. Interchanges to other stations rose even faster, from 138,000 in 2009/10 to 513,000. Something needed to be done.

Overground station new entrance. Image via TfL

Overground station new entrance. Image via TfL

TfL will be building a totally separate new station, between the existing one and Ballymore/West Hampstead Square. The old station will become a ‘retail opportunity’. The new improved station will have accessible lifts for both platforms (paid for by a £1 million Section 106 contribution from Ballymore). There will be more ticket gates, wider platforms and steps that will be a third of the way down the existing platforms. At the entrance there will be a wider forecourt and pavements for passengers interchanging.

New Overground station, view from platform. Image via TfL

New Overground station, view from platform. Image via TfL

It won’t be easy to do the work as this busy station will remain open the whole time. TfL aims to minimise disruption to residential neighbours. So work is being phased. The prep work starts this August, construction of the new footbridge begins in January next year, the new station itself will take a year to build, starting in March and the station is set to open by Easter 2018 (Sunday April 1st!). Finally, the conversion of the old station and completion of the project in the summer of 2018. Full details, with plans and CGIs and brightly coloured arrows can be found here.

The new station will be between Ballymore and the old one.

The new station will be between Ballymore and the old one.

Combine improvements to the Overground station, the continued growth in Thameslink passenger numbers, plus all the new West Hampstead residents moving in over the next few years and it seems logical that, unless something is done soon, West Hampstead tube station will be swamped. TfL, are you listening? WHL also wonders what Camden Council is doing to ensure coherence in the streetscape and landscape between all these developments. Many trees were destroyed to build them, but what is being done to replace them?

Should parking revenue be spent on Fordwych road safety?

The Fordwych Residents Association (FRA) has been calling for road safety improvements in our area for a number of years. Residents have raised a number of issues, and we’ve requested that Camden Council take action to:

  • Stop the rat-run through our area, which runs both ways along Westbere Road – Minster Road – Fordwych Road – Mill Lane
  • Stop HGVs – and especially skip lorries – using residential streets in our area as a short cut
  • Reduce the speed of traffic in our area and enforce the 20mph speed limit
  • Make road junctions and crossings safer – especially for children walking to and from Hampstead School and for the young children attending nurseries in our area.

One of things we’ve been told by the council is that money is tight and they may not be able to afford to act on our suggestions.

However, it’s been pointed out that the council receives large sums from the sale of parking permits. The money raised by the sale of permits is meant to be ring-fenced for transport and road safety spending.

The FRA thought it would be interesting to find out how much is raised in the zones in our area: CA-P (Kilburn) & CA-Q (Fortune Green).

You can see the PDF map of the council’s parking zones here

We asked for the figures since the permit scheme was introduced (around ten years ago) – but were told the figures were only available from 2010/11. The figures include funds raised from the sale of all permits – residents, visitor, e-visitor, parking permission, business & doctors.

  • 2010/11   £774,463
  • 2011/12   £754,083
  • 2012/13   £820,251
  • 2013/14   £870,466
  • 2014/15   £807,090 (to date)

These seem like significant sums to us. We also asked for a breakdown of how the money has been spent in our area. Unfortunately, we weren’t given this information – but instead were directed to the council’s annual parking reports, which can be seen here.

Although the reports give some useful information, there is no breakdown of how the money is spent. We think the council could be a lot more open and transparent about what these funds are used for so that those paying for the various charges and permits can see where their money is going.

James Earl
Chair, Fordwych Residents Association
www.fordwych.org.uk
@FordwychRA

Residents concerned over Beckford School road closure plan

Camden Council has announced plans to implement a temporary road closure near a primary school in West Hampstead, angering many local residents. There are public meetings to discuss the proposals this Thursday.

The affected area is around Beckford School on Dornfell Street. Camden’s proposal is to close Broomsleigh Street at the Mill Lane end at the beginning and end of each school day, preventing traffic from entering Dornfell Street, Glastonbury Street and Ravenshaw Street from this direction. This would come into effect for a six-month period, after which a further decision would be made whether to make the scheme permanent.

The council’s rationale for the possible traffic changes, as outlined in a letter to residents last week, is to create “a safe and pleasant environment” around the school when children arrive, and to encourage families to walk or cycle to school as part of its “Healthy School Streets” initiative. Since the school year started in September, it points out, two school children have been struck by motor vehicles in the area immediately around the school.

However, people living in and around the affected roads are not happy with the street closures, which if approved would come into effect in early June. On the West Hampstead Life forum, many residents have commented that although well-meaning, the plans are misguided and do not take into account the needs of residents and businesses.

People are concerned that they will be unable to reach their homes by car at the restricted hours of 8.30-9.15am and 2.30-4.30pm, deliveries will not be made, and elderly residents will not be able to be picked up for appointments. Margaret McKillop, a forum commenter, queried  what would happen “if for instance we need a doctor or ambulance during the hours between 2.30 and 4.30”?

There is also scepticism that Camden’s scheme will do much to encourage parents to walk their children to and from school, and that instead Ravenshaw Street will become “an unspeakable nightmare” with traffic moving in both directions on an already narrow road. Avril, another forum member, wondered “how many parents will actually support their children cycling to Beckford School” – as this would inevitably mean cycling along busy Mill Lane.

There will be two meetings held at the school this Thursday, March 19th at 3.45pm and 6.30pm, to explain the reasons behind the plan and give parents and residents a chance to ask questions.

Do you live in the affected area, or are you a Beckford School parent? Join the discussion on the forum.

The busy junction of Broomsleigh Street and Mill Lane

The junction of Broomsleigh Street and Mill Lane under discussion

139 to… Golders Green? TfL plans to shake-up local buses

139 bus

Surely we all get that flush of pride when you’re in central London and a 139 heading home sails into sight? Destination West Hampstead.

All that may be about to change according to plans by TfL, which are up for consultation.

Based on analysis of passenger flows, TfL is proposing that the 139 would continue up to Golders Green, following the route of the 328 (which is out of the scope of these plans). Many locals would be delighted if this meant that the 139 no longer trundled empty along Mill Lane on its way back to the depot.

The much bigger change proposed affects buses running from town up Finchley Road. TfL wants to scrap the 13 bus. Completely. Over on the Forum, this is already being discussed. Alex Gollner has delved into the details:

Currently there are 52 scheduled bus departures between Platt’s Lane on Finchley Road between 7am and 9am made up of buses on the 13, 82 and 113 routes. That’s 26 buses an hour.

The new plan mentions the frequency of the 113 increasing to 10 buses an hour during peak hours. The information given doesn’t say that the 82 will be increased to 16 buses an hour during the peaks in order to maintain current frequencies – “no changes to the day 82 service.” The 82 runs 10 buses an hour in the morning peaks at the moment so it looks like those on waiting for buses Finchley Road south of Frognal Lane in the morning rush hour will have their service cut by 20%.

TfL Bus consultation

Other notable changes are that the 189 would stop at Marble Arch rather than going on to Oxford Circus and a nightbus N189 would replace the 24h service, and the 82 would become a 24h service.

TfL’s full webpage on the consultation explains more of the detail and hints at the rationale, while not going into quite enough detail to satisfy those really keen to understand whether the proposals make sense. If they do come into effect, one thing is very clear… those top deck front seats are going to be a whole lot harder to get for West Hampstead residents.

New Overground station should absorb growing passenger numbers

West Hampstead Overground station

The planning application for the redevelopment of the Overground station has been submitted. The Overground network has seen an enormous increase in passenger numbers over recent years. West Hampstead’s position as a major interchange point means that 13 million people pass through each year, of whom 5.6 million used the Overground station (TfL, 2012 estimates), the new station has been designed to cope with even more passengers than pass through today.

The plan is for a modern station frontage just to the south of the existing station building that will lead to a wide walkway running broadly perpendicular to West End Lane that connects to stairs and lifts down to the platforms. The existing staircases will be retained but will be for emergency access only but the existing station building will be removed and turned into a retail unit.

West Hampstead Overground station plan looking north

West Hampstead Overground station plan looking north

West Hampstead Overground station looking south

West Hampstead Overground station looking south

The number of ticket barriers will rise from the three standard and one oversized gates today, to eight regular and two oversized gates, which should ease congestion at rush hour. In addition, the footbridge over the platforms is believed to be the widest on the Overground network, with enough room for multiple wheelchairs or pushchairs as well as pedestrians. There will also be a lift down to each platform.

Part of plan - click for larger version

Part of plan – click for larger version

Tree campaigners will be disappointed to read that the tree that they successfully lobbied to be given a tree preservation order in early 2014, will have to be removed if the station development goes ahead.

Comments are being accepted up until January 14th.

Rail replacement bus hits parked cars, blocks road

Broadhurst rail replacement bus crash

A rail replacement double-decker bus travelling down Broadhurst Gardens crashed into a series of parked cars just past the junction with Priory Road this morning causing significant damage to the vehicles though no passengers appear to have been injured. The bus became wedged against one of the cars and was unable to move. This led to the one-way Broadhurst Gardens becoming backed up with both replacement bus services and the C11.

Broadhurst rail replacement bus crash_4

The middle doors of the bus were also damaged in the incident.

Broadhurst rail replacement bus crash_5

A group of workers from TfL’s engineering works came off the track to see what they could do. It appeared that the owner of the Golf was able to nudge the car foward, freeing up the bus which was then able to drive off.

Broadhurst rail replacement bus crash_6

The incident will raise questions about the suitability of Broadhurst Gardens for rail replacement services, given that it’s narrow with a tight bend and parked cars either side and that while the C11 drivers navigate it daily it’s not a common task for the stand-in drivers. It also throws into relief the poor planning this weekend, which has seen two sets of West End Lane roadworks, and the closure of both the Jubilee and Metropolitan Lines, the closure today of part of Belsize Road. Not to mention the 50,000 fans heading to Wembley for the England women’s football match.

Are fares fair for West Hampstead travellers?

Here it comes, as seasonal in its way as twinkling fairy lights and Christmas shopping: TfL’s annual announcement about ticket price rises.

How will the changes affect the average West Hampstead resident in January? If you commute by tube into central London each day, a weekly Zone 1-2 Travelcard will increase by 2.2%, meaning a 7-day pass will now cost £32.10 instead of this year’s £31.40. The Zone 1-2 one-day travelcard is abolished, and the minimum one-day card is now for zones 1-4, which comes in at £12, as TfL tries to get even more of us to use Oystercards.

The cost of a 1-2 monthly travelcard will be £123.30, up from the £120.60 it is today. Don’t forget that if you use travelcards, it’s cheaper to buy it to start before January 2nd!

TfL does attempt to sweeten the pill with a nod to flexible and part-time workers by cutting the pay-as-you-go daily fare caps from £8.40 (peak) and £7.00 (off-peak) to £6.40 for journeys within Zones 1 and 2. However, this will not make any difference if you simply travel to and from work each day and do not make any additional journeys, as a return journey will come in at £5.80, which is less than the daily cap anyway. There’s no great benefit for most people of opting to use only contactless by the way – it generally costs the same as Oyster fares apart from in some particular circumstances.

There’s an increase of 3.4% on bus fares, with a pay-as-you-go single fare on Oyster rising to £1.50. TfL is also reintroducing a one-day bus (and tram) pass for £5, but you can’t buy it on board.

For those who only take the occasional trip into town at weekends and off-peak times, the cost of a single Tube journey on Oyster will go up by 10p to £2.30.

The full table of new fares can be found here. For a broader analysis, The Diamond Geezer blog has an excellent and detailed overview of what these changes mean for Londoners generally.

Can Govia get Thameslink service back on track?

Regular commuters on the Thameslink line have faced frustrating delays and cancellations since Govia took over the running of the line from First Capital Connect on September 14th.

Govia has released its performance figures and they bear out the public perception that the service has got worse: the Thameslink Public Performance Measure (PPM) for Period 7 (the period since Govia took over) was just 81.10% against a target of 87.36%. Commuters who berated First Capital Connect might like to know that in the same period in both the last two years, the PPM exceeded 90%. PPM is the industry standard performance measure and refers to the percentage of services that reach their final destination on time.

Thameslink Performance

The blue bars show this year’s performance against target (orange)

In the train operator’s latest stakeholder newsletter, CEO Charles Horton apologises and admits that his company was to blame for some of the shaky service. “Some of this disruption has been caused by external events which are very difficult for us to control, such as several fatalities. But there have also been delays caused by things which we in the rail industry manage.”

How is Govia planning to address these issues and get the service back on track (and disgruntled West Hampstead commuters to work  on time)?

Horton adds that a summit was held last week with the management team to discuss recent poor performance and put in place a plan “to improve performance urgently”. You can see the whole of the chief executive’s letter below.

Will this be enough to convince regular users of the service? One local rush-hour commuter said that although he accepted “occasional delays are inevitable,” there had “hardly been an incident-free day since Govia took over” – citing problems such as overcrowding on four-carriage trains, more frequent delays, and the odd cancellation due to “staff shortages”. Looks like Govia has some work to do to win over increasingly frustrated passengers.

In touch CEO letter 2014

24-hour tube: Mind the gap between PR and reality

From September 12th 2015, the tube will run all night on Fridays and Saturdays on the Jubilee, Victoria and most of the Piccadilly, Central and Northern lines. Around six trains will run every hour on the “night tube”.

Map from http://www.tfl.gov.uk/

Map showing where the 24-hour service will run (image from http://www.tfl.gov.uk/)

No doubt many West Hampstead and Kilburn residents will rejoice at the arrival of a more convenient way to get home from town after a night out, but what about the noise disruption to those who live near to the station or tube line?

Gareth Powell, London Underground’s Director of Strategy and Service Development, told us: “We will of course work with residents to help resolve any problems. However, as our services already run for up to 20 hours each day and we carry out engineering work overnight, the potential for disturbance from night time services at weekends is expected to be limited.”

This rather assumes that those late night/early morning services, and the engineering work aren’t already disturbing the sleep of those who live right alongside the railways or by stations. Indeed, it’s unclear how much TfL has considered the possible impact to people living in areas such as West Hampstead, which is relatively unusual with both station and tracks located above ground and very close to a densely-populated residential area (tube-facing apartment in West Hampstead Square anyone?).

As well as the (admittedly relatively quiet) noise from trains running along the line, will there be irregular bursts of sound coming from platform announcements and raucous passengers disembarking in the early hours.

Of course, for central London businesses, there is little downside. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers said: “This move will give more customers the chance to enjoy a drink or meal out in the city centre with the peace of mind that they will be able to get home safely and quickly.” and also makes the point that “a later-running London Underground will offer more chance for the gradual dispersal of customers from the busy city centre.”

How do West Hampstead locals feel about this? Nervous about the potential for disrupted sleep, or looking forward to late nights out in town without the exorbitant taxi fares? Over to you in the comments below.

Video highlights West Hampstead’s first class transport links

The West Hampstead Business Association (of which West Hampstead Life is a member) has been busy in the past couple of months. It’s worked with local filmmakers Krishna Govender and Tom Jones to produce a video extolling the virtues of West Hampstead’s transport connections.

The idea is to show prospective businesses that West Hampstead is a good place to do business (though no doubt estate agents will be using it freely to show why it’s also a great place to live). This is intended to be part of a series of short videos that focus on different aspects of what makes West Hampstead great.

Alongside the video, the WHBA is also responsible for the lovely hanging baskets that now adorn West End Lane and Mill Lane. Hanging baskets It also hosted a summer party at the Cricket Club with a discussion on rent and rate reviews courtesy of Jeremy Manuel and Philip Waldman, and a sprinkling of celebrity glamour from Imelda Staunton.

WHBA Summer BBQ - Imelda Staunton

Imelda Staunto captures the WHBA’s attention. Photo courtesy of David Jacobs @ Colour Division

More noise as Network Rail to clear vegetation overnight

Residents near The Black Path, which runs along side the northern side of the Thameslink line, may find it’s not just the warm weather keeping them awake at night next week.

Network Rail is going to be removing vegetation along the track behind Sumatra Road and Ravenshaw Street between 11pm and 5.30am from Monday to Friday and the work will apparently involve the use of chainsaws, flail machines, chipping machines or handsaws – so it could get a bit noisy!

Thameslink_foliage

It’s not clear why the work all has to take place overnight or whether it requires five full nights of work. Perhaps one of our new West Hampstead councillors could look into this, and ensure National Rail does indeed have all the correct permits for this after-hours work.

Local residents were sent a circular alerting them to the potential disruption, and are advised to call the 24-hour national helpline on 08457 114141 if they have any concerns, though it seems unlikley that that’s going to stop any noise then and there.

Residents may find it’s a long week as some are also likely to be disturbed by the more extensive Overgound construction work taking place on Sunday night. The Ivory Coast vs Japan World Cup match, whicj kicks off at 2am Sunday morning, might have a disproportionately high number of viewers in NW6.

Overground works to cause Sunday noise disruption

As part of the work to rebuild West Hampstead Overground station, the platforms need to be extended and widened and, unfortunately, this means it’s going to get noisy – starting this Sunday.

For locals who live very near the station it’s likely to be uncomfortable at times. Work is scheduled to start at 12.30am on Sunday (yes, as in just after midnight on Saturday) and run right through to 8pm. “The exact finish times will vary and on occasion will continue into the following Monday, however the majority of work will be completed by 20:00 on Sunday evenings.”

There will be some pile driving work during this time and, as anyone who’s lived through pile driving will tell you, that can be hard to live with. TfL tell me that the loudest pile driving will actually be in the initial phases as they need to drive the piles on which the rig for the rest of the pile driving will sit. Still with me? The good news, such as it is, is therefore that when you think that it can’t get any louder, you’ll actually be right.

TfL’s Director for London Overground, Mike Stubbs, told West Hampstead Life:

“We always seek to undertake work in a way that causes the minimum disruption and inconvenience possible to residents near to the railway, however, despite our best efforts some work will unavoidably need to be carried out overnight. We will be monitoring the works at West Hampstead carefully to minimise disturbance, and any local residents who feel that there is disturbance, or would like more information, can contact us 24 hours a day on our helpline on 0343 222 7878.”

TfL is naturally wary of setting out a very strict timetable of works as the situation can change very quickly on a project of this nature. Note that although it doesn’t expect to be carrying out noisy works in the middle of the night, it is not categorically ruling it out either.

What this boils down to is that noisy work will be carried out on Sundays during the day and there will be some occasional disruption during the nights as well. Additional work will take place during the rest of the week from 7am-7pm though even then, “There may be some occasions when we need to work at night , however this will be restricted to quiet activities that should not affect neighbouring properties. If any night work is likely to cause disturbance, we will notify you in advance. Any additional lighting required for overnight works will be directed away from nearby residential property and dust will be dampened down on site.”

For those of you interested in the specifics of the construction, Tfl is installing a retaining wall in the slopes at the back of the platforms, and doing some excavation work using heavy machinery to build foundations for the new extensions. Blockwork will be built up to create the new sections of platform and new surfacing will be laid. Additional CCTV cameras, speakers and lighting will be installed on the new platforms.

Obviously, the Overground line will be closed through West Hampstead on Sundays when the work is carrying out, so don’t expect to be catching the train to Richmond on a Sunday anytime soon although you can catch the new special Sunday service from Stratford to Willesden Junction via South Hampstead or Kilburn High Road station and change there. The new longer trains, which are necessitating this work, will be introduced by the end of 2015.

Earplugs are available from most chemists.

First Capital Connect loses Thameslink franchise

Amid all the election results flooding in from around the country, another bit of news could affect West Hampstead commuters at least as much.

First Capital Connect, owned by the First Group, has lost the Thameslink franchise to Govia, a joint venture between Go Ahead Group and Keolis. The new operator, which currently operates Southern trains, will take over both the Brighton to Bedford route from mid-September as well as the Great Northern route that First Capital Connect also operates. The new enlarged franchise – catchily titled Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) – is the UK’s largest in terms of passenger numbers, trains, revenue, and staff according to the BBC.

First Capital Connect was voted the worst train operating company by customers earlier this year, and First Group’s share price had already fallen in expectation of this franchise loss. The group still operates First Great Western – which has been badly affected this year by the flooding in the south-west – and First TransPenine Express.

The Thameslink route is, as you know, undergoing a major upgrade with new trains and a complete overhaul of London Bridge station. Assuming all goes to plan, Govia should benefit from this better service and will no doubt hope to see a leap up the customer satisfacton rankings.

Eight week Mill Lane closure

Mill Lane closure

Part of Mill Lane will be closed for eight weeks starting on Tuesday May 6th. There has been surprisingly little notice of this. The work is to replace metal gas mains with plastic mains.

The National Grid says

“The closures and restrictions will be introduced in phases as the work progresses from Shoot Up Hill towards Westbere Road.

Mill Lane will be closed between Shoot Up Hill and Fordwych Road with access maintained via local diversion routes

Fordwyich Road will be partially closed at the junction with Mill Lane, with access to properties being maintained via local diversion routes

Mill Lane will be closed one way Westbound between Westbere Road and Fordywch Road with access being maintained cia local diversion routes.

Some areas of parking will need to be suspended to facilitae excavation operations and traffic flows around our work areas.

It’s not clear whether these closures are just the first phase of closures or all the closures listed together. More information as we get it!

False alarm as JW3 suspect package closes Finchley Road

[updated 6.45pm]

A suspect package that caused Finchley Road to close this morning turned out to contain t-shirts and flyers.

Mitzvah Day, an organization based at JW3, the Jewish community centre on Finchley Road, received a large package this morning, which it deemed suspect. Police cordoned off a large section of Finchley Road from Blackburn Road to Frognal Lane.

Road closure - photo via @stephenbudd

Road closure – photo via @stephenbudd

Traffic was forced onto Fortune Green Road and West End Lane, causing jams in the area.

With Lymington Road closed from West End Lane to Finchley Road, it became apparent that JW3 was the focus of police attention. An hour later, and CST – a charity that helps Jewish organisations deal with security and antisemitism – tweeted that it was confirmed as a false alarm and the police cordon was being lifted.

Police had carried out a controlled explosion, which was when it transpired that the package was in fact promotional material, including t-shirts, that Mitzvah Day had ordered.

Cycling campaign draws up wishlist

West Hampstead has a low rate of car ownership compared to other areas (>40% of households have no car); yet, West End Lane is frequently congested.

Encouraging cycling is increasingly seen as part of the solution to reduce congestion. Camden Cyclists, as part of the London Cycling Campaign, has been very active for more than ten years in lobbying for the interests of cyclists.

Last Monday, the group held its regular monthly meeting and invited local election candidates for the Fortune Green, Kilburn and West Hampstead wards to respond to a set list of “asks” for those wards. These included:

  • Fortune Green – providing safer routes for pupils to cycle to Hampstead School
  • Kilburn – traffic calming and protected crossings for cyclists at the south end of Kilburn high Road (the junction of Kilburn Priory and Maida Vale)
  • West Hampstead – two-way cycling on Broadhurst Gardens west of Priory Road with subsequent changes to traffic lights.

All these issues will take time to resolve. Traffic planning is never an exact science and slowing down cars or encouraging cyclists in one road can lead to worse congestion elsewhere.

For example, would a two-way contraflow for cyclists on Broadhurst Gardens actually be less safe for cyclists? Would it lead to more congestion on West End Lane as the traffic lights would need to allow cyclists time to turn from Broadhurst Gardens onto West End Lane?

Ideas to improve conditions for cyclists on Mill Lane will be of particular interest to pupils of Hampstead School (and their parents). Yet, calming measures on Mill Lane may not be so simple given that it is a bus route for both the C11 and is used (controversially) by Metroline to move 139s to and from its Cricklewood depot.

This was my first Camden Cyclists meeting. It was good to have council candidates from all the major parties there, although only Labour’s Tulip Siddiq was there from the parliamentary candidates. Still, it suggests that the cycling vote is being taken seriously and that despite cuts, there is some money available for some improvements. However, improvements can only come about if people lobby their elected representatives and as part of the planning process.

Camden Cyclists meets every month. Notices of their meetings are posted on West Hampstead Life and meetings are open to all with an interest in cycling.

Follow Eugene on Twitter @Cycle_Whamp

West Hampstead handles 16 million passengers a year

No doubt boosted to some extent by the Olympics and by the broad surge in Overground use, West Hampstead stations saw a 17% growth in passengers last year.

Transport numbers

The tube station handled 9.7 million passengers (defined as entrances + exits); the Overground station 3.7 million and Thameslink 2.8 million. Passenger numbers were up from the previous year at all three stations, although Thameslink grew only fractionally at just 1.4% compared to a whopping 27.5 % increase at the Overground.

All these numbers – especially for the Thameslink station – shouldn’t be taken as pinpoint accurate. A 50-page report explains the complex methodology used to come up with these estimates.

Athough the two overground stations are assigned to a “station group”, the numbers can’t accurately give an idea of how many people change between the stations.

As West Hampstead grows, with car free developments at West Hampstead Square, Iverson Road, and eventually 156 West End Lane and the O2 car park, there must be questions about how long the tube station can continue without major development. The Overground station will be rebuilt next year, which should increase capacity, but surely eventually TfL will have to look at turning the footbridge between Blackburn Road and Broadhurst Gardens into a separate access point for the tube station.

This should help reduce scenes like this from January

Overall, West Hampstead overground was London’s 58th busiest surface rail station – up from 73rd in 2011/12. West Hampstead Thameslink actually dropped a couple of places to 79th, while West Hampstead tube station is London’s 74th busiest. To put this in some context, there are 62 tube stations in zone 1.

Original data: surface rail; underground

Virgin Media WiFi arrives at West Hampstead station

westhampsteadstationplatform

West Hampstead is one of the latest Tube stations to benefit from Virgin Media WiFi coverage.

Virgin Media has extended its London Underground WiFi service to cover an additional 10 stations, including West Hampstead and Finchley Road, bringing the total number of stations covered to 131.

The service is included in the package cost for Virgin Broadband and Virgin Mobile customers, but users of other networks can buy daily, weekly or monthly passes.

The WiFi service should be available both in the ticket hall and the platform and given how close West Hampstead and Finchley Road stations are, maybe… just maybe you’ll be able to keep the connection.

Has anyone tested this out yet? Please leave a comment using the form below (for extra points, please do so whilst connected to WiFi at West Hampstead station.)

Sneak preview of Overground station plans

Concept drawing - station front

The first pictures have emerged of what West Hampstead Overground station is going to look like after a complete remodel. The £7m scheme is still in its early stages but it looks like it will resemble most other modern stations with an abundance of glass and steel.

The Overground station, which opened in 1888, handles 3 million passengers a year, so more capacity is needed as well as longer platforms to accommodate the new 5-carriage trains that will start to run from 2015.

We reported last year that TfL was planning to rebuild the station, partly thanks to almost £1 million from Ballymore as part of its contribtuions to the community for West Hampstead Square (the Section 106 money). Architects are now finalising initial designs in advance of the planning application, which will be submitted in the spring. Before that, TfL will consult with passengers and the community to comment on the proposal.

Looking east - the footbridge is further down the platform than it is today.

Looking east – the footbridge is further down the platform than it is today.

The existing station will be partially removed so the pavement can be widened. The new station will be between the existing station and West Hampstead Square, and there will be step-free access from street-level to platform via lifts. The current platforms are too narrow for lift shafts so they will need to be widened by at least 3 metres (this will of course ease the crowding on the platform too).

Work to widen and extend platforms will commence in late spring, and work on the new station building should follow in early 2015 and take approximately one year – depending on planning permission of course.

The images, courtesy of TfL are still conceptual and are subject to change prior to the submission of a planning application. It’s still hard from these to understand quite how it fits into the streetscape, especially with West Hampstead Square yet to be built.

Trees – there are always trees

TfL has already broached the thorny issue of trees. “In order to complete the platform and station works, it is necessary to remove four sycamore trees from the railway embankment along the westbound platform. The proximity of these trees to the new station building and platform means that the scheme cannot be completed with them in place.”

One of those trees has just had a Tree Preservation Order slapped on it by Camden, but expect TfL (and Network Rail who own the land) to get its way – even if it has to deal with petitions and masked protestors.

Gary Nolan, TfL’s Stakeholder Communications Manager, Rail, said “We are currently in discussions with tree officers from the London Borough of Camden regarding these trees and we intend to re-landscape the embankments to the rear of both platforms following the completion of works.”

New Thameslink trains unveiled

As part of the major upgrade to the Thameslink service, West Hampstead commuters can look forward to a fleet of state-of-the-art new trains and a more frequent, “tube-like” service. Just not quite yet. The new trains are scheduled to start coming into service in 2016, and will be gradually phased in over the following two years. But then Thameslink passengers are used to waiting.

The First Capital Connect project team, including engineering project manager Mans Alam and communications manager Roger Perkins, were at the station ticket office yesterday to talk to passengers about the developments, with a 2-metre cutaway model and video of the new trains.

Thameslink model

More services

  • There will be more regular trains at rush hour; over the 3-hour morning peak there will be a 40% increase in the number of train services calling at West Hampstead.
  • Some longer, 12-carriage trains will be in service, significantly increasing capacity.

New trains

Standard class carriage interior. (Photo courtesy of FCC)

Standard class carriage interior. (Picture courtesy of FCC)

  • The increased frequency of the service needs new trains to match. Carriages have been specially designed for ease and speed of boarding and disembarking, with wider doors and more spacious interiors.
  • Seating has been redesigned. Gone are the unpopular 3-seat configurations; instead there are two-seaters throughout. Space has been optimised for different passenger needs such as luggage, space for wheelchairs and buggies, and a baby changing area, and there is more standing room.
  • Trains are greener; FCC claims they are “up to 50% more energy efficient”.
Improved luggage space (Picture courtesy of FCC)

Improved luggage space (Picture courtesy of FCC)

Expansion of Thameslink network

The Thameslink network will expand in 2018, linking up with other routes such as the Great Northern (East Coast Main Line) routes to Cambridge and Peterborough, and the route to Sevenoaks via Elephant & Castle.

The new train, face on. Fancy a day trip to Peterborough? (Picture courtesy of FCC)

The face on view of the new trains. Fancy a day trip to Peterborough? (Picture courtesy of FCC)

If you missed the roadshow, you can see the video for yourself, including details of the expanded network.

There’s also a great selection of photos on the IanVisits blog.

Maygrove Road closure starts

It was pushed back a few days, but the partial closure of Maygrove Road for three months has now begun. The recriminations over the lack of notice for residents and councillors continue however.

MaygroveRd_closure

We reported last week the sudden annoucement of this lengthy road closure. So many people were up in arms about the lack of notice that the start date was moved from last Monday to yesterday. Today the road was definitively closed. To recap, the closure is from Ariel Road to 80 Maygrove Road. For the time being, the pavement is open on both sides, though residents should expect the northside pavement to close.

MaygroveRd_closure_eastbound

Here’s how Camden’s Brian Foxton, Network Manager, explained the snafu:

“A temporary traffic restriction order (closure) was applied for in December 2013 however the payments were not made until after the New Year’s break. While “approving” the order in principle we do not advertise until all payments etc have been made. The order was duly advertised, in compliance with the Road Traffic Regulations, on two separate occasions in the Ham & High on the 16th & 23rd January 2014. We do note however that not all Camden residents have access to this or wish to acquire a copy.

The Construction Management Plan for the development does state that there would be a potential road closure to carry out the sewer works however as the discussions progressed ward councillors and residents should have been kept informed and I can only apologise that this was not the case…. We are reviewing processes to ensure this does not reoccur.

…[t]he contractors… are going to ensure that a “filter” lane is provided to allow properties to be accessed in terms of disabled or physically impaired residents, in addition to any deliveries which may be required.

There should also now be a weekly newsletter for residents.

MaygroveRd_sign

West Hampstead tube station

Tube station sign ripped down in storm

West Hampstead tube station

While I was stuck on a train waiting for the driver to cut a tree that had fallen onto the line using a rusty saw (I kid you not), it seems that a mini-hurricane hit West Hampstead.

Twitter was flooded with #weather tweets with descriptions of high winds and intense rain. The plastic barriers outside the West Hampstead Square marketing suite had mostly tumbled