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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.

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

We’re 24 Hour Tube People

Yesterday, TfL announced it would be starting “Night Tube” services in 2015 on Friday and Saturday nights. Not all lines will benefit, but the Jubilee is one that will (the Bakerloo and Metropolitan lines miss out). Will night tube passengers behave with the same levels of decorum as those who populate the buses in the wee small hours (I use the word “wee” advisedly)?

It would be hard to find many passengers who don’t think this is a good idea, and will certainly make getting back to West Hampstead from a night out in town a much less painful process. I wonder whether this means the end of the 24 hour service on the 139 though at weekends? There aren’t too many places on its journey that you couldn’t get to via a 24hr Jubilee Line service.

Combined with the increased frequency of the Thameslink service, this will make West Hampstead better connected than ever (and it wasn’t shabby to start with!).

New Overground station to be built next year

At the end of last month, Camden held its annual public meeting on transport issues in the north of the borough for the first time. A good proportion of the questions on the night related to the local area.

Overground
WHAT (West Hampstead Amenities & Transport) asked for an update on the platform and lifts upgrades at West Hampstead Overground station.

Work will start on new Overground station next year
Photo via James Lovett

Some context is needed here. TfL have recognised that the Overground station needs an overhaul. It handles more than 3 million passengers a year, making it one of the busier train stations in the country. According to WHAT, a new footbridge and station building, with lifts and wide access, will be constructed about halfway down the existing platforms. This will allow the station building to continue to function until the new one is ready. The first stage will be to lengthen and widen the platforms to allow use of 5-car trains on the Overground (which are due early 2015). Building work on the station is expected to take place during 2014, with completion hoped for in early 2015.

WHAT has lobbied for this for the last two years and wants to ensure that the provision of lifts is co-ordinated with the Ballymore housing development next door. The money that TfL allocated for installing the lifts was on a use-it-or-lose-it basis, but given the length of the Ballymore build, it will have to be applied for again. The consensus seems to be that there won’t be a problem in having it awarded again.

Cycle hire at West Hampstead Thameslink
Emily Turner asked whether TfL had considered expanding Cycle Hire to West Hampstead Thameslink? The existing plan is to expand the Barclays “Boris” Bike scheme around Westminster and the City of London where demand is greatest. TfL has no plans to expand further north-west. In 2012, the scheme extended to Camden Town, with the northernmost docking station on Castlehaven Road towards Chalk Farm. A further extension to West Hampstead would require a number of docking stations throughout the area to the north-west of Swiss Cottage, which, say TfL may presentsome topographical and operational difficulties.

TfL met with Camden officers in March 2013 to discuss Camden’s aspirations for Cycle Hire and these will be considered within wider discussions for the building programme in the King’s Cross area.

Personally, I think our part of NW London should look at one of the alternative bike hire schemes that are popping up elsewhere in the country. These require less infrastructure than Boris Bikes and would benefit people moving around the area rather than just commuting to and from work, which would lead to limited numbers of bikes being available during the day. I’m looking into this in more detail.

West End Lane disruptions
WHAT asked if Camden could outline how it plans to deal with disruptions, such as those occurring on West End Lane due to burst water mains?

The council explained the impact the bridges and train lines have on the options for road diversions around West Hampstead, which can lead to bus passengers being a long way off course. It also said that planning for unexpected disruptions is difficult and usually consists of diversions and these will be announced by the driver. On occasion a disruption will sometimes lead to a longer term response being required, which may include the use of information at bus stops.

Bus stops
WHAT (again) asked TfL for an update on bus reliability and on the use of information during bus journeys, and live information at key locations to keep passengers informed of changes and delays to buses.

TFL has a large amount of bus data available, which is used to measure performance by the bus operators and enforce service level agreements in contracts. Camden said it would consider paying for real-time bus information at key locations in West Hampstead through Section 106 money (the money paid by developers to offset the impact of new developments).

Jubilee Line
WHAT asked TFL to provide an update on Jubilee Line closures and the impact these have on the West Hampstead community, particularly during the Christmas period. It also pointed out that more explanation about the nature of the works would be appreciated, rather than “engineering works” being a catch-all term.

TFL confirmed that essential maintenance to reline a section of the tunnel near Bond Street started on June 16th and will require three remaining closures and two late Sunday starts in 2013, with some intermittent closures also required in 2014 and possibly 2015.A full list of all planned closures is available on the TfL website.

Around Christmas, the Jubilee Line will be closed from Waterloo to Finchley Road from Thursday 26th December to Monday 30th Dec.

Traffic lights and other issues
WHAT asked for an update on the proposal to improve the traffic lights outside West Hampstead tube station.

The installation of secondary signals at the West End Lane / Broadhurst Gardens junction is scheduled for this financial year.

June Perrin: Could Camden review the traffic light sequence at the junction of Kilburn High Road and Quex Road? 

An scheme is being developed in this area, which could include the phasing of the signals.

Mel Wright asked whether there are plans to improve pedestrian crossing times along Kilburn High Road, perhaps using the live countdown technology. 

TFL confirmed that Quex Road has been identified as one of 200 sites in London for the implementation of live countdown

Maryam Alaghband: Could TFL could comment on the traffic light system at Swiss Cottage gyratory where traffic going south onto Park Road collides with traffic coming from Avenue Rd and going to Finchley Rd? 

David Harris: Can the traffic lights from Finchley Road and Fitzjohns Avenue be timed so that both lights do not allow the traffic to move together in such a way that the traffic becomes a racing track where the motorists cross in front of one another in order to reach the right lane?

Same answer to both questions: “TfL is reviewing this site and although there are likely to be significant challenges in terms of maintaining network resilience at this location by the full or partial removal of the gyratory system, TfL will be seriously considering the options available and will welcome community involvement in the development of these plans.”

David Douglas: Can TFL plant more trees at the gyratory to combat air pollution; and can air quality information at Swiss Cottage be publicised?
The ground conditions along Finchley Road have proved to be very challenging for planting new trees. TfL proactively looks for suitable places to plant new trees, but on this occasion, the ground conditions meant that this area was not suited, and the trees would not have prospered.

An overview of pollution levels in Camden is published on the London Air Quality Network website and there is specific data for the Swiss Cottage monitoring station.

Boris puts kybosh on tube station lift

Navigating between the three West Hampstead stations is already challenging, with narrow pavements, crowds of people and at least one road to cross whichever change you’re making.

Now imagine that you’re not so good at walking – or can’t walk at all. That minor hassle becomes a major hassle. Or would be if it was even worth attempting given the lack of step-free access to the platform.

The Thameslink station does now have proper step-free access (though god help you if there’s one of those pesky short-notice platform changes). The Overground station doesn’t have a lift at the moment, but will get one, perhaps in 2014, having successfully been awarded £1m by the Department for Transport.

Which leaves us with the Jubilee Line station – arguably the most useful of all for day-to-day travel in London.

No-go area for wheelchair users

Lib Dem London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon recently asked the Mayor:

Do you agree that West Hampstead station, which sits on both the Jubilee and London Overground lines, is a good candidate for being made step free?

Boris provided a written reply (I doubt he wrote it himself, there isn’t a single classical reference in there), of which here is an abridged version:

Regrettably there is no funding to undertake works at the Tube station. Aside from the funding question, the Underground station would not be an easy location at which to install step-free facilities. This is because the small ticket hall sits on a road bridge above the tracks carrying the Jubilee, Metropolitan and Chiltern lines. The station is also surrounded by various separately owned properties and there is no space for a lift.

Customers in the West Hampstead area who require a step-free route to central London or need to access the Tube network can use Thameslink services to a number of stations in zone 1 including King’s Cross St Pancras, Farringdon, Blackfriars and London Bridge, all of which are now fully accessible.

Local resident and wheelchair user Shannon Murray certainly doesn’t mince her words in response:

Regrettably they don’t have the funding to undertake the works, well regrettably I don’t have the ability to undertake walking. I can’t use Boris bikes nor can I use the buses or navigate most pavements independently. It’s easy for politicians and decision makers to distance themselves from the implications of access issues because they don’t really impact their lives.

It is a valid point that there are engineering challenges with the Jubilee Line station and these would push the costs of installing a lift even higher. But it is beyond the wit of man to find some innovative solution to this challenge? I fear that step-free access across the Underground network will never become a reality but, at a major interchange like West Hampstead, dismissing the idea so readily feels like a missed opportunity.

WHAT’s up with the Jubilee Line

Two members of the WHAT (West Hampstead Amenities and Transport) committee recently attended the Camden annual transport meeting with TfL. The Jubilee Line spokesperson reported that problems on the line are almost solved.

However, as many of us know, this doesn’t match the reality. At the last WHAT Committee meeting, members decided to keep personal logs of any problems we encountered on the Jubilee Line. These
will be collated and forwarded to TfL.

If you would like to participate, please note dates, times and reasons given for the delay and forward to moc.l1566747569iamg@15667475696wnta1566747569hw1566747569. The committee suggests we monitor for the whole of October.

Jubilee Line finished, but closures persist

I’d spotted last week that the Jubilee Line had more weekend closures scheduled for September and October. I was a bit confused, because I was fairly sure that the upgrade work was complete, we were now getting an incredible three trains more an hour (yet I still had to wait more than 5 minutes for one yesterday), and all was hunky and dory on the Stanmore-Stratford silver subway.

Then a tweet this morning from the BBC London’s transport correspondent Tom Edwards explained the situation. The four weekend closures still to come (see below for details) are actually because the Metropolitan Line work is unfinished. Given how close the lines are to each other it’s simply not safe to have people working on the Met Line while Jubilee line trains swish past. Yes, I know the Met Line has been open sometimes when the Jubilee has been closed, but the Jubilee closures have been about signal work and testing more than track work.

What does this mean for us? Well, as West Hampstead is one of the stations where trains can “turn round” as it were, it doesn’t mean much for southbound passengers. All the closures are between Stanmore and West Hampstead, so the station will be open for those wanting to go into town. Those of you who use stations from Kilburn north are back on the (frighteningly expensive for TfL) rail replacement buses.

Naturally, there is political capital to be made of this. Val Shawcross, London Assembly member and Labour’s transport spokesperson said “On at least five separate occasions this year Boris Johnson has promised an end to weekend tube closures on the Jubilee Line and each time he has broken his promise.”

Ken, sensing a chance to have a swipe at Boris and of course himself an avid Jubilee user, has been up in arms about it, asking for a halt to the autumn closures, although as The Scoop points out, the Met Line work does need to be done.

According to the BBC report, a spokesperson for the Mayor said, “We appreciate that this does mean further frustrations when some interconnecting lines need maintenance and upgrade work.”

What do you think? Has Boris just been shafted by the whole shoddy process or should he and TfL been more creative in finding ways to minimize the weekend closures that have blighted NW London for what now seems like for ever?

Here are those closure dates:
Sat 3rd & Sun 4th September
Jubilee closed Stanmore to West Hampstead
Met closed Harrow-on-the-Hill to Aldgate

Sat 17th & Sun 18th September
Jubilee closed Stanmore to West Hampstead
Met closed Harrow-on-the-Hill to Aldgate

Sat 1st & Sun 2nd October
Jubilee closed Stanmore to West Hampstead
Met closed Harrow-on-the-Hill to Aldgate (Sat), Uxbridge to Aldgate (Sun)

Sat 15th & Sun 16th October
Jubilee closed Stanmore to West Hampstead
Met closed Harrow-on-the-Hill to Aldgate

Note that there are other closures on the Met Line on other weekends, but they are mostly north/west of Wembley Park. There is a Baker St-Aldgate closure on the 8th/9th October and the 6th November.