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‘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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

Higher prices, fewer staff

It’s as inevitable as the New Year hangover. From January 19th, your tube or bus journey will likely cost you more than it did last month. In this article we’ll look at TfL’s fare increases for 2014, and also untangle the proposed staffing model changes for next year – what do they mean for West Hampstead?

Station_Staffing

A fair increase?

First, about those price rises. The Mayor has made his annual announcement and arguably it isn’t as bad as it could have been. The average price increase is 3.1%, which is certainly not the “freeze” of some headlines, but is markedly lower than recent years. Some ticket prices stay the same, e.g. a single peak-time journey on the Tube is still £2.80 with a PAYG Oyster card, and one-day fare caps on Oyster are unchanged.

However, some popular tickets have risen in price; a monthly zone 1-2 Travelcard will now set you back £120.60, compared with last year’s £116.80. A full table of the new adult fares can be found here.

Station staffing changes

Next, the slightly more complex issue of proposed changes to Underground station staffing, slated to come into effect at the beginning of 2015. You may be forgiven for missing this if you fell for TfL’s timely distraction technique announcing their night tube plans at about the same time.

For this proposed reorganisation of staffing, TfL have divided their Underground stations into four provisional categories – Gateway, Destination, Metro and Local. “Local” is split into two subcategories: Local A and Local B. There’s a handy colour-coded map setting out which stations fall into each of the categories.

stationstaffingmap

In the NW6 area, the two categories we’re concerned with are Metro and Local A.

Metro stations serve “predominantly inner London communities with many regular users”. Finchley Road, Swiss Cottage and Kilburn Park all fall into this category. They will have one additional visible member of staff at the busiest times (but a reduction in the number of station staff overall). They won’t have a ticket office.

Local Stations are generally smaller stations where a relatively small number of ticket office sales are made. West Hampstead and Kilburn both belong in this group, in the A subcategory. There is little difference between the Local A and B stations. Both will still have one member of staff and no ticket office, but the ‘B’ stations are the ones deemed more straightforward to manage, and will have a Customer Service Agent, rather than the more senior Customer Service Supervisor at ‘A’ stations. At both, Station Supervisors will be replaced by a roving area manager responsible for several stations.

TfL’s press release explains:

Tube station staff will not be based in ticket offices, but in ticket halls, on gate lines and on platforms, ready and available to give the best personal and face-to-face service to customers.
As now, all Tube stations will continue to be staffed and controlled in future, with more staff visible and available than today in ticket halls and on gate lines and with the same number of staff on platforms. Staff equipped with the latest mobile technology, such as tablet computers, will be able to monitor and manage stations on the move.

For the average commuter, and for people comfortable with managing their Oyster account online, these changes probably won’t be that noticeable. But travellers unfamiliar with the network, or those with additional needs, may find it challenging to be forced to use the ticket machines, perhaps with a long wait for assistance at peak times.

For more detail on the proposed changes, and their impact on passengers and staff, see Diamond Geezer’s excellent blog post here. And for a really in-depth analysis head over to this exhaustive analysis at London Reconnections.

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!).