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Morning rush hour: One person every second

We all know that West Hampstead tube station is a busy place in morning rush hour. Elbows, rucksacks and briefcases are flying; the free papers are snaffled up; the tutting is audible as someone’s Oyster card fails to register. The entry gates act as a funnel for residents and commuters from further afield alike.

A data crunching firm decided to find out exactly how busy all the tube stations on the network were. They took data from weekdays in November 2010 to get average entry numbers to every station for 15 minute intervals.

This tells us that West Hampstead actually IS a busy station. Across the network, 8.15-8.30am is the peak time for people entering stations. An average of 863 people enter West Hampstead station at that time – that’s pretty much one person every second.

In fact, West Hampstead is the fourth busiest station on the Jubilee Line during these 15 minutes. However, the other stations: Waterloo (6,887), London Bridge (3,213) and Stratford (1,327) are all interchange stations and the data simply records numbers entering the tube in general, not for each line. It’s still reasonable to assume that for Waterloo and London Bridge, more than 863 of those people are boarding Jubilee Line trains – but Stratford is less clear cut, with the Central Line presumably accounting for a very healthy share.

Olympic Travel Part II: How to move around London

I’ve had my whinge about TfL’s model not showing West Hampstead as a hotspot. Now for some more practical advice about travel during the Games. If you are going to an event, I’m sure you’ve already worked out your strategy. I’d recommend the Overground to the Olympic Park, but the Javelin back from Stratford to Kings Cross and then tube or Thameslink home. It’s also less than a 3hr walk from West Hampstead to the stadium if you feel like the exercise.

Tube ¦ Overground ¦ Bus ¦ Rail ¦ Roads ¦ Bikes ¦ Stats

Tube
The Jubilee Line will be exceptionally busy pretty much all the time and is, frankly, going to be best avoided if possible. It’s estimated that 80 percent of all spectators attending Greater London venues will travel by rail, including the Tube.

Here’s what GAOTG says:

“Busiest Section: Bond Street to Stratford
Most affected: Weekdays 7-9.30am eastbound and 4-7.30pm both directions, and from 10pm until last train
Other stations on the Jubilee Line will also be busier than usual at certain times.

  • If possible, try to complete your travel either before 7.30am or after 9.30am or before 4pm or after 7.30pm on weekdays.
  • During the Games, you might find it quicker to travel using a different route to normal or using an alternative station.
  • At busy times, passengers are advised to avoid changing lines at London Bridge, Canada Water, Green Park or Bond Street.”

As always, GAOTG directs you to its funky hotspot map, with a slider so you can see where the busiest stations will be on each day of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Friday August 3rd is going to be busy!

Services will generally start between 5-5.30am, but on Sundays they will start 30-45 minutes earlier than usual, at around 6.30am. This will vary by line and station.

The Tube and DLR will run around 60 minutes later than normal on all days. Last trains from central London will leave around 1.30am.

There’ll be extra evening services on the Jubilee, Central and District lines and more trains running in the late evening from Friday 3 August, when events start at the Olympic Stadium.

On certain days and at certain times of day during the Games, some stations will operate differently. Measures may include entry or exit only at some stations, one-way movement within the station or station closures at stations where capacity is not high enough to deal with the demand. These changes will be signed within the affected stations in advance.

On the Bakerloo, expect a lot more people especially when Wembley is in use. Baker Street station will inevitably be very busy as a major interchange.

The Met Line will also be exceptionally busy when Wembley is in use, and Finchley Road is another hotspot station.

 

Overground
Despite being a direct route to the Olympic Park, our stretch of the Overground has not been singled out as being a major bottleneck, although it will – like everywhere else – be busier than normal. Highbury & Islington in particular will be a busy interchange station.

 

Buses
Buses will run more frequently on many routes to cater for the additional passengers. However, some bus services will need to be temporarily diverted and some stops moved or suspended as a result of the road changes that will be in place.

Thankfully, our local bus routes are barely affected. The good ol’ C11 doesn’t even get a mention in TfL’s 86-page bus route report. The archery at Lords shouldn’t affect the 139, although it is likely to be slow going down Abbey Road/Lisson Grove, as it is when there’s a test match on. The 139 and 189 will also be allowed to turn right off Oxford Street onto Portman Square even though that little stretch is a Games Vehicles only route.

139: On Sunday 5th and Sunday 12th August, and Sunday 9th September, the 139 will terminate at Haymarket because of the marathons. This will be in place until Trafalgar Square reopens.

328: During the men’s and women’s road race (July 28th and 29th), the southbound 328 will terminate at the top of Earl’s Court Road, just off Kensington High Street. This will be in effect all day apparently. Initially, there had been plans to increase the frequency of the 328 generally to service Earls Court, but this is now believed to be unnecessary.

The 328 will terminate in West Kensington during the road races

Those of you who head up the Finchley Road, take note of two changes
113: At Marble Arch, the last stop and stand will be on Orchard Street as the Cumberland Gate bus stand will not be available from 20 July-15 August inclusive.

N113: Restrictions on Whitehall require amendments to out of service turning movements. From Cockspur Street, buses will run via Whitehall and Whitehall Place to stand on Northumberland Avenue and will return directly to Cockspur Street and the line of route. Expected to apply 20 July-15 August inclusive

 

Rail
National Rail services from London will operate later than normal. Last trains to locations within two to three hours of London will typically leave between midnight and 01:00. National Rail will also run longer and/or more frequent trains to and from most venue stations when events are taking place. Remember that Kings Cross St Pancras will be exceptionally busy as that’s where the Javelin trains to Stratford run to/from, and this will be one of the major routes people take to the Olympic Park. Expect lengthy queues.

Here’s what First Capital Connect says about Thameslink:

Trains already run throughout the night from Sunday to Friday on the Thameslink route so we have lengthened 34 of these per week out of London and added one new service on a Saturday night to get people home.

At the weekend we have also doubled in length the majority of our services that run between Wimbledon/Sutton and St Albans/Luton, as well as our Sunday services between East Croydon and Bedford. We have also extended four Sunday services beyond London to Bedford and Brighton.

We have ramped up train fleet maintenance at our depots to provide the extra services and we have cancelled all driver-training during the 2012 Games. We have special plans for the busiest stations we manage where there may be queueing systems. We’ll have over 1,000 additional shifts for customer facing roles. We have also increased our cleaning contract by 175 hours a day.

Oyster users will be charged only the minimum fare if they can’t touch out because of altered station arrangements.

Below are the estimated busy/very busy/extremely busy predictions for Thameslink trains in and out of London (click for full size).

Thameslink heading north out of London
Thameslink heading south into London

 

Roads
The Olympic Route Network doesn’t really affect us very much. Obviously any attempt to drive into central London means running into issues, but in our bit of NW London, the only issues are around Lords and Wembley, and in neither case is there anything too drastic to worry about. The ORN comes into place on Wednesday and runs right through to August 14th. Normal traffic can use the vast majority of the ORN, although there will be temporary changes such as suspended turns, stopping and loading restrictions, and traffic signal timing alterations. Stopping or parking on the ORN will result in a £130 penalty charge and your vehicle may be towed away.

These two maps and a reasonably good video give you some idea of what to expect.

Changes around Lord’s (venue for archery)
Changes around Wembley Stadium

 

 

Bikes
Cycling around London may well be one of the best ways of getting around. Just one thing to note though – many of the central London Boris Bike hire stands will be suspended during the Games.

 

And finally
A few stats from TfL on what London is going to be coping with (and a pretty map showing numbers of spectators on Sunday August 5th)

Sunday 5th (click for full size)

Up to one million extra visitors are expected in London every day during the Games. They will make an additional three million journeys, over and above the regular 12 million journeys made on public transport

During each of the 16 days of the 2012 Games, London will be transport an average of 500,000 spectators and around 55,000 members of the Games Family each day, including athletes and team officials, technical officials, press and broadcasting teams, Olympic and Paralympic families, and marketing partners.

Around 800,000 tickets are available on the busiest days (Friday 3 August for the transport network, although overall more tickets are available on Saturday 4 August) – 510,000 of which will be for London-­based venues.

West Hampstead stations will strain at the Olympic seams

Wembley and Finchley Rd as hotspots on Sunday July 29
(from GetAheadOfTheGames)

We’ve known for quite some time that TfL hasn’t deemed West Hampstead to be a hotspot during the Olympic Games, but will the narrow pavements of the interchange be able to cope with the increase in pedestrian traffic? After all:

  • Two of the three train lines through West Hampstead go directly to the Olympic Park
  • Seven Olympic venues (Wembley, Lord’s, Hyde Park, Horse Guards Parade, North Greenwich Arena, the ExCel centre, and the Olympic park itself) are on the Jubilee Line
  • The West Hampstead interchange is always congested during rush hour, or when there are big matches at Wembley.
Luton fans trying to get home
(photo via @stopsleyvicar)

What does it take to qualify as a hotspot? TfL’s Games Communication & Engagement Manager, Midge McCall, explained in an e-mail forwarded to local councillor Mike Katz back in June:

West Hampstead is a key interchange on the Jubilee and Overground and will be busier than usual, in particular on days when Wembley Stadium will be in use. However it is not considered to be busy enough to cause the type of queueing from 15 mins upward on a regular basis during the day on several days to be termed a hotspot station.

Councillors, the Safer Neighbourhoods Team, and many others including me have queried TfL’s assessment. The response has been consistent: yes, West Hampstead will be busier than normal during the Games but no, it won’t be so busy that it qualifies for “hotspot” status.

Finchley Road station is very much a hotspot station, as people come in fron the outer reaches of north-west London and the suburbs and change onto the Jubilee Line or travel to and from Wembley Stadium. Overcrowding on the platforms here seems inevitable, perhaps more than in the ticket hall. TfL recognises that this means some people (surely lots of locals) will walk up to West Hampstead to board the Jubilee there instead, where there will be a better chance of getting on a train. The full assessment of Finchley Road’s peak times is printed below.

Finchley Road estimated peak times
(click for full-size)

TfL has modelled the impact of the Games on the transport network based on passenger numbers at this time of year in a normal year, and on the postcodes of ticket holders. This allows it to work out what routes people will take to which venues. Download the relevant presentation (which also shows predicted numbers of spectators per venue on peak days) here.

So far, so smart. However, it fails to take into account two factors: people don’t always behave rationally (either deliberately or not), and the West Hampstead interchange is a narrow congested area that does not allow the smooth passage between stations that one finds at Kings Cross or even London Bridge.

The result, I fear, is that at peak times, West Hampstead will become clogged with people changing trains, which in turn holds up traffic and generally impedes people from moving around.

Here’s TfL’s response to a query made by the local Lib Dem councillors:

The GetAheadoftheGames.com website highlights stations where it is predicted that demand for services during the Games will exceed available capacity if people do not change their regular travel behaviour…

…West Hampstead does not appear as a ‘hotspot’ because the additional travellers predicted to use the station during the Games is within the available capacity for both the station and the lines serving it. For example, on one of the busiest days of the Games, Friday 3 August, approximately 16 per cent more passengers are predicted to use West Hampstead station. Based on this prediction, London Underground expects to be able to manage with minimal customer impact. Further, if regular travellers do change their travel habits during the Games, the situation will be further improved.

However, it is important to remember that these are only our best predictions of where and when travel hotspots may arise. The travel situation in London will be different each day and may change throughout the day, as crowds travel to and from the different sporting and cultural events. Therefore, my advice to customers using West Hampstead station, and indeed any other part of the transport network, is to refer to www.GetAheadoftheGames.com to plan their Games-time journeys and to check before they travel in order to avoid disruption to their journey. TfL will also provide real-time information to assist Londoners and visitors with their travel at stations.

So, it seems that some disruption is inevitable, and there’s no doubt that West Hampstead will not suffer in the way that most zone 1 stations will.

BBC London’s travel correspondent Tom Edwards told me a while ago via Twitter that West Hampstead is not alone among areas that feel TfL has not built the local nuances of a given area into its model. I suspect we’ll find out within the first few days of the Games whether it’s made any mistakes – lets hope that if it has, there is also the flexibility built into its plans to make any necessary adjustments.

In the meantime, we will have to hope TfL’s prognosis is correct and that we don’t see repeats of the scenes we had when Luton Town played at Wembley recently and there was a dangerous crush around the Thameslink station that required police intervention.

Thankfully, while TfL remain unconvinced about the potential for overcrowding at West Hampstead, First Capital Connect seem to be taking more precautions. According to Cllr Risso-Gill, the rail operator has included West Hampstead Thameslink station in its Enhancement Plan. This means the station will be manned 24 hours a day and tensile barriers may be installed to manage any crowding.

Cllr Risso-Gill has also asked the council for additional signage on Iverson Road and West End Lane to give clear directions between the three stations and four entrances, particularly from the new Thameslink exit to the Jubilee Underground and the Overground stations. Sounds very sensible. Lets hope it happens in time.

What’s new on the Overground?

Are you a regular Overground user? If so, then this guest post by Ed Fordham is for you. Ed sits on the London Overground Passenger Board – the user group that discusses issues relating to the Overground network and in particular the North London Line:

“Being a frequent user of one part of the line, I tend to confine myself to taking a close interest in the stations between Willesden Junction and Gospel Oak.  There are other user groups for the other bits (Barking-Gospel Oak, West London etc), but the six rail stations between Willesden Junction and Gospel Oak can be a bit left out. So I thought I would report back on what had occurred at the last meeting on 15th June – which felt exceptionally positive.

Punctuality
Overall the Overground network achieved 95% punctuality over the past 12 months, making it one of the most punctual services in the UK. This is based on arrival time at the end destination, rather than at intermediate stations – and given some of the routes are so long and have so many stations, there are variations. The North London Line section of the network was only 92%, and steps are being taken to try and tighten up on that.

Olympics
It is expected that this service – going through residential areas will be heavily used during the Olympics, so there will be 70 additional staff and some additional services for parts of the line. An Olympic and Paralympic timetable will be out in the next week or so.

Phase 3 refurbishments
As you may have seen over the last 18 months, there havebeen a host of small scale station improvements ranging from new signs and a general paint job to the more comprehensive redecoration at Hampstead Heath station (this was part of the Art on the Overground project).

There is now a chance to have a more substantive conversation about issues and improvements in the medium and longer term and it would be good to hear your ideas and suggestions.

Issues that have been mentioned include:

  • Better recycling facilities generally, especially for free early morning papers (on trains as well as platforms?)
  • Additional shelters or canopies at Brondesbury station
  • A lift at Hampstead Heath station – especially given access to the hospital
  • Taking down the excessive anti-vandalism measures at Finchley Road and Frognal
  • A cashpoint to be installed at Brondesbury Park station

Getting the community involved
One specific initiative has been to get the community working with London Overground to introduce flower boxes and flower beds at other stations and it strikes me that this would be very possible at Kensal Rise, West Hampstead and Hampstead Heath stations in particular. If any local residents, amenity groups or traders would like to get involved with this please do get in touch and I can help facilitate the conversation asap. Homerton Station has been very successful at this.”

Thanks Ed! Ed sends out an e-mail update every 2–3 months or so on these issues, so any local residents, users or traders on or near the Overground Line should contact him on moc.l1563346005iamg@1563346005mahdr1563346005of.de1563346005. He tends to concentrate on the six stations between Kensal Rise and Hampstead Heath.

Useful links
LOROL – London Overground Rail Operations Ltd
TFL and Overground
Passenger Focus

West Hampstead Community Monday

Anyone interested in all things #whamp was pulled in three directions on Monday. At one end of town there was an anti-Tesco group meeting in Walnut. A little further down West End Lane, many #whampers were tucking in to some lovely food and wine at The Wet Fish Café, and raising money for #whampforgood cause The Winch. And then further down still, Tory PPC Chris Philp was hosting an open meeting for residents to talk to representatives from TfL, TubeLines, and Network Rail about the various #whamptravel problems facing the area.

Of course I couldn’t be in three places at once and as I was understudy for The Winch’s Paul Perkins at The Wet Fish (plus I can’t say no to some decent wine), I was there. But never fear… where there’s a #whamper there’s a way and Nick (@fac203) was at the travel meeting and took excellent notes, which are distilled here, with a focus on the tube rather than the rail issues (none of which were new).

The panel included Kevin Bootle – Jubilee Line Manager for London Underground, and Richard Hoare – Jubilee Line Project Manager for TubeLines. Brian Coleman, Conservative London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden, was also present

The Jubilee line is the fastest growing line, in terms of passenger numbers, on the network. The existing signalling system constrains the network and is the key element being replaced in the current programme. The new system will allow for 30 trains/hr each way.

TfL stated it has an obligation to provide the closures required for TubeLines to complete its work. The weekend closures are for testing the new signalling system and software, along with driver training. Tube Lines accepts that the works are being delivered late and blames problems with its signals sub-contractor. It is now aiming for a May completion date but says it has October as a worst case. The weekend closures are set to run until early April 2010.

The proximity of the Metropolitan and Jubilee line tracks is causing some of the Met Line closures on the same weekends. Therefore, if the Jubilee Line programme is delayed further, the Met Line will suffer too.

Questions from the floor:
On co-ordination. There is an Optimising Group within TfL that co-ordinates all line closures to minimise impact. This response was met with some derision from the audience. TubeLines has a budget for “lost customer hours” which it says has not been exceeded, even with the overruns. [Ed: this seems strange. Suggests that buffer in the PPP contract is far too generous].

On step-free access. This is going nowhere, due to the shortfall in TfL’s budget, which was put by Brian Coleman at £3 billion. He also stated that fare revenues were down by 10% in 2009. [Ed: see this article by BorisWatch about the shortfall, although since that was written last month, it has apparently mushroomed]

On compensation for passengers & businesses (from Cllr Keith Moffitt). This was to some extent deflected but generally the answer seemed to be that as the replacement buses had to be run and this cost money, no offer of compensation would be made.

On why works are not carried out in the evening like on the Victoria line (from Cllr John Bryant) : Both TfL and TubeLines said they had looked at this, but it was not economically viable on the Jubilee line. [Ed: at my meeting with TfL, they also said they’d looked at this, but the time/cost of moving equipment on/off track meant it wasn’t an option. Although if it’s mostly signal/software testing at this stage, does that still hold true?]

On Northern Line closures based on recent press coverage: TubeLines has requested 82 weekend closures, plus early closing in the evenings. There was no comment on the reported 15-20 weekends that TfL has actually granted.

On why more leaflets not provided: TfL said it didn’t think they were useful to customers as they were generally discarded. [Nick: maybe the information isn’t provided in a useful way or answers the questions they have]

On Easter closures: The Jubilee Line will be closed for the whole Easter weekend (Easter Sunday is April 4th)

TubeLines pointed out that they were “not the right people to ask” for a lot of the questions being raised. They also stated that TfL had not given them the closures requested to comply with their programme [Nick: sounds like the internal problems are rumbling on]. TubeLines said it now has all the closures it needs to complete the work. [Ed: then why still the mystery over whether it will be May or October!?]

Nick’s summary: Although some interesting information came out of this, TubeLines were not the right people for a number of the more general questions and certainly regarding questions about the Overground, Met and Bakerloo lines, which do not fall within its remit. Overall, plenty of good questions and very few good answers.

Separately, there may be major roadworks on Finchley Road coming up soon, which will have an additional impact on travel in the area, especially if they are not properly co-ordinated with the tube/rail work.

Big thanks to Nick for reporting on the meeting. If anyone else was there and has anything to add, please get in touch. You can read Chris Philp’s blog about the evening too, which contains some other details about what was discussed.