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

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!


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


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.


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.


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.


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 into the hole they were protecting.

But it was the absence of the tube sign on the north side of the station that was the most startling.

Maygrove Road partially closed for three months

[updated 7.45pm]

A stretch of Maygrove Road is set to be closed for three months from Thursday [originally was to be Monday] as part of the redevelopment of Handrail House. Local groups are unhappy that they were alerted to this only after residents received a letter yesterday informing them. The road closure and attendant parking bay suspensions are needed to divert the existing storm drain that runs through the Peace Park into Maygrove Road.

The road will be closed from 80 Maygrove Road to Ariel Road – not a very long section, but enough to cause disruption for local residents. Traffic heading west will have to turn down Ariel and onto Loveridge Road and traffic heading east would be better off not turning onto Maygrove Road in the first place but continuing down the Kilburn High Road and turning onto Iverson Road.

Residents of Fordwych Road trying to drive through West Hampstead will have to now either go via Mill Lane, or go onto the Kilburn High Road in order to turn onto Iverson Road.

James Earl, chair of the Fordwych Residents Association, epxressed surpise that no local groups had been consulted. “Clearly, the closure of the road will have an impact on other roads, such as Iverson, Fordwych and Mill Lane – so there should have been widespread notification.”

Access to Sidings Community Centre and Maygrove Peace Park will not be affected, but the pavement on the north side, by the development itself, will be closed.

Residents whose parking will be affected may find that the short notice is problematic, especially any residents with limited mobility who rely on their cars.

John Howard, project manager at Eurobuild Properties, which is carrying out the work, told West Hampstead Life that he would be on site at all time and would be happy to address any residents’ concerns.

Sue Measures, manager at Sidings Community Centre, which backs onto the park, said “whilst the centre knew of the disruption to the top of the park (which we are assured will not affect use of facilities or access to the centre), this was the first we realised that the planned closure of Maygrove Road was to be so extensive or prolonged.”

Hannah Lewin, a spokesperson for  the developer Regal Homes (Eurobuild is registered at the same address as Regal), apologised for the late notice of the announcement, but said that Camden had only just given the authorisation for the closure. The developer is planning to hold regular meetings with residents to update them on progress and listen to any issues they have. Nevertheless, after fostering a good working relationship with Sidings in the run-up to the development, the community centre will rightly be miffed that it didn’t get some advance warning of this closure.

Rob Slaney, network coordinator at Camden council, said that he knew about the proposal for the road closure about four weeks ago, but there was still no definitive plan regarding communication with residents. He didn’t sound optimistic that this would be resolved before the road closure came into effect.

Diversion signs will apparently be in place at the junction of Maygrove Road and Iverson Road and Maygrove Road and Shoot-up Hill. It would seem that signs are also needed at the junction of Fordwych and Maygrove and possibly Garlinge and Fordwych if Camden wants to minimise the number of u-turns.

West Hampstead ward councillor Keith Moffitt said there had been a bit of a breakdown in communication and that councillors had only just heard about it. Some residents were informed about the parking bay suspensions by Camden, but there was a disconnect between the parking suspensions and the road closure information.

Maygrove Road cuts across both West Hampstead and Fortune Green wards, so all six local councillors must be braced for a barrage of phone calls next week when the rest of the neighbourhood realises they can’t drive the length of the road.

Since this post was first published, Regal Homes has circulated a two-page letter with more details.

Regal Homes Maygrove Road letter by WHampstead

Here’s the text of the original letter received by some local residents:

Dear Resident

I am writing to inform you of the commencement of works to Handrail House, 65-67 Maygrove Rd. The first part of the enabling works will be to divert the existing storm drain which runs through Maygrove Peace Park into Maygrove Road. The duration of these works will be from the 27th January to the 28th April 2014.

For these works to progress we have been granted a road closure from the London Borough of Camden from no. 80 Maygrove Road to the junction of Ariel Rd.

Whilst these works are carried out the road will be fully hoarded and non-accessible to all road traffic. All parking bays within this area will also be suspended and therefore require all vehicles currently using these bays to be moved before 27th January.

We apologise for the inconvenience that these works may cause and will endeavor to keep all works to a minium.

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?


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.


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!).

Two more Thameslink trains an hour off-peak

It’s felt like a long time coming, but from December 8th First Capital Connect will be running more trains from West Hampstead Thameslink. Specifically, weekday off-peak and Saturday services will increase frequency by 50%.

These two extra trains an hour in each direction are Bedford to Brighton (including Gatwick Airport) trains that didn’t use to stop at West Hampstead, but now will. Until now, very few trains from West Hampstead had gone to the end of the line off-peak.

There will also be twice as many trains to and from Gatwick on Sundays as services to and from Bedford are extended beyond East Croydon to Three Bridges.

What has WHAT ever done for us?

The library has been hosting an exhibition celebrating the 40th anniversary of local campaign group WHAT. So, what is WHAT and what has it ever done for us?

Plenty, it turns out.

WHAT stands for West Hampstead Amenity and Transport, though it hasn’t always! It’s a local pressure group that addresses “local transport, open space, local shopping, planning issues and all aspects of the local environment.” Fairly comprehensive then.

Specifically, WHAT lobbies transport interests, the council and developers, holds public meetings and (of course) issues a newsletter.

WHAT began as a response to Camden’s May 1973 Road Network and Environmental Policy Management document. They were sexier times, the 1970s.

This plan was set to change the face of West Hampstead. It This proposed a borough-wide network of main distributor roads, which would take the main bulk of traffic. Between them would be environmental areas that would be traffic free. The main distributor roads in this area were to be Finchley Road, West End Lane, Fortune Green Road and Mill Lane.

Camden’s proposals sparked a torrent of protests and many local groups formed under the banner of ‘No to the Network’. WHAT was one of these groups. In mid-July of 1973, college lecturer Don Hill organised a petition on West End Green against the new network policy. He took this to Camden council, who promised to oppose any increase in traffic flow along West End Lane. Don and his wife Claire decided to form a group called West
Hampstead Action on Traffic (WHAT).

In September, WHAT staged a bigger protest at West End Green. Local families and residents brought the late afternoon traffic to a halt in protest against the GLC (Greater London Council) and Camden policy. The protests worked and the plan was dropped.

A page from a membership book shows Ken Livingstone as an early member of WHAT.

It would be another four years before WHAT’s name was changed to West Hampstead Amenity and Transport to reflect its widening interests.

What has WHAT done?
The group has been involved in a very wide range of issues over the years.

The West Hampstead interchange: WHAT has been involved with the idea of an interchange at West Hampstead since the 1970s. Here is a discussion document it published (price 20p) in 1979 urging better use of the railway lands.

WHAT wanted a craft and light industrial development with plenty of pedestrian access. Many years later, these issues are still live as development takes place at West Hampstead Square.

At the same time the Ring Rail group had ideas for this area and also for the development of what was then called the North London Line (now the Overground) into a rail ring round London. This finally came to fruition last year when the Overground network tied up the final missing link.

Most recently WHAT has been working closely with London Overground about its plans to develop the station and to put in a lift.
Sainsbury’s trolleys: In 2001, West Hampstead was littered with trolleys from the O2 Sainsburys. WHAT gathered up all the trolleys it could find, wheeled them to the O2 site and demanded to see the manager of the store. Sainsburys subsequently employed a man with a van to go round the area collecting the trolleys. It also introduced the electronic barrier which prevents trolleys being wheeled into West Hampstead.

Buses: WHAT has lobbied about the bus service for many years. This includes lobbying against bus noise and vibration at West End Green, with the result that there are now bye-laws that prohibit buses from keeping their engines running. In 2005, WHAT’s long running battle to get bus stops near the stations was successful although since then, developers have suggested taking them away again!

Thameslink: In 2004, Thameslink wanted to stop trains stopping at West Hampstead and Kentish Town for at least six months because of work going on further down the line. WHAT gathered many hundreds of signatures for a petition against this; Camden got involved and Thameslink changed its minds!

Local planning: WHAT comments regularly on local planning applications and is closely involved in the current Neighbourhood Development Forum.

Looking to the future
Aside from commemorating all the work WHAT has done, the exhibition, which runs until November 16th, is also a reminder that WHAT is only as strong as its membership. It’s always on the lookout for new people to join. Members can come along to any monthly committee meetings and it only costs a fiver for two years’ membership. Here’s the form.

Tree debate moves to Network Rail

If anyone still sent actual letters, then the local back-and-forth about the chopping down of the trees on and near the Ballymore site would have accounted for a small copse all by itself.

Mercifully, it’s only been everyone’s inboxes taking the strain as councillors, concerned locals, residents associations, the Neighbourhood Development Forum, council officers and the developers have been trying to establish clarity on the subject. The one group conspicuous by its absence from these discussions is Network Rail and yet it is in their hands that the fate of many of the remaining trees rests, along with the views of many future West Hampstead Square residents.

One of the issues seems to be that it’s not easy to determine from the ground (without access to the building site), precisely which trees are on the Ballymore land, and which are on the railway embankment by the Overground lines and owned by Network Rail.

These must be Network Rail trees, right?
(photo via Candice Temple)

This story first came to light about six weeks ago, when it appeared that Ballymore was going to cut down all the trees on its West Hampstead Square site. This was in line with its planning permission, but there had been some hope that a small handful of trees might be spared.

One communication from Camden, which followed a meeting between a Trees and Landscape Officer and Ballymore, says “The large sycamore at the top of the site and trees at the other end of the site can and will be retained.”

If this is the case, then this is already better news than we had back in August (if you’re in the pro-tree lobby). Ballymore has planning permission to cut down all the trees – although the report it’s using does suggest that some could be spared.

If Ballymore does the right thing and saves the trees it doesn’t need to remove (and plenty of eagle-eyed locals will be watching very carefully), then the issue then becomes the trees that fall outside the Ballymore footprint. These are Network Rail trees and are highly likely to be removed when the new station or access point from West Hampstead Square is built.

Neighbourhood Development Forum member Mark Stonebanks manage to dig up the document that summarised the key themes that emerged as the views of participants in the main public consultation for West Hampstead Square. It dates from July 2011, and says: “The development should retain the existing trees along the boundaries of the site where possible to help soften the proposals”. It even includes a direct quote: “People won’t mind the height so much if there’s a lot of green grass and organic things growing up the building.”

There was a brief flurry of interest on Friday when it appeared this might open up a loophole to save more trees, but the document states clearly that this is simply a summary of participants’ views, not something the developers should adhere to.

Another school of thought suggests Camden hasn’t enforced its own planning guidance to Ballymore, citing one sentence: “Ensure appropriate relationship to adjoining open space and ecological corridors and provide new open space”. Again, it strikes me this is all open to interpretation. What’s an “appropriate relationship”? Nor is it saying Ballymore must provide its own ecological corridors.

If it is indeed correct that Ballymore is able to retain a handful of trees on site, that is good news. If it can now be persuaded to engage with its development partner Network Rail to protect as many of the trees that are in the line of fire when the new station is built, even better.

Remember these are trees that screen the railway lines from the expensive flats and if you think it’s just quiet London Overground trains on those lines, think again. Tomorrow alone, 24 freight trains are scheduled to use that line between 6am and 8pm. If I’d paid north of £700,000 for a 2-bed flat with a balcony on that side of the building, I think I might expect a few trees between me and the freight trains as I sat outside with glass of Chablis and farmers’ market goats cheese.

Who’s saving which trees now?

The saga of the Ballymore trees has been clogging up my inbox over the past week or so. It feels like there’s some confusion as to which trees it is exactly we’re all hell bent on saving. What’s becoming clear though, is that Network Rail is likely to be the destroyer or saviour of the trees that really matter.

In my article the other day, I focused on the trees at the westerly end of the West Hampstead Square site, which were the ones assessed as being in the healthiest condition – the ones that didn’t have to be felled.

Campaigners have (more optimistically?) also been arguing that the trees nearest the Overground station on the other side of the site should be kept. They got a reply from Ballymore’s construction manager Peter McCall, which was fairly clear on both:

“Our development will require the removal of the trees along the track side as it is extremely unlikely that the trees if left in place would be viable with the proximity of the new development.

The trees which you were most concerned about will not be affected by our development but it is our understanding that these are to be removed in conjunction with the improvement works associated with the station itself. These works will be under the control of Network Rail / LUL”

Those last two sentences are really the important ones. If we accept that the trees on the Ballymore site are doomed (I for one have no plans to chain myself to them), then perhaps it’s worth turning to the trees off the site.

What’s also interesting is that Ballymore appears to be using some of the “offsite” trees in its West Hampstead Square marketing pitch. See those trees at the top of the picture below? They would seem to be trees that are now in danger of disappearing. “A natural place to live“, says the caption, not “Panoramic view of freight trains“.

This takes us back to an entirely different conversation during one of the early public consultation meetings about this proposal. Here’s what I wrote in November 2011 following that meeting, along with an artist’s impression designed to show how the large tower blocks would be all but invisible:

“[the developers] argued that the trees that flank the site (none of which are actually on the site and thus their long-term future cannot be guaranteed) give adequate screening for the larger buildings, although the photographs that tried to prove this were taken before the leaves began to come off the trees – they said they would be taking pictures again in winter”


I’m not sure whether those winter picture ever came, and you’ll notice that even then I pointed out that as Ballymore didn’t own the trees in question, it was not really their place to guarantee their future. Bear in mind, however, that Ballymore is in partnership with Network Rail so it’s not without influence, and there is that marketing pitch to its wealthy buyers (it issued the first press release today ahead of sales formally starting this weekend – studio flats start at £405,000).

Does Ballymore really want flats that look out over train lines, or would some nice mature greenery be more in keeping with that neighbourhood vibe it’s plugging hard?

It would be fantastic if Network Rail (or whoever owns the land, which can be harder to determine than it should be) could already begin building in tree preservation, or at the very least replanting, into their plans for the redevelopment of the Overground. Here’s an area where our (up-for-election-next-year) councillors should weigh in and discuss the matter with Camden planning officers early.

As a reminder for them, there’s been a strong “green spaces” lobby at most local planning-related meetings over the past couple of years. The placeshaping document published by Camden last year says: “Existing green ‘chains’ and habitat corridors along the railway tracks and existing sites of nature conservation… are highly valued by residents and need to be protected and enhanced.”

So, who’s going to stand up for the trees? Local councillors? Camden planning officers? Ballymore? Or is it going to be down to locals to make a fuss.

Related articles:
West Hampstead Square: All trees to be axed
West Hampstead Place Plan progress report
187-199 West End Lane: The Ballymore proposals

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.

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.

Whampforum: The people speak

On May 21st, more than 30 locals gathered to discuss a range of issues along with James Earl, chair of the Neighbourhood Development Forum (NDF), Cllr Flick Rea, and me. Parking, development, shops; all came under scrutiny. The topics are ones we are used to hearing about but the audience wasn’t the usual suspects. This was #whampforum and pretty much everyone was under 45, with a healthy smattering still in their 20s.

Some comments on the website before the event captured a view I hear too frequently among some of West Hampstead’s older and longer-standing citizens: young people aren’t invested in the area emotionally or financially because they don’t own property, so why would they care.

Apart from the staggering prejudice against long-term renters, either from the council or in the private sector, it also misses an important point: there are twice as many people in West Hampstead under 40 as over 40, and 5,000 more in the 20-40 age-group. Are they consigned to live according to the attitudes of their elders (and, the implication always seems to be, betters). Or perhaps the very fact that many of these people can’t afford to buy property here is something we might want to think about. Do we want West Hampstead to be perpetually occupied by the old and rich and the young and transient? Maybe we do, but we will then be beset by the same issues we have today and the age-divide will remain.

Perhaps the single most interesting question we asked at the forum was how many people saw themselves still living in the area in five years’ time. A majority of hands went up. Maybe this population isn’t so transient after all. Of course, many in the room were themselves younger home owners – I wouldn’t deny that this has an impact on engagement, but it’s naive to think it’s the sole driver.

The meeting was lively, and I think (hope) most people had the chance to speak if they wanted to. There were business owners, a property developer, the inevitable politicos and plenty of ordinary residents who were interested to hear more about local developments and to find out how they could have some input without having to sit through the interminable (and at times depressing) local meetings that seem to be the norm in any community.

We touched on three big topics: amenities and transport, business mix, and housing, development and architecture. I’ve tried to summarise the key points below as well as discussing how to feed your thoughts and ideas to the decision makers. At the bottom of the page is a factsheet.

Amenities and Transport
Camden’s policy of car-free developments struck many as odd, unrealistic, and potentially adding to  traffic problems as car-owners tried to find somewhere to park. About a third of the audience owned cars already, more than I would have expected. Car clubs were popular, though people said there weren’t enough car club cars in the area and not enough different types of vehicles.

People commented on the street clutter, the rubbish that accumulated on the streets, especially from local businesses, the seemingly bizarre phasing of the traffic lights, delivery lorries and even the location of the bus stop by the post office.

Schools also came onto the agenda, with the idea of a free primary school being mooted (there are also murmurings about launching a free secondary school in the neighbourhood).

The major lobbying group for all these topics is WHAT (West Hampstead Amenities & Transport). It has a good track record of working with the various bodies responsible for many of these topics, especially transport. You can find out more about them at whatnw6.org.uk. Don’t be put off by the relatively basic website, this group is very active and lobbies effectively. You may not agree with its policies on everything, but it is a great starting point for finding out more about transport issues.

Business mix
The issue of whether charity shops are a good or bad thing for the high street and the local economy came up. The perennially thorny topic of Tesco came up though for this audience, even though there was general support for independent shops and restaurants, the convenience of metro format supermarkets generally overcame the idea of corporate behemoths invading the high street. We discussed the challenge of finding out who landlords are in some units, and how this makes it hard to develop the “pop-up shop” culture when units sit empty.

There was a feeling that “destination” shops would do well, and the challenge faced by Mill Lane in attracting people to walk along was discussed. Yet again, people proposed better signage for Mill Lane shops and the idea of having a street festival there was mooted. These are ideas that Mill Lane traders have had themselves, but the group seems to find it hard to come together and act as one group. The council, however, is always going to be more responsive if it’s dealing with a collective body than with one or two individual traders. The onus here is on the traders.

Most people understood that the council had no control over what types of shops or restaurants moved into spaces already designated for that use. We explained that it was only when a business applied for a change of use or a chance of licence that it was possible to object. This is a planning topic with lots of grey areas, however. Cafés that don’t cook anything on the premises (microwaves and panini grills don’t count) can take retail premises, for example, without a change of use. There is also a push by central government to make it easy to convert shops and offices into residential units, although Camden is one of the boroughs exempt from this.

(from the BBC) “At the same time, a two-year freeze is also being introduced on the need for planning applications for temporary change of use for a range of High Street premises, including hairdressers, banks, bars, cafes, post offices, takeaways, libraries and cinemas. This would allow units not exceeding 150 sq m to spring up at short notice and trade for a limited period as long as long as they meet the criteria of being either shops, restaurants, business offices and financial or professional services. Multiple changes will be permitted within the two-year period but retailers will need to notify councils what they intend to use the building for, and for how long, in advance of setting up.”

There wasn’t much discussion of the business-to-business economy, although with plans to develop the Liddell Road industrial site, this may become more of an issue. The questions here are about local employment, a change in the local weekday economy, and general business mix of the area.

This remains an area where the biggest impact locals can have is by voting with their wallets. If there are shops and businesses you like, then use them. If you want to object to a licence or change of use application, then it’s good to be familiar with Camden’s “town centre” plans and guidelines (see the factsheet for details of Camden’s Core Strategy).

Housing, development and architecture
The cost of property was clearly an issue for many who wanted to stay here. We explained about the affordable housing quota that developers are obliged to meet in any new development, and how more often than not they are able to prove that meeting the quota would render the whole development unprofitable. There are complicated rules about how much money they then have to pay so that affordable housing can be built in lower-cost locations by Camden.

People expressed an interest in shared housing schemes. I don’t know a lot about these – though there are some in the area (Fairhazel Gardens has one). This is more popular in North America, but there’s no reason why it can’t work here.

There seemed to be a sense that with property prices rising so quickly at the moment, the area was at risk of becoming even more homogeneous in terms of the social mix, with pockets of social housing becoming less and less integrated. The housing conversation also took us back to the issues of schools and other services, such as GP surgeries. With so much housing planned in the area by City Hall (West Hampstead is designated an “area for intensification”), people were concerned to know whether service provision would keep pace.

Health centres are typically less of a problem locally, and very few people in the room had had any issues finding medical treatment when they needed it. Schools are a different proposition, requiring much more investment either from the public sector or private providers. Of course, the demand for schools depends on the existing and proposed housing stock – a dearth of affordable family houses would mean relatively low demand for additional school places.

There’s not a lot you can do about house prices of course, but housing is a topic where your political vote has an impact at both the borough, city and national level. If this is an issue of concern then make sure you read the housing policies of various parties next time you’re heading to the ballot box. Camden council elections are next year, and the political leaning of the council does have an impact on housing policy. The NDF is also concerned with housing, so providing input into its policies as they are finalised would be a good way of shaping the direction of the area – more on this in the next section.

There’s clearly a large overlap between housing and development but also a clear difference of opinion between age groups over the scale and type of development in the area. When prompted by Flick, there was an agreement that the views from the area looking up to Hampstead were part of West Hampstead’s character but there was also broad consensus that it wasn’t the height and scale of new developments that mattered, it was design and planning. We discussed the O2 car park, which we all assume will be built over at some point, and the view was that a large-scale, fairly high-rise development here would be ok, as long as the area was well planned, attractively landscaped, and it wasn’t a “high density at any cost” proposal. People didn’t want to feel hemmed in, but accepted that it was possible to have high(er) rise living in an area like West Hampstead.

Modern buildings in the area, such a the Thameslink station, the Mill Apartments and even the more controversial Emmanuel school were generally seen as good buildings.

We also explained about the ever-mysterious “Section 106” money that gets discussed a lot. In a nutshell, it’s money that developers pay to allow the council to offset the cost of the influx of new residents, as well as to contribute to amenity in the area. The detail gets very confusing and there’s a very strong push at the moment for much more transparency over how it is allocated, where exactly it is spent, and who makes the decisions. To add to the confusion, many of the things funded by Section 106 will, from next year, be funded instead by the Community Infrastructure Levy. The affordable housing offset payments, however, will still be paid for by Section 106 agreements so you’ll still be hearing about it.

Engaging with the West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Plan is by far the best way to influence these matters. I have talked about it many times on this site already, but as the Plan starts to move into the final stages (and we’re talking months here, not weeks), there will be more information about specific policies. You can contact James directly () with any specific thoughts; a PDF of the latest draft of the plan is available here (this is very much a draft) so do have a read. Look out for NDF stalls around West Hampstead over the coming weekends. Stop by and give your feedback in person. 

Remember that underpinning the very idea of these local development forums is the rule that they cannot be “anti-development”. They are about shaping what happens, not standing in its way, so they are by definition not a NIMBY-organisation.

* * *

One of the reasons I convened this meeting is that the main contributors to the NDP thus far have been the usual suspects. They are well-meaning and in many cases the same issues arise, however priorities do vary between different segments of the population and it’s important that the silent majority have their say. Rest assured that by coming to the meeting, you have already helped shape some of the thinking around these topics. Nevertheless, it will do no harm to reinforce that feedback in person at the stalls, or via e-mail and those of you that couldn’t make it should also feel free to get involved. As well as street stalls, there will also be “street walks”, one of which I might even lead myself!

For me, it was important that this meeting wasn’t just a talking shop but that it had some impact. Hopefully you will see some of the views expressed here filtering into the Plan, but also into council thinking. They also help me when I am asked in formal and informal interactions with council officers and councillors what “younger people” think.

We may well hold another, more focused meeting later in the year on one or two specific topics and will probably have one to discuss the final NDP policies before they are set in stone. They will of course be heavily trailered on the site and on Twitter. In the meantime, thank you to everyone who came and to the Alice House for hosting.


You can also download the factsheet here.

Police trying to identify man hit by train in West Hampstead

Unapologetically re-publishing a press release here from British Transport police. Please read and think whether you know, or may have seen this man in West Hampstead that evening.

British Transport Police (BTP) detectives are appealing for the public’s help to identify a man who was struck by a train at West Hampstead earlier this week.

BTP officers were called to the station on Tuesday, 28 May following a report that a man had been struck by a London St Pancras to Derby train service at the station.

Metropolitan Police officers also attended the incident, which was reported to BTP at 9.40pm and is currently being treated as non-suspicious. Sadly the man was pronounced dead at the scene by medics from London Ambulance Service.

Detective Constable Terry Hancocks, of BTP, said: “Investigators have carried out extensive enquiries into identifying the man, but unfortunately have so far been unable to do so.

“Forensic analysis is currently ongoing however police are keen to hear from anyone who believes they may know this man or who has any information about the incident.

“This man is someone’s son and he may also be a brother, father or an uncle. It is imperative that we identify him as soon as possible, and help bring closure to his family.”

The man is described as white and in his fifties. He was wearing a Barbour jacket, Blue Harbour size 38 jeans and Karrimor size 12 trainers. He had a bald head, clean shaved and was wearing glasses.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40 quoting background reference B8/LNA of 30/05/2013. Information can also be passed to the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

WHAT’s happening at Thameslink?

People have been asking what’s happening on platform 1 on the Thameslink station – the answer is a waiting room. But there are more things going on at the award-winning station that may not be as visible.

Local campaign group WHAT regularly meets with First Capital Connect and has all the latest updates:

  • The new shelter on platform 1 will have a space for staff so they can answer customer queries speedily and be more in touch with the passengers.
  • There will also be a retail outlet on platform 1.
  • Oyster cards will soon be on sale at the station.
  • FCC trains will stop using London Bridge station for some years after 2014. FCC expects that West Hampstead will become a major interchange for their passengers, transferring to the Jubilee line.
  • WHAT has pressed for better information from station staff when things go wrong. They have also asked that staff be fully briefed about alternative travel options and which tube lines are closed at weekends.
  • WHAT would also like to see an art market on the station forecourt, and apparently FCC have been  receptive
  • Finally, WHAT is pressing for FCC to be included in Camden’s annual transport meeting, which will take place next month.
Here’s what the waiting room will (sort of) look like

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.

WHAT focuses on transport

Dennington Park Road is the place to be on January 30th. One one side of the road, the Conservatives are holding their US-style primary to determine who will be their candidate for Hampstead & Kilburn in the next general election. On the other, in the library, those good burghers of West Hampstead, WHAT (West Hampstead Amenities and Transport, for those of you who didn’t pay attention in class last term) are holding their AGM followed by a public meeting about transport. Who said West Hampstead wasn’t edgy?

There are a few transport updates to share with you, based on WHAT’s meeting with Camden late last year. There were four points on the agenda for that meeting:

  • The traffic lights at the Finchley Road/Fortune Green Road junction had been installed without consultation and have apparently made the junction even more dangerous as they confuse drivers. TfL has promised to “take action”.
  • The lights at the junction of Broadhurst Gardens and West End Lane are also deemed dangerous for pedestrians (As a regular user of these, the only danger I see is from the cars and cyclists who deliberately jump the lights). Camden is apparently going to install extra lights here. I’m not entirely sure how many more traffic lights that stretch of West End Lane needs?
  • The lack of a lift at the Overground station, despite funding being available.
  • General pedestrian congestion and safety in the area between the three stations (gold star if you knew that that is generally called the “interchange”).

After the meeting, Camden’s cabinet member for transport, Phil “20mph” Jones promised a separate transport meeting in the north of the borough for full airing of grievances. And it has come to pass. Phil will share the platform with Barnet & Camden London Assembly member Andrew “Colemanator” Dismore and a guy from TfL called Steve.

WHAT’s AGM runs from 7.30pm-8.15pm. There’s 15 minutes for refreshments and then the public meeting gets underway with a 9.45pm finish time. All are welcome.

Legible London signs aren’t perfectly placed

I first noticed the Legible London signs in West Hampstead when I almost walked smack into one that is inconviently in the middle of the entrance to the farmers’ market.

The signs popped up so stealthily that several people wondered if they’d been there all along and they’d just never noticed them.

The signs are a TfL initiative but are co-branded with Camden’s logo. Camden adopted the scheme back in 2008 and rolls it out across the borough when funding is available. However, the signs in West Hampstead were apparently funded by TfL to help with the interchange.

One of the ideas behind the signs is to encourage people to walk more. They give estimated walking times to transport links and some other arbitrary destinations (I confess to my shame that I’ve never heard of the Hampstead School of Art, which features prominently on our signs). There is also a wildly inaccurate and crude “5 minutes” circle, which is based on absolute distance from the sign and does not relate to street layout or terrain in any way whatsoever. Still, I’m all for people walking more if they can.

In central London these signs are extremely useful for visitors. They are oriented in the direction you’re facing rather than automatically north (though personally I find that more confusing).

But what of their location in West Hampstead. Are they really in the most sensible spots? Do we need so many? Who decides which destinations are highlighted? According to Camden council, it’s ultimately down to the Transport Policy and Design team to decide where the boards go, but there are several standard guidelines that are normally followed:

  • Outside pedestrian entry points – mainly tube and train stations.
  • Along high streets
  • At key decision points – main junctions
  • On footways with high pedestrian footfall
  • Other factors affect where boards are placed such as footways widths and vehicle sight lines (ie. not blocking them)

I did a recce of the signs and I’m not at all sure they are in the optimum locations. Neither local councillors nor WHAT (West Hampstead Amenties & Transport) were consulted on the location, which seems a gratuitous oversight.

From the south, the first sign is on the corner of Hemstal Road and West End Lane, which seems rather a long way from the interchange. I guess if you’re walking to or from Kilburn then it might be useful, but people who don’t know the area are more likely to go the extra stop on the Jubilee Line or Overground, and if you’re on the Thameslink then you’d use Iverson Road to travel between Kilburn and West Hampstead.

A beacon of info on Hemstal Rd
Five minutes as the crow flies not as the pedestrian walks
Hampstead School of Art??

Apparently there is supposed to be a sign installed at the top of Blackburn Road, which is the most obvious place to put one although the pavement is already quite narrow and crowded there. There is of course a map just inside the tube station anyway. The sign would hopefully replace this corrugated plastic sign that I suspect most people don’t even notice.

A basic (and largely redundant) sign high
on a lampost at the top of Blackburn Road.
Here’s the other side looking north

There are two signs on Iverson Road. One on the corner with West End Lane, and one outside the Thameslink station. It seems unnecessary to have two so close together.

Austrian tourists peruse the Iverson Road map
The times don’t tally with those from the previous sign
This Thameslink board is about 20 seconds
from the Iverson Road/WEL one

The next one is outside the library, and is in the ultra-thin format.

The last one is tucked away by the bus stand by West End Green (and not at the junction with Mill Lane as the councillors seem to think). This is perhaps the most bizarrely located sign of all. You can’t get on or off a bus here, it’s just where the 139 waits before starting service. Kate Goodman, from Camden’s placeshaping initiative, told me that as part of the place plan and the need to raise awareness of the Mill Lane shops, she had liaised with the transport officers to get Mill Lane on the signage. This has happened on this northernmost sign, although there’s no mention of shops.

Handy for, er, no-one?

While I was looking at this one, I got chatting to a woman. She was in two minds as to whether the whole idea was a waste of money or genuinely useful but was adamant that it would take her more than five minutes to walk up to the junction of Bracknell Gardens and Frognal Lane.

“Five minutes to the Finchley Road? Not with that hill!”

It’s true that the pavement is very wide here, so the sign is not impeding anyone. But surely the sign should be either nearer the bus stop or preferably at the West End Lane / Mill Lane junction, where it’s also fairly wide. There could be an argument I suppose about sight lines at this busy junction, but it’s hard to imagine there couldn’t be a solution.

Wide pavement at the corner of Mill Lane / West End Lane

Overall, as I guess comes across, I think these signs have been plonked on our streets with not enough consideration given to their purpose or location. Having more streetmaps available is a good thing, although in another five years even more of us will be used to using our smartphones to navigate around unfamiliar areas. One wonders therefore whether the cost of designing and installing them in less touristy areas such as West Hampstead justifies the benefits. No-one seems able to tell me what the cost actually is – at least it’s coming from TfL and not the council’s tightly stretched budget.

Can CCTV images help solve fatal crash puzzle

Today, police released three CCTV images from the night of November 10th. That was the Saturday of the car crash that killed Desreen Brooks and severely injured Amy Werner.

Police believe these are all vital witnesses in their attempt to find out exactly what happened at about 8.30pm that night.

The first is a moped rider who was heading southbound on West End Lane before doing a u-turn and riding in the direction of Finchley Road. It could be a fast food delivery moped, so if you’re a local business that uses delivery people, do look closely to see if you know this person.

Second, police want to speak to the driver of this silver BMW that stopped opposite the Overground station.

Finally, police also wish to speak to this man waiting outside the Overground station. He looks like he’s checking his phone.

Anyone with information should call the Road Death Investigation Unit on 0208 842 1817.

Two accidents on West End Lane

Yesterday was topped and tailed by two road traffic accidents at either end of West End Lane.

In the morning there was a collision involving a police car at the junction with Dynham Road (right by where the fatal car accident was last month).

Photo via Tim Blackwell
Photo via Chris Padfield
(I’m intrigued as to how that van parked in the driveway behind in the meantime)

According to local resident Yiannis Assiotis, the police car was heading north up West End Lane with its sirens on when it hit the Toyota, which appears to have been turning out of Dynham Road. The police officers got out of the car and helped the driver of the other car out from the passenger seat as the driver’s door was blocked by the police car. Yiannis reported that everyone seemed to be in one piece.

The VW you can see next to the bus was apparently already parked there. One reader, reported that when he walked past at 7am, it seemed to have been abandoned having hit the wall and badly dented the left front wing. Had the police car had to swerve to avoid it?

Camden police’s twitter account simply told me “A police car was involved in a minor collision with another vehicle… There were no injuries”

At around 6pm, a man appears to have been knocked down at the zebra crossing by Hidden Treasure at the northern end of West End Lane. Locals reported that it was just over an hour before an ambulance turned up although the man was being looked after by police officers and firemen. He was eventually taken away in an ambulance.

This time, @MPSCamden told me “officers attended an RTC [road traffic collision]… one male was taken to hospital with minor injuries.” I don’t know whether anyone has been charged.

Photo via Joseph Knight

If I hear more on either story I’ll be sure to keep you posted

Assessing the cycling contraflow scheme

A little over a year ago proposals came forward to allow more contraflow cycling in South Hampstead. Some people thought this was madness, but it went ahead anyway.

One thing that seemed clear was that for it to work safely, the signage both in terms of road signs and on-road markings, would have to be exemplary.

With this in mind, Camden Cyclists, a lobby group, set out to explore the streets in immense detail and document their findings in order to suggest improvements.

Their full report is incredibly detailed but as with so many things, this is where its value lies. I hope Camden reads it carefully as some of the recommendations could help prevent road accidents and they are by and large easy to implement.

Perhaps a quick recap of where cyclists can now cycle on one-way streets would be helpful.

Camden Cyclists’ map of contraflows (accepted and rejected)
Click for larger version

Priory Road and Fairhazel Gardens are now both two-way cycling throughout. Fairhazel Gardens is now fully two-directional for cyclists (some sections were changed a few years ago). Greencroft Gardens has been made two-way for cyclists as has Messina Avenue, which gives a link through to Kilburn High Road.

Looking back up Greencroft Gardens from Fairhazel Gardens
“The contraflow facility is useful, but does require some confidence to use.
Note the contraflow cycle logo half-way up the road –
this is barely visible/legible to road users.”
Photo: Camden Cyclists
Looking west down Greencroft Gardens towards Fairhazel Gardens
The ‘No Entry’ on the road is misleading and the ‘No Entry’ sign on the left
is hidden in a tree; the sign on the right is unhelpfully placed.
An entry lane should be marked and the little cycle logo could be bigger!
Photo: Camden Cyclists

Camden Cyclists are still pushing for some additions to the contraflow system.

Compayne Gardens, which is two-way, is preferred by cyclists and is marked with cycle logos. But it fails as an eastbound route because it joins the one way Canfield Gardens before reaching the junction with Finchley Road. We very much regret that LB Camden has so far been unable to provide this link.

These contraflow routes are called “light”, which means they don’t require marked contraflow lanes but use signs and road markings. The Camden Cyclists page explains that last year the Dept. for Transport allowed the use of No Entry signs with “Except Cycles” subplates. “Other relaxations in regulations now allow contraflow cycling without lanes provided that traffic speeds and volumes are low.”

Camden Cyclists’ overall conclusion is that the scheme generally works well: “For the most part, the signage at the end of the roads is of a high standard.” The group does, of course, have some suggestions for improving legibility, especially so drivers are aware of the scheme. You can see all of the recommendations on its website.

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.

Fatal accident on West End Lane

[original post Nov 11th 10am]
[updated Nov 11th 11.30am]
[updated Nov 11th 4pm] 
[updated Nov 12th 4pm]
[updated Nov 13th 8.30am] 
[updated Nov 13th 1.15pm]
[new article: http://www.westhampsteadlife.com/2012/11/west-end-lane-crash-details-emerging.html] 
[new article: http://www.westhampsteadlife.com/2012/11/west-end-lane-crash-can-we-help.html

Just after 8.30pm on Saturday, the 83-year-old driver of an old Mercedes on West End Lane lost control, mounted the curb, hit two female pedestrians, some traffic lights and a wall. One of the women died. Desreen Brooks, 33, was a mother from south London. The other woman is 23 year-old Amy Werner, an American postgraduate student at University of Westminster, originally from Vermont in New England. She is in a serious condition and her parents Richard and Regina Werner have flown over to be with her. The driver was hospitalised though his injuries are not believed to be serious. Eye-witnesses and local residents reported distressing scenes of medical teams attempting resuscitation, and a lot of damage.

It is still too early to know exactly how this happened. The accident occurred between the junctions with Dynham Road and Cleve Road in West Hampstead. The car was apparently heading south when it lost control. It is unclear how fast it was travelling – apparently knocking over traffic lights is not much of an indication as they are not deeply embedded. However, the car continued into the wall, knocking down one pillar entirely and causing the top of another to fall off. The car carried on a bit further, knocking down another bollard before finally coming to a stop. I do not know where exactly the pedestrians were. According to the Brent & Kilburn Times, no arrests have been made although that’s not apparently what a local vicar told his congregation – perhaps also pre-emptively saying it was a case of reckless driving.

According to a local resident, “The sound of the crash was horrific, with people rushing up Dynham Road and West End Lane to see what had happened. I did not hear any tires screeching – just the crash.  Ambulance crews were there in minutes. There was steam and dust everywhere at the scene. The immediate scenes of panic were shocking to see and hear. The car had come to rest head-on to the wall on Dynham Road at the junction of West End Lane. The driver was trapped in the car but seemed to be OK. Fire crews had to cut him out.”

According to the Evening Standard’s report, there was also a young child of 4 or 5 in the car, though it is not clear whether there were any other passengers.

The car was removed just before 3am Sunday.

I’m told there is a CCTV camera outside St James’ Mansions, so there may be some footage from that to help police. The lack of screeching tires, the age of the car and the driver and the extent of the damage done might lead one to suspect brake failure more than dangerous driving. Whatever the cause, it’s a tragedy that one local described as “the worst accident I’ve seen on West End Lane in all my 18 years living in West Hampstead”.

Witnesses or anyone with information is urged to call investigation unit on (0208) 842 1817.
Many of you have asked what we can do to help the families of the victims. In the short-term, the Family Liaison Officer is aware of this goodwill and will contact me if there is anything either family needs that we can help with.

The top of the right pillar is gone and the entire left pillar collapsed
Google Street View of what it used to look like
The traffic lights are now lying by the side of the adjacent wall

20mph in Camden: Slower, safer, sensible?

Camden’s proposed 20mph speed limit on all its roads certainly got ample press coverage when it was announced a couple of weeks ago. [update: you can see Camden’s presentation on the issue]

It’s not a new idea, it was actually being mooted back in 2004. Nor is Camden the first place to make such a move. Neighbouring borough Islington has just implemented such a scheme.

It’s predominantly a safety issue, and some of the borough’s side streets already have a 20mph limit after the last Camden administration voted to expand the go-slow zone. The new rules would not apply to roads in the borough run by TfL (such as Finchley Road), although there could be some lobbying to have the limit applied borough-wide.

Cllr Phil Jones, cabinet member for sustainability, explained the thinking behind the proposal to the Ham & High: “Introducing a 20mph borough-wide limit in Camden would prevent road casualties and make our streets safer for all. We want to give greater confidence to the pedestrians and cyclists who use our roads and encourage more people to switch to sustainable forms of transport.”

There’s a school of thought that says it’s unusual to travel at more than 20mph anyway on Camden’s generally congested roads – at least during the daytime – so would imposing a limit have any impact on accidents? As a couple of people mention in this BBC report, drivers are having accidents and close shaves with cyclists at 20mph already. However, in the CNJ, the council cites TfL statistics that there has been a more than 20 percent fall in accidents in Belsize Park, which has been under a 20mph zone since 2006.

Naturally, not everyone is keen. Keith Peat, the regional co-ordinating manager for campaigning non-profit group, the Association of British Drivers, was reported in the CNJ as saying the move was “counter productive”. He continued, “In congested areas, 20mph zones often have drivers more focused on the speedometer so they don’t get a fine than, say, keeping an eye out if a child runs across their path.”

Away from the busier southern reaches of the borough, however, there are plenty of stretches of road where 20mph is more than feasible (even if it sometimes feels as if West End Lane is at a permanent standstill), so perhaps it is around West Hampstead and Hampstead that the greatest impact might be felt, rather than in Camden Town or Kings Cross.

Enforcement, of course, is a crucial part of such a scheme’s success. Cllr Jones explains the ‘big picture’ approach he’s taking: “This is not about introducing more road humps,” he stresses, “it is about beginning to change the culture on our roads in favour of lower speeds. We will continue with small local schemes where they are supported by residents, but this is a more comprehensive proposal that would be implemented without major traffic calming measures.”

Swiss Cottage councillor Andrew Marshall wrote to the Camden New Journal with his views on the issue (he’s in favour). He recognises that not everyone will share his perspective: “The fact that 20mph zones are always going to be contentious with some should not be an excuse for inaction by the council.”

There’ll be a consultation of course, and no doubt strong views on both sides of the argument. What do you think? Is a 20mph limit enforceable on the busier roads? Will it actually have an impact on accidents?

Transport spotlight on West Hampstead

Tonight, Camden council is holding a public meeting about transport issues in the borough. Isabel Dedring, London’s Deputy Mayor for Transport, and Councillor Phil Jones, Camden’s Cabinet Member for Sustainability will discuss residents’ ideas for improving transport.

Officers from Camden Council and TfL will also be on hand to answer your questions.

Thanks to WHAT, there is a whole section of the agenda dedicated to West Hampstead. The topics being raised are:

  • Progress on lift installation at West Hampstead Overground station.
  • Traffic light changes by TfL without consultation at Fortune Green Road/Finchley Road junction
  • Pedestrian flows in the area of the three stations at West Hampstead
  • Safety issues regarding traffic light grouping at junction of Broadhurst Gardens and West End Lane.
  • Request for purchase of Oyster cards to be made available from West Hampstead Thameslink Station.

The meeting will be held from 6pm to 8.30pm in the Camden Centre in King’s Cross, Bidborough Street, WC1H 9JE. Do go along if you’re interested, or contact Antony Holloway in the transport strategy service if you have any questions on or 020 7974 2087.

Driving’s hard enough, says CRASH

Back in October last year, Camden asked locals what they thought of some changes to our streets. The most controversial was the provision of “cycle permeability“. In other words, allowing cyclists to pedal the wrong way up one-way streets. Not all one-way streets were included; some, such as Broadhurst Gardens, were considered unsuitable. But many of the quieter residential streets, especially around the Gardens area of South Hampstead were part of the plans.

There were 76 replies to the consultation [pdf], 21 positive, 37 netural and 18 objections. Camden made a couple of tweaks to the plans, but otherwise decided to go ahead. Fairhazel Gardens has had such a system in place for more than 10 years, so one assumes that both the council and cycling lobby groups have sufficient data to make meaningful recommendations. Indeed, looking at a map of pedestrian and cyclist accidents in London from 2000-2010, there wasn’t a single reported bike accident (or pedestrian accident) on Fairhazel Gardens during that period.

Fairhazel Gardens has had contraflow cycling for years

However, South Hampstead Residents’ Association (appropriately, in this case, named CRASH) is not happy. At this late stage, it is appealing for people to write to Camden expressing their horror at this scheme. Their argument is that it is unsafe for cyclists and other road users (the scheme was initially proposed [pdf] by Camden Cyclists). Crash’s argument includes this gem of a debating point (original emphasis):

“You will not only have to keep an eye on your rear mirror and side mirror for cyclists on your left, as usual, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, look forwards and in your right hand mirror for a cyclist on your right”

Imagine having to look forward when driving!

In other words, drivers would have to behave as they would on a normal road – checking both side mirrors and their rear-view mirror, as well as keeping an eye on the road ahead. Or as they have been doing on one-way stretches of Fairhazel Gardens for many years already.

Is there a safety risk? Well, cars should be driving slowly anyway on these residential streets. It’s also up to cyclists to ride responsibly and err on the side of caution (and use lights when it’s dark). But to my mind it doesn’t seem to be beyond the wit of man to accommdate such a thing, even if drivers do occasionally have to look in the direction they’re going.

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

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.


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 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


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


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



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.

The Thameslink station: Love it or loathe it

When the new West Hampstead Thameslink station opened in December last year, the broad consensus seemed to be positive.

Photo: Peter Cook

The “modest yet thoughtfully designed” (according to Architecture Today) modern glass structure made a statement but there weren’t too many objections, despite the plans having been scaled down from something more interesting due to budget constraints. It also was more or less on time – and the site constraints had given rise to some construction challenges (again, the Architecture Today article has a lot more detail). Here’s a timelapse video of the project.

Mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone came along to the opening, and said a few words.

The large open boulevard along Iverson Road also seemed like a refreshing change although it was predictable that the green tiling wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste.

Fast forward a couple of months, with the northern entrance now open again so people aren’t missing their trains because they can’t leave the house one minute earlier, and murmurs of dissent are appearing on Twitter. Last week there was a brief flurry of messages on the topic.

Personally, I quite like the station building, but there is an undeniable mismatch between the station and the footbridge that leads to the platforms. This, as most of you will know, was in place long before the station building work began – they were sadly not an integrated design and it shows. What’s your view? Is this a landmark building West Hampstead should be proud of, or a harbinger of the architectural doom that lies ahead in the next wave of development in the area. Or do you simply not care?

Life in the slow lane

Not only is Camden hell bent on letting cyclists ride whichever way they choose up one-way streets, it’s also trying to slow traffic down in West Hampstead as well. It’s almost like there’s some sort of concerted plan to improve things in the area. Crazy.

As with the cycling plans, this will be paid for by TfL and the rationale seems to be safety. Much of West Hampstead (aside from West End Lane) already has a 20mph limit. However, many of the residential roads to the west and West End Lane itself are still 30mph and the council claims these roads have a relatively poor safety record compared to neighbouring 20mph streets. Indeed, between September 2007 and September 2010, 39 collisions were reported, resulting in four serious injuries.

In addition to signage, traffic calming measures are being proposed. On the residential streets, the junction of Sumatra Road and Glenbrook Road will be raised and road humps will be added at the junction of Solent Road and Glenbrook Road (just on Solent Rd, not the entire junction).

Click for larger version

On West End Lane itself, the 20mph zone will run from the junction with Quex Road in the south, to the junction with Mill Lane and Fortune Green Road in the north.

There will be three other measures to improve road safety: the pavement running north from Inglewood Road will be widened – the council claims this will improve the aesthetic appeal of the street and the narrower road will help slow traffic. An island will be added to the zebra crossing that links Barclays Bank to the library, apparently in response to observations that cars do not always wait until pedestrians have completed their crossing before driving on (remember your Highway Code?). Finally, the island on the crossing at Lymington Road (the one by Tescos) will be removed and the pavement on the southern edge extended. In addition, all the signs indicating a change of speed limit to and from West End Lane can now be removed, reducing street clutter and there is the potential to remove more signage (this has been mooted for some time and some steps have already been taken around the entrance to the tube station).

Click for larger version

The residential road changes seem like no-brainers. I would be interested to know how many of the collisions that have taken place on West End Lane have happened at speeds in excess of 20mph, given that during the daytime the traffic is so slow-moving anyway there is little opportunity to reach 30mph. I am certainly in favour of removing excess signage and street clutter, although narrowing the road seems unncessary, given the number of buses and delivery vehicles that already contribute to bottlenecks on the road. The aim should surely be to encourage free-flowing traffic moving at a safe speed.

As with all speed limit issues, be it on motorways or residential streets, the issue is one of enforcement more than regulation.

For more comment on this issue, see Georgia’s article in the Camden New Journal.

The council is keen to hear from local residents and businesses to find out whether there is broad support for the proposals for the side streets, and whether the proposals for West End Lane would cause disruption during and after implementation. You need to make sure your letter or e-mail is received by November 11th and send it to:

London Borough of Camden
Culture and Environment Directorate
Transport Strategy Service

or e-mail , making sure you include your postal address.

Here’s the full document on the side streets, and on West End Lane.

Will cycling the wrong way soon be right?

Several of the roads in the southern half of West Hampstead are one-way. This is generally a good thing as it allows for on-street parking while keeping the traffic moving. However, if you’re a cyclist these restrictions may prove rather frustrating and the temptation is great to take a short-cut by cycling the wrong way down a one-way street. Aside from the illegality, this can be hazardous if neither cars nor pedestrians are expecting it.

Camden has decided to investigate this and is proposing to make some of these streets two-way for cyclists only. This is apparently called “cycle permeability”. Good ol’ local government and its penchant for language.

Making these changes is relatively cheap – a bit of signage is really all that’s needed – and will be paid for by TfL. The following roads would be affected: Priory, Canfield, Greencroft, Sherriff, Messina, Gascony, Fairhazel, Smyrna and Kingsgate Place.

Click for larger version

The council would like to hear from anyone who would be affected by the changes in terms of access to property/deliveries during the changeover, or from the eventual new system. The ward councillors on the Swiss Cottage side of West End Lane (to the east) have expressed their view “that local residents who use these streets every day as pedestrians, car drivers and cyclists should have a real input into decision making.”

The work is scheduled to be carried out betwen November and March. If you wish to comment on the idea, you need to make sure your letter or e-mail is received by November 11th and send it to:

London Borough of Camden
Culture and Environment Directorate
Transport Strategy Service

or e-mail , making sure you include your postal address.

Here’s the full consultation document [pdf download].

Progress at Thameslink station

We’re geting nearer to the completion of the new West Hampstead Thameslink station on Iverson Road, and this morning I was sent some photos of the work so far by Roger Perkins, Thameslink Programme and King’s Cross Communications Manager for First Capital Connect, which I thought I’d share with you.

For more information on how station access will work over the next few months, please see my earlier blog.

Thameslink station photos

All change please: Thameslink’s next phase

Lots of you will have noticed that the new Thameslink station on Iverson Road is nearing completion. So, I thought it would be worth clarifying what’s going to happen over the next few months as the station transitions from the northern to the southern entrance. Handily, Thameslink have produced a useful guide to just this.

On November 14th, the existing station closes temporarily as work begins on a new ticket gate. This means passengers will have to enter the station by the side of the new station in Iverson Road. This will coincide with the work site hoardings along Iverson Road being pushed back to create a much wider pavement, although not yet to the full width we’ll see when the project is complete.

The new entrance will lead on to the new footbridge, although the old footbridge will stay open to allow people to change between platforms 2/3 and 4, but the stairs from platform 1 will be closed because the work for the new ticket gate enclosure will straddle the top of that staircase. The lifts on the new footbridge won’t be working until the new station building is complete in December.

Closing the existing entrance will mean today’s ticket office will be separated from the station. However, there will be two ticket machines at the Iverson Road entrance and staff will be available during normal ticket office hours with portable machines to sell people the full range of tickets.

On December 12th, the new station on Iverson Road will open, along with the public area in front of the station. Ticket office staff will relocate to the new building and the old ticket office will close. When the station is manned, passengers will pass through ticket gates inside the new building to reach the footbridge.

In mid-January the new ticket barriers will open above platform 1, and the original entrance will re-open. So, the station will have two permanent entrances and exits, and work will be complete. There will be a new ticket machine at the existing entrance and two machines at the new station building.

The ticket office hours will remain the same as today – 0615-1930 Mon-Fri; 0645-2000 Saturday and 0740-1715 Sunday. Outside these hours, people will access the platforms via the night entrance alongside the building, which will also be the temporary entrance from November 14th to December 12th.

There will be two touch-in/touch-out Oyster card readers at the Iverson Road night entrance, as well as Oyster readers on the new permanent ticket gates inside the station and at the existing entrance once the ticket gate enclosure there is complete.

For more information, visit the Thameslink programme page.

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 . The committee suggests we monitor for the whole of October.

Get snapping for Thameslink

We’re only a few months away from the new Thameslink station opening on Iverson Road. To mark the occasion, Network Rail is running a photography competition. The winning photographs will be reproduced and displayed at the station for all to see.

The theme – not incredibly original, one has to say – is “Connections”. Photographers can interpret the theme as they see fit, with entries falling into two categories, under 16 and open.

Tim Galvani, Network Rail project manager, said: “Passengers are really going to benefit from the opening of the new station and will get the chance to see the picture gallery on the back of the new Iverson Road wall. It’s a great space that will be seen by everyone that travels to and through the station.”

To enter, fill in this form. You can either send digital copies of your photos on a disk or USB stick or e-mail them, together with the entry form to . Closing date for entries is 30th October 2011.

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.

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.

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.

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 . 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 & Fortune Green area action group

On a cold Monday evening, Liberal Democrat councillor Keith Moffitt (West Hampstead) kicked off the first combined area action group meeting. This is the successor to the local area forums. All six of the local councillors were present (all Lib Dems).

The audience – around 80 people, the vast majority being older members of the community – settled down as Keith mentioned that they had publicised the event on Twitter and on the two local blogs. He asked if anyone except me had come because they had seen it promoted online. No-one had.

A man behind me said sotto voce “Twitter is one of the most ridiculous pointless things I’ve ever heard of”. I wondered whether he’d ever even seen it. Keith introduced me, which I wasn’t quite expecting, but I sensed only mild curiosity rather than active interest.

There was a really quick rundown of projects funded by the £10,000 per ward improvement fund (inevitably that isn’t being offered again). These included two new benches (Agememnon Rd/Ulysses Rd and top of Fortune Green Rd); a “give-and take” event at Emmanuel School in March; new dog/litter bins and hanging baskets on Mill Lane.

One project – improvements to the paved area around the library – has yet to happen, but it is still being planned. A plan to use Mill Lane Bridge as a community art project had to be shelved due to health & safety concerns apparently.

Thameslink station
The session kicked off with a team from the Thameslink programme bringing us up to speed on the developments at West Hampstead Thameslink station. They had a powerpoint presentation that no-one could read, which was ill-thought out. The headline news is that the platforms will be ready for the longer 12-carriage trains by December 2011, but the new trains won’t be fully installed until 2015.

The plans for the station on Iverson Road have had to be adapted to bring it within budget. The changes are largely in materials although it’s clear that the initial plans were on the ambitious side. The station is also due for completion in December 2011.

As you all know, the pavement is being substantially widened on the north side of Iverson Road. The existing embankment is being built up and paved, and this should alleviate some of the congestion between the stations.

The design of the wall running from West End Lane to the station has been adjusted – and will now be a flat wall rather than with “profiled bricks”. There’s been an invisible change to some water flow issue and the zinc roof is becoming aluminium, so will look different from above but not from ground level (makes you wonder why they went for zinc in the first place).

Finally, the sedum roof (i.e. the one covered in greenery) is being replaced by a separate larger area of grass at ground level.

All the construction materials will now be delivered trackside and not by road, so there shouldn’t be road congestion. The timetable is also designed to ensure that work takes place on weekdays during working hours.

There were plenty of audience questions, and rather a lot of talking at cross-purposes. Someone pointed out that with all the street clutter outside Starbucks, Costa etc., this was still a pinch point. Keith explained there would be a sizeable project in 2011 to widen West End Lane pavements, and that tackling this issue would be part of the January phase of that (the plan is for work to be done up the west side of WEL and then back down the east side. Expect more traffic disruption for most of next year then).

There was another question about how a car club has procured more spaces than it had apparently bid for, which went unanswered, and one woman appeared disproportionately angry that the pavement had been widened on both side of the street without consultation. Keith said he thought this might just have been a lack of clarity on the diagrams, to which she replied rather ominously, “Lets hope for your sake it is”.

There was a more measured question about lighting. Network Rail explained that there will be strip downlighting all along the wall between West End Lane and the station, and the footbridge will also be lit. This should minimize glare for residents, while ensuring enough light for safety.

The existing station on the north side of the bridge will close, and there will be ticket barriers under a weatherproof shelter there that will be manned (or left open). There will also be ticket machines.

Strangely, despite the longer platforms, there is no provision for extra platform signage. Given the frequent platform changes and running delays on the service, the information boards are of course very useful, but clearly they won’t be visible from further along. Roger Perkins, the communications manager for the Thameslink Programme, said he would look into this and that there may be some other sources of funding available. It seems crazy to extend platforms and not think about extra signage.

Roger then explained the service improvements. As was announced last week (and mentioned on my weekly round-up) the Thameslink programme survived the spending review but the completion date has been pushed back from 2016 to 2018. This drew inevitable groans.

The new trains won’t appear until 2015 (although there will be a few longer trains in service from the end of 2011 using leased carriages) but even then very few if any will stop at West Hampstead. Priority for the extra capacity will go to the fast commuter trains from Bedford that are fast from St Albans. Most of the trains that stop at West Hampstead head down to the Wimbledoon loop, where many of the stations can’t be extended.

It began to dawn on everyone that we’re enduring quite a lot of disruption for not much immediate benefit. Eventually of course, more longer trains will be rolled out and services that do not go down to Wimbledon will use them. The major benefit to locals will be that there will be new routes opening up beyond the Bedford-Brighton/Sutton services, but these routes are yet to be decided.

Roger also said that 5,000 seats had already been added to rush hour trains – but again, not necessarily to services stopping at West Hampstead.

Appropriately, Keith now announced that we were now running 20 minutes late.

Seargeant Dave Timms of the West Hampstead Safer Neighbourhood Team spoke very briefly and wanted some input/feedback on how best the SNTs might be deployed. As he explained, they were suffering from funding restrictions like everyone else so they are very open to hearing how the public would like them to operate and whether the current organisation (where they are strictly ward-based) was appropriate. You can contact the team here.

New West Hampstead councillor Gillian Risso-Gill then discussed the issue of shops on West End Lane and Mill Lane. This is a emotive issue, as we know from the response to the “Changing Streetscape” blog from August.

She argued that West End Lane was faring relatively well in the aftermath of the recession, with very few units remaining empty for long. Glo of course being an exception and Mill Lane showing a more mixed picture. She argued that Tesco can live alongside independent shops and helps increase footfall. This met with a mixed reaction from the crowd.

Apparently, no-one other than Sainsbury’s had expressed any interest in the Best-One site. She also said that Penguin – the vintage boutique opposite the Overground station – is closing due to retirement rather than for financial reasons.

The main thrust of her talk was that we should look at other avenues for smaller retailers, such as markets. There was notable vocal support for a farmers market, although the issue of where it would be is tricky. The Christmas market, which is very clearly a retail opportunity and not a ‘festival’, will be on West End Green, but this is probably not big enough for a full-scale farmers market.

Someone asked what happened to the market that used to be at the O2 car park, which has moved to Eton Avenue (perhaps not realising that the car park solution was in fact temporary and the market was originally in Swiss Cottage).

A woman who works at West End Lane Books argued that the lack of parking was a big problem and stopped people from coming to West End Lane. This wasn’t especially well received by the councillors. Surely, if we’re trying to get local people to local shops then they can walk or use buses? It’s very hard to see much being done to increase parking in the area.

A more sophisticated issue is that of rates and rents and planning use. One local businessman said he knew of two chain restaurants that were actively looking to move into the area, but wouldn’t say which.

He also said he’d heard a rumour that M&S was going to take the Pizza Express site. This is an extension of the rumour a while back that Sainsbury’s was going to take that site, which a Pizza Express spokesperson categorically refuted when I put it to them earlier in the year. I am not convinced that site would work for M&S, but we shall see.

“Multiples” (as chains are called in the business) do of course bring footfall, but they can also afford to pay top whack in terms of rents, which raises the baseline level on the street, squeezing out smaller players. The audience member cited examples where rents had rocketed from £28,000 to £43,000 with change of use and suggested that the planning department could do more to control these changes of use.

Someone suggested whether Camden could turn a unit into a sort of permanent pop-up shop, allowing rotating use of the space. The idea was well received, but Keith pointed out that the council doesn’t own any units on West End Lane. Whether they could enquire/put pressure on landlords of empty units when they are available remains to be seen.

Not surprisingly, the issue of Tesco (and soon Sainsbury’s) delivery lorries came up. Fortune Green councillor Flick Rea explained that the Tesco on her patch had been expected to use a delivery point at the back of the building but it turned out the lorries couldn’t access this service area because it was too low. She is looking at getting a delivery bay built into the street as there is room there.

The West End Lane Tesco remains a problem as the company sees the constant parking fines as simply part of the cost of doing business.

A man from Fawley Road asked what he admitted was a NIMBY question about where Sainsbury’s delivery lorries would park. Flick said that she hoped it would be possible to have a conversation with Sainsbury’s about this, as they were more socially amenable than Tesco.

Budget cuts
The final topic of the evening was the budget cuts in Camden. By the time you read this, these will have been debated in the council chamber, and at this stage the programme of cuts is light on detail. Keith pointed out before the discussion started that legally this couldn’t be a party-political discussion as it is funded by the council*.

Given that much of this was hypothetical I shall keep this section short and wait until the budget plans have been approved for a longer discussion of how cuts will affect West Hampstead.

The nub of the issue is that Camden needs to cut £80 to £100 million of its budget, which is approximately 10%. Councils of course have statutory commitments and discretionary roles. Camden historically has been a council that has prided itself on going the extra mile but inevitably some of these discretionary services would have to be cut or provided by the voluntary or private sectors.

Keith also pointed out that there would be job cuts: 1,000 positions would go although many would happen through early retirement or posts not being filled rather than redundancies. However, plenty of jobs are on the line.

Libraries are one service that always receives a lot of publicity. It seems inevitable that some Camden libraries will close. Keith seemed reasonably confident that West Hampstead would not be one of them. However, whether it can remain in its current state is not clear. It is expensive to run (behind me a voice whispered authoritatively that it costs £290,000 a year to run WH library of which half is staff costs).

There was some confusion as to whether the mobile library service had already been cut or not. A tweet the following day from Camden suggested that it hadn’t been cancelled just yet and Alan Templeton from the Camden Public Libraries User Group (CPLUG) seemed to think that nothing had been definitively decided. However, he also believed that council officers had already decided which libraries were for the chop, suggesting Belsize, Chalk Farm and Highgate as the most likely casualties. He argued that no library was safe however, and locals should definitely adopt a “use it or lose it” attitude.

Other conversations discussed community centres and children’s services/play services. Keith mentioned the rebuilding/expansion of Emmanuel School, which has been discussed at length already. The issue of whether the possible new primary school on Liddell Road is the best location was also mentioned but not discussed.

And that was that. Not everyone had stayed to the end, and most scarpered off into the dark cold night as soon as the meeting was brought to a close. Surprisingly, no-one asked anything about the proposed student accommodation, although Keith mentioned it and there was a handout about it.

*unlike the conversation after the meeting drew to a close.

Travesty (would be a good name for a font)

The redoubtable Annie Mole, whose Going Underground blog is one of London’s finest, today posted a photo of yet another tube map mashup. We’ve had lots of these of late – puns on film titles, anagrams, movies shot in the location – all following in the footsteps of Simon Patterson’s 1992 work, The Great Bear.

Today’s addition to the fold is from Eiichi Kono, the man responsible for the distinctive New Johnston typeface used on the standard map. Here, Kono has replaced all the stations on the modern tube map with the names of typefaces, so Waterloo is Frutiger, Liverpool Street is Baskerville, etc.

Photo courtesy of Annie Mole

Except he hasn’t replaced all the stations. Two – just two – are omitted*. West Hampstead and Finchley Road stations are marked on the map but have no associated typeface. Why would we be snubbed in such a way!?

Here’s a larger version of the photo above. Which typefaces would you choose to go on the map for West Hampstead and Finchley Road? Which would capture something of the essence of these two stations?

A little bit about bikes

Congratulations to @flyperson (above), who may well have been the first person to bring one of the new Boris bikes into West Hampstead and is certainly the first to provide unphotoshopped evidence (compare and contrast with this from @garymc!).

We are of course too far out of central London to have our own docking stations here in the ‘hood, so how might whampers best make use of the scheme?

The nearest docking stations are in St John’s Wood and there are a couple in Maida Vale near Warwick Avenue tube station (the red dots on the map mark the bike stations). So if you want to take advantage of those, they’re no more than a short bus ride/walk away. At that point, hopping on a bike to take you into town might be quicker than sitting on a bus, especially during busy periods when as we all know Oxford St can be jammed.

They can also be used to save on bus transfers – want to go to Hyde Park from West End Lane? Rather than changing tubes or walking from Selfridges, get on a 139 and then grab a bike from Abbey Road/Hall Road and shoot down Lisson Grove and Seymour Place.

Circle Line not running and you fancy going to South Kensington? Jump on a 328 to Portobello Road/Pembroke Road – grab a bike and make your way through Notting Hill Gate and onto Kensington Gore, there aren’t too many docking stations right outside the museums, but there are plenty within 2-3 minutes walk.

I shall personally use it to cut out the disastrously slow bus route from Kensington High St into Piccadilly Circus. It’s only 2.5 miles, but it can take 30-40 minutes on a bus, about the same as walking. Hop on a bike at the southern end of Kensington Church Street (by a 328 bus stop) and it should only take 10 minutes to get to the other end. If you (understandably) don’t fancy tackling the traffic around Hyde Park Corner, you can either wheel your bike through the subway (they’re heavy so avoid anything involving stairs), or drop your bike off by the Queen Elizabeth Gates, walk through to the edge of Green Park and hop on a new one.

I would strongly recommend looking at the guide to cycling in the Royal Parks, which gives maps of the cycle paths through the parks as well as the location of docking stations – far more pleasant to trundle along South Carriage Drive than battle the traffic on Kensington Road.

Two final thoughts of how one might use the bikes from a West Hampstead perspective. No weekend Met Line and Thameslink not running across London? Go as far as St Pancras, grab a bike and cycle south. It’s less than two miles down to Waterloo Bridge and a smidge further to Southwark Bridge for South Bank attractions. Or what if you want to go to Greenwich or Docklands but the Jubilee Line is closed? Again, take a bike from St Pancras to Tower Gateway and hop on the DLR.

So, although it seems very unlikely that we’ll ever get bike stations up here in NW6, by using the excellent transport links we DO have, whampers can still benefit from the bike hire scheme. Not already registered? Read all about the scheme and the charges here and then sign up.

PS – if you wonder whether I have any experience of cycling peculiar bikes, then check out this heap of junk I was given for a day in Nebraska last month

West Hampstead Digest No.12 – Review of the (er…) “Year”

Back in October, when @WHampstead had already been around for a good few months, it seemed like a good idea to take some of your messages and photos and aggregate them into a weekly round-up of the week’s whampevents. Encouraged by some excitement that week, Digest 1 went to press on October 11, the week that the leafy streets of West Hampstead were rocked by gun crime. Choosing the lead story for Week 1 was as easy as bumping into Ken Livingstone on the morning commute into work.

Week 2 was momentous thanks to the inaugural whampgather. I won’t lie. I was a wee bit nervous as I walked up to The Alice House. I didn’t think that nobody would come, but I wasn’t at all sure it was going to be a hit. My fears were swiftly allayed. A real big thank you to those of you that turned up that night and made it such a success. Of course one notable West Hampstead tweeter was absent but delightfully made up for it with a message that evening.

One of the long-running stories of the year was the power cuts that knocked out large chunks of the area with alarming frequency. EDF claims it is working on the problem, which involves a local substation, but the problem is big enough that it has its own hashtag now.

The billboards around the tube and train stations have prompted an unusual flurry of comments. Most recently, Tory PPC Chris Philp’s cherubic face has beamed down on us, but earlier in the year it was the typos in the adverts for Alfred Court that caught the eye. After getting it wrong first time, one might have thought that all efforts would be made to get the replacement sign right. One might have thought.

Whampers once again found that there was no local fireworks display – the Primrose Hill display having been cancelled many years ago due to health and safety concerns. Somehow the message hasn’t sunk in.

Travel problems have been the cause of most of the gnashing of teeth among Whamp tweeters. And it’s not just been the Jubilee Line. Thameslink commuters, already coping with the long-running line improvement works encountered a whole new problem in mid-November.

Week 6 also saw whampers undertake the first whampreview at the Czech Restaurant. Perhaps the less said about it the better.

Later in November there was a major breakthrough for tweeters living around Willesden Green when Brent MP Sarah Teather’s lobbying bore fruit and the Metropolitan Line stopped at the tube station when the Jubilee Line was closed. Hurrah.

A topic that always generates a surprising amount of interest is the opening and closing of new shops. Broadhurst Gardens was a veritable hub of retail comings and goings at the end of the month, with an eclectic mix of shops opening.

December brought the second whampgather – another roaring success, with a three-fold increase in attendees. Sadly, not all loyal whampers were able to make it. Their loss, some might say!

Bursting the bubble of whampeuphoria was news of the farcical Jubilee Line engineering works. TfL and its contractor Tube Lines played the blame game while passengers look like suffering.

In the run-up to the holiday season, we were all dreaming of a whamp Christmas and lo and behold, the white stuff began to fall. One short simple message captured everyone’s ambivalence to snow: yes, we love to wake up to a blanket of white; no, we don’t like to have to actually deal with it on a workday.

Finally, the Christmas edition of Digest threw a crossword at readers. Some attempted but only one succeeded. Congratulations to @bubela, who will be getting a free cappuccino. Here’s the solution.

So that was @WHampstead in 2009. Roll on 2010. The Year of the Whamp.

West Hampstead Digest No.9 Local news where you set the agenda

(one-page PDF version available)
Jubilee farce continues
Confusion reigns over exactly how many more closures Tube Lines needs to finish work on the Jubilee Line. Is it six weekends? Is it 28? Depressingly, no-one seems to know, and the prospect of more disruption looms large. Surely the time has come for clarity and for leadership. Sadly, both seem lacking.
Whampers, unsurprisingly, were not impressed. Reactions ranged from the sarcastic
to fingers-in-ears,
to the comically resigned,
to the angry.
Despite both TfL and Tube Lines maintaining that their working relationship has improved, there is still no coordinated message. All parties were called before the House of Commons Transport committee during the week. Not that the results were especially enlightening or positive.
An unscientific WHampstead poll asked what form people would like any additional closures to take. Weekend closures were marginally the least popular option. Of course whampers may not be representative of all users.

Many people said they would prefer a total shutdown until the work was complete. Although of course this is not a straightforward option from everyone’s perspective. For many people it seems that clear communication around what work is being done when, and WHY it’s taking so long would all help ease the animosity towards TfL. As @sam_elliot says above “we need some sort of elected mayor to sort this out.”
Whampgather II: Tremendous turnout
See full write-up on blog.Darker Shores: Panto for grown-ups?
Full review on blog.

West Hampstead Digest No.8 Local news where you set the agenda

For a one-page PDF version, click here

Supper Club trend hits West End Lane

West Hampstead’s discerning diners were at The Wet Fish Café on Monday night for the restaurant’s first supper club. A few tweeters were present to sample the food including @mayfield22: “Andre the owner explained how he wanted to bring together local residents who enjoy food and wine in a more sociable atmosphere than usual. It worked; six of us at my end of the table quickly introduced ourselves and got on with setting West Hampstead and the world to rights.”

Each course was paired with a wine. The fish stew was outstanding – and a little too robust for the Spanish white from Monterrei. The main course of duck confit was paired with a Bordeaux-style red introduced by a wine specialist who surprised everyone by announcing it was an Israeli wine. Service was friendly and efficient, and the kitchen coped remarkably well with delivering great food to 35 of us simultaneously.

@lulupho also raved about the evening, “I had a fantastic time,” she said. “I’ve asked Andre to put a bottle of the Israeli wine aside for my next boozy lunch there.“ The community spirit is flourishing in West Hampstead. Read more about the event on the blog.
Jubilee Line delays continue to 2010
Inevitably, we learned that the Jubilee Line engineering works were going to overrun. Tube Lines (the contractor) and TfL argued the toss over who is to blame, but residents are forced to face 10 more weekends of disruption. The Bakerloo Line is the next to have long-term work, and we can only hope that we never get the Jubilee, Bakerloo and Metropolitan lines all down on the same day. LibDem PPC @edfordham was forthright in his view, while @dasilvajums mused as to how the rail replacement services affected TfL’s carbon footprint.
Tuesday’s West Hampstead ward meeting presented another opportunity for FCC and Network Rail to hear locals’ concerns about the new ticket office although apparently the session did not cover the topic. Instead, rail representatives were available for discussion before the meeting started.

Belsize ward, meanwhile, focused on more crucial matters. #whamptravel
Changing rooms
Tweeters are concerned about Karahi Master on West End Lane. If anyone has the lowdown, do let us know. The racing green empty property at 149 Broadhurst Gardens is being refitted. This quickly triggered the usual reaction to any possible new retail operation. A call to the agents revealed the truth.

That news didn’t sit well with everyone. A reminder that there’s also a whisky & cigar shop opening in Broadwell Parade, raising the prospect of a fragrant walk to the tube for local residents.
The new supermarket at 194 Broadhurst Gardens is yet to open, but signs have gone up revealing some of the treats that wait in store. #whampshop

First Whamplunch finds the mark
For locals around during the day, the first #whamplunch took place at David’s Deli on Thursday. @bubela gives us the lowdown: “Whamplunch was a great success. Meeting people I had only imagined when reading their tweets was fun, and the group of six gelled very well. The food couldn’t be faulted and the friendly owner kindly donated freebie felafels (+dip), which were much appreciated.” The next #whamplunch is December 16th at The Alice House. Please let @WHampstead know if you’d like to come. #whamplunch
Bizarre tweets from Elephant Walk
Hit-and-miss Sri Lankan restaurant Elephant Walk has joined Twitter. Rather than alerting followers to special offers or tempting them with photos of the food, it seems to talk the area down and focus on berating Stephen Fry. A highly individual approach to microblogging. #whampnewExciting tie-up with The Winch
We announced this week that The Winch will be our official 2010 charity. There’s much more about this on the blog, and please think about how you can get involved. #whampforgood

West Hampstead Digest No.7 Local news where you set the agenda

(Click here for the one-page PDF version)

Accidents, Algerians and aggrieved locals… It must be #whamptravel

The challenges of getting to, from and around this part of London have once again dominated the local chat. Digest came out too early last week to catch the news of another traffic accident involving a bus on West End Lane.

Calls to change the traffic system came in, with suggestions of zebra crossings near Tesco’s. Perhaps, however, West Hampstead should be more cutting edge and take the approach that is gaining traction across Europe of Shared Space. The idea is to de-segregate road and pavement users. This might seem counter-intuitive but, where the idea has been implemented, the statistics show that there are fewer accidents because everyone (and especially drivers) tends to be more cautious. It is not a scheme that will work everywhere of course but perhaps West End Lane, which already has slowish traffic, could be a good testing ground. Already there is a campaign to bring the idea to Hampstead.

The other excitement of last weekend was that the Metropolitan Line made its inaugural stop at Willesden Green (which it will now do on weekends when Jubilee Line is shut ). Thanks to @PkerUNO for the photograph. Of course this weekend both lines were down. Plus ça change.

Wednesday evening was football evening, and demonstrated neatly the evolving nature of Kilburn’s population. Early on in the evening, Algeria beat Egypt to qualify for the World Cup, and immediately messages began to appear about honking horns on the Edgware Road and Kilburn High Road. A few hours later when Ireland were denied the chance of a penalty shootout by the hand of Thierry Henry, there was nothing but silence from the traditional Irish enclave, once affectionately known as County Kilburn.First Capital Connect is never far from the news at the moment. Its timetable continues to be a work of fiction as staff work to rule. It has got to the stage where questions are being asked in Parliament.

To add to FCC’s woes, there is now a late-stage minor revolt about the proposed new station on Iverson Road. @joe_sayegh spotted this article in the Ham & High about residents arguing that the plans will remove parking bays and destroy the embankment. There will be a meeting on Tuesday, but Digest’s readers were largely unsympathetic.

The plans are exempt from requiring planning permission, and the company will argue that it has made efforts to liaise with the local community using measures such as the drop-in meeting at the library a few weeks ago. Is this going to run and run? It seems a certainty that there will be a station on Iverson Road, but will residents manage to gain any further concessions? #whamptravel

Remembering the place of politics
Electioneering at public ceremonies of remembrance is frowned upon. Both Brown and Cameron have apologised for the photographers at Westminster Abbey to capture their appearances at what should be an apolitical event.

Old news for Camdenites. A council hoo-ha kicked up after Lib Dem PPC Jo Shaw was accused of muscling in on the borough’s Remembrance Sunday event and filming it. She issued a statement saying she would not be using the film for party political purposes and emphasizing her per-sonal connection to the armed forces.

Adding fuel to the fire, Lib Dem PPC (Hampstead & Kilburn) @edfordham posted footage of himself at an Armistice Day ceremony in West Hampstead on his You Tube channel. This incurred the ire of both Tory and Labour representatives alike.

Ed replied, but never explained what the facts to be checked were. See @RichardOsley’s blog for more.

Other news. @CamdenGP confirmed that H&K Green candidate Beatrix Campbell is on Twitter (albeit quietly). #whampvote

West Hampstead Digest No.6 Local news where you set the agenda

This week’s digest consists of the review of the Czech restaurant and a couple of other short pieces, including our first contributed piece. Thanks to @bubela. If you would like to write for Digest, drop me a line or DM me on Twitter. Access the one-page PDF here.

Literati on the Lane
by @bubela
Most of West Hampstead seemed to be squeezed into West End Lane Books on Thursday evening for Phyllida Law’s reading from her new book Notes to My Mother-in-Law. Several local actors were present along with the author of some people’s book of the year, Me Cheeta.

As well as some lovely back-chat with daughter Emma Thompson, Phyllida shared her views on living in the area for many decades, regretting the loss of fresh fish shops and butchers, but of course happy with the excellent book shop. #whampculture

Every which way but home
For once the tube was in everyone’s good books this week following the announcement that the Metropolitan Line would stop at Willesden Green when the Jubilee Line was closed for engineering works. A victory for Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather.

Anger shifted to the rail network with First Capital Connect’s timetable collapsing into disarray as staff worked to rule. First Capital Connect has agreed to compensate some affected passengers. Details on the website.

Saturday saw traffic chaos outside the O2 centre as a combination of lane closures and a broken-down car led to lengthy delays. @allaboutcarl kept us all updated.

West Hampstead Digest No.5 Local news where you set the agenda

(for a one-page PDF version: click here)

Whampagne Supernova

Photo (c) Jerry Barnett. See more of Jerry’s work at http://www.blackandwhitebritain.com

Ever since Camden council closed the Primrose Hill fireworks, locals have had to make more effort to go and see a decent organized display (although some people still just keep coming to Primrose Hill armed only with ignorance and the phone number of the New Journal).

Clearly your experience of Bonfire Night rather depended on where you were. These two tweets were just 3 minutes apart:

Two hours later, the sporadic distribution of fireworks hadn’t changed. In just 8 minutes Digest received these three:

Digest went to Roundwood Park in Willesden for Brent’s firework display on the day itself, even getting the treat of a Bonfire Night sausage. The display was great, although the much advertised sound system didn’t seem to carry to where Digest was standing. Friday was a fairly quiet fireworks night although maybe they could be heard but not seen.

Come Saturday and the north London action was at Alexandra Palace. The crowds thronged, the fireworks did their whizz-bang thing, and this time the obligatory Star Wars theme music was clearly audible. A sizeable West Hampstead posse fought its way through accident-delayed traffic and walked up hill and down dale to get a good view of the pyrotechnics.
Despite grumbles and moans, there doesn’t seem to be any likelihood of organised fireworks returning to Primrose Hill anytime soon. Where do you think Camden could host a fireworks display without risking a crowd crush?
Commercial aspirations
Glo’s temporary closure has become permanent. The West Hampstead branch has been dropped from the company’s website and then a To Let sign went up in the window a couple of days later. Glo always seems to have struggled with its confused menu and slightly odd location. It was rarely full, and must have competed with the ever-popular and good value Banana Tree just up the road.
The local Twitterverse got all excited at the prospect of a new shop replacing the convenience store opposite the Thameslink entrance.
@Gitfinger spotted the sign and followed up to find out precisely what sort of staff experience the mysterious company wanted (one might argue they missed a trick with their recruiting poster: “Kitchener – your country needs you” etc.). Eventually though it was @bubela who was first to solve the (not very cryptic) puzzle:

The saga of the commercial units in Alfred Court continued. An agent explained to Digest that it neither the restaurant nor the retail space were likely to be a typical high-street chain. More about this on the blog.
Accident black spot
Wednesday morning got off to a bad start.

The stretch of West End Lane from Iverson Road to Broadhurst Gardens is particularly narrow, with three different buses ploughing down it and pedestrians frequently crossing at any opportunity. Accidents here are too frequent:

There was even an accident on the night of the first whampgather at the same Iverson Road/West End Lane junction. One cycle commuter’s views are clear:
Cycle accidents in London are on the rise, as more of us turn to two wheels in the wake of high public transport ticket prices. Ride carefully! #whamptravel
Good news/Bad news
The Jubilee Line was open south of West Hampstead this Sunday. Digest urged readers to make the most of it.
But Councillor Keith Moffitt quietly dropped a bombshell earlier in the week. Details were not forthcoming. I think we all dread to imagine. #whamptravel

West Hampstead Digest No.3 Local news where you set the agenda

(for a one-page PDF version: click here)

Twitter Unplugged
Parts of West Hampstead were plunged into darkness on Monday evening when an EDF substation failed. The CNJ reported on the impact on businesses following the 10-hour outage. Being off the grid didn’t mean being offline though. Some residents had to change their cooking plans for the evening. @Gitfinger (below) also dug out the candles.

Later that evening David announced there was some left in the pan for any hungry locals. Perceptions of the impact varied depending on your love of the dark.It wasn’t long, however, before the novelty of life in the dark began to wear off.
Power was restored the following morning but dropped out again later that day. Let’s hope Cllr Keith Moffitt delivers on his tweeted promise. #whampower
A platform for change
West Hampstead’s library turned into a railway platform of a different kind on Wednesday. First Capital Connect and Network Rail were using the space to display their plans for the revamped Thameslink station. Digest went along to investigate.

Architecturally, the plans look attractive. The new station will be on Iverson Road, linking up to the new footbridge. An entrance “probably” with ticket gates, will be retained near the existing entrance, so pedestrian traffic over the road bridge should be reduced substantially. Of course it will make no difference to the pedestrian crush between the tube, the Overground, and Iverson Road. Broadly the plans make sense: as well as the new station, the platforms are being extended to accommodate 12-carriage trains, which will increase capacity substantially. Residents (and councillors) are concerned, however, about the impact of the work.
It’s not a positive result for everyone. Joule the jewellers has to move, as Network Rail owns its property and it will fall victim to the pavement widening scheme. Joule has notices of protestation in its window. Full details of the overall Thameslink programme here, but precise details on the West Hampstead programme are not online yet. #whamptravel

Social media emphasizes the social
West Hampstead’s social networking took another step forward this week. First, the date and venue were confirmed for the second #whampgather. Followers were encouraged to vote for their preferred dates, and the most favoured date was Thursday December 10.

The Alice House agreed to give us the same space again. Negotiations over any free drinks will take place nearer the time, but the signs are encouraging. The immediate reaction was positive, and numbers should be good. For any confused readers:
The Wet Fish Café has generously agreed to donate a prize of a meal for two. The winner will be drawn from a list of attendees on Dec 10. #whampgather

Whampreview launched this week. The concept marries the social side of whampgather with requests for eating and drinking recommendations. Eight of us will be going for dinner at the Czech & Slovak National House in mid-November (that may include dumplings) and to generate a review of this long-established local restaurant. At least that’s what the idea was. #whampreview
Spinning a new tale
In The Rooms Above, (West Heath Yard, opposite The Emmanuel School), a gym has opened where you pay only when you use it. Most of the world operates on similar lines, but gyms have traditionally made money on apathy. My Fitness Boutique has joined Twitter, so go and say hello. #whampnew

Whither Whifi?
Tell us your fave local WiFi outlets. #whifi

Photo of the week
Christmas creep from Camden

West Hampstead Digest No.2 Local news where you set the agenda

(for a one-page PDF version: click here)

“Whampgather” tweet-up makes the news The first ever whampgather took place on Monday 12th at The Alice House. An early glitch, when the staff were unaware that free drinks had been arranged, was soon rectified. There was a terrific turnout, despite tube and bus delays doing their best to slow people down. Sixteen people, the vast majority of whom had never met each other before, all chatted about their experiences of the area, and were able to draw all sorts of connections.

Having bombarded Stephen Fry with invitations, we were delighted when he finally saw one from @JudeStone and sent a reply.No awkward silences meant no time for the “Rename whampgather” competition, and the consensus was that we should stick to whampgather. Therefore, the draw to win an NW6 t-shirt from @ilovemypostcode took place on Tuesday – the winner seemed pleased.Whampgather excitement lingered late into the week as @SarahReardon worked some PR magic on the Camden New Journal. The article appeared in Thursday’s edition (although the paper is not readily available in West Hampstead) and online on Friday. The CNJ has said that it may even attend the next one. So, put on your best frocks and, again, doctors notes are the only acceptable excuses, although this one from @Choppsicle comes very close.

Music venues overlooked
Camden council listed 10 of the best live music venues in the borough but of local places, only The Good Ship made the cut. Readers had other ideas. There’s also professional music at The Railway, Lately, and even Pizza Express. Talking of which, @bubela had heard from local shopkeepers that West End Lane’s Pizza Express was going to be closed and turned into a Sainsbury’s. Digest contacted Pizza Express who categorically denied that the branch was closing, “West Hampstead is a really popular PizzaExpress,” according to spokesperson Alex Whitelaw.
On the campaign Twail
The general election has yet to be called, but unofficial electioneering has started. West Hampstead is in the new constituency of Hampstead & Kilburn and with redrawn boundaries, the Tories and LibDems are already arguing over which of them is the true challenger to Labour.
The three candidates are existing Hampstead & Highgate MP Glenda Jackson (Lab), Chris Philp (Con) and Ed Fordham (LibDem). Only Fordham is on Twitter, where he directs followers to blog entries about local architecture as well as to political material.
All three were at the Tricycle this week for hustings. Fordham posted extracts of the event – focused on his performance – on his YouTube channel, including a robust defence of Kilburn in the face of those who talk it down. Digest is more than happy to direct its readers to similar links from the other candidates. We will follow the progress of the main three parties up to the election, keep you up to date with the other candidates, and run some very unscientific polls to gauge your thoughts.
This will be the first general election where Twitter will play a part and, in the aftermath of Obama’s well-orchestrated online campaign, we can expect all the parties and candidates to up their digital game. #whampvote
Tube fares rise. What tube?
Another weekend of tube closures barely got a reaction from resigned locals. The midweek announcement of TfL price rises, in order to pay for improvement works, didn’t pass unnoticed however. #whamptravel
Photo of the week – Read closelyMaybe that was the spelling in King Alfred’s time. Thanks to @PkerUNO for spotting this West End Lane billboard.