Archive for January, 2010

Official, Hither Green is London home of Minigolf

January 29, 2010

Last weekend I was around with James Jennings delivering our thoughtful and informative new issue of the Lib Dem newsletter Focus when passing in front of the Minigolf course unit at Meridian South we saw that it was almost ready to open. An excited “oooh” was proffered as one.

James Jennings stares excitedly at the Minigolf course

It has now been announced that the course has opened, not a big announcement, just a line in a comment on Hayley’s blog where in the same breath also the re-opening of a Deli is announced! Is this too much excitement for one day for Hither Green?

Pathetic excuse for lack of primary school places

January 29, 2010

From South London Press:

Lewisham Mayor Sir Steve Bullock said: “The main reason for the extra demand is the housing market.

“People who are living in properties in Lewisham who had every intention of moving are now stuck and need to find school places here.”

Pathetic isn’t it? He knew that there was a shortage coming, I knew there was a shortage coming coming for sure, everyone knew there was a shortage coming.
That warning gave the opportunity to plan ahead, the Council didn’t take the opportunity.
In the light of the projections in primary school needs the Council should have reviewed its plans at least a year ago but they left it to last minute and the consequences will be paid by the children and their families starting with the beginning of the next school year.

If there is a thing that’s worse than a lack of secondary school places is a lack of primary school places, and when the data about this shortage emerged the decision to close Lewisham Bridge Primary to demolish it and re-open as an all through primary and secondary combined to include a reduced primary provision on site should have been reviewed.
What we’re now facing are overcrowded primaries and possibly parents being forced into long term stress to bring their children to school somewhere away from where they live or work.

Allow me a little “I told you so” moment and link to a comment I left at Brockley Central on 28th April 2009 when I wrote:

Another issue is that when the decision to use Lewisham Bridge Primary as the site for the new secondary was taken part of the motivation was that the number of children attending it was dwindling and it would have been sized down anyway.
At the time I attended the meeting of the decision and it was reported to the Mayor that the Head of the school had indeed asked for a reduction in size of the school.

Now we have new projections for needs of places at primary schools and the forecast is that we’ll need many more primary places than available so if the plan goes ahead then the Council will have to start thinking about a new Primary too, that means spending for building two schools instead of one.

It’s regeneration, but not as we know it

January 29, 2010

Lewisham Labour decided that ahead of elections this historic parade must be demolished because it will 'make a difference' and also 'create a good impression'.


Mayor Bullock decided that the once fine Victorian row of shops that now stands in front of Lewisham Police Station will be demolished and the site will be “landscaped”. Drunks and those waiting to sign on the offenders’ register (another town centre feature we must thank Lewisham Labour for) will have a nicer place to hang about.

I must confess that I have a soft spot for that parade, I always thought that although unassuming and unremarkable it still is positively handsome and provides much of what ‘sense of place’ exists around Lewisham Centre. Looking at it one immediately understands something about Lewisham’s past, in fact as this period photo shows it was an element of the original market square.
But now where once were shops and prosperity only a boarded up ghost of a better past stands, and despite the fact that the Council’s plans for regeneration of the town centre may fail to materialize for who knows how long, the Mayor’s decided that he’s seen enough of it and it must go, now, or better, in the next few months, which incidentally coincides with next elections. Activity, activity!

From the Mercury:

Lewisham’s deputy mayor Heidi Alexander said:
“Whilst the big redevelopment of the town centre is taking longer than expected due to the economic climate, it’s important that in the interim we create a good impression in Lewisham.

“The temporary landscaping which the council have agreed to fund are going to be make a huge difference to how the town centre looks and feels.”

Taking longer than expected due to the economic climate?
Taking longer than expected due to the economic climate?

The Lewisham Gateway development received outline planning consent in April 2006!
With a buoyant housing market and a planning consent in the pocket works should have started soon after. If nothing’s happened since the fault is entirely of Mayor Bullock and his unquestioning Lewisham Labour group. The housing crisis only arrived 2 years after planning consent was given.

Labour promise of £200m of private investment to redevelop the area has been replaced by a £200k bill for the tax payer to demolish what was once a fine row of shops.
Elections are coming and Lewisham Labour have nothing to show for the years of announcements and the millions of public money spent on the fabled Lewisham Gateway project. That parade is a corpse and must be removed from the scene.

Fair Rents For Pensioners

January 28, 2010

Cllr Dave Edgerton started a campaign to help a number of pensioners that are charged rather extortionate rents from their registered social landlord. As he found:

Pensioners living in sheltered accommodation owned by Registered Social Landlords rents can vary between £90 and £150 a week. Often a weekly service charge is also added. Many of the pensioners have worked hard all their lives and have saved towards a pension. This is being swallowed up by the high rents. The average charge for similar housing owned by local authorities is £60 a week.

One of the Registered Social Landlords involved in the practice is Merchant Taylors, one of the twelve Great Livery Companies of the City of London, hardly in need of cash, and yet asks to its guests rents of £90 and £95 per week. In-Touch, which is the supporting people division of Hyde Housing asks up to £150 a week plus service charge.

It’s a great injustice and Cllr Dave Edgerton is right in raising the issue, he started a petition that you can sign here.

Roadworks at Loampit Vale

January 27, 2010

TfL has communicated that major roadworks on Loampit Vale will start on 1st February and will complete by 12th March. These are non-essential maintenance and are done to solve the problem of road drainage and will be a major disruption for traffic and bus service for the period involved.
Brockley Central has more details.

I wonder, does TfL knows that just there a major development is supposed to start? There Barratt should not only build hundreds of flats and a leisure centre, but also provide new pedestrian paths and also new bus stops.
Is this a case where the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand’s doing?

Maybe the timing of these works is a couple of years off the mark and those money would be better spent elsewhere, like providing pedestrian crossing at the various dangerous crossings around the borough, like Courthil Road, also belonging to TfL. But those are money for pedestrians, not cars, so Boris’ TfL may not see that as much useful.

Unless TfL has information that the Loampit Vale development won’t happen anytime soon, but in that case they could tell us as it would be an information of extreme public interest.

Mum’s Cafe to open this week

January 24, 2010

This sounds like excellent news for parents of young children in the area, it’s in Manor Lane, Lee, just outside the borders of Greater Hither Green and at a very reasonable distance from much of Lewisham Central.
From this week’s South London Press:

Rhubarb and Custard will open its doors at the end of the month and, as well as the usual coffee and tea, there will be pottery classes and chocolate-making for the kids while their folks relax over a brew.

The cafe is the brainchild of Louisa Gillespie, 37, Marion Cattanach, 40, and Lucy Hunter, 39, who met outside the school gates picking up and dropping off their children from St Winifred’s Nursery and Infant School and Junior School.

The trio then met Anna Ferla, 41, over coffee in Blackheath, and the four women, from Lee, together cooked up the idea of Rhubarb and Custard in Manor Lane, Lee.

I here declare a personal interest as my daughter has just turned 4 and therefore pottery and chocolate making sound very interesting indeed.

The Cafe opens this Friday.

P.S.: I wonder if the name of the cafe has anything to do with the animated series Rhubarb and Custard. The author, the great Bob Godfrey lives in fact not far away in Blackheath.

Ladywell Pool looking for a new manager

January 21, 2010

Centre Manager

Salary: Circa £28,000
Company: Parkwood Leisure
Location: Lewisham , United Kingdom

These are exciting opportunities to join one of the UK’s largest and most successful providers of Health, Leisure and Community Services. Operating in excess of 80 leisure facilities nationwide, we are now looking to recruit Managers to ensure we continually develop and maintain high quality customer services, whilst enhancing customer participation and enjoyment…

More details here.

Jolly Farmers up for grabs

January 21, 2010

A sad news and a great chance for anyone wanting to take on Lewisham’s best pub and keep it going “just as it is” please.
This photo was taken from a mobile phone and it’s not that readable so I transcribe it here:

To all our customers

We regret to inform you that on 24th Jan our lease with Enterprise comes to an end and after considering all our option we have decided not to renew it. If Enterprise find a new tenant we will leave on the 25th. If they don’t find a new tenant by then, and provided we can agree a short term deal, we may stay for a while longer.
We will sadly be living in the near future but would like to assure our customers that we will continue to run the pub in a professional manner, until we do so.
We would like to thank you all for your custom over the past 15 months and wish you all the best for the future.

Les & Helen

And so this coming Monday there will be what could be the last folk jam sessions at the Jolly Farmers. Good things never seem to last for long.
I was there two days ago and again it was fab, just as the last time I was there there were Flakey Jake and Jim Radford that were joined by a surprising number of other folk musicians.
There’s a rare atmosphere there right now and this coming Monday there’s a chance to savour it that may not repeat for a while, although I really hope in a smooth transition towards a new management as nice as this one.

All readers of this blog are warmly invited to join me there this coming Monday.

Gym update

January 20, 2010

I received a reply to my enquiry about the operation of the gym that’s opening at the Firemaster building and here’s what it says:

Hi Max,

Thank you for your interest in our facility.
We are only in the early stages of developing it.
It will primarily be a facility for our private courses and classes. These classes will be open for the public and will be specifically in Olympic Weight Lifting, Boxing, Kettlebells, Parkour and Strength and Conditioning.
I recommend you jump on our website and keep and sign up to our newsletter for constant updates and information regarding our venue and opportunities.

Kind Regards

So unfortunately at least for the moment it won’t operate as a general purpose gym, but the classes are open to everyone, so, should you decide that it’s time to toughen up here’s your chance, all info at http://www.optimallifefitness.com/
I think I’ll still stick to swimming.

Southeastern invites Lewisham Lib Dems for talks

January 20, 2010

Lib Dems didn't reduce service because of snow. Petitioning at Hither Green Station. From left: Pete Pattison, Halina Bowen, me.

This Monday 18th January Southeastern Railways wrote to the leader of the Lewisham Lib Dem group Cllr Chris Maines, the letter had a title written in bold characters: Liberal Democrat Petition!
In the letter Southeastern proposes to meet with us for discussions, and so on Monday night me, Tam Langley and Chris Maines met and decided our platform of requests for Southeastern.

We decided on a number of issues to raise, including refunds to season ticket holders, but we also agreed on a very important central point that we need to make, that we need confidence in Southeastern’s ability to deliver a dependable service and this is only achievable if the traveling public (I hate the word “customers”) are allowed to question the company’s operational decisions. We need a voice of the stakeholders that is kept informed and has weight. Something that does not exist in the current set up.

The terms of the franchise agreement between the Department for Transport and Southeastern is such that for the next few years Southeastern will receive progressively decreasing subsidies, the subsidy was £136m last year, it will be £116 for the year starting on 1st April 2010, dropping further to £71m for 2011, then £24 for 2012 and ultimately becoming a premium to pay to the Government in the last year of the contract when Southeastern is supposed to give back £18m.

In 2009 the company made an £18.3m profit, which is a long way below the £76.8m achieved the previous year, and worryingly much of it has been achieved through large scale redundancies (link):

Operating profit* was below the exceptionally strong result for last year but broadly in line with the franchise bid. This was partly achieved through a significant cost savings programme which Southeastern started in the first half of the year, including a reduction of up to 300 positions which incurred an exceptional charge of £1.9m, procurement savings and other efficiency savings which in total are estimated to have saved nearly £10m compared to last year.

These numbers scream one word: warning!
In the good years large subsidies have been transformed into dividends for the shareholders and when the subsidies decreased workforce was instead sacrificed to provide a profit, but the margin is reducing and if this trend continues Southeastern at the end of the franchise will have neither money nor men and it may return to the Government a dead horse.
The recent decision to run a reduced timetable for adverse weather forecast is in effect a self-audit. The company showed no confidence in its own capacity to sustain the service. Where in the past an adverse weather forecast would have moved management to decide for increased trains on the track to prevent ice from forming, this time it decided for reduction of service. This went against industry standard practice and the fear is that it did so because it didn’t have the capacity to adequately respond to an adverse weather situation and knew it.

The original sin was obviously that of the Labour Government that set up an agreement that doesn’t deliver enough for the traveling public and apparently only makes it worthwhile for the franchisee if costs are cut to such a degree that the system starts to creek (although the past large dividends may say another story).
Recently Southeastern delivered increasingly poorer results both in terms of punctuality (90.8% in 2009, was 91.1% in 2008) and customer satisfaction (76% in 2009, was 79% in 2008), this affair of the reduced timetable is just the straw the broke the camel’s back.

We need a review of Southeastern’s working practice to happen transparently and with the involvement of the traveling public. We must regain confidence in our train service.

The company is due an explanation to the GLA transport committee, and crucially is due a renewal of the contract in 2012, something that it should not take for granted (link) . It’s time to put maximum pressure to bring some positive change to the way it operates.

The issue must not drop off the agenda, that’s why we Lib Dems will keep on collecting signatures on our petition that asks Southeastern to recognize the poor performance and apologize by giving the equivalent of three days of subsidies to Network Rail.
Despite the fact that service level has dropped this year shareholders will receive a dividend and managers a bonus for delivering a profit.

By signing the petition all those that have been let down can unite their voices and deliver a strong collective message to Southeastern.
Our initiative is working! The message already reached the intended ears and Southeastern now invited us to talks.

It’s of capital importance that these talks are meaningful, we must keep up the pressure now, the petition goes on.

Last week I spent twice two hours outside Hither Green Station with a campaigning table and a clipboard and collected hundreds of signatures. I spoke with many that lost days of work and even days of wages.
We must act if we don’t want to see this situation repeating and the service deteriorating. We just cannot afford it.
Sign the petition.

Spot the difference

January 18, 2010

James Jennings and James Jennings

Remember?

Conservatives Shadow Housing Minister proposes to train Councils like dogs

January 15, 2010

Yesterday’s Times published this eye opener on Tories policies on localism and planning:

The Shadow Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, said: “Whoever wins the election, funding will be under severe strain, with the need to cut the deficit. But we’re proposing a new approach to housing finance in urban areas where, for every new home built and occupied, we will give the local council £1 for every £1 they earn in council tax. For affordable homes, this will be £1.25 for every £1.”

This money would not be extra funding, but would be taken from existing funds available to councils through government grants. “It’s a more intelligent way to change human behaviour. People will be in favour of new homes being built if it means more money for the community,” Shapps added.

He calls his proposal an “intelligent way to change human behaviour”. Peculiar, I thought this was the way they train dogs.

Central Government Grants amount to about three quarters of a Council’s budget, it pays for all essential services and to say that part of it will be lost unless people agree to large housing developments is a gross display of contempt for local democracy.
I believe that people are entitled to the services they pay taxes for, whether they agree with Mr Shapps plans for their neighbourhoods or not, and unless we reform the tax system for every new pound of Council Tax raised by Local Authorities in Britain the Government should still give about three more according to the needs for services in each local authority, not according to how many new houses they built recently.

Imagine the consequences of this policy. Towns where the economy doesn’t thrive and investment lacks would be condemned to increasingly smaller budgets and poorer services, in other places cash strapped Councils would allow unsuitable developments to happen only to get the extra cash needed to cover the gaps that the Tories plan to produce in Councils all over Britain to cover the cost of this incentive system.

According to this proposal (here’s a link to a paper that explains it well) each year between 2011 and 2015 Councils will lose an extra £250m compared to today’s projections for grants (they say that the money will be found by taking £250m per year off what would otherwise be the overall increase in formula grant to councils in each of those years), as if Councils were immune from inflation and by 2014-15 they’d have lost £1.25bn of the money they need to provide services at today’s level, just to fund the Tory system of incentives to new housing.

Must read: Bexley strikes at Southeastern

January 13, 2010

Two days ago in the explicitly entitled blogpost Southeastern’s response: let’s crowdsource a reply! Bexcentric posted the reply to David Evennett MP’s equiry with Southeastern about the recent disruption and an appeal:

If you have something you would like me to say back to Southeastern in response to any of the paragraphs above, please comment on this post, giving the paragraph number(s) you’re responding to along with your comments. The more of their excuses we can collectively demolish with our combined expertise, the better!

I think that it’s fair to say that the crucial technical information to answer back to Southeastern was provided by the transport anorak, hack and Greenwich Council Green candidate Darryl Chamberlain, so today Bexcentric published an update to the original post with the results of this appeal, the letter that takes to task Southeastern for its claims. Go and read it.

This is one of those fine examples of collaborative blogging and it rather tears into pieces Southeastern’s claims of being innocent victims of events. Last week’s three days of disruption were the result of managerial choices, not of natural events.

More reason to sign the petition.

Open waste discussion

January 13, 2010

Lewisham Council’s Head of Environment wrote an extremely interesting guest post published today on Brockley Central.
There he outlines the thinking behind Lewisham’s waste strategy and also announces the just introduced and excellent mattresses recycling scheme:

To use the service, residents can obtain a special sticker from any local Lewisham library or from Lewisham Council’s Access Point in Laurence House, Catford. The sticker is then placed on the mattress.

The mattress will be collected on the same day as scheduled refuse and recycling collections. Residents just need to make sure the mattress, preferably with sticker attached, is placed near their refuse bin the evening before collection day.

As in his post he specifically referred to the benefits of incineration vs. landfilling vs. biomass and so on I interacted with a comment asking him about kitchen waste:

Thanks Nigel. Great initiative for the mattresses. And of course kudos for the openness.

Nigel, you are probably aware that I’ve investigated issues around recycling of kitchen waste (what the Daily Mail elegantly calls the slop bag).
According to answers I received from Council (thanks) it appears that kitchen waste amounts to about 30% of collected household waste, it costs £1.2m in gate fees at SELCHP and being largely made out of water it hampers the efficiency of the SELCHP with a loss of potential earning from the sale of energy produced on site of about £2.5m.
I had suggested that those money could be used to pay for a composting service, generating a good number of local jobs too but at last Council was told that there are contractual and legal barriers that prevent a switch from incineration to composting but no detail of what these barriers are was given.
Can you please explain what these barriers are and what proposals are you considering to deal with kitchen waste in the future?

The reply reiterates the invitation to meet and discuss the proposal I received as part of the reply to my question about it at last Council meeting:

Hi Max, I was interested in your proposals and I think (hope!) we offerred to sit down with you and talk through some of the assumptions. As for future plans on Kitchen Waste, my understanding is that we’ve shown support to Greenwich in their bid to build a AD plant in the borough (there’s a bit more detail in the waste Strategy, I think). The really big issue for Lewisham is our fragile waste infrastructure (we could really do with our own Waste Transfer Station, that would also help bump-up our recycling rates), so our future plans will need to involve close work with our neighbouring boroughs, particularly Southwark and Greenwich. But please take up the offer to come and discuss your ideas with us. Nigel

In the past hour me and Nigel got in touch and this meeting is now being arranged.

If you want to know more about my proposal just see the posts tagged SELCHP.

Nigel Tyrell also has a blog that in unofficial way talks about waste management in Lewisham:

The Love Lewisham blog is managed by Nigel Tyrell, Head of Environment for the London Borough of Lewisham. It is mainly an area for updating friends of Lewisham’s Environmental services (but I might stray away from the ‘day job’ every now and then!). I hope you find it useful. Please note that the views expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the views of the London Borough of Lewisham.

Sign the Southeastern Public Refund Petition

January 12, 2010

These days the Southeastern Railway website opens with a photo of a man holding an enormous watch in front of his face, the caption says “it’s time for change”. At seeing it many will think “indeed”.

There’s a widespread feeling among South East London commuters that last week suffered the consequences of the 3 days of severely reduced timetable, they feel badly let down.
As freight and high speed trains were running seemingly as normal, commuter trains operating on the same lines were few and far between and so overcrowded that one could hardly fit in, if at all. Many couldn’t go to work, self-employed lost income, countless trips had to be cancelled. Central London was almost out of reach from many areas of South East London and Kent.

It wasn’t an exceptional weather, temperatures were just below zero and only a few inches of snow fell over a few days. That’s a normal winter weather, as normal as it can be, and services should be able to stand that.

Southeastern underperformed so badly when compared to all other operators around London that measures must be taken.
That’s why the Lib Dems are now collecting signatures on a petition that aims at giving a strong message to Southeastern: put your house in order!
When a company accepts a £136m public subsidy to run a public service it must provide the service all year round, it must have measures in place to run the service in normal winter weather and since the railway is an essential and strategic service it must be prepared to make an effort even when providing the service is not easy.
Last week Southeastern threw in the towel even before the match started.

Today we ask Southeastern to return a share of that subsidy equivalent to 3 days of service (£1.1m) to Network Rail to be invested in improvements at stations served by Southeastern. It’s a practical way to compensate those that for 3 days have been inconvenienced and to publicly acknowledge that it must do better if it wants to keep on running this strategic public service.

Please either download the petition sheet, print it and collect signatures at your workplace, home or at the station or sign online. Improve your train service.

TfL’s reply about Courthill Road – cars first

January 11, 2010

A few days ago I received from TfL the reply to my enquiry about the Courthill Road junction and you can read the full letter here.

A very important element of the letter is the disclosure of the statistical data about the junction:

The number of collisions is higher than we would expect for a signal controlled junction similar to this in Lewisham. Our latest personal injury collision statistics up to the end of June 2009 indicate that there have been 19 injury collisions, in the last three years, with pedestrians having been involved in four of these collisions. I do not believe that the accident you mention in your letter that occurred in April is included in these statistics, for reasons that are not at all clear, but this would bring the total collisions to 20, with pedestrian collisions rising to five. These would appear to have occurred on all arms of the junction and we are therefore focusing our attention on seeking ways to improve pedestrian facilities for the whole junction, not just Courthill Road.

First of all the fact that 8 months after this accident happened TfL still has no record of it is a very worrying thing that casts a doubt over the reliability of their statistics altogether, especially in absence of an explanation.
Still, they have on record 20 injury collisions in the past three years alone, and 5 of these involving pedestrians! Isn’t that enough?

Evidently not, because as they go on explaining according to them it’s not that easy:

The fact that there are queues on all the approaches to the junction during peak periods with the current traffic signal operation is a clear indication that this junction is operating at its capacity limit. To provide pedestrian signals we would need to shut the entire junction down for traffic to enable pedestrians to have a free period to cross or we would need to re-phase the traffic signals and provide wider pedestrian islands to enable pedestrians to cross all arms of the junction at different times without being opposed by vehicles. If all traffic movements were to be permitted both of these options would have a significant impact on the amount of time that traffic currently has to move through the junction.

And later on the letter says that:

Clearly, there is a balance to be struck between the competing modes and it is important to understand that we, as a public authority, are governed by a number of other, sometimes conflicting policies, one of which is an initiative to “smooth traffic flow”. This seeks to reduce the delay and congestion along the Mayor’s network and presents particular challenges when the task is trying to integrate signalised pedestrian crossings into congested junctions like this one.

That’s the key, they want to help traffic flow, and pedestrians get in the way. Or so they think, only that it’s nonsense, because as I already said in a previous post the context of this junction is not a flowing route, this is between Catford and Lewisham. Traffic only flows to the next junction and it makes almost no difference whatsoever if you can go past this junction fluently in either directions because inevitably you’ll hit another one, and being this between Catford and Lewisham if you’re at peak time almost invariably it’ll be gridlocked.
When it’s not peak time you’ll have instead a decent ride, what will one extra pedestrian crossing add? Not much, especially since they’re all request crossing nowadays.

A tangent consideration here is due, two junctions down from Courthill Road there’s the Lewisham Station roundabout, that TfL agreed to redesign to allow the Lewisham Gateway development to happen. Now, I don’t think that there are many better ways to slow down traffic than to build a 20 storeys complex over a major roundabout.
I remember that when the consortium for the Lewisham Gateway admitted that contrary to all they had said to that point the new layout would slow down traffic then all of a sudden the talk was about “capacity constraint”, now it was a positive and even green thing. Slowing down cars to convince drivers to get on buses and trains instead. Only that the traffic going through the Lewisham roundabout, as also Lewisham’s Head of Planning recently recognized, is not a locally generated traffic, is a traffic that only passes through here to go from somewhere else to somewhere else and there’s very little that can be done locally to discourage it and therefore we can imagine that slowing that junction, which is truly a key junction for the area, will lead to an environmental worsening for what air quality and noise are concerned across all the arms of the junction, which means up Lewisham Way, Loampit Vale, Lee High Road and upstream towards Catford including also the Courthill Road junction of Lewisham High Street. But that’s ok for them. A pedestrian crossing on Courthill Road instead cannot be done.

Because that’s what I feel is the gist of this letter:

We will continue to investigate whether we can provide pedestrian improvements but this process takes some time. To comply with the other policy objectives we must be able to demonstrate that the introduction of signalised pedestrian crossings will not have an adverse impact upon traffic flow through the junction. If we cannot demonstrate this then, it is unlikely that we would be able progress any pedestrian improvements.

It’s taken them years to come to this point, where they know that there is a serious problem, they know that there are solutions and yet all they are prepared to say is that they’ll study the problem again!

How can they ignore that this junction leads to another clogged up junction whatever way you go? They’re TfL, these are their roads, they surely know this. Why don’t they act?

The Mayor’s Transport Strategy states that it aims at:

Providing better, more attractive streets to encourage people to walk and lead active, healthy lifestyles

This was not quoted in the letter, they chose the other point of the strategy:

Improving road journeys and smoothing the flow of traffic

For TfL the Courthill Road junction is therefore primarily a place for traffic to flow and for us to keep on risking our lives, in other parts of London the other part of the strategy may apply instead, there they’ll be providing better, more attractive streets to encourage people to walk and lead active, healthy lifestyles.

I’m not impressed. Last year I asked Lewisham Council’s Head of Highways about this junction and what he told me was that according to TfL statistically it wasn’t a very dangerous junction and as funds are limited (and shrinking) other junctions had to be invested on first and Courthill Road wasn’t likely to be sorted out anytime soon.
But then TfL agreed to study the situation so that was a glimmer of hope. In that context this letter doesn’t sound good as it carefully avoids to commit to anything and specifically states that only if we don’t slow down traffic at all they’d provide a solution, which is obviously impossible because however minimal there would always be an impact, but it’s a compromise that we must keep on pursuing, because as TfL’s (possibly incomplete and completely contradicting what told last year to Lewsham Council) statistics now show, it is a dangerous junction indeed, and a strong case can therefore be made.
There are ways to design safe pedestrian crossing and keep delays to traffic to a minimum, this is in fact alluded to in the reply:

we would need to re-phase the traffic signals and provide wider pedestrian islands to enable pedestrians to cross all arms of the junction at different times without being opposed by vehicles

and that’s what should be done here.

And if you haven’t done it yet then please sign the petition for a safe crossing at Courthill Road.

Southeastern trains reduced also tomorrow. Why?

January 7, 2010

Well, it has been snowing, but not exceptionally, nothing like it was forecast, and yet South East London commuters are faced with trains that are few and far between and so overcrowded that you can’t get on.
The theory that’s been going around is that Southeastern is advertising an emergency timetable to avoid being liable to pay refunds and compensations in case of real severe delays because of weather do occur.
If this was true then it means that this timetable was written by solicitors instead of engineers and what should be run as a service is instead run as a pure business with utter disregard for the customer they serve.

Londonist journalist and Hither Green commuter RachelH that has been pressing Southeastern for a statement since yesterday finally received one and to the attentive and cynical reader it shines for what it does NOT say:

“The decision to run a revised timetable was made based on the advice from Network Rail, who has responsibility for the track and they decide what service we will be able to provide.

They were out overnight with de-icing trains and we also ran ghost trains around the entire network, not just in London.

To ensure that we were able to provide a reliable service throughout the entire day and have the right staff and rolling stock in place for the evening peak, when the worst of the snow and ice hit London, we needed to run the revised timetable from the morning, as it would have been almost impossible to implement at the last minute for the afternoon. Our trains also come into London from across Kent where they will, of course, also be subject to the snow and icy conditions found there.

We told passengers at the earliest possible moment on Tuesday of the revised timetable through texts, emails, station notices, onboard announcements, station announcements and providing extra staff at stations, as well as advising the media of the plans.

The revised timetable remains in place for today (Thursday) and tomorrow (Friday) and we are asking passengers to check with National Rail Enquiries for services and to check when their last train home tonight will be.”

I may be over-suspicious but to me this statement looks like it’s been written a tad too carefully, it doesn’t say for example that the decision was taken by Network Rail, only that it was “based on Network Rail advice” but what this advice was is not told. It says that Network Rail “were out overnight with de-icing trains and we also ran ghost trains around the entire network, not just in London” but doesn’t say that they found the network to be unworkable, actually, if you think about it, if they were out with de-icing trains it means that the track is fine. The whole statement to me only reinforces the suspicion that this timetable was indeed written by solicitors instead of engineers.

And reading the News Shopper I found this very interesting comment:

jonandbilly, Lewisham says…
11:52am Thu 7 Jan 10
I live close to Lewisham station.

I think it’s strange Southeastern are unable to maintain a scheduled timetable yet freight trains have been thundering through Lewisham more or less as usual?

How to cope with snow in Lewisham

January 6, 2010

Its’ snowing. More snow is expected for the rest of the week and for the weekend.

Lewisham Council communicated that only priority routes and footpaths where sheet ice would occur will be gritted, all else will be left to the snow to take over.
This because the stock of salt is limited and until the arrival of extra salt what’s there will be rationed.
For more info on services during the next few days in Lewisham click here.

Train services are very affected with reduced services and cancellations, click here to read about disruptions on Southeastern services. For a translation of all that in plain English please read what Hither Green commuter RachelH wrote on the Londonist today.

Expect snowballs and snowmen to increase, but expect falls to do the same. Slippery footpaths pose a serious danger to many, especially the elderly.

There is a way to improve the situation and it’s normally found in the shed, it’s called shovel, and that’s what people normally do in countries where snow is a common event, they keep the path in front of their home clear.
So here’s a poll, please vote and please act accordingly.
Shall we all do 10 minutes of shoveling (when it settles, not now that it’s falling thick and fast)?

We need better Rail Stations

January 6, 2010

The Lib Dem Chair of Transport Committee at the London Assembly Caroline Pidgeon AM has launched a campaign to improve Railway Stations focusing on five points:

1) Your station should be staffed throughout the hours trains are running

2) Your station should be deep-cleaned and all ‘grot-spots’ removed

3) We need a website where you can report any problem with your station

4) All available station entrances must be kept open for you to use

5) We need more investment to make stations fully accessible

If you agree that these points should be part of the level of service that we should normally expect then sign the petition.

Caroline also highlights the serious issue of the closed ramps at Hither Green Station, a problem most people recognize when carrying heavy luggage, but a tremendous daily hurdle to many disabled as this local wheelchair user reports on her blog:

“Using Hither Green station at the moment can be a real nightmare,” said Mr Crudge. “Whenever I travel back from London I can only take the Orpington train because it’s the only one that stops at the one platform I can use. And if I’m traveling home from outside London I have to go all the way into central London just to get the Orpington train back to Hither Green. Opening up the ramps at Hither Green would make a huge difference.”

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One thing I’d add to this list would be a replacement of the completely useless info boards at the entrance to platforms 1-6 at London Bridge Station (thanks Bruce). It is simply impossible to understand what platform one should go to and a lot of people have to go through the gates into the main hall, read the main board and go back through the gates again to platform 1 to 6. This creates unnecessary congestion at the Station and wastes a lot of time to a lot of people, often the crucial time that makes the difference between catching your train and missing it.

What to do with your tree

January 4, 2010

Christmas has gone and Lewisham Central residents can bring their trees to Mountsfield Park (George Lane entrance).

But, if the most clever member of your family is a dog, then just give it to it to chew.

A few weeks ago I saw this dog having fun with this sapling in Rushey Green, his owner just sitting passive staring at him and looking pleased. I called the police and at a certain point, after I had explained what was the issue, described all that I could describe, given my name and address and telephone number and what not I had to stop the policewoman from asking more questions “just send someone, this tree will disappear soon.

Later on that evening I went back and this is all that was left of that sapling.