Posts Tagged ‘London’

Courthill Road to get a green man in 2012

December 27, 2010

It’s with immense pleasure that I can report that on 15th December in a written reply to Caroline Pidgeon AM the Mayor of London Boris Johnson outlined the timetable for a green man crossing at Courthill Road.

Courthill Road junction
Question No: 3876 / 2010
Caroline Pidgeon
In answer to a previous question on Courthill Road junction in Lewisham (Question number 2981/2010) you stated: “Traffic modelling and discussions with key stakeholders are continuing to this end, and are scheduled to be completed by the end of this calendar year.” Can you please provide an update as to how far this modelling and discussions has actually progressed and how close Transport for London are to finding more ”radical solutions” as an alternative to providing pedestrian facilities at this junction as requested by current and former ward councillors and many local residents.
Answer from the Mayor
TfL is developing a design proposal for Lewisham High Street at its junction with Courthill Road.  Part of this proposal is to introduce a “green man” pedestrian crossing facility on Courthill Road.  I went out on site with TfL’s Chief Operating Officer London Streets and Heidi Alexander before she became an MP. The traffic modelling is completed and the preliminary design will undergo a road safety audit which is planned to be completed in January 2011.  Consultation on the scheme is planned for early in the New Year.  As the proposals include banning some movements at the Courthill Road junction, with displaced traffic being diverted onto other local roads, feedback from the consultation process will potentially affect not only the final outcome but also the timescales for delivery.  If a viable scheme can be developed, TfL has provisionally programmed detailed design to commence in the summer of 2011 with works commencing early 2012.

This is the result of  the coordinated pressure that residents of Lewisham Central have put onto TfL over a number of years, thanks to all those that helped towards this result. This blog has a Courthill Road tag to read about some of those efforts.

For now, until the traffic lights are actually in place, let’s still cross it with extreme caution, I was almost run over yesterday and the railings on one of the corners have just been replaced after someone smashed into them.

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Dodging Courthill Road

February 18, 2010

“My strong instinct is swerve. As the man says in Dodgeball – the world’s greatest ever film – dodge, dip, duck, dive and dodge.”
Mayor Boris Johnson, September 2009
(link)

At Mayor’s Question Time of 27th January the Chair of the Transport Committee at GLA Caroline Pideon AM has tackled Mayor Boris Johnson on the issue of two dangerous junctions in Lewisham, both in need of a pedestrian light.
Mayor Boris dodged! Just as TfL has recently done when enquired about the Courthill Road junction.

Question No: 116 / 2010
Caroline Pidgeon
You failed to properly answer my question (3048/2009) about the Tiger’s Head and the Courthill Road junctions in Lewisham which I asked in October 2009. Following the immense delays in ensuring there are improvements in pedestrian safety at these two specific junctions at Lewisham, and also the significant direct representations that have made to you by Assembly Members, local councillors, Lewisham Council and members of the public, I would like to ask again whether you yourself would be willing to join me and look at these dangers that presently exist at these two junctions?

Answer from the Mayor:

In my answer to MQ3048 / 2009, I said that TfL would contact you to discuss this issue. As I understand it, the Director of Integrated Programme Delivery within TfL Surface Transport met you on 3 November 2009 for a discussion. As experts and highway authority for this junction, it is correct that TfL discusses this with you on my behalf. Should a site meeting still be required, please let TfL know.

I spoke with Caroline Pidgeon AM about this, and what seems to happen here is that either TfL or Mayor Johnson are being clever with words.
Caroline Pidgeon AM is Chair of the Transport Committee, and as such has routine briefing meetings with officers, including the one quoted in Mayor Johnson’s letter, but never, as the reply from Mayor Johnson says, she was contacted “to discuss this issue”.

And so let’s restate the invitation to Mayor Johnson, please come down to Lewisham and cross the road with us. You’ll find that in lieu of a pedestrian crossing the 5 fundamentals of dodgeball – dodge, dip, duck, dive and dodge – come very handy indeed when crossing Courthill Road. Show us how a master does it.

You can also write an email to Mayor Johnson and ask him to join us in a crossing of Courthill Road.
——
p.s.: since I’m on the issue here’s the letter I sent to TfL in reply to their last correspondence on the subject.

Southeastern replies to Caroline Pidgeon AM

February 2, 2010

The News Shopper has the story that Southeastern has replied to the Chair of Transport Committee of GLA Caroline Pidgeon AM that requested the company an explanation for the three days of railway mayhem at the beginning of January.

Here’s the original letter in full, it’s an 11 pages dissertation of the company Managing Director Charles Horton where he explains why Southeastern decided to operate the way it did. Frankly it doesn’t explain convincingly why it didn’t operate a better service.
What this does well is to clarify who took decisions and based upon what, and this clarification is found in the paragraph authored by Network Rail’s Kent Route Director Dave Ward:

In times of service disruption, it is Network Rail’s role to coordinate the industry’s response. Based on a detailed forecast predicting adverse conditions, together with dialogue from Directors at Southeastern it was my decision to request Southeastern to operate an amended timetable for the 6th 7th and 8th January. My decision was based on the forecast of adverse conditions, the challenges posed by operating electrical rolling stock on an infrastructure susceptible to rail icing and lessons learned from the 18th December 2009 where upon operating a full timetable in adverse conditions we experienced multiple train failures often leaving passengers stranded on freezing trains for long periods. It is the responsibility of train operators to put together an amended timetable, and on this occasion the timetable specified by Southeastern offered services into and out of London for essential travel based on resources available to Network Rail and Southeastern. We will jointly be reviewing the service on 6th 7th and 8th January including the service levels and hours of operation so that we can learn lessons, should the condition repeat in the coming year and beyond. I must assure you that my decision was not taken lightly, and was done to maintain our duty of care for the travelling public and the industry workforce.

So here you have it, Network Rail has all the information to assess what they and Southeastern can deliver and given what they knew they decided that a reduced timetable was best advised, but the extent of the reduction was completely down to Southeastern and despite the length of the response Charles Horton fails to convince that stopping service out of London at 8pm was needed. His assertion that the amount of service was measured against the reduction in demand on days with adverse weather also clashes with passengers’ experience that found trains overcrowded and insufficient to serve all those that were present at platforms.

We need to change the way this system operates, we need transparency, even in operational decisions, so that next time a reduced timetable is needed, it is measured against the need.

In the past few years large subsidies were handed out to Southeastern, and large dividends were distributed to the shareholders, if the capacity to run better services in adverse condition is not there then it means that shareholders may have helped themselves above what they should have, even at the cost of the company’s capacity to respond to not ideal situations.

All the reasons given by the Managing Director for the decisions they took bring back to one overarching consideration, the same consideration that Network Rail did, that the capacity of the company falls short of what’s needed to run a full service in bad weather.

Another reason to sign our petition.

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.

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.

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.”

______

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.

Cycle to the Wave this Saturday

November 30, 2009

Are you planning to go to central London this Saturday 5th December to join in the Wave?

Then why not cycle it there with the cyclists’ group organised by Councillor Pete Pattison? The group will leave from the Clock Tower in Lewisham Town Centre at 11am.

Oysters are expensive

November 25, 2009

Lewisham Station - platform 3 - passengers celebrate the arrival of Oyster cards


Oyster cards are arriving to the suburbian railways of Lewisham, Hither Green and beyond. But they come with a hefty bill, a bill you need a degree in billology to understand in full but in short means overall increase in fares, even higher fares for non-Oyster users (yes, there are those that don’t need an Oyster Card) and off peak, plus the introduction of a rather inconvenient system of Oyster Extension Permit for those with Travelcards wishing to travel outside the zones of their permits, something that will inevitably be felt more in areas like ours that are spread across zone 2 (Lewisham Station) and zone 3 (Hither Green).

I cannot possibly put it better than Darryl did in this post that deserves a nomination for some suitable blogging award. Read it here.

I agree with Darryl that this fragmentation of the London railway doesn’t work. London is one town, can we have someone with responsibility for pricing, timetables and routes please. We elect a Mayor of London, I  think it’s just natural that he should have control on these matters, not some control on some, all control and all responsibility.

The recent announcements about transports don’t really speak of joined up thinking and planning in the best interest of Londoners. You can just imagine the ballet of accountants and solicitors that on behalf of the baffling number of rail operators worked out who needs to provide what and how much to pay and to whom and in what way, what a headache. The cost of negotiations must be staggering, and the priorities will inevitably end up in the wrong order. If this byzantine pricing system inflicted on all of us is a symptom then the patient is in need of a cure.

GLA asks Londoners’ views on closed shops

November 13, 2009

118HGL

With closures accelerating as the economic downturn bites, empty local shops have become an all too familiar sight in London. How could current planning legislation be wielded more effectively to stem the loss of the capital’s small retailers? The Planning and Housing Committee is reviewing measures designed to protect London’s local shops, looking at progress on implementing planning policies to support them and asking what more needs to be done through the London Plan.

 

Londoners are invited to submit their views on these issues by 30th November.
More about this important consultation here.

(in the picture, fellow Libdem candidate for Lewisham Central James Jennings in front of empty unit at 118 Hither Green Lane – the unit is available for £8k a year, if you are interested in the unit then please email the Town Centre Manager here)

Armed police deployed without senior order

October 23, 2009

One of the things that I always loved about this country is that the police don’t carry guns. It defuses tension and avoids unnecessary danger and escalations. But now someone thinks differently. Or do they? Because alarmingly it looks like armed police has been ordered out but no senior officer or political counterpart was involved in the decision.

As today’s Times tells us :

You’d think that a decision as important as putting armed police patrols into gun crime hotspots in London might have been discussed between the top brass at the Yard and the tiller-handlers at City Hall.

But when we contacted Bojo’s office for a comment on the deployment yesterday neither the Mayor nor his staff had heard a word about it. Kit Malthouse, deputy mayor for policing, was away but it wasn’t a case that he had forgot to tell the Mayor – no-one had bothered to mention it to him either.

Meanwhile there was flat-spin pandemonium at Scotland Yard as the story emerged in Police Review and a hasty response had to be put together. Of course, we thought, this is Sir Paul Stephenson making a major operational decision without talking to the Mayor and therefore putting on a display of police independence.

Er no. SPS (as he is apparently known at the Yard) wasn’t around and neither was Tim Godwin, the Deputy Commissioner.

So if Boris and Kit haven’t got their hands on the tiller, and neither the Commissioner nor his deputy are steering the ship – just who is making these decisions?

I tend to agree with Brian Paddick that in an interview with the Today Programme makes the very sensible point that where these armed patrols are deployed police officers are more at risk because criminals won’t know if a policeman is carrying a gun or doesn’t and since most of the police around are community support officers these would be exposed to great risks, and they are neither trained for that or paid enough.

Listen to Brian Paddick here.

Today armed patrols have been deployed in various parts or London and this measure doesn’t look part of a strategy that’s been thought through well enough. Tomorrow we could have the same armed patrols around the streets of Lewisham and if Paddick’s fears were justified it could put us all in more danger rather than less.

Remember what Bob Marley used to sing?

I shot the sheriff,
but I didn’t shoot no deputy , oh no, no!
I shot the sheriff,
but I didn’t shoot no deputy , oh no, no!

Reflexes had got the better of me
And what is to be must be…

As Dave Hill reports:

Claudia Webbe, chair of the Operation Trident Advisory Group has released a letter she’s written to the Met in which she expresses her “deepest shock and horror” at the decision without consultation or notification. The letter continues:


The failure of the MPS to consult and the instigation of this deployment of armed patrols in targeted areas of London damages the trust and confidence developed over a significant period of time and the investment that we have made to develop an intelligence based, community led policing response to tackle the disproportionate effects of gun crime on Black communities.

We distance ourselves from this decision and cannot support this action by the MPS. It is unjust, unwarranted and unfair and like the random use of ‘stop and search’ will seriously damage relationships between the police and black communities.

Furthermore, this knee-jerk reaction by the MPS does not appear to be based on any common sense approach to policing and/or intelligence and works against the whole notion of “policing by consent” and will only serve to further distance communities from the police.

In the previous post I reported how our Safer Neighbourhood Team is understaffed and likely to remain so and quite possibly we’re not an exception. Looks like the much trumpeted project of substantial community based policing in London has only been implemented half way and now guns will be used to deal with the consequences.

The crime statistics for Lewisham Central are sobering, we have a well above average share of crime and today’s news should alarm us. We don’t have enough community based police to make that policing as effective as it was supposed to be and when situations deteriorate the only answer appears to be that of deploying heavily armed police on our streets without even explaining how that would make things better.
That’s not what I want for my neighbourhood, I don’t want to walk past checkpoints of armed police. This is an option that must be rejected, we need more investment for recruitment of community officers so that crime is detected early and dealt with before it goes out of hand.