BBC BLOGS - Mind The Gap

Archives for November 2010

Cycling on paths: is message getting through?

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Tom Edwards Tom Edwards | 12:52 UK time, Tuesday, 30 November 2010

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Cyclists in London. Getty Images

Latest figures show fewer cyclists are riding on pavements or going through red lights

I've been sent some interesting statistics by our Freedom of Information researcher Julia Ross. I've written before about the clampdown on cyclists in the London.

These figures include the Met and City of London Police. There is quite a breakdown on the graphs that shows you the peaks and troughs of offences that I've attached here.

Julia also analysed the data and came up with the following:

"There was a massive spike in fines (Fixed Penalty Notices) given out to cyclists using pavements this year in February and March.

1593 penalties were given to cyclists for riding on the pavement at the start of this year (Jan - Mar 2010) compared to 943 in the same period last year. An increase of 70%.

Since then - the middle of this year (May - Jun 10) there's seen a massive decrease in these fines for cycling on the pavement (only 378) compared to the same period last year (1147).

The figures also show that overall fines given out to cyclists are increasing. In 2007 there were 5089 fines given out compared to 6724 in 2009.

And the most common offence (by a long way) is for cycling on the pavement. In 2009 1971 tickets were issued.

The next is for "contravening automatic traffic signals" (i.e. running a red light). In 2009 550 tickets were given out.

In 2010 so far (up til June) there were nearly 4 times as many penalties given out to cyclists for cycling on the pavement compared to running a red light.

Also, Westminster Borough has the most fines issued each year for the past four years. However, Hackney Borough is rising up the list. It is currently second, whereas in past years it has been Southwark or Kensington and Chelsea. (Indicates increasing numbers of cyclists in Hackney?)"

So what does it show? Does the dip in fines for cycling on the pavement show the message is getting through? It's obviously still an issue though with it being the largest offence by far for cyclists.

These figures also show that the "clampdown" had actually been going on for some time.

And guess how many cyclists got done for cycling with no lights? Just 22 in a whole year.

UPDATE 01/12/10

I've spoken to Julia again about these figures. Her take on it is the drop in tickets in April-June is probably due to reduced enforcement.

Was there a big push at the start of the year and then the bike cops relaxed?

Or have I suggested cyclists changed their habits ?? Unlikely ...?

Why the Tube strike talks broke down

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Tom Edwards Tom Edwards | 12:30 UK time, Friday, 26 November 2010


Throughout these Tube strikes, Steve Phillips and I have created a series of exclusive video-blogs.

Here is our latest effort, and below I write about why the latest talks between the two sides have failed to get the strike called off.

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At the heart of this dispute is the level of staffing required at ticket office windows and what the transport unions TSSA and RMT deem to be acceptable.

I've spoken to some of those involved and this is an attempt to explain it.

The talks have for the last four weeks focussed on what level is acceptable for both sides in terms of the job losses and how they are worked out.

The 800 job losses are the result of a calculation.

The unions have told me they think the calculation is based on stations that sell 30 tickets hour per hour could have its hours reduced or closed altogether.

The RMT and TSSA unions believe that at that level, stations will not have adequate staffing levels to provide a safe service.

Not surprisingly that's disputed by Transport for London who say all stations will be staffed while open.

The unions want that calculation to be based on a far lower number - officially they won't say at what level. But unofficially they want it around 15-20 sales an hour.

However, London Underground (LU) are disputing the 'tickets sold per hour' calculation used by the unions.

LU say it is too simplistic, and the actual number of tickets sold per hour varies depending on the location, time of day and other factors, such as how long each customer spends at the ticket window.

Both unions offered to suspend the strikes IF they got a 12 week review of the above issues and they say they also offered binding arbitration.

LU offered a six week safety review. They say they've already had four weeks of intensive discussions.

The date that looms large is the full implementation of the losses which is February 13 2011.

Unions say six weeks is not long enough to work through the figures. London Underground say it is and will talk night and day until the end of the year.

Either way, neither side could compromise, nor meet in the middle, and talks broke down.

And so I'm afraid the strike starts Sunday night at 1830 for 24 hours.

Throughout Monday, we'll also have the latest travel information and news.

UPDATE: 4pm Sunday, 28 November

I've just been given this message from the Tube boss Mike Brown that has been posted on London Underground's intranet.

Note the last paragraph.

I've also been told by the TSSA union they're expecting students to join them on their picket line tomorrow.

The copy below is from London Underground:

Facing strike action

The latter part of this week has been dominated, yet again, by the threat of industrial action. I want to give you my view on what has happened this week.

For many months the unions refused to engage in meaningful discussion on the proposals for station staffing. Their starting point was that we must withdraw all proposals. Clearly that was not an option.

The proposals put forward in March were our response to changing circumstances and specifically changes to customer behaviour. As with any organisation it is absolutely right that we review our staffing models and bring them up to date if necessary.

Right from the start we made it absolutely clear that there would be no compulsory redundancies as part of these changes. One of our main objectives is to reduce the impact on our people.

We have also made it clear that our fundamental staffing model - people rostered at stations at all times - is not to be touched. But the fact is the changes we are making have the protection of our customer service at their heart. This is why we are also keeping ticket offices open at the stations which currently have them - demand at some is extremely low (and declining) but we know that some of our customers still prefer to buy their tickets this way and they will continue to be able to do so.

Recently, we felt that we had had something of a breakthrough with the unions. Some weeks ago now the team working on the ticket office changes started detailed discussions with representatives from both the TSSA and RMT. These discussions culminated this week in the unions calling for us to put the proposals on hold for 12 weeks while we reviewed the safety case and other concerns. We felt strongly that this would have a significant impact on the roll-out of the plans and instead proposed a six week pause in the implementation plan to review any safety or other concerns.

We believed this proposal had genuine support from the unions. At ACAS their representatives had worked very hard in developing much of it and it went a long way towards addressing the points that they said were of most importance to them and their members. But today we learned through the media (at the time of writing we still have not had official notice) that the offer has not been accepted and that strike action will go ahead.

This looks extremely cynical to me - the unions say they are concerned about safety; well, let's take six weeks and sit down and look at each of these concerns. Instead, the union leaderships would rather have their members out on strike - a strike that they know is pointless.

We have already seen 150 members of staff leave the organisation on voluntary severance. We have more than 300 vacancies that are not being filled and a further 50 members of station staff (those in areas where we are making reductions) have now said that they would be interested in voluntary severance. For the remaining post reductions, people will be placed on the reserve until the natural leave rate means that they can join the roster on their original group. The management and administration changes have already been made. We are well advanced in preparing for the changes in February. These changes will happen. It is grossly unfair to expect people to lose pay for nothing and at the same time to cause such a high level of disruption for London.

The trades unions have always had an important contribution to make to our organisation. I have always believed that. But the behaviour this week and during this current dispute brings in to question the motivation of some of those who claim their role is to protect their members.

I hope you will think again about losing another days pay and will consider coming to work on Sunday and Monday to help run a service. We will do everything we can to keep London moving.

Mike Brown

BBC techie record holder turned transport filmmaker

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mindthegapadmin | 15:51 UK time, Thursday, 25 November 2010


A few weeks ago Mind the Gap featured a UGC video about the Thames Clipper from guest contributor, Geoff Marshall, whose day job is an Interactive Operations Engineer for the BBC.

Today, we feature another video from Geoff and he talks about why he started making the videos, why he hates people moaning about London transport and his former Tube world record.

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What's an Interactive Operations Engineer?

That's Red Button, iPlayer and website, so for example when you check the football scores on a Saturday - I make sure that it's all working.

How did you get into making films?

I got married and lived in America for a while. My wife at the time was a wedding photographer and I helped her out.

One day she was like 'you're quite good at this; you have the eye for getting an angle, a frame or a shot.'

From photos it went into video work because in America I also had a job for a newspaper and I was helping out their website. One day, they had some CCTV of a convenience store being robbed and before I knew it that led to me editing videos and making videos.

I came back in 2009 because I got divorced and I got my old job back at the BBC but the minute I returned, I thought 'I don't want to that this, I have an aptitude for being creative and I want to do stuff.'

Why transport videos?

I did once have the world record for travelling around the entire London Underground in the fastest time possible. The minute I say that everyone will label me a trainspotter!

I have been trying to regain that world title. It's hard because it is worse than ever out there.

I have not had a car since I came back to London; petrol is high, there's insurance and it is just hassle you don't need.

I live in Ealing and I believe in public transport. I can get into work in 20 minutes.

You know what I hate the most? People go: "The Tube's are so smelly and dirty and blah blah blah."

You know what? They're not. If you go around the world and see other metro systems, then ours is pretty good.

Yes, it has its problems but it's amazing, it's got history, architectural merit and an underlying beauty that people don't see because they are sticking their nose in the Metro.

This film is about the Boris Bikes...

I signed up and it's a brilliant way of seeing London. People are used to getting their regular train or bus. On a bike you'll suddenly find yourself on a little side street that they never knew existed and you might find an old church or a little garden.

We rode around all day, to see how many we could ride in a day and we went to about 130 docking points. We just rode around London in a big circle just to explore London by bike. It was brilliant.

Who is the presenter?

That's my lovely girlfriend, Victoria.

It started because she admitted to me one day that she had never been to Ikea.

I was like 'we're going to Ikea now.' I took my video camera to do a silly - 'let's record your experience at Ikea' and without me prompting she just started talking to the camera and going 'here we are at Ikea' and as she did it, I'm thinking this is really good; we can do some actual proper videos about stuff.

Any more transport videos in the pipeline?

Yes, but if I tell you, then you'll nick them!

There's a scheme called Legible London, which helps people to walk around London.

I'd also like to find a friendly taxi driver and do a day in the life of a taxi-driver. I know it's been done before but it is always fun.

A lot of people say to me that they've never been on a Croydon tram.

I've got a lot of north London friends and they never venture south of the river. They're like, 'Do trams really exist in Croydon?'

Muddying waters over 'real' cost of train price rise

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Tom Edwards Tom Edwards | 11:21 UK time, Tuesday, 23 November 2010


So the average increase in tickets on trains (not tube or overground) will be 6.2% next year. That's regulated peak and season tickets and unregulated off peak fares.

Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) says it has to introduce these rises as the Government wants to reduce the subsidy it gives to train companies.

The reality may be different for many travellers though. If 6.2 is an average it means many will get higher increases than that. And ATOC isn't supplying a breakdown of individual train company increases.

That will leave it open to criticism it is trying to muddy the waters.

Anyway 6.2% - compared to an average last year of 1.1%. Your thoughts please...

Boris defended transport concessions for young & old

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Tom Edwards Tom Edwards | 17:07 UK time, Wednesday, 17 November 2010


A couple of interesting points about Transport from Mayor's Question Time today.

Val Shawcross from the Labour Group produced a letter between the Government and the Mayor Boris Johnson.

In it she claimed that there was virtually an "open threat" to the Mayor that the funding could change and be reviewed at any time if "there is a deviation from the commitments refered to."

She interpreted that as the Government not trusting the Mayor - something the Mayor disagreed with and said she had to recognise the letter was "a product of a protracted negotiation."

However, more interesting was what the Mayor said next.

He said prior to the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Treasury in the beginning were not convinced that all Londoners over 60 needed a 24-hour freedom pass.

"I will make no bones about it .. they said on the whole this was something only London had and they couldn't understand why I wanted it only for London. And they said couldn't I consider withdrawing the 24 hour pass and I said no."

He went on:

"And then they said what about the travel concessions for young people as nobody else in the rest of the country has these and I said no I would not withdraw those concessions. And what we've got here is a very very good deal for London in which the Department for Transport is really trying to itemise the things we have told them that we want to do. Of course we care going to make economies."

Val Shawcross then goes on to say: "They don't trust you not to wander off and do something kind of bizarre."

(some laughter from the gallery)

To which the Mayor said:

"We have full democratic early accountable freedom to get on and deliver the priorities for Londoners and those are itemised in our submissions and ...there were people who said that we shouldn't get rid of the western extension of the congestion charging zone even though this was democratically mandated... It was something I said I would consult on... And there is no doubt at all that people will try... to fetter the independence of this body but we will not let them and deliver on the priorities for London."

When he says people are 'trying to fetter indepenence', I wonder who he could be talking about?

Follow me on Twitter: @TomSEdwards

Cyclists taking more of their share of the road?

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Tom Edwards Tom Edwards | 10:17 UK time, Wednesday, 17 November 2010


Walking over Southwark Bridge I noticed Cycling superhighway 7 is undergoing considerable work.

Not only has a utility company dug up part of it but it looks like they are also they segregating the lane.

This is how I presume it will look eventually which they have finished on the southbound.

There was a lot of traffic on the bridge and I assume some road space has been lost for vehicles.

Is this the start of something on other Cycling superhighways too?

Bus drivers trained in the art of conflict resolution

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Tom Edwards Tom Edwards | 10:53 UK time, Tuesday, 16 November 2010


We've probably all seen it. A passenger starts giving a bus driver some hassle and abuse - perhaps they didn't realise they can't pay cash on a bendy bus - and then they storm off into the night.

Sometimes it does end worse than that, with the passenger physically assaulting the driver or verbally abusing them.

We've just received a FOI request on the numbers of assaults that happen on bus drivers and it makes interesting reading.

Bus Driver Assaults - 2007/08 to 2009/10

  • 2007/08 - Bus Driver Assaults - 1642

  • 2008/09 - Bus Driver Assaults - 1462

  • 2009/10 - Bus Driver Assaults - 1160

So some good news there for bus drivers. The number of assaults (physical and verbal) is coming down.

There could be a few reasons for the drop.

More of a police presence on the network perhaps? And the London bus fleet has had CCTV systems fitted since 2005.

Also a new unheralded unit that deals with these kind of problems was introduced in September 2008.

It's called the Workplace Violence Unit (WVU) and was launched in partnership with the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to investigate assaults on bus staff.

A spokesman told us:

"The WVU is a victim-focused unit seeking to standardise and support MPS borough investigations of workplace violence recorded against customer-facing TfL surface transport staff.

It offers support to borough Telephone Investigation Bureaus (TIBs) and Crime Investigation Units with a view to assisting investigations of violent crime committed against bus staff, as well as encouraging drivers to report any such incidents.

Additionally, we aim to prepare drivers for any difficult situations that may arise. All new London bus drivers must achieve the BTEC Intermediate Award in Professional London Bus Service Delivery within their first year of service. This includes training in conflict resolution. All new drivers from September 2009 will have received this training."

I've highlighted one bit in that paragraph. Most bus drivers are now trained in "conflict resolution."

I've been told many times by passengers that some bus drivers can make matters worse by reacting the wrong way to an issue. Sometimes much worse as this article shows.

At least there is now training to highlight what these drivers will expect and training on how to resolve the problem. Is that why the figures are coming down?

Let me know what you think.

Follow me on Twitter: @TomSEdwards

Danger signs ahead for parking fees on red routes

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Tom Edwards Tom Edwards | 16:07 UK time, Monday, 15 November 2010


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One of my colleagues at BBC London, producer Jude De Silva, came across an interesting story about Transport for London's plans following the Comprehensive Spending Review.

TfL clearly says it's looking at charging for parking on red routes to balance its books and raise revenue.

Parking campaigners like Paul Pearson from say that admission means the act would be illegal.

What it could mean is a legal challenge if they were ever introduced unless the law can be changed.

Many businesses I spoke to have real fear that introducing charges would kill them off.

So is paying for parking on red routes a price worth paying?

LU have already raised car parking charges at its stations and there's no doubt it's trying to maximise revenues to soften the impact of the CSR cut.

Let me know what you think.

TfL in a dust-up with clean air campaigners

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Tom Edwards Tom Edwards | 14:38 UK time, Friday, 12 November 2010


Here's a report I've just done on dust suppressants and a trial being carried out by Transport for London.

They believe they will be able to lower the amount of particulate matter at pollution hot-spots by 10%.

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TfL say:

"The dust suppressant is a solution made up of Calcium Magnesium Acetate that literally sticks the particulate matter to the carriageway and prevents it re-circulating in the air.

It is a biodegradable saline solution that will be sprayed in very small amounts, evenly on roads in the two trial sites."

Clean air campaigners though are not convinced this is anything other than "window dressing."

Follow me on Twitter: @TomSEdwards

New Routemaster: The first verdict

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Steve Phillips Steve Phillips | 16:19 UK time, Thursday, 11 November 2010


What I saw today at the Acton Transport Museum Depot was - give or take a few tweaks - what we'll be seeing on the streets of London in 2012.

On first impressions the new (and as yet, unnamed) bus has a familiar modern shape at the front. But going to the back, the spirit of the Routemaster is there with the open platform at the rear, and the curve up to the roof on top.

Have a look at the gallery. By the way, it really is red. The lighting turned it orange!

But this bus for all its sleek design has to function as a bus.

It will carry 87 passengers far fewer than the 150 capacity that a bendy bus has, but the project team behind 'A New Bus for London' were at pains to say the new bus isn't a 'Bendy Bus Killer'.

Going inside, I was struck by the space - a far cry from the cramped conditions of the old Routemaster. With three doors including the open platform, and two staircases it seems designers have sacrificed seating for access. Though they have worked in space for disabled passengers.

You can enter through any door as you can with a Bendy, swipe your oyster and if you go upstairs you'll find another similarity with the Routemaster - the lack of head room.

All in all though, it's impressive and also ticks a lot of environmental boxes with its carbon emissions 40% less than a conventional diesel bus.

But can we afford it, especially with hard financial times ahead? Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy thinks we can in an interview with me at the depot.

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So, what say you? Do we need this new bus? Should TfL be spending money on it? And what should it be called?!

So far we've had suggestions for the Olympic Bus, the Cosmo, The Londoner, the Route King and the Swoosh.

A lot of you came up with one that my colleague on TV, Alice Bhandhukravi put to the Mayor - was it going to be called the BorisBus.

Boris replied that we should ask our viewers what it should be named.

Though he may well think again before reinventing anymore transport modes beginning with 'B'.

Over to you.

Tweet me @SteveKPhillips

Why are we seeing more and more Tube problems?

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Tom Edwards Tom Edwards | 11:36 UK time, Monday, 8 November 2010


More problems for commuters on the Victoria Line this morning.

This is a photo of the knock-on effect at the Northern Ticket Hall at King's Cross as commuters were held there for 15 minutes due to crowded platforms.

A TfL spokesperson said:

"A cracked rail was discovered on the Victoria Line 200m north of Highbury and Islington station during overnight routine checks.

This has required a 20mph temporary speed restriction to be put in place since the start of service and this is causing minor delays on the line.

The rail will be replaced during overnight engineering works this evening."

No doubt Transport for London will deny this is anything to do with the ongoing industrial dispute and the work to rule that is currently in place.

Insiders say the rail was found towards the end of the shift and to avoid closing the line the decision was made to replace it tonight.

If this and the other problems we've seen on the Tube isn't due to the work to rule - i.e. all these problems would have happened anyway - then what is causing these continuing issues?

Later in the day there was a signal failure at Wimbledon, leading the District Line to be part suspended and delays on the Jubilee again due to a signalling failure.

Is it just bad luck?

Is there mismanagement of the upgrades or are LU struggling to oversee Tube line contracts?

Or, as we were warned before the Comprehensive Spending Review, are all components reaching the end of their shelf lives at roughly the same time?

Is it a combination of all of the above?

Maybe it is just that the London media have started to notice that there are a lots of problems on the Tube every day...

UPDATE: 1.15pm

Union sources have told me that the incident on the Victoria line is definitely tied in with the work to rule. They say:

"Works like this would normally be done on an overtime docket, so the action short of a strike is slowing down response times and it shows how much TfL rely on the goodwill of the workforce."

Yes, I know the unions would say that. I'm awaiting a response from LU.

Follow me on Twitter: @TomSEdwards

Exclusive: Tube bosses beware, Boris is watching!

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Tom Edwards Tom Edwards | 10:43 UK time, Tuesday, 2 November 2010


More problems on the Tube this morning in particular on the Met Line where faulty track means there is a speed limit on trains.

And I've just been sent this exclusive photo of the Mayor in his City Hall office with a new bit of kit.

The screen gives a display line by line of any problems.

Not sure transport bosses will like the Mayor watching them so closely!?

Any comments?

The huge cost of Waterloo's international sunset

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Tom Edwards Tom Edwards | 15:05 UK time, Monday, 1 November 2010


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If you've been stuck in a train waiting to get into Waterloo station then this will interest you.

There was a promise when Waterloo International closed in 2007 to use its platforms for domestic services - but it has not happened.

And figures on the cost of mothballing Waterloo International have been uncovered using the Freedom of Information Act by Liberal Demorats on the London Assembly.

The overall cost of maintenance and security is more than £4 million over three years.

There's also the paltry amount that's been raised by hiring out the station. It breaks down as:

  • Filming - £7,000

  • Theatre productions £34,852

  • Hiring out - £20,000
So not much really.

The station's looking extremely tatty at the moment. Considering it cost £135 million to build it's certainly a wasted resource.

There's hope that the platforms will be brought back into domestic use.

The company that runs it at the moment BRB (Residuary) Ltd is being scrapped and Network Rail may take up the redevelopment.

Rail Minister Theresa Villiers said:

"The Government is committed to bringing the former International platforms at Waterloo into domestic use and therefore it is vital that the facility is kept safe, secure and serviceable. We expect to make an announcement on the future of Waterloo in due course."

Follow me on Twitter: @TomSEdwards


@swlines has just contacted me on Twitter.

He says:

"Network Rail put some passages in about 2 years ago now, they're fairly obvious if you walk down 19. (connecting to the international platforms) SWT have put test trains into 20 too."

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