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Archives for December 2010

Ken Bruce's verdict on the 'son of Routemaster'

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Steve Phillips Steve Phillips | 14:25 UK time, Friday, 31 December 2010

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Model of the new Routemaster. The new bus will be on the streets from 2012

Hi there everyone.

In early November, I previewed the brand new bus for London, the much anticipated replacement for the beloved Routemaster.

I thought it was very impressive and, judging by the comments left on the blog, many of you seemed to agree.

Now, though, we have a verdict from someone whose opinion really counts.

Here, for your post-festive pleasure, Radio 2's Ken Bruce offers his thoughts on the new bus in a very special guest blog.

Take it away, Ken...

By Ken Bruce, Radio Legend

I like it! There, I've said it - as the joint owner of a small stable of original Routemasters, I appreciate this may not be the response expected of me but this new bus does seem to represent the best of the old with the best of the new.

The external styling is impressive, breaking free of the angular "boxy" styles we've had to put up with until recent years, but then, traditionally in bus design functionality has taken precedence over appearance. At last though, it seems to have been realised it's possible to achieve both.

As to function, downstairs seating numbers, one the great plusses of the old RM, have had to be reduced to accommodate three doors and wheelchair/buggy spaces. But there are, in the words of the conductors of the past, plenty of seats upstairs and all trimmed in an attractive new version of traditional Routemaster tartan.

I'll be interested to see how often the famous rear platform is open in practice. I expect daytime Regent St and Oxford St services will operate that way, but how widespread will the practice be?

A crew member "on the back" is expensive and I fear that the rear door may not be open as often or as widely as perhaps the public may expect.

But the bus is very welcome; there will be more seats and better frequencies than the bendy bus, which was foisted on London passengers during that long period of collective denial at TfL, where its obvious deficiencies - the amount of valuable road space taken up, the lack of seats and the ease of fare evasion - were ignored.

It all goes to show yet again the value of planning for the future with a little imagination; had we had some, these buses could have been replacing Routemasters ten years ago.

And a quick reminder of those fare increases...

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Steve Phillips Steve Phillips | 11:11 UK time, Thursday, 30 December 2010

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So we've had the publicity and fare warning (sorry). The new ticket price changes on public transport come into effect from Sunday 2nd January.

Here's a summary of the main points again, and you can read Tom's blog on the increases from October here.

Buses and Trams

  • Oyster pay as you go fares increase by 10p to £1.30
  • A single cash fare rises from £2 to £2.20

Tube, DLR, Overground

  • The Zone 1 pay as you go fare rises by 10p to £1.90
  • Oyster pay as you go fares travelling into Zone 1 in the evening rush hour are reduced to the off-peak rate
  • The refundable deposit on a new Oyster card increased from £3 to £5.
  • A Visitor Oyster card will cost £3.

Travelcard changes

One-Day Travelcards between Zones 2 and 6 are being withdrawn. Have a look at this picture I created to see which travelcard you will now need to buy:

Oyster Ticket Stops will no longer sell One Day Travelcards.

Maximum fare for not touching in/out

If you don't touch in and out on the Tube, DLR, London Overground and National Rail, you may be charged a maximum Oyster fare of up to £7.40.

Let me know what you think about the changes below.

Incidentally, travel overnight on New Year's Eve will be free, details on how to get about on our all singing/dancing travel guide.


Update: 4th January, 15.26

I had contact with a TfL spokesman since I posted the blog, who said...

Firstly, its important to note that the Z2-6 Travelcard was only used by a very small number of our customers - fewer than 6,000 passengers a day, including just 300 people during peak times. This is less than 0.2 per cent of the average 3.5 million journeys a day on the Tube.

Secondly, and importantly for Londoners and commuters, it is far cheaper to use Oyster pay as you go. For example, outside Z1, fares range from £1.30 to £2.50, therefore a passenger would need to make seven peak outside Z1 journeys to justify purchasing a Z1-6 Travelcard. Even so, Oyster will cap at the daily Travelcard price.

Driving through Congestion Charge changes

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Tom Edwards Tom Edwards | 16:56 UK time, Wednesday, 22 December 2010

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Away from the rights and wrongs of getting rid of the western extension of the congestion charging zone - two other developments are worth noting.

One is called Auto Pay and if you register for it, it means you won't get a fine for non-payment again. Well that's the plan.

Also, it will be £9 to enter the (reduced) congestion zone and not £10.

The Mayor says:

"Our new Autopay system means motorists need never be clobbered by fines and, with the introduction of a revamped environmental discount, this is undoubtedly the year we have made the congestion charge far fairer."

The TfL press release says:

"Motorists can pre-register for a CC Auto Pay account at www.cclondon.com ready for 4 January 2011 when CC Auto Pay launches. To register, you need a credit or debit card and will have to pay a £10 registration charge for each vehicle on the account.

When a vehicle is registered for CC Auto Pay drivers need never worry about being fined again for forgetting to pay the charge as the correct charge will be automatically deducted from their debit or credit card for the days they travel within the zone.

A Greener Vehicle Discount (GVD) will also be introduced from 4 January 2011 to encourage a switch to less polluting and more CO2 efficient cars. The GVD will replace the current Alternative Fuel Discount which has been outpaced by technological developments. The Electric Vehicle Discount will also be extended to include plug-in hybrids as well as pure electric vehicles."

What this means, according to Transport for London, is for cars to enter for free they need to be Euro V emissions compliant and emit under 100g per km of CO2.

This criteria, it seems, will apply whatever the power source on the car.

I asked TfL for clarification and this is what they say:

"The current Alternative Fuel Discount (AFD) is a 100 per cent discount to the Congestion Charge for certain vehicles that are powered by an alternative fuel (TfL uses the DVLA definition of alternative fuel - which includes LPG, natural gas and petrol-electric hybrids). The AFD was introduced to encourage the uptake of such vehicles.

However, the benefits of alternative fuels have in some cases been outpaced by technological development in conventional vehicles. A more technology-neutral approach is therefore proposed to achieve the maximum environmental benefits of the scheme.

Almost all vehicles that are eligible for the AFD will no longer be eligible for the GVD. The AFD will be closed to new registrations on 24 December 2010. Registration received after this date will not be processed and any new registrations may take up to 10 days to complete. However, owners of vehicles registered with TfL before that date will continue to receive a 100 per cent discount for a two year period.

To qualify for the GVD a vehicle must meet Euro V standard* and have CO2 emissions of 100g/km or less.

The Euro 5 standard applies to any new model of passenger car submitted for standards testing (know as type approval) from September 2009 and to any new car manufactured from January 2011. This means that the only vehicles eligible for the new discount would be relatively new vehicles emitting 100g/km or less of CO2.

* Euro V is a Europe wide standard for vehicle exhaust emissions)

Examples of vehicles that will be eligible for the GVD include:

  • Prius (2009 model)
  • Citroen C3 1.6 Airdream+
  • Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TDI 80PS BlueMotion

Those driving or considering purchasing a new or current model of car, can check the vehicle's CO2 emissions (g/km) and Euro standard on the Vehicle Certification Agency's website: www.vcacarfueldata.org.uk

In terms of hybrid vehicles - to qualify for the GVD they must have CO2 emissions of 100/km or less and meet Euro V to be eligible for the Greener Vehicle Discount. If the car does not meet both of these criteria then it would be liable for the standard Congestion Charge."

What this means is many small environmentally friendly petrol cars will be free but older hybrids may no longer get an exemption.

There will be a few disappointed drivers (and some pleased ones) although there will be a two year "sunset period" for those old hybrids.

To register for the Greener Vehicle Discount you can do it:

* Online at www.cclondon.com
* by phone 0845 900 1234
* or by post:

Discount registration
Congestion Charging
P O Box 4780
Worthing
BN11 9PQ

Thames cable car goes down to the wire for 2012

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Tom Edwards Tom Edwards | 10:34 UK time, Friday, 17 December 2010

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Remember the cable car project in East London that's meant to link the Royal Docks and the Greenwich peninsula?

The one about which the Mayor said:

"The aim is to fund the construction of the scheme entirely from private finance and discussions are ongoing with a number of private sector organisations that have expressed interest in the project."

And:

"The aim is to fund the scheme's construction entirely from private finance and discussions are ongoing with a number of organisations"


Well, it has emerged that tax-payers money will actually be used to get this project off the ground and it'd be "challenging" to get it finished by the Olympics.

It appears the London Development Agency weren't prepared to put funding towards it, given their severe financial problems. So it was necessary for the Mayor to issue a legal 'direction' to them which requires them to do it.

The documents say:

"The Mayor is asked to direct the LDA to fund £1.213m in 2010-11 towards the development phase of the East London Cable Car project."

The £1.2million will be spent on:


• Planning and associated consents to include funding of professional fees in support of
consents stage: £500,000 (in capped contribution to TfL)

• Initial land referencing and strategic advice on acquisitions: £25,000

• Legal fees in support of land strategy and commercial development of the scheme: £180,000

• Shared costs with Greenwich Peninsula Regeneration Ltd for planning application: £75,000

• Support of acquisition process and property consultancy fees: £120,000

• 3rd party legal fees for current landowners: £120,000

• Design development resulting from masterplanning changes: £100,000

• Sponsorship strategy: £75,000

• Support of business development process: £18,000

An LDA document (PDF) also says

  • Construction costs are estimated at £40m
  • Should these not be fully met through private sector investment or funding, the scheme would require public sector capital subsidy.

And there's the warning:

Timescales for planning, land assembly, procurement, contracting with a potential concessionaire and their subsequent design would be severely constrained, with significant cost and time risks. Whilst at this point it remains a project objective to explore ways to do this, completion by the Olympics would be extremely challenging.

Caroline Pidgeon, Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group has this to say:

"A cable car crossing the Thames might well be a great idea, but the bottom line is that the Mayor promised Londoners that it would be funded entirely from private finance and that has already turned out to not be the case. The Mayor now needs to give a clear account of why he rejected the views of the board of the London Development Agency and forced them to divert public funding into his pet project."

I await a response from the Mayor's Office and / or TfL.

UPDATE: 4.55pm

I've just received this comment from a spokesperson for the Mayor of London:

"The Mayor has asked officials to explore all the options to underwrite this important development whilst seeking a private sponsor."

Boris bikes: Mega-docking station opens at Waterloo

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Tom Edwards Tom Edwards | 11:11 UK time, Tuesday, 14 December 2010

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One of the older docking stations in London. Waterloo's new station has space for 126 hire bikes

I've just received this press release below from Transport for London. The mega docking station at Waterloo has been finished rather quickly it has to be said.

The big question will be if this solves the redistribution problems of the bike hire system.

Or will the extra capacity simply attract more hire bikes?

Long-term we might also see these uber racks at other stations.

Jenna at the TfL press office says that's certainly part of the thinking although there are no concrete plans yet as to where. King's Cross would seem a sensible option.

This also changes the all-important ratio of docking places to hire bikes.

Here's the press release in full:

London's biggest Barclays Cycle Hire docking station is now open


  • Supersized 126 space Barclays Cycle Hire docking station at Waterloo Station

  • Over two million cycle journeys in the first five months


Commuters using Waterloo are now able to pick up Barclays Cycle Hire bikes from a 'super' docking station outside the station open from 10am today (14 December). The 126 space docking station is unveiled on the day that TfL announced that over two million journeys have now been made using the iconic blue bikes.

The new docking station is the first to be opened at a mainline railway station. It will help deal with ever increasing demand for the Mayor's flagship scheme and follows last month's announcement that Barclays Cycle Hire will expand to the east of the city in time for the Olympic Games. When complete the expanded scheme will cover 65km² of the Capital and around 8,000 hire bikes will be available from 14,400 docking points at hundreds of locations across central and eastern London.

Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor of London's transport advisor, said: "There is an incredible demand for Barclays Cycle Hire bikes at Waterloo and we have responded to this by ensuring that people using this landmark railway station can now pick up or drop off a bike at our first super-size docking station. With over two million journeys made in just under five months we are confident this expanded docking station will be of great benefit to the thousands of Londoners and visitors using the bikes."

Around 110,000 people are now members of Barclays Cycle Hire and since the introduction of casual use just 10 days ago casual customers have already made over 9,500 journeys. Transport for London also has a handy short film that shows how simple it is to hire a bike as a casual user, which is available online at: www.youtube.com/BarclaysCycle

TfL's Managing Director of Surface Transport, David Brown, said: "The new Waterloo docking station will accommodate the ever increasing demand we are seeing for Barclays Cycle Hire at mainline stations. Members and casual users are really embracing the scheme in London, they've already made over two million journeys on the iconic blue bicycles that are now a familiar sight across central London."

Mike Goggin, Network Rail's director of stations and customer service, said: "The new docking stations at Waterloo will make it much easier and more convenient for passengers who use Britain's busiest station to make cycling part of their daily journeys.

"Network Rail and the train operators are improving cycling facilities at stations all over the country so passengers can take advantage of the many benefits combining rail and cycling offers. We continue to work with TfL to explore options for Barclays Cycle Hire docking stations at other mainline stations in London to meet increasing demand."

Wanted: Your transport questions for Boris Johnson

Much in the same way that Radio 4's Today Programme has guest editors over Christmas, we've asked some notables to scribe a few lines for you.

The Mayor, Boris Johnson, will be answering your questions on a special Mind The Gap post in the next couple of weeks and we want you to quiz him about the Tube, trains, trams, DLR, buses and roads.

He'll answer a selection of them right here on this electronic space.

Over to you, what do you want to ask Boris?

UPDATE: Tuesday 21 Dec

Thank you for all your transport questions for Boris Jonnson. We have been, to coin a topical expression, snowed under.

We have now selected a dozen questions and sent them off for the Mayor's consideration.

So, please, no more questions! We'll have his answers soon!

PS.

We're planning on having other guest Q&As and celebrity contributors on Mind the Gap over the next few weeks so watch this space!

El Underground: Tube upgrades, estilo español

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Tom Edwards Tom Edwards | 19:00 UK time, Sunday, 12 December 2010

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This week is commuter week on BBC London.

As part of that I've been looking at Tube upgrades and how they're going to change in the future.

I visited the Northern Line control room where Richard Parry from London Underground told me they're considering copying other cities in Europe like Madrid and introduce more block closures on the Tube where lines are shut for weeks at a time.

They have done this before of course but they're now considering it more often as long as there are reasonable alternatives for travellers.

They've also learned from Madrid the "overlaying" of old signalling systems with new systems without shutting the lines. So, upgrades of the sub-surface lines will use this technique.

At the top of this post, check out the footage from Madrid of the work they are doing there. (There is no voice track on the video.)

The next line that could be closed for a long period is the Circle Line around Bayswater this summer.

Here is my full interview with Richard Parry:

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Getting the message through to the public of the upgrades is also going to change with local updates at stations explaining why they are shut.

Is this enough to convince people that the upgrades are worth it? We'll have to wait and see.

Remember there is at least a decade's worth of work to do - and as the closures bite the issue is bound to become political in the Mayoral elections.

Runaway train was travelling '30 miles an hour'

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Tom Edwards Tom Edwards | 13:30 UK time, Wednesday, 8 December 2010

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Emergency coupler and tow-bar showing point of failure

Emergency coupler and tow-bar showing point of failure

We've been given the first report into the runaway rail grinder train incident that took place in August between Archway and Warren Street.

The report emphasises that this was an extremely serious incident which could have resulted in "fatalities".

The full report is here. Another report from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch is due next year. You may remember that passenger trains had to be diverted to avoid a collision.

I've read the report and initially the catalogue of errors seem to be:

** The brakes on the grinder train were isolated

** The emergency coupler failed due to "significant bending load"

** That was caused by the tube train that was towing the grinder braking suddenly as it was going too fast.

** There was time pressure to resume services that affected decision making

Passengers who were on train 107 ahead of the runaway grinder train still want to know how far they were from a collision and at what speed the grinder was travelling.

I've also obtained an internal email from Transport for London.

It says:

"The rail grinder speed through Archway platforms at 25 to 30 mph, Kentish Town 26 to 32 mph, Camden Town 10 to 15 mph, Mornington Crescent 10 -12 mph, Euston 9 - 10 mph and less than 3 mph arriving at Warren St where the signalling data shows the train coming to a rest at the platform and then rolling back a few yards into the tunnel at 2mph."

Let me know your thoughts.

Going online on the Underground

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mindthegapadmin | 17:16 UK time, Monday, 6 December 2010

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As Steve Phillips has mentioned before on Mind the Gap (You too can view YouTube on the Tube) there is now a six month wi-fi trial at Charing Cross Tube station.

Now, in his latest video, our guest contributor Geoff Marshall seeks to find out if you can really go online when you're underground...

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Have you been using the wi-fi at Charing Cross station?

Let us know what you think of it...

Rail compensation: will commuters get any?

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Tom Edwards Tom Edwards | 11:44 UK time, Friday, 3 December 2010

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Train in Snow in Kent. Getty Images

So will there be offers of compensation for disrupted journeys?

Well that depends on the operator.

The newer franchises like Southern and First Capital Connect use the "Delay Repay" schemes. Even if they have resorted to a contingency timetable.

https://www.southernrailway.com/your-journey/delay-repay/
https://www.firstcapitalconnect.co.uk/customer-care/delay-repay/

Southern says: "If we have delayed your journey, regardless of the cause, then Southern will compensate you."

That means and I quote the website:

"If you have been delayed and wish to claim compensation then you must do so within 28 days of your delay.

"To do this you need to make sure you have proof of travel. This could be your original ticket, a ticket receipt, a copy of your season ticket, or, if you are a registered Oyster pay as you go user, a journey receipt. You submit your claim by filling out a Delay Repay claim form. You can find these at any of our staffed stations, or download the form below and post it to us."

Southern also says with regards to those who were stuck in train overnight - they will be contacting them individually as they have taken down all the names of those stranded. They say if your name wasn't taken then contact customer services.

The older franchise holders like Southeastern are saying if you bought a ticket on the day and you couldn't travel you will be entitled to a full refund.

It has yet to decide what it's policy will be on season tickets even though it operated a contingency (two trains per hour) timetable.

It can declare a day a "void" day and that means you don't get any compensation. There might be scope for season ticket holders to get extra days on their ticket. But we don't know yet. A decision will be made in the next few days.

Incidentally the decision to go to a contingency timetable is made by Network Rail and the operator jointly and is signed off by the Department for Transport.

They do it they say to make the system more resilient. If there is a train failure (due to the third rail) then others that are broken down are not stranded in open countryside but at stations.

The company says: "Our experience is that passengers' priority during times of disruption is to be provided with a good service rather than seeking compensation.

However our passenger charter does compensate many people whose journeys have been delayed. And we also look at each case on its merits and regularly provide gestures of goodwill, particularly for those who were on trains that failed during the cold weather."

South West Trains are also operating under an older franchise. So today there are no services in and out of Virginia Water Ascot and Shepperton for example. Will commuters there be entitled to compensation?

Here's what they say:

* Customers with valid tickets who did not travel on Thursday 2 December of Friday 3 December can get a refund through the original issuing office or retailer.

* Refund arrangements for season ticket holders are covered by the Passenger Charter.

Briefly:

* Weekly: Customers applying for refunds of weekly season tickets under passenger charter must apply in writing to the Customer Service Centre. This will be based on the days when we did not run a reasonable service and by specific route. Advice on the dates and routes that will be paid will follow.

* Monthly or Longer: Any refund applicable will be declared through the Passenger Charter process and calculated as void periods. Details of any refunds applicable for the 4 weeks ending Saturday 11 December 2010 are expected from Friday 17 December 2010 and will be published on the South West Trains website. Customers are advised to retain their season tickets for any Passenger Charter refund for this period.

I assume there will be a similar arrangement to Southeastern but I am awaiting its response and will post it as soon as I get it.

Why do south London trains suffer most in the snow?

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Tom Edwards Tom Edwards | 11:31 UK time, Wednesday, 1 December 2010

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Why are trains in south London more affected by snow than those elsewhere?

If you think it's train companies in south London that are the worst affected by the weather - you'd be right.

And there is I'm told a technical reason for this.

In south London the companies like Southern Railway, Southeastern and South West Trains have to operate using the "third rail system".

That is, the electricity is transmitted to the train using an electrified third rail that the train picks up through a bit of metal called a shoe.

So, while Network Rail have been running "ghost trains" (empty trains) and de-icing trains through the night there comes a point when it doesn't help.

When the snow and ice hits, if the conductor third rail is cold as soon as snow hits it, it freezes.

That means there's an insulating layer of ice between the shoe and the rail.

Southeastern have told me the trains automatically shut down to prevent "arcing" of electricity - that could damage electrics and is potentially dangerous.

The pertinent point is we are the only country in the world where the third rail system is being used outside an urban area (it's also used on the Tube and has caused problems on the uncovered Metropolitan line in the past).

And why was it introduced?

It was introduced in the 1930s and I've been told it was in the main due to cost as it's cheaper than erecting overhead power lines that we see to the north and east of London.

It also shows why C2C services, for example into Essex which uses overhead power lines, hasn't been as badly affected by similar levels of snow.

According to Wikipedia: "Three lines of five making up the core of Barcelona Metro network changed to overhead power supply from third rail. This operation was also done by stages and completed in 2003.

"The opposite took place in south London. The South London Line of the LBSCR network between Victoria and London Bridge was electrified with catenary in 1909.

"The system was later extended to Crystal Palace, Coulsdon North and Sutton. In the course of main-line third rail electrification in south-east England, the lines were converted by 1929."

Please let me know if you have any thoughts on this. I would be interested to hear from drivers in particular.

Also, I just received this from Association of Train Operating Companies:

National Rail Enquiries (NRE), run by and paid for by train companies, has today set up a dedicated phone hotline to provide passengers with up to date information about disruption caused by snow.

The number to call is 08453 017 641.

The hotline, which will allow passengers to choose the train company they travel with and to hear recorded updates about any disruption, comes in addition to the range of services already provided by NRE for passengers, including:

- The NRE website www.nationalrail.co.uk which includes a dedicated disruption page, an overview of all operators' services, and live departure boards of train services

- The automated train tracker service on 0871 200 49 50, which will give passengers up-to-date information about their services

- Twitter updates at @nationalrailenq and an NRE Disruption Facebook page

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