Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Ich liebe es

Posted in Customer service, Infrastructure, London, Media, Politics by Chairman Pip on 6 March 2012

As I make my way through life I find that I notice more and more that people are increasingly taking on a “McDonald’s outlook” on things. By that I mean a fast food, I want it now kind of attitude (even though, according to one employee of the Golden Arches, McDonald’s is now classed as a “family restaurant” rather than “fast food”. Go figure). I came across an example of that this very morning as I made my way in. While I was on the tube, I took note of a couple of women who got on, I forget where, with a pram. I paid them little mind, as I was far too engrossed in reading the latest body of opinion about the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas. However, snatches of their conversation filtered through that made me sit up a little and take notice:

It’s disgusting…the Paralympics are here this summer…

I thought that was a bit strong, until more of their conversation put what they were saying into the right context:

How are the athletes going to get the tube to the venues?

their complaint wasn’t about the fact that the Paralympics is in London, but the lack of step-free access on some lines. As it happens, both I and our two conversationalists were on a Circle Line train, and they pointed out that there were only two stations (Westminster and Blackfriars) that have step free access. I could have immediately pointed to Kings Cross St Pancras as also being fully accessible, but that isn’t the point. Clearly what our two social commentators failed to realise is the fact that, of those three, Westminster received a massive rebuild as part of the Jubilee Line Extension, while both Blackfriars and Kings Cross have just finished equally extensive rebuilds as part of huge refurbishments of their adjoining National Rail stations. Cannon Street is also coming towards the end of a major refurbishment that is planned to see new lifts installed. The trouble is, people don’t think about the time and expense needed to undertake such work, given the age of the network. Were the London Underground a modern construct, like the Washington Metro for example, then it probably would have been designed with step-free access from the outset. But the original designers never gave people in wheelchairs a second thought back in the 1850s. One wonders what our two would think if there actually was a massive, all encompassing project to make the entire central section of the Circle Line step-free?

While this only happened this morning, I had actually forgotten about it until a tweet came up that linked to a piece on the Daily Telegraph website that, while not on the same subject, follows the same way of thinking. The piece is actually a political comment blog post by Jennifer Lipman, who is employed as a deputy editor with the Jewish Chronicle. Despite transport not being her area (women’s issues and popular culture are the ones listed), she’s decided to make a recommendation to both Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone that the tube should run 24 hours a day. An interesting idea, that’s often been asked for, with just one tiny problem. The tube network doesn’t have the spare capacity to run 24 hours a day while still having the necessary maintenance work done to ensure it doesn’t fall apart. Virtually every line has two sets of track – one for running in one direction, and one for running in the other. This is unlike the New York Subway, where large parts of it have four sets of track. As a consequence, were the tube to go 24 hours a day, it is likely that it would have to close periodically for work to be undertaken, or else end up creaking and falling apart. The idea is thus a no-brainer, because the person who thought of it, on this issue, clearly has no brain. And is following the modern McDonalds attitude of “I want it now”.

“Note to Ken and Boris: make the Tube run 24 hours”

McDonald's may be good on a train, but it's no good having a McDonald's attitude when it comes to trains


One Response

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  1. Graham said, on 7 March 2012 at 12:32 pm

    I agree in theory it sounds a good idea as they could design a service which meant that trains could run over one of the two tracks for much of the time (i.e. half hourly service), which would enable a limited service to run 24 hours a day and still be able to carry out much of the work they need to. However, to run the wrong way along track would require crossovers and extra signaling, which would then mean that it would potentially cost a lot to implement and therefore wouldn’t be seen as viable. Also trains wouldn’t be able to run on lines where the tracks are adjacent to each other in one tunnel when engineering works were happening, which could result in frustrating people more than not being able to use the service at all.
    Having said that, never say never, there maybe a solution which provides our capital with just enough of a network in the central area each night that it is useable along with using mainline services and/or buses for the outer sections when they need to do maintenance.

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