Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Après moi le déluge

Posted in America, Customer service, Infrastructure by Chairman Pip on 1 November 2012

The residents of London are notorious for moaning when it comes to any kind of disruption to the transport system. For example, this week was published the programme of work that will be involved in the upgrade of London Bridge as part of the Thameslink Programme, a task that is planned to take five years all told, because the station has to remain open (obviously). The rebuild will allow more trains through, and will reduce the serious bottleneck it has become. But still (as I’ve often said) people moan about the amount of time it will take and the disruption it will cause. Case in point – I read a letter in the Evening Standard this week by someone helpfully pointing out that after an earthquake, a hole in the one of the highways in Los Angeles was repaired within 9 days, so why was it taking five years to rebuild London Bridge? While “leaves on the line” or “the wrong type of snow” are causes for general bluster about how shit the service provided is, they are genuine problems that people don’t seem to understand (I hasten to add that when the “wrong type of snow” line first wormed its way into the public conciousness, it wasn’t British Rail that said it. As usual, it was a pithy newspaper headline). So, what might the reaction have been if London had had to face the situation that New York has just gone through? The merger of Hurricane Sandy with a pair of low pressure systems over the eastern United States and southern Canada led to it becoming an “extratropical cyclone” and making landfall much further north than it otherwise might have, as well as increasing its violence to the extent that, amongst other measures, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority shut down virtually the entire transport system of New York City – reportedly seven tunnels used by the Subway were flooded, as was one used by the Long Island Rail Road, while parts of the Metro-North Railroad lost power, Amtrak’s services were not calling at New York, and the PATH was completely suspended. Essentially, in terms of rail travel, New York City was cut off for two days and is only just now slowly getting back to normal. It will probably take a lot of time and money to repair the damage (total cost of all the damage to the region is estimated to be around $20bn), and will doubtless cause a lot of disruption, which is added to the two major Subway projects and one on the LIRR that are in progress. I wonder how much the good burghers of the city that never sleeps will moan about all that?

“New York City shuts down transit system ahead of hurricane Sandy”
“New York transport system crippled by Hurricane Sandy”

The entrance to Bowling Green station in the Financial District, boarded up to try and limit flooding

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