Mar. 16th, 2010
Longer waits and fewer trains after Circle line extension
Ross Lydall and Miranda Bryant
Commuters on the redesigned Circle line are suffering much longer waits between services and fewer trains, official figures reveal today.
Transport for London's own figures prove what many passengers have suspected for weeks — that the line is now worse after being extended to Hammersmith. This is despite promises that the changes would improve the Tube's least reliable line.
In the four weeks after the Circle was turned into a “lasso line” between Edgware Road and Hammersmith, the number of trains in service and the distance they travelled both fell — with rush-hours worst affected.
The number of trains in service fell from 93.2 per cent of the target in the previous period to 90.4 per cent, while the distance travelled by peak-hour trains fell from 90 per cent of target to 87.8 per cent.
Problems have also been caused by the decision to reduce the service from seven to six trains an hour — or one every 10 minutes. At times passengers have been forced to wait up to 20 minutes for a train, while being charged premium fares to travel in Zone 1. Total average journey times on the Circle line are also longer than a year ago.
Today passengers said they now avoided the line, or factored in extra time for their journeys. Others called for the line to be returned to its original clockwise and counter-clockwise “full circle” routes.
Andrew Bosi, chairman of the Capital Transport Campaign, said there were longer gaps between services, passengers were now forced to change trains at Edgware Road and trains were delayed entering Hammersmith station because of a lack of platforms.
He said: “Those additional passenger delays are unacceptable. What makes this particularly irritating is the way Transport for London marketed the change as though it was a vast improvement.”
Murad Qureshi, a Labour member of the London Assembly, said: “As someone who welcomed the operational change, I'm very disappointed. There doesn't seem to have been a better service as a result. I think the problem is still Edgware Road station. The Circle is the one service that seems to go down immediately when anything happens on the District, Metropolitan or Hammersmith and City [lines].”
The Circle line is the Tube's least reliable because it shares the majority of its 14 miles of track with other services on the District, Hammersmith and City and Metropolitan lines.
The line is also one of the worst affected by weekend engineering work. It is due to close entirely for 10 weekends between the end of March and mid-July, including the four days over Easter, for track upgrades.
Other difficulties were caused by the absence of a terminus — a problem TfL said would be eased by allowing trains to “recover” at Hammersmith and Edgware Road before embarking on a new trip. The line is used by 218,000 passengers each weekday.
TfL said reliability — in terms of the “excess waiting time” taken by passengers to complete their journey — had improved by 43 per cent in the past 12 weeks.
Richard Parry, interim managing director of London Underground, said: “Instead of waiting five minutes for a dedicated Circle line train, customers are waiting six minutes... on more occasions than in the past we are getting much closer to the 10-minute frequency.
traffic commissioner sparks public inquiry into quality and reliability of service
An international transport giant based in Aberdeen is to be investigated after a traffic commissioner expressed “extreme concern” about buses in the city running consistently late.
Bosses from First will appear at a public inquiry held by the Traffic Commissioner for Scotland next month to answer allegations that the company’s services are unreliable.
The company will also be questioned on the quality of its service in the aftermath of a two-month pay dispute where industrial action by 460 First workers led to reduced timetables.
All public transport firms in Scotland must apply to the traffic commissioner to introduce, change or remove services.
The commissioner cannot enforce changes, but can take action if agreed conditions for the provision of the service are not met.
After the inquiry, the traffic commissioner can impose a fine, reduce the number of vehicles First can run on its services, or suspend or revoke a licence for routes.
The traffic commissioner, Joan Aitken, is said to be “extremely concerned” First does not appear to be meeting the details of its services registered with her.
Aberdeen’s Mastrick and Sheddocksley Community Council chairman Steve Delaney will be among those giving evidence at the public inquiry at the Town House on April 6.
He wrote to the traffic commissioner raising concerns about the unreliability of First’s number 23 service between Summerhill and Heathryfold.
Mr Delaney said: “There have been problems with the services since a timetable change in February 2008, and two years is a long time to wait for reliable buses.
“We do not want this to be dealt with in any kind of draconian manner – all we want is buses which arrive on time.”
A letter to the community council from the Office of the Transport Commissioner said: “The traffic commissioner is extremely concerned that local services registered with her by the company do not appear to be running in accordance with the registered details.
“In normal circumstances the commissioner would contact the company to ask for a detailed explanation.
“However the traffic commissioner has, in view of other matters that have come to her attention, already decided that the company is required to show cause why she should not take disciplinary action against the licence held by the company due to local services not being operated as registered,” added the letter.
George Thomson, chairman of the Grampian Senior Citizens’ Forum, said the inquiry would come as a relief to pensioners living in the city who rely on First services.
He said: “This is the best news I have heard in a long time.
“They are virtually a monopoly in the city, and it is about time the effect of that is looked at. I do not think I am alone in thinking the service is, at times, nothing short of a joke.”
A spokesman for First confirmed the transport giant had been notified of the hearing. But he said the principal reasons for the inquiry were issues surrounding the company’s resumption of services after industrial action in September last year, as well as concerns held by the traffic commissioner over a change made on the firm’s board of directors in 2007.
The spokesman refused to give any more details about these concerns, but said: “We are hoping to improve the reliability and provision of our services with the changes to our routes and timetables being introduced on March 21.”
I've been really busy over the last eight days.
Following on from my last entry on 8th March, I have been mostly busy working from home. Exceptions were out at Switchboard on Thursday 11th, working on Helpline on Friday 12th, back out to Switchboard on Saturday 13th before going out in the evening. Following all this, we were out in the car around Stevenage on Sunday. I have also been working hard around the house, and am currently in the midst of backing up the computer contents to remote storage - C got round the issue of it not working with external drives somehow, by getting it in another place!
I briefly mentioned earlier that the Prisoner's Families Helpline will still be operated locally for a further three months.
Further to my previous SOTS posts a month and a half ago, I am acutely aware that I have not done one for February yet. So, here goes with a recap of the last month and a half!
After being offered a very attractive, casual, work-from-home package to work for Woottens & Tiger Line, I've been even more busy. I must admit, the offer did take me by surprise – here was me and Michael W discussing private hire prices, and we went off onto something else! Very happy though!
Weight – at the start of the month, I initially thought the scales were lying to me! However, down by just over a kilo is not to be sneezed at!
Health – just like weight, good, with not a lot of effort from myself. Various work has helped!
Work – in addition to the above, work on Helpline will now continue locally until the end of June.
I've not forgotten about what I wanted to do this year, just doing a lot in addition to it!