Are we drifting into having Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London again?

sadiq_khan

On Saturday 1 September 2018 a blimp of a semi-naked Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, will be flown above Parliament Square.

The event has been organised by a man called Yanny Bruere who describes himself as “pro free speech” and “anti political correctness”.  It has been paid for by a crowdfunding campaign which has raised more than £58,000.  The stunt is part of a wider campaign to stop Mr Khan from being re-elected as London Mayor and is a response to the decision to allow a blimp of Donald Trump during his presidential visit in July.

Showing his witty sense of humour, Mr Khan has said: “If people want to spend their Saturday looking at me in a yellow bikini they’re welcome to do so.  I don’t really think yellow’s my colour though”.

I think the stunt is rude and a huge waste of money.  Surely, in these austere times, £58,000 could be better spent?  It is also a win for Mr Khan as it has received publicity and allows him to show he is not above having the rise taken out of him.

But let’s use this as an opportunity to stimulate intelligent debate.  The Mayor’s responsibility is to make London a better place for everyone who visits, lives or works in the city.  His influence ranges across transport, the police and fire service, housing, business and the economy, regeneration and young people.  Are these areas genuinely better than when Mr Khan took office in 2016?  Has he made a real difference since coming to power?  Has he improved the daily lives of Londoners or has the situation got worse?  These are the areas on which Mr Khan must be judged and serious questions asked.

I notice the media are already identifying Mr Khan as the “front runner” for re-election as Mayor of London in 2020.  The key question, which requires an honest answer, is why?

TfL: management structure and salaries

tfl_organisation_chart

As I was researching the Central Line on the internet I came across this document.  According to the URL it can be found somewhere on the Transport for London (TfL) website.

The chart appears to show the organisational structure of TfL in 2016/2017 and includes information about salaries.

There are a number of common sense questions which might be asked about this management structure:

  • What do the Head of Transformation and Business Transformation Director actually do?
  • Why are there two Senior Principals of Commercial Finance?
  • Why are there three Heads of HR plus a Head of HR Services?
  • What does the Senior Executive Advisor do?
  • Is it really necessary to employ so many people on salaries in excess of £100,000 when the majority of TfL’s budget comes from fares and grants from central and local government?
  • Are these salaries in any way performance related?
  • In what way are these people accountable to passengers?

In view of the deteriorating standard of service delivered across the TfL network, isn’t it time passengers were given the opportunity to ask these questions and time we were given some answers?

 

How to improve the Central Line

central_line_9_august_2018

I write this after another disastrous morning on the Central Line.

I arrived at Wanstead Station at approximately 06.00 earlier today to be told simply “there are no trains”.  When asked how I was expected to travel to work in Central London the sole member of staff told me to “get the bus to Stratford”.

This cessation of service – which became severe delays later in the morning – must have caused misery for thousands of commuters.  As I left the station I saw many people running for buses desperately telephoning their workplaces to patiently explain that, yet again, they would be late, if they could make it at all.

My concern is the toll this situation is taking on the mental health of commuters who have no other choice but to use this line of doom.  The delays and regular cessation of service create a daily nagging concern for anyone who uses the line: “what chaos is going to ensue today”?  The situation leads to stress, anxiety, increased workloads, loss of time with loved ones and lack of leisure time.  This is not to mention the loss of pay for freelancers and the deduction of salary for people, such as those who work in the construction industry, for those who arrive at work late.  And this goes on day after day after day.

The reason given for the delay this morning was “late finish of engineering work”.  Surely with better planning and management this could have been avoided?  I think it is time for financial penalties for those responsible for the management and operation of the line.  I don’t mean the hard working operations people who do the real work.  I mean the Managing Director of London Underground, who according to a Transport for London document earned between £275,000 and £279,999 in 2017, and the Head of Network Operations and Resilience, who earned between £120,000 and £124,000.  Perhaps if the continuing appalling service directly impacted them the situation might improve?

In the meantime, please become part of the campaign to #improvethecentralline.

An open letter to the Central Line

As a daily commuter on the Central Line this is addressed to all those responsible for the management and running of the line.

The Central Line is one of the most important on the tube network.  On a daily basis it carries hundreds of thousands of passengers who complete a total of approximately 260.9m journeys a year.  It is the main arterial route through Central London linking Epping in the East to Ruislip in the West and delivers passengers to important areas such as the City of London and the West End.  For many people it is their only way of travelling into Central London.

A key question then is why is the service on the line so bad.  The current situation is that there are daily delays ranging from minor hold-ups to complete cessation of service.  The trains are dirty, unbearably hot and frequently so overcrowded it is difficult and sometimes impossible to board.  Every time you use the service there is this constant nagging anxiety about what dramatic incident is going to occur.  This dire situation has been going on for day after day after day.

I know that people across the capital and around the country face a difficult daily commute but surely travelling on the Central Line has to be one of the worst?  This awful situation leads to considerable stress, anxiety, lateness, increased workloads, loss of pay for freelancers, lack of time with children and loved ones, reduced leisure time and many other negative effects on those who have no other choice but to use the line of doom.  And this goes on day after day after day.

As well as affecting individuals this situation affects businesses.  There are huge Westfield shopping centres at each end of the line, not to mention Oxford Street and the West End in the middle.  People can’t spend money in shops they can’t reach.  Audiences can’t attend theatres they can’t get to and won’t eat in restaurants or drink in bars if it is a nightmare to get home.  Spectators won’t attend events in a world-class venue such as the London Stadium if they feel they can’t get there safely.

This state of affairs cannot continue.  Something must be done.  Transport for London, the Mayor of London, Central Line management and staff as well as passengers must all come together to address the problems and find innovative solutions.  This needs to start now, today, for the sake of everyone who works on and uses the Central Line.  To allow the current dreadful situation to carry on is a huge national embarrassment for the greatest capital city in the world.

Might TfL be liable?

wanstead_underground_station

I read with interest the recent High Court judgement which found the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden liable for failing to protect the hearing of its musicians and for causing acoustic shock to former viola player Chris Goldscheider.  Whilst the claim for damages was made for personal injury, loss and damage sustained during employment it got me thinking.

Over the weekend I made several trips on the Central Line.  Like many other people in the carriage I was forced to put my fingers in my ears to protect my hearing from the loud screaming sound created by the train when travelling between Wanstead and Leytonstone.  This has been a problem for several years, as reported by the Ilford Recorder in 2017, and Transport for London have made attempts to deal with the problem.

The situation prompts me to pose two questions.  Is the noise so loud that passengers who travel on that stretch of the Central Line regularly and are exposed to the noise might damage their hearing?  Secondly, if it was discovered that the hearing of passengers was being damaged, might Transport for London be liable under some kind of health and safety legislation?

 

Political debate

Some residents will already be aware that due to local boundary changes a new Wanstead Village Ward has been created as part of Redbridge Council.  In May 2018 voters will have the opportunity to elect three new councillors to represent them.

The main political parties have announced some of the candidates for these seats and campaigning has begun.

Earlier this week the following tweet was published by Redbridge Labour:

redbridge_labour_tweet

It made me feel very dismayed.  Apart from the appalling quality of the image it shows the low level of political debate and discussion on offer to voters.  It is no wonder that politicians and politics seem to be held in such low regard by many people in this country.

I believe we can and must do better.  Can I suggest to Redbridge Labour that they delete this tweet and any others like it?  Let’s raise the level of debate and do our best to encourage everyone to engage in the issues affecting our community in an intelligent, civilised, well-mannered and creative way.  Let’s debate together the very best ways to make the world a better place for everyone.  And may the best ideas win.