New law to ensure ‘bare-bones service’ during transport strikes

The Evening Standard has published a story about new laws to ensure a minimum level of service is maintained during industrial disputes on public transport.

The article is based on comments made by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps about legislation likely to be included in The Queen’s Speech.

“It is a basic right for workers to be able to get to work,” Mr Shapps told the Standard.

“The ability of a few people to prevent anyone from being able to earn a living has come to an end. The new law will prevent London being brought to a standstill, with all the additional environmental damage done by people reverting to cars,” he said.

“There will be a bare-bones service provided, preventing ordinary workers being effectively held to ransom.”

The Queen’s Speech sets out the Government’s agenda and is given during the State Opening of Parliament which marks the start of the Parliamentary year.

Following the General Election, the State Opening of Parliament is due to take place on Thursday 19 December 2019.

Central Line platform display boards not working (again)

The platform display boards at Wanstead appear to have stopped functioning after working for just 5 days.

The boards, which relay information about the destination and timing of trains, were fixed on 27 November 2019 but were not working on the morning of 2 December.

The previous fault took 29 days to repair. Once again, we wait…

An open letter about the Central Line

I write at the end of another appalling week on the Central Line during which there have been daily issues resulting in minor and severe delays as well as suspension of service. It has been an utter misery for commuters.

The level of service has been steadily deteriorating for months with many truly terrible weeks. Anyone using the line does so with constant anxiety and stress not to mention exposure to the dirt and filthy pollution. For commuters it is a daily hell which can result in the loss of work as well as income.

This dire situation cannot continue. I have long campaigned for all parties to come together to work to improve the situation. My experience is that many wish to work collaboratively and do their best while others are negative, rude, lack a customer service ethic and wish to blame everyone else. Meanwhile, the customer suffers.

Everyone involved – Central Line staff, TfL and the Mayor of London – need to stop squabbling and work together to tackle this deteriorating situation. At the very least emergency measures need to be put in place to provide a basic level of service for those who use the line to get to work, earn a living or get to school. If this failure continues those responsible must be held to account.

Platform display boards not working for 17 days (so far)

As regular readers will know The Wanstead Post has long campaigned to #improvethecentralline.

Commuters using Wanstead Station will have noticed that the platform display boards stopped working on 30 October 2019 and 17 days later have yet to be repaired.

The Wanstead Post has raised the issue with Central Line management and received the following response:

“I’m sorry for the impact that this is having on your journeys. I’ve had a response from the station that we’re chasing the contractor responsible for maintenance and that parts needed for the fix are on back order. Once received they will be installed as a matter of urgency”.

We wait…

Which underground line is the most polluted in London?

The Central Line is one of the most polluted underground lines in London according to research by the Financial Times.

The investigation measured fine particles – known as PM2.5 – which can penetrate into the lungs and have been linked to heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and respiratory infection.

Air in carriages on sections of the Central Line was 8 times above safe limits recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Other lines in the top 10 of the most polluted include the Northern, the Victoria, the Jubilee and the Bakerloo.

“Fine particles of dust, metal, skin and clothing fibre have built up in the tunnels over a century of use, leaving a toxic miasma that is stirred up by passing trains and inhaled by passengers,” according to the article by Camilla Hodgson, Leslie Hook and Steven Bernard.

Jenny Bates, an air pollution campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told the FT: “These are shocking, worrying findings. We know particulates are the most dangerous of the air pollutants. We must sort out this terrible level of bad aor. It’s absolutely essential for the health of anyone using the Tube.”

Read the full investigation by the Financial Times here.

Commuters express concern about proposed Central Line timetable changes

Transport for London (TfL) have announced changes to the Central Line timetable which are likely to impact services from Wanstead.

The changes were revealed in the following email to passengers sent on 29 October 2019:

Regular commuters immediately took to Twitter to express concern. The tweets prompted South Woodford Councillor Michael Duffell to request an urgent extraordinary meeting of the Redbridge Council Committee which scrutinises TfL.

Excessive noise levels prompt industrial action

Central Line drivers who are members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) will take industrial action next month following a dispute about noise levels.

The Jubilee, Central, Northern and Victoria lines are set to be affected after 95% of union members supported the action.

“It is appalling that RMT driver members have had to resort to a programme of industrial action in order to force London Underground to take the issue of excessive track noise seriously,” said Mick Cash, General Secretary of the RMT.

“This is an issue that impacts not only on our members but on the travelling public as well and the union is absolutely determined to ensure that the company don’t drag their feet for a moment longer.”

Drivers will “drive trains in manual mode at an appropriate reduced speed to mitigate the creation of excessive noise and to alleviate the distraction, discomfort and anxiety caused in the affected areas” claim the RMT.

Transport for London (TfL) have said that the health and safety of staff and customers are its “first priority” and that they have “already agreed to provide a broader range of ear protection to drivers who wish to use it alongside plans for longer-term solutions to this complex issue.”

Noise levels have been a problem on the Central Line for several years as reported by the Ilford Recorder in 2017 and The Wanstead Post in 2018.

The industrial action is due to start on Thursday 10 October 2019.

#improvethecentralline

In 2018 The Wanstead Post spearheaded a campaign to #improvethecentralline. The intention was to encourage interested parties – such as Transport for London, the Mayor of London, Central Line management and staff as well as passengers – to come together to address problems and find innovative solutions. The campaign culminated in a meeting with Caroline Pidgeon, Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee and Chris Taggart, Head of Line Operations, to discuss the most pressing issues.

Since then the Central Line has had good and bad days. When the service runs it can be excellent but when things go wrong it can be truly appalling. After speaking with staff, you are often left with the impression that a sense of complacency permeates the running of the line and there is a general feeling that the situation will never improve.

According to the Socialist Worker website, members of the RMT Union who work on the Central Line are “fighting against chronic understaffing, imposed rosters, management bullying, inadequate welfare facilities and local agreement breaches” and have planned a 24-hour strike due to start on Tuesday 3 September 2019. There is no doubt that if the strike goes ahead utter misery will be caused.

This is an undesirable turn of events for management, staff and passengers because any strike will cause nothing but suffering. Harsh management or unrealistic aggressive demands by unions achieve little and negatively impact hard-working commuters. There needs to be a new collaboration between all involved, a renewed desire to work together and get things done, a refreshed positive energy to make a difference and move on to a better future for all those who work on or use the main arterial route through the greatest capital city in the world.

Tube strike threatened

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Transport for London (TfL) has announced the threat of a tube strike affecting the Central and Waterloo & City lines on Friday 5 October 2018.

If the strike goes ahead there will be no service on either line all day. There will also be no Night Tube service on the Central Line.

TfL have advised passengers to use alternative routes on the tube, rail and bus networks and warned roads in Central London may be busier than usual.

Tweets sent out on Tuesday 2 October 2018 on the Twitter account for the Central Line suggested the strike was due to a dispute with the ASLEF union. The tweets were later deleted.

ASLEF were invited to contribute to the campaign to #improvethecentralline. No response to the email approach was ever received.

Campaign to #improvethecentralline

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On Friday 28 September 2018 the campaign to #improvethecentralline met with Caroline Pidgeon, Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, and Chris Taggart, Head of Line Operations at the Central Line.  We spent about an hour discussing the following issues:

  • The campaign shared the frustration and anger of passengers about the unreliability of the service during July and August.  Mr Taggart felt this was due to a confluence of unfortunate events and the service had improved during September.
  • The campaign confirmed a major overhaul of the fleet had been completed in May 2018 and despite some initial problems this should result in a better service.  However, both sides acknowledged that substantial improvements, such as new trains with air cooling, were unlikely for some time due to financial considerations.
  • The campaign raised a specific point about the number of trains travelling to Epping.  Mr Taggart confirmed that the organisation of the timetable does distribute trains equally between Epping and Hainault but on occasion – due to trains being taken out of service for operational reasons – it may appear as if one destination is being favoured.  However, this is not the case.
  • The campaign raised concerns about the stop/start nature of journeys due to poor signalling and the delays to trains entering Leytonstone.  Mr Taggart stated he would review these concerns and examine ways to speed up the movement of trains through the station.
  • The campaign acknowledged that although investment was being made in the line these ‘under-the-bonnet’ improvements were not always clear to passengers.  Mr Taggart agreed to explore ways of communicating better.
  • The campaign pointed out that despite the huge problems with overcrowding passengers had a part to play in helping to ensure a good service could be maintained.  Passengers should make way for people leaving trains, board quickly and ensure items are not trapped in train doors.
  • The campaign expressed concerns about a general lack of customer service on the line and that staff should try to be more helpful when problems did occur.  Mr Taggart acknowledged this feedback and would explore ways to improve the situation.

It was useful to have the opportunity to share some of the frustrations of passengers with Mr Taggart who in no way shied away from the issues raised.  The impression given was that there is a genuine willingness to work harder and try to make the line better.  The work goes on and the campaign for further improvements will continue.