Tuesday 30 September 2014

Underground, Overgound [Part 2]

Crossrail Commencement?
Crossrail will be part of Transport for London's [TfL] empire, NOT part of National Rail. Confusing isn't it? And which is the official logo?
Confusing isn't it?

Crossrail starts on 31st May 2015. It doesn't have any trains yet, the tunnels are not finished, neither are the stations; but the first Crossrail trains will run from that date. How come?

Transport for London (TfL) has announced its intention to award the contract to operate Crossrail services to MTR Corporation (Crossrail) Limited. The £1.4 billion contract will be for eight years with an option to extend to ten years. MTR Corporation Limited is a company listed on the Hong Kong Exchange and Hang Seng Index. MTR runs the Hong Kong metro system, and is also a major property developer and landlord in Hong Kong. It also invests in railways in different parts in the world, and has obtained contracts to operate rapid-transit systems in Stockholm, Beijing, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, and Melbourne as well as London..

For those who have escaped the TfL press releases, TV programmes and huge holes in central London ...
... Crossrail will run from Reading and Heathrow Airport in the west through new tunnels and new underground stations (NOT Underground stations!!) to Abbey Wood and Shenfield ...
(continued right : diagram below)
... in the east. So it is that, from May next year, MTR will take over the "metro" service from Shenfield to Liverpool Street ...
extract from Saturday timetable

... using existing Greater Anglia trains, maintained at the Greater Anglia depots and worked by (ex) Greater Anglia staff. 

When MTR takes over the Liverpool Street to Shenfield services all stations along that route will for the first time be staffed from first to last train. The trains and stations will all be cleaned and refreshed. Disabled people needing assistance will be able to turn up and go, with no need to pre-book assistance, as staff will be fully trained and equipped to assist customers at all stations, as is already the case on London Underground and London Overground services.

In effect it will become a London Overground service that isn't. Confusing isn't it?

It was pre World War 2 that the Great Eastern Railway began the task of electrifying its lines east from Liverpool Street. Work stopped "for the duration" in 1940. Sparks flew from 1949 when the line was electrified at 1500 volts DC, the same as the Manchester Sheffield Wath (via Woodhead Tunnel) scheme.
The 1950s decision to standardise in 25,000 volts AC meant a change of electrical system for the line, but clearances were tight so 6,250 volts AC was used instead. Later, the lads in white coats decided that the higher power would work without setting fire to East London and everything was upgraded to big electricity.

Confusing, isn't it?
Boris's 2026 map shows Crossrail as a shadowy blue/grey line and makes no mention of the impending temporary takeover of existing services from Shenfield into Liverpool Street. But it does show another little oddity. Overground will run the Romford to Upminster line.
This has a smattering of logic about it as it links The Underground District Line with Crossrail and brings it all under the control of TfL. Historically the line was a branch of the London Tilbury and Southend Railway from Upminster to a separate terminus station at Romford.
The area round Romford station is all buses only, and Google Streetview does not venture into such dangerous and threatening places, but this aerial shot shows the former LTS terminus platform upper right ...
... and the footbridge across South Street ...
... which, way back when, was only opened when a branch train was due. Those who change to the branch will probably never be aware of the historic separation of the two Romford stations. The LTS street-level building is now a bar.
At Upminster the line uses lonely and "basic" platform 6.
The historic picture below shows the diesel train for Romford alongside District Line Q stock on the Underground service.
The branch is now electrified and is operated by a four-car unit which, off-peak, offers plenty of space for the relatively few passengers.
The intermediate stop, Emerson Park (formerly with "Halt" added) is open and unstaffed. The entrance is basic and station facilities consist of a large shelter.
We  have been promised that ALL Overground stations will be staffed from first to last trains. Will backwater Emerson Park be the exception?

But, beware, you will need all your powers of concentration to understand the branch timetable.
Boris has ordered one of his new trains for the line.
email failure rectified?

Some comment writers have expressed concern that the email link to "a person well known to fbb" has been, to use a technical term, busted. Indeed it has! According to "Technical Support" (i.e. No. 3 son, complete with binder twine and sellotape) all is now well ...

... but emails sent during the malfunction will have evaporated into the ether, never to be seen again.

If it was important, please re-send.

Apologies from all concerned to all concerned.
 Next Overground blog : Wednesday 1st October 

Monday 29 September 2014

Underground, Overgound : The New Map [1]

Underground, Overground, wombling free,
The Wombles of Transport for London are we;
Making things better for all those that ride,
Making new rail links, growing with pride!

Wombles are organised, Boris in charge
Seeking the Overground routes to enlarge;
Underground, Overground, doffing our cap,
Consulting commuters with a new map

Underground, Overground, Crossrail makes three.
Extending the network; that's what we be.
Adding complexity? Making things clear?
We must wait and see - for many a year!
A week or so ago, Transport for London released a new map, part of a consultation project, showing the vision for the Overground in 2026. Whern you are as old as fbb, such dates become highly speculative!

Following the completion of the current Overground network in December 2012, TfL expressed its intention to operate several other suburban lines within the London area. In late June 2013, as part of the 2013 Spending Review, the Greater London Authority confirmed that Chancellor George Osborne gave the commitment for the West Anglian Suburban Lines to be taken over by TfL by the end of 2015.

In fact, scheduled takeover is 31st May 2015.
On the Chingford line, trains run every 15 minutes Monday to Saturday ...
... with a 15 minute service also offered as far as Edmonton Green on the other route. Here the service splits, half hourly from Enfield Town and half hourly from Cheshunt.
The two 15 minute services remain on separate double track which is why trains leave just a minute apart from Hackney Downs.
The map shows an interchange between Downs and Central stations at Hackney. This is only for for the adventurous as it involves leaving Downs, walking under the bridge ...
... turning right to walk down Amhurst Road. Here, if you are unlucky, you might see a "Borismaster" bulbous monstrosity in all-over black advertising livery.
You can see the North London Line overbridge up ahead. The web site for Central station shows the old entrance, via a creepy passageway alongside the old station buildings ...
... and is less than inviting, especially at night!
Fortunately a new entrance is now open which you meet first, thus depriving the back-passage loving passenger of the grotty route.
Hackney Central re-opened in 1980, having closed formally in 1944 as a result of enemy action. There is an excellent and thorough history of the station (here)

Who might wish to interchange there? If you were coming from the (future) Overground north eastern suburbs and aiming to get to the Westfield shopping centre at Stratford it might a useful option.
One of the benefits of the Overgound take-over might be better signs for this link. A planning application has been submitted to re-create a direct walkway between the two, almost on the site of a long-since demolished link. The estimated cost is £5 million. Read more (here). Will it be a high priority?
old link on old map

The other interchange is equally dodgy. It would appear from Google Maps and/or Streetview that there is a footpath linking Central and Queens Road stations at Walthamstow (the darker grey on the map).
From Edison Close (bottom left) there is an entrance via Exeter Road. Streetview shows a blank fence ...
... but a new access was opened earlier this year.
fbb suspects that direction signs are conspicuous by their absence; streetview currently shows building work and off-putting barriers at Central. Again with overgroundisation at Central we can expect better.

In April this year, Transport for London [TfL] announce the start of the process to acquire new trains.

The base order set out in the OJEU Notice is for 39 trains:
A full fleet of 30 new London Overground trains on the existing West Anglia route from 2017 (replacing the 28 currently operating)
Eight new four-car trains for the electrification of the existing Overground route between Gospel Oak and Barking (GOB)
The introduction of the new train fleet on the existing West Anglia route is expected to be complete by 2018

Keen mathematicians will spot that fbb's extract from the TfL press release omits one train from the 39. That train will figure in tomorrow's blog.

As an aside, we now know that the DaFT (Department Transport) is switching off Transport Defunct (sorry, Direct) at the end of this month, leaving us with the even-less-useful Google Transit. Can the latter cope with these interchanges?
Of course not. More research is under way and may well form the basis for an "odd interchanges" blog in the future. Before fbb commits to blog, however, he wants to visit these links and try them out for himself. Brave man!

 Next Overgound blog : Tuesday 30th September 

Sunday 28 September 2014

The Adventures of Rupert Street [2]

One of Bristol’s biggest eyesores could be in line for a facelift if a planning application is given the go-ahead by the city council. The scheme which would see a revamp of the Nelson Street area of the city centre would also see several unsightly concrete bridges demolished.

The aim is to demolish the ugly concrete building which was the former home of Bridewell Police Station and replace it with brand new student flats and shops.

The scheme also includes a public square, shops and bars and is the third time developers have looked at improving the area.

So the footbridge has to go. At 2130 on Friday, Rupert Street was closed and will remain so until 0630 tomorrow morning. But Rupert Street is an important bus route.
Vast numbers of buses are prevented from getting roughly southbound to the main terminal stops on Colston Avenue (etc.) at what is called "The Centre" but takes its name from "The Tramways Centre", the point at which all tram routes came together. Stops Ha, Hb, Hf and Hg cannot be served.
Bit it's more complex than that. Because of the loss of Rupert Street and during the closure, Quay Street and Nelson Street, normally one way north east bound, will reverse direction and become one way south west bound.

This means that stops Cs, Ct, Hc and Hd cannot be served.
So First Bus has had a big big problem this weekend.

Paul Matthews, Managing Director, First West of England, says: “We would like to offer our sincere apologies to anyone whose journey by bus this weekend is affected by this road closure. We don’t have any direct control over the closure, but we have been working closely with the council to try and mitigate the effect of it. We are also doing our best to communicate as widely as possible regarding what is happening and why. Our overriding message is simple though: if you are travelling to an important event or appointment this weekend, which involves travel in or around Bristol,please allow extra time for your journeys. Those with access to Twitter may also find it useful to follow our feed if they want to access the latest information about services in the city.”

 It would be tedious in the extreme to attempt to explain the whole gamut of diversions that First have put in place. But we can surmise much from some generalities. Buses that would use Rupert Street, for example, divert via New Bridewell Street ...
... Nelson Street (one way but in the opposite direction) and the delightfully named Christmas Street ...
... to rejoin Rupert Street after the blockage; as here with service 6 and 6A.
A similar wiggle solves Route 1 and 2 in one direction ...
... but with a massive diversion towards Broomhill added to an already circuitous loop via Broadmead.

Service 5 terminates at "The Centre" but on its very edge at Lewins Mead parallel with Rupert Street. Buses will need to do an extra and larger loopy manouevre to get the their stand.
Country buses travelling south from the bus station have been given two options. Either the Nelson Street shuffle or a longer detour via Upper Maudlin Street.
As young Mr Matthews has stated, the big problem was likely to be traffic congestion and the confusion caused by the reversal of Nelson Street's one way restriction. By the time this blog appears we shall know the worst. fbb will report later if things have been particularly exciting!

Everything seems well covered on-line. But fbb does not know about the quality of information at the non-served bus stops or what sort of printed details will have been made available.

It could have been a big shock and frustration to the vast majority of Bristolian bus travellers who would never dream of "going on-line"; even if they had the skills, the knowledge and the confuser available!

Apart from First Bus web site, various local on-line "news" services report the general situation but with no detail. Travelwest, a joint information service for the area, could only manage a map of the diversion for Rupert Street itself.

Traveline South West had a scrolling heading,
For details of alternative stopping arrangements please visit:
linking to a web site with a long name which includes Rupert Street ...

... but with no mention of where Rupert Street is! This linked to a decidedly user-UNfriendly list with no maps.
Comprehensive but incomprehensible. There was nothing obvious at all on the Wessex Bus web site.

Yesterday's Bristol Post published a list of routes affected and some pictures of the work in progress.
Factual but not particularly helpful: read (here)
And Another Haymarket
News from our Leicester correspondent reveals that work on the new Haymarket bus station at Leicester is now underway as recently announced in the local press.
 The old facility, tired and inadequate ...
... will be rebuilt with "sawtooth" stands designed to accommodate all (more?) services.
As its name suggests, the bus station never was on Haymarket. Charles Street is on the left and Belgrave Road (with the main entrance) on the right.
Some observers have suggested that there isn't enough space for passengers and not enough stands for the buses that are scheduled to use it. Now that sounds very familiar; but we will have to wait a while to see how it all works. Opening is scheduled for late 2015.
 Next rail blog : Monday 29th September