Monday, January 16, 2017
If you enjoy sitting by the window when you travel by train, it's increasingly likely that on the tube you can't.
Time was when most seats faced forwards or backwards, allowing you to sit by the window and watch the outside world go by. But over the years TfL has moved towards increased amounts of longitudinal seating, either when introducing new carriages or by rotating existing seats to face the centre of the train instead. This helps to increase the space available for standing, and so boosts capacity, which means fewer passengers being left behind on the platform at peak times. Sometimes this is even achieved without loss of seats, which is no bad thing. But it does mean we now have to stare at our fellow passengers (and the adverts over their heads) instead of being able to look out of the window, and that's a pleasure lost.
So I thought I'd knock up a table to chart the decline of the window seat, on various forms of TfL transport, over the years.
Window seats? Currently... Previously... Bakerloo Yes In most carriages, 16 central seats face forwards or backwards (in four groups of four). The other 24 seats face the centre. Carriages might be replaced (with 100% longitudinal seating) in the early 2030s. No change since the 1970s. Central No There are 38 longitudinal seats in each carriage. Before 1995, the unrefurbished carriages had 16 central seats facing forwards or backwards (in four groups of four). Circle No In most carriages, 30 longitudinal seats (and 6 tip-up seats). The previous carriages, refurbished in the early 1990s and in use until 2014, also had 100% longitudinal seating. District Barely A handful of old trains survive for the next few weeks (see next column). In the new carriages there are generally only 30 longitudinal seats (and 6 tip-up seats). In the soon-to-be extinct D stock carriages, 8 central seats face forwards or backwards (in two groups of four). The other 38 seats (and 2 tip-up seats) face the centre. Hammersmith & City No In most carriages, 30 longitudinal seats (and 6 tip-up seats). The previous carriages, refurbished in the early 1990s and in use until 2013, also had 100% longitudinal seating. Jubilee No In most carriages, 34 longitudinal seats. Before 1998, the old carriages had 8 central seats facing forwards or backwards (in two groups of four). Metropolitan Yes
In most carriages, 16 central seats face forwards or backwards (in two groups of two groups of four). The other 16 seats (and 6 tip-up seats) face the centre. Before 2012, all 58 seats in the old carriages faced forwards or backwards. Northern No In most carriages, 34 longitudinal seats (and 8 tip-up seats). The previous carriages, in use until 2001, had 16 central seats facing forwards or backwards (in four groups of four). Piccadilly No There are 38 longitudinal seats in each carriage. Before 2001, the unrefurbished carriages had 16 central seats facing forwards or backwards (in four groups of four). Victoria No 32 longitudinal seats (and 4 tip-up seats). Before 2011, half the old carriages had 16 central seats facing forwards or backwards, and half had 100% longitudinal seating. Waterloo & City No There are 34 longitudinal seats in each carriage. Before 1993, each carriage had 20 central seats facing forwards or backwards. DLR Yes
Refurbished layouts have been introduced in newer carriages, with the 16 seats at the ends still facing forward/backward, but the remaining seats (36 in total) now longitudinal. Older carriages retain 32 seats facing forwards or backwards, and 20 longitudinal seats. Overground No On the vast majority of the Overground, all the seats are longitudinal - generally 32 seats per carriage. Before 2008, most seats in the old carriages faced forwards or backwards. Yes
On the Gospel Oak to Barking line (currently closed), most/all of the seats face forwards or backwards. New electric trains (with 100% longitudinal seating) are due to be introduced in 2018. Before 2011, most/all seats in the old carriages faced forwards or backwards. Yes On the lines out of Liverpool Street and the Romford to Upminster line, almost all of the seats face forwards or backwards. After 2018, new trains will be introduced with mostly longitudinal seating. - TfL Rail Yes All of the seats face forwards or backwards. New Crossrail stock (with more longitudinal seating) is due to be introduced from May 2017. - Crossrail - Carriages look like they're going to have 16 seats facing forwards or backwards (in two groups of two groups of four) and about 34 longitudinal seats. - Tram Yes On most trams 64 seats face forwards or backwards, and only six seats face the centre. Newer trams, introduced from 2012, have two additional seats. - Dangleway Yes 100% of seats face forwards or backwards! -
The table's bound to be wrong, so let me know where, and I'll update as necessary.
And I wonder what you think about the decreasing number of window seats (and the consequential increase in standing room).
Sources of data include...
» TfL Rolling Stock information sheet (25 page pdf from this FoI request)
» Wikipedia: London Underground, Overground, Silverlink, Class 710, Class 487
» Other websites: Squarewheels, Tubeprune, Croydon Tramlink, New Crossrail trains, London Transport Forum
posted 07:00 :
Sunday, January 15, 2017Number maze: Can you make your way from the 6 in the corner to the 0 in the centre?
The number in each square shows you how many squares to move next. Moves must be either horizontal or vertical.
For example, from the 6 you can only move to the 4 in the top right corner or the 3 in the bottom left corner.
6 1 4 3 2 1 4 4 5 1 5 4 3 3 2 4 2 1 4 5 3 2 2 3 0 1 3 5 5 4 1 3 4 1 3 3 5 3 4 3 5 2 3 4 1 1 2 3 5
And can you do it in ten moves?
[Answer tomorrow. Please don't reveal the solution in the comments box, but do tell us how you get on]
posted 12:00 :
A large hollow wooden egg has arrived in London. It's not just an egg, it's an artist's studio, and it floats. It spent a year on a river in the New Forest, and is now travelling around the country on tour. It's the creation of the artist Stephen Turner (who once spent six weeks living alone in the sea forts off the north Kent coast). It's the Exbury Egg, and it's in town until the end of the month.
The egg started out on a salt marsh in Hampshire, just down the estuary from Beaulieu, within the grounds of horticultural attraction Exbury Gardens. It was specially created using boatbuilding technology, and tethered to the shore via a short pontoon so that it could rise and fall with the tide. Inside, Stephen created sustainable artworks based on digital imagery and found objects, focusing on the experience of a year spent up the creek. Later he took the egg to a canalside in Burnley and spent six months living and working there, and now he's taking the egg on a tour of four further locations, of which Trinity Buoy Wharf is the first.
You won't stumble upon the Exbury Egg by accident. For a start you're unlikely to visit Trinity Buoy Wharf by accident, it's at the most inaccessible point in Tower Hamlets at the mouth of Bow Creek. Even then the egg's well hidden, this time indoors, just past Fatboys Diner and the lighthouse, within the Chain Store on the Thames-facing quay. Step inside to view the egg in its London guise - as a large-form sculpture - and to see a small exhibition of associated artworks.
The egg's wooden shell is beautifully constructed, with openings for doors on either side and now stained with a tidal patina. With this stop on the tour being landlocked you have to climb a stepladder to clamber inside, and to discover the artist's studio laid out like a particularly cosy cabin. Jars and bottles, candles and books, all manner of items are tucked along the walls, plus a bed at the far end and a tiny galley kitchen to the side. What looks like the broom cupboard doubled up as a rudimentary shower, but it's not too hard to picture the place as an artistic laboratory among the reeds.
The exhibition includes several ovoid forms constructed from natural materials, including blackthorn thinnings and bladderwrack, plus a variety of drawings using oak ink. A long cabinet includes such delicacies as Blackberry Wine, Sloe Gin and Dandelion Root Coffee, originally locally sourced, while there are also three videos to watch (except, as with most exhibitions, nobody ever sits down and takes the time). You'll enjoy the exhibition more if you stop to engage with Stephen or his wife - they're very keen to fill in the background detail (and delighted to have visitors who haven't merely turned up to scope the room as a potential wedding venue).
The Exbury Egg will be at Trinity Buoy Wharf for the next two weeks, with outreach activities including a downriver walk on Saturday 28th January led by Stephen starting out from the Nunnery Gallery in Bow Road. After that it's going to another canal (Grand Union, Milton Keynes: 3 Apr - 14 May), a shopping centre (Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth: 16 Jun - 3 Sep) and the seaside (Jerwood Gallery, Hastings: 16 Sep - 15 Oct). It'll probably look much more impressive on the water in these other locations but, given Easter's still some way off, an indoor egg certainly has its appeal.
posted 07:00 :
Saturday, January 14, 201750 things to do in London this weekend
1) Go geocaching in Penge.
2) Window shop on Neasden Parade.
3) Watch the pigeons on Camberwell Green.
4) Head to your local Tesco Express for a pint of milk and a loaf of bread.
5) Share photos of Mitcham Parish Cemetery on Instagram.
6) Scroll through Netflix looking for a film you've already seen and know you like.
7) Buy some new underwear from Walthamstow Market.
8) Walk aimlessly along the South Bank.
9) Wake up too late to get out of the house in time for brunch.
10) Do a couple of lengths at Edmonton Leisure Centre.
11) Walk your dog round Harrow Weald Recreation Ground.
12) Find a copy of Friday's Metro and read that on the tube in lieu of real news.
13) Sit on a bench in Carshalton Park and stream some Ed Sheeran.
14) Dither over which pastry to have with your latte at Starbucks in Orpington.
15) Praise the Lord at Belvedere Pentecostal Church.
16) Meet with friends and go for a drink and have a chat.
17) Stand outside a Mayfair restaurant and look at the menu.
18) Go for a ride round the Hainault Loop.
19) Catch that film that's going to win the Oscars at the Odeon Uxbridge.
20) Check your Facebook feed on the Bakerloo line.
21) Make a cup of tea and open some digestive biscuits.
22) Tackle the Wormwood Scrubs parkrun.
23) Count the CCTV cameras overlooking the Kingsway Underpass.
24) Walk alongside the River Brent through Tokyngton Recreation Ground.
25) Buy some vegetables from a stall in Shepherd's Bush Market.
26) Use Zoopla to check the price of that nice house you can't afford.
27) Ride the R68 bus to Kew Retail Park.
28) Mull over whether to do Pizza Express or upgrade to Jamie's Italian.
29) Sell your tat at the Bounds Green School Car Boot Sale.
30) Play crazy golf at Kelsey Park in Beckenham.
31) Check the price of an Uber home from The Bald Faced Stag in Finchley.
32) Visit the Treaty Centre, Hounslow, to select a new vape flavour.
33) Pop up to Level 4 in Northwick Park Hospital for a Costa coffee.
34) Catch up on some hoovering.
35) Have a go on the swings in Beckton District Park while nobody's looking.
36) Walk round the Whitgift Centre a couple of times.
37) Pick a savoury bake from the selection at Greggs in New Malden.
38) Check Twitter to see if your friends are having a better weekend than you.
39) Take the kids to the free chess club at Redbridge Central Library.
40) Sit on your sofa and order a pizza, some wings and a bottle of Diet Coke.
41) Upload some photos of the heritage ironwork at Bromley-by-Bow station.
42) Play your favourite tunes out loud on the upper deck of the 353 bus.
43) Hire a Zipcar to get a new flatpack bookcase home from IKEA.
44) Argue with the Jehovah's Witnesses outside the Bentall Centre, Kingston.
45) Walk round the block until your Fitbit tells you you've finished.
46) Stand on the terraces and cheer on Pitshanger Dynamo FC.
47) Hunt for bargains in the charity shops on Sidcup High Street.
48) Grab a kebab from the takeaway outside the Night Tube.
49) Play Candy Crush until your phone battery runs out.
50) Explore Romford.
posted 07:00 :
Friday, January 13, 2017Q♥ Feltham/Staines/Sunbury-on-Thames
Against the odds, my second Herbert Dip borough is immediately adjacent to my first. What's more, it's one of only six boroughs proposed in 1960 that extend outside what became the boundary of Greater London in 1965. Staines and Sunbury merged to create what's now the Surrey district of Spelthorne, whereas Feltham became the westernmost part of Hounslow. For today's post I've eschewed the Home Counties and chosen to explore Feltham, because I've seriously underblogged the area over the years. I used a local bus route to help me tour the sights...
Route H26: Hatton Cross - Sparrow Farm
Length of journey: 6 miles, 30 minutes
So meandering is the route of the H26 that you can actually walk from one terminus to the other quicker than the bus. I did something even more senseless, I walked from one terminus to the other along the actual route itself, diverting to adjacent points of interest along the way, then returning by bus to confirm how much easier that would have been. My journey started at Hatton Cross station, which I'm not at liberty to write about because it's in Hillingdon. But thirty seconds across the A30 the H26 enters Hounslow, and then it's Feltham Urban District all the way.
Hatton: Before Heathrow was built, Hatton was a minor hamlet on the Great South West Road. It's now a hollowed-out trading estate and service hub, a bleak circulatory surrounded by truck depots and freight hubs, although one burger-friendly 17th century pub survives. Behind one battered fence the landing lights for the airport's south runway sweep across bleak pasture where shaggy ponies graze, which must look amazing (and sound appalling) when flights boom low overhead.
Hatton Road: One bus stop down, The Orchard is the home of Bedfont and Feltham FC, a recently-merged entity in the Combined Counties League Premier Division whose chief sponsor (somewhat unexpectedly) is the frozen food company BirdsEye. A few streets of semis dare to exist airportside, their peace regularly shattered by loud ground-based roars which anywhere else in the country would have residents reaching for social media to check the world wasn't ending. A bridge then crosses the Duke of Northumberland's River and the Longford River, at the point where the two artificial channels finally diverge. Terminal 4 is only a brief walk up the riverbank, should you wish to connect with my previous post hereabouts.
East Bedfont: One of two former Middlesex villages, this incarnation is now mostly suburbia, whereas West Bedfont is mostly oil terminal. A hint of rural Georgian charm exists around the conservation area at Bedfont Green, but the pièce de résistance is St Mary's church, Hounslow's oldest place of worship. The timber and tile spire would normally be photogenic enough, but this is completely overshadowed by a giant topiary sculpture outside the front door where a pair of yew trees has been clipped into the shape of two peacocks on pillows linked by an arch. Two dates appear into the base - 1704 which is believed to be the year the yews were first trimmed, and 1990 which is the date of the most recent restoration - and the end result is indeed as amazing as it sounds.
Bedfont Lakes Business Park: This anodyne commercial centre helps keep London's tech businesses ticking over, plus it's also where BirdsEye has its HQ, hence that sponsorship deal I mentioned earlier. Employees at IBM and Cisco have roof terraces overlooking the eponymous lakes for when the weather's better, and a bespoke bus service to the nearest stations so they don't have to ride with the commoners.
Bedfont Lakes Country Park: This is more like it - 180 acres of rolling meadows, woodland and water, landscaped from gravel pits and opened to the public in 1995. The H26 stops at the eastern end, near Bedfont Cemetery and the car park where Volvo drivers coerce muddy dogs back into their vehicles. A swirl of paths leads off around the central grassy expanse and along the edge of various migration-friendly lakes, some of the banks of which are fenced off as nature reserves. In the woods at the far end are a fishing lake, a cafe and an animal rescue centre, while possibly the most interesting feature is slap bang in the middle. Monolith Hill is an artificial mound with a rocky block on the top, and was intended to be the highest point in the borough of Hounslow, reaching a lofty 29m above sea level. Unfortunately certain areas around Heston top 35m, so the record lies elsewhere, but the view from the summit's considerably better.
Feltham Young Offenders Institution: ... or HMYOI Feltham, as the sign outside this juvenile sinbin has it. The H26 stops at a shelter in the car park, where staff and visitors mingle, well away from the Union Flag hoisted prominently by the front gate. Up to 550 young people and young adults are secured within the fenced perimeter, beyond which can be seen numerous slanted rooftops, an industrial-sized chimney and several cameras on very tall poles.
Feltham High Street: Feltham's main drag runs from St Dunstan's to St Catherine's, the former Georgian, the latter now vacant after once being converted into council offices. A few old buildings remain, especially around the Green where the Red Lion has been serving pints since 1800. I spotted a heron on the island in the middle of the pond, and a sign on a lamppost pointing the way along the Feltham Heritage Trail (of which no documentary evidence exists, so best not follow). But most of Olde Feltham has been swept away, the shopping centre twice, with a semi-substantial mall called The Centre now feeding custom past numerous chainstore units to a large Asda at the rear. Bland, but useful,
22 Gladstone Avenue: In September 1964, just before this corner of Middlesex became London, the Bulsara family arrived in Feltham from Zanzibar. Dad Bomi got a job as a cashier, Mum Jer became an assistant at Marks & Spencer, and son Farrokh went to art school. Known to his friends as Freddie, he was still living in this modest semi behind Feltham Park in 1970 when he met drummer Roger Taylor and local guitarist Brian May with whom he formed the band Queen. Rock history ensued. A previous attempt to commemorate Freddie Mercury's life - a flamboyant star-shaped plaque in Feltham shopping centre - suffered such bad weathering that it had to be removed after a couple of years, and was replaced by a lesser slab outside a nondescript office block across the road. Thank goodness then that English Heritage have stepped in and placed a blue plaque in the pebbledash at number 22, unveiled last year, and a proud reminder of the precocious talent nurtured in this most ordinary of streets.
Sparrow Farm: Housing developments have an uncanny knack of naming themselves after what they replace. In this case that's a farm on the banks of the River Crane, formerly fields and orchards and now a minor 1930s estate. The H26 terminates outside a brief brick parade, topped by flats, offering residents a chippie, a Londis and a Christine's World of Beauty. It's a seemingly lacklustre finish to my exploration of Feltham, but locate the exit to the riverbank to enter a much more peaceful world, with shallow waters rippling beneath stripped branches, and Hounslow Heath rising on the opposite bank.
posted 07:00 :
Thursday, January 12, 2017
*** SNOW UPDATE ***
OMG snow!!! That surely means traffic grinding to a halt, the termination of rail services and a commuting apocalypse. It means sledges in the park, weary pensioners shovelling ice from their driveway and hundreds of schools closed tomorrow morning. It means millions of photos of frozen streetscapes and fluffy back gardens all over your Facebook feed. It means... hang on, that's only sleet isn't it, the lying meteorological bastards.
Thursday 12th January, 18:00
That promised snow had better hurry up, because our media intern's due to go home soon, and we can't afford to pay her overtime.
Thursday 12th January, 17:00
We're no experts, but that looks very much like heavy rain to us.
Thursday 12th January, 16:00
Nothing feels quite so sweet as stepping into an Uber while your fellow travellers stand shivering at the bus stop, yeah? So today's the perfect day to download ride-sharing app Cabsnatch and take advantage of their amazing cut price introductory offer. "We use surge pricing to charge you more in awful weather," said chief investor Cassie Ridgeway, "so even 10% off barely scratches our profits." We say join the Cabsnatch party, and never ride with the smelly losers on the bus again.
Thursday 12th January, 15:00
Wrap up warm, London – snow is apparently arriving today and it's not likely to be the gentle flurry from the sky we wished we got for Christmas. According to weather reports we're getting 'thundersnow', and if you think that sounds pretty hardcore, you're right – it's basically the snow version of a thunderstorm. You've probably already heard that The Met Office have issued severe weather warnings which could see heavy rain and this freaky weather phenomenon go down this evening – hardly what we need for the commute home. But hey, it's just a little drizzly for now – and if we can survive a 24-hour tube strike, we can deal with a bit of thundersnow, right?
When Snowmagedon hits, where better to hide than Selfridges Foodhall, where nut butter gurus Nutsmith are opening a pop-up nut butter bar (yes, really), and serving up a selection of gourmet toast and nut-based toppings. Sourdough and avocado? For sure! Or better still take to the streets, because the folks over at Meatcrave have transformed one of London’s red buses into a fully-functioning barbecue shack, so you can cruise around London while chowing down on sauce-slathered flesh. N-ice!
Thursday 12th January, 13:00
Boffins at the Evening Standard are on the case, confirming that London has been placed under a weather alert with snow predicted today, amid dire warnings for rail, road and air transport. Not only have they paraphrased some information they've been told by British Airways and published a carousel of snowy photos from Scotland, but most importantly they've found tweets by sceptical Londoners scared by what their rush hour commute might bring. Mark said “[London] grinds to a halt frequently without snow!" while Betty joked: “Prepared for London to epically come to a total standstill because of a single snow flake #uggsinmybag @UGGUK #snow #London”. We hope Putney freezes over.
Thursday 12th January, 12:00
As the streets of the capital turn into ice rinks, it's not too late to book yourself into the real thing! Several artificial ice rinks opened up before Christmas, and are struggling to attract custom now it's midweek in January, so now's the time to book a sesh. Whether your blading skills are jaw-droppingly magnificent or utterly non-existent, the Midtown Ice Rink at the British Museum boasts several exciting extras to complement the extravagant surroundings. An iced path allows skaters to dash off from the main rink and glide below fairy light-laden trees, while a pop-up bar and restaurant serve everything from Scandi wraps to cheese fondue and hot buttered rum. See you there?
Thursday 12th January, 11:00
Who's scared of a few frozen flakes falling from the sky? Well TfL aren't, because they put out a press release as early as yesterday saying they were really well prepared for the imminent deep freeze. Apparently more than 100,000 tonnes of salt are stockpiled, which we think must be enough for several million tequilas, plus it's enough to last for up to 139 days' worth of icy weather. Wow, not even a Game of Thrones winter lasts that long! Your bus or train will be running for sure when the Siberian blanket hits. Sounds like we're in safe hands, London.
Top burger joint Heyspendo won't be letting today's snowfall wear them down, that's not their style. Their pre-advertised special offer still stands, with the brothers' signature pork and cashew confection being handed out for free to the first 25 lucky customers from noon. Wrap up in your scarves and mufflers sharpish, and hunker down to the epicentre of Haggerston for your amazing lucky treat, it says here.
Thursday 12th January, 09:00
It’s time to dig out your woolly wares as the city is set to get pretty chilly and there may even be some snow involved. The forecasting gurus at the Daily Express have told Londoners to prepare for SNOW HELL, with the whole of the country to be trapped in a -10C freezing double vortex for a week. Two colossal swathes of churning, freezing air will close in on London, triggering Arctic conditions which could last until spring, and it will feel very, very cold thanks to a lovely wind chill in the air. Wrap up warm, folks!
Thursday 12th January, 08:00
We heard that it might actually snow in London today - yes you heard us right, snow! Like you, we're breathlessly excited at the prospect of actual snow in London for the first time since some date we can't be bothered to look up. Snow is brilliant and fantastic, especially for boosting the Instagram likes on your next outdoor selfie, yeah? But snow is also terrible and dangerous, because it makes travelling slower, and Southern are already doing that job perfectly, right? So throughout the day we'll be bringing you all the latest snow news and snow updates, and we hope you'll make us your trusted social media channel of choice as this frightening crisis unfolds.
Thursday 12th January, 07:00
posted 07:00 :
Wednesday, January 11, 2017It's fun to go up things.
My brother came down from Norfolk yesterday, and after work we went up the Sky Garden. That's the glass box at the top of the Walkie Talkie, or 20 Fenchurch Street as this inelegant beast is officially known. The public viewing platform opened two years ago this week, and you can go up for free so long as you're awake enough when booking opens three weeks in advance. What's more, it's over 150m up, which is higher above sea level than every single building in Norfolk.
We went up at sunset, which is the best time to go because you get to see the city in daylight and then after dark. The Sky Garden hasn't changed much since I was last there, except it's busier than it was, and the open terrace out the front is now open. That had the best views, but also the coldest weather, so most of the French schoolchildren massed inside for warmth. The 36th and 37th floor restaurants were quiet, but the 35th floor Sky Pod bar was raking in the cash, which isn't difficult when a bottle of Coca Cola costs £3.75. Hot drinks are cheaper, but a pork pie is £4.50, and nowhere near the size of the two quid monster I bought in Leeds at the weekend. You too could visit.
Meanwhile, other things in London are also fun to go up.
Good news from the Shard. Last year they issued a Love London card which for £20.16 allowed you to go up to the viewing platform as many times as you liked during the year. This year they're doing it again, but for £20.17. Given that a single visit currently costs £25.95, this is phenomenal value. Cards go on sale from Monday morning at 7am, and must be claimed in person because you need to show photo ID. Last year the queues were very long, but cards didn't run out on the first day and you could have popped back weeks later and still picked one up. Also be warned that last year you had to be a London resident to qualify, which is probably still the case, even though it's not specified in the terms and conditions. I went up nine times last year, at an average cost of £2.24 per visit. Phenomenal value.
[UPDATE: you don't have to be a Londoner this year, anyone can apply]
Also, news from the Orbit. This is the red sculpture in the Olympic Park with the viewing platform up top, and now a corkscrew slide in an attempt to make the place more exciting. Slide aside, the viewing platform is often ridiculously quiet, and in January especially so. Which is why there's a special half price offer on tickets bought this month, for visits up to and including 10th February. That means £5 for adults, £2.50 for children and £3.50 for senior citizens, which is a bargain. The Slide is not included, neither is there discount on the annual Local Resident offer, and you have to pre-book at least the day before you visit. But if you've always thought about going up and been put off by the price, now's the time.
And news from the Dangleway. Now that TfL have published ridership figures for the last week of the year, it's possible to tot up passenger numbers to see how this cross-river link is performing. In 2016 the Dangleway had 1,490,000 passengers, its lowest annual total to date, but only slightly down on 1,540,000 the previous year, and 1,520,000 the year before that. In fact the annual passenger total has been astonishingly consistent since this tourist attraction opened, as the graph below shows.
It should be pointed out that the 2012 total was achieved in just six months, back when the Dangleway was still a novelty, so isn't technically comparable. But since 2012 the data shows very clearly that the cablecar has had approximately one and a half million passengers a year (an average of 4000 a day), with ridership not really growing nor in decline. For a more detailed overview, see this line graph of cumulative dangles. This would be a good place to remind you that the Dangleway covers its operational costs each year, so isn't losing money, other than the millions poured into building it in the first place. But it is noticeable that TfL have stopped promoting it quite so heavily recently, and so it continues to carry tourists across the Thames, out of sight, out of mind.
Finally, in news that isn't news, the Dangleway is considerably better value than Up At The O2, the neighbouring attraction where people go for a hike over a millennial tent. This pseudo-mountaineering challenge costs £28, or £35 at the weekend, whereas the cablecar costs only £3.50. What's more, Up At The O2 takes you only 52m above ground level, whereas the cablecar reaches 90m so the panorama's considerably better, relatively speaking. And seriously people, if you really want to go hill climbing in the capital try Parliament Hill, which is steeper and higher and free, and arguably has a better view to boot.
Some of the best things to go up in London cost nothing at all.
posted 07:00 :
Tuesday, January 10, 2017Yesterday, for a brief trial period, TfL introduced several exciting new Express Tube services. Trains on several lines skipped several intermediate stations, especially in zone 1, delivering passengers to their destinations more quickly than ever before.
These enhanced services were a direct result of management sacking 200 employees more than they should have done last year, claiming everything was going to be OK, and then discovering otherwise when staff shortages transpired.
Obviously these Express Tube services were excellent, especially if they happened to be stopping at stations passengers actually wanted to go to, and less so otherwise. The enhanced services were extremely popular, indeed strikingly so, and many potential customers took to the streets.
TfL thoughtfully produced a digital map on their website to explain clearly how the new services worked and which stations were closed, which was a lot of stations.
If anyone thought to change the settings an even clearer 'reversed' version was available, but very few people thought to do this.
But how great were the Express services? I tried a few to find out.
Stratford → West Ham → Canning Town → Canada Water → Waterloo → Baker Street → Finchley Road → (all stations to) Stanmore
The Jubilee Express service was excellent, and proper fast. What's more, passengers were clearly shown what to expect on the line diagram at Stratford station, on which the upcoming stopping pattern had been displayed using a black marker pen. No other infographic I saw yesterday came close to the clarity of this.
The driver was also excellent, explaining carefully to passengers which stations were about to be skipped, and what the next station would be. Sometimes this was a very long way away. For example the train didn't stop at either North Greenwich or Canary Wharf, whizzing straight through to Canada Water where Overground staff were in control. The next stop was Waterloo, and then the train zipped all the way through the West End without stopping before pausing at Baker Street, which was excellent unless you wanted to get off somewhere inbetween. I've never travelled from Canning Town to Finchley Road as quickly as this, it was an excellent service.
Harrow & Wealdstone → (all stations to) Queen's Park → Marylebone
The Bakerloo Express service was also excellent. Bakerloo line trains didn't bother themselves with all those annoying central stations, the ones where everyone gets off, they terminated short at Marylebone. What's more they skipped a whole load of stations on the final run-in, not stopping at as many as five stations immediately before Marylebone. If you didn't want to go to Paddington and did want to go to Marylebone, this was excellent. It would have been even more excellent had there not been another train immediately in front, causing us to pause in all the stations we weren't stopping at and slowing us down more than a normal train would have been.
But TfL's electronic information couldn't cope with the new Express service. At Willesden Junction a display explained that trains were only running between Harrow and Queen's Park, which wasn't true. What's more the Next Train Indicator was convinced that the train's destination was Elephant & Castle, because it always is, except yesterday it was Marylebone, so this wasn't true. What's more the Next Train Indicator was also convinced the next train was "calling at all stations to Elephant & Castle", which it wasn't, not even all stations to Marylebone. Thankfully the driver was excellent, and carefully explained all the nuances the electronic systems couldn't, in particular the serial non-stoppingness of the final section.
Old Street → Kennington → Clapham North → Clapham South → Balham → Tooting Broadway → Morden
The Northern Express service was absolutely excellent. The only central London station served by Northern line trains was Old Street, which wasn't especially easy to get to unless you were in the area, in which case it was brilliant. The next five stations were all missed out, due to strategically-located staff shortages, but this didn't matter if you didn't want to get off at Bank or London Bridge. After Kennington the train only stopped five times on the way down to Morden, and didn't stop five times, which is clearly how a good Express service ought to work. All the important interchange connections were covered, so all was fine and good.
The whiteboard at Old Street almost coped with the new Express service, except that somebody had written the two Clapham stations the wrong way round. It's an easy mistake to make, thinking that Clapham South is north of Clapham North, and nobody was inconvenienced.
But TfL's electronic information couldn't cope with the new Express service. The automated announcements on the platform at Old Street declared that when the next train to Morden arrived, the next station would be Moorgate, but it wouldn't because Moorgate was closed. The automated announcements on board that train then announced that the next station was Moorgate, when in fact Moorgate was closed, then went on to (correctly) state that each of the next four stations were closed. The announcements continued to make this specific error, consistently deciding that the first closed station after an open station was open, and that subsequent closed stations were closed.
The scariest part of the journey was immediately before arriving at Morden, when the scrolling display decided that "The next station is closed. This train will not be stopping at the next station." Thankfully we did stop, otherwise the train would have smashed into the buffers, but why would an electronic system know that?
At Morden station, another glaring electronic error was on the Next Train Indicator. According to this, all the trains heading north were going to 'High Barnet via Bank'. In fact they were only going to Old Street, and Bank was one of the stations they wouldn't be stopping at. Thankfully the driver on the journey back was excellent, and carefully listed the few stations we would actually be stopping at, contradicting the electronic displays as necessary.
Edgware Road → High Street Kensington → Sloane Square → St James's Park → Temple → Mansion House → Monument → Tower Hill → Aldgate → Liverpool Street → Farringdon → Euston Square → Baker Street → Edgware Road → (all stations to) Hammersmith
The Circle Express service was of course excellent. Loads of stations were missed out, including almost all the ones where mainline trains terminate, which speeded everything up. There was an annoying section between Monument and Liverpool Street where the train actually stopped at four consecutive stations, but this was a frustrating blip and the service soon got back to skipping huge great chunks. Even better, trains were only running every 20 minutes, which might sound bad except that Hammersmith & City trains were only running every 30 minutes, so this was 50% better.
But TfL's electronic information couldn't cope with the new Express service. Even though the Circle line is run using some of the newest trains on the network, it turns out they can't cope with seriously unusual stopping patterns. The onboard displays consistently declared that the train was stopping at the next station, even when that station was closed. Then, just before arriving, the message changed to assert that the next station was in fact closed, and that the next stop would definitely be the station after that, even if that were closed as well. This charade continued all around the circuit, a steady stream of digital inadequacy which regularly misfooted passengers.
What's more, the entire Circle line destination system is of course predicated around a selection of important stations, none of which were actually open. For example, the display on the front of the train initially said "Circle line via Victoria", even though Victoria was closed. Meanwhile the scrolling display inside the train declared "This is a Circle line train via Victoria and Embankment", which were two stations we definitely weren't stopping at. Thankfully the driver was excellent, kicking off the journey with the announcement that "This is a Circle line train calling at some stations". No really, he did, and this was faultless information. He then chipped in around the circuit to confirm the station we were really were stopping at next, rather than the repeated lies the displays and automated announcements were spouting.
If you're still reading, there is a serious point here. The Underground's automated systems are generally incapable of coping with the unusual, so when the unusual occurs the outcome is misinformation. Restricted lists of destinations can't cope with irregular termini. Additional announcements designed for added clarity merely confuse when the status quo is breached. Automated messages designed to inform the public about closed stations misfire when wrongly triggered, or when the default information is unexpectedly incorrect. It's not ideal.
Even though this is 2017, it turns out that the Underground's electronic systems are remarkably inflexible, and therefore unhelpfully misleading when the unexpected kicks in. Only the human touch was able to provide consistently constructive information during yesterday's strike service, because humans haven't been restrictively pre-programmed and can think for themselves. One day, maybe, more adaptable systems will be introduced which react to what's actually happening and allow the human element to be phased out. In the meantime it turns out that trained staff are the most reliable way to inform and reassure tube passengers... which I believe is precisely what yesterday's strike was all about.
posted 07:00 :
Monday, January 09, 2017Day out: Leeds
Leeds is Yorkshire's largest city, a historic wool town on the River Aire kickstarted by the Industrial Revolution into becoming a thriving metropolis. Half a million people live in the city itself, and nearly three quarters in the wider area, making this the second most populous administrative district in the country (after Birmingham). Leeds is a regional focus for commerce, culture and communication, plus the shops are damned good too. And even if you visit in January, there's still plenty to see. [Visit Leeds]
My Leeds gallery
There are 32 photos altogether [slideshow]
Royal Armouries Museum
Let's move most of the Tower of London's collection of weapons to Sheffield, they said, then changed their mind and moved it to Leeds. A patch of brownfield land by the Clarence Dock was selected, downstream from the main city centre, and a large five storey box constructed to display the National Collection of Arms and Armour. The Queen opened it in 1996, entrance is free, and over a million people come to visit each year.
The wow element is provided by the Hall of Steel, a cylindrical space the height of the building whose walls are covered with swords, breastplates and other offensive malarkey, surrounded by a spiral staircase with portholes so you can peer through and admire. Elsewhere the main galleries branch off a central longitudinal void, the largest of these on even-numbered floors, with with the odd-numbered floors acting as smaller mezzanines.
The 'War' section is exactly what you'd expect it to be, a long-term history of man-to-man combat focusing on the medieval, Tudor and Stuart years, plus an awful lot of suits of armour. There's quite a lot to read, plenty to see and just enough to fiddle with to keep restless younger visitors occupied. Across the way in 'Tournament' the focus is Henry VIII's Field Of The Cloth Of Gold, with costumed staff re-enacting some of the fighting in a central fenced-off paddock once a day. There used to be more of this kind of performance stuff until, you know, cuts.
Less anticipated is the large gallery given over to 'Hunting', looking back at all the ways humans have shot animals for sport over the years, including peculiar methods like puntgunning. More gung-ho parents show all this stuff to their offspring with some glee, while others have to keep explaining "No, Tommy, killing rabbits is bad, most people never do this". There is a small 'Peace' gallery at the back of one of the floors, as a necessary moral jolt, but because there are no weapons here a lot of visitors walk straight through.
The other major gallery is 'Oriental', with a very broad collection of armour and weapons from Japan, China and other parts of Asia - ideal if samurai's your thing. Perhaps more intriguing is the dark gallery devoted to 'Self Defence', where smaller more modern civilian weapons are to be found. This is where all the guns are, from flintlocks to James Bond sharpshooters, as well as numerous nasty stabby little knives. The museum does much outreach work with school parties and youth groups on knife crime, focusing on legal and social outcomes rather than how lovely and shiny the blades are.
All in all the RAM has an interesting and thought-provoking collection, spreading its net more widely than the regal armour on display in the Tower of London, and which might take a couple of hours to look round properly. I was less than enamoured with the surrounding Leeds Dock development, however, a Docklands-style attempt at post-industrial rebirth that's mostly apartment blocks, its anticipated commercial heart having fallen flat. All the designer stores that once moved in have moved out, leaving a Tesco Express and some underused waterside boulevards. Good try, but all Leeds' better retail centres are elsewhere.
Leeds might just have the best shopping opportunities outside London, indeed better than London if you like everything fairly tightly focused. At least three large retail malls are scattered immediately around the pedestrianised city centre, with the recent Trinity centre cleverly mixing outdoor with indoor on several levels. The Corn Exchange boasts several designer stores within a historic ring, and then of course there's Kirkgate Market, mentioned yesterday, whose 800 stalls provide the perfect budget alternative.
But the most elegant purchasing experience is to be found in the Arcades, half a dozen distinct covered walkways leading off the top end of Briggate, Leeds' main shopping street. Built sequentially in the Victorian era, these high vaulting corridors boast ornate ceilings and flamboyant decor, and provide an ideal location for the city's more boutique-y designer shops. Harvey Nicks' first out-of-London outpost runs off the back of Cross Arcade, close to Vivienne Westwood (on County Arcade) and Louis Vuitton (opposite Thornton's Arcade), with some posh mid-channel seating areas (in Queen Victoria Street) serving coffee and/or prosecco. Even if you only prefer window shopping, this is the place to be seen.
Henry Moore Institute
Although the Leeds Art Gallery is temporarily closed, its neighbouring sculptural outpost is in full effect. Opened in 1982, much serious research goes on within its upper floors while exhibitions are held throughout the year in the three galleries downstairs. The latest exhibition is right up my street, a retrospective of the City Sculpture Project which for six months in 1972 placed large abstract artworks in prominent positions in eight British towns and cities. Leeds wasn't one of those, but is now more than happy to display models and designs from the various installations, plus the somewhat bewildered reactions of a public as yet unused to such structural figuralism. I could happily have looked round considerably more stuff, but space is tight... which is why the key exhibit has been placed outside - Birmingham's five metre-tall statue of King Kong - now greatly adored by all passers-by with cameras.
When Leeds got some money for the millennium, they decided to spruce up the area outside Leeds Civic Hall to create an extensive piazza and potential entertainment space. Normally there's an ice rink here in the winter, but not this year, and the Christmas Market has long been cleared away. Instead a BBC screen plays out films nobody really wants to watch (Greg Wallace getting excitable over regional food experiences, anyone?), and the fountains in Nelson Mandela Gardens (yes, he came to open them) gush unheard. Look out for the golden owl on a high plinth beside the Civic Hall, part of the 25-strong Leeds Owl Trail, celebrating the noble bird on the city's coat of arms.
Leeds City Museum
Looking out across the east end of Millennium Square, in the former Mechanics' Institute, is the city's municipal historical display. Although the original collection's almost 200 years old, the museum nearly faded into obsolescence after the war and was only rescued by an injection of lottery cash in 2004. From my look around I'd have guessed it was a lot older than that, which I suspect is more a reflection of the constraints of the old building than its contents. A central auditorium takes up a lot of the interior space, with only a floor-sized map of Leeds of curatorial interest. Immediately underneath in the basement is the Life on Earth gallery, filled with stuffed animals including a mangy yak and a much-loved tiger.
Further galleries are squeezed in upstairs, including the Leeds Story (which tells exactly the history you'd expect) and another celebrating residents' Asian heritage. At the back of Ancient Worlds is a darkened room containing Nesyamun, the Leeds Mummy, whose blackened part-wrapped remains visitors are expressly forbidden from taking photos of. When I looked in, two exasperated parents were trying desperately to get toddler Thomas to behave respectfully in front of his first dead body, instead of running around willy-nilly. I have to say I have never seen a museum more popular with throngs of small children, although not necessarily for purely educational reasons.
Leeds Industrial Museum
For a more locally-relevant and interesting heritage proposition, head a couple of miles out of town up the Leeds Liverpool Canal. I enjoyed my walk along the towpath from Granary Square, passing rapidly from modern anodyne development to lone industrial chimneys, undisturbed waterside and repurposed mills. Several joggers and cyclists were out too, this being an ideal pathway though the inner city for them to do what they do, while a couple of Canal and River Trust volunteers lurked at Oddy Locks attempting to prise donations from passers-by.
Leeds Industrial Museum is located at Armley Mills, seemingly isolated if you arrive by towpath, but frighteningly close to a Pizza Hut, bowling alley and leisure park on the opposite side. The four storey building was the world's largest woollen mill when it opened in 1805, ideally located at a drop in the River Aire, and with canalside access for transportation of goods. A restored spinning mule on the top floor reflects later days when rudimentary mechanisation first took hold, while a fascinating exhibition on the floor below focuses on the city's tailoring history. Hepworths and Burtons grew their retail empires based on thousands of workers toiling in Leeds, and it's thanks to them that suits became the must-have wardrobe item for men of all classes between the wars.
The world's first motion pictures were recorded in Leeds - brief shots of Roundhay Park and crossing Leeds Bridge - so early cinematography is well covered. The museum even has its own plush cinema lit by flickering lamps, with children's films screened every Saturday afternoon (alas, to barely an audience). A temporary exhibition looks back at the Leeds Flood of Boxing Day 2015, a local catastrophe which inundated the ground floor of the museum to neck height, and means the Locomotives collection is still out of bounds. Never mind, there are still several other engines and mechanical bits to see inside and out, plus a cafe, and all for just £3.80.
posted 01:00 :
Sunday, January 08, 2017diamond geezer event: North of England Caucus
(this year, Leeds - meet by the Black Prince statue in City Square, 10am)
The annual North of England readership meet-up took place yesterday in the city of Leeds. The weather was overcast but with a couple of outbreaks of low sunshine to brighten the mood. A splendid time was had by all.
As the clock on the Old Post Office ticked towards ten o'clock, those gathered in City Square made themselves known to the organiser and were crossed off on the official attendance list. Though outnumbered by the pigeons roosting on the Black Prince's plinth, the meeting was deemed quorate, and the business of the day got underway.
Members were very keen to visit Leeds Art Gallery and enjoy its collection of national importance. Renowned works by William Holman Hunt and Barbara Hepworth are amongst the many treasures inside the listed Victorian building. Unfortunately the gallery is closed for roof repairs and will not be reopening before October. The Tiled Hall Cafe is magnificent, but it was felt to be too early in the day for a coffee stop, so the party moved on.
St John the Evangelist's is the oldest church in Leeds, dating to just before the Civil War, and has been highly praised by Pevsner. Made redundant in 1975, its marvellous interior is now in the hands of the Churches Conservation Trust. Unfortunately it was closed on arrival, and members were not willing to wait around for a couple of hours before the nice volunteers opened it up.
The ruins of Kirkstall Abbey lies three miles from the city centre along the Aire Valley, and have previously been blogged. All eyes were therefore on the neighbouring Abbey House Museum, with its famous recreation of a Victorian street. Alas the museum is currently closed for a fortnight for the replacement of a fire alarm, so we did not attend.
A highlight of the day's activities was to be a ride on the Middleton Railway, the world's oldest continuously working public railway. In 1812 Matthew Murray designed and put into operation the very first successful commercial steam locomotive, operated by the world's first professional train driver. Although the colliery has long since closed, volunteers run regular passenger services on the mile-long line at weekends... except in the winter months.
It was not possible to visit Lumiere, the tallest residential skyscraper in Western Europe, because this was cancelled in 2008. A subsequent replacement was also cancelled, and the intended 14 storey office block has not yet materialised, so the tour enjoyed looking at the car park on the levelled site instead.
Harewood House is a magnificent country mansion, now almost 250 years old, on the outskirts of the city. Still home to the Lascelles family, outdoor shots for ITV soap opera Emmerdale are filmed in a purpose-built 'village' on the estate. Tours of the house and grounds are available, but the place doesn't reopen for another ten weeks, so it wasn't worth going there either.
By now the group had built up quite an appetite, so lunch was taken in Kirkgate Market. This is the largest covered market in Europe, and site of the original Penny Bazaar that gave birth to Marks and Spencer. A recreation of the groundbreaking stall exists in the gorgeously ornate 1904 hall, and sells souvenirs and confectionery.
Preferring something a little more substantial than a packet of Percy Pigs, delegates descended on Crawshaws in Butchers Row and picked up a Large Leeds Pork Pie for just £2. This culinary behemoth consists of a disc of finely chopped meat, one inch thick and almost three inches in diameter, surrounded by a moist pastry case and topped off with a layer of mushy peas. "With or without mint sauce?" asked the lady behind the counter, and on discovering it was the former, duly double wrapped the confection to prevent leakage.
The pie proved somewhat of a challenge to eat, not least because the acidic mint leaves got everywhere and stuck to the fingers, but also because that really is a lot of pork. Nevertheless at least half of the pie was consumed, including all of the vegetable topping, and next time a regular £1 pie would surely suffice. Londoners really do pay over the odds for their baked goods, although maybe their arteries are less congealed.
Members of the tour party with other commitments then took their leave. It really had been a marvellous morning, they agreed, and many interesting places had been almost seen. Readers of diamond geezer are urged to keep a close watch on the Facebook group for further communal events.
If this trip to Leeds has whetted your appetite for a visit, Ian has details of a special Virgin East Coast rail offer with half price tickets (for the period 30 January - 31 March) available from 10am tomorrow morning. London delegates at yesterday's meet-up paid only £5 each way for their train tickets, thanks to a similar (but even better) offer a couple of months ago.
posted 07:00 :
Saturday, January 07, 2017A new exit out of the Olympic Park has opened. You won't be using it yet, but maybe one day.
The new exit is along the Waterworks River, which is the wide artificial waterway that passes the Aquatics Centre. This path been blocked underneath the railway since 2005(!), and has now finally been unblocked with the removal of some metal barriers. These were actually shifted before Christmas, but someone's now been along to sweep up the bird droppings and switch the lights on, so the walkway is now somewhat more alluring.
This particular way out is on the west bank of the river, opposite the Aquatics Centre and close to where the Orbit rises. The lawns and gardens run south towards that lovely purple footbridge, once used to access railway sidings, now a pedestrian escape towards Warton Road. I'm pleased to be able to report, by the way, that the daffodils in the Olympic Park are currently running a month behind last year's schedule, suggesting winter is properly back on track.
Previously the riverside footpath ground to a halt at the QEOP loop road, the one that hardly any traffic uses. It was possible to peer through the barriers beneath the viaduct, towards the gloom of the railway bridge ahead, but to go no further. As with many of the other 'delayed access' issues along the southern edge of the Park, the problem seemed to be Crossrail, but even when their works nudged back to allow footpath space, the tunnel below the bridge remained stubbornly blocked.
What we find now that the way ahead is clear is a long dark passageway adjacent to the river, with a sequence of vertically positioned lights along the wall and muted blue illumination in the ironwork overhead.
I was particularly interested in the blue lights, and walked back and forth a few times to see if anything happened. Nothing happened. And you might not be expecting anything to happen, except that this underpass is the location of one of the 26 permanent artworks in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, as explained in a glossy booklet published back in 2013.
STREAMLINEAlas the lights don't mimic the shadows of swimmers, the movements of athletes are not illustrated, and there appears to be nothing motion-activated at all. I don't know whether they've tried and couldn't make the technology work, whether all is on course and it'll look impressive later, or whether the money ran out and they thought stuff it, let's not bother. I fear the latter. What we have instead is a perfectly decent illuminated passageway with a hint of blue above, but not really anything you could describe as art.
Beneath the railway that leads into Stratford, following the Waterworks River, a series of motion-activated LED illuminations light up the underpass, in a fluid, rippling installation. This artwork by Jason Bruges Studio illustrates the speeds of athletes and patterns made by their movements in the water. As you walk through, the lights mimic the shadows of swimmers overhead, immersing you in an underwater atmosphere.
Emerging on the far side, the path is considerably broader than before (given that "before", a decade ago, it was an overgrown isolated track). Nudging away from the water's edge, the path now passes the Pudding Mill Allotments, one of two replacements for the much mourned Manor Garden Allotments in the northern half of the Park. Twelve months ago this was a desolate patch of uncultivated plots, just about to be handed over, but one growing season has seen rapid transformation and the place now looks green and loved. The next opportunity to get yourself on the waiting list comes in October, but don't get your hopes up.
And then the footpath stops. It will one day continue towards the Greenway, specifically the point where it reached Stratford High Street, but that's still blocked off as it has been since the Games ended in 2012. Crossrail were due to have finished all their necessary preparation work here by the end of 2016, at long last opening up the main Greenway exit from the Olympic Park. Unfortunately Thames Water have now stepped in "to carry out strengthening works to the bridge over Waterworks River (adjacent to Stratford High Street) and therefore this section of the Greenway will remain closed until around the end July 2018." Meh, an entire decadesworth of meh.
In the meantime Bridgewater Road is your only exit, across an old bridge part-fenced off to allow contractors vehicles to approach Crossrail's worksite unhindered. On the far side of the Waterworks River is a decrepit building whose owner hoped it would be compulsorily purchased for the Olympics, and gambled wrong. This finally has demolition notices up on it, but as yet no sign of the wrecker's ball. And finally we reach Warton Road, where there's as yet no sign to indicate the walk is possible in the opposite direction, so nobody'd know.
I never believed I'd still be writing about the opening up of the Olympic Park five years after the Games - I guess we can now call it five years. But there's still a considerable amount more stitching to be done, and maybe by the summer of 2018, or maybe not...
posted 07:00 :
Friday, January 06, 2017If you're out and about in London over the weekend, are there any closures on your TfL service?
A big poster in your local station ticket hall should have the answer. Except that this weekend, the big poster's format has changed.
Previously there was a map at the top of the poster, and then a list of the individual closures underneath. Now there's only a list. This week's map would have looked something like this.
I copied this from the TfL website, where the map of closures still exists. But on the new station poster, as of this weekend, the map is no more.
At least we still have the list, and it's in bigger writing too. All this weekend's closures are listed, first in alphabetical order by tube line, followed by the London Overground and TfL Rail. Two of the references are to long term station closures, and two are long term line closures. Mixed in with these are five weekend-long track closures, one Sunday-only closure and two late night midweek closures.
Also on display is the poster below, or at least it is in my local tube station. This only shows closures on the Underground - see how the logo in the top left corner is different? And there are only five closures on the Underground, so the font is larger, and even easier to read.
We don't yet know whether the removal of the map is a temporary or permanent change. Given it's the start of a new year, I suspect it's permanent. But is this a bad change or a good change?
Bad change Good change I
• The map was really useful.
• The map provided a quick overview you could glance at.
• The map allowed you to quickly confirm whether your part of town was or wasn't affected.
• Passengers now have to stop and read the board.
• Passengers now have to assimilate several separate lines of information to gather the full information.
...for example, are there any trains on the Hammersmith branch this weekend?
...for example, are there any trains between Notting Hill Gate and High Street Kensington this weekend?
...for example, are there any trains between Baker Street and Kings Cross St Pancras this weekend?
• There's no additional information, only less information.
• This is pointless dumbing down.
• The font is larger.
• The writing's easier to read.
• The map was misleading because it looked like all the closures lasted all weekend, which if you read underneath often wasn't true.
• Having an Underground-specific poster keeps all the Overground mess out of the way.
• Everyone plans their route online these days, don't they, so who cares about a map?
• TfL will have saved money by not having to draw a new map every week.
You say • The pictogram is very non-standard.
• Any diagrammatical representation is better than mere text to those without a full grasp of English.
• Most information-giving things are now going from words to pictures.
• "I have no idea if where I want to go is between two places in outer London I've never been to."
• The map allowed regular travellers to see quickly whether their lines were clear (walk past), or whether they needed to read the text (stop and look).
• Removes 'at a glance' functionality.
• Tourists were often seen looking at the old maps in a confused way thinking it showed current status.
• People were using the map for route-finding, for which purpose it was spectacularly poor.
• The map was always uselessly small.
• I never looked at the map, so losing it doesn't matter.
• Less is more.
Do add your own comments to the appropriate box, and I'll add them to the table later. But it is a bad change isn't it? Unless of course you think otherwise.
Meanwhile, some further thoughts...
» Here's an image of what the posters used to look like.
» If you check this weekend's map on the TfL website, you'll see there's an extra line closure which isn't mentioned on the poster. The Overground is apparently closed on Sunday between Highbury & Islington and Shadwell, and between Surrey Quays and New Cross, until 1400. That's going to come as a nasty surprise.
» If you check this weekend's map on the TfL website, you'll see TfL Rail is also closed after 23:00 on Sunday east of Gidea Park. There's no mention in the list.
» The two late night midweek Overground closures are described on the poster in two peculiarly different ways. One says "Open until 22:45" and the other says "No northbound service after 23:00". On a poster where everything else, by default, is a closure, the first of these stands out as inconsistent.
» You can of course check for future closures on the TfL website, not just for this weekend but for the next month (on a map) or the next six months (in a list).
» The first ever line closure on the Night Tube is coming up in a couple of weeks. "JUBILEE LINE: Saturday 21 January, between 0015 (northbound), 0100 (southbound) and 0530, no service between Stanmore and Waterloo." It's not immediately clear whether that's 'the early hours of Saturday morning' or 'at the end of service on Saturday night'. No replacement buses will be provided.
» If your bit of line isn't TfL controlled, you're at the mercy of your local rail operator to keep you informed. The TfL website is supposed to have a summary page showing all the planned National Rail disruption in London this weekend, but it's been blank for two years, despite the promise of "status maps coming soon", so I think we can assume they've given up.
» TfL have circulated a fresh poster to stations, including the additional closures they left off the first poster. Here it is.
» There are now three different ways to show closure for part of a day ("Open until...", "Open from..." and "No service after...")
» It's been pointed out that TfL's weekly Weekend travel information email always used to include a link to a map showing planned closures for this weekend. This week's email has no such link.
2pm update (from a TfL internal document):
"Over the past year, we have been continuously working with research agency 2CV to better understand what customers think about the posters on our whiteboards. From now, the posters on our station whiteboards will have fewer words, more colour, more graphics and simpler information, with the most important information shown first. This is so that our posters stand out and quickly communicate what is most important. For example, the weekly closures poster will no longer contain a Tube map as over 90% of customers surveyed said they found it confusing rather than helpful."So the maps won't be coming back. If you understood the previous version of the poster, congratulations, you're amongst the top 10% most-information-savvy tube passengers. Either that, or the research agency asked the wrong question at the wrong stations.
"The research also highlighted the ways in which our staff play a vital role in getting messages across and how we can make their jobs easier. During the consultations, staff said that they found the new posters were clearer, stood out better and helped them direct customers better during closures."
"All of the changes are supported by trials with customers and staff at Liverpool Street, Brixton and King’s Cross St. Pancras stations."
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