diamond geezer

 Sunday, May 19, 2019

Today's the day.

Sunday 19th May 2019 was supposed to be the day that Crossrail connected up to Shenfield.

Nah, not even close.

According to long-established timelines, purple trains should already have been shuttling between Paddington and Abbey Wood for the last 23 weeks. As we all know, this did not happen.

Today was going to be the day that Crossrail's second arm came into being, with trains bearing off after Whitechapel towards Stratford, Ilford and beyond. Technically speaking the day the Central Section Passenger Service linked up to the Great Eastern Surface Section. Proper Crossrail, with just the extension to Reading to go. Not a chance.

Today the platform indicators at Bond Street should have been showing alternating eastbound trains for the first time... Shenfield/Abbey Wood/Shenfield/Abbey Wood. Not only is that not happening, but Bond Street is so far behind schedule it could never have happened anyway.

I'd long been looking forward to hopping onto a train at Stratford today and disappearing through the Pudding Mill Portal to destinations like Farringdon, Tottenham Court Road and Paddington. No further, because the connection at Paddington wasn't due to happen until Sunday 15th December 2019, but of course that won't be happening either.

Today's also the day every Crossrail station from Stratford out to Shenfield should have been completed with upgraded entrances and step-free access, but this hasn't happened either. Maryland, Forest Gate, Manor Park and Seven Kings made the deadline, as did Brentwood and Shenfield further out.

But at Harold Wood the front entrance remains closed and passengers have to enter via a temporary gateway up the side of the eastbound platform, then lumber over the footbridge to head into town. Lifts at Gidea Park and Chadwell Heath are also not yet ready. And at Goodmayes the ticket office is still lodged in a stack of portakabins out front which blocks the pavement, and looks nothing like the final picture on the Crossrail website.

At least passengers on the Shenfield arm are getting to use their stations while they wait. Purple trains with TfL Rail branding have been running into Liverpool Street (high level) since 2017, and will continue to do so for some time. But Woolwich's Crossrail station remains non-functional, Canary Wharf's is still just a shopping centre, and the front entrance to Whitechapel hasn't even re-opened yet for District and Overground services. Everything's still really really behind schedule. We know this.

As a proper kick in the teeth, today trains are skipping Maryland, Forest Gate and Manor Park "to allow for testing of trains transitioning between Crossrail tunnels and Network Rail infrastructure." The poor folk along what should today be Crossrail East have suffered dozens and dozens of weekend engineering closures over the past few years, and on the very day the whole thing was supposed to open they're again being told to get the bus.

Worse, we still have no idea when the Whitechapel - Stratford connection will be made. Stage 1 from Abbey Wood to Paddington is pencilled in for New Years Eve 2020 plus or minus three months. Nobody has dared give a date for Stage 2, save that it'll be after Stage 1, so likely some time in 2021. Two years after the day it was supposed to happen.

Which was today.

I doubt that anybody official will be reminding you of this.

 Saturday, May 18, 2019


(number 30)
May 2019

Dear Subscriber,

So it's out! The thirtieth tube map of the modern era landed in tube stations across London on Friday, and it's caused quite a stir. Map T2019i builds on its illustrious predecessors with a further evolution of the post-Beck diagram, and aims to transform the way in which we see the capital today.

If you've not yet been able to pick up the new map, say if you've been out of the country or something, please send a stamped addressed envelope to TMCA, PO Box 1863, SW1.

What's new on the map? [By our Topological Director]

There are no new station openings or improvement works, so why the sudden rush from TfL to print a new map?

It's because six more stations have become step-free since the last map in December.

One is South Woodford, which now has step-free access to both platforms. Another is freshly-renovated Finsbury Park.

The other four are all on TfL Rail out of Liverpool Street, namely Maryland, Forest Gate, Manor Park and Seven Kings. Brilliant though this may seem, it means four further 'Crossrail' stations have missed their May 2019 step-free deadlines, the most significant of which is Ilford.

The other big news is the addition of three more walking connections. Walking connections appeared for the first time in December as dotted lines between stations up to 10 minutes apart. The new three are as follows...

• Hanger Lane - Park Royal
• Caledonian Road - Caledonian Road and Barnsbury
• Manor House - Harringay Green Lanes

I think we all saw the first one coming! Park Royal has moved north of the Central line (not where it is in real life!) as a consequence.

The two Caledonian Road stations are 650m apart, entrance to entrance, although the platforms are considerably more distant. As for Manor House to Harringay Green Lanes that's 750m, so very much pushing at the 10 minute threshold. One wonders if that's now the final complement of walking connections!

Just two more things of note...

The Victoria line has lost one of its bends and now does a stark right-angled turn between King's Cross and Highbury and Islington - that's a 50-year first! Also the designers have pushed the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines apart on the Uxbridge branch leaving a thin white gap between them, although of course we all remember this being done on T1997ii so it's nothing new.

Please note: There is no new Night Tube Map, because step-free access at South Woodford is not deemed worthy of kickstarting a whole new print run. Please retain N2018ii for your records.

If you spot any other differences, please update us via the T2019i forum on our Facebook page.

Readers' letters

Dear TMCA,
I went to my local tube station yesterday and every single paper map in the ticket hall was of the old style. I mean, what is the point of announcing a brand new tube map if you're going to carry on stocking the old ones?
Yours, Gavin453

Dear TMCA,
I went to my local tube station yesterday and every single paper map in the ticket hall was of the new style. I mean, what a waste of money to pulp all the old ones overnight. I hope they recycle them or something.
Yours, TrevorK

Dear TMCA,
I went to my local tube station yesterday and grabbed ten copies of the new tube map for my collection. The member of staff in the ticket hall looked at me like I was some nutter or something. Why are we collectors never taken seriously?
Yours, 1974Nigel

Dear TMCA,
Does anyone have a T1969i I can swap for a T1983ii?
Yours, MikeMcT

The map features a brand new cover design created by Turner Prize-winning artist Laure Prouvost. Her work is entitled "In Grand Ma's dream this map would always be with you and would resist the passing of time", and consists of the title written in capital letters in front of a very pale swirly blue skyscape. Anyone could have done it, but Laure did which is why she's the artist.

This cover is merely the advance guard of Laure's first public art commission which will appear at all 270 Underground stations from June. Each poster will be a digital reproduction of a hand-painted sign complete with a sentence explicitly devised for the Underground in Johnston typeface. The crux of the project begins with a poster stating ‘you are deeper than what you think’, an interplay between the literal place the work will be encountered and a reminder that there is more inside all of us than we might initially feel. Significant installations at Heathrow and Stratford stations will bookend the project from east to west London.

Exclusive Interview With T2019i Cover Designer Laure Prouvost

TMCA: We love your distinctly playful and poetic voice.
Laure: English is my second language. I am French.
TMCA: What inspired you to create this iconic new image?
Laure: In my dream and Grand Ma's we were in the underground and they asked us to fly (post) along the walls… deep down to reach new states, for you to stay with us and stay connected. Her dream is here.
TMCA: Grand Ma is the abandoned partner of your conceptual grandad, we understand. Did he collect tube maps too?
Laure: (continued on page 4)


The number of daggers on the tube map has not changed - four blue and six red. As usual if you want to know what the red daggers mean you have to go to the TfL website and plan a journey, then click on further details, then think to open the Access, lifts and escalators tab. This is apart from Emerson Park station where no such information appears, but if you do eventually manage to click through to the station webpage you'll discover that "A limited service runs on this branch" which is no bloody help whatsoever.


We're extremely excited because the index is now in alphabetical order for the first time in three years, following the shuffling of Acton Main Line before rather than after Acton Town.

Deeper scrutiny reveals that West Ealing no longer has cycle parking, Blackhorse Road no longer has a car park and Euston no longer has a TfL Visitor Centre (the latter because it's been demolished to help create a new station entrance).

Alas the addition of a symbol depicting step-free access at South Woodford has necessitated the use of an extra line, displacing Sydenham into the final column and knocking Woolwich Arsenal into the margin at the bottom of the page.


The paper on which T2019i has been printed is even thinner than T2018ii, as you can easily determine if you hold both maps in your hand simultaneously. At this rate of reduction, T2023i will be printed on toilet paper.

Subscribers please note: Map T2019i completes the third volume of the exclusive leatherbound Tube Map Collectors album. All regular subscribers will automatically receive the next 10-pocket album before the next scheduled map launch in December.

Tube Map Prediction Competition #30

Post your predictions for Tube Map 31 (T2019ii) in the following categories to the usual address by 1st November.
1) Total number of daggers (currently 10)
2) Total number of walking connections (currently 26)
The winner of competition #29 is Caroline from Colindale

See inside for...
• In or out? - a full history of tube map folds.
• The Finchley Kink - good riddance to bad rubbish.
• Minimum readable font sizes - an optician speaks.
• The quest for information accessibility (part nine)

 Friday, May 17, 2019

Next week's European elections are likely an irrelevance, assuming the UK leaves the EU shortly after they take their seats. Our MEPs won't be around to make decisions on trading relations between the EU and Britain, or any other legislation, assuming the forces of Brexit get their way. But the political fallout at home may be profound, as certain parties gain momentum and others fall behind, indeed it was UKIP's strong showing in the 2014 European Elections that propelled us into the mess we're in today. Whatever, we have a vote we weren't expecting, and it's important to have our say. But who to vote for?

Former Conservative and UKIP voters keen to back Brexit in the European elections will be drawn inexorably towards the Brexit Party, a one-issue protest bandwagon with no actual policies, but the best chance of delivering a broken nose. Its simple message ensures it's going to do really well.

Those keen to demonstrate loyalty to the EU face a much harder choice because parties insist on fighting separately. Labour's wishy-washy Brexit position is deterring those who want to send a stronger message. Change UK have achieved very little momentum since their launch and may be a lost cause. The Greens beat the Lib Dems last time but the Lib Dems are doing much better this time, so which to pick? Gina Miller's Remain United website proposes voting Lib Dem across the whole of England as the best chance of beating Nigel. But electorates tend not to vote tactically en masse, so the risk of splitting the Remain vote remains very real.

When the votes are counted next week, the anti-EU party that doesn't want a second referendum is likely to claim that its strong showing is the equivalent of another referendum victory, before disappearing in a puff of logic. There'll be pressure on the two main parties for doing badly, and smiles on the face of smaller parties for doing so well. But the entire procedure likely remains a irrelevance... unless it tips the domino that starts the unstoppable process of leading us towards wherever we're ultimately heading, just like it did in 2014.

London elects 8 MEPs out of the UK's total of 73. Five years ago London chose four Labour MEPs, two Conservatives, one UKIP and one Green. According to latest polling, this time might be very different.

Labour37% (4 MEPs)24% (2 MEPs)
Conservative23% (2 MEPs)10% (1 MEP)
UKIP17% (1 MEP)  0% (0 MEPs)
Brexit Party-20% (2 MEPs)
Green9% (1 MEP)14% (1 MEP)
Lib Dem7% (0 MEPs)17% (2 MEPs)
Change UK-  7% (0 MEPs)

Just to remind you how the European Elections work, the UK is divided up into large regional constituencies each of which elects multiple MEPs. Each party puts forward a list of candidates in each constituency and MEPs are elected from the top of each list in approximate proportion* to the number of votes cast. Electors only get to make one cross on the ballot paper, voting for a party rather than for individual candidates, so it's important to know precisely what those candidates stand for. In normal times that's obvious. But these are not normal times.

Green/Lib Dem/Change UKLabour/ConservativeBrexit Party/UKIP
pro-EUmight be pro, might be antianti-EU

If you're thinking of voting either Labour or Conservative, it pays to know what the candidates on each party's list think of Brexit. I've checked that for London. Nobody from the bottom half of a list is going to get elected, so you really only need to canvass the views of the top four.
Labour's London list
1) Claude Moraes: Current MEP. Has been since 1999. REMAIN, but not loudly so.
2) Seb Dance: Current MEP. Has been since 2014. Staunchly REMAIN.
3) Katy Clark: Formerly Jeremy Corbyn's private secretary. Doesn't support a People's Vote.
4) Laura Parker: Momentum-backed candidate. Supports a People's Vote.
5-8) irrelevant
So if Labour gets two London MEPs they'll both be pro-EU. But if Labour reaches three or more, and Katy Clark slips through, the tally will include someone who doesn't want to be part of Europe. Remain voters might be keen for Labour's total to stop at two.
Conservative London list
1) Syed Kamall: Current MEP. Has been since 2005. Subdued LEAVE. Quietly toeing the government line.
2) Charles Tannock: Current MEP. Has been since 1999. REMAIN, and supports a People's Vote.
3) Joy Morrissey: Ealing Councillor. Failed Mayoral nominee. LEAVE supporter.
4) Tim Barnes: Voted REMAIN, but now says Brexit should go ahead.
5-8) irrelevant
The Conservative top four are more mixed, probably deliberately so. If the Tory tally reaches two or more then its MEPs will be on different sides of the debate. As we've discovered at Westminster lately, personal opinion now generally trumps party loyalty.

If public opinion holds from now until polling day then London would end up with...
❁ ❁ 2 Labour MEPs, Claude and Seb, both REMAIN.
❁ ❁ 2 Brexit MEPs, property mogul Ben and salmon-king Lance, both LEAVE.
❁ ❁ 2 Lib Dem MEPs, lawyer Irina and eBooker Dinesh, both REMAIN.
1 Conservative MEP, Syed, dutifully LEAVE.
1 Green MEP, environmentalist Scott, fiercely REMAIN.
That's five REMAINs and three LEAVEs, which'd be London sticking up its fingers at at the rest of the country. It may not make much of a difference to the national result though. We could even end up with another 52%/48% split...

* The European elections don't use strict proportional representation, but rather an algorithm called the D'Hondt method - a process employing highest averages to allocate seats from party lists. It works by giving the first seat to the party with the most votes, then dividing their vote by 2 and looking at the list again. Whoever's top of the list now gains the second seat, then has their vote divided, and so on until all the seats have been allocated. Votes are always divided by "the number of seats you currently have plus one", so get smaller as the process continues.

The D'Hondt method churns out an end result that's roughly proportional to the number of votes cast without over-rewarding a landslide or under-representing minor parties. It's not perfect, but it does the job. If you're interested, here's an online calculator which allows you to play around with various voting combinations. I've had a go and discovered that in a seat like London it's pretty much impossible to gain an MEP on less than 9% of the vote. In constituencies with fewer than eight seats, even double figures can earn you nothing.

If you'd like a worked-through example, here's how the D'Hondt method was used to determine London's MEPs in the 2014 election.

In 2014 the votes cast in London were as follows.
Labour 806,959 (37%)
Conservative 495,639 (23%)
UKIP 371,133 (17%)
Green 196,419 (9%)
Lib Dem 148,013 (7%)
Others 8%
Labour took the first seat, after which their vote was halved (to 403,479) so the Conservatives now headed the list. They took the second seat after which their vote was halved (to 247,819). The list now looked like this.
Labour '403,479'
UKIP 371,133
Conservative '247,819'
Green 196,419
Lib Dem 148,013
Labour took the third seat, demonstrating how far ahead they were in the original poll, after which their initial vote was divided by three (to 268,986). UKIP now topped the list, so took the fourth seat, after which their vote was halved (to 185,566). The list now looked like this.
Labour '268,986' ❁ ❁
Conservative '247,819'
Green 196,419
UKIP '185,566'
Lib Dem 148,013
Labour took the fifth seat, their third, after which their initial vote was divided by four (to 201,739). The Conservatives took the sixth seat, their second, after which their initial vote was divided by three (to 165,213). The list now looked like this.
Labour '201,739' ❁ ❁ ❁
Green 196,419
UKIP '185,566'
Conservative '165,213' ❁ ❁
Lib Dem 148,013
Labour took the seventh seat, their fourth, after which their initial vote was divided by five (to 161,391). The Greens then took the eighth and final seat, at which point all the arithmetical jiggerypokery ceased. If there had been a ninth seat UKIP would have taken it, and the Lib Dems would have had to wait until seat number twelve so earned absolutely nothing. End result as follows.
Labour ❁ ❁ ❁ ❁
Conservative ❁ ❁
And this time? Maybe ❁ ❁ ❁ ❁ ❁ ❁ . But we'll see.

 Thursday, May 16, 2019

Here's an exhibition you'll enjoy because it's about what's under London, and that's very much your kind of thing. Very probably.

Under Ground London is the latest exhibition at the London Metropolitan Archives, and is up and running until October. The LMA is the capital's premier county record office, administered by the City of London and located in Islington. It opens weekdays only, except Fridays, but also the first Saturday of the month, which sorry you've just missed. It's primarily an archive so busy with staff and visitors heading for the reading room, but also free for anyone to wander inside and access the staircase to view the exhibition on the first floor landing. They've packed a lot in.

A quick scan of the subterranean categories displayed includes the obvious - sewers, railways, lost rivers - but also the less obvious - public conveniences, caves, conduits and burials. None of these can be done justice in the space provided but that's not the point, which is to showcase some of the relevant gems the LMA has in its A. Should an old document, photo, illustration or map pique your interest, you could always pop into the research room nextdoor and search for several more like it.

I lapped up plans for Southall's nuclear bunker, never used in anger, with air filters and single sex dormitories clearly marked. I queried the old wives' tale about wild hogs in the Hampstead sewers. I gasped at the intricate network of pits dug beneath Alliance Road in Plumstead. I loved Charles Pearson's unrealised plans for the first Underground railway station at one end of Smithfield Market. I stared for ages at the plans which showed precisely where the River Fleet flowed past buildings since replaced by Farringdon station. I was intrigued by the abandoned cobbled street supposedly hidden under Lilley & Skinner in Oxford Street. I watched the 1970s documentary snippet about Mail Rail with a nostalgic smirk. There was a fascinating nugget on every wall, usually several.

The free exhibition guide with colour cover (as only the City of London can provide) made for a scholarly takeaway summary. My congratulations to the curators for digging out such a densely packed and diverse collection relating to life under London. Half an hour should do it, sometime between now and the end of October.

On Tuesday this notice appeared at Bus Stop M. It also appeared at hundreds of other bus stops across London.

A number of bus routes are changing in central London this year. Routes from this stop will be affected. Visit this page on our website for further information.
Problem 1: If you visit that page on the TfL website there is no further information.
Problem 2: The changes don't affect anyone catching a bus from this stop.
PermBusChanges is TfL's online repository of permanent bus changes. It contains details of changes to routes, frequencies and stopping arrangements, usually but not always with maps. There's also TempBusChanges for diversions, disruptions and roadworks, but that's not relevant here.

PermBusChanges comprises a very long list of updates going back 18 months, because nobody chops old changes off the bottom of the list. But it doesn't yet contain details of the Central London Bus Services Review, a major consultation affecting 29 bus routes whose outcomes were confirmed last month. No link, no dates, no information whatsoever. Anyone acting on the advice on the yellow poster at Bus Stop M will discover nothing of relevance.

PermBusChanges also includes a link to TfL's most unreliable document, its fortnightly update of Permanent Bus Changes. The latest version was due out last Friday, then delayed to this Tuesday, then delayed until tonight. It might not even appear then. None of this year's fortnightly updates have been published on the day they were supposed to be. The latest so-called update, over a fortnight ago, actually apologised for not containing any new information. Either nobody at TfL can make their minds up about what buses they're changing, or the team that produces this summary are entirely incompetent.

Only one bus route from Bus Stop M goes to Central London, and that's the 8. But the 8 isn't changing in the latest round of consultations - it was last curtailed to Tottenham Court Road in 2013. Two buses come from Central London, one of which is the 25. But the 25 isn't changing in the latest round of consultations - it was last curtailed to City Thameslink in 2018. The only relevant service is the N205 which serves Bus Stop M between half past one and six o'clock in the morning. The N205 is changing, it'll be skipping Marylebone station, but that's not in the direction of travel and Marylebone station was 40 stops ago.

The yellow poster is irrelevant to anyone waiting at Bus Stop M, especially during daytime hours, but still exhorts all passengers to check a website where there isn't any information.

Even at directly affected stops the yellow poster is a generic splurge providing no specific information whatsoever, slapped up before there was anything to announce. It'll have been cheap to produce, print and distribute. It ticks a box. But it's no help to anyone trying to work out where their bus goes, and that's very much the direction of travel.

 Wednesday, May 15, 2019

If you've ever wondered precisely where the Green Belt is, Alasdair Rae has made a map.

Click through and you can scrutinise all of England's protected rings, not just around London but Bristol, Birmingham, Nottingham and Newcastle too, to name but a few. It's fascinating to explore, and full of "well, I never realised"s. Thanks Alasdair.

The Green Belt, you'll remember, is a planning tool designed to check unrestricted sprawl, encourage building on brownfield sites and assist in safeguarding the countryside. Without the Green Belt we'd have more houses but a less green and pleasant country, so it's a fine balancing act.

London's Green Belt covers over a million acres from Bedfordshire to the Sussex border, in some places up to 35 miles from the capital. But it also spills inside the Greater London boundary. By bashing the data I can calculate what proportion of each London borough is Green Belt land.

% of land that is Green Belt
Havering 53%
Bromley 51%
Hillingdon 43%
Enfield 38%
Redbridge 37%
Barnet 27%
Croydon 27%
Hounslow 22%
W Forest 22%
Harrow 22%
Bexley 18%
Kingston 17%
Bark & Dag 15%
Sutton 14%
Ealing 6%
Richmond 2%
Newham 2%
Haringey 2%

Others 0%
Inner London: 0%         Outer London: 28%
Greater London: 22%

Over half the land in Havering and Bromley is Green Belt, a lot of this agricultural. Almost half of Hillingdon is Green Belt too, with Enfield and Redbridge closer to one-third. Ealing, Newham and Haringey have very little Green Belt land, Brent and Merton none, because they don't reach the edge of London. The Green Belt was introduced before Greater London was established, so none of what's now Inner London is Green Belt but 28% of Outer London is. You wouldn't want to build on most of that 28%. You might want to build on some of it.

To explore what the Green Belt means for London I've taken a 15 mile eastbound bus journey across town from Tottenham Hale to Harold Hill (12366174) through unexpectedly many fingers of unbuildable green.

The closest patch of Green Belt to central London is along the River Lea around Tottenham Hale. It includes all of what's now the Walthamstow Wetlands, plus Tottenham Marshes and Markfield Park. It's mostly water so you wouldn't want to build here anyway. Walthamstow Marshes are not included, but land doesn't have to be Green Belt to be safe from development.

To show the power of the Green Belt in action, look alongside the River Lea just north of Tottenham Lock on Ferry Lane. Until a few years ago this splinter of land was a working environment, and would have been designated industrial in the 1950s so dodged Green Belt status. Today it's being redeveloped as a long thin line of unexpectedly tall flats, their footprint unable to extend into the protected zone, and architecturally at odds to the neighbouring cluster closer to the station. This eyesore is to be called Hale Wharf, and the developers have airbrushed a fairground carousel into the artist's impression to try to disguise how ugly it looks. The Green Belt stretches upriver from here all the way to Ware and Bishop's Stortford.

Heading east the next strand of Green Belt hangs down the far side of Walthamstow along the border between Waltham Forest and Redbridge towards Wanstead Flats. There's a very good reason why this strip is protected and that's because it's officially Epping Forest, so belongs to the City of London. But it's not entirely safe from destruction because here the age-old woodland has been despoiled by a mammoth roundabout courtesy of the North Circular, and what looks like a buttercup meadow is really the top of a covered reservoir. The Forest creates a very effective green barrier elsewhere, but the Waterworks Roundabout is a ghastly scar.

And the River Roding's turned out worse. You wouldn't build along its immediate floodplain anyway, but this corridor of undeveloped Green Belt proved irresistible when the M11 was being built and so is now mostly concrete viaducts and dual carriageway. Charlie Brown's Roundabout may sound cute (it's named after a pub landlord, not the Peanuts character), but the motorway and North Circular have devoured this part of the Roding's valley wholly and completely.

I had to switch buses at Gants Hill to reach the next bit of Green Belt, alongside Eastern Avenue beyond Newbury Park. A ridiculously large area of arable fields and scrubland survives to the north of the A12, purely because it hadn't yet been built on when the Green Belt was established so can't be touched. That said, King George Hospital got shoehorned into a tongue of land to the south of the main road at Little Heath in the 1990s, because building hospitals is OK. I'm not a fan of building on the Green Belt but these two square miles of undistinguished flat land, not so far from Crossrail, could safely be sacrificed to build tens of thousands of badly needed homes.

Marks Gate is such a sacrifice, a late Fifties estate built just before legislation would have made it impossible. At the northern tip of Barking and Dagenham it's surrounded on three sides by Green Belt, much of it scrappy scrubby carbooty wastes, entirely unlike the bucolic greenery most people might envisage. The A12 ploughs on through the middle of grassy mounds, golf courses and fields of crops, without a single bus stop for over a mile because there's no point in stopping because there's nothing here. There could be something here, should London's housing problem ever require something of significance, but instead drivers on one arterial road get to see some nice trees for a minute or two and that's about the only benefit.

Switching buses again, this time in Romford, the Green Belt makes its next appearance in Gidea Park. This time it's all about golf courses, one to the north of Eastern Avenue and another to the south providing a green buffer that most local people never use. Further north is pretty parkland and woodland and wildflower meadow and even hills, then glorious rolling Essex, so rightly protected, but mid-city golf courses always feel like such a terrible waste.

And finally, on the outer reaches of Harold Hill, the proper Green Belt boundary kicks in. A canopy of green leaves rises above the rooftops in Dagnam Park Drive, but you can't get to the trees themselves because nobody said the Green Belt had to be accessible. One cul-de-sac ends with a sign saying watch out for deer, then a fence, then a sports ground... then the M25, and then it's Green Belt all the way to Chelmsford. The Harold Hill estate was completed in 1958 and is a vast sprawling example of what happens when there isn't a Green Belt - the countryside is lost forever but tens of thousands of people have a home. It is, by design, where London stops.

 Tuesday, May 14, 2019

I walked across Richmond Park in search of something to blog about. I found ten things. So here are posts about all ten, but only the first 100 words of each...

1) The Tamsin Trail is a 7½ mile all-weather circuit of Richmond Park. It runs around the edge of the park, nearly, apart from missing the foot of the hill beneath King Henry's Mound. You can walk it or you can cycle it, indeed it's the only officially sanctioned mountain biking trail within the park. It's described as almost car-free, which is true and therefore ideal for the less confident who'd rather not bump into anything. Yesterday the men in lycra were more likely to be on the roads rather than the trail, zipping round with helmets bowed and legs pistoning...

2) One of the joys of early spring, I always think, is the spectrum of greens displayed in our trees' foliage. Newly-unfurled leaves are usually a bright, lime green, creating a dazzling canopy that gradually darkens as summer approaches. April's the best month for light greens, indeed by mid-May the shades are usually darker and less vibrant, and by June/July everything's that dark green colour that exemplifies our parks and woodland until the autumn. One reason is that chloroplasts are still developing so leaves tend to be lighter, as well as thinner with fewer waxy layers to darken the green colour...

3) Damned be the oak processionary moth, a non-native species accidentally imported into SW London in 2005 and inexorably spreading. In high numbers the caterpillars cause defoliation of oak trees, and their hairs carry a toxin which can be a threat to human and animal health, causing rashes, eye irritation and respiratory problems. In southern Europe they have natural predators, but here they have none and all 33 London boroughs have now seen infestations. Spraying pesticides helps - the western edge of Richmond Park was done on May 2nd - but long-term this is a battle London is doomed to lose...

4) The Isabella Plantation is London's prettiest enclave, especially so at this time of year. The rhododendrons and azaleas are now at their peak, bursting out in pinks, reds, yellows and oranges across copious interlocked glades. It's very much a magnet for the retired, wandering round in awe of all these plants they haven't grown, and also for Asian tourists who knew it was worth their while crossing London to grab a photo that'll wow everyone at home. I could sense the muted anger when two ducks sent ripples across the Still Pond, destroying reflections folk had come miles to capture...

5) Not quite every minute, but with roaring regularity, Heathrow's planes spew out across Richmond Park. When easterly operations are in place, which is 30% of the time, aircraft heading for the continent make a beeline for the Isabella Plantation as they climb. This is underneath one of six Standard Instrument Departures routes, or SIDs, following corridors set in the 1960s known as Noise Preferential Routes, or NPRs. The northern half of Richmond Park gets away scot free. You could argue it's terrible and unnecessary, or you could argue it's best that noisy Airbuses cross swathes of green where nobody lives...

6) May kicks off the birthing season for the deer in Richmond Park, so keep your distance. And yet anyone can wander freely across the Park, as close as they like, because life in the UK isn't yet a nannying set of directives written by risk averse bureaucrats. This may be because deer don't attack and kill many Britons each year - on average only one. Bees and wasps kill three, dogs four and cattle five, which puts cigarettes, knives and air pollution into some kind of proportion. The UK's top wildlife killer, with ten deaths annually, is of course the...

7) The notices are clear enough, or at least I thought they were. "Dogs must be kept on leads at all times." The area around the perimeter of the Pen Ponds is permanently DMBKOLAAT, whereas the skylark breeding area in the long grass to the east is March to August only. And yet along she breezed, her hound defiantly off-leash, striding past the first sign and along the lakeside as if the rules didn't apply. Admittedly she veered off before she reached the swans nesting with their cygnets, but what use are unpoliced byelaws if they're only going to be ignored...

8) The Alton East and Alton West Estates, constructed along the Roehampton fringe of Richmond Park in the late 1950s, consist of Brutalist slab blocks, point blocks and low-level housing. Some see this as postwar social housing's architectural crowning glory. Wandsworth council, one suspects, are less keen. They've engineered an eight year redevelopment plan to cram in 1100 new homes, based on the idea that the low-level housing could have been higher, and by 2027 additional towers will poke above the park's tree-lined rim. Councils are limited to building on their own land when devising masterplans, so Alton's a no-brainer, and yet...

9) Near Barn Wood Pond I spotted a man flying a drone. That's naughty, I thought, because no-fly zones for drones have recently been extended. But it pays to check. In fact Heathrow's zone stops miles away and Battersea's is closer, but even the heliport's zone doesn't scrape the edge of Richmond Park. But it pays to check again. All eight of London's Royal Parks are officially no-drone zones, so this man was surely being very naughty. Except Richmond Park has a "Designated Flying Field", and that's where he was, so in fact all was fine. Always think before you tut...

10) The RV1 bus won't see out the summer but the RP1 bus is still going strong in Richmond Park, at least until the end of October. An accessible 16-seater minibus circles the Park three times every Wednesday morning, pauses for half an hour while the driver has lunch, then does two more circuits in the afternoon. Each loop takes over an hour so it's not fast, but it is an ideal way for the less mobile to reach the Isabella Plantation from a distant car park, entrance gate or TfL bus stop. I've never seen it in the flesh but...

 Monday, May 13, 2019


18th diamond geezer Annual General Meeting

Sunday 12th May 2019, 3pm

Ye Olde Swiss Cottage, Swiss Cottage, NW3

Chair: DG
Attendee: DS

Numerous apologies for absence were assumed.

1. Opening statement
The meeting was called to order by the Chair via the ceremonial raising of a pint of Sam Smiths.

2. Business from the Previous Meeting
The Committee was asked to approve and authorise the minutes of the meeting of the AGM held on Tuesday 15th May 2018 at the Honourable Artillery Company, Finsbury Barracks, City Rd, London EC1.

3. Matters Arising
It was agreed that action 13 of the previous meeting should be rephrased to specifically refer to the roadmap to reframe the zero capacity target against recognised global benchmarks going forward.

4. Logistical Capability
The Chair congratulated DS on his successful transfer from the North American Office to Her Majesty's Kingdom. Discussion focused on potential locations for permanent resettlement, with Clapham the preferred London focus at the present time (Hackney East having been discounted following a visit by staff and partners).

5. Editorial Bias
DS suggested that relentless emphasis on the negative aspects of flat-building was inappropriate in the long term, and that augmenting accumulated accommodation (perhaps through the redevelopment of Green Belt land) was key to meeting wider housing needs within the greater population. The Chair apologised for any perceived bias, whilst reasserting that the underlying issue related more to affordability than how ugly the brickwork looked.

6. Collective Refocusing
DS queried whether the DG audience was mostly old men moaning, or whether this was merely a self-selecting subset of the wider readership. The Chair confirmed that this was unconfirmed.

7. Ballpark Appraisal
Representatives from the venue interrupted discussions to collect empty glasses. Delegates noted the unusual manner in which the chalet's quirky appearance concealed a typical careworn public house within - somewhat gloomy and very much old school, all cosy chairs and sheepskin rugs. The chef was not troubled.

8. Data Mining
DS alluded in passing to the Mystery Count. The Chair did not refute or confirm any insinuations.

9. Longevity Empowerment
Attendees noted that, with 33 years of continuous blogging between them, they had the right to feel slightly smug. Long-term escrow procedures were discussed, in both electronic and paper-based form.

10. Sustainable Leverage
After two and a half hours it felt safe to move the conversation onto matters of European disentanglement. Discussion was cut short when it became apparent that general stakeholder opinions were essentially aligned. Further beers were ordered.

11. Touchpoint Drilldown
Additional topics of conversation included urban zoning analysis, retrospective network development, transactional best practice, long-term asset management and ongoing liminal meanderings.

12. Adjournment
The meeting was adjourned at 8pm, shortly after the sun lowered behind the flats of the Hilgrove Estate and the exterior ambience crossed the suboptimal horizon.

Date and time of next meeting: This was not discussed, but details will be disseminated via the usual channels no fewer than five days in advance. All are welcome.

 Sunday, May 12, 2019

London's full of statues, many of kings and queens. But can we compile a list featuring every monarch from William the Conqueror to Queen Elizabeth II? No, obviously we can't, but how many can we find?

Norman/Plantagenet/Lancaster/York (1066-1485)

As it turns out, the Middle Ages hardly get a look in. King John appears in Egham and Henry VI in Eton, but they're outside London so they don't count. The sole big winner is Richard the Lionheart who gets pride of place in Old Palace Yard outside the Palace of Westminster (pictured). A useful place to park your Mini, assuming you've got a security pass.

Tudor (1485-1603)

Henry VII: Oddly, no.
Henry VIII: Oddly, almost no. Our most famous Tudor king's sole London statue is a small figure amid the gate at the entrance to St Bartholomew's Hospital, Smithfield.
Edward VI: ...whereas Henry's sickly son has a proper statue outside the entrance to the south wing of St Thomas' Hospital, courtesy of him being king when the hospital was founded (pictured). Conveniently located for M&S Simply Food.
Lady Jane Grey: No.
Mary I: Also no, which goes to show how hated Catholics were in the centuries after Mary's death.
Elizabeth I: One statue from her reign survives, originally located at the foot of Ludgate Hill, now tucked into a niche on the wall of St Dunstan’s in the West on Fleet Street. Here's some Pathé newsreel of the statue following its restoration in 1928.

Stuart (1603-1715)

James I: He appears on Temple Bar, but then so do Charles I and Charles II, so this isn't especially special.
Charles I: London's first equestrian statue, placed on the site of the original Charing Cross in 1675, is famous as the point from which all distances to London are measured.
Oliver Cromwell: Not a king, obviously, but merits a very prominent statue in Old Palace Yard
Charles II: A heavily weathered statue, dating back to 1681, can be found in the centre of Soho Square (which was originally called King Square).
James II: A bronze statue of King James, dressed as a Roman emperor, stands beside the entrance to the National Gallery at the top end of Trafalgar Square. Quite near the hovering Yodas.
William III and Mary II: William's on horseback in the centre of St James's Square (pictured). His wife is ignored.
Queen Anne: Anne's most prominent statue is railinged off in the courtyard in front of St Paul's Cathedral, facing down Ludgate Hill.

Hanover (1715-1901)

George I: London's sole statue to this German-speaking king is perched atop the steeple at St George's church in Bloomsbury. Bring binoculars.
George II: Although his statue in Golden Square, Soho, looks like stone it's actually lead painted white (pictured). It was relocated here from Cannons House in Stanmore.
George III: A bronze equestrian statue of our longest-reigning king stands on a traffic island at the junction of Haymarket with Pall Mall East and Cockspur Street.
George IV: This equestrian statue was meant to go on top of Marble Arch but was placed 'temporarily' on one of the plinths in Trafalgar Square, and has been there ever since.
William IV: Oddly you have to go all the way to Greenwich, outside the National Maritime Museum, to find a statue of the last Hanoverian king.
Victoria: There are more statues of Queen Victoria in London than any other monarch. The most dazzling is probably her marble depiction in coronation robes outside Kensington Palace.

Saxe-Coburg Gotha/Windsor (1901-)

Edward VII: If you don't fancy going all the way to Tooting, try Waterloo Place off Pall Mall, where Eddie is the focus of a cluster of famous explorers.
George V: The Queen's grandfather is in a prominent position round the back of Westminster Abbey facing towards the Palace of Westminster (pictured, left).
Edward VIII: Does not appear. Unsurprisingly.
George VI: King George (and the Queen Mum) face The Mall above a set of steps decorated with unusual Blitz/racing/corgi bronze reliefs (pictured, right).
Elizabeth II: London doesn't go in for statues of living royalty, but it's assumed that the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square is being kept vacant for a statue of Her Maj after she croaks.

n.b. I've restricted myself to one statue each. Other statues may exist. Yes, I know where they are. Wikipedia has a very comprehensive list.

 Saturday, May 11, 2019

What's the quickest way of getting from Bow to Stratford by public transport? Specifically from Bus Stop M at Bow Church to the front of Stratford station. Sorry, this is a question of little interest to the vast majority of you.

It ought to be the bus, given that the two locations are linked by a main road served by several bus routes, and Stratford station is only four stops away. But how fast is it?

I tried taking the bus.

Wait at bus stop5 mins
Journey on bus7 mins
Walk to station1 min
TOTAL13 mins

The wait's not normally that long - that's a bad wait. But the journey's not usually that quick - that's a quick run. Traffic was flowing freely, and we got lucky with the traffic lights, sailing through most of them on green.

So I thought I'd better try the bus again.

Wait at bus stop0 mins
Journey on bus11 mins
Walk to station1 min
TOTAL12 mins

This time a number 25 bus turned up almost immediately. But this time the traffic lights were against us, halting the bus at the Bow Roundabout, Warton Road, the top of the Broadway and the entrance to the bus station. This time the bus ride took four minutes longer, but the wait was shorter so the overall time was quicker.

With variables at play, what we need here are some averages.

On average 19 buses an hour run from Bow Church to Stratford station. That's about one every three minutes, or an average wait of 1½ minutes.

My fast bus took 7 minutes and my slow bus took 11. One was about as good as it gets, and the other about as bad as it gets, so let's average things out at 9 minutes. In heavier traffic the journey'd take longer because the bus wouldn't get through the lights first time, but let's assume the traffic's good.

Wait at bus stop1½ mins
Journey on bus9 mins
Walk to station1 min
TOTAL11½ mins

Buses used to be more frequent between Bow and Stratford, and there weren't quite so many traffic lights, so this isn't as fast as it might once have been. But let's go with 11-12 minutes as the expected total journey time by bus, with a best case scenario of (0+7+1=) 8 and a worst case scenario of (5+11+1=) 17. In bad traffic that last number could easily be 20 or more.

Or I could make the journey by DLR. The train only takes four minutes from Bow Church, but it takes four minutes to walk from Bus Stop M to the DLR station and the average gap between trains is a little longer. Which gives us this.

Walk to DLR4 mins
Wait for DLR2½ mins
Journey on DLR4 mins
Exit from station2 mins
TOTAL12½ mins

On average the DLR takes a little longer than taking the bus, about 12-13 minutes. But the DLR is reliable in a way that the bus journey isn't because the next train can't be more than five minutes away and the ride will definitely take four minutes. A journey by DLR should always take between 10 and 15 minutes no matter how bad the traffic on the roads might be.

Or I could walk to Stratford. When I did it took me 21 minutes to walk just over a mile. Let's compare and contrast.

Bow Church - Stratford
Waiting0-5 mins0-5 mins0 mins
Riding7-11 mins4 mins0 mins
Walking1 min6 mins21 mins
TOTAL8-17 mins10-15 mins21 mins
Average11½ mins12½ mins21 mins

The bus might be fastest, but could also be slow, indeed it might be only a few minutes quicker than walking. And that's in good traffic. The DLR isn't fastest but is very reliable. A few years ago I'd always have caught the bus. These days if I need to be in Stratford at a set time I take the DLR.

And what about journeys in the opposite direction? What's the quickest way from Bow to Aldgate? Specifically from Bus Stop J at Bow Church to the front of Aldgate East station.

I tried bussing, tubing and walking. I tried each method once. The total journey length is about 2½ miles.

Bow Church - Aldgate East
Waiting2 mins2 mins0 mins
Riding28 mins7 mins0 mins
Walking0 mins8 mins45 mins
TOTAL30 mins17 mins45 mins

Taking the 25 bus was agonisingly slow, even though the traffic was good. At the second stop we had to wait for the drivers to change over. Both drivers drove slower than bus drivers normally drive, I'd say no faster than 10mph the whole way. I counted 21 sets of traffic lights between Bow and Aldgate, 13 of which were on red. People who ride buses because they're cheap aren't going anywhere fast.

The tube was much faster, only seven minutes from Bow Road to Aldgate East. But walking to the station took another seven minutes, waiting for a train took two and getting out at the other end added one more. Total, just 17 minutes. Walking obviously took the longest, but was only quarter of an hour slower than taking the bus.

I also checked out how long these journeys might take to cycle. Bow to Stratford is 6 minutes, apparently, while Bow to Aldgate East is 16. I can't confirm these times, but this would make cycling the fastest way to get to Stratford. The tube still wins to Aldgate East, once you add in a bit of time for locking up your bike, but these are none too shabby times.

And I mention all of this because, although I've been living here for almost 20 years, I've never actually got the stopwatch out to confirm precisely how long familiar journeys take. It's quite illuminating, and I now feel better able to make travel choices. Perhaps you could try the same for journeys you think you know well.

 Friday, May 10, 2019

TfL don't build Cycle Superhighways any more, they build 'Cycleways'.

Yesterday they launched a consultation for a Cycleway linking Hackney and the Isle of Dogs through neighbourhoods including Victoria Park, Mile End and Limehouse. Note that Cycleways aren't just for cyclists, they also advance improvements for people walking. Or that's the plan.
"These proposals would provide benefits for all street users and communities in these areas, making it easier to cross busy roads, removing through traffic on some residential roads and offering segregated space for people to cycle. They would form part of London’s emerging cycling network."
It's a lot less great if you drive, and might well slow your journey if you travel by bus.

The new 7½km Cycleway will eventually run from Quietway 2 to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. 5½km of that will be along segregated cycle lanes. The first consultation only covers 3½km. No completion date has been suggested. Don't expect to be riding any of this soon.

The consultation splits the affected route into eleven sections, each with detailed maps showing what'll be added, what needs to be ripped out and all the things that drivers won't be allowed to do any more. It's very comprehensive, indeed almost overwhelmingly so for any member of the public trying to take it all in. The new buzzphrase is "junction efficiency improvements", which is shorthand for "we think this'll work better for our favoured road users."

I don't cycle, not least because nobody's yet built a cycle route in east London I'd feel safe using. But that hasn't stopped me from walking the route, and taking a few photos, and getting exceptionally wet in the process.

Section 1: Hackney

This section isn't so much superhighway as quietway, with the route following low-trafficked backstreets. You couldn't squeeze two segregated lanes into this part of South Hackney even if you wanted to. Expect a new signalled crossing on Well Street, several "cycle-friendly road humps" (assuming any such thing exists) and a couple of planters in place of the barrier in my photo. Residents of Gore Road, a very quiet street facing Victoria Park, will lose a few parking bays to provide 'passing places' for cyclists. Not very much of TfL's Healthy Streets budget will be spent here.

Section 2: Victoria Park

But this is dramatic. A single road cuts across Victoria Park, separating the smaller western chunk from the larger eastern bulk. TfL are proposing to close this road between 7am and 7pm to all traffic except buses, cycles and taxis. It's brilliant news for cyclists, and would also help to knit together the two halves of Victoria Park. But it seriously inconveniences other drivers, there being no other north-south route for an entire kilometre to either side, and will surely end up diverting vehicles on longer journeys via local roads. Canals and parkland form a significant barrier between the E3 and E8 postcodes, and this Cycleway proposal only increases that severance.

Section 3: Grove Road

The next kilometre, from Victoria Park across Roman Road to Mile End, is on hold. TfL and Tower Hamlets council are running a separate initiative in Bow called Liveable Neighbourhoods, and this needs to progress further before plans for the Cycleway can be confirmed. I actually live in the Liveable Neighbourhood concerned and have had one vague flyer about maybe turning up to some events (which I haven't done). From what I read they might be planning to make Roman Road one-way, and planting some trees and extending some pavements, and what happens along Grove Road is just another mysterious aspect of all that. It pays to engage, else who knows what you might end up with?

Section 4: Mile End Road Junction with Burdett Road and Grove Road

Here we go again. This major road junction by Mile End station was tweaked for Cycle Superhighway 2, then tweaked more seriously when CS2 was upgraded, and now TfL's contractors are going to have another go. Last time they enraged local drivers by banning right turns from Mile End Road into Burdett Road and from Burdett Road into Mile End Road. This time they intend to reinstate the latter but ban left turns from Mile End Road into Burdett Road instead. It feels like the planners are doing this on a whim, banning anything which gets in the way of "junction efficiency" and forcing local traffic onto awkward diversions. This part of Tower Hamlets has relatively few main roads, and banning turns from one into another really doesn't help. Fabulous for cyclists, though.

For bus passengers it's a mixed bag, as TfL's traffic modelling summary suggests. Journeys on route 277 (parallel to the new Cycleway) could be over three minutes faster. Routes 8, D6 and D7 are also winners. But route 25 (perpendicular to the new Cycleway) could be 1-2 minutes slower in both directions in the evening peak... on top of a 1-2 minute delay when CS2 was upgraded, and further minutes lost between Bow and Stratford when its bus lanes were handed over to cyclists instead. No wonder route 25 is haemorrhaging passengers.

Sections 5-9: Burdett Road

This is the Cycleway's flagship section, a proper segregated cycle lane extending all the way from Mile End to Limehouse. As far as Bow Common Lane it'll be on both sides of the road, then switches to one side for the rest of the way. Some fairly dramatic interventions are planned, including repositioning a bus stop across a former road junction, closing off various sidestreets and removing several parking spaces. Bus stops are being shifted to where bus stop bypasses can most easily be accommodated, which for some passengers will mean an extra 60m walk. Pedestrians will find it easier to cross the road at places where there are crossings, and harder where there aren't. And yet again the junction efficiency mantra is king, which is bad news for traffic used to turning left into, or left out of, St Paul's Way. For everyone other than cyclists it's mixed. For cyclists it looks very good indeed.

Section 10: A13 Commercial Road Junction

This enormous road junction is about to get The Treatment. The Cycleway will cross to one side of the yellow box, controlled by separate traffic lights, making the junction far less hairy to negotiate. Street furniture and traffic islands will also have to be shifted around, which means several months of roadworks while contractors try to match the lines and shapes that planners have drawn on their maps. And another right turn is being banned to make the junction layout more efficient. "Do any buses go that way?" "No." "Great, let's ban it."

Section 11: West India Dock Road

Finally, for now, the new Cycleway will extend down one side of West India Dock Road until it meets up with Cycle Superhighway 3. Another bus stop is shifting by 60m because it has to. Limehouse Police Station is losing some parking spaces out front after being hemmed in behind a segregated lane. Near Westferry station the flow of eastbound traffic is being reduced from two lanes to one. The whole thing is a series of compromises to squeeze in as safe a Cycleway as possible, with repercussions for all other road users. What we don't yet know is how the remainder of the route down the Isle of Dogs will pan out, although intriguingly it looks like northbound cyclists will follow completely different roads to those heading south.

The Cycleway consultation is underway until June 21st. Four drop-in events are planned. Online responses are encouraged. And this is my usual exhortation to get involved and have your say to try to make sure things you like happen and things you don't like don't. I still shake my head at certain compromises along CS2, some outside my front door, and wish I'd shouted louder. But then I'm not a cyclist.

 Thursday, May 09, 2019

London's Least Used First Letter

Imagine a complete gazetteer of London including place names, landscape features, station names, tourist attractions, etc... the full range of locations. Now imagine flicking through the 26 alphabetical sections in its index. There'd be countless entries for certain letters, but very few for others. These, I reckon, would be the five fewest.


Unsurprisingly there are no locations in London beginning with X.

Indeed there are no places in the entire UK beginning with X, according to Wikipedia's strangely comprehensive List of United Kingdom locations. In London's case that's no suburbs, no stations, no roads... perhaps the odd nightclub and a dozen Chinese restaurants, but nothing of any geographical significance. That said, the index at the back of a London A-Z isn't completely blank for the letter X. There is a single entry, which is Xylon House in Worcester Park.

I went to Sutton to have a look.

Here's the building in question at the very top of Central Road. That's Sainsbury's end rather than the Waitrose end. Sainsbury's fills the entire ground floor, above which are two floors of offices (home to Keith Michaels car insurance and the team from Trinity Homecare), above which is a row of eight flats. For Worcester Park it's quite modern, very much at odds with the rest of the shopping parade in this archetypal Thirties high street. There's just one catch, the building's been renamed. It was Xylon House at the start of the 1990s, but by 1996 had become Harcros House, and today it's dull old Central House. Amusingly there's a map of the local area on the front wall beside the cashpoint, courtesy of the same company who print the A-Z, and that shows Xylon House on this very spot. But there is no Xylon House because the London A-Z is two decades out of date, so 'X' is very much the letter London forgot.


London's second least used index letter has to be Z. Again no names of suburbs, boroughs, stations etc start with Z, but unlike X there is a well known London attraction that instantly springs to mind. London Zoo is as well known as they come, and is officially known as ZSL London Zoo after the Zoological Society of London. This ticks all the Z boxes, twice.

Because of this, a London bus stop exists whose name begins with Z. In fact there are four, the others being a bus stand in Thornton Heath called Zion Road and two stops called Zangwill Road off Shooters Hill Road in Kidbrooke. Zangwill Road is also one of sixteen entries in the 'Z' section of my London A-Z, confirming that there are Zs out there if you know where to look. Just not very many.


It's arguable whether J or Y comes third in the Least Frequent Initial Letter stakes, but I'm going with J. No London boroughs start with J, nor London constituencies, nor the names of any London suburbs. Admittedly the B12 bus goes to Joyden's Wood but that's marginally in Kent, with the Greater London boundary slicing off a small portion of the ancient woodland of the same name. As for stations, none of London's tube stations or railway stations begin with J, indeed only two stations in the whole of England start with that letter. But London can manage a disused station, so that's something, namely Junction Road.

Junction Road was one of two stations between Gospel Oak and Upper Holloway on what's now the Goblin, part of the London Overground. It opened in 1872 and was initially very popular, but once a tube station opened at Tufnell Park two minutes down the road all went rather quiet. John Betjeman was even inspired by the solitude to write a poem called Suicide on Junction Road Station after Abstention from Evening Communion in North London, which ended badly, thus.
Six on the up side! six on the down side!
    One gaslight in the Booking Hall
And a thousand sins on this lonely station—
    What shall I do with them all?
The station closed for good in 1943, was demolished in the 1950s, and all that remains is a road called Station Road branching off from Junction Road. Other roads beginning with J are more common, thanks to large number of streets named after Jacobs, Janes, Jameses, Johns and Juliets, and some are even well known like Jermyn Street in Piccadilly. The most prominent J in London is undoubtedly the Jubilee line, which is a biggie, but the absence of anywhere specifically called J-something relegates J to third place in my list.


Again no stations begin with Y, either on the tube or on the railway network. Again there's one disused station, namely York Road on the Piccadilly line north of King's Cross, extant 1906-1932. Again several street names begin with Y, about half of that total being called York Road, York Street or York Something. But where Y really scores over J is that not one but two London suburbs begin with the letter, both of them in Hillingdon.

Yeading's on Hillingdon's eastern side, between Hayes and Northolt, and I blogged about the place in depth in January. It's never had a station because no railway goes within a mile of the place. Yiewsley's on the western side, adjacent to West Drayton, indeed between 1895 and 1974 its station was called West Drayton and Yiewsley. More importantly, between 1911 and 1965 the local local government area was called Yiewsley and West Drayton Urban District, which is a huge tick in the 'starts with Y' box. Poor old J, Z and X never boasted anything as big as that.


There are lots of Qs in London, mainly thanks to the fact that we've had a queen not a king for the majority of the last 200 years. Queensbury and Queen's Park are actual London suburbs starting with Q, each with an actual station that begins with Q too. Further Q stations exist at Queensway, Queens Road Peckham and Queenstown Road (Battersea). Several hospitals start with Q for royal reasons, ditto reservoirs and theatres, not to mention the enormous post-Olympic park in E20. And beyond Q all the other letters of the alphabet suddenly become increasingly popular (I for Ilford, K for Kensington, V for Vauxhall, and tons and tons of Bs, Cs, Ss and Ws), so let's not go there.

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