diamond geezer

 Tuesday, May 18, 2021

It's now 29 months since Crossrail was due to open but didn't.
Let's see how the three stations in the West End are progressing.

PADDINGTON
It's nine years since the taxi rank was removed from Eastbourne Terrace and work began on creating a new western entrance to Paddington station. It's nearly ready and you can sort of walk around it, but the Crossrail portal is still barriered off because there are no trains to catch.



An enormous black canopy has appeared, running most of the length of the street, designed to cover the bank of escalators leading down to the Crossrail ticket hall. The skeleton was there last time I looked so what's new is the glass that forms the roof and also the view down into the escalator chasm. The barriers at pavement level had recently been shifted far enough back to allow me to walk underneath the edge of the glass canopy and look up, and also to peer through the mesh and look down. It was odd seeing open air escalators descending into the depths, and odd seeing a giant rod spanning the gap to keep the two sides stable, and odd being able to see a bit of platform 1 on the far side. Passengers can already enter the mainline station this way, i.e. round the back of the escalators past a bank of departure boards (Hayes & Harlington... Penzance... Heathrow Term 5).



I was unexpectedly disappointed by the work of art on the glass canopy. It's called A Cloud Index and consists of a detailed cloudscape the length of a football pitch printed in white ceramic onto the glass. The artist Spencer Finch arranged 60 pastel drawings from cirrus at one end to altostratus at the other with the aim of giving passengers ascending the escalators something ethereal to look up at. Alas closer up the clouds look too much like drawings and not convincingly natural, indeed more like something a large flock of pigeons might have deposited on the glass. This interpretation was strengthened during my visit by the sight of a squad of workmen in orange hi-vis standing on the roof and jetwashing it, which I guess is a regular necessity to get rid of any genuine guano. I reserve the right to change my mind once I've seen the full panorama from the foot of the escalators, however, whenever that may be.

BOND STREET
Bond Street has always been the fly in the Crossrail ointment, way behind schedule due to prolonged contractual problems. So it was surprising and yet not at all surprising when I took a look at the western entrance and it still absolutely wasn't ready.



All the other central London Crossrail stations have their walls intact but not Bond Street which from this angle continues to resemble a concrete slab supported by windswept pillars. Nothing says "what the hell were they thinking when they said Crossrail would open in 2018?" better than this 2021 snapshot. Bond Street is actually one of two stations not yet to have reached Staged Completion 3 (SC3) status, the other surprisingly being Canary Wharf which had always looked like it was furthest ahead of the rest.



Things didn't look much better over on Gilbert Street where the same unclad concrete lump I saw last time continues to despoil the backroads of Mayfair. Admittedly I didn't venture across to the station's new eastern entrance on Hanover Square to see how that was getting on, and that might be tip-top complete by now, but somehow I doubt it.

TOTTENHAM COURT ROAD
TCR's doing a lot better, indeed it recently became the third central station (after Custom House and Farringdon) to be handed over to TfL. The escalators leading down from the remodelled tube station have been waiting behind hoardings for some time, and the platforms were deemed substantial enough three years ago to allow visitors down for an Open Day. So what really struck me on my latest visit was outside, specifically how much of the new building above the ticket hall is now complete. It's going to be called Soho Place, a so-called "destination to work, shop and play", and I was surprised how architecturally uninteresting it was. Its drab facade is a jagged edifice of mostly windows, as yet neither finished nor clad, but I've seen the artist's impression of the finished building and it doesn't get any more characterful.



Meanwhile the Dean Street entrance has been ready for three years, pretty much, even if it originally resembled a bland black box from the outside. Again the big change here is the building on top, now several storeys high, because it was always in the playbook to monetise the space above the station entrance. What's unusual is that it's going to be flats rather than offices, and luxury flats at that (which admittedly is less of a shock). The development's called TCRW SOHO and offers investors hotel-style living overlooking Oxford Street in a building covered with dark reconstituted stone and gold decorative panelling.



It'll look gaudy and vile, but only 92 people have to think it attractive and that's £140m sorted.



But for £2.40 you'll be able to walk in underneath, eventually, and experience the dazzling ticket hall that leads down to a world of purple possibility. Sometime in the first half of 2022, they say, and who knows this time they may finally be right.

 Monday, May 17, 2021

It's an exciting day today as we're finally allowed to do all sorts of things we haven't been able to do for ages. Travel is go, pubs and restaurants are go, theatres and museums are go, even picking up five strangers for casual sex is back on the agenda again. So hurrah for step 3, the next stage in the government's cautious but irreversible roadmap, which will bring joy to everyone who's got wet outside a cafe recently.



So it's the perfect time to take advantage of the Mayor's new Let’s Do London campaign, created in partnership with the city's hospitality, culture and retail industries, which aims to encourage Londoners and visitors back into central London as soon as possible. The heart of town has been pretty much dead for months as Londoners stayed in their own neighbourhoods and international tourists were kept at bay. Now the need is for as many people as possible to abandon the suburbs and return to the West End, and for god's sake spend some money while they're here.



It turns out arranging lots of chairs outdoors didn't really cut it, except in that first giddy week when people were so desperate for social contact they'd meet anywhere. A record-breakingly cool April followed by an unseasonably damp May swiftly put paid to al fresco nirvana, because nothing dampens outdoor sales like chilly wind and heavy showers. So it's excellent news that the West End's surplus of hospitality venues is now available to soak up the punters who've just discovered their local restaurants are fully booked for weeks.



Those who've tired of watching boxsets twice will find solace in a smattering of actual films in actual cinemas, of which the West End has dozens. Live theatre can also be guaranteed to deliver an emotional punch that months of lockdown lacked, and all at eyewatering prices which'll feel reassuringly familiar. And let's not forget London's empty museums, whose curators have had nothing to do since Christmas except tweak their displays to perfection, so you should pre-book now before furlough ends and market forces close them down.



Perhaps most importantly, Oxford Street is desperate to see you again. Britain's premier shopping experience has been echoingly empty of late and very much needs footfall, punters and genuine customers. Please try to wean yourself off online shopping and return to a street where all your favourite goods are freely available at higher prices. Not only are there fewer buses on the road but also substantially fewer pedestrians on the pavements, so your visit may be unlike anything you've ever experienced before.



Most will want to flock to the big department stores, if only for the unfamiliar thrill of riding on an escalator again. But don't overlook the big brand flagships, the fashion outlets and the souvenir merchants flogging fridge magnets that look like phone boxes. Better still, while you've been away at least a dozen units have transformed into American Candy stores selling Cheetos, Gatorade and Hershey bars from unpriced shelves. Nothing quite says Oxford Street like swiping your contactless card and discovering you've just paid £10 for a small packet of sour cherry jellybeans.



It's already too late for Arthur Beale, London's oldest yacht chandler, whose shop on Shaftesbury Avenue has been supplying sailors, adventurers and explorers for nearly 500 years. A lack of customers during lockdown has finally forced them to close their physical store and a clearance sale is now underway. Arctic socks, splicing kits, knot-tying handbooks and headtorches are now available at a very respectable 20% off, but please be aware that 'ropes are not included' in the special offer.



Once you've done your shopping why not take a break in one of the Royal Parks? These look much like the parks in your part of town except more royal, but most importantly they have paths you haven't jogged round umpteen times during lockdown so have untapped novelty value. Hyde Park for example has more than enough space to accommodate the entire population of Hillingdon, should they all turn up, plus a load of kiosks who urgently need you to buy a coffee, a pastry and/or an ice cream.



Whenever you're ready to return to central London, the tube is ready to whisk you safely into town. Scientists have categorically proven that every surface is virus-free, and hand sanitiser is available everywhere just in case they're not. The only potentially dangerous thing would be other travellers in close proximity, but there are hardly any of those at present so it's entirely safe for everyone to surge back into trains and stations. You may not have missed travelling on the tube but our accountants have been screaming at you to come back for several months, so please do.



As lockdown eases today remember how important it is to refresh and reignite our city by spending money in the middle of town, not closer to home. Until millions of international tourists can be persuaded to return, or are legally allowed to, kickstarting the capital's economy is basically down to you. Come see a show, eat a meal, tour a museum or browse a store and Let's Do London, preferably repeatedly.

 Sunday, May 16, 2021

Five years ago I blogged a map of London's department stores.
On the day after Debenhams closed its doors for good, I thought it was time for an update.
Pink boxes denote areas where department stores have closed since 2016.


A map of London's department stores (2021)

Ruislip
John Sanders
Harrow
M&S
Brent Cross
Fenwick
John Lewis
M&S
 Enfield
Pearsons
M&S
  
Uxbridge
M&S
Wembley
 
 Holloway
Selby's
 
Islington
M&S
HackneyRomford
M&S
Ealing
M&S
Westfield
House of Fraser
John Lewis
M&S
Oxford Street
Selfridges
House of Fraser   John Lewis
M&S, M&S
Stratford
John Lewis
M&S
Ilford
M&S
HounslowKensington
M&S
Knightsbridge
Harrods
Harvey Nicks
Central
Liberty
Fortnum & Mason
Fenwick
Covent
Garden
 Upminster
Roomes
Kew
M&S
Hammersmith
M&S
Chelsea
Peter Jones
M&S
Victoria
House of Fraser
M&S
City
M&S
Docklands
(John Lewis)
 
Richmond
M&S
PutneyBattersea
Brixton
Morleys
M&S
Walworth
M&S
Charlton
M&S
 
Kingston
Bentalls
John Lewis
M&S
Wimbledon
Elys
Merton
M&S
Tooting
Morleys
Lewisham
M&S
Eltham
M&S
Bexley
Morleys
M&S
New MaldenSutton
M&S
 Croydon
House of Fraser
M&S
 Bromley
M&S
Orpington
M&S

Most of the department stores that have disappeared since 2016 are Debenhams, once a mainstay of our town centres but now vanished in a puff of economic smoke. The capital's 15 former Debenhams were in Harrow, Uxbridge, Romford, Westfield, Oxford Street, Ilford, Hounslow, Wandsworth, Battersea, Wimbledon, Eltham, Sutton, Croydon, Bromley and Orpington. Of these areas only Hounslow and Battersea are now departmentstore-less, without even a Marks & Spencer to their name. Only the Debenhams in Hounslow, Ilford, Sutton, Uxbridge, Harrow, Bromley and Romford continued to trade until May 2021.

Turning to the other national chains, House of Fraser's London total has dropped to four since 2016 with the closure of stores in Richmond and the City. We also already know that their Victoria branch (formerly Army & Navy) will be closing next summer as part of an office redevelopment, which'll leave Oxford Street, Westfield and Croydon as the sole HoF outposts. Fenwick's three stores remain open, including one operating as Bentalls in Kingston. John Lewis still has seven stores (including Peter Jones in Chelsea), having opened in Westfield White City in 2018 but closed its Purley Way outlet last summer. As for Marks & Spencer they've only shuttered their stores on Holloway Road and in Covent Garden, but a number of smaller stores have lost their clothing sections and been repurposed for food sales only.

Many of the department stores in the centre of town are world famous, notably Harrods in Knightsbridge and Selfridges' flagship store on Oxford Street. Liberty in Soho is another iconic one-off, while Harvey Nicks and Fortnum & Mason lean more towards the rich and foreign tourists. It'd be seismic if any of these chose to close their doors.

Meanwhile out in the suburbs several smaller department stores somehow survive. Many of these owe their existence to Morleys of Brixton who first branched out in Tooting and then bought up several other suburban stores. These include Elys on nearby Wimbledon High Street, Pearsons of Enfield, Selby's on the Holloway Road and Roomes in Upminster. The only surviving independent on my map is John Sanders on Ruislip High Street, following the sad demise of Blands in Wembley (2017), the delightfully named Bodgers of Ilford (2018) and Tudor Williams in New Malden (2019).

Outside central London the only places to retain three department stores are Brent Cross, White City and Kingston, and the only places to retain two are Enfield, Stratford, Brixton, Croydon and Bexleyheath. Bexleyheath is a proper success story because it's gained a department store since 2016, courtesy of a branch of Morleys opening in the former BHS, so hurrah for that. Meanwhile Ilford, Battersea and Croydon have each lost two department stores since 2016.

Of the 82 department stores on my map five years ago 30% have disappeared, which is fairly depressing. But if you discount M&S and only look at 'proper' department stores the fall is 45%, which looks considerably worse. It's mostly Debenhams' fault, the rest have held up fairly well, but the map could well be a lot emptier by 2026. The pull of wandering round a one-stop shop for drapery, fashion and electrical goods is waning thanks to online shopping and the pandemic, but there is still a joy in buying something special and taking it home to use straight away. Use 'em or lose 'em.

n.b. a 2016 post listing London's closed department stores is here.

12 things that happened this week #coronavirus

• "keep your hugs brief"
• UK alert level lowered from 4 to 3
• PM confirms major unlocking next Monday
• NHS app to become vaccine passport
• Queen's Speech focuses on pandemic recovery
• Indian mutation a "variant of global concern"
• Brit Awards held with in-person audience
• Test & Trace app reduced UK cases by 1-2%
• cases surging in Bolton
• vaccinated Americans need no longer wear masks
• Indian variant may threaten roadmap
• 2nd jabs accelerated to beat Indian variant

Worldwide deaths: 3,270,000 → 3,360,000
Worldwide cases: 157,000,000 → 162,000,000
UK deaths: 127,603 → 127,675
UK cases: 4,433,090 → 4,448,851
1st vaccinations: 35,188,981 → 36,320,867
FTSE: down 1% (7129 → 7043)

 Saturday, May 15, 2021

It was a great day for the hospitality industry when the Whitechapel Bell Foundry closed its doors. Nobody needs bells any more but what they do need is a bell-themed boutique hotel at the heart of historic East London, plus a nice little artisanal cafe on the side.



So it's our pleasure to welcome you to England's newest heritage destination, The Bell End, just as soon as we've knocked down all the bits of the original building we don't want.

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry was founded in 1570 and was once listed by the Guinness Book of Records as Britain's oldest manufacturing company. No other factory from the reign of Good Queen Bess is still going strong, or at least was going strong until it became financially unviable and sold out to a holding company. Thankfully this 450 year-old business is to be reborn as a mixed use development with 103 beds, artists' workshops and a super little gift shop courtesy of a kindly bunch of venture capitalists.

It's all because nobody needs bells these days, not proper full-sized ones. The Foundry sadly failed to understand the first rule of global economics, which is built-in obsolescence, so their products have endured for centuries without the need for replacement. Not since the mass destruction afforded by the Blitz has the foundry had a full order book, so it was always inevitable that the business would fold and a bespoke hotel concept take its place.



You can't miss the building because its wonky Georgian brickwork despoils a corner plot opposite HSBC and Superdrug. We plan to activate the shuttered frontage by replacing the downstairs workspace with a cafe, thereby neutralising pesky industrial health and safety protocols. The history of the former business will be told via display spaces featuring leftover tools and implements, because that's cheaper and more efficient than retaining the extinct traditions themselves. Expect the pit where the largest bells were cast to be securely covered, brightly lit and never again used for its original purpose.

We're absolutely beside ourselves with excitement at the thought of monetising the space where Big Ben and the actual Liberty Bell were struck. Our accountants are similarly thrilled at the thought of all the Americans who'll want to pay a pilgrimage to the Whitechapel Road and fork out for a light lunch and hopefully an overnight stay. All it took was the brave choice to repurpose the front of the building and rebuild the rear, rather than wasting public money trying to rescue the original business model. Market forces confirm that London has too many bell foundries and not enough boutique hotels, so it makes perfect economic sense to replace the last of one with the umpteenth of the other.



Rest assured that the long tradition of bell manufacture will continue on site. A small downstairs area will be partitioned off as a pseudo-foundry where cafe patrons will be permitted to observe operations through protective glass. Only handbells will be manufactured, not the tower bells for which the site is world famous, but excitingly these will be for sale in the building's gift shop. Not only did this tick all the right boxes in the planning application but we expect our visitors to be exactly the kind of people who buy shiny trinkets as souvenirs, thereby helping to make The Bell End financially self-sustaining.

The previous business selfishly only employed 24 staff, many of them merely professional craftspeople rather than proper serving staff or chambermaids. The new development will generate over 180 jobs, many of them low paid and none of which will require expensive long-term apprenticeships. The Bell End will also accommodate creative workspaces at subsidised rents for the benefit of local makers and creatives, but only because the building's listed and we had to do something with the upstairs rooms.



Just look at how attractive the new hotel will be. This is no boxy annexe, this is a distinguished design solution with all the pizazz of a modern block of flats, which will undoubtedly contribute positively to the overall ambience of the Whitechapel High Street Conservation Area. We're particularly proud of the full-sized bell dangling from a gantry on the rooftop which our architects confirm adds to the historical authenticity of the overall aesthetic, because nothing says The Bell End like a rampant protuberance.

We're enormously grateful to Robert Jenrick, the construction industry's favourite housing minister, for rubberstamping the conversion of the foundry into a luxury boutique hotel. He understands that you can't simply retain world-class heritage these days, everything has to be financially self-supporting, otherwise the public would be expected to subsidise the preservation of irreplaceable facilities out of taxpayers' pockets. How much better to open a cafe, flog handbells and lay a miniature chocolate on guests' pillows than to preserve an anachronistic anomaly from the first Elizabethan Age. The Bell End stands firm and proud, and hopes very much to welcome you soon.

 Friday, May 14, 2021

In exciting news for residents of Kennington, its tube station is about to be nudged from zone 2 to the boundary of zones 1 & 2. The change will have absolutely no effect on fares to/from any other stations, not yet. But expect it to bring broader passenger benefits in four months' time.



What's happening in September is the opening of the Northern line extension, a shiny transport bauble courtesy of developers redefining riverside Wandsworth. Trains that would normally have turned back at Kennington will instead continue to new stations at Nine Elms (for Sainsbury's and gaudy towers) and Battersea Power Station (for reimagined heritage and gaudy towers). Both these stations need to be in Zone 1 for prestige reasons, so intermediate Kennington needs to be nudged into zone 1 too. And because the only fares software update before September is this weekend, Kennington needs to be nudged into zone 1 now.



Short term it means very little. Fares on the Northern line south of Kennington won't change because Kennington remains in zone 2. But journeys from Kennington to zone 1 (or from zone 1 to Kennington) will be cheaper because the entire journey will now be in one zone. Off peak the fare drops from £2.50 to £2.40, so peanuts, whereas at peak times it falls from £3 to £2.40. A Kennington-Moorgate commuter might save £300 a year as a result, so that's nice.

Technically it's a little more complicated than that. TfL operate a secret special offer called Short Distance Cross Boundary Journeys whereby peak journeys that creep across the Z1/2 boundary only pay the Z1 fare. For Kennington this means that rush hour journeys to Bank, Borough, Charing Cross, Embankment, Lambeth North, London Bridge, Monument and Waterloo already only cost £2.40. Nothing changes if you're only going a few stops. But anyone travelling deeper into zone 1 (or travelling off peak) will start saving money from Sunday, hurrah.

Stations don't normally switch zones because many people would end up paying more. But shifting a station onto a zone boundary is fine because no passenger loses out, only TfL who end up collecting less in fares. Don't worry, Kennington's shift was agreed last summer by TfL's new overlords at the Department for Transport so the loss in income has been rubberstamped from on high.

Also it's not normally the done thing for two consecutive stations to be on a zone boundary. Vauxhall and Kennington are distinct because they're on different lines, but Kennington and Elephant & Castle are adjacent Northern line stations and that's unusual. But there is precedent here, notably the creation of a blurry Z2/3 boundary around Stratford in 2016, so practicality does sometimes outweigh network purity.

Kennington's shift to the Z1/2 boundary might look OK on the tube map (whenever that's updated, everything in today's post is an unofficial mock-up) but it looks odder in real life. Here's a map showing zone 1 stations in yellow, zone 2 stations in red and stations on the Z1/2 boundary in orange. The three stations on the Northern line extension (Battersea Power Station, Nine Elms and Kennington) have a black ring around them.



Kennington turning from red to orange extends the edge of zone 1 into South London much further than TfL have ever admitted before. The odd-looking yellow bulge is the result of extending zone 1 around Battersea and Nine Elms. This is an attempt to placemake a new neighbourhood south of the Thames in an area that's always been relatively inaccessible from central London - a situation the Northern Line Extension is intended to change. The most jarring outcome is the proximity of Battersea Power Station station (zone 1, yellow) to Battersea Park station (zone 2, red), highlighting that the incomer has been granted numerical prominence entirely subjectively.



The awkwardness of adding these two new Z1 stations is revealed if you attempt to draw an imaginary zone 1 boundary across the map. Before the arrival of the Northern Line Extension you could have drawn a smooth line sweeping north of Kennington and stuck closer to the river. But the introduction of a third Z1/2 station forces the line to wiggle irregularly, compelling any Z1 boundary to bend inwards. The discrepancy arises because Nine Elms has been granted full-on Z1 status but Vauxhall, closer in, remains boundary 1/2. It'd make total geographic sense to redefine Vauxhall as Z1 only, but that'll never happen because it'd penalise Victoria line passengers.

It's interesting to look back at the Planning Inspectorate's 2014 report and the representations businesspeople made to ensure that the two new stations ended up in zone 1. The Director of the St James Group building consortium said Z1 would be a great benefit and allow good integration with the remainder of Central London. The Chief Executive of the Vauxhall One BID didn't want new residents paying a £300 annual penalty for living in zone 2. That Chief Executive became a founding member of Leave EU two years later, then progressed to chairman of the Brexit Party, was elected to the European Parliament in 2019 and last week failed to gain a seat on the London Assembly.

In four months' time, according to the very latest committee minutes, two brand new stations will appear on the tube map. Squeezing them in is going to be made much more difficult by the need to show the Z1/2 boundary in the correct place, with the location of Vauxhall likely to be the design's sticking point. This is my attempt in which I've been forced to drag Vauxhall away from the river, geographically unhappily, in order to confirm that a Northern line journey from central London to Battersea Power Station is all within zone 1.



And it's the need to encourage through-journeys which explains why Kennington gets to be in Zone 1 from Sunday. Nobody wants residents of the Vauxhall, Nine Elms, Battersea Opportunity Area to have to pay extra to travel into central London, and nobody wants people in central London to have to pay extra to go shopping at the power station. It's all about lubricating the wheels of capitalism, because that's the only reason tube lines get extended these days.

But this new zoning won't be quite such good news for residents of South London heading up the Northern line and changing to the new extension. Kennington may be in zones 1 and 2 but Battersea Power Station and Nine Elms are only going to be in zone 1 so visitors from the south will be expected to pay a premium to travel there. It'll be cheaper to get out at Vauxhall and walk.

 Thursday, May 13, 2021

A special thing happened yesterday morning. The temperature in my living room returned to the same value it was at the start of November. It's been a long winter.

The indoor temperature on 2nd November 2020 was 18°C. The indoor temperature finally got back to 18°C on 12th May 2020. That's a gap of 191 days (or, to put it another way, six months and one week).



To clarify a few things...
» This is the temperature in my living room first thing in the morning.
» First thing in the morning is the coldest time of day in my house.
» First thing in the morning is not affected by any central heating I may have had on.
» I'm not one of those people who leaves the central heating on overnight.
» I don't believe in heating the house while I'm unconscious under a duvet.

To clarify a few more things...
» My thermometer is close to an outside wall quite near a window.
» Yes, obviously I've been keeping a daily record in a spreadsheet.
» Don't say you're surprised.


The indoor temperature started its wintry descent when we had a coldish snap at the start of November. It soon recovered but then began a steady decline to a minimum of 12°C on 7th December. It managed to get back up to 16°C just before Christmas, then slumped into the New Year and spent a full fortnight below 12°C. An erratic recovery kicked in, but a really cold spell in the middle of February dragged morning temperatures down to a wintry low of 10°C. Within a fortnight it was back at 16°C, but only briefly, and there were two more lowpoints at the start of March and April. More recently there's been a long spell hovering around 15°C, until finally this week the temperature shot up and returned to 18°C.

My average first-thing-in-the-morning temperature over the last six months was 14°C. The temperature was below 15°C two-thirds of the time, below 13°C for six weeks and below 12°C for three weeks. Hurrah for central heating and its ability to make the rest of the day less chilly. Hurrah also for living alone, which means I have full control of the radiators.

I'm perfectly comfortable in indoor temperatures of 18°C, I'm not one of those people who needs the thermostat stuck in the twenties. I'm actually OK at 15°C most of the time, which may be a bit more resilient than some of you. I'm not comfortable at 12°C, which is double-jumper weather, and that week of 10°C first thing in the morning wasn't pleasant.

To make any sense of all this, the graph obviously needs a second line.



To clarify a few things...
» The top line is the temperature indoors.
» The bottom line is the temperature outdoors.

To clarify a few more things...
» This is the overnight minimum temperature outdoors.
» I do have an outdoor thermometer so I really should have taken data from that.
» Instead the graph shows the overnight minimum in Hampstead, a few miles away.


As you can see the temperature indoors closely correlates with the temperature outdoors. After a cold night the temperature in my living room is cooler, whereas if it's a mild night the temperature indoors holds up better. A prolonged cold snap drags the temperature down further for longer. There's rarely a lag, it's pretty much immediate.

But the two lines never cross, or even meet, because the brick walls of my flat are good at insulating. In fact the two lines are generally about 10°C apart because that's how good my walls are. The maximum difference was 14°C at the start of November when the walls still held a bit of leftover summer heat. The minimum difference was 4°C earlier this week because it's spring and the building I live in is still warming up.

The first time the outside temperature dipped to freezing overnight (in December) was the first time my inside temperature dropped to 12°C. The freezing fortnight at the start of January was the first time my early morning indoor temperature dipped below 12°C. But it took until the Arctic burst in February for the indoor temperature to reach 10°C thanks to outdoor temperatures below -2°C. At the coldest times the difference between inside and outside is generally twelve degrees.

Now that my central heating has been resolutely switched off for some time, an interesting observation is how stable the daytime temperature in my flat is. For example it was 18°C first thing yesterday morning and then hovered around 18-19°C all day even though the temperature range outdoors was rather wider. The baseline temperature inside a flat or house depends a lot more on the temperature of the building than the temperature of the air outside. A building is slow to warm up in the spring and slow to cool down in the autumn, like the sea, which helps explain why it's taken until May for my indoor temperature to finally match November.

Anyway, it's nice to be back in the half of the year when the temperature indoors is high enough first thing in the morning to be entirely ignorable. But I intend to carry on recording it, if nothing else to observe the effect of outdoors on indoors during the hottest sweatiest bit of the summer. Assuming we get a hot sweaty bit, that is. We've been a long time waiting.

 Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Over the last year certain key freedoms have been deemed so important that they've been opened up faster than they might otherwise have been. What can this tell us about what it means to be a typical Brit?



The right to go to the pub
In March last year the Prime Minister left it until the very last minute to close down pubs. Epidemiologically this was stupid and dangerous and undoubtedly led to numerous additional deaths. But Boris knows his electorate and understood their inalienable right to go to the pub, so discounted closure until the evidence was overwhelming... and even then allowed publicans the rest of the evening to wind things down. Reopening has similarly been pub-fixated - can we go? must we sit outside? when can we drink indoors? - as if this is one of the things Britons most obsess about. Perhaps it is.

The right to meet up at Christmas
Throughout the autumn there was a growing obsession with whether or not we'd be able to meet up with family at Christmas. It looked possible at one point, then less likely, then the intended duration shrank from hopefully five days to sorry only one day (and in certain parts of the country no days at all). Scientifically speaking this was a ridiculous relaxation that would undoubtedly kill people, and probably kickstarted our second spike, but the political need to permit family festivities overruled medical common sense. Other religious festivals weren't so lucky, nor other indoor gatherings of any kind, but the divine right to Christmas was somehow deemed essential.

The right to a foreign holiday
This one's always been bubbling under the surface, like a glimmer of hope at the end of a very long tunnel. Apparently what the average Briton needs to validate their existence is the right to travel abroad for a summer break, and anywhere that doesn't guarantee sun and heat somehow won't do. A holiday in Blighty just doesn't cut it, as evidenced by the inexorable reappropriation of the word "staycation" to mean a somehow-substandard not-foreign holiday. Nobody genuinely needs to hop on a plane for solely leisure-based reasons this summer, risking bringing back who knows what from abroad, but for some reason the approved next step after 'stay at home' and 'stay local' is 'a fortnight in the Algarve'.

The right to hug others
This one's crept to the surface recently, the need for extreme physical contact rather than just human proximity. This week we're not allowed in other people's homes but next week not only can we go indoors we can additionally hurl ourselves at our loved ones with respiratory abandon. Admittedly subsidiary guidance advises us to hug responsibly, avoid going in face to face and keep it brief, but that's not the overall message which is "hug everyone again because they deserve it". An emotional response is being allowed to dominate the science, and all because it's supposedly a human right rather than right in itself.

I don't feel bereft or personally blighted if I'm not allowed inside a pub at the weekend. I coped with not seeing the rest of the family at Christmas because it was no harder than not seeing them on any other day. I'm capable of not going abroad this year if it helps to keep my fellow citizens safer. And I don't come from a family of huggers so I look on the rest of you with a degree of emotional incredulity. I consider this entirely rational behaviour. I suspect it also makes me culturally abnormal.

None of this is about whether easing lockdown is right or wrong, but instead the fact that certain key activities have been allowed to deviate from the norm, accelerated ahead of others because they're deemed more important to our national psyche. Our populist government knows what the wider population wants, which is beer and Christmas and foreign sun and hugs, and maybe this is indeed what it means to be British.

The Queen's speech yesterday included the intention to introduce an obligation to show photo ID before voting. As oppressive unnecessary gerrymandering goes, this is brazen.

The UK does not have a significant problem with electoral fraud. It sounds plausible that it might have, but all the evidence confirms the opposite. In 2019, of 595 alleged cases investigated by the police, only four led to a conviction. The smallest majority in the General Election that year was 57.



The government's line is that "showing identification to vote is a reasonable approach to combat the inexcusable potential for voter fraud", but potential is not the same as reality and this move would simply disenfranchise a significant number of voters.

A pilot scheme of voter ID checks was held in 10 local authority areas in 2019 which resulted in 2000 people being turned away, 750 of whom failed to return. Three different models were trialled, one of which merely allowed voters to turn up with their poll card, so it's significant that the government has chosen to adopt the more draconian reqiurement for full-on photo ID.

It won't just be driving licences and passports that are valid, the government has signalled that certain other photo-based ID documents will be acceptable. There's also a suggestion that local councils will provide photo ID free of charge where necessary, as they currently do in Northern Ireland. But this remains an additional unnecessary imposition for no obvious reason other than to deter certain unwanted voters.

It's no use sounding surprised about this. It was clearly signalled in the Conservative manifesto eighteen months ago, so if you voted Tory you've essentially already agreed.



I've been reassured by the general outburst of outrage these proposals have elicited, and similarly appalled by the mendacious smirk on the face of a government intent on biasing the electoral system in its favour. Assuming their huge parliamentary majority ensures this moral travesty goes through, imagine how much worse a fifth term could be.

 Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Random City of London ward (16): Langbourn



My 16th random ward is an odd'un, being long and thin and mostly unnoteworthy. Langbourn fits into a narrow slot between Bank and Aldgate, somewhat irregularly, and touches more City wards than any other - eight in total. Other than containing half of Leadenhall Market it's not especially blessed with points of interest, but it does have more than its fair share of back alleys to explore. [pdf map][10 photos]

Historically Langbourn followed both sides of Lombard Street and Fenchurch Street, but after several administrative rejigs now only the northern flank remains. The sole southern exception is St Mary Woolnoth which was deemed to have historic connections and so remains inside a tiny arrowhead protruding at the ward's west end. It's the City's sole example of a Hawksmoor church, reimagined 300 years ago because Wren's repairs to the medieval church proved inadequate. Look out for its Baroque tower topped by two turrets facing the Bank road junction, but set back a bit. St Mary's was nearly demolished in 1897 to make way for the City and South London Railway but engineers were persuaded to build their entrance in the crypt instead (which now houses a bank of lifts down to the Northern line platforms).



The ward's only other surviving church is St Edmunds on Lombard Street, with its poky-out clock, although it's now used as the London Centre for Spiritual Direction rather than as a place of worship. It's also where the Bishop of Islington is based should you ever need to see him. Lombard Street was once known for its many hanging pictorial signs, introduced identify businesses before addresses were numbered. The most striking of the four that remain is the golden grasshopper signifying the home of Tudor financier Sir Thomas Gresham, although the current danglers are merely Edwardian replicas.



St Gilbert Fenchurch was never rebuilt after the Great Fire but its churchyard lives on as a small garden off Fen Court. Its benches are a little glum, but tucked behind one tomb is a decent-sized stone labyrinth based on a design found on St Agnes in the Isles of Scilly. More striking is a sculpture called the Gilt of Cain, installed in 2008 to commemorate the preaching of anti-slavery sermons nearby. This consists of a granite podium facing a cluster of sugar-cane-like pillars, each engraved with a bit of poem, and I recommend climbing up to the 'lectern' for a different perspective.



Alongside is One Fen Court, Langbourn's only recent tall building. The City's largest public roof garden perches above its 15th floor, in normal times freely accessible by lift and an unexpectedly nice recreational hideaway. I had to make do with accessing the public realm underneath the building, a black-walled cavern that's usually brightened by dynamic art on the ceiling, but when that's switched off it becomes an oppressive inactive void that undoubtedly sounded nicer in the planning application. An abomination twice the height is due to replace Marks & Spencer on Gracechurch Street, its trio of linked towers rising unapologetically above the site of the old Roman Forum.



Leadenhall Market dominates the centre of the ward. Half of it's officially in Lime Street, but everything south of the central arcade lies in Langbourn instead including several smaller offshoot passageways. All the shopfronts are brightly and uniformly painted, concealing whether it's a sandwich shop, a boutique or a Pizza Express until you look closer. Shoppers should be aware that very few businesses have reawoken as yet, but this is excellent news for photographers because it's still uncannily easy to get absolutely nobody in shot.



In Bull's Head Passage I found a holy icon of Harry Potter pilgrimage, the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron, as used in the first movie before expensive backlot sets became available. Hagrid leads Harry through the market to a curved doorway whose blank sign magically reveals the name of the pub before they step inside. In reality this is the rear entrance to the Glass House opticians and the sign outside says London Migraine Clinic, which must be a bit of a letdown when the guided tours deposit their Potterphiles outside.



South of Leadenhall the web of streets becomes more mundane, a mix of mostly gents outfitters and unfancy eateries. On Lime Street you can window shop for brogues and dress shirts and ogle cricket memorabilia. In Cullum Street Temple Food offers exceptionally traditional sandwiches and cooked breakfasts immediately opposite the oatmilk macchiatos of the Curators Coffeestudio. Giorgio Italian Menswear closed for refurbishment in the summer of 2018, supposedly for three weeks, but never reopened. Bolton's restaurant has a box of reassuringly retro paper menus outside in the hope that patrons will convert their normal calamari fritti and tiramisu into a boxed takeaway.



Explore the alleyways further and there are proper pubs, the kind tourists never find but are instead frequented by office workers without expense accounts. The entire menu at the Bunch of Grapes consists of rolls, pies and chips, £4.50 max. The Swan Tavern lurks up its own Passage and boasts Edwardian marble bars. Charles Dickens drank regularly in the George & Vulture in Castle Court and mentions it numerous times in Pickwick Papers. It's less a pub and more a restaurant these days. but with a traditional cuisine that peaks at roast beef and breaded veal. Alas I can't yet mention the Jamaica Wine House across the alleyway because local boundaries are seriously counter-intuitive and that's in Cornhill ward.



Langbourn's back alleys are fascinating to explore if less historic than you'd hope. I tried to walk them all, including the wood-panelled squeeze through Bengal Court round the back of the G&V. But I was thwarted by a film crew who'd spotted the benefits of an atmospheric secluded backdrop and had turned up with a fleet of vans, bright lights and security. At every potential entrance off Cornhill and Lombard Street they told me I couldn't pass, until eventually I stumbled upon one unguarded portal. Here a runner asked me ever so politely to wait while a smart-suited youth strode purposefully out of Change Alley... and cut!... and I shall be watching out for that scene in every upcoming drama series for the next eighteen months.

 Monday, May 10, 2021

1 thing that happened to me 50 years ago this week
• On Saturday it was the FA Cup Final, and I picked Arsenal to support and my brother chose Liverpool. My new team won the Double (for the first time) and my brother cried (but he's won more European trophies since). This means I have now been an Arsenal supporter for fifty years and two days.

10 things that happened to me 40 years ago this week
• I bought the new Adam & The Ants single Stand and Deliver for 99p from WH Smith (which I shared with my brother because we were friends again by now).
• I also bought a Rubik's Cube for £3.99 and a Magic Octagon for £2.99 (which was basically a Rubik's cube with four of the corners sliced off). Both were soon irreversibly muddled.
• Did my O Level revision religiously every evening, on topics including equations of motion, Macbeth, shipbuilding, German prepositions, atmospheric pressure, Latin poems and excretion.
• My chocolate biscuit wrapper collection reached 1961 specimens (mostly repeats).
• The words on Jigsaw this week were wizard and vanish.
• My form group at school was about to be broken up after five years of uneasy camaraderie. This was probably just as well as we'd reached the rumbustious stage of being banned from the form room at lunchtimes as punishment for forming a human pyramid in the library.
• Most mornings this week one unfortunate member of the form was bound hand and foot with springy cycle straps and leather belts, then pushed out into the corridor and with a cry of 'Bondage!' to be mocked by passers-by. I can confirm this was neither clever nor enjoyable.
• Later in the week the mob progressed to using Martin's cigarette lighter to burn corners of holdalls and the ends of people's shoelaces.
• I was so excited when our new ZX-81 computer finally arrived direct from Sinclair HQ in a polystyrene box wrapped in brown paper. My excitement was tempered slightly when most of the programs I tried entering proved too large for its 1K memory. My frog-jumping game didn't fit even once I'd taken all the frills out. Started saving up for a 16K extension.
• Also the Pope was shot, François Mitterand was elected French President and Blue Peter launched a competition to design a plate for the upcoming Royal Wedding.

10 things that happened to me 30 years ago this week
• Found my lost umbrella in the office where I must have left it last Wednesday.
• Not only was the family home up for sale, there it was in the Watford Observer with a six figure price tag.
• I needed four first class stamps to send off for a job application in Bedford and a job application in Northampton. Both entirely unnecessarily, as it turned out.
• The landlord of the B&B I was lodging in knocked on my door, ostensibly for a chat but really because he wanted to steal one of my bedside drawers. I refused so he went nextdoor and stole one of Joe's instead.
• Had my first ever bottle of Irn-Bru (and decided I preferred Tizer).
• Watched Doogie Howser MD, Brookside, The Chart Show, the Comic Strip, Twin Peaks and The Darling Buds of May (but annoyingly missed Cluedo).
• Sat down with the man in charge of printing the Daily Mail for an in-depth chat (not about newspapers).
• Lost my fountain pen. I think I must have just put it down somewhere. I was utterly bereft without my Parker 25. Bought a new one on Saturday.
• Left the house at 6.30 to catch three trains to a job interview in a town I'd never been to before. The last time I had a job interview I was the only candidate, so there being four was a bit of a jolt. Survived the informal chat, the tour of the building and being taken for lunch (something with mince followed by an eclair). I was interviewed first and managed to bat back the volley of probing questions, I think capably, then had to wait around for the others to be similarly grilled. The cleaners were ready to lock up by the time the result came - hurrah, the job was mine! My new boss offered all sorts of helpful information and drove me back to the station, where I tried to find a cardphone so I could relay the good news to my parents. I was allowed to see the interview notes just before I left the job seven years later, and apparently I came over really well but they didn't like the way I looked. Never read your interview notes.
• Had to tell my boss at Job 1 that I had Job 2, and he smiled at the time but I don't think he took it well.

10 things that happened to me 20 years ago this week
• Drove into town for a haircut, two CDs, a copy of Q magazine and some M&S food, only to find I'd lost my ticket for the multi-storey and had to pay a £9 penalty.
• Came up to London for a day trip, including a DLR trip to Greenwich, a photo astride the meridian, a look at the new London Authority 'bubble' being built on the South Bank and several beers. Also spotted Mo Mowlem being driven into Westminster. I've had more successful dates.
• My landlord informed me that the entire building needed to be emptied for repairs to the flat roof so I'd need to find somewhere else to live before the autumn.
• Drove to Cambridge and got stuck in an enormous queue on the A14 on the way home, and I don't miss that.
• Did that thing where you wait for everyone to leave the office, then use the photocopier to print things you shouldn't really be copying at work.
• Tony Blair announced a General Election for July, and what a different era that now feels.
• Two months after managing to smash my fingernail in a car door, its replacement was finally at trimmable length.
• My nice boss had retired recently and I was swiftly working out that his replacement was a slimy delegator, all bonhomie but as little action as possible, an upward climber everyone liked the first time they met him, a creator of fuss, a skin-of-the-pants chancer... and maybe I didn't want to be here any more.
• Because I wasn't enjoying Job 3 I rang up what would be Job 4 to request an application form. It eventually arrived days late, very close to the final deadline, because someone had written Ipswitch, Southwark as part of the address and the Royal Mail had got confused.
• I rushed the application form, filling it in while watching the Cup Final and Eurovision, thinking that would do. It very much didn't - I wasn't even shortlisted for interview. But everything turned out OK because a few weeks later a more senior role came up and I applied for that, much more carefully, and got it... and that's how I ended up in London. I often thank the unseen minion who misaddressed that envelope.

3 things that happened to me 10 years ago this week
• I encountered Angela Lansbury near Bus Stop M, accompanied a workmate to A&E and climbed aboard the prototype New Bus For London... but I blogged about all this at the time so needn't go into detail again.

 Sunday, May 09, 2021



    Voted for Sadiq; voted for a Labour London Assembly Member
       Voted for Shaun; voted for a Labour London Assembly Member
       Voted for Shaun; voted for a Conservative London Assembly Member

Elected: Sadiq Khan (Labour)


 1st choice  1st + 2nd choice
Voted for Sadiq  1,013,72140%  1,206,03455%
Voted for Shaun893,05135%977,60145%
Voted for Sian197,9768%  
Voted for Luisa111,7164%  
Voted for Niko49,6282%  
Voted for Laurence47,6341.9%  
Voted for Brian31,1111.2%  
Voted for Rejoin28,0121.1%  
Voted for Binface24,7751.0%  
Voted for the other 11133,7335%  

Sadiq beat Shaun by: 228,433 votes (10%)

Lost their £10,000 deposit: 17 of the 20 candidates

Electorate = 6.1 million
Voted for Sadiq = 20% of the electorate
Voted for Shaun = 16% of the electorate
Didn't vote for Sadiq = 80% of the electorate
Couldn't be arsed to vote at all = 58% of the electorate

Gave 1st preference vote to someone other than Sadiq or Shaun: 624,585 voters (25%)

Got the most 2nd preference votes: Sian Berry (Green) 486,798 votes (22%)

Gave 2nd preference vote to someone other than Sadiq or Shaun: 1,539,087 voters (56%)
Gave 2nd preference vote to same candidate as 1st: 265,343 voters (10%)
Did not give a 2nd preference vote: 327,980 voters (13%)

Voted for too many candidates (disqualified): 87,214 voters (3½%)
Didn't fully understand how the Supplementary Voting system works: a lot of people

Most Laboury constituency: North East (Islington, Hackney & Waltham Forest)
Most Conservativey constituency: Bexley & Bromley
Most Greeny constituency: Lambeth & Southwark
Most Libdemmy constituency: South West (Hounslow, Kingston & Richmond)
Most Binfacey constituency: Greenwich & Lewisham
Most Cockwombly constituency: Bexley & Bromley
Tightest Sadiq/Shaun contest: Barnet & Camden

London Assembly Membership: Lab 11, Con 9, Green 3, LD 2
Gaining one seat: Conservative, Green, Liberal Democrat
Losing one seat: Labour
Losing both seats: UKIP
Number of votes required to block the Mayor's Budget: 17

Next Mayoral election: Thursday 2nd May 2024 (not 1st May 2025, it's only three years)
Next Mayoral election: First past the post, alas (so a lot duller than this)

12 things that happened this week #coronavirus

• some safeguards still required after June
• EU plans to allow vaccinated tourists
• care home residents can go out & not self-isolate
• PM says roadmap still on track
• virus continues to surge across India
• UK likely on 'steady course out of pandemic'
• Indian delegates at G7 talks self-isolate
• US supports waiver on vaccine patents
• finally... the elections delayed from last year
• Bank of England predicts V-shaped recovery
• under-40s to be offered alternative to Oxford jab
• only 12 countries on UK travel green list

Worldwide deaths: 3,180,000 → 3,270,000
Worldwide cases: 152,000,000 → 157,000,000
UK deaths: 127,524 → 127,603
UK cases: 4,403,170 → 4,433,090
Vaccinations: 34,346,273 → 35,188,981
FTSE: up 2% (6969 → 7129)

 Saturday, May 08, 2021

Canary Wharf has a brand new district called Wood Wharf. As if the place isn't rich enough already, the money-grabbing bastards have only gone and struck out east by building a dense new neighbourhood on a former industrial estate. It's been a long time coming and is barely half finished so far, but will grow into a place designed to collaborate, to innovate and to embrace the future. Tower Hamlets is one of the poorest boroughs in the country and yet we're still building luxury baubles to pander to the privileged few.



This residential-led, mixed-use, waterside community includes several apartment towers, a dockside park and a significant amount of office space. When you think of all the socially-responsible alternatives these 23 acres of brownfield site could have been used for it's a criminal waste. Imagine living a stone's throw from the office in a fully furnished apartment with world-class dining options on your doorstep. It's sickening to see this prime location on the Poplar borders transformed into yet another playground for the rich.



To find Wood Wharf, head out of the small entrance at the opposite-to-normal end of Canary Wharf station and keep going. Dodge the windswept outdoor tables for boozed-up bankers, continue past the security barrier and try to avoid the guard's steely gaze. This sloping causeway is Water Street, its dockside recently activated by the arrival of two floating multi-storey pavilions. One will be filled by The London Project, a Dubai-based hospitality extravagance, so expect their "conceptual bar, restaurant and lifestyle venue" to be full of the most detestable people imaginable.



8 Water Street (with its special emphasis on pet-friendly apartments) welcomed its first residents last year, while 10 George Street's marketing centre is now open for walk-in viewings. These flats aren't cheap, as you can tell from the snazzy threads worn by the loaded tossers swishing in and out. As yet Herzog & de Meuron's 58-storey signature cylindrical tower at One Park Drive, with its dazzling white exterior divided into three irregular typologies, is not yet occupied. Prices here start at £840,000, ffs, for which any banker with common sense could buy a much larger property in the Shires with an actual garden.



Food marketplace Mercato Metropolitano (Mayfair/Elephant & Castle) and urban eatery Pedler (Peckham) are already committed to bringing their artisanal wares to the neighbourhood, which is currently food-free. Overpriced croissantmongers Gail's Bakery were also primed to move in but footfall is currently peanuts and their jaunty hoardings have thankfully been taken down. When the development is complete a central retail district based around a cluster of narrow lanes will provide Wood Wharf's retail heart. Don't expect anything useful, just rapacious businesses hoping to topslice the excess wealth of residents and visitors alike.



Street art is an important part of life at Wood Wharf, including two startlingly life-sized fibreglass figures facing off on the pavement in Park Drive. Until recently you could have found a mirrored steel turd in Water Street, ideal for reflective Insta selfies, but don't rush because that's already been whipped away. The most recent arrival is Minotaur and Hare on Bench by Sophie Ryder, recently implanted as an adjunct to the new children's playground. So long as nobody brings more than three children at the same time, the playground should perform its function admirably.



The best part of Wood Wharf right now is Harbour Quay Gardens, a vibrant greenspace expanding inexorably alongside the South Dock. To be fair it is quite nice, as you'd expect from a corporate development that can afford to greenwash its surroundings to lure in as many potential purchasers as possible. A long sinuous wiggle of benches faces south and is already well-frequented by the workforce on adjacent building sites. But someone needs to have a word with the morons who installed an additional row of benches 50cm from the water's edge, so close that nobody can safely step round to sit in the middle and anything you drop risks getting very wet.



Wood Wharf continues to flourish and grow, with most of the commercial and residential district beyond Charter Street still a busy construction site. New blocks of flats are clearly visible from the cut-through footpath, including one so stereotypically drab it can only be destined for affordable lowlife. In a couple of years' time expect Wood Wharf to be a thriving destination for lunchtime grazing, weekend browsing and high-rise living. But it's pretty much dead at present, so keep this bombastic pustule on your radar and don't waste your time coming down just yet.

 Friday, May 07, 2021

Anorak Corner (the annual update) [tube edition]

Hurrah, it's that time of year again when TfL silently updates its spreadsheet of annual passenger entry/exit totals at every tube station.

However, and it is a very big however, 2020's figures are perverse. The figures are calculated for a typical week in autumn then multiplied up to a full year, as usual, but for 2020 this means "the sample window is the period of the UK Government's second national lockdown". Overall ridership is therefore down to 35% of what it was in 2019, so absolutely none of what follows is either normal or consequential.


London's ten busiest tube stations (2020) (with changes since 2019)
  1)   ↑6    Stratford (25.1m)
  2)   ↑3    London Bridge (24.7m)
  3)   ↓1    Victoria (23.0m)
  4)   ↓3    King's Cross St Pancras (18.8m)
  5)   ↓2    Waterloo (16.6m)
  6)   --    Liverpool Street (16.3m)
  7)  ↑10   Finsbury Park (15.8m)
  8)  ↑11   Vauxhall (15.5m)
  9)   ↓5    Oxford Circus (14.6m)
10)  ↑29   Barking (14.3m)

This is eye-popping stuff. London's busiest tube station is officially Stratford, not one of the normal big-hitters in central London. During lockdown a lot of people were still using Stratford station to get around, especially those with essential non-office-based jobs. Stratford's total is only 40% of what it normally is, but Waterloo and Oxford Circus only managed 20% allowing East London to leapfrog past. Other non-central railheads performed strongly, for example Finsbury Park and Vauxhall. I confess I never ever expected to see Barking in the top 10 busiest tube stations. London Bridge is the top-performing rail terminus (it's more normally third). The biggest tumble out of the top 10 belongs to Bank/Monument which plummeted from 8th place to 47th.

The next 10: Canary Wharf, Brixton, Paddington, Canning Town, Walthamstow Central, Seven Sisters, Hammersmith (District), South Kensington, Bond Street, North Greenwich
These are mostly stations in zones 2 and 3, whereas normally they'd be stations in zone 1.

London's ten busiest tube stations outside Zone 2 (2020)
  1)   ↑1   Barking (14.3m)
  2)   ↓1   Walthamstow Central (10.4m)
  3)   --   Seven Sisters (10.0m)
  4)   ↑5   East Ham (8.5m)
  5)   ↑1   Wembley Park (8.3m)
  6)   ↑1   Tooting Broadway (8.1m)
  7)   ↓3   Ealing Broadway (7.7m)
  8)   ↑4   Leyton (7.3m)
  9)   ↓2   Tottenham Hale (7.2m)
10)   --   Wimbledon (7.0m)

It's also all change beyond zone 2, but the reshuffle isn't quite as extreme as in the centre of town. Again it's tube stations with rail connections that do particularly well, with East Ham, Wembley Park, Tooting Broadway and Leyton the exceptions. Northeast London has a particularly strong showing, which correlates well with TfL's warnings about busy stations during the pandemic. If the list were to continue then Harrow-on-the-Hill (6m) would be the highest performing station in Zone 5 and Uxbridge (4m) the busiest in Zone 6.

The smallest decreases in passenger numbers compared to last year
  1) Dagenham East ↓16%
  2) Kenton ↓17%
  3) Stonebridge Park ↓18%
  4) Harlesden ↓19%
  5) Becontree ↓20%
  6) Barking ↓21%
  7) North Wembley ↓22%
  8) Willesden Junction ↓22%
  9) Dagenham Heathway ↓22%
10) Sudbury Hill ↓24%

You'd expect passenger numbers to have decreased significantly during lockdown but two stretches of two lines have bucked the trend. One's the eastern end of the District line (i.e. Barking & Dagenham) and the other's the northern end of the Bakerloo line (i.e. Brent) where passengers just kept on travelling. Not so many home workers out here, I suspect, and rather more with jobs they needed to travel to.

The largest decreases in passenger numbers compared to last year
  1) Heathrow Terminal 4 ↓100%
  2) Covent Garden ↓90%
  3) Piccadilly Circus ↓89%
  4) Bank/Monument ↓89%
  5) Leicester Square ↓89%
  6) Tottenham Court Road ↓86%
  7) Temple ↓85%
  8) Mansion House ↓84%
  9) Charing Cross ↓83%
10) Blackfriars ↓81%

Blimey, this is savage. Heathrow Terminal 4's big fat zero is because it's been closed to passengers since last May (and the data is based on autumn travel). All the rest of the top 10 decreases are in zone 1, with passenger numbers in the West End utterly diminished compared to normal. Lack of tourists and lack of shoppers have contributed to killing off traffic, not just people staying away from the office. Astonishingly zone 1 and Heathrow account for the entire Top 50 biggest decreases, a sequence eventually broken by Richmond (↓73%) in 52nd place.

Let's see what all this has done to my favourite list of the year...

London's 10 least busy tube stations (2020)
  1)         Kensington (Olympia) (35000)
  2)         Roding Valley (190000)
  3)         Chigwell (247000)
  4)         Grange Hill (297000)
  5)   ↑1   Theydon Bois (493000)
  6)   ↓1   North Ealing (507000)
  7)   ↑4   Croxley (515000)
  8)         Ruislip Gardens (549000)
  9)   ↑1   Ickenham (555000)
10)   ↓3   Moor Park (593000)

Discounting Heathrow T4, the least used station on the Underground remains poor old Kensington (Olympia), because that's what weekend-only trains (and a tiny handful of weekday-ers) does for you. It has a pitiful total... less than a fifth of the passengers at the second least used station, which continues to be Roding Valley. The Essex end of the Central line has a very strong showing including all three stops on the Hainault shuttle, as per usual. Passenger numbers may have tumbled here, as everywhere else, but a lesser used station will always be a lesser used station.

The next ten least busy stations: Chesham, West Finchley, Fairlop, West Harrow, West Ruislip, Chorleywood, Upminster Bridge, Mill Hill East, Chalfont & Latimer, West Acton

And while we're here...

DLR Top 5: Canning Town (11m), Stratford, Bank, Woolwich Arsenal, Lewisham
DLR Bottom 5: Beckton Park (166000), West India Quay, Pudding Mill Lane, Royal Albert, Custom House

Overground Top 5: Stratford (11m), Clapham Junction, Canada Water, Highbury & Islington, Willesden Junction
Overground Bottom 5: Emerson Park (120000), Cheshunt, Upminster, Bushey, South Kenton

TfL Rail Top 5: Liverpool Street (9m), Stratford, Paddington, Romford, Ilford
TfL Rail Bottom 5: Heathrow Terminal 4 (0), Twyford (13000), Taplow, Iver, Langley


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