diamond geezer

 Sunday, January 26, 2020

[NEW] Route 497: Harold Wood to Harold Hill
Location: London east, outer
Length of journey: 3 miles, 18 minutes

Yes, it's another new London bus route, the seventh in three months. And the 497 is the least useful of all.

These are the outskirts of Havering amid the overspill estate of Harold Hill, where buses matter. Four years ago TfL reviewed bus services in the area in light of the arrival of Crossrail, and came to the conclusion that an additional route was needed to feed residents towards the new purple station at Harold Wood. The 497 would serve the new Kings Park estate and also close a hole in the network along Chatteris Avenue where a handful of residents were over 400m from a bus stop. It wouldn't do much else, but it was cheaper* than diverting or extending an existing route and so the 497 got the go-ahead. It ran for the first time yesterday.

The 497 begins outside Harold Wood station, where it's most needed. It's not allowed to hang around because there's no space for a bus stand, so vehicles have to be timetabled to depart two minutes after they arrive. In it nips, flips its blind and off it goes. You don't get much notice that it's coming because it vanishes off the Countdown display several minutes before it arrives. And you won't have much idea about where it's heading unless you ask the driver. Nobody's put up any timetables. No maps have been updated. It's all very much par for the course.

On the bright side, ooh, shiny new buses. These have glowing USB charging ports on the backs of the seats which is cutting edge for London, if old hat in the provinces. On the less good side, there aren't many passengers to plug things into them. Also, these buses only run every 30 minutes, which means the entire route can be operated with just two vehicles, which keeps the costs down.

Almost immediately the route enters the Kings Park estate, which used to be Harold Wood Hospital but has been remodelled into 863 new homes and a polyclinic. It looks typically modern, but feels utterly out of place amid these postwar outskirts. A single spine road weaves through the middle, signposted as a No Through Road at either end to try to deter ratrunning car drivers, but ideal for a bus route. The developers painted two bus stop boxes onto the road a while ago, long enough for the yellow paint to have already faded, but nobody's yet added any bus stop poles so this entire section remains hail and ride.

It's possible to walk from here to the station in five minutes, so waiting for a half-hourly bus seems mostly pointless. But an elderly couple who live at the far end of the estate are on board trying to make the most of the convenience. "We were hoping to get the train to Brentwood," they sigh, "but there are no trains so we're going straight back home." Not only has the 497 launched well over a year before Crossrail opens, but its first weekend coincides with the entire eastern chunk of TfL Rail being closed.

The first actual bus stop is round the back of the Gallows Corner Tesco. Nobody gets on and nobody gets off, despite it being peak Saturday shopping hours, but a few waiting passengers stare at us in a baffled way. We then join the queue of cars waiting to exit, which is brutal because the A12 is a jammed barrier which blights north-south travel across Havering. By the time we've finally crept up to the lights and slipped through, our entire journey (according to the timetable) should already have finished.

I'm expecting more housing after we've crossed the dual carriageway, but no, the next bit is industrial estate. It's also hail and ride again, until we reach a road already served by a bus service at which point bus stops reappear, but only until we turn off after which it's back to hail and ride. This must be one of the cheapest bus routes TfL have ever introduced, resources-wise, because absolutely no new stops or shelters have been added anywhere along the route.

Chatteris Avenue is the key reason the 497 was created, because it used to be the only part of Harold Hill more than 400m from a bus stop. This is TfL's prime metric for network coverage, so closing off this hole ticks a big box. It was only a very small hole, covering (I've counted them) fewer than 100 houses, and nobody was more than 450m away from a bus stop so you could argue why bother? But the Briar Road Estate is more than deserving, a lowly mesh of pebbledash boxes intermittently emblazoned with tatty flags, its residents far more likely to catch a bus than the BMW-incomers back in Kings Park.

A teenager in a top-to-toe tracksuit raises an eyebrow as our 497 passes, because buses have never passed this way before. A woman carrying a 12-pack of Andrex up her garden path stops and visibly questions our presence, then smirks, a brand new journey option alight in her mind. Two angry dogs battle on the greensward. The only other passengers on board turn to each other and chuckle... "I never thought we'd be coming down here!"

And then we turn right onto Hilldene Avenue, our final road... already. Route 497 is barely two and half miles long, brief enough to make it one of London's ten shortest bus routes, which is another reason to question its existence. But we still have three more bus stops to go, the first outside a smashed-up pub, the second outside a boarded-up library. More usefully it's opposite Hilldene Shopping Centre, Harold Hill's retail hub, a monolithic parade of pound shops, takeaways and supermarkets. The smell of fried fish and vinegar is in the air.

We pause at the penultimate stop so a pensioner can interrogate the driver on the new bus service and where it goes. He initially assumed the unfamiliar number must be a mistake, given that the 496, 498 and 499 all run round these parts. He is eventually persuaded, but intends to stick with his normal 256 because that gets to the station faster and more direct. And then that's it, the end of the journey, just before the Gooshays Drive roundabout. The entire route has only served six bus stops, all the rest was notionally hail and ride. And it's taken all of 25 minutes... when it was only timetabled to take 18.

The 497's finest quirk happens after all the passengers have alighted. The timetable makes it look as if the driver has the luxury of 22 minutes to wait before heading off again, but there isn't anywhere local to park so instead they're forced to drive on for another mile and half to the bus stand at Dagnam Park Square. It's already got a toilet, so that's great, but it is yet further evidence that TfL have spent as little as they possibly can on introducing route 497. You need never come and ride it, and most Harold Hill residents never will either.

» Roger was also out and about yesterday, and his report is longer than mine with a lot more photos (which is what you really wanted)

Route 497: route map
Route 497: live route map
Route 497: timetable
Route 497: route consultation

Review of bus services in Harold Hill (TfL's illuminating planning document) (2.9MB pdf)

*Options explored in the September 2016 review
Extend 347: £900,000 per year (too expensive)
Restructure 347: £800,000 per year (too impractical)
Extend 346: £545,000 per year (too many negatives)
Extend 496 and 499: £450,000 per year (too generous)
New route 497: £295,000 per year
Extend 499: £200,000 per year (nowhere to park)

 Saturday, January 25, 2020

Today is the final day for one of the tube's quirkier connections.

Central line trains to Woodford via Hainault.

Currently some trains from central London run all the way round the eastern side of the Hainault Loop to Woodford, every twenty minutes. But from tomorrow they won't. Instead a separate shuttle service will operate between Hainault and Woodford all day, still every twenty minutes, but passengers will have to change trains.

Essentially we're going back to how things were 30 years ago.

There is a reason for this.

» Central line trains first entered service 27 years ago
» Central line trains have dodgy motors which need replacing
» One train needs to be taken out of service, repeatedly, until all have been upgraded
» The current timetable cannot operate with one less train
» A new timetable is needed, making cunning use of resources

And this is the cunning solution.

» One existing train will be split in half, creating two four-car trains
» These shorter trains will operate a Woodford-Hainault shuttle
» The rest of the Central line will continue to be served by full length trains

Rest assured that these half-length trains won't cause overcrowding issues because Roding Valley, Chigwell and Grange Hill are the three least-used stations on the entire Underground network.

As well as replacing the old motors, engineers will also be adding wheelchair spaces, LED lighting and CCTV, and improving on-board audio-visual information. It's hoped that the upgrade will be complete by 2023. But until then, or maybe later, the Hainault Loop is severed.

You can tell things are serious when TfL go to the effort of printing a full colour leaflet.

I particularly enjoyed the second diagram which is titled "Future Woodford via Hainault service", despite no longer having any "via" whatsoever.

There is additional fallout. The end of the Epping branch will now see fewer peak time services, with passengers at Debden, Theydon Bois and Epping having to make do with two fewer trains an hour. But additional trains will now operate between Leytonstone and White City from 6-7am on weekdays, from 10-11pm almost-daily, and from 4.30-6pm on Sunday afternoons. All the stations gaining are in London. All the stations losing out are in Essex.

But the most prominent change will be the introduction of a Woodford to Hainault shuttle. Having to change trains at Hainault and cross to platform 1 for onward connection won't be fun, but at least the frequency on the chopped-off section isn't changing. And there will still be a tiny number of through services...

  Weekdays  Saturday
Grange Hill - Leytonstone (via Woodford)     0526 0549 
Grange Hill - West Ruislip (via Woodford) 0653 0719 0758  0619 0742 

Those two early morning trips to Leytonstone are nothing special, they're simply to get trains out of Grange Hill depot first thing. The three West Ruislip services are a bigger deal, ideal for commuting to central London, and are a feature of the existing timetable which is being retained.

Woodford - Ealing Broadway (via Hainault) 0807

This is the only other train to escape the shuttle zone and make its way to central London. Once a week, Sundays only.

 Weekdays Saturday Sunday 
West Ruislip - Hainault (via Woodford)1632  
White City - Woodford (via Hainault)  1749
Ealing Broadway - Woodford (via Hainault) 181816572240

Meanwhile these are the only direct services from central London. One train clockwise to Hainault (via Woodford) in the evening peak, one train anti-clockwise to Woodford (via Hainault) slightly later in the evening, plus the last train on Sundays. But that's it. You won't be seeing "Woodford via Hainault" flash up on the display at Oxford Circus any more, unless that is you happen to be there around quarter to seven on a weekday evening, twenty past seven on a Saturday evening or around six or eleven o'clock on a Sunday evening.

The early evening Woodford (via Hainault) journeys are for an unexpected reason.

» Two four-car trains operate the shuttle service for most of the day
» In the early evening one of the four-car-trains goes back to the depot
» A full-length train comes in to replace it for the rest of the evening

This means half the trains serving Roding Valley, Chigwell and Grange Hill in the evenings will have four carriages and half will have eight carriages, for a frisson of added variety.

But don't head out to see these unique four car trains tomorrow because they're not ready yet. Nobody's chopped an eight-car train in half yet, but the new timetable has to be introduced tomorrow because drivers' shift patterns were set in stone months ago. It's a bit galling for the affected passengers, knowing TfL have introduced an annoying shuttle service before it was technically necessary. But those "Woodford via Hainault" services will still be out there, very occasionally, if only you know when to look.

» Central line Working timetable 70 (starts 26th January 2020) [3.8MB pdf]

 Friday, January 24, 2020

A new Pet Shop Boys album is released today.
I'd better add it to my collection.

Please (24th March 1986)
Bought from: Our Price Records, Watford High Street, straight after a visit to the opticians. Paid for using a tenner from my very first use of an Abbeylink cashpoint machine. I had to go back and get the cassette replaced because there was a serious wobbly dropout one minute in.
Favourite non-single: Two Divided By Zero [Let's not go home, we'll catch the late train, I've got enough money to pay on the way]

Disco (17th November 1986)
Bought from: W.H.Smith, Paragon Street, Hull. It took me a week to buy this one because my student lodgings were out of town. I also bought a Red Box album, the Utter Madness compilation and five blank cassettes, then walked home rather than splurge money on a bus.
Favourite non-single: Paninaro [Passion, love, sex, money, violence, religion, injustice, death]

Actually (7th September 1987)
Bought from: Woolworths, Peascod Street, Windsor. By coincidence, release day was also my first ever day in full-time employment. I was the only person who turned up in a suit and tie. By coincidence, it was also the day Sylvester McCoy first appeared as Doctor Who.
Favourite non-single: King's Cross [Dead and wounded on either side, You know it's only a matter of time]

Introspective (10th October 1988)
Bought from: Boots, Peascod Street, Windsor. I was going to buy it from Woolworths, but it cost £5.99 there and only £4.99 in Boots. Played the album a lot that evening, before and after Brookside. The last time I bought a Pet Shop Boys album on cassette.
Favourite non-single: I Want A Dog [Don't want a cat, Scratching its claws all over my habitat, Giving no love and getting fat]

Behaviour (22nd October 1990)
Bought from: Our Price Records, Watford High Street, straight after a visit to the dentist. No fillings. I'd had a CD player for over a year, but I was still staggered that this new album set me back £12.49. You get a much better quality insert in a jewel case than a cassette box, but this one merely contained four photos.
Favourite non-single: Nervously [We don't talk of love, We're much too shy, But nervously we wonder when and why]

Discography (4th November 1991)
Bought from: Woolworths, Midland Road, Bedford. Got a lift into town after work so I could arrive just before the shops shut. Used a voucher cut off the back of a cereal packet to get £1 off my purchase. A 'Long Play CD' with 'over 76 minutes of music'. Somewhat early in their career for a Greatest Hits album, but nobody realised this at the time.

Very (27th September 1993)
Bought from: Andy's Records, Harpur Street, Bedford. This is the best-selling one in the knobbly orange box. But I really wanted the limited edition see-through plastic version with the extra 'Relentless' album included. Annoyingly by the time I turned up on Monday afternoon Our Price, Smiths, Boots, Woollies and Andy's had all sold out, and I was well gutted. But Andy's said they might have some more tomorrow, so I put my name down, and they got six and saved one for me and I was well chuffed. It still doesn't fit in my CD rack.
Favourite non-single: Forever in Love [Did you ever walk on a stormy night, Oblivious to the rain?]

Disco 2 (12th September 1994)
Bought from: Andy's Records, Harpur Street, Bedford. Only £9 this time. Went to Safeway afterwards and bought turkey burgers for tea. Didn't get time to listen because I had to go back to work for an evening meeting. Wasn't overly impressed when I finally did.
Favourite non-single: We All Feel Better In The Dark [And now our time has come and I'm feeling really horny]

Alternative (7th August 1995)
Bought from: Woolworths, Midland Road, Bedford. Ahh, the wonderful B-sides album. I arrived in town so early in the morning that they hadn't finished restocking the record racks yet. Decided against buying the special edition this time, because I didn't think the proper holographic cover was worth two pounds extra.
Favourite non-single: Too Many People [A devoted son and family man, Or the wicked uncle who doesn't give a damn, How often these have tempted me]

Bilingual (2nd September 1996)
Bought from: Our Price, Harpur Street, Bedford. This time only two of the record shops in town had a copy, and Our Price was cheapest at £11.49 so I bought it from there. One of my neighbours was serving behind the counter. It's not my favourite album.
Favourite non-single: Metamorphosis [It may not last but here am I, once a caterpillar now a butterfly]

Nightlife (11th October 1999)
Bought from: Our Price, Potter Street, Bishops Stortford. I bought this on the drive home from a weekend away, during the month when my relationship was combusting. After we broke up I played it over and over and over and over again in the car because the songs resonated so much. You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk. I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More. Happiness Is An Option. I have never been so obsessed by any other album. I certainly got my £13.99sworth.
Favourite non-single: The Only One [There's so much that you hide from me, The mystery: am I the only one in your life?]

Release (1st April 2002)
Bought from: HMV, Victoria Walk, Leeds. A group of us from work were at a conference on Merseyside, but I was allowed the day off to go and do some proper work with a former Yorkshire Television announcer. Sneaked in a trip to the shops before catching the train back. First time I'd been to Leeds. Impressed.
Favourite non-single: The Samurai in Autumn [It's not as easy as it was, or as difficult as it could be]

Disco 3 (3rd February 2003)
Bought from: HMV, Trocadero, Piccadilly Circus. Bought it on day one, but only because there was a short gap between going bowling at the Trocadero with work colleagues (I came last) and watching a musical at the Cambridge Theatre with BestMate (and his future business partner). My Mondays weren't normally that manic/memorable/expensive.
Favourite non-single: Sexy Northerner [Says he wants a job, Something interesting like a graphic designer]

PopArt (24th November 2003)
Bought from: Tower Records, Piccadilly Circus. Another compilation album, purchased during my lunch break. I bought the DVD too, but had to take it back because the packaging had broken. These days YouTube functions perfectly as both greatest hits CD and DVD, for nothing.

Fundamental (22nd May 2006)
Bought from: Fopp, Earlham Street, Covent Garden. Another special edition, with a bonus 8-track remix album I may have only listened to once. Grrr, pulling off the price label ripped the surface of the album cover (but I think it's still eBay-able).
Favourite non-single: The Sodom and Gomorrah Show [I'd heard about their way of life, Took it with a pinch of salt]

Yes (20th March 2009)
Bought from: HMV, Oxford Street. My afternoon meeting finished early so I dashed through Mayfair in the pouring rain to the enormous HMV that became the Disney Store. I also bought the new Röyksopp album, but it wasn't as good as the first one.
Favourite non-single: Pandemonium [Is this a riot or are you just pleased to see me?]

Format (6th February 2012)
Bought from: Fopp, Earlham Street, Covent Garden. Another B-sides and rarities album, which proved really hard to find, and during the first week of release I failed to find it at Westfield, along Oxford Street... everywhere really. Hurrah for Fopp, finally. On the way home I also bought a new camera, because my phone wasn't good enough in those days.
Favourite non-single: The Truck-driver And His Mate [Parked inside the lay-by, Their destination can wait, Dancing in the moonlight]

Elysium (10th September 2012)
Bought from: Fopp, Earlham Street, Covent Garden, the day after attending the Paralympic Closing Ceremony. A thin album, both in terms of packaging and musically. Skimming down the tracklisting today, I can't hum a single track.
Favourite non-single: -

Electric (15th July 2013)
Bought from: HMV, Westfield, Stratford City. Thanks to the joys of bespoke streaming I'd been listening to the entire album before it was released, but I still went out and bought it. A return to form.
Favourite non-single: Bolshy [I hesitate (Я не решаюсь) to intrude (вмешиваться)]

Super (1st April 2016)
Bought from: HMV, Westfield, Stratford City. I had been intending to buy this from the PSB pop-up shop at Boxpark, Shoreditch, but when I got there I found they were charging £15 so I went to HMV and bought it for £10 instead. Only one of the dozen shops in which I've bought a Pet Shop Boys album is still trading, and it isn't this one.
Favourite non-single: Happiness [It’s a long way to happiness, A long way to go, But I’m gonna get there]

Hotspot (24th January 2020)
Bought from: Sister Ray, Berwick Street, Soho. London has a dearth of record shops these days - my closest HMV is in Bromley, for heaven's sake. But having traipsed around some survivors, hurrah, Soho's long-standing independent had the new CD at the cheapest price (and were super-friendly with it). Fopp and HMV were a penny dearer at £10, while Rough Trade East wanted one pound more. Next time the Pet Shop Boys release an album, I wonder how many options will be left.
Favourite non-single: Wedding in Berlin [We're getting married because the time feels right, We're doing it without delay]

 Thursday, January 23, 2020

There's a lot of debate at the moment about whether HS2 should go ahead or not, but the arguments are clear.

HS2 will one day link London to the North, unless it doesn't.

HS2 will start at Euston, unless it starts at Old Oak Common, and speed passengers to Birmingham, unless the southern end is cancelled, then extend later to Manchester and Leeds, unless phase 2 is scrapped to make the project more affordable. When HS2 reaches the North, or rather if, it'll also connect to a new east-west Northern Powerhouse rail upgrade between Liverpool and Hull, unless that's not built either, unless it's built using the money saved by not building HS2, unless that's deemed unfeasible or impractical.

The first phase of HS2 is due to open at the end of 2028, or maybe 2031, unless it's completed even later or isn't built, but the second phase isn't expected to be completed until 2035, or even 2040, unless that's an entirely over-optimistic prediction too, or it isn't built either.

HS2 will cost £106bn, unless it ends up costing more than that, although 'considerable risks' mean the budget may have to rise by 20%, unless you take the earlier estimate of £56bn as a benchmark, but HS2 must be built because it's strategically important, but it's currently costing £250m a month, although that's a small price to pay to keep the project ticking over, unless this overspend shouldn't continue, although long-term benefits are always greater than initial costs, except the funding should be spent on something more important.

HS2 will drive the regeneration of the North, unless it isn't built, unless not building it allows money to be spent on the regeneration of the North. MPs are strongly in favour of building HS2, apart from those who object, but especially the new Tory MPs in the North, apart from those who'd rather see it cancelled, but the North is now key to Prime Ministerial policy-making, unless it doesn't need to be.

Cancelling HS2 would do irreparable damage, but also save billions, but also cripple future investment. Thousands of trees have already been destroyed anyway, but scrapping HS2 would save thousands more, but you can't build railways without reshaping the landscape, but nobody complains about Victorian railway construction these days, but these threatened environments and ecosystems are irreplaceable, but they could always build more tunnels, but tunnels are one of the reasons why the project is so expensive.

HS2 is about speed, unless it's about capacity, unless it's about both.

HS2 will be transformational, but only for people who can afford expensive train tickets, but the increase in capacity will actually release space for additional trains on existing lines, but they'll fill up soon enough, but all this will bring additional choice, but it'll still be a monopoly, but you'll save half an hour on a trip to Birmingham, but you'll be charged a lot more for the privilege, but it's greener than flying, but it's a lot dearer too, but the emissions are lower, except the carbon footprint of building the railway is phenomenal, but that's excusable in the long term, unless it turns out not to be.

HS2 needs to go ahead because much of Euston has already been demolished, but the empty space could be replaced by flats and offices, but that would preclude completing HS2 at a later date, but more Londoners want homes than to go to Birmingham, but these new homes wouldn't be affordable, but at least there could be some nice shops and restaurants to visit, but nothing could replace the historic pub they bulldozed, but hardly anybody went there anyway.

HS2's plans could be tweaked to save money, but this would only delay things more, but an additional station between London and Birmingham might be really useful, but then it wouldn't be a high speed line, but perhaps the branch to Manchester should be scrapped instead, unless the line to Leeds was less of a priority, but that would only antagonise everyone, but better to build some of HS2 than none of it, but imagine how many existing rail lines in the North could be upgraded for the same amount of money, but that's a false choice because the investment capital wouldn't actually be shared out like that, but some upgrades are better than nothing.

HS2 will create thousands of jobs, but who's to say what jobs will look like by 2030, but businesspeople will always need to travel to the Midlands and the North, unless videoconferencing kills off first class travel, unless that's already happening.

HS2 has support from key figures in government, but much opposition too, but the Prime Minister once said he supported it, but he's no longer Mayor of London these days, but he didn't scrap it outright when he came to office, but his review was simply a way of kicking a decision beyond the election, but the Transport Secretary has made positive noises, but he's also expressed doubts, but he hasn't scrapped it outright either, but the PM's transport advisor is 100% sceptical, but Tories never want to spend public money on anything anyway, but 'The North' might be an exception.

HS2's business case is watertight but debatable. The economic benefits are self-evident but unproven. The environmental impact is criminal but critical. We can't afford to build it, or not to.

A final decision about HS2 will be taken soon, unless it's kicked into touch again, or only partly confirmed, but the arguments are clear.

 Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Travelling across London, what's the maximum number of times a straight line can cross the Thames?

I make it twelve.

Travelling west to east along a line of latitude I can only get to eight.
But tilt the line a bit, to make the most of all the meanders, and a dozen is just about possible.

Crossing 1: Thistleworth Marine, IsleworthOld Deer Park, Richmond

My line starts where Twickenham bleeds into Isleworth, near the mouth of the River Crane, specifically within the boatyard of Thistleworth Marine. If you've walked the Capital Ring you'll have passed by on your way from Richmond Lock to Syon Park. The marina's a useful place to overwinter barges and pleasureboats, a cluster of three pontoons midriver where a little light maintenance might take place. Access is via Railshead Road, which for centuries led to a ferry crossing but now peters out beyond some cottages. The Thames is only 100m wide at this point. It's a pleasant place to begin. [map showing my line]

Crossing 2: Stag Brewery, MortlakeDuke's Meadows, Chiswick
Crossing 3: Duke's Meadows, ChiswickBarnes Bridge station

We've leapt across Kew to the Thames's next big meander, the one below Chiswick. My line only just scrapes the bend, which means a long diagonal crossing, a brief flirtation with the northern bank and another diagonal crossing back. The launch point is close to the marker which shows where the Boat Race finishes, just behind the Stag Brewery in Mortlake. They brewed proper beer here until 1995, then Budweiser until 2015, and the complex remains an empty shell awaiting transformation into flats. Most of the rest of the southern shore is already built up, and highly desirable, especially around Barnes Bridge. Duke's Meadows, by contrast, is an undeveloped expanse of recreational space divided up into pitches, fairways, courts, boathouses, stadia and other sports grounds, because flood risk makes it so.

Crossing 4: Barn Elms Sports CentreCraven Cottage, Fulham

This crossing, close to the London Wetland Centre, comes a couple of miles earlier in the Boat Race. The western side is again all sports grounds, of the kind which prep schools drive their pupils to in minibuses for an afternoon of jolly scrummage. If acreage is any judge, they play a heck of a lot more sport in west London than east. A stripe of riverside has been commandeered by Thames Water's Tideway tunnel crew to intercept the West Putney sewer overflow. Across the water is Craven Cottage, Fulham's football ground, currently dominated by a screen of cranes helping to build the club's new Riverside Stand. The width of the Thames now exceeds 200m.

Crossing 5: World's End, ChelseaChelsea Bridge, Battersea
Crossing 6: Chelsea Bridge, BatterseaGrosvenor Road, Pimlico
Crossing 7: Grosvenor Road, PimlicoSt George's Wharf, Vauxhall

If you're wondering how I managed to find a line crossing the Thames so many times, it's because I aligned it with this stretch of the river. The Thames from Chelsea to Vauxhall is almost straight, but these two miles include a slight bend which I've exploited to cross the river three times. Crossing 5 is a very long glide past Chelsea Embankment, then the whole of Battersea Park, eventually glancing the southern bank at Chelsea Bridge. Crossing 6 continues straight beneath Grosvenor Bridge to shave the northern bank in Pimlico where some pricey waterfront real estate juts out into the river. Finally Crossing 7 bears off through the Westminster Boating Base on a beeline for Vauxhall Cross, specifically St George's Wharf. Had my line been a few metres further north I'd have missed Battersea, and a few metres further south I'd have missed Pimlico.

Crossing 8: Greenland Dock, RotherhitheSir John McDougall Gardens, Isle of Dogs

My line skips central London, and the useful-looking bend between Wapping and Rotherhithe, because if I'd hit those I'd have missed the proper meanders that follow. Instead here we are at the mouth of Greenland Dock, about to launch off across the water towards a grassy bit of Millwall on the Isle of Dogs. The Thames is now almost 350m wide and capable of supporting shipping.

Crossing 9: Folly Wall, Cubitt TownGreenwich Peninsula Golf Range

Traversing the Isle of Dogs, just south of the main skyscraper cluster, delivers us to the far side amid a much less affluent quarter. If you know where the exuberant postmodern pumping station is, we're very close to there. Across the water is the North Greenwich peninsula, this being the side still awaiting its turn for development, hence the land being used for a 'temporary' driving range for cityboy golfers. Alongside is an even more temporary black shell called Magazine which hosts one-off events, especially noisy ones where it's helpful not to have any neighbours. Bleak, but evocative.

Crossing 10: Dangleway SouthPeruvian Wharf, West Silvertown

This isn't deliberate, but my line scores a direct hit on the North Greenwich end of London's most pointless cablecar. As the empty pods hoick up into the sky, so the route I'm tracing heads across Bugsby's Reach towards the as yet undeveloped flank of Silvertown. Peruvian Wharf's flattened footprint has been pencilled in for housing for 20 years, but last year the Port of London Authority finally wrested back control and it'll be used for cargo handling instead... mainly to supply materials for the construction of tens of thousands of homes elsewhere.

Crossing 11: Armada Green, East BecktonCross Ness, Thamesmead
Crossing 12: Cross Ness, ThamesmeadDagenham Dock, Dagenham

To finish with, another very close shave. My line very nearly doesn't brush against Thamesmead, without which it wouldn't have crossed the Thames at all, but does just scrape the shore at Cross Ness Lighthouse, a squat red tower from the analogue age of navigation. It reached here from the easternmost edge of Beckton, the very point at which the Gallions Reach Bridge may one day rise, then followed the Thames for just over two miles before hitting land. The final crossing is back to the industrial north bank, the very haven from which Dagenham Dock got its name, immediately alongside what's left of the Ford car plant. The Thames is now over 600m wide. And although there are still estuarine bends to come on the way down to Erith and then Essex, my line is now heading in completely the wrong direction because you can't hit them all. Twelve'll do nicely. [map showing my line]

 Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A consultation in south Newham, just launched, is proposing to extend two bus routes to serve new developments and withdraw two others from a shopping centre. TfL giveth, and TfL taketh away.

This is Royal Wharf, a significant development of 3400 homes on the Thames waterfront just upstream of the Thames Barrier. It has a DLR station at each end, a new river pier and a single bus route skimming past, but doesn't yet have a bus route of its own. So TfL propose to extend route 241 to Royal Wharf, connecting back to Custom House, Plaistow and Stratford City. [map]

This will be the end of the route. This is Royal Crest Avenue, one street back from the river amid a canyon of highrise flats. Royal Crest Avenue isn't yet finished, indeed most of the western chunk of Royal Wharf is currently building site, and that yellow crane will have to move before any buses can thread themselves through. But there is a coffee shop, because the important facilities go in first and the bus arrives later.

This is Royal Albert Dock, or RAD, a significant Chinese-funded commercial development along the quayside of the Royal Albert Dock. It has a DLR station at each end and a single bus route skimming past, but doesn't yet have a bus route of its own. So TfL propose to extend route 325 to Royal Albert Dock, connecting back to Custom House, Plaistow and East Ham. [map]

This will be the end of the route. This is Dockside Road, two streets back from the river amid a canyon of empty offices. Dockside Road isn't yet finished, indeed the entire eastern chunk of Royal Albert Dock isn't yet a building site, so a heck of a lot of construction needs to be undertaken before any buses can thread themselves through. But there is a marketing suite, because the important facilities go in first and the bus arrives later.

These are both sensible, forward-looking route extensions. Royal Wharf is already hitting critical mass, and RAD will one day be an important business cluster, so both deserve buses to the heart of the development. But TfL's resources are limited, as we well know, so increasing provision here requires a sacrifice elsewhere.

This is Gallions Reach Shopping Park, a large out-of town mall within the footprint of the former Beckton Gas Works. It opened in 2003 and features a huge Tesco at one end, a handful of restaurants and a long row of warehouse-sized outlets around two sides of a car park. It doesn't have a DLR station within easy walking distance, but it does have three bus routes with declining passenger numbers. So TfL want to cut back route 101 and route 262 to Beckton bus station, both double deckers, leaving just the single decker route 366 to deal with all the shoppers. [map]

It's not as busy out here as it used to be, partly because of online shopping but also because Westfield opened on the other side of the borough in 2011 and has a hugely better range of shops. This lot aren't bad, and include Next, H&M, Foot Locker, Boots, Smyths, TK Maxx and Decathlon, but they used to be better. The car park was half full when I visited yesterday, which I reckoned was pretty good for a Monday in late January, and the bus I departed on also carried a decent load. But it may not be enough.

Gallions Reach Shopping Park is currently served by "up to 22 buses per hour", but TfL's statisticians have noted that "only four buses per hour are required to meet demand at the busiest time". Removing the 100 and 262 would cut the existing service back to six buses an hour. Technically that's sufficient, but this requires bag-laden shoppers to pile aboard a single decker departing every ten minutes if they're lucky, so is a huge step-down on the current set-up. Also route 366 only goes as far as Beckton bus station, rather than deeper into Newham, so everyone travelling further would have to change.

It's also bad news for anyone attempting to clock on for a shift at Beckton's DLR depot, and for residents at Gallions Reach, a remote but rapidly-expanding housing development who'd lose two-thirds of their nearest buses too. Losing either the 101 or the 262 might be fairer, but TfL appear intent on curtailing both in a savage proposal which prioritises budgets over passengers. It seems London's bus planners are increasingly capacity-obsessed, remodelling the network by whittling down over-capacity and using the Hopper fare as cover for their broken links. Feel free to submit your thoughts on their latest proposals here.

This consultation is complicated by the fact there's already a separate consultation affecting five other local routes which won't be implemented until Crossrail opens, at which point south Newham's bus map is going to be radically redrawn. It would be damned useful to see what the proposed future network might look like, but alas TfL can't be bothered to produce composite bus maps any more because it's too hard/expensive/unnecessary. So I've had a go myself.

Here are the proposed extensions of the 241 and 325 (along with other planned changes to the 104, 300, 330 and 474, plus new route 304).

Note how Custom House station becomes the key local hub, with as many as six routes tweaked to link Crossrail to as much of the surrounding area as possible.

Here's the proposed cull of routes 101 and 262, leaving Gallions Reach substantially de-bussed.

Note how Beckton bus station becomes the terminus of six routes, twice as many as today.

And here's a link to a larger version of my amateur map showing the complete south Newham bus network should all these changes ever be implemented. Let's hope they're not.

 Monday, January 20, 2020

  I    Introvetr
the Withdrawal app
Weekly statement
13-19 January 2020

Monday 13th January
12:54[BADGE] 16 hours without social interactionCongratulations!160 pts 
13:28Said 'thanks' to till assistant in WilkoKept It Brief!0 pts 
13:59Used automated till to buy bottle of milkYou're Learning!50 pts 
14:25Rendezvous with BestMate who'd lost his keysExcusable!0 pts 
 210 pts(+210)
Tuesday 14th January
13:28[BADGE] 23 hours without social interactionCongratulations!230 pts 
13:31Missed phone call from delivery driverExcellent!50 pts 
13:44Delivery of white goods from John LewisUnfortunate!-200 pts 
 80 pts(+290)
Wednesday 15th January
09:59[BADGE] 20 hours without social interactionCongratulations!200 pts 
10:15Said 'thanks' to till assistant in TescoKept It Brief!0 pts 
11:56Sat next to BestMate in cinema for three hoursIncommunicado!30 pts 
14:56Evening out cancelledBrilliant!500 pts 
 730 pts(+1020)
Thursday 16th January
10:56[BADGE] 20 hours without social interactionCongratulations!200 pts 
11:21Met friend to discuss stuffBad Move!-200 pts 
11:43Relocated to coffee shopInexcusable!-500 pts 
13:17Relocated for additional bantzMisguided!-200 pts 
14:02Escaped into solitudeTook Your Time!50 pts 
14:43Told off by Battersea Power Station securityUnnecessary!-50 pts 
15:25Voluntarily engaged with Nine Elms volunteerDisappointing!-100 pts 
16:32Toured Winter Lights aloneReturn To Form!100 pts 
17:53Texted brother rather than making phone callCorrect!100 pts 
 -600 pts(+420)
Friday 17th January
16:15Walked five miles without talking to anyoneSpot On!100 pts 
18:13Bought cheap rail tickets for three solo tripsPerfect!300 pts 
19:29[BADGE] 28 hours without social interactionCongratulations!280 pts 
19:40Attended birthday partyYou What?!-1000 pts 
19:56Stayed out of the kitchenNo! No! No!-200 pts 
20:24Socialised with two complete strangersAwkward!-100 pts 
21:38Made small talk with local drug dealerIrregular!-400 pts 
21:52Declined chemical lubricationBravo!200 pts 
22:15Played games involving alcohol and mimingInexcusable!-400 pts 
 -1220 pts(-800)
Saturday 18th January
00:00Still out after midnightMisconduct!-100 pts 
01:25Declined Uber homeQuite Right Too!50 pts 
11:25[BADGE] 10 hours without social interactionCongratulations!100 pts 
12:07Said 'thanks' to newspaper sellerKept It Brief!0 pts 
13:18Accidentally complimented artist in Willesden libraryMalpractice!-50 pts 
18:50Attended major cultural event surrounded by 1000s  Madness!-500 pts 
20:14Interacted with none of themVery Resilient!200 pts 
 -300 pts(-1100)
Sunday 19th January
14:15Walked seven miles without talking to anyoneTop Work!150 pts 
19:18[BADGE] 30 hours without social interactionCongratulations!300 pts 
20:08Phone call with parentPermitted!0 pts 
 450 pts(-650)
Overall weekly balance    –650 pts

Your life is in solitary deficit

This week's target: Increase your withdrawals.

 Sunday, January 19, 2020

It's Brent's turn to be London Borough of Culture.

Waltham Forest were up first, with a programme of events throughout 2019, and this month the baton passes to northwest London. Brent kicked things off last night in Wembley with a 40-minute outdoor show called Rise which showcased the breadth of the heritage of the UK's most diverse borough. It could have been cringeworthy, but was instead extremely slick and very well done, so almost worth freezing to death for.

A £1m-ish Mayoral budget spread over twelve months doesn't allow you to work miracles. A limited number of major events, several smaller local interventions and an underlying buzz of community engagement is the best a host borough can achieve. The summer is the best time for outdoor stuff, obviously, but both Waltham Forest and Brent chose to kick off their special year with an after-dark January spectacular to bring everyone together.

Brent's chosen location was Wembley Park, specifically the southern end of Wembley Way using the stadium as a backdrop. It's all perfectly pedestrianised, a host of refreshment outlets are available and the new Civic Centre is just around the corner. The stage was a wall of scaffolding covered with black sheeting, with an elevated platform in front for a spot of mass choreography. If only the platform had a been a little higher I might have seen a bit more of the display, rather than a row of hoods and woolly hats.

The advertised start time was 7pm, so that's when the thousands-strong crowd assembled. The actual start time turned out to be 7.30pm, perhaps intentionally or perhaps because putting on a technically complex display with a broad cast of community characters was always going to be challenging. You could sense the relief when the big screen finally illuminated, ending a half-hour endurance challenge in near-zero temperatures.

The introductory sequence rapped poetry over diverse close-up faces, reinforcing Brent's notion they they are the Borough of Cultures, and trod the right line between hip and politically correct. John Betjeman was next singing the praises of Metro-land from his classic documentary, this the sole nod to early 20th century history. I noted that the producers hadn't selected the clip filmed immediately alongside where we were standing, perhaps ashamed that the last remnants of the British Empire Exhibition have been demolished of late and replaced by student accommodation and a Boxpark.

What followed was a sequence of vignettes each referencing one aspect of the borough's heritage and diversity, generally accompanied by music and/or dance. We enjoyed the birth of UK reggae, the flag-waving harmony of Neasden's temple, the written words of Zadie Smith, a threefold ballet focusing on immigration, a full-on celebration of the Grunwick dispute and a sporty tribute to the arch rising behind. When a Brent narrator's voice announced "we are football", it was hard to disagree.

The cunning part of the presentation was that a variety of 'rooms' had been hidden behind the screen and occasionally illuminated to reveal a dancing occupant. It all went down well with the young audience, like the teenage lads beside me who lapped up the rapping commentary and filmed repeated snippets for sharing on their phones. There were particularly broad grins when Brent-born MC General Levy bounded on stage and delivered a ripping performance of Incredible ("Wicked, wicked, Junglist massive") as the night's finale. He walked off praising 'Wembley' as the 2020 Borough of Culture, but it's an easy mistake to make.

The night ended with an 'Afterparty' at Boxpark, but only for those willing to endure the queue for the bag check which merely prolonged the time stood around in the cold. I gave DJ Flex, a tray of noodles and the overcrowded communal tables a miss. But it was a great start to Brent's year, indeed I suspect Rise may prove to be the artistic highpoint. If you'd like to watch the entire performance at home in the warm, without the obstructive row of hoods and woolly hats, Brent have made it all available on Facebook.

Here are the highlights of the remainder of Brent 2020's programme of events, should you wish to attend. More events may appear later. I'd say July is winning.

» 15/16 May: The Museum of all Brent Life (an artistic collaboration, launched simultaneously at all ten Brent libraries)
» 11 July: The Kilburn High (a mile-long stretch of the Kilburn High Road will be closed to traffic for a music-based street party)
» 1/2 August: The Blueprint All Dayer (a gathering of local spoken word artists, comedians and MCs at Boxpark)
» 5 September: Arena Takeover (a massive curated showcase of youth-oriented London sounds at Wembley Arena)
» 3/4 October: Harlesden Bass Weekender (reggae celebration, including a big stage in the high street)

Next year's London Borough of Culture will be named soon. It'll be one from Croydon, Greenwich, Hounslow, Lewisham, Haringey, Hammersmith & Fulham or Sutton, because they passed the shortlisting process in December. Another of the seven will get to be London Borough of Culture 2023. It seems we're getting 2022 off. And even if it isn't your borough that wins, I recommend gatecrashing the titleholder anyway.

 Saturday, January 18, 2020

Administrative boundaries don't always reflect the way we live and work. Most are historical rather than practical, and you may well live in one but work in another.

It's for this reason that Travel To Work Areas were devised. TTWAs are self-contained areas in which most people both live and work. They approximate to labour markets, so are useful to government and other civil bodies for planning purposes. TTWAs are based on statistical analysis rather than administrative boundaries, and generated by computer algorithm. They're produced using census data, so evolve over time. The latest set of TTWAs was published in 2015. [data]
Criteria for defining TTWAs:
• at least 75% of the area's resident workforce work in the area
• at least 75% of the people who work in the area live in the area
• the area has an economically active population of at least 3500
To avoid splintering, the 75% limit can sometimes be lowered to 66.7%. But essentially, in every TTWA at least three-quarters of the workforce live there and at least three-quarters of the population work there.

It's not about individual people. If you live in one TTWA and work in another you don't disprove the statistics. It's just that everybody else outnumbers you.

There are currently 149 TTWAs in England, 45 in Scotland, 18 in Wales, 10 in Northern Ireland and 6 which cross a border. The number of TTWAs has decreased because people now tend to commute longer distances to work. In 1991 it took 308 TTWAs to cover the UK, in 2001 this fell to 243 and in 2011 there was a further reduction to 228.

Here's a useful interactive map so you can check the TTWAs where you live. Alternatively here's a pdf map, and here's a much larger pdf map.

These are the TTWAs in southeast England.

Looking for example at the TTWAs in Essex, the largest is based around Chelmsford. This doesn't mean that most of the population work in Chelmsford, just that they work somewhere within the Chelmsford zone. Colchester is at the heart of a separate TTWA, while Clacton's isolated location carves out another TTWA beyond that. The south of the county forms a distinct TTWA based around Southend, while a goodly chunk of Epping Forest is beholden to London. As for northwest Essex, the influence of Cambridge spreads well across the county line. You can see how this viewpoint might be useful for planning purposes.
The TTWA with the...
» highest employment rate - Northallerton (84%)
» lowest employment rate - Hartlepool (64%)
» highest male employment rate - Taunton (90%)
» highest female employment rate - Worthing (82%)
» highest self-employment rate - Evesham (21%)
» lowest self-employment rate - Whitehaven (4%)
» most economically active population - Gloucester (87%)
» most economically inactive population - Clacton (31%)
The most populous TTWA, unsurprisingly, is London, with 8.4 million residents. It's followed by Manchester (2.7m) and Birmingham (1.7m), some distance behind. But in fourth place comes the TTWA of 'Slough and Heathrow' (1.7m), because London isn't necessarily the economic entity you think it is.

The Slough and Heathrow TTWA includes Maidenhead and Windsor, plus a chunk of north Surrey from Egham to Esher. But the influence of Heathrow also brings the whole of Hillingdon inside the TTWA, plus most of Hounslow and Richmond, much of Ealing and Kingston and a corner of Harrow. Perivale's in, Alperton's out. Brentford's in, Chiswick's out. Surbiton's in, New Malden's out. Remember this doesn't mean that most people in west London work at the airport, just that when the algorithm was drawing a dividing line this was the best place to put it.

Everyone else who lives in Greater London falls within the London TTWA. But the London TTWA also spreads well beyond the administrative boundary, confirming the importance of commuting into the capital from the fringes of the Home Counties. Let's explore the boundaries of 'London' more carefully.

 In London TTWANot in London TTWA
HertsRickmansworth, Bushey
Borehamwood, Potters Bar  
Cheshunt, Hoddesdon
South Mimms

EssexLoughton, Epping

Ockendon, Grays
Harlow, Ongar
KentDartford, Gravesend
Epsom, Ewell


Broxbourne, Dartford and Epsom & Ewell are the three out-of-London boroughs to fall entirely within the London TTWA. Hertsmere and Gravesham very nearly do. Epping Forest and Thurrock mostly do.

If government were ever minded to redraw the boundaries of Greater London, then taking the limits of the TTWA into account might be an appropriate idea - certainly better than taking the M25 as an arbitrary line. There are good reasons why administrative boundaries should perhaps better match economic activity, but also many other factors to take into account, indeed adopting boundaries based on a computer algorithm updated every ten years would be markedly irresponsible. Interesting, though.

Here's some further reading from the House of Commons library if you'd like to explore the issues further.

» Where do you draw the line? Local administrative boundaries in England [pdf]
» A comparison of administrative boundaries used by public bodies in England [pdf]

 Friday, January 17, 2020

Nine Elms, in common with many districts transitioning from commercial to residential, has a culture issue. There isn't much of it around. So they've had to bring some in.

This week and next, culture is doing its thing in an old Royal Mail Centre off Nine Elms Lane amid a forest of highrise newbuild. Royal Mail don't need the building any more because they built a new delivery office two-thirds of a mile away, abandoning the more valuable site to turn a tidy profit. The empty shell has been available to hire for one-off events such as London Fashion Week catwalk shows, and has just flung open its doors to the general public for two weeks only.

I always get a kick out of wandering through a formerly-locked gate. This one's particularly exhilarating because it's bang opposite the security-obsessed American Embassy, and yet not only is it open but it's entirely unattended. Out front is the former drop-off zone, once packed with red trucks and vans, now empty apart from a few faded white stripes and yellow lines. Cross the expanse and wander through a small door into a massive space. [map]

Architecturally the building is nothing special. A large flat box with shutters across the front, a featureless ground floor with occasional fans for ventilation and (out of sight) a slew of first floor offices. I found a nice glass fronted staircase at the rear, but it wasn't accessible, so basically it's only worth being here for the culture.

On your left... Of All The People In the World.

This installation by Stan's Cafe uses grains of rice to bring formally abstract statistics to life. Each grain of rice equals one person, carefully weighed out, piled and labelled.

Here you can see Remain versus Leave, with 'Did Not Vote' the marginally smaller pile behind.

These are the populations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Elsewhere I found displays of people who've been to the Moon, the population of London over time, the extent of the historical slave trade, daily birth and death rates, the capacity of various football stadia and the number of inmates at Wandsworth prison. Several of the displays relate to Wandsworth, because that's the host borough. It's all highly illuminating. It makes you stop and think. It's often very witty.

On this occasion there isn't a pile in the room showing All The People In the World - they've only displayed that once, in 2005 when this roving installation was in Stuttgart. All the rice is washed and recycled at the end of the project, in case you were concerned.

And on your right... The Actual Reality Arcade.

This is a collection of life-size classic video games, but without using any video, instead rather more like a row of fairground stalls.

The Space Invaders game is like a coconut shy. Asteroids involves firing a foam rocket. Tetris requires fitting chucked shapes into a gapless pattern. Frogger has a mat with lorries on roads and logs in rivers, plus felt amphibians to balance on your head as you cross.

Several of the games require collaborative play. Whack has a larger hammer and human heads instead of moles. Kong includes actual ladders, but you crawl under them rather than climb. If you're Pac-Man you get to don a yellow ball and be chased around a small maze by four people wearing ghost wigs.

As you can imagine, this kind of stuff goes down really well at festivals. It also works best if you come in a small group, or compete against others, which on a Thursday afternoon just wasn't happening. Should this place get packed out at the weekend it's bound to be a lot more fun but you may have to wait a long time for a turn.

The Mail Centre Takeover is open this week and next, Wednesday to Sunday only. On weekdays it's open 2:30pm – 8:30pm, and at weekends 10am-6pm (but come between noon and four if you want to see both sides of the room in operation).

Miss this and there might be time for one more art installation here in the spring, but after that the whole building gets demolished and 1800 highrise homes emerge in its place. Best enjoy Nine Elms' burst of culture before it becomes another residential neighbourhood where historic things used to be.

You can find out about this kind of event in advance by following Ian Visits

 Thursday, January 16, 2020

American science fiction series transformed into 'Star Tube'
16 January 2020

Classic TV drama renamed for special episode ahead of the 26 January launch of the Central line timetable at more than 48 stations around the Capital

"We're thrilled to partner with Transport for London to create this exciting takeover of one of the universe's most well-known science fiction series"
Rod N Berry
Head of Customer Manipulation, Amazon Prime
  • Themed tube branding and dialogue to be placed throughout unique episode, with special crew announcements providing key information
  • Promotional activity is part of Amazon Prime's wider work to monopolise global audiences and reinforce subscription drama across the Earth

    Customers on Amazon Prime today found themselves transported to the heart of the Capital to mark the launch of Transport for London (TfL)'s exciting new Central line timetable.

    Until Sunday 26 January, the Emmy-nominated series will be renamed "Star TUBE", with roundels in the opening credits, rebranded transporter decks and specially created announcements inspired by the new timetable installed across the Central line.

    A unique bespoke episode, entitled Encounter At Roding Valley, will be available for streaming on all platforms. Its exciting storyline features a holodeck malfunction aboard the USS Barkingside as its crew seek to boldly go to Woodford (via Hainault).

    Special dialogue inserts will also be incorporated, referencing first and last train times on the Central line, while in-screen pop-ups will allow customers to download the TfL contactless app to their smart device.

    Rod N Berry, Head of Customer Manipulation, Amazon Prime said:
    'We're thrilled to partner with Transport for London to create this exciting takeover of one of the universe's most well-known science fiction series. The Central line timetable is a global sensation and we're excited to mark this next chapter in a creative and engaging way that connects with tens of millions of people. We hope that this totally tubular episode brings a bit of unexpected fun to our viewers and that they mind the gap wherever they may be watching.'
    The new timetable, WTT70, launches on the Central line across six fare zones on 26 January. The lead character is played by Buck Hursthill, reprising his iconic role as Commissioner Mike Brown which he played for four years. The new episode will follow this iconic scheduler into the next chapter of his life orbiting the Hainault Loop.

    Dale Smith, Head of Line Operations, Central and Waterloo & City lines, said:
    'The episode is very much about customer education and looking to the future. It begins with the Federation ordering all spaceships to be taken out of service for a programme of warp core replacement. This downtime leads to a dimensional breach creating severance in the Fairlop Quadrant. The pivotal moment comes when the away team attempt to pass through Starbase Hainault and are forced to change a smaller shuttle.

    'Central line customers will recognise many familiar situations throughout the episode. Engineering staff will be unable to board the turbolift because it is too full. Navigation is repeatedly interrupted by a Red Signal. The crew will be temporarily immobilised by a screechingly loud noise while on approach to the planet Bethnal Green.'
    This ground-breaking product placement campaign was developed by TfL, Amazon and their partners at Ferengi Enterprises. By hijacking Amazon Prime's critically-acclaimed episodic serials, London Underground executives can have access to flexible and dynamic opportunities to connect with their target audiences, while donating vital revenues to invest in blockbuster American-centric drama.

    Theydon Bois, Chief Commercial Officer at Ferengi Enterprises, said:
    'This clever campaign is a perfect example of how brands can harness the power of streamed media to create experiences which capture the attention of audiences at key moments of the day. For example, many viewers will be squeezed in like cattle whilst travelling to work, or they may be slumped on the sofa seeking escapism from a stressful commute. This dynamic activation will help drive awareness and fame for a much-loved timetable and we look forward to seeing how Trekkies respond.'

    Notes to editors:

    • Alongside Buck Hursthill, the special episode will also star Wes Tacton, Perry Vale, Marber Larch, Chancer Elaine, Leyton Stone and Chig Well.
    • The new timetable is produced by Establishment Planning in association with Network Business Services at Palestra
    • The Central Line is available exclusively within Greater London and the metropolitan area of southwest Essex.

    About the Central Line Timetable
    Between now and 2023 all Central line trains are being withdrawn sequentially from service to replace old motors, install additional CCTV and increase space for wheelchair passengers. Morning and evening peak services will be reduced north of Loughton. A shuttle service will be introduced between Woodford and Hainault which will be operated by four-car trains. Managers could just tell their customers this, but a Star Trek narrative generates more media interest and stimulates higher revenue.

    About Prime Video
    Prime Video is a premium subscription streaming service that offers customers a skewed collection of TV shows and movies the vast majority of the population cannot access.

    About Ferengi Enterprises
    Ferengi Enterprises is a marketing phenomenon guided by four principles: economic greed, grasping ambition, commercial finesse and unlimited sponsorship. It is at odds with the remainder of the Starfleet universe in which capitalism has been revoked and money is no longer relevant.

    About Transport for London (TfL)
    Transport for London (TfL) is the integrated transport authority responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Capital's public transport network. In addition to access to trains and buses, TfL membership includes fast personal delivery options across London, prime access to a variety of contactless deals, intermittent subterranean 4G connections and unlimited access to a rotating selection of Dangleway pods. To sign-up for TfL or to find out more, visit your local station and attempt to find a member of staff.

    TfL is increasingly beholden to commercial interests, because this is the inevitable consequence of local and national politicians continuing to squeeze budgetary funding. Expect much more of this kind of thing as the decade progresses.

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