diamond geezer

 Monday, July 04, 2011

While I was away, TfL slipped out a public consultation on some major changes they'd like to make to the District Line in December. They want to scrap services to Kensington (Olympia) on weekdays. And they're putting a very positive spin on it...
The changes will make the line more reliable. Wimbledon passengers will get more trains during the morning peak and Ealing Broadway passengers get an extra train during the evening peak.
To achieve this we need to remove weekday District line services to Kensington (Olympia). This service is used by less than 2,500 people per weekday, but causes delay to all other District line services through Earl's Court station.
Passengers can continue to use Overground and Southern services to and from Kensington (Olympia), other Tube stations nearby or local bus services.
Essentially what TfL plan to do is to complete the shift from the tube map on the left (as was the case ten years ago) to the tube map on the right.

Kensington (Olympia)'s long had a poor tube service. Three trains an hour is the current frequency, which means a wait of up to 20 minutes for the journey down to Earl's Court. But a recent improvement to Overground services means there are now four services each hour on the Willesden Junction to Clapham Junction line. TfL argue that Kensington (Olympia) doesn't need seven trains an hour, there aren't enough passengers for that, so they plan to cut back KO's weekday trains to four Overgrounds only. We'll cope, they reckon.

You can probably guess from the maps above the customers who are going to suffer most, and that's those hoping to travel from Earl's Court to Kensington (Olympia). No longer will there be a direct train, only an indirect route via West Brompton. Let's see how the two routes measure up...
Now: wait for an Olympia train (average wait 10 minutes), ride to Kensington Olympia (3 minutes). Grand total, on average, 13 minutes.
Future: wait for a Wimbledon branch train (average wait 3 minutes), ride to West Brompton (1½ minutes), cross to the Overground platform (another minute), wait for a northbound train (average wait 6 minutes), ride to Kensington Olympia (2½ minutes). Grand total, on average, 14 minutes.
Actually that's not bad, not much of a difference. Sorry if you're in a wheelchair because the journey'll no longer be step-free, but maybe this withdrawal won't be too much of an inconvenience for everyone else.

Except maybe it will. It's not just the line up to Kensington (Olympia) that's being withdrawn, these shuttle trains also run round from Earl's Court to High Street Kensington. Off-peak there are currently nine trains each hour on this curve - three from Olympia and six from Wimbledon. Come December that'll reduce to only six - a one-third reduction. I notice that TfL don't mention this on their consultation page, they merely focus on the positives.
• More than 700,000 District line passengers will have a more reliable service
• Capacity for more than 4000 extra people from Wimbledon in the morning peak
• Capacity for more than 800 extra people to Ealing Broadway in the evening
A more reliable services is not to be sniffed at. Anything that speeds up District line trains through Earl's Court has got to be a boon, because it's a right slowcoach bottleneck at the moment. Yet all that the new District line timetable can promise is five extra trains from Wimbledon in the morning peak and a pathetic one to Ealing Broadway in the evening. December's timetable change removes 51 daily trains to Kensington (Olympia), but adds a mere six others in their place. Doesn't sound quite so great now, does it?

Stop me if I'm wrong, but the weekday severance of Kensington (Olympia) is a cost cutting measure dressed up as a reliability increase. Sure, passengers can ride the Overground to stations not quite as useful as Earl's Court, and TfL can save money by not running quite so many 90%-empty trains, and services as far away as Upminster may run more reliably. But please guys, next time you run a consultation, don't bias the preamble by making out that everything's going to be better when clearly not everything is.

The DG guide for getting to Kensington (Olympia) station*...
from Shepherd's Bush: Take the train (average 9 mins) or get the bus (10 mins). Don't walk (13 mins).
from Hammersmith: Get the bus (average 10 mins). Don't walk (16 mins) or take the train (22 mins).
from West Kensington: Get the bus (average 10 mins) or walk (12 mins). Don't take the train (19 mins).
from High Street Kensington: Get the bus (average 10 mins). Don't walk (15 mins) or take the train (20 mins).
from Earl's Court: Take the train via West Brompton (average 14 mins) or walk (15 mins). Don't take the bus (22 mins).

The DG guide for getting to the Olympia exhibition halls*...
from West Kensington: Get the bus (average 6 mins) or walk (8 mins). Under no circumstances take the train (23 mins).
from Hammersmith: Get the bus (average 6 mins). Don't walk (12 mins) and definitely don't take the train (26 mins).
from High Street Kensington: Get the bus (average 7 mins). Don't walk (15 mins) and definitely don't take the train (24 mins).
from Shepherd's Bush: Take the train (average 13 mins) or get the bus (15 mins) or walk (16 mins).
from Earl's Court: Walk (15 mins) or take the train via West Brompton (18 mins). Don't take the bus (22 mins).

* (on weekdays, once the new timetable comes into effect in December)

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