Wednesday, January 02, 2008

One Great Shambles

This was a dreadful first day back for commuters from East London and Essex. The Christmas closure of Liverpool Street Station 'overran' this morning and passengers were being told that services would only run all the way into town after 9:00 am.

My early train was more crowded than usual because a number of other trains were cancelled. At least it ran quickly on an otherwise empty line, terminating at Stratford, with a conveniently empty Central Line train standing adjacent. Everyone raced across the platform in the dark and crammed in, only to find the train setting off Eastward. Yes, the One Great Eastern train had terminated on the Eastbound platform and nobody had thought to warn the commuters who were now going the wrong way!

At Leyton, the next station on the Central Line, it was virtually everyone out and across the footbridge to the Westbound platform. London Underground staff looked on in bemusement as we packed up four deep. The next train was jammed and we returned to Stratford like sardines, only for even more people to squeeze on. All this took place just after 7:00 am, so Lord knows what it was like when the rush hour really kicked in. I was surprised by how good natured the crowds were, or perhaps they were too tired to protest.

And at 9:00 am the promised service did not resume. Perhaps we can expect more of the same tomorrow.

This incident highlights two of the problems that repeatedly bedevil our rail network above and below ground:

Project Management: They so often overrun. Rail engineers need to improve their ability to predict disruption and to ensure that timetables are adhered to. The impression all too often given by engineering professionals is that passengers are an obstacle to running the service rather than the reason it exists in the first place.

Information: Nobody saw fit to tell passengers what was happening. There was no guidance at Stratford, which I understand was closed because of overcrowding later in the morning. There was no warning at Liverpool Street underground station to tell people that the main line platforms were still closed when I returned home in the afternoon - resulting in an optimistic but fruitless trek up the escalator and back down again.

Hope that 'One Great Eastern' sort their act out overnight - and now we hear there is snow on the way...


weggis said...

Aren't you chairman of the Transport Committee?

Roger Evans said...

I'm Chairman of the London Assembly Transport Committee - which has scrutiny rather than executive powers, and no powers at all with respect to main line services.

Having said that, there are some questions around London Underground's quality of customer information during this crisis, and I will be raising these with the Mayor - who of course is the chair of TfL.