Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Visit to GE 19

This morning the transport committee visited the East London Line works at Shoreditch. We wanted an explanation for the incident which took place in May at Bridge GE 19, shown in the picture.

The bridge is a truly immense steel structure which will carry the East London Line over the tracks coming out of Liverpool Street to the new Shoreditch High Street station, then on to the viaduct running north to Dalston. Climbing out of the old line's cutting, the bridge is on a 1:30 slope - steep for a railway.

Investigations are still in process but it appears that having slowly pushed the structure into position over the line, some of the temporary bearings on the East abutment slipped out, causing the whole bridge to drop by around 20mm. This in turn tilted the bridge and materials resting on it toppled off, landing on the railway below where they were struck by a train leaving Liverpool Street.

Things could have been much worse, but London Underground and Network Rail are now working with their contractors to rescue the timetable and the bridge work will be completed on target later this year.

Monday, June 23, 2008

It's The Cid

In today's Guardian columnist Tristram Hunt, urges Labour to let Livingstone go and move on. In a well written piece he notes that:

The raw psephological truth is that Livingstone's rainbow coalition was not enough to keep him in office in 2008. His studious nurturing of a radical, internationalist, urban core saw him lose the vote of the suburbs and white working class. Outside central London, the electoral map was daubed deep blue. And no number of press releases, Today programme phone ins or fringe speaking engagements is going to bring those votes back for Ken.

The real loser is the London Labour party. To win back City Hall, the party needs to rid itself of the Livingstone past and speak afresh to the capitals' needs. But it can't begin to honestly analyse Livingstone's failings and develop new strategies if the former mayor is still dictating the debate.

Tristram makes a good argument, but he is a voice in the wilderness if attitudes at City Hall are anything to go by. Labour members grab scrutiny posts on the grounds that only they can hold a Conservative mayor to account (a tall order given the weakening of Assembly powers at the hands of their own government), yet they also cling on to executive positions in the functional bodies like limpets exposed by the ebbing tide.

Meanwhile the ex mayor returns regularly, the above picture taken at Question Time last week, propped up in the public gallery to give heart to his dismayed followers, much as the leader's corpse was strapped to his horse at the end of the Hollywood epic, El Cid.

Almost two months after the election, Labour don't even understand that they lost, let alone why it happened and what they should do about it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Boris Saves the Bus

On Tuesday afternoon a delegation from Romford visited City Hall to deliver a petition calling for the retention of the 500 bus service and an improvement to public transport provision in Havering-atte-Bower. Arriva's plans to axe the route would leave the village and St Francis' Hospice without any access to public transport, despite TfL's stated commitment that every Londoner should be within 400 metres of a bus route.

The Mayor received the petition and met with myself, Andrew Rosindell MP, Cllr Michael White and other local councillors. We had a long discussion with several alternatives considered and the result is that TfL have offered to operate a service between Romford Station and Passingford Bridge, which would serve the village.

On its own it is not enough and the service really needs to be more frequent and more reliable, but at least a service will be in place to cover for the 500 when it is withdrawn in July.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


The weather stayed fine for the Elm Park Fiesta on Saturday. The picture shows Cllr Pam Light, the Deputy Mayor of Havering, opening the day's festivities accompanied by local MP James Brokenshire.

I was on hand along with my colleague Cllr David Grantham and parliamentary candidate Simon Jones, so when someone was needed to blow up inflatable palm trees and hand out programmes there was plenty of help available.

The local traders really make an effort with the Fiesta, which attracts a lot of extra business to the shopping centre. This year they produced a calendar and commemorative stamps to mark the occasion.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Still Waiting

On Wednesday I visited St Francis' Hospice in Havering-atte-Bower. the bus stop pictured is their only public transport link and even that one bus service - the 500 operated by Arriva - is soon to cease.

Staff at the hospice and visiting relatives will have no alternative other than to drive. There is also a brand new educational centre at the hospice, which is used by health authorities and medical professionals from around north east London. How will those people travel there?

I was also surprised to see how new the bus shelter in the picture is. Clearly TfL must have failed to foresee the future, installing a shelter and sign so soon before the service will cease. They will remain, a monument to bad planning.

I have a meeting next week with Boris to discuss how bus services can be retained and improved in Havering-atte-Bower. I will also be suggesting that he visits the hospice to see the good work being done there.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

London Travelwatch

Conflict yesterday morning when the Labour controlled transport committee voted to sack the chairman of London Travelwatch, Brian Cooke, following comments he made giving his support to Boris during the campaign. A bit over the top - we certainly voted against the decision, and the green member abstained - but Labour, their vision still clouded by a red mist, steamrollered the decision through with support from the Lib Dems.

Meanwhile Travelwatch are advertising places on their board at www.Londontravelwatch.org.uk/vacancies.php . The board represents consumers in London and the Home Counties, but the applications are usually dominated by producer interests and people from inner London. Better representation of outer London would be a very good thing, so why not visit the Travelwatch site and see if you could help.