Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Deja Vu at the Transport Committee

This morning I filled in at the transport committee for an absent colleague. Now chaired by capable Lib Dem, Caroline Pidgeon, the session focused on Tube overcrowding and the effect of PPP related line closures.

Overcrowding Psychology

Dr Glenn Williams, a senior lecturer in psychology, gave us his take on modern day tube travel. Crowding can cause stress, ill health and poor productivity. Introverts suffer the effects more than extroverts, who are happier to meet new people and get close to them. Crowding encourages passengers to shut themselves off, falling silent, averting their gaze, playing ipods and all the rest, which is ultimately dehumanising - and that is why so few people come to one another's aid on public transport.

Crowding can be positive where the shared experience is enjoyable such as concerts and sporting events, but this does not apply to commuting.

Crowding at it's Worst

Morning peak measurements revealed that the greatest crowding occurs on the Central Line between Liverpool Street and Bank, and on the Northern Line between King's Cross and Angel. Here you are likely to find three other people sharing your personal square metre of space.

In our patch things are more bearable, however parts of the Central Line loop can get busy, with up to two people per square metre between South Woodford, Leytonstone and Gants Hill. In Havering the District Line is a veritable haven of peace with less than half the seats occupied from Upminster to Elm Park, where the remainder start to fill up. Conditions get more intimate at Upney.

Jubilee Line Closures

Work to replace signalling on the Jubilee has resulted in weekend closures over recent months. Witnesses from the Excel Centre and the O2 shared their experiences.

Closure of the line posed a big challenge to the O2 venue, who have arranged extra river services - through Thames Clippers -, replacement bus services, and a boat service linking to the DLR in Docklands. The Clippers carry up to 3,000 people for a major concert and the introduction of Oyster in November will be a further help. O2 were pleased with the relationship they had with TfL but were looking forward to the end of engineering as they felt nothing could really replace the Jubilee Line.

At Excel, closure of the Jubilee Line and the DLR had contributed to the cancellation of seven events and the loss of revenue totalling £1.8 million. Obviously they were not happy although they did feel the DLR managers had been more helpful than London Underground. Most seriously, the closures had disrupted exams being held at the centre, with students struggling to turn up on time.

Piccadilly Planned Closures

Alexander Nichol, representing Covent Garden landowners, gave evidence about the impending Piccadilly Line works. Busy months in Covent Garden are July, August, December and April, so he hoped that disruption could be arranged for other months. He felt there was an opportunity to encourage more walking between stations in the area during closures. Clearer signposts at street level could make a significant contribution to informing travellers' choices.

For example, travelling by tube from Leicester Square to Covent Garden requires a longer walk - up and down stairs and through tunnels - than doing the journey on foot on the surface. The walk is also much more interesting and less crowded - better for introverts and extroverts.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am glad that City Hall is looking into overcrowding on the underground. Frankly, the worst part of the day is the commute to work.

But what really gets me about the Mayor's office is that they can never seem to find money for investment for the London Underground, but with some miracle they find the billions for the Olympics which is only a 16 day event!

City Hall should work to get rid of London Underground zones which is unfair. People who are rich and live in Zone 1, pay the least for public transport, whilst those who can least afford it have to live in Zone 3 or 4 just to get cheaper housing. It will make for a fairer society. But also, the train depots are out in suburbs. For instance for the Jubillee line, the train depot near Canning Town!. And for the District Line I imagine it is in Upminster....