Zak Goldsmith is standing for London Mayor next year, as is reported in this article on the BBC.
He has the same catchy type of name as the previous two London Borkens and he’s certainly of the independent breed that Borken had.
He certainly would not be a party hack doing their leader in Westminster’s bidding.
People will say he’s another rich Tory toff from Eton and Cambridge and use it as a term of abuse. At least he was expelled from Eton for smoking cannabis, so there’s no troubles on that score.
But how many Prime Ministers or Party Leaders in the last few years haven’t been to the top public schools?
I do have this feeling that if I knew him, we would agree on many policies.
I like to think, I’m scientifically green, which means that on many environmental issues, I’m totally in disagreement with the Green Party, as I take an independent line. We could start with the Severn Barrage, fracking and onshore wind power!
Zak used to edit The Ecologist.
These are my views on some of the big issues of the election.
I feel very strongly as does Zak and Sadiq Khan, that housing is an important issue in this election, if not the most important one.
Landlord, Properties and Tenant Registers
I think there should be a London-wide landlord and properties register, that should be available to Councils, letting agencies and prospective tenants. Obviously, the register would have to be properly managed, but if I was renting, I’d like to know who was the ultimate owner of my property.
I think that most landlords, knowing that their tenants, would know who they were, would ensure that they obeyed the law and kept the property to the agreed standards.
I also think that a lot of rogue landlords would either give up renting properties or mend their ways.
Wales has introduced a scheme, so I suspect London wouldn’t have to start from scratch.
What has annoyed me about the rental market in recent years, has been the number of tenants, who used to rent my house from the previous owner, who left owing money to utility companies and others. One bailiff told me, he had seven judgements against one tenant.
If landlords have to be registered, surely the same should apply to tenants!
I’m sure that London could draw on the best practice from other major cities and countries in the world, to find a nice balance between landlords and tenants.
I very much object to people, be they UK-residents or overseas investors, buying property and leaving it empty, whilst the property goes up in value.
Houses and flats are for living in!
Surely we can find some taxation or other method, that means the highest proportion of housing is used to provide shelter.
I don’t believe that we’re being as creative as we might be, in building more housing, which must be part of the solution to London’s housing problems.
Railway Land And Stations
Politicians talk about using surplus land around the many railways of the capital. They are probably right, but how many of the current stations, sit on large plots, where no attempt has been made to use the space above.
My three nearest stations show the extremes.
- Dalston Junction was rebuilt a few years ago to be a modern four platform station, with flats, a plaza and a bus interchange above the platforms.
- Dalston Kingsland is a cramped station that was opened in the 1980s and has two platforms either side of the cutting, where the tracks pass. No-one would be sad if the station was rebuilt, where the station was larger and housing or some other useful building was built on top, so effectively putting the railway in a tunnel.
- Highbury and Islington is a 1960s monstrosity created out of the mess that the Second World War left of an iconic station. At present the bridge outside the station is being revuilt and I hope they rebuild the station to one of which the whole area can be proud.
A few months ago, I met a property developer on the train. He was actively looking at station sites for residential developments, that would also include a rebuilt modern station. He said that flats over a station were easy to sell! Especially, as these days many properties in London are built without car parking.
Shopping Centres, Hospitals And Other Public Buildings
Often we build these on sites that would be ideal for housing.
Surely, the housing should have priority.
As I get older, I worry more about my health and visiting hospitals. I’m lucky here, in that the three nearest hospitals are easily accessed from my house by public transport.
But so many hospitals all over the country have poor access by public transport. Not all have access as good as Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre, where the tram stop is built into the hospital at first floor level.
If Islington needed a new hospital, which it doesn’t, why shouldn’t it be built in a tower over Highbury and Islington station? It would have the superb transport links, I believe a hospital needs.
Incidentally, I think hospitals should be in towers with good views, as that certainly made my stay in hospital in Hong Kong more enjoyable, as I could look out on the cityscape.
The planning rules and the building regulations need a good sorting out.
Things that have annoyed me over the years have included.
- The time it has taken to get planning permission for something quite simple.
- Building regulations being different in two parts of Suffolk.
- Over-zealous council planning officers being more restrictive than wildlife and historic building experts.
- People getting buildings passed by the council because of the right connections.
- Some councils objecting to building methods, that are approved by other councils.
Matters might be eased if the same rules and regulations applied in all London boroughs.
As a simple example of that, a builder told me that the terrace houses he builds with a traditional appearance to blend in with existing Victorian houses, but a revolutionary construction method as they are partly built in a factory, are accepted by Hackney, but not all the other boroughs.
Air Pollution And Traffic Congestion
These linked issues will be a major issue in the Mayoral election, especially after the Jokeswagen scandal.
But I feel that all candidates will offer a vaguely similar set of policies.
I suspect that Zak will go for a very strong set of regulations, that will bring in the controversial Ultra Low Emissions Zone and possibly methods to reduce the number of vehicles entering the city centre.
This will bring a lot of protest from the haulage industry and other drivers, but many of the older vehicles that cross the city are a disgrace in other ways as well. I’d love to see a full analysis of all the vehicles and their owners involved in accidents and stopped by the authorities.
Buses, taxis, mini-cabs and delivery vehicles and cars registered in the city, must have a schedule to go further towards zero-emission, especially in the centre.
I would add the following.
- The banning of all rail locomotives like Class 66 locomotives from all rail lines inside the M25. This would probably be possible, once the Gospel Oak to Barking, the Dudding Hill and a few other lines are electrified.
- Although not specifically connected to pollution, I would pedestrianise Oxford Street, once Crossrail opens.
- Other schemes like this would mean that pedestrians could avoid the worst pollution.
- Restriction of tourist buses in the centre.
It is going to be very tricky to get pollution and traffic congestion down and some of the measures that must be taken will be controversial and unpopular.
Buses In The Centre
I use buses in the centre a lot, but sometimes I think there are too many in places like in Oxford Street and around St.Paul’s, which add significantly to the congestion.
London’s bus system also tends to duplicate itself in the centre.
As an example, I have two bus routes within a hundred metres that go to Victoria through the centre.
There would be protests, but surely some bus routes shouldn’t go across the centre and should be cut back.
Once Crossrail opens, I think there should be a major review to see if the numbers of buses in the centre could be reduced.
Taxis And Mini-cabs In The Centre
I rarely use taxis and I only ever use two booked mini-cabs at Christmas.
Boris has tried to get powers for the Mayor, so that mini-cabs could be limited.
In some ways, this will happen, as if the roads get more congested, passengers who know the city well, will walk or use the Underground and Crossrail.
So taxis and mini-cabs will be restricted by the laws of supply and demand.
Deliveries In The Centre
This is a particular irritant that bugs me in one place, where every day about eleven a Tesco truck blocks the bus lane, whilst it delivers goods. Once it took my bus thirty minutes to pass.
I appreciate the problems of deliveries at night, but there are some shops and supermarkets in the city centre that do not have a proper delivery bay, so are constantly blocking the traffic.
Those that don’t have a reserved delivery bay should pay for the privilege to hold up traffic.
Intelligent Congestion Charging
This would be very controversial, but I believe it will be introduced some time in the near future, not in just London, but all over the UK.
Every vehicle that travels in the city, would need to be fitted with a device that records and transmits position. Journeys would then be charged automatically, according to the time and congestion.
It could even be a smart phone app, linked to a particular vehicle.
Money raised would be used to fund public transport projects like Crossrail 2.
The trouble is that any politician not against this type of device, wouldn’t win the election.
Crossrail and Thameslink will have a tremendous effects on London.
- Many important and popular journeys will be much easier and quicker.
- Traffic congestion in the centre should be eased.
- The taxi and mini-cab drivers will see a lot of their lucrative trips to Heathrow disappear.
- Increased pedestrianisation and more cycling and walking will happen between Marble Arch and Holborn.
- Bus routes will be simplified to take account of new journey patterns.
I don’t think many realise the changes Crossrail and Thameslink will make in London.
But the biggest change will be an increased call from Londoners for the building of Crossrail 2.
So I would not vote for any politician, who was against Crossrail 2.
I doubt any of the Mayoral candidates, except joke ones, will be against the second Crossrail line.
Zak is against it, as are most other candidates and Boris.
- I am not specifically against it, but feel that other developments will in the end will make major expansion of runway capacity in the South East unnecessary.
- Crossrail and Thameslink will make London one massive transport interchange, with better links between all London airports and high speed rail.
- Manchester and to a certain extent Birmingham airports will increasingly remove the need for passengers going to and from North of London, to travel to Heathrow and Gatwick.
- As Cross-Channel rail services develop into more of Europe, travellers will rediscover the advantages of trains.
It will be interesting to see how air travel in the South East develops. But in the end, I feel that we’ll see a privately-funded offshore airport somewhere in the Thames Estuary, built in co-operation with the French, Belgians and the Dutch. Everybody in this part of the world has problems with airports.
New Stations, Transport Interchanges And Electrification
Life is so much easier, if you can get easily to a good transport interchange like Canning Town, Canada Water or Moorgate, where buses and the Underground meet.
We need more stations with good interchange to other modes of transport.
I know that Transport for London has a list of stations, they’d like to develop and these should not just become modern multi-mod transport interchanges but housing and other developments in their own right.
We must apply solutions to London’s problems that improve more than one area.
London only has three major rail lines that cross the centre that are not electrified.
- The Gospel Oak to Barking Line, which is being extended and electrified.
- The Dudding Hill Line, which runs in a circular route across North West London.
- The Chiltern Line from Marylebone.
All should be electrified.
The Gospel Oak to Barking was a forgotten route for years, but extending it to Barking Riverside and electrification will improve its profile and generate traffic.
The Dudding Hill Line is an interesting line, as it is a mainly freight route that goes through some of the poorer and more troubled parts of the capital.
Chiltern is a relatively-undeveloped commuter route close to London and would undoubtedly benefit from electrification as this would increase speed and capacity.
I do wonder if these lines should not be physically electrified, but given electric trains using battery technology like the Aventra IPEMU.
These trains could run on the Gospel Oak to Barking and Dudding Hill Lines tomorrow, if the trains were available.
So why not spend the money on the stations and the trains now, and do the full electrification gradually in the next decade or so?
I think it is true to say, that most candidates support this type of transport policy.
In Coal Mining In Whitechapel, I described how the Crossrail contractors were using a technique called uphill excavation to connect the Crossrail tunnels to the existing Whitechapel station above.
In this document on the Crossrail web site, the company describes how the technique is being used again to connect the running tunnels to the Broadgate ticket hall above. This is said about the methods used.
This excavation will be carried out using an innovative method of uphill excavation. Traditional uphill excavation is considered unsafe due to the risk of excavated material falling onto the excavator and operatives, however the BBMV team realised that the ability to excavate upwards from existing tunnels at the base of the escalator shaft would generate significant time and cost savings. In response BBMV introduced a bespoke uphill excavator that is suspended from the ceiling of the construction tunnel and advances in line with the tunnel progression. A walkway along the side of the excavator provides the engineer with a safe working area and emergency egress for the operator. Once this excavation of this escalator shaft is complete we will begin to construct an access passage that will lead passengers from the Ticket Hall into the station tunnels, in early 2016.
There is also the first published picture I’ve found of an uphill excavator.
I think we’ll find in the coming years that uphill excavation will be increasingly used in the construction of railways and other tunnels underneath towns and cities.
I’m sure, Crossrail 2 will use the technique to create stations at Angel, Chelsea and Tottenham Court Road. The biggest advantage is that it will silence the Militant Wing of the heritage lobby and all the luvvies, who are against London getting a better public transport system.
I also think, that we could build underground stations for HS2 at Euston, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, and use the technique to provide link tunnels to the existing stations above.
In December this year, an service hourly service called STAR will be started between Stratford and Angel Road along the Temple Mills Branch of the Lea Valley Lines via Lea Bridge, Tottenham Hale and Northumberland Park stations. Wikipedia says this about services to and from the Angel Road station.
Angel Road is only served by a number of trains every weekday to and from Stratford. No services operate at the station on weekends or public holidays. However, from December 2015 Angel Road will receive an hourly service to Stratford that will start here and vice versa, the service will be known as (STAR).
STAR services will obviously call at the new Lea Bridge station, when it opens next year.
I shall probably use the service occasionally, when I need to get home from Stratford, as Lea Bridge station is on the 56 bus route that passes by my house.
At Stratford, there are two platforms that have been positioned to give easy access to the Temple Mills Branch through Lea Bridge and Tottenham Hale and onwards to Stansted Airport. I took these pictures of the platforms.
They sit at the end of the two London Overground platforms, which are the Eastern terminus of the North London Line. You can see two Class 378 trains peeking out from underneath the rusty bridge. (Not my name, but an East London nickname, I’ve heard from locals and station staff!) This Google Map shows the layout of the platforms.
In the map, platforms 11 and 12 curve away to the North from underneath the rusty bridge, which connects Eastfield to Stratford town centre.
Platform 11 is the Easternmost platform and is used as the terminus of the Stratford to Bishops Stortford service, which has been rumoured many would like extended to Stansted.
Platforms 1 and 2 for the North London Line are connected to the unused Platform 12, by a simple walkway, so in the future if Platform 12 is used for the STAR services, passengers going from anywhere on the North London Line to Tottenham Hale or Angel Road would just have an easy interchange.
As the STAR service will initially be an hourly service and the Bishops Stortford service is half-hourly and they run from platforms connected by a subway, I can’t help feeling that this will be an arrangement that won’t last long, before it is improved.
Suppose you arrive at Stratford wanting to get home to your house near Lea Bridge station and just miss the hourly train. Do you wait an hour for another train or catch the Bishops Stortford train, that will probably stop at Lea Bridge, after the new station opens?
It would be so much easier, if the two local services started from an shared island platform or at lest two platforms with a level walk between them.
This is going to get very complicated, if some of the plans for Stratford services up the Lea Valley are implemented.
- I’ve read several times, that reinstatement of the link to Stansted Airport is an aspiration of many, especially as Stratford is close to the Olympic Park and it is an important rail interchange and a terminus for two branches of the DLR and the Jubilee and North London Lines.
- There are also aspirations to start a direct service between the Chingford branch and Stratford using the reinstated Hall Farm Curve.
- With all of the housing, business and leisure developments along the lower Lea Valley, it will not be long before an hourly STAR service is inadequate.
- If the Hall Farm Curve is reinstated, would there be a need to run services between the Chingford branch and the North London Line?
- There is also the Crossrail effect, which in the Lea Valley’s case could not be just Crossrail, but Crossrail 2 if that ever gets built.
- Perhaps unlikely now, but I feel that at some point the Dalston Eastern Curve will be reopened, so enabling services between say Walthamstow to South London.
- Is there a need to better connect Stratford International station to the main regional complex?
I can’t help feeling that the layout of Platforms 11 and 12 will at some time not be able to handle all the Lea Valley services.
I suspect though there may be an innovative solution.
Look at the Google Map and you see that the Temple Mills Branch passes over the deep hole of the International station. I wrote Is This The Most Unwelcoming Station In The UK? about that dreadful station.
So could two or three bay platforms to serve the Lea Valley and Stansted Airport, be built alongside the Temple Mills Branch, as it passes over the International station?
This Google Map shows Stratford International station.
The building at the bottom right is also shown on the previous map that shows Platforms 11 and 12.
If the extra platforms were built over the Eastern end of the International station, it would enable the following.
- A new Eastern entrance to the International station could be created to give better connections between International and High Speed services from Stratford International and all the other services at Stratford Regional station.
- Crossrail would have a step-free interchange to Eurostar and other International services, if those services stopped at the International station.
- Interchange between Lea Valley and North London Line services, would be via a double Clapham Kiss, where passengers would just walk on the level to the other set of platforms.
- There might be opportunities to extend or improve the connectivity of the DLR. The current DLR station is at the top left of the map.
- Any direct services between the Temple Mills Branch and the North London Line would use the existing Platforms 11 and 12.
To get the connection right, the pedestrian links would have to be well-designed, but surely there is space to put a travelator effectively between the Regional and International stations.
Stratford International station would end up as what it should be, the International section of Stratford station.
Reading station is one of the best in the UK and rivals any second level station in Europe.
It first impressed me, when it opened and I wrote Is It Architecture, Engineering Or Art?
I took these pictures when I went to the Reading Ipswich match.
These changes were noted.
- The football buses are now parked by the station
- The Reading flyover is clearly visible from the massive footbridge over the station.
- The area in front of the station is now a plaza and not a building site.
The only problem I had was when returning after the match, It was difficult to find the first fast train to Paddington and I ended up on a stopping train to everywhere.
I did look around the station when I arrived, to see if there was any clue as to which will be the Crossrail platforms. The local services are currently served by Platforms 12 to 15 on the North side of the station. So it would probably be safe to assume that one island platform would be for Crossrail and the other is for services to places like Oxford, Newbury and Bedwyn.
It would appear that Rediung will not be served by Crossrail under December 2019.
Ipswich are playing at Reading tonight and as it’s an easy trip out from London, I bought a ticket in case I wanted to go.
I certainly won’t have a problem getting back, as there are fast trains to London after midnight.
But the match is on television and the weather looks to be pretty good, so I might just go and not waste my fifteen pound ticket.
As going to Reading in time for the match would mean a journey out restricted by the rush hour, I could go via any number of places like Windsor, Maidenhead or Slough to have a late lunch.
It got me thinking!
The Mayor has said, that when Crossrail opens, you’ll be able to use a Freedom Pass to Heathrow, just as you can now on the Piccadilly Line.
But how far will you be able to use a Freedom Pass on the branch to Reading?
To further complicate matters, direct peak-hour services operate between the Henley and Marlow branches and London.
Putting together snippets in the news and from Theresa May’s web site, led me to the conclusion which I talked about in this article, that all three branches will probably be served by new IPEMU trains (Class 387 or Aventra), as this would avoid the need for electrification.
So we’ll end up with a main line Crossrail service with a frequency of at least four trains per hour to Reading and shuttles and the occasional through trains from the branches.
The whole area will certainly end up with contactless ticketing using Oyster and bank cards, with perhaps a travel card or Ranger ticket thrown in.
But the real problem is organising the charging structure, as contactless will work well at collecting the fares, but how do you charge.
Crossrail will effectively link Windsor to Central London with a fast train and one change, so for tourists going to Windsor will be as easy as going to other important suburban venues like Wembley or the Olympic Park.
Get the ticketing right and the Thames Valley will get a lot of extra visitors.
To return to my earlier question, how far will my Freedom Pass get me in the West?
Crossrail’s journey calculator says that Bond Street to Shenfield, which will be the Freedom Pass limit in the East will take me 48 minutes.
Projected times from Bond Street for the West are as follows.
- Maidenhead – 40 minutes
- Twyford – 46 minutes
- Reading – 52 minutes
I do wonder if TfL and Crossrail will adopt the same rule as they have for Shenfield, as Reading is projected to only take four minutes longer than Shenfield.
This rule would mean that you can travel to Reading, provided you use Crossrail.
I can see an awful lot of protests, if passenger to Reading, got a worse deal than those going to Shenfield.
Which leaves us with the problem of the branches.
- Will the branches follow London rules on ticketing and be cashless and contactless, but still allow through paper tickets?
- Will direct trains to London still be run in the peak hours?
- Will the branches be part of the Great Western franchise or Crossrail?
- Will Booking Offices be closed on the branches?
I suspect that however the branches are managed, passengers from London will consider them part of Crossrail and will want to use contactless ticketing all the way.
The most contentious issue would be if it was decided that there would be no direct trains between Marlow and Henley and London.
All of these problems will hopefully be sorted before Crossrail opens.
I have spent much of my working life calculating the dynamics of systems, be they complex sets of calculations for a Bank, the solving of massive sets of differential equations or calculating how many days, hours and minutes a project will take and how many pounds, groats or donkeys it will consume.
So when I saw an article in New Scientist with the title of this post, I had to read it.
In my modelling of complex systems, nearly fifty years ago, I used state-of-the-art, digital and analogue computers to model complex interactions in chemical reactions and plants. In more than one case the answer that was obtained was unexpected.
But then you can’t argue your feelings against thoroughly correct mathematical equations!
The same is happening in this transport example. Your feelings may say faster trains will get you there quicker, but properly modelled it would appear that the reverse may be true.
One thing that may be true in some places, is that adding new stations to a line reduces the time taken to commute.
So sometimes residents wanting a new station near their houses, may just be right!
Only a rigorous mathematical model will tell the truth!
Leeds seems to have an ambitious station building program, whereas only one new station;Lea Bridge, is being built in London.
And intriguingly in London, Crossrail is being built with only one new station; Woolwich, although some are being substantially rebuilt!
I hope they’ve done their modelling extensively enough!
My walk ended at Hanwell station.
It seems to have had a good clean since my Before Crossrail visit and some small works.
However the real Hanwell station appears to be standing up and it looks like it will be good.
The track laying is well under-way at Custom House station for Crossrail.
It certainly seems that there are signs of progress, all over the place.
This article from the Ilford Recorder is entitled Redbridge Council leader says Ilford town centre has ‘the perfect storm’ for regeneration.
It talks about a billion pound of investment in the next six years.
So it does look like one of the more dreary parts of East London is going to be improved.
In my view, it shows how Crossrail is going to regenerate large swathes of London.
Although, in the article, I do think that that the design for homes on the Sainsburys site on Roden Street, is very much out of the design manual of Soviet Russia, that I saw in Nova Huta.
This article from GetWest London is entitled Improved bus services for Hayes to prepare for Crossrail.
The article talks about how Bus Route 90 is going double-deck and buses through Hayes will be improved as Crossrail, with the new Hayes and Harlington station is constructed
Provision of improved and rerouted bus services will happen at many of the new Crossrail stations.
From close to my house I can get a 21 or 141 bus to just outside Liverpool Street station, although coming back I have to walk to Moorgate for a northbound bus.
After Crossrail is opened, I predict that when I use Liverpool Street station, I will get a bus to a stop that will be connected by weather-free subways to any of the existing lines in the area and of course Crossrail. Coming back, these or other subways will connect me to a northbound stop to get a bus home.
I actually suspect to get the bus, it might be best to be at one particular end of a Crossrail train, so that you use an entrance to the station, that is convenient for your bus. Getting the carriage right could save you quite a walk with a two-hundred ,metre long train.
If what is provided, is not better than the current interim arrangement at Liverpool Street/Moorgate, I will be very surprised and will complain like an irate rhinoceros.
Most of the stations on Crossrail are served by London buses, also under the control of Transport for London. So improving the buses, as at Hayes and Harlington will be a matter for Transport for London, with input from the appropriate London Borough.
So that Crossrail has one holistic design from East to West, buses at these outer stations must conform to the rules that apply in the London area.
- Buses must be cashless, with payments either by Oyster, contactless card, concessionary pass or an extension to an orange rail ticket.
- London-style bus spider maps must be provided at all stations.
- A state-of-the-art bus arrival system must be provided in the same manner as in London, either by display or text message.
- All buses must be fully-accessible to match the fully-accessible stations.
- In an ideal world, all buses must display the next stop and be front entrance and centre exit, to help blind and disabled passengers and speed the buses on their way.
Looking at text message bus alerts like TfL’s Countdown, allowing a sixth digit to the text system would probably enable every stop in the South East to be covered.
Incidentally, according to this article in The Guardian, there are less than 500,000 transport stops in the whole UK, so six digits and one text number would cover the whole of the country.
But would the Scots, Mancunians and the Cornish, embrace a system that was designed in and for London?
Crossrail is a rail system, but it is going to affect lots of parts of our lives.