The Anonymous Widower

An Open Letter To London Mayor Candidates About East London River Crossings

This started as a post on my infrastructure blog, about the Silvertown Tunnel, but now that TfL has launched a consultation about the  tunnel, I decided to update it and send it to you.

I am a sixty-eight year-old widower, living alone in Hackney, who has given up driving, so my personal feelings about the Silvertown Tunnel are that it is irrelevant to me, except that it might help some trucks bring goods that I buy on-line or at a local shop.

East London needs more cross-river routes and after recent trips to Birmingham, Nottingham and Germany and reading every word of London’s transport plans for 2050, I feel that whatever is done the Gospel Oak to Barking Line (GOBLin ) must be connected to Abbey Wood.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve made quite a few trips to South East London, including  one where I walked along Bazalgette’s sewer between Plumstead and Abbey Wood.

It is a land that London has truly forgotten.

Some transport developments, like the DLR and the East London Line has made a difference, but connections are still not the best.

TfL has talked about a  tunnel extending the GOBLin from Barking Riverside to Thamesmead and Abbey Wood.

After a visit to Karlsruhe specifically to see their tram-trains, I now believe that these could be the way to create a universe-class connection across the Thames. Tram-trains like those in Karlsruhe, which are soon to be trialled between Sheffield and Rotherham, could run on the GOBLin and then perhaps do a little loop at Barking Riverside before returning to Gospel Oak.

Note that we’re not talking untried technology here as you can see the tram-trains running on the streets and railway tracks of several German cities. Undoubtedly, if the Germans were extending the GOBlin, they would use tram-trains, as they could serve build several stops with the money needed to build Barking Riverside station.  And all the stops, like those on the London Tramlink would be fully step-free.

The loop in Barking Riverside, could extend across the river.

I think that a tunnel under the Thames would be a case of hiding your biggest light under an enormous bushel.

So why not create a high bridge to allow the biggest ships underneath, with a tram track or two, a cycle path and a walking route?

It would have some of the best views in London. Forget the Garden Bridge! This would create a transport link, that those living on both sides of the river could use and enjoy every day to get to work or for leisure reasons. Tourists would come to view London, as they do on large entry bridges in cities like New York and Lisbon.

Effectively, you have a conventional tram connecting Barking, Barking Riverside, Thamesmead and Abbey Wood. At Barking and Abbey Wood, the tram-trains become trains and could go to Gospel Oak and perhaps Meriandian Water, Romford, Upminster or Tilbury in the North and perhaps Woolwich, Lewisham, Dartford or Bluewater in the South.

Everything you would need to create such a link is tried and tested technology or designs that have been implemented in either the UK or Germany over the last few years.

In TfL’s plans for 2050, I found the words Penge and Brockley High Level buried in an Appendix listing places where there could be new transport interchanges.

I believe that an interchange at Penge would link the East London Line to the South Eastern Main Line and trains between Victoria and Orpington. Another interchange at Brockley would link the East London Line to the trains going across South London between Lewisham and Abbey Wood.

Conventional thinking says that these interchanges will be difficult to build, but Birmingham has already created a station that solves the problem at Smethwick Galton Bridge.

As London Overground have the capacity to run twenty four trains every hour each way on the East London Line, these two interchanges would help solve the chronic connectivity to and from South East London. They would also bring more passengers to the East London Line to fill all those trains.

One of the things that the increased number of trains on the East London Line would need is another southern terminal and possibilities include Beckenham Junction or Orpington.

I think it is true to say that there are more possibilities to improve connectivity east of the East London Line, both North and South of the River, than both London’s Mayors have ever dreamed about.

To be fair to both of them, it’s only in recent years that tram-trains have been seriously thought about in the UK, although the Germans have had them for a decade or so.

Get it right and the Silvertown Tunnel would be a very different scheme.

It might even be just be an entry in that large directory of projects that were never started.


October 6, 2015 Posted by | Travel | | Leave a comment

Why I’ll Be Voting For Zac For London Mayor!

Zac 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!

Zac used to edit The Ecologist.

These are my views on some of the big issues of the election.


I feel very strongly as does Zac 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.

Under-Occupied Houses

I’m probably in that category, as I have a three-bedroom house with a garage, that can’t be worth far off seven figures.

I think though if we had adequate housing stock at all levels, I might be persuaded to move.

It is probably wrong that those who live in houses like mine get a discount on Council Tax.

I doubt any politician will encourage those living in large houses to move into something more appropriate.

But I’ve believed for many years, that by getting Inheritance and other taxes right, that a lot of housin stock could be freed up for either rebuilding or refurbishment.

More Housing

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.

Planning Rules

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 2

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.

Heathrow Expansion

Zac 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.

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.







October 4, 2015 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

What Is The New Mayor Of London Going To Do For Car Drivers?

Most of the London Mayor candidates for 2016 seem to ignore car drivers.

As a non-driver, I wouldn’t mind if the new Mayor decreed that no-one in London could own a car, but if he or she did, they wouldn’t get elected.

I do occasionally need to be transported by car and as I don’t have the expense of actually owning one, I can afford to take a black cab, which I do perhaps a dozen times a year, at a total cost of perhaps three hundred pounds.

The most difficult journeys are ones where say, a friend is picking me up and taking me somewhere, so they have to drive into Hackney and out the other side again. Which just adds to the congestion unneccesarily.

The other tricky thing for car-drivers, is those coming into London often have no convenient Park-and-Ride. I was lucky, when I lived near Newmarket, as I could park at Whittlesford Parkway and get a train into Liverpool Street.

But when years ago, when I lived near Ipswich, parking was very limited and I had to get a taxi to the station. I once had a letter from British Rail suggesting that I ask my wife to drive me to the train.

I also see problems with the new Night Tube. This will generate an amazing night life all over the centre of London and I think we’ll see large numbers of people using the Tube late into the night and early morning. Those living in London will be able to use the Tube, but as there is little adequate parking at or around stations just inside the M25, visitors and those working late in the evening, may well lead to a lot of parking congestion around the stations.

To add to that, as London becomes an increasingly twenty four hour/seven day a week city, there will be an increasing need for some form of parking for night workers.

I have checked the map and the only Tube and rail stations close to a junction of the M25 will parking, can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

I believe that London needs a ring of well-designed car/bus/train interchanges around the M25. I did propose one at Waltham Cross, but that idea was not put together properly.

The interchanges would be designed for the following services.

1. Park-And-Ride, particularly aimed at those not wanting to stay all day. So perhaps the parking charges would be sensible for say the first four hours and then draconian afterwards. Obviously, at weekends and in the evenings, they would be reduced and aimed at those perhaps going to a sporting event or seeing a show or concert.

2. Pick-Up and Drop-Off of passengers, perhaps linked to something like thirty minutes free parking.

3. Car Hire for those living in London.

4. Long Distance Coach Services

5. Motorway Services

Obviously, there would be a frequent service into Central London. The service would have to be step-free and wi-fi enabled. I also think that like Cambridge’s superb Park-and-Ride, it would be linked into the cycle network.

Get it right and it would cut vehicular traffic into London.



June 25, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , | 2 Comments

Boris Gets A Statue

Boris Johnson’s father, Stanley unveiled a statue called Boris yesterday.  But it is a large polar bear in front of Peter Jones in no way connected to the Mayor of London.

There’s more about the statue here.

I liked it and would vote for Boris to stay.

I doubt a lady who got on the bus towards Wandsworth would though, as she was wearing a fur coat.

January 15, 2013 Posted by | News, World | , , , | Leave a comment

London Moves To Licence Pedicabs

I have seen some horrific incidents with pedicabs and according to this report, it would appear that the Mayor and Transport for London are moving towards licencing them and driving the illegal ones off the road.

Having seen at first hand, how they contribute to jams in the West End, I think it’s about time too! Although, I’ve never ridden in one in this country.

December 14, 2012 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Seb Coe For London Mayor

He was impressive today on BBC Breakfast.

I think he would make a wonderful successor to Boris.  He’s also only 20/1 with Paddy Power.

November 13, 2012 Posted by | News | , , | Leave a comment

“The Jubilee was one of the greatest aquatic triumphs of the British people”

This was said by Boris Johnson on American television, when he was promoting his book. There’s a video of it here.

Have we ever had a politician like Boris before?

Boris hints that he could be President of the United States as he was born in New York.

I suspect, he’d make a better fist of it, than some of second-raters, who’ve held the job in my lifetime.

June 7, 2012 Posted by | News | , , , | Leave a comment

The Election That Wasn’t

Has there ever been an election, that was so low key? I haven’t seen one window sticker or been canvassed.  If it wasn’t for the coverage on television and in the papers, you would have thought there was no elections at all. I did see Boris once, but he wasn’t actually doing anything, except being nice to everybody.

The only result that says anything, has been  turn-out of 32 %, that has been the worst for a decade.

I did vote, but the polling station was like a morgue.  I saw two other voters and the one of those had got lost as he tried to find the room, where the vote was taking place.

In some ways the election that matters for London, other than the Mayor, takes place at the weekend in France. Turbulence and political uncertaincy there, will certainly affect London, but until we see the result of the Sarkozy-Hollande run-off, we won’t know how.

May 4, 2012 Posted by | News | , , | Leave a comment

The Mayor Calls in the Supersewer

I know it’s election time and there are votes to be won, but I’m pleased that Boris has called in Thames Water proposal for a super sewer under the Thames. As I said in a previous post.

Although I should say, that as someone who has spent a lot of time around project management and managers, I will say that what gets built in the end, will be quite unlike what was originally proposed. That’s what good project management is about.  It makes a project better, cheaper and less disruptive.

Let’s hope the engineers prove me right. Unfortunately, some of the alternatives, like stopping householders from creating hard-staandings in their front garden, are sometimes more unpopular than the super sewer.

April 27, 2012 Posted by | News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Man Has Boris Tattooed on his Leg

Each to his own I suppose.  But this?

April 25, 2012 Posted by | News | , | Leave a comment


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