Timetable debacles and Crossrail delays: London transport review of 2018

Tom Edwards
Transport correspondent, London
@BBCTomEdwardson Twitter

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This is by no means definitive but here is my brief review of 2018 which has in some ways been defined by one theme - poor delivery.

However, I am not going to just focus on negatives. It is Christmas after all.

Here is my choice of the good, the bad, and the interesting of 2018.


Image source, @cognito15

If there was one story that didn't go away for weeks it was the botched launch of the Thameslink timetables.

Passengers were promised new destinations and lots of new services. But even on that first morning when I was stuck at Harpenden with campaigners it was clear it was a shambles.

A fragmented industry couldn't delivery what should have been the railway's moment of glory.

The ramifications cost millions and also led to the head of Govia Thameslink Charles Horton losing his job.

The debacle has also electrified the calls for more nationalisation - even though one of the guilty parties was Network Rail which is already nationalised.

Thankfully a subsequent relaunch in December went better.

Cringe factor 8/10


Image source, Getty Images

This was another case of poor delivery and gargantuan hubris.

If one mantra used by transport executives should be consigned to history it is "on time and on budget".

Now the biggest infrastructure project in Europe is mired in controversy over a massive delay and a huge overspend of £2bn.

That is not just bad for prospective passengers, it has a huge knock on Transport for London's (TfL) budget (£600m in lost fares) and has meant the Piccadilly Line signalling upgrade will be delayed.

There are ongoing political questions over whether the mayor knew earlier about the delay than he said he did at the time.

The delay has also put more pressure on the Sadiq Khan's flagship partial fares freeze (which will cost £640m over four years).

Cringe factor 100/10

Bus cuts

Image source, AFP

As TfL deals with a shrinking budget, efficiencies are the name of the game.

TfL is due to cut the total bus mileage by 7% by 2022. Already some routes are being cut or frequencies reduced.

Transport bosses and the mayor say it's about redeploying buses to the suburbs. But TfL can't yet name where it will redeploy them to.

London streets

Image source, Getty Images

The mayor has grand ambitions to tackle pollution and many areas are realising their voters do not want polluting vehicles on their streets.

Next year we will see the ultra-low emission zone.

The City of London is also planning to restrict more areas for vehicles. Expect to see more of it.

And eventually there will be more bike lanes - one area the budget cuts have yet to reach.

How fast will London change? Too fast or too slow depending on your viewpoint.

Oxford Street

Image source, Getty Images

What the mayor wants he doesn't always get.

This was a classic case of overreach from the mayor as Westminster Council scrapped his plans after local residents objected to buses being redirected onto their roads.

City Hall wanted a pedestrianised Oxford Street to be his flagship achievement.

Rising parental empowerment

Media caption,

How one school in the capital is fighting London's toxic air

I've spoken to parent groups - groups like Mums for Lungs - all over London who are organising and getting changes made outside their schools to reduce pollution.

That has involved everything from closing roads during rush hour to moving bus stops.

Also in this category are simple policies that seem to make a big difference like the clean bus zones where only cleaner buses are being put on the more polluted roads.

The "Deliveroo / Netflix" effect

Image source, Getty Images

Another financial challenge for TfL is the falling number of leisure travellers.

Although TfL isn't quite sure why it has happened, bosses did highlight a change in lifestyles.

A movie and a takeaway is actually bad for transport budgets.

Bus announcements

Media caption,

Passengers have criticised a 'mistimed' announcement on London's buses

Remember that announcement: "Please hold on, the bus is about to move" when the bus was already moving.

Annoyance factor: 5/10

Rock hard seats

Image source, Getty Images

Chiropractors across the South East weren't complaining though.

Annoyance factor : 3/10

Station staff

Next time you are kept out of a station by staff, remember there is a reason. The platforms will be rammed and it is being done for your safety.

Another tidbit: They know how many people are due to arrive in any train because of weight sensors in the floor.

And by the way it is not very nice to shout at station staff.

Admiration factor: 8/10

The rise of the trolley case

Image source, Getty Images

A personal bugbear.

If you have a case on wheels and you are in a station - do not do a tight right turn without looking!

Maybe they should have indicators on them.

Annoyance factor: 10/10

Image source, Getty Images

Other mentions:

  • The hopper fare is very popular with bus passengers (although at a cost to TfL)
  • Vision Zero is an admirable scheme to reduce the scandalous number of pedestrians killed by vehicles in London
  • Personal transport is changing - we are seeing more e-scooters now even though they are illegal
  • London Bridge visually is a magnificent station now

Finally a big massive thank you to commuters who stop and give interviews. I am in your debt!

Happy Christmas to all!

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