Archive for May 2011
Good to see a story first broken on this website make it onto the tellybox – on Friday, ITV’s London Tonight featured Southeastern’s plans to cut rail services during the Olympics.
Some more updates since my last post: The Westcombe Society has published its critical response to Southeastern’s “consultation”, while I understand Greenwich & Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford has also objected. Greenwich and Lewisham’s London Assembly member Len Duvall has tabled a question to Boris Johnson about the issue. His reply will be interesting – while he has few powers over Southeastern, will he actually be an advocate for south-east Londoners and criticise the proposals?
Finally – here’s the actual proposed timetable for the Greenwich, Bexleyheath and Sidcup lines during the Olympics (3.3MB PDF), which I didn’t have until now. It’s not very easy to follow, but it does illustrate how poor the service will be at Deptford and Westcombe Park. One strange thing I noticed is that many of the extra trains in the timetable don’t call at London Bridge or Waterloo East – instead running fast from Charing Cross or Cannon Street. That’s not really very helpful for visitors changing from other rail or Tube services. It really doesn’t look like this timetable was designed with passengers in mind at all.
Did you fancy taking the train on Sunday? Well, Southeastern’s website boasted a good service on the Greenwich line. No delays, no cancellations.
In fact, not only were there no delays and no cancellations, there were no trains at all!
Full details were available from this professionally produced sign around the corner.
We’ve been here before, of course. It looks as if the “look-up feature“, paraded about by Southeastern’s PR people as the answer to all their communications failures during the snow, is automated when it actually needs a human being to type “line suspended” in there, and to take the lie about there being “no line problems” off the ticker. This really is basic stuff – doing anything else betrays either incompetence at the company or contempt for its customers.
Southeastern has hired a company called CCL to review its communications systems after last winter’s failures. They could have just saved the cash and hired someone to look after its website at weekends…
It’s finally about to happen – the heavy work will start on Monday preparing Greenwich Park for this summer’s test events in advance of next year’s Olympics.
A chunk of the park in front of the National Maritime Museum (marked in red on the map above) will be closed from 16 May to 10 August as work begins on a temporary arena for the Greenwich Park Eventing International, to be held from 4-6 July, and the modern pentathlon World Cup Final on 9 and 10 July.
Most of the east side of the park closes from 21 June-10 July, although the bigger pathways will remain open for most of that time, and there will be various traffic and parking restrictions. Full details are available from the London 2012 website, while a drop-in centre in the tea rooms will remain open on Saturday.
LOCOG’s equestrian manager Tim Hadaway took the press (and, if you look closely on BBC London News, one strange chap with a bike) around the park this morning to show off what they’re up to – a completed jump here, treated grass there. With the current dry weather, it’s actually easy to tell the cross country route – it’s the lush green bit surrounded by lots of parched grass.
So far, it’s looking good – with the jumps created by planting on top of what already exists, rather than digging great holes in the ground. So in the example below, you can see where part of the dip has been filled in with new soil and turf – the wooden fencing will be removed when the test events take place.
There’s some movement on improving information for park users, with noticeboards planned that can be regularly updated. (The “battleship”-like hoardings on Woolwich Common, where the 2012 shooting venue is being built, will also be decorated, LOCOG say.)
The arena will sit on an artificial platform, to ensure a level surface, with an 80m x 70m deck placed on it, with an equestrian surface – sand, basically – placed on top. There will be seating for 2,000 people on the south side of the arena.
Tim Hadaway told 853 he hoped people would see how the park returned to normal after the test events, and feel able to trust organisers with the park in 2012.
Asked about criticisms of LOCOG’s plans for getting the park back in action after the Olympics, he said: “Part of reason for the perceived vagueness is you don’t know exactly what you need to reinstate – and the most appropriate way of reinstating it – until you have to reinstate it.
“The will be some areas where a Portakabin may have been there for a short period of time and yes, the grass is browned off, but look at this place most of the time – it bounces back.
“And there will be some places where it’s appropriate to put turf down. That’s why it’s coming across as being vague.
“But the commitment is there, to work with the experts – Royal Parks. People will see what we do after this, and hopefully that will build confidence.”
Free tickets to the events are available to Greenwich borough residents via Greenwich Council.
Thanks to Nick at South East Central for the heads-up.
A few weeks ago I came across demolition work at the Ferrier on a Sunday afternoon – huge great chunks of concrete coming down with sickening thumps. They’re not hanging around in knocking it down.
One thing that made me chuckle about the Southeastern Olympic trains fiasco was Greenwich Council’s initial reluctance to kick up a fuss in public.
853 reader Chris Ferguson, who writes a blog called Abstractnoise, wrote a piece for its weekly newspaper Greenwich Time. But it got spiked. According to him, it had scrapped the whole piece because it mentioned “a blog”.
According to Greenwich Time’s assistant editor Peter Cordwell, in a reply copied into Greenwich Council’s head of press:
“I think it would have had more of a chance if the blog entry had not been mentioned because not everyone is into blogs (they say there are lots about GT, including personal ones about me, but I’ve never seen any of them). Perhaps if you made your points again without the blog reference, we could consider it again.”
I wonder if that’s the same Peter Cordwell, ex editor of the Mercury, who commented in typically witty, yet punchy fashion on the On Blackheath festival post here?
Now, I’m not quite sure if the council’s propaganda paper has heard of sub-editors but in case they haven’t, they’re a wonderful breed who can go through copy and take out references to things they don’t like. (Indeed, I can sub-edit like a dream and am presently looking for work. Ahem.)
So, with Greenwich Time’s readership presumed to be so clueless about modern internet trends, a piece of genuine interest was spiked because of the word “blog” – I wonder how the strapline “LOLfest” managed to creep into this week’s copy?
(Unless, of course, Up the Creek is putting on a show about blokes from the 1970s called Lawrence, mind.)
What’s more important to Greenwich Time? Bringing council tax payers news of things that might affect them, or making silly gestures to get at those who criticise it? I don’t think anyone can even pretend it’s not a propaganda paper after this little episode. And we’re paying for it.
A few days have passed, a few things have happened. Here’s a round-up of what’s happening as watchdogs, councils and passengers try to fight off the planned cuts by Southeastern during next summer’s Olympics…
What London Travelwatch is doing: It has objected, calling the proposed cuts “unacceptable”, adding: “Travellers will find these proposals extremely confusing and they could create as many problems as they seek to overcome.”
What Greenwich Council is doing: It has objected, with cabinet member Cllr Denise Hyland saying they “show a lack of understanding of the importance of tourism to the economy of the borough”. Something is likely to appear in its weekly Greenwich Time next week.
What Lewisham Council is doing: A spokesperson told 853: “Lewisham has responded to the current consultation and has expressed concerns that proposed reduction to the Deptford train service will result in severe overcrowding for existing passengers.”
What have local “stakeholders” said? The Charlton Rail Users Group has objected. So has the Westcombe Society (consulted because its patch borders Maze Hill and Westcombe Park stations). As far as I’m aware, no other group has been contacted – or has made public their response.
What has Southeastern said? Well…
Southeastern’s head of communications (the same department which doesn’t deal with blogs), Jon Hay Campbell, was at the Charlton Rail Users Group meeting on Monday. “We are meeting the Olympic Delivery Authority and the Department for Transport to see what can be done. We’ll be letting them know that this is what our customers said.”
Of course, as was pointed out to him several times, Southeastern didn’t ask its customers, it asked “stakeholders”.
Southeastern has consistently tried to pin the blame on the Olympic Delivery Authority, saying it is obliged to do as the ODA says thanks to a clause in its franchise (17KB PDF).
But London Travelwatch’s Tim Bellenger, who was also at the meeting, said he had heard from other train companies who had been approached by the Olympic Delivery Authority to change their services, but had responded with their own proposals. Indeed, Jon Hay Campbell even said Southeastern had already changed some of its proposals to guarantee better services in Kent – but could not say why Southeastern was not as proactive about protecting its south-east London services.
There were also calls for the Olympic Delivery Authority’s methodology to be challenged – one of its claims is that there would not be capacity to run bus services from Charlton station to the O2/Dome/North Greenwich Arena for Olympic events. Clearly, we must have all dreamt up the Millennium Transit bus shuttle to the Dome in 2000 – and the demolition work which went into creating the interchange there.
Another representative at the meeting was the transport planner for the O2 – who seemed as much in the dark about Southeastern’s proposals as anyone else there, despite working at an Olympic venue.
So that’s how things stand. Well done to those who put pressure on councillors and others to act – see Abstractnoise for more – we now await the outcome of all this, which we are due to find out by July.
One little moral to come out of this story, though – it may be worth combining with other train users at your station to set up a users’ group so you find out about these things. If Charlton residents hadn’t done that last year, we wouldn’t have found out – and these proposals would not have been made public.
While we live in a world where “stakeholders” are deemed to be more valuable than real human beings, it may be worth playing their game. Don’t assume other people will do things for you…
Over the royal wedding holiday weekend, Time Out offered free downloads of its city guide applications. I’ve got a trip coming up, and generally I find TO’s guides to be the best of the lot, so I downloaded a few – including the London one, out of curiosity.
Sat on my sofa at home in Charlton, I had a play with the London guide. Despite nestling in cosy zone 3, the app kept telling me I was “outside the city limits” – even though there were still attractions within walking distance*. I consulted its map, and saw that Charlton was, indeed, outside these arbitary “city limits”.
I could understand it for a largely residential area that is largely off the mainstream tourist trail, but what about Charlton’s more glamorous neighbour?
So off I went to check out the view and the crowds at the top of the hill in Greenwich Park.
Surely one of the most famous views in London – and one that will be beamed around the world next summer – would be on the map?
No, it wasn’t.
I should make clear that Greenwich’s attractions (and, indeed, Charlton’s – well, The Valley and the Thames Barrier) are included in the guide itself. But the map manages to leave off most of south-east London, and east London too.
Want to explore the Docklands or the Olympic Park? You won’t find them here… which in the latter case, is a bit sad considering Time Out is the official travel guide publisher for London 2012.
So where does this map show, then?
So that’s all the way out to Kew in the west, but no further east than Bermondsey – and while north London attractions like the Freud Museum get a look-in, Greenwich’s wealth of sights are shut out of the map, along with other south London things to see like the Horniman Museum.
With the Olympics, new transport links and the continuing growth of the Docklands helping shift perceptions of London eastwards, it seems a shame Time Out’s app is stuck firmly in the old days of looking west and north – particularly for a company associating itself with London 2012.
(*including, brilliantly, the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial fountain in Hyde Park – whose entry is confused with that for the Princess of Wales pub on Blackheath.)