Wednesday 18 January 2012

Beware: Pickpocket Operating On Public Transport

At a time when many households are crunching the numbers on their household budgets the maths is pretty straight forward when it comes to travel fares in London. The current Conservative Mayor of London has increased fares by an extra seven per cent this month. He has put London’s travel fares up every year he has been in office and by many times more than inflation. Some fares have risen by as much as 56%.The Conservative Mayor has pledged to continue to do this until 2017.

Labour’s candidate to be London’s Mayor has pledged to cut fares by seven per cent if elected in May. That will save the average household at least £800.

The full scale of the Conservatives' fare rises over the last four years may not have been absolutely clear to everyone - that's the nature of stealth taxes. People may have been aware their wallets are a little lighter or that they had a little less cash to spend but they may not have clocked the exact amounts this crafty stealth tax ruse was lifting from their pockets. So Ken Livingstone’s silhouette of the all too familiar Conservative London Mayor reaching into a commuter's bag is spot on. The metaphor works. And, rather than simply criticise, Labour is offering voters the opportunity to get their money back by cutting fares and halting Mayor Johnson’s planned extra fare hikes.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

TfL Update On Hammersmith Flyover Closure

Transport for London have advised that Hammersmith flyover “will remain closed this week.” But that they “hope to open it for some traffic next week”.

The flyover was dramatically closed on December 23rd. Hammersmith has been locked with high levels of traffic congestion almost every day since.

Responding to a series of queries I raised with them, TfL have written to say they have “been concerned about the structure for some months and we have been conducting engineering assessments over this time. Unhappily, the assessments have increased the level of concern. On the Thursday before the Christmas weekend an inspection raised the level of concern to the point where we had to close the flyover. 

The problem relates to corrosion of the steel tendons which help to hold the structure together. The assessments and monitoring include ultrasound and physical examination following exposure of the tendons from the surrounding concrete.

Your constituents would have seen very little activity on the flyover. That's because the majority of the work is taking place inside the structure within the underside of the flyover. Teams of engineers trained specially for confined spaces have been working day and night on the problem.

We are taking a range of measures to ease the inevitable congestions, including phasing traffic signals, limiting road works, providing traffic advice - but our best advice remains telling drivers to avoid the area. We will be monitoring traffic levels and pinch points.”

TfL have promised to send me “a technical briefing this week” and will let me know if they’re able to achieve their aim of re-opening the flyover to some limited traffic next week – once they have finished all their evaluations.

It's not clear why the corrosion of the steal tendons, critical to the structure of the flyover, have been allowed to deteriorate to such a apparently dangerous extent. It is not yet evident if TfL had been engaged in sufficiently regular maintenance of the structures and whether that could have avoided this sudden closure? I expect that information to be in the technical briefing.

What is clear is that there are chronic levels of traffic congestion, pollution and increased rat-running traffic in residential roads around Hammersmith. It's a mess. I hope that TfL can demonstrate they they have done everything possible to avoid this and are putting all necessary resources and effort in getting it back in use. I'll let you know when I get their briefing.