The Transport User’s Sub-Committee ought to be an interesting meeting for
anyone interested in the borough’s transport infrastructure but in practice
those with such a keen interest would learn very little from attendance.
Probably I go to too many council meetings but I think I already knew the answers to almost all the councillors’ questions, even those for which no official answer was forthcoming.
Things are not helped by there being only one councillor on the committee (Stefano Borella, Labour, North End) with real enthusiasm for transport matters and the Vice-Chairman is councillor John Davey. The same John Davey who in 2009 was Vice-Chairman of the same committee which was happy to see several local roads wrecked and came up with the description ‘Bonkers’ for it, which in turn became the inspiration for this website.
The meeting is chaired by councillor Val Clark who isn’t required to do a lot and does not a lot pretty well. I said Good Evening to her as I passed by on the way in but she kept her nose in the air as usual.
I had hoped to learn a little more about yesterday’s Broadway six vehicle bus crash but I was disappointed. The police officer present said he believed a motorist had pulled out in front of a bus which braked hard and those behind him didn’t. He was not a witness to the crash and later on confirmed that police numbers across the borough continue to reduce.
Having looked at the News Shopper’s pictures I cannot see any way that the new road layout can be to blame for putting 16 people in hospital.
Last time I went to the Transport meeting no provision had been made for any public attendance. Things were much better this time and I wasn’t even alone. A cyclist had been given permission to address the committee directly.
The South Eastern Railways man (Mike Gibson) was unable to attend but he had sent a written report. Unfortunately the chairman did not think it was necessary to circulate a copy to the public thereby turning what should have been a public meeting into something approaching a Cheryl Bacon style ‘Closed Session’. I have since obtained a copy.
Mr. Gibson’s report provided statistics showing small improvements to his company’s performance and passenger numbers had gone up by 30% since 2006. No new trains had been provided in that period other than the high speed stock running from Kent to St. Pancras. This is a government decision.
The recent hot weather raised the question of air-conditioning which was not thought to be technically possible on a stopping service for 1980 era trains and whilst technology has moved on, retro fitting trains is commercially unviable given that South Eastern’s contract ends in 2018. Taking trains out of service would not help the over crowding issues either.
Mr. Gibson’s report included a list of timetable changes anticipated for August 2016 when Cannon Street services will cease calling at London Bridge. For those who might be interested the summary is available here.
Stefano Borella asked some Crossrail related questions but as he has attended the Liaison Committee meetings and councillor Melvin Seymour, the council’s official representative there has missed two out of three of them, councillor Seymour was at a disadvantage and no answer was forthcoming. I should emphasise that councillor Seymour had very good reasons for being absent.
Councillor John Davey complained about the unreliability of the cooling equipment on the existing rolling stock thereby proving he had not read Mr. Gibson’s report. The trains are not equipped with cooling equipment. Who elects these people?
Cabinet member Alex Sawyer revealed that he no longer used South Eastern trains preferring to drive to North Greenwich and use the Jubilee line and had no intention of using SE trains again. He said he would ask Mr. Gibson why there are no 12 car trains on the Bexleyheath line. Those who have been paying attention to the subject should have no difficulty in predicting the answer.
The chairman said she used the same route but generally took the 486 bus to North Greenwich.
Councillor Howard Marriner attempted to elicit more useful information by asking what progress had been made towards improving bus services to Darenth Valley Hospital. The chairman provided a lengthy answer which amounted to ‘absolutely none’. Not even a preliminary meeting.
Stefano Borella asked why some Night Bus frequencies were to be reduced but he got no answer. The N1 to Abbey Wood will be every 30 minutes all week instead of 20 minutes on Friday and Saturday but it is not the only affected route.
The cyclist’s most interesting question was about the amount of the TfL award to the borough following the failure to secure mini-Holland status. He got no answer. He also wanted to know who would be ‘cycling champion’ now that councillor Gareth Bacon has given up the role. It is councillor Alex Sawyer if he can be dragged from his car.
Only an hour or two before I left for the meeting, a neighbour unaware of my intention told me how he was almost forced up the kerb in Abbey Road not far from its junction with St. Augustine’s Road. A bus had come around the bend at high speed on the wrong side of the road. I sympathised because buses on the wrong side of Abbey Road is not that unusual since it was unnecessarily narrowed. If my neighbour reads this blog he will I am sure be pleased to note that improving that junction is currently out for consultation. The proposal is for more narrowing.
Progressively bringing Bexley to a standstill is having its effect on accident statistics. A total standstill would presumably bring them down to zero and Bexley has been heading in that direction, so much so that it is now the 13th best borough in the country beaten only by rural backwaters with few roads and fewer cars. Almost every local authority area has been on an improving trend presumably reflecting research into safer vehicles. The Chairman said that “the Road Safety Team is absolutely brilliant”.
Seriously injured casualties were down another 23% in 2014 although slight injuries were up by almost as much.
Councillor Davey briefly mentioned the traffic disruption that will result from the Bexley bridge replacement. Nothing was known about plans to mitigate it but the chairman said the delay resulted from TfL funding which is not what was said at the Places Scrutiny meeting.
TfL may be dragging its feet on bridge funding but not apparently on bus stops. Every one across London has been surveyed and in Bexley 140 or more of them are to be modified. Is it any wonder that taxes are so high?