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Bonkers Blog October 2017

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31 October - Transport and safety statistics. Not all what they appear to be

Just back from three days helping my son set up a new office for his expanding transport safety consultancy so it seems appropriate to report on last Thursday’s Transport Users’ Committee meeting. There was a degree of overlap because he was able to expand on some of what was said.

TransportI usually find the Transport meeting interesting and this one was no exception and notable on a number of counts.

Chairman Val Clark welcomed members of the public which isolates Teresa O’Neill as the only meeting Chairman (Cabinet) to publicly register her contempt for residents who take the trouble to attend public meetings.

There were more members of the public present than there were Councillors. The TfL bus man managed to get through the meeting without saying anything. SouthEastern railways and Network Rail failed to send a representative - I have not seen one there since last year (but I missed one meeting) - and Andrew Bashford, Bexley Council’s senior traffic engineer, also failed to turn up. Maybe that is why what I heard at this meeting seemed to be 100% good sense.

Councillor Clark said there could be no excuse for large organisations like Network Rail and SouthEastern not sending a representative. “It is disgusting.”

PC McKenzie from the Metropolitan Police was supposed to make a general report on transport crime but instead of putting in an appearance he had sent a note which said “not much has happened in the last quarter”. The Chairman thought that if he wasn’t busy there was even less excuse for the no-show. Nice to see the former Mayor has not lost her way with words but she has a point.

However an Inspector Fuller gave a presentation on Community Roadwatch which encourages and trains volunteer residents to point speed cameras at motorists. Offenders receive warning letters and repeat offenders get home visits. In extreme cases their vehicles may be placed on an ANPR database so that they are pulled over for no very good reason at random just to inconvenience them - for the amusement of bored police officers presumably.

Transport44 Roadwatch sessions had been organised and 947 drivers reported.

On bus issues it was noted that route 321 from Footscray to New Cross Gate now runs at eight minute intervals instead of ten.

Outside the meeting the bus man told me that slow bus journeys (road works, 20 m.p.h. limits etc.) are a major contributor to reduced passenger numbers. (My son said it is only going to get worse for reasons which he was not able to divulge.)

Bexley Council had responded to TfL’s bus consultation in connection with the opening of the Elizabeth Line and Rob Smith (pictured with the Chairman above) appears to have done a first rate job which would win the praise of all residents.

• He doesn’t like the loss of the 180 service to Lewisham.
• The proposed diversion of route 469 will mean many Belvedere residents will lose their only direct route to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich.
• Route 472 serving Abbey Wood Station and terminating there will require layover facilities which do not currently exist. A similar problem will be created if the B11 is terminated on Yarnton Way.
• Route 301, a much welcomed direct service from Thamesmead to Bexleyheath via Abbey Wood Station, may be swamped by students to the detriment of morning commuters. The proposal for single deck operation was questioned.

In the absence of any train company representatives Rob Smith was forced to substitute. His Crossrail report mentioned nothing of which BiB readers will be unaware but his comments on SouthEastern’s autumn leaf and skip-stopping time tables attracted the attention of Councillor Stefano Borella (Labour, North End).

Skip StopStefano didn’t think there were as many leaf gunge clearing units operating as there used to be and shared Mr. Smith’s concern that skip-stopping caused massive inconvenience to Bexley residents. Having been affected by it twice last week I fully agree with him.

If you look closely at the associated picture (enlarged copy) you will be able to see that having missed Erith and Belvedere, Cannon Street trains were arriving at Abbey Wood four minutes early. They were then leaving 90 seconds late which is the sort of idiocy one has come to expect from SouthEastern.

Mr. Smith had not only commented on the TfL bus consultation he had told SouthEastern that their proposed May 2018 timetable for the North Kent line was not acceptable. The already good Cannon Street frequency gets an extra peak hour train at the expense of the Charing Cross service which is reduced to one train per hour.

Mark Bunting, Bexley’s Road Safety man related the accident statistics. The actual numbers are low so comparisons become difficult but in broad terms they improved up to 2010 or thereabouts and since then have shown an alarming trend upwards again. Whilst it is tempting to blame this on Bexley’s poor road planning my son says it has been a national phenomenon for which no clear answer has emerged but his suspicion is that it is due to various in-car distractions including mobile phones.

My son confirmed Mr. Bunting’s report that casualty statistics (240% up in Bexley!) are very much confused by a change in the way that the seriousness of accidents is assessed. Computers have taken over from the police which alone has changed things, but some boroughs have already computerised and some haven’t. What a mess.

Fortunately Bexley is “bucking the national trend” on child casualties.

Another overlap between the meeting and my weekend away concerned vehicle NCAP ratings. At the meeting is was explained how the NCAP ratings can be manipulated by unscrupulous manufacturers and to that extent the testing procedures are flawed.

Over the weekend it was explained to me that the manufacturers renowned for their emphasis on safety put it above good NCAP scores and are sometimes penalised by the numbers. At the other extreme manufacturers in countries not renowned for making cars don’t manipulate NCAP scores because they simply don’t care about them and in the middle are the many which stand accused by Bexley Council.

My son used to be on some obscure EU NCAP committee, maybe he still is, I lose track. Certainly he has bashed countless cars into concrete blocks.


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