Archive | June, 2013

Live jazz outside @Number8_FG

28 Jun

via Instagram

Going Overground

28 Jun


Photo by bowroaduk

The government has announced that it will spend £115 million to electrify the Gospel Oak to Barking line. This is very good news for those that campaigned to improve the line, but better news for those that use it.

The incorporation of the line into the London Overground network and the consequent improvements in the service – new trains, clean stations, more frequent running – has unlocked huge demand.

The previous operator, Silverlink, ran an appalling service which unsurprisingly attracted few passengers. When Transport for London took over continuing to use two car trains probably seemed a sensible idea, but now trains are full to bursting during peak times. It’s an extremely uncomfortable experience for many passengers, if they can actually get on the trains at all. I’ve given up using it for my commute home as there’s only a 50/50 chance I’ll be able to board and if I do it’s so crammed I feel in danger for my life if the driver has to brake suddenly.

The obvious solutions would be either to add additional carriages, or to run an even more frequent service to spread customers over a larger number of trains. But adding a third carriage isn’t an easy option. The trains apparently come as a unit, so you can’t just de-couple them and stick an extra bit in between. TfL has to either buy new trains or pay Bombardier a fortune to custom-build and fit middle carriages. For a relatively small number of trains that can’t really be used anywhere else, that’s not especially efficient.

Running additional services is also difficult, as the line is limited to eight trains an hour in each direction. Four of these are reserved for freight, so the current passenger service is maxed out.

Electrifying the line will solve a big part of the problem. The trains that serve the rest of the London Overground can then run on the GOBLIN and they are all at least four carriages long.

It may also mean that new through services can be opened up to Richmond and Clapham Junction. Some peak “congestion buster” services already run to Willesden Junction, missing out Gospel Oak, so the track and signalling are already in place.

Now the money is there, let’s hope work gets underway quickly.


22 Jun

via Instagram

Ed urges living wage, but Sir Robin isn’t listening

6 Jun

Today Ed Miliband made his big speech on social security reform. He did so at Newham Dockside, the £110 million headquarters of Newham council.

He talked – rightly – about reducing the social security bill by increasing the number of people in work and by making sure that work pays. Too many employers rely on the taxpayer to subsidise poverty wages. People need to be able to earn a living wage.

Today, people often don’t get paid enough in work to make ends meet.

And the taxpayer is left picking up the bill for low pay.
 We must change our economy, so that welfare is not a substitute for good employment and decent jobs…

Today in Britain almost three million men and women and almost one and half million children live in families that are going to work and are still not able to escape poverty.

People doing the right thing, trying to support themselves and their children.

The last Labour government took action on this, and was right to provide tax credits for those in work. 

But we didn’t do enough to tackle Britain’s low wage economy, a low wage economy that just leaves the taxpayer facing greater and greater costs subsidising employers…

We will do everything in our power to promote the living wage.

If local councils can say “if you want a contract with the council then you need to pay the living wage,”  then central government should look at doing that too.

Absolutely right. But his point was embarrassingly undermined by his choice of venue. Despite Labour having 100% control of the council, Newham is not a Living Wage Accredited Employer.

This is a disgrace. Our councillors should be embarrassed. And ashamed.

Another kind of video surveillance

6 Jun

Not content with having his own private uniformed police force patrolling the streets of Newham, Sir Robin Wales has now set up his own Internet monitoring group. This special team of ‘enforcement officers’ spends its time watching YouTube videos as part of a “crackdown” (arrggghh!) on gang culture.

A report on the BBC website says this has been going on since January and 500 videos have been identified, of which YouTube has agreed to remove 76.

You have to wonder how much this is costing and whether it is in the least bit effective. Taking down just 76 videos isn’t much a success rate out of the 500 this team found – clearly YouTube has a more robust understanding of the concept of freedom of speech than our mayor. And how many hours of YouTube did they have to watch to find those?

The mayor says this is being done to “reduce publicity” for gangs, but it looks to me like the start of a very dangerous and slippery slope. Today it’s gang-related videos, tomorrow who knows… political criticism of the council?

In these times of financial constraint, is this really what people expect the council to be spending its money on?

The crowning irony though is that the same mayor that is trying to take down tiny amounts of Internet video is busily collecting hundreds of hours of footage of ordinary people going about their daily business via his massive CCTV network.

UPDATE: I have submitted an FOI request to Newham council about the costs of this new YouTube monitoring unit: