Mayor’s Question Time, May 2010 – Part Two: …And Overground

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(Editor’s note: selected questions and answers only, and some have been edited for brevity. If any notable questions are missing let me know via the comments and I’ll update.)

In this post: Crossrail. The East London Line, the South London Line and the Barking to Gospel Line. DLR trains, High Speed 2 trains and nuclear waste trains. Farringdon toilets. Freedom Passes. Gatwick Express. And a Wapping Marathon.

Are significant cuts to the proposed lines east of Liverpool Street being considered in the “scoping and definition review” being carried out by Crossrail? — Darren Johnson

Crossrail Ltd is committed to delivering the railway within the agreed £15.9bn funding package. To this end, and in order to ensure best value for money for the taxpayer, Crossrail has been keeping under review a range of ‘value management’ options, with the aim of ensuring that the project can be managed within the cost envelope. These options cover all elements of the proposed railway, including those to the east of Liverpool St. No decisions have been taken and Crossrail Ltd remains committed to delivering the full and agreed scope of the project within the cost envelope. It is also committed to working closely with and listening closely to key stakeholders through an ongoing process of consultation.

How confident are you that Crossrail will be completed on schedule? — Val Shawcross

I am most certainly confident that Crossrail will be completed on schedule. Crossrail Limited has undertaken a comprehensive analysis of all potential projects risks and identified appropriate strategies to address these. These risks will continue to be monitored and scrutinised to ensure that this register remains relevant and the mitigation proposed is appropriate and, should it be necessary, implemented in a timely manner.

What lessons have been learnt from the management of the closure of the East London Line and the replacement services that operated during that time? — John Biggs

I agree that for customers displaced by closures, links to transport hubs are the best option, and the East London Line (ELL) buses did this by feeding in to Whitechapel and Canada Water. This strategy is also the starting point for replacement services during weekend closures. When there is an extended closure, it is always our experience that customers will gravitate to the fastest alternative routes, using other rail or Tube routes, and existing buses. This was the case with the ELL closure as well. In the light of this, TfL made adjustments to both rail replacement and local bus services, based on changes in the number of people using them.

Have all the health and safety issues now been addressed on the East London Line trains? — Caroline Pidgeon

The Class 378 trains meet the requirements of Railway Group Standards for driver only operation.

What caused the delay in running the test timetable on the East London Line? — Caroline Pidgeon

There was no delay in running the test timetable. It was always TfL’s intention to run a service between Dalston Junction and New Cross/New Cross Gate prior to opening the full service on 23 May. The preview service was opened when TfL were ready to do so.

Could the Mayor update the Assembly on the progress being made on the second phase of the East London Line extension to Clapham Junction? — Richard Tracey

Development work for East London Line Phase 2 is progressing well. The contract for the detailed design of the new 1.3 kilometre rail link between the existing South London Line and Surrey Quays has been awarded. The OJEU notice for the main civil construction contract for this element of the scheme was issued in early April, with construction work likely to start towards the end of 2010. Completion is planned for 2012.

On 14 December 2009 you wrote a joint letter with Sir Steve Bullock to Lord Adonis, requesting that he formally approve the additional contribution of £7 million for the immediate construction of a station at Surrey Canal on the East London Line. Have you received any reply from Lord Adonis to this joint letter? If yes, what did it say? — Caroline Pidgeon

I did receive a reply from Sadiq Khan, the former Minister of State for Transport. He noted that there were concerns over the value for money of the station when assessed using the Department for Transport’s standard evaluation methodology, but that discussions were continuing.

Dialogue has indeed continued, because I am very keen to see this station put in place. I have since responded to confirm that TfL and Lewisham have met with DfT officials to address all of the concerns raised by the DfT regarding the new station. I also reiterated the urgency of funding for the station otherwise the scheme will start with passive provision only and is likely to cost more to complete. I hope that the Department now has the reassurance that it needs that the developer has a credible plan and that the station is in fact value for money.

In the Commissioner’s report at the TfL Board Meeting on 24 March 2010 it was stated in relation to the building of Surrey Canal station on the East London that “A commitment from the DfT for an additional £7m funding contribution towards a new station at Surrey Canal Road station has still not yet been received,” and he further stated: “That the timing of DfT’s contribution is now critical to enable more than passive provision.” Considering the urgency of the funding now being agreed for this station what steps are now being taken to ensure this issue is clarified in the next few weeks? — Caroline Pidgeon

TfL and the London Borough of Lewisham officers (as well as the Developer) have met with DfT officials on a number of occasions to address the concerns that they have raised regarding the case for a station at Surrey Canal Road.

TfL and the London Borough of Lewisham officers subsequently wrote to the DfT on 26 April 2010 to reiterate the assurances given at the meetings. The letter requested an urgent and definitive response from Ministers on the station funding, otherwise the scheme will start with passive provision only and is likely to cost more to complete.

When will the final decision be taken about the future of the South London Line? — Val Shawcross

The withdrawal of the South London Line service was proposed in Network Rail’s South London Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) to accommodate the Thameslink Programme works at London Bridge station from 2012 onwards. The RUS was published and adopted by the Office of Rail Regulation in 2008.

The withdrawal of this service was then taken forward by the DfT in their specification for the new South Central franchise (which was subsequently retained by Southern). The specification stated that the South London Line service should be withdrawn from October 2012 when the Thameslink works at London Bridge start.

TfL also gained agreement with the DfT that allowed the proposed East London line phase 2 to Clapham Junction to progress, running as it does along part of the South London line route. As you are aware, TfL is in the process of carrying out a study with London TravelWatch to explore possible mitigation measures to address the gaps in service when the South London line is withdrawn. This study is due to be completed shortly.

Please give the number of letters, emails and other representations which have been made to the Mayor or TfL in support of retaining the South London Line during 2009/10 financial year? — Val Shawcross

The total number of contacts TfL have had in support of the South London line is 60 (during the financial year 09/10). This includes emails, letters and any other communications supporting the South London Line. My office has received some 200 letters/emails in support of the South London line during this period. We have also received 216 automated emails via a local newspaper.

The Barking to Gospel Oak Line User Group was told by TfL Overground that they should channel all their communication through LOROL. However, this body hardly responds to the group’s queries and has complained it is far too busy to converse with them. Can you reassure me and the members of the user group that their correspondence and queries will be being dealt with in a timely manner and receive adequate responses? — Jennette Arnold

I can confirm that TfL and LOROL try to ensure that enquiries from the Gospel Oak Line and other user groups are addressed. I outline below the channels used to liaise with these groups:

  • As part of the Concession Agreement, LOROL is committed to holding Passenger Board meetings. User Groups, including the Gospel Oak Line User group, have been invited to attend these meetings to discuss topics of interest and concerns. The meetings take place every 4 months and the last one was on 11 May.
  • TfL London Rail hosts regular Rail Transport User Group meetings to which all user groups are invited. Representatives from TfL London Rail and LOROL attend these meetings, and it provides the user groups the opportunity to hear operational updates and ask questions.
  • TfL and LOROL also attend meetings organised by the user groups.
  • TfL and LOROL have met with representatives of the groups to discuss particular issues and this has been on an ad-hoc basis e.g. in the context of the planned closures.
  • Written and oral correspondence also takes place. LOROL members of staff frequently answer calls out of hours, and this can be until 10pm.
  • The LOROL Customer Services Team is available to address enquiries every day (between 9am-5pm).

Can you tell me what percentage of DLR trains are now running with three carriages compared to those with two? — John Biggs

Subject to full availability of new vehicles, three-car trains are now scheduled to operate the Bank – Lewisham service which accounts for 14 out of the 45 trains operating the morning peak service i.e. 31 per cent of trains. Further three car services will be provided where there is demand and appropriate resources are available to allow them to be supplied.

The proposed High Speed 2 is planned to go from Euston to Birmingham via Old Oak Common. Do you consider this a strategic route compatible with London moving East with the developments leading from the 2012 Games, the Docklands and Thames Gateway? — John Biggs

Although there is still much work to do on an actual route, the fact remains that Heathrow is located to the west of the City and Birmingham is located to the north west of London. The physical geography of the routing therefore requires a westerly focus. While TfL have worked with the High Speed 2 Ltd company to determine the best location for a terminal in London and found that Euston was the most advantageous – other terminal locations further east, such as Stratford and Liverpool Street were explored, but all had other disadvantages related to geography and cost. Moving the route itself eastwards would also add to the costs, increase journey times and weaken the business case for the route.

A connection at Old Oak Common could enable interchange with Crossrail, providing good connections with Stratford and the Isle of Dogs; it would also facilitate orbital travel through new connections to the London Overground network, including to Barking and Stratford. It is misleading, therefore, to suggest that the proposed route would not benefit east London and its development. It is also important to take account of the substantial transport investment in east London proposed in my recently-published Transport Strategy.

What reassurances or information can you provide to Londoners [on the route of nuclear waste trains from Sizewell] whilst the North London Line is closed, and with the prospect of the route running through the site of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games? Have you liaised with the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency, the Metropolitan Police Service and the relevant Government departments? — Darren Johnson

My previous answer said that the transportation of spent nuclear fuel through London by rail is undertaken by Direct Rail Services, a company owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency. This is regulated and monitored by the Government and therefore falls outside of my jurisdiction. As before, I am therefore unable to confirm if nuclear waste will be transported through London during the 2012 Games. However I have no concerns regarding the transportation of nuclear waste, and have full faith that the government agencies responsible undertake this in a safe manner which poses no risk to Londoners or visitors during the Games. May I suggest your question is better placed to the Government?

When will public toilet facilities for [Farringdon] station be announced? — Jennette Arnold

There are currently no plans for toilets to be incorporated into the new Crossrail areas at Farringdon. However, there is a proposal to improve the existing toilet facilities at Farringdon Underground station, including providing a new accessible toilet as well as refurbishing the existing male and female facilities. The facilities will be available for use when the station is completed at the end of 2011.

[C]ould you give me an update and let me know whether you have any plans to extend the 24 hour Freedom Pass to national rail? — Caroline Pidgeon

I still wish to see the 24 hour Freedom Pass extended to National Rail. The timetable for analysis I outlined in my response 3775/2009 remains essentially intact, though there has been a few weeks delay in accumulating representative data on travel patterns, as a result of the severe weather at the start of the year.

TfL expects to open negotiations with the train operating companies in the next few weeks. However, I have no powers to force the train companies to agree to this, and there is no question of using public funds to pay the companies more than fair compensation for any revenue losses they may incur.

Are you concerned that the replacement trains for the Gatwick Express do not have very good baggage storage facilities compared with the Type 460 train [and] will you take [concerns that trains are often full at Gatwick] up with the train operating company and the Department for Transport? — Caroline Pidgeon

I do not have responsibility for Gatwick Express services, though I am keen to see the best services delivered for Londoners and visitors. However, this is a matter for the operator Southern and the DfT as franchise manager to take ahead.

[W]hat actions that can be taken to facilitate Wapping Station to be open on the day of the [next London Marathon]? — John Biggs

I am pleased to tell you that the London Overground station at Wapping will be open for the Marathon next year.

Written by Totteridge