Tag Archives: Boris Johnson

‘Brixton Experience’: Saturday 26 November

The Brixton Market Traders Federation is launching a month-long celebration of Brixton market with a big event on Saturday 26 November. Around 40 local businesses will set up stalls in the market, representing four categories – food, fashion, creative arts and media, and lifestyle. The businesses must be based within a 400m radius of the station and will include high-street shops as well as independent ones. Named the ‘Brixton Experience’ (bit cringe?), the month-long series of events is funded by the Mayor of London’s High Street Support Scheme Fund (a post-riots initiative to get London businesses back on their feet). It will also include business clinics run by Lambeth Enterprise and workshops with local makers from Makerhood.

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The South London Line

Natalie Keeble reports on the possible closure of the South London train line, which runs between Victoria and London Bridge

Residents of Lambeth and Southwark are being urged to voice their opinions on the planned closure of a busy commuter train in a last ditch attempt to save it. The Labour Assembly member for the area sent out letters to show her ‘concern’ and to ask residents for their support. The inner ‘South London Line’ that runs between Victoria and London Bridge is set to be axed in 2012.

The current service, which runs twice an hour, allows residents to travel from Wandsworth Road or Clapham High Street to Victoria in just six minutes.

Valerie Shawcross has written to residents in the Clapham area to get a better picture of the extent to which withdrawing the line will affect them. She has asked how it will disrupt their work and leisure activities and whether they work in Victoria or the West End. This information will be compiled in order for Shawcross and her colleagues to “understand the need for services at the station, and, if necessary, press for improvements or changes.”

She has also set up an online petition for the cause, which already has 3,624 signatures, and a Facebook group with 1,507 members. Residents have been campaigning and protesting since word of the possible closure of the South London Line came about in October 2007.

The South London Line makes a U-shape, also providing a service for commuters in the north part of Lambeth and Southwark; including Denmark Hill, Peckham Rye, Queens Road Peckham and South Bermondsey.

It serves 3 of London’s major hospitals – Kings and the Maudsley at Denmark Hill and Guys at London Bridge. Shawcross is particularly interested to hear from residents who have regular hospital appointments.

Transport for London had been working with London Travelwatch to reduce the impact the closure will have on residents in Lambeth and Southwark. Findings from their initial study indicated that ‘in terms of affordability and value for money’ the most appropriate option was to address the gaps in the service by providing additional stops in long distance services at peak times. They identified the key areas needing services during peak times as Denmark Hill and Peckham Rye and those outside of peak times between Peckham Rye and Wandsworth Road. This would have acted as an appropriate part-replacement service, allowing commuters in Lambeth to travel from Wandsworth Road and Clapham High Street to Victoria.

But then TfL had to announce that due to a reduction in TfL’s transport grant and the Government’s wider cuts, the £900,000 per year funding that was needed for this service could not be put towards this interim solution.

In 2008, Boris Johnson tried to persuade the Government to find the funds to extend the East London line which would have provided an alternative route. At the time Johnson said: ‘I urge you to agree to this £15.5million contribution at the earliest opportunity’, but his pleas were not successful.

Their argument now is that when the London Overground East London Line extension opens next year, passengers will be able to take the train from Clapham High Street to Peckham, Surrey Quays, Hackney and Clapham Junction. They say that ‘commuters can then travel from Clapham Junction to Victoria.’ But the direct link from Clapham to the West End will be lost.

TfL said: “We recognise that this interim proposal does not address the gaps in service at Wandsworth Road and Clapham High Street stations as the trains on the Kent services are usually too long to call at these short platforms.

Unfortunately, we have been unable to find a solution which is affordable and value for money in the current financial climate.”

Southeastern, the train company that operates the current South London Line service, are in the process of carrying out their own assessment to determine if the proposed service changes could be incorporated within the current timetable and if there would be any associated costs.

If their analysis concludes that the proposal could be progressed, TfL have offered to work with them and Passenger Focus to ensure the views of passengers are considered when determining whether to take them forward in 2012. TfL have also pledged to address the situation in the longer term, by pressing for the full proposed service package to be specified in the next Southeastern franchise at the appropriate time.

With the forthcoming six-day tube strike approaching, the South London Line will be in demand more than ever. If the service is withdrawn in 2012, Clapham commuters won’t have this alternative means of transport when a tube strike next occurs. South London residents may have to ride the cycle highway instead.

Commuters from across Lambeth and Southwark have their say:

David Gordon: “As a frequent user of the 06:53 from Denmark Hill to Victoria, I’m most upset by the proposed closure. Once the train companies bring South London into the 21st century by accepting Oyster PAYG, there will be more, not fewer customers. And of course the Mayor’s cancellation of the Peckham to King’s Cross tram just makes us even more isolated. I’m fed up of being a transport Cinderella!”

Anthony Wright: “I can’t believe they are doing this. It’s mad. There aren’t enough trains as it is!”

Eva Szatmari: “What happens to those hundreds of pounds every single Londoner pays to TFL each month? Why do we have to commute in lesser conditions than animals are transported?”

Martina Van: “Why oh why, given that South London is already poorly served by the tube network, is not everything being done to enhance and increase train transport? It simply makes no sense. When we attempted to have Loughborough Junction included in development plans we were told “not enough foot fall”. I suggest they a) see the platform every morning – and the ensuing cattle carts we are forced to push onto and b) provide the trains and the people will use them! They’re so shortsighted. To regenerate an area, it is crucial to provide transport links. The area around Loughborough Junction, Herne Hill, Camberwell still has affordable housing close to central London for key workers and plenty of essential staff that don’t work in the city with the accompanying salaries. If they could have decent, reliable transport this area would be perfect for people to live in. The bus network is simply not good enough. For example – it takes 12 minutes to get from Loughborough Junction to Blackfriars by train and 40 minutes by bus.”


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Point of view: “Today I went on strike for the first time”

A London Underground Customer Services Assistant tells us why he’s striking today

Photo by tompagenet

Today I went on strike for the first time. This is something that a few years ago I would have found a ludicrous idea. To me, striking has always conjured up images of miners fighting with the police, French farmers burning sheep, and ‘Bloody Arthur Scargill’ as my Dad used to affectionately call him. Like most children, for many years my opinions of the world mirrored those of my parents. Strikers are troublemakers. If they don’t like their jobs, tough, who does? Either put up with it or leave.

My attitude towards the unions began to change last year when I joined London Underground as a Customer Service Assistant (CSA). During training, my class and I were approached by reps from the TSSA and RMT who explained their role and how they could be of use to us. The benefits offered seemed useful: free legal advice, accident benefits, and more. I opted to join the RMT simply because it was the larger of the two and the rep hung around afterwards to chat to us about the jobs we were about to start. Despite my obvious reservations I knew I could always cancel my membership if I wasn’t happy with their actions.

This nearly happened a few months later when an ongoing pay dispute threatened to boil over into a strike. London Underground Limited (LUL) had offered an increase which the unions had rejected and strike action seemed imminent. I totally disagreed with the TSSA/RMT stance, feeling that asking for more in the current financial climate was unreasonable especially as I felt we already got a good wage for our job. I worked much harder for a lot less money in my previous job as a warehouse manager. But as well as the issue of whether I felt a strike was financially justified there was another question to deal with. In this case, could I justify inconveniencing the very people I’m paid to help? The answer was a very definite no. If we had gone on strike I would have been too ashamed to look at our customers in the face the next day.

This brings me to today’s topic. It may seem hypocritical but I feel the current strike actions (and the ones which may follow) are the only way we have left to ensure our customers continue to get the service they pay for. LUL are intent on cutting nearly 2000 jobs. A large chunk of these are front line staff who customers have the most interaction with. They are the people who sell you tickets, help you when those tickets don’t work at the gate, top up your Oyster cards and all the other things passengers take for granted. London Underground is quite unique in how many front line staff it has, as anyone who has travelled on the Paris Metro or New York Subway will testify. This is something which LUL were proud to tell me when I joined the company and which Boris Johnson said he would ensure remained the case when he ran for Mayor.

If these cuts go ahead, travelling on the Tube will not only be less convenient but less safe. LUL claim this won’t be the case but that makes no sense. There will be fewer staff on duty which means fewer people to deal with situations such as unattended packages, fire alerts and customer accidents. Part of the cutback plan is to shut some of the quieter ticket offices on the network because they aren’t financially viable. I believe the extra security and peace of mind customers are given when passing through a staffed ticket hall late at night compared to an empty one is worth any loss the office may be making.

I feel I will be letting London Underground customers down if I don’t try to stop that from happening. Obviously I also don’t wish to see any of my colleagues made redundant (thankfully my job is currently safe) but my biggest motivation for giving up a day’s pay today was to try to ensure London Underground is able to continue providing the service customers expect from ‘A world class tube for a world class city’.


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Oona King vs Ken Livingstone: The battle comes to Brixton

The vote for London mayor might be two years away, in 2012, but on September 24 this year the Labour Party candidate will be selected. This week, Oona King visited Brixton as part of her campaign to wrest the candidacy from Ken Livingstone. Read a review of Oona King’s meeting ‘with the Brixton faithful’ here at the Greenwich-based 853 blog.

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Doctor, doctor…I need my windows draught proofing

If you belong to the Brixton Low Carbon Zone, make sure you get a ‘Green Doctor’ around to take a look at your house. The new team of five set to work this month to advise residents on eco-living, from how to save money by not wasting food to good recycling practices. The five ‘green doctors’ were all previously unemployed and have been trained by Lambeth’s First Future Jobs fund in energy assessment and draught proofing. Although it is a London-wide project and so not part of the co-op council strategy, it follows the same idea – get the community to work together to tackle problems. But for a real and positive impact on the environment, we’re still going to need strong action from government…or we’ll soon be facing fines from Europe of up to £300 million…

For more info go here

The green doctors

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