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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

New Bus for London in service

On Monday 27th February the New Bus for London did enter service on route 38 on a journey which commenced just after midday from Hackney Central Station.

LT2 was delivered at the weekend and prepared for service for today. Its first journey was fully loaded and attracted many positive comments from passengers and onlookers. It operated until about 2000.

A door problem interrupted its first journey but was rectified and it completed its duty. It will remain in service all week although there are some other programmed activities as well.

The others from the prototype batch will arrive over the next few weeks and follow LT2 into service. A project of this complexity will always have issues to resolve and the point of the prototype running is to expose those issues and get them fixed. Whilst a separate vehicle has undergone thousands of miles of test track testing, it is only the operation in real London service which will show us how the bus performs.

This is a fitting place to thank everyone who worked so hard to bring the project to this point. The team in TfL and everyone at Wrights to built and delivered the vehicles. It has come a long way since the project was launched in July 2008. In December 2009 Wrights were awarded the contract and only two years later delivered a working prototype.

Thanks to Graham Smith for today's photo of LT2 in service.

Yesterday's blog about the return of Steam on the Underground produced an astonishing 7500 hits. By far and away the highest ever. Thanks and welcome to all my readers!


Sunday, 26 February 2012

Return of steam on the Underground

30587 in steam at Baker Street Station
It isn't every night you get the chance to do this!

Last night we carried out a test designed to demonstrate the feasibility of running a steam locomotive on the London Underground for its 150th anniversary in 2013.

Locomotive Met no 1 and the Metropolitan first class 'Jubilee' coach 353 are currently being restored and fundraising is underway. Restoration of both vehicles is progressing and the London Transport Museum is overseeing both the fundraising and the restoration projects.

To have a working steam locomotive on the Underground presents significant challenges and last night after end of traffic a special train undertook some proving runs. Beattie 30587 was the steam locomotive used. It is owned by the National Railway Museum and was built in 1874. It was coupled to 1923 Metropolitan Electric loco 'Sarah Siddons' which provided a viewing platform, and between two battery locomotives and wagons carrying water and coal.

It left Lillie Bridge depot after 0100 and ran from Earl's Court at 0135 via the District line to Edgware Road. After a stop it then proceeded to Baker Street. At Baker Street the loco was run with protracted steam venting whilst heat and smoke levels in the station were tested. Later it shunted east to west and ran back to Edgware Road. Other trains - composed of S stock and C77 stock - ran around the steam loco train testing the effect on passing trains. With the tests complete the train ran back to Lillie Bridge via Earl's Court.

All went very well. But the sight and sound of a steam locomotive on the Underground was pure magic. It is, of course some 40 years since there was any steam propulsion on the Underground and then of course for engineering/permanent way reasons. The last passenger train hauled by steam here was in 1905.

A truly historic night out!

Saturday, 11 February 2012


Some of the major physical manifestations of Crossrail are now very visible.

Last week I was able to go and see the first of the Tunnel Boring Machines which is currently being (re-)assembled at the Royal Oak portal. You can easily see it from  the Great Western Main Line and it is on the site of the old Westbourne Park Bus Garage Base.

Constructed by Harrenknecht AG these eight machines are the 'Rolls Royce' of TBMs. At £10m each they weigh 1000 tonnes. They are a moving factory, digging their way through the earth at the front and pressing into place the tunnel segments at the rear. Next month this machine will be pushed into place and the drive to Farringdon (Drive X) will start. Behind it a second machine will be delivered from Tilbury Docks to start work on the second tunnel.

In time further machines will start from near Canning Town in the opposite direction towards Farringdon (Drive Y), and two more from Pudding Mill Lane to Stepney Green. Lastly two TBMs will dig from Plumstead to North Woolwich.

The scale of the machine can be seen from the photo - the external diameter is 7.1m - and that's me on the right.

Across at Paddington this weekend the taxicab road on the west side of the station has been closed for the last time. This area forms part of the Crossrail station. The associated side entrances to the station are also closed at this time as is Eastbourne Terrace. Originally it was envisaged that this road would remain open in a limited way but it was discovered that this would double the length of time needed so a two year complete closure has been agreed. All bus routes have ben diverted.

A new drop off and pick up area has been fashioned on the east side of the station. and this photo shows it in the last stages of construction earlier this week. Access is from the Bishops Bridge - it was build ready to accept the new connecting road. The centre of gravity of the station thus moves very much towards the Grand Union canal.

Later this year further changes at Paddington will be made to deal with the significant numbers of Olympic Games family members arriving and departing on the Heathrow Express.


Sunday, 5 February 2012


I hope Mark Kehoe doesn't mind me using this photo
from last night in Whitehall
This is a tribute to the many hundreds of our people who have worked day and night this weekend to keep London moving.

From the news you might have thought there had been a major catastrophe and some significant neglect.

So, for the record, we knew the snow was coming from the excellent weather forecasts we get and we were prepared. This includes extensive stocks of grit for the roads and teams ready to spread it. We are working closely with our colleagues in TfL and at the Highways Agency, National Rail, BAA and so on.

So before the snow arrived gritting was underway and this includes bus routes and access to garages. It did come down in London quite quickly but in general we kept services moving. Towards the end of the night some suburban roads became impassable - not just due to snow but due to abandoned or accident-damaged vehicles.

On the Underground the outer ends of the Central and Jubilee lines became blocked but even at midnight 91% of the service was running. Bus and rail staff kept going to the end of service. During the night de-icing trains ran and the night bus network operated broadly as usual. Again some outer London issues meant there were some diversions and curtailments.

Gritting was repeated during the night. But the issue here is that grit needs to be moved about to be effective and on Sunday mornings traffic is very light. As a result it took a while for its melting properties to take effect. Nevertheless at 0630 all of London's major roads were open as were most of the other roads in Central London and the suburbs.

As London Underground opened up its service there were again some troubles in the more exposed areas but all services came on stream well, as did the Docklands Light Railway after technical hitch at the start.

As I said on BBC Radio and LBC today London was 'open for business' and whether you were travelling on buses, trains, or in your car provided you gave yourself a little more time you could carry on as normal today.

During the day most of the snow turned to slush and so in case temperatures fell below freezing and turned to black ice the gritters were back out late afternoon and during Sunday night.

The media did its best to portray this as poorly planned. In fact the effects were minimised by the great work by hundreds of people. The bus drivers, train operators, station staff, gritting gangs and back office people who worked throughout to keep things going, keep them open and get the message out to London.

The media might have looked everywhere for someone to blame but without any luck. All our people did an outstanding job and that includes those who work for our extended family of contractors of course.

Thank you all for everything you did and as a result we are looking forward to as near normal Monday morning peak hour as we could have hoped for.