I know that many Londoners complain about their public transport. The overcrowding is a problem, of course, and one that I have recently experienced. I’ve seen how often people don’t even try to get on to a Tube or Overground train because there is not even any standing room; not even “room for a small one?”
However, I’d suggest that one thing they could do, in order to feel better about the transport where they live, is to spend a few months outside the capital and then go back to London to see the difference. OK, compared with most other European capitals London’s system could be improved, but let’s judge by British standards. We have many unique qualities but, as we all know, we are not world-famous for efficient public transport.
Last week I was “up in town”, as we yokels say, for a Facebook marketing seminar at the Thistle Marble Arch. The Thursday session finished just before 18:45 and I had to get up to my daughter’s flat in Haringey; some considerable distance, which would require at least one change, whether I went by bus or train. I knew I needed to go east, then north, and I didn’t want to take a bus along Oxford Street as I know how slow that can be on a Thursday, i.e. late-shopping night. As I left the hotel into a side-street, three buses pulled up, all going north; wonderful! One was going to The Angel so I figured that would do as a first leg. Sure enough it got me to Camden Town within 20 mins. Leaping out there, I found a 29 heading north for Haringey, right behind it. So I got on board and was soon at my destination.
I waited less than 30 seconds for both buses. Luck of the Irish, you might say. Maybe, but at that time of the evening you might have had to wait 30 minutes in the city where I live, not 30 seconds. I got a seat both times, I might add.
The next morning, I used trains just for variety. Leaving my daughter’s at 08:00, I was at Haringey Station at 08:02; a southbound train arrived 2 mins later. Changing at Highbury, I walked across the platform to a Victoria Line train two minutes later and then changed at Oxford Circus. I was at Marble Arch station at 08:30. That was less than 30 mins after setting out from Haringey station. Look at the map and you’ll see that was something.
You might like or dislike Ken Livingston’s politics; like or dislike his talent for self-promotion that led to the slogan “Mayor of London” being so ubiquitous. As a non-Londoner, however, I am impressed with how efficiently the capital’s public transport functions. Strikes permitting, Transport for London gets my vote.
Please, please, Ken, now you have some spare time I beg you to come and fix the public transport here!