Getting around Hackney in 2011 – The good and bad

National Rail and Transport for London (TFL) recently released their performance reports for the period of July to September 2010.  For Hackney, this information is pertinent as most residents get about, using at least one if not more modes of public transport.

The reports look at rail services by train operators: Heathrow Express, C2C, Chiltern, South Western Trains, London Overground, Southeastern, First Great Western, London Midland, Southern, National Express East Anglia and First Capital Connect (FCC) and Buses, London Underground, Docklands Light Railway, Tramlink, Dial-a-ride and river services and cycling.

The reports are set in quarters, April to June, July to September, October to December and January to March. Transport services begin their ‘quarters’ in line with the financial year, with quarter one being from April to June.  Figures compare the previous year’s quarter to date.

The headline figures show that FCC’s performance for lateness or cancellations has declined since last year and that both London Midlands and Heathrow Express have improved. Services that arrived on time saw London Overground (LO), C2C and London Midlands improving with LO seeing more than a 5% improvement.  Getting to Westfield in West London from Hackney is beginning to look better by train.

This year, Hackney has seen the loss of two of the three bendy bus services with the 38 and 149 seeing the return of the ‘double decker’.  The 73 bendy bus remains in service until the contract renewal for this route.  As a regular user of all, I have seen journey times increase on the 38 and 149 and not simply due to road works or traffic but because the buses have one entry door.  More time is spent at bus stops picking up passengers.  Those pushing buggies now fight their way past other standing passengers to make their way to the ‘buggy area’, which is opposite the exit door. Placing this criticism to one side, TFL’s reporting on bus services show that performance has improved since last year.

Dial-a-ride which is used by community members whose mobility needs make it too difficult for them to use the main services, has continuously under performed and although they are showing signs of improving, they undertook just over a thousand less journeys this year.  This service is for the most vulnerable members of our community and when these fail to deliver, it leaves the vulnerable and elderly at a loss and unless friends or family step in to help with transport needs,  they are left at home – sometimes alone.

While London Underground has experienced an increase in waiting times on almost all the tube lines, with the District, Jubilee and Victoria lines leading in the poor performance chart, in contrast, the Northern Line, which is often referred to as the misery line, has seen a slight improvement since last year.

On the roads, cycling continues to outstrip the expected forecast figures and these reports are no doubt influenced by the launch of the Barclay Bike Hire.  For cars, road speeds on average continue to be less than 20 MPH and this is on top of congestion charging and planned road works.  The tube strikes on 7 September appear to have also increased road journey times on London’s red routes.

The reports look promising but if you find you are dissatisfied with your transport and find that the transport company are not taking you, or your complaint seriously, we can refer ourselves to London TravelWatch.  LTW is a consumer organisation that ensures the transport companies uphold their promise to deliver good value for money transport services.

Although not often mentioned, those in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance (for more than thirteen weeks), can apply for the concession card.  This will give about a 50% reduction in bus fares for the card holders.

With fare rises already implemented this January,  and many facing the new year without employment, transport costs and quality of services are likely to affect us all.

Ensure your voice counts and engage with the mystery shoppers as they canvas the services to obtain your views.

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