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Thursday, August 26, 2004

Sex and drugs and delays to all destinations

So, Geoff flew off to Amsterdam at 6.30 this morning to score some charlie and have sex with hookers. At least I THINK that's what he said - maybe it was "see my mate who gave me 50p". Whatever.

I was walking through Greenwich last night (as you do) and I got a phone call from the very same Geoff who started telling me about a "one under" (person under a train) at Liverpool Street on the Central line yesterday morning. Of course, poor old Geoff gets the Central line from White City every day and apparently the service was still in a mess at 6pm. He was incredulous as to how the line could still be in a mess several hours after the incident. "Surely you just scrape them off the track and start running again". My sentiments exactly.

Now although we all complain about these delays, this is where line controllers really earn their money. They have to decide how many trains to take out of service to ease congestion whilst making sure there are enough trains to fit all the passengers (sorry, customers) on. They are helped by the existence of reversing sidings at Liverpool Street and Marble Arch as well as one to the west of the remains of British Museum station. These enable trains to run from Liverpool Street westbound to Marble Arch and then turn round and come back, effectively acting as a central area shuttle service.

The same system cannot, however be applied to the area of railway track south of London Bridge mainline station. Yesterday morning a truck hit a railway bridge near New Cross station and drove off without reporting it. The problem is that this bridge carries the main line from Kent via Lewisham and any closure of the tracks will cause chaos. So they closed the tracks - well they had to really. There was a huge lump of bricks missing from the supporting arch!

Now, the area between Lewisham and London Bridge is very congested at the best of times in the morning - I know this because I catch the 06.59 from New Cross to London Bridge every day and we always crawl very slowly through South Bermondsey as we wait for the trains ahead to clear the station. Well, you can imagine what happened when they re-opened the bridge and all the trains waiting south of New Cross tried to get into London Bridge. The problem is that they're not the only trains wanting to go there.

Between New Cross and London Bridge three other lines run in and join the main section of track - the Greenwich branch, the New Cross Gate branch and the one that comes up from Victoria (via Queenstown Road). That's a lot of trains in the rush hour and that's why northbound Thameslink services don't run through London Bridge between 07.16 and 09.30 - there's simply not enough room and priority is given to South Eastern trains.

Here's some good advice - avoid London Bridge like the plague after 4pm. In fact, avoid it altogether unless you're a calm individual who can handle waiting ages for trains in a sea of people and then standing up in very crowded carriages when you get on - if you get on. I don't use London Bridge on the way home. Instead, I get the DLR to Deptford Bridge which takes 23 minutes from Bank and runs on time 99.9% of the time as you'd expect with computer controlled trains. Honestly - it's the most reliable piece of railway track in London.

Anyway, enough of this crap. Today's picture is one I took as I walked through Greenwich Park at dusk yesterday. The building in the middle is the Royal Observatory and the green line is not a Pink Floyd concert but a laser which is fired into the sky along the Greenwich Meridian. So you too can have one of those Homer Simpson moments as you stand beneath it saying "Look, I'm in the same timezone as you, now I'm an hour behind you, now I'm in the same timezone as you again" before someone slaps you for being an idiot.

Quite spooky isn't it? (I promise tomorrow's entry won't be about commuting!)



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