Northern Line and Blanche Nevile

Briefing on the Northern Line. My poor old local tube line – so much trouble in running reliably. So – London Underground and Tubelines put together a presentation to brief the interested in what they are going to do. Basically two main things are happening – short-term and long-term. Firstly – reliability during off-peak hours. They are tackling this by changing the pattern of running between the different line options. Without boring you with details – the outcome should be reliable trains every three to four minutes (I think) through the day – which is good news. No more 8 or 12 minute gaps. Hurrah! And that should come in this September. No change at peak times – but they say that better running during the day will mean that problems in the day that would have knocked on into the evening rush hour will be mitigated before the evening and so will benefit the rush hour too.

In the long term – work on the infrastructure, track and signal. This will mean the by 2011 we will have about 25% more capacity with more trains running and lots of stations upgraded – sadly not Highgate yet (personal interest).

The bad news – as ever it was – is that this increase in capacity that we are paying through the nose for (fares on the tube being amongst the highest in the world) will only cope with the projected increase in passenger numbers as London’s population grows over coming years. So – the overcrowding will not get better at peak hours despite all this improvement. This was one of the arguments I had many times with the Government when the PPP was coming in. It was always the way it was contracted by the Government. So – in true tradition – I told you so.

Evening sees me going to Blanche Nevile (the deaf school that Labour were threatening to close) for a meeting with governors, parents, officers of the council, deaf children and assorted interested parties. It was a fascinating meeting to attend as the mingle of deaf and hearing exactly replicated proper integration – rarely experienced, but what Blanche Nevile is all about.

First the officers presented – well nothing. Ian Bailey told us that because of the local elections he couldn’t really say anything. Except he was quite clear there were ‘no proposals to close Blanche Nevile’. And a note from Charles Adje – Leader of the Council (for the moment) read out that there were no plans to close Blanche Nevile. So – you might have wondered why we had all bothered. Why did I write my column in the Ham & High to spark this off? Why the Ham & High’s news story – deaf school to be axed? Well, I had based my column on a leaked letter from the Director of Children’s Services at Haringey Council – Sharon Shoesmith – to the Chair of Governors, Judy Downey. In black and white it states that the school is no longer viable and goes on to say that there may be a proposal to close Blanch Nevile.

I am long enough in the tooth to know that despite the protestations of officers and Labour Leader Charles Adje – saying ‘there are no proposals’ does not mean there are no proposals. What it means in Haringey speak is that there are no finalised proposals that we are prepared to put on the table in an open way and discuss with parents, governors and staff. I have been told before there were ‘no proposals’ to sell off residential care homes like Honeywood. And then Honeywood is closed and sold.

So – the reason I ‘outed’ Labour’s secret machinations – is to make sure they are put in a position where they cannot close this wonderful, wonderful school by stealth. And the meeting was fantastic – from Chair of Governors, to Head, to Staff Governor, to parent, to teacher governors to deaf children – they all made the resounding case for keeping and loving and being proud of this exemplar school.

So – my hope is – that now the Council will start talking properly and honestly to the school. The cat is out of the bag – and we are all there to fight for the best future for the children – as that is what really matters.