603 bus

The bigwigs from Transport for London came to Parliament to meet with the London Lib Dem MPs to answer specific questions from them. Quite a line up! Tim O’Toole (tube), David Brown (surface transport), Ian Brown (overground) and the Commissioner for Transport – Peter Hendy.

Needless to say my constant refrain is ‘gissa bus’ – and specifically the extension to a full time route for the 603. What is like trying to get blood out of a stone is the cycle where I ask, I get told that a full time route is not financially viable – but then they won’t say what demand level will make it viable. However, today after pushing and pushing the point, David Brown has said that he will finally get back to me with some sort of figure. I could see scepticism in his eye – because he is convinced that the model TfL use to assess viability predicts demand accurately. I say bollocks to that. Anyway – I want to try and prove their model wrong. So – if they say 10 passengers per hour or 20 or whatever – I will find them!

Local news: play areas, 603 bus and Post Offices

Just been updating my website with news stories from the last week, and here are three highlights:

Brian Paddick on the campaign trail in Haringey

Lynne Featherstone, Brian Paddick and Monica Whyte promote a green alternative to plastic bagsBrian Paddick came to Hornsey & Wood Green and we visited a number of hotspots. The area is becoming a bit of a regular haunt of his – he was here during the Highgate by-election too. This time I showed him Wood Green cross – which is the area that local residents in the Wood Green area are most worried about crime wise. There stands a disused and vacant and deteriorating police box. Originally conceived and procured to ease peoples’ fears by having police on the spot – it never really opened for enough hours for anyone to have the slightest confidence that there would be a police person in the box. So it failed. Such a stupid waste for what was a good idea.

We went to Alexandra Park station (Oyster needed / on the way); Ally Pally – to show Brian the historic building which Labour Haringey first built up a debt (for which we locals had to pay) and then tried to sell on in a highly controversial deal – stopped at the moment by a local group taking Labour Haringey to court; then off to the 603 bus route in Muswell Hill where Brian pledged to extend the operating hours of this much loved route.

In Crouch End he promoted the Crouch End Traders ‘Bag for Life’ and posed in front of the Clock Tower whilst he did various interviews with the local press. He tried to squeeze in Weston Park Post Office – but in the end Monica Whyte (GLA candidate and local councillor) and David Winskill (local councillor) went there to meet a disabled lady whose life will be ruined if Labour’s proposed Post Office closures go ahead.

And I went to visit Bonnie – living with husband, two children and sister in two rooms in terrible state – but more of this story in a while. I am on the warpath for this one.

Future of the 603 bus is at stake

Once more the long fought for, hard won – but still inadequate – 603 Muswell Hill to Swiss Cottage bus route is in the frame! Having met with Peter Hendy, Commissioner of Transport a couple of weeks ago – and harangued him over having more operating hours for the 603 (as I always do) – post meeting it transpired that a review is in train (or in bus to be more accurate).

So I have written to Peter Hendy as below – and would encourage everyone who agrees that the 603 should firstly be retained, and secondly have its hours of operations expanded to either write to me at House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA or email me at featherstonel@parliament.uk and I will pass on all responses to Peter Hendy.

They consult with stakeholders (local authority etc) but if you ask me – it’s the people who use or need this route who are the real stakeholders – so make sure you have your say too!

Dear Peter

At our recent meeting when I raised the issue extending the hours of operation of the 603 (as I always do!) you said that the route would be coming up for review and that you would let me know more about it. So I thank you for following up on that discussion – but – the information subsequently passed to me by your office alarmed me.

Far from ‘coming up for review’ it would seem that the 603 is actually under review at the moment. The message I received says that views of stakeholders have been sought already.

Views of stakeholders like the Local Authority and other organizations (which I assume are the sort of stakeholders referred to) are undoubtedly important – but surely in this case – where the route is a response to local peoples’ need (only met to a small extent by a school hours bus) – Transport for London would want to know from those local people what demand is there for both the existing hours and extensions to those hours.

I would like your assurance that no decisions will be taken before I have had the chance to inform my constituents of the review – and given them the opportunity to feed in their views. And I would like an assurance from you that you will take their views on board.

As you know, I believe that this service is highly valuable and personally believe it should be extended through the day and evening.

I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,

Lynne Featherstone MP
Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Hornsey and Wood Green

Meeting Peter Hendy

Wednesday evening met with Peter Hendy, Commissioner of Transport for London. My three asks were: extending the 603 bus route to run all day and evening (as always); the transport issues around the new London Health Trust plans including the polyclinics (we need to ensure there are good public transport links for any such); and whether he would think about encouraging car clubs (where people share cars) via a congestion charge incentive.

So – number 1 – the 603 bus from Muswell Hill to Swiss Cottage. Well – the possibly good news is that it comes up for review next year. So our job is to make sure we feed into that review with thousands of requests to extend the operating hours from its current school run times only. People keep asking me about this – so we will have to ramp up our campaign again.

On number 2 – well it was interesting – because there are huge transport implications in the proposals to restructure health services. Firstly – the need to access in emergency for stroke, heart attack and major trauma the proposed super-specialist hospitals. Surely travel time trials from every part of London need to be done to establish the worst scenario time taken when traffic is bad and no air ambulance available? If we can’t get the victims to the right place in time – then this plan won’t work.

Secondly, the establishment of polyclinics – which are to serve up to 50,000 residents – may raise big transport issues. Will people be able to get to the polyclinics in reasonable time and at reasonable cost?

Peter was saying that this could be an issue and was going to arrange to meet with the Government to talk over the transport implications. Hurrah!

On number 3 – yes – Peter is considering how best to encourage the expansion of car clubs – so he agreed to look at the congestion charge in that regard – but I think any discount will be along the lines of discounts to people within the zone but not outside. Anyway – it is in and on his mind.

Update: you can read my article subsequent article about polyclinics here.

Abolition of Parliament

Day begins filming with Channel 4 a program about Sir Ian Blair’s first year in charge of London’s policing. Well – you’ll just have to watch when it comes out – but suffice to say in terms of honeymoon periods, I don’t think he had one.

Today is a mish-mash of meetings etc with the backdrop of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill – the Bill that has been nicknamed the Abolition of Parliament Bill as in its original form it gives sweeping ability to ministers to wipe out all previous legislation without proper Parliamentary debate. Today is the first day of two days of Report Stage. Judging from the avalanche of Government amendments – the penny has dropped and the Government have realised what a pig’s ear they have made out of this Bill. I don’t think anyone disagrees with the need to reform some of the processes to facilitate effective legislative reform. But this Bill was so flawed the Government should never have put it out in the original form.

In the evening meet Peter Hendy (Transport Commissioner for London) who I used to scrutinise when I was Chair of Transport at the London Assembly. I have a couple of issues to harangue him over – and business out the way – we discuss what we know about everyone we know. Peter is a good guy and I am glad he made it to Commissioner. London has some huge challenges ahead – not least Thames Gateway and the North London Line. I am optimistic that we will see a real change in the aspiration of overground rail with this addition to the TfL family. Peter is certainly very excited about its future.

Needless to say I bring up the North Circular – where an inadequate scheme to solve the problem is incessantly delayed. My plea is to get the funding in for the rat-running prevention now. I really don’t see why local residents should suffer endlessly because major schemes fall foul of one thing or another. In the latest case – if there is a public enquiry it could be years before anything goes ahead or not. We want our £4 million now. And just in case Peter was missing my campaigning – I asked him just exactly what I and local people need to do to make TfL extend the 603 bus route throughout the day and evening. What are the criteria? How can we prove we need it? What will persuade him to spend money on this route? I look forward to the answers in due course!

Meeting Ken Livingstone again

Ring Peter Hendy to congratulate him. He has been chosen as the one (out of the two applying) for the job as Transport Commissioner for London, taking over from wiley Kiley. Peter was bus supremo – and we have argued across the transport spectrum for years now. And I still want a full time service on the hard fought for 603! What I always really like about Peter is his hands-on approach.

Whenever I put out a press release that he didn’t like – be it about the ‘free’ bendy buses or the ‘bursting into flames’ bendy buses – or whatever – he would phone me on my mobile and give me hell. Despite our opposite positions – we always got on well and I think he will be a great Commissioner. Look forward to seeing his negotiating style with the government. And – on the occasions when he was wrong – eventually he would admit I was right.

My favourite was over AVL – the system of countdown which tells passenger when the bus will be along and is plotted on a computer. Terrible system – never worked properly. I always told Peter that it was pointless finishing implementing an outmoded useless system across the rest of London (it was half in). Have to say – gave me great pleasure the day he told me I had been right all along. Anyway – he is a good thing and I hope to see London improve under his stewardship.

Sonia from the LSE is shadowing me today as part of ‘LSE Women in Westminster’. She and Mette, my researcher, come to Home Affairs Team meeting. We always run through all the Home Affairs Bills with each of the team responsible for that Bill – both Lords and Commons. Mark Oaten (Shadow Home Secretary) heads the team. Updates on Religious Hatred Bill – coming back for another row I think to the Commons soon; ID cards in trouble for the Government – as may be the Terror Laws soon. The Government seem to be having a go at getting back to 60 days on detention without charge. I trust the Lords will stick to the 28 we conceded in the Commons.

Rush off to Prime Ministers’ Questions (PMQs) next. Will Ming pass the test? Well – his question was on the Soham murders – so the House fell silent. And he was absolutely fine – not that in my view PMQs should have any sway. It’s just a blood sport. I do wonder why jeering, leering and making rude gestures is rated so highly by the boys and the media!

I race to City Hall for a London Day event with my old sparring partner – Ken Livingstone. He gives me a double peck on the cheek and I observe that he is clearly missing me since I left. He denies this assertion and tells me what a terrible thing we have done to that nice Charles. And what’s wrong with a drink anyway? Well – this from the man who claims to get bored at parties and only drank three glasses of chardonnay! Hey, Ho.

The lunch was fine – and then Ken orated. He is a good speaker – something to do with nasal tones and trying to shock. I learned a lot from Ken during my five years as an Assembly Member (only the good bits) so have a lot to thank him for in as much as I learned to keep in mind when I speak the audience outside the room as well as those present. And to be direct!

Ken wittered on for some time about water and desalination – but his surprise announcement was his endorsement of Simon Hughes as LibDem leader. Not sure if that’s the kiss of death for Simon!