Fortis Green by-election

Knocking on doors in the Fortis Green by-election.

It seems pretty warm and friendly on the doorstep to me. I think our long campaign and work on both the 603 bus and the reopening of Muswell Hill police station have left a favourable impression. That view is further helped by Labour trying to claim these as their victories. Ask the original resident who started the bus campaign how much Labour MPs and the Labour council helped him!

As for the police station – at one point they were doing everything they could to stop it. I remember being told by a senior policeman that Labour were threatening all sorts if they didn’t stop me chairing a huge public meeting on the issue. Rather than lobbying the police to get the police station’s front counter reopened, Labour were trying behind the scenes to derail the campaign completely.

Anyway – polling day next Thursday 11th November. I have a fundamental belief that people recognise the real situation and won’t be fooled. We’ll soon see…

603 Campaigning

Spent portion of day delivering bundles of leaflets to people who had volunteered to deliver them in their street. The leaflet is about the Muswell Hill to Swiss Cottage bus (603) trial which is drawing to an end and Transport for London will take note of how many representations are made to their Customer Service department. I know – and everyone in Muswell Hill knows – how much we all want a full service – so hopefully TfL will be inundated. Lord knows – they need to be as they and Ken will do everything they can to avoid having to fund a full service. I will campaign until they deliver – which may be for all eternity.

603 meeting

Stakeholders meeting for the 603 bus route. TfL are going to be reviewing the route’s success and viability and possible expansion to a full service in the summer. I have a slight dispute with them in that the email I had received from Peter Hendy (TfL supremo on this) implies that the review will be ongoing until August/September and on that basis I am encouraging people to send in views to Customer Services at TfL of which Peter has said they will take notice as it is a criteria for judging the success etc of the route. The officer at the meeting wants them in now. I manage to persuade him to give us an extra three weeks – not enough – but better than nothing.

There is still a great deal of disagreement about how TfL assess the viability of the route and expansion proposals which I won’t bore you with. They are wrong and the campaigners and me are right! We all know how much a full service is needed and what it will enable people to do without a car. They argue it’s no more or less needed than any other route that local people want anywhere in London. The campaign goes on!

The 603 bus route

The fabled trial bus service from Muswell Hill to Swiss Cottage (via Highgate and Hampstead) is back in the news again.

Labour have performed another u-turn – after turning down a full service and then attacking the use of public funds for the trial, they now say they’re back in favour of the route after all. Who knows what further change of heart next week might bring!

Anyway, to add to the pressure to expand the service to a full one I’ve been running an SMS poll on the issue. It seems to be very popular with kids who use the service – lots of votes coming in!

(If you want to vote yourself – text BUS YES or BUS NO to 07795 328 405 to vote on whether or not you think the service should be expanded to a full one. Only one vote per phone number will be counted.)

Highgate Society AGM

Drinks first before the AGM. It was great to have a chat to everyone and Highgate is such a hotbed of issues – from farmers markets in Pond Square to controlled parking!

Then into the AGM, I was very pleased that the Chair in his speech made reference to the importance of the new 603 bus route from Muswell Hill to Swiss Cottage.

Having campaigned for six years for this – it is great that everyone is behind it. Even Labour, having given no support to my efforts over the years and having attacked it (and the public funding without which the trial would never have been launched), have lately realised that it is popular and have started campaigning with a petition

for its expansion to a full service.

Naturally, I welcome their support, but am underwhelmed by their conversion on the road to political Damascus. It would of course be a bit more convincing were it not for the fact that it was the Labour Mayor who decided not to have the full service in the first place. Strangely enough, Labour aren’t mentioning that!

I was also delighted that another of my campaigns – to do with problems of unreported crime – also struck a chord with residents and was supported by a contribution asking members of the Highgate Society to report crimes, however minor.

Peter Hendy

Dinner with Peter Hendy, who is the Director of Surface Transport for Transport for London. His portfolio is gargantuan and covers buses, taxis, river transport, trams, roads, traffic, congestion charging – in fact everything except rail and tube.

We have met many times over the four years of the first term of London Government to discuss the many issues which hold us both in sway.

We have a delightful evening hashing over the huge range of transport issues in London. Last time we did this, he actually walked the proposed route of the trial 603 Muswell Hill to Swiss Cottage bus route on his way to the restaurant to meet me – just to see what the residents of Southwood Lane were kicking up about.

What I like about Peter is this hands on approach to his empire. If I have gone into the media saying something he doesn’t like or agree with – he will ring me to have a go at me. Nothing wrong with robust disagreement or challenge. I reckon he could go on to become Transport Commissioner for TfL at some future date – only time will tell. We could do worse.

New bus at last

Bucketing with rain, pitch black – but the sun was shining inside as I ventured on the inaugural voyage of the 603, Muswell Hill to Swiss Cottage bus route.

It was fantastic. Loads of kids, parents waiting on the Broadway – and the bus turned up only a minute after the 7.30am schedule. There was quite a party atmosphere on the bus and lots of happy people, despite the appalling traffic delays created by a combination of foul weather and road works on Highgate West Hill tailing back to the roundabout at the Gatehouse Pub in Highgate.

I got off in Highgate to go and kick my own children off to school. But I gather the bus was quite behind time on the first run. However, later that day I got a message from a local mother whose boy had caught the bus back in the afternoon from Highgate to Muswell Hill saying, ‘there was a load of South Hampstead and UCS kids on the bus and it was packed’. So I guess it will build and be a successful trial – the challenge being to then get it expanded to a full route which is what everybody wants.

But a great day for all who campaigned over the six years to get this far.