Brent and Harrow
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Navin Shah GLA Brent & Harrow
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Navin's News for January 2011

The Metropolitan Line: Higher Fares: Stagnant Service

 If, like me, you rely on the Metropolitan Line to commute into London, you may have become increasingly frustrated at the reliability of the service this winter.

The final straw for me came on Wednesday January the 19th, when delays due to a power failure involving a new S-stock train at Uxbridge made me late for a Plenary meeting of the London Assembly called to question the Mayor and his Transport Commissioner, Peter Hendy, on Transport for London's performance. I was seething by the time I arrived!

There are apparently rumours circulating that that delay, was due to the new rolling stock being "too heavy" for the gradient leaving Uxbridge. I received a very fast response from TfL when I put this to them:

"There is absolutely no truth in it whatsoever.  The failure at Uxbridge was caused when a new train hit a lineside obstruction, knocking the ‘shoe gear’ off the train. The ‘shoe gear’ is what picks up current from the live rail.  The train then came to a halt and couldn’t pick up power.  We got a second S stock to tow the damaged train out of the way and removed the obstruction, so the new trains are now happily running along that branch in regular service."

Happily they may be running, but the Uxbridge incident came two days after a huge signal failure at Baker Street caused chaos on the Met and the Jubilee could go no further north than Willesden.

By this time I had already put some questions into the Mayor about the large number of delays (415 in total!) in December. While an increase was to be expected, given the bad weather, I was surprised to note many more were due to mechanical and human failures (see table below).

Cause Incidents
Severe Weather 24
Signalling Equipment Failures 63
Train failure in service 84
Train failure in depot 47
Other Operational Reasons 16
Staff Absence or Shortage 88
Staff Industrial Action 2
Customer Actions 26
Track & Civils Defects 19
Staff Errors 32
External Causes 7
Defective Station Equipment 4
Security Alerts 3
Total 415
 This table only confirms my belief North West Londoners pay more and more in fares for a stagnating service. After the two years of weekend closures on the Jubilee, combined with intermittent works on the Metropolitan and Bakerloo line, it is difficult to believe the long-term gains in service justify the not so short-term, ongoing inconveniences.

I would urge all affected passengers to contact Transport for London for a refund. Not only are you entitled to it but as delays begin to cost Transport for London money, we may see effots to minimise these delays. TfL will refund all journeys with a delays over 15 minutes that are inside of their control, i.e. not weather or security related or caused by an external party. So 381 of December's delays would be eligible!

You can apply online for a refund here.

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31st January 2011

Untold Stories: Brent's Holocaust Memorial Day

I was pleased to attend Brent's Holocaust Memorial Ceremony on the 23rd of January.

 

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The inter-faith ceremony, held at the Town Hall, began with a welcome from by the Mayor of Brent, Cllr Harbhajan Singh and included a number of contributions around the theme of 'Untold Stories'. This year's key note speech was by David Cesarani, Professor of history at Royal Holloway, University of London on the theme of 'Stories from the camps: the told, the untold and the untellable'. In addition to Prof Cesarani's moving tribute and discussion of memory, the ceremony included a fascinating talk from Belsen survivor, sculptor Maurice Blik and there were also reflections from Brent's pupils who told us about their visit to Auschwitz concentration camp. Rev Anthony Wolfson from the Wembley United Synagogue led a memorial prayer in Hebrew and English, with beautiful accompaniment from the London Cantorial Singers. and inter-faith music by 'The Berakah Project'. Portraits of Brent's survivors are also on display at the Town Hall.

 

 

 

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24th January 2011

Who "independently assessed" the slope at Stanmore?

While the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, maintains that the steep slope at Stanmore station legally constitutes "disabled access", the independent assessment of this is increasingly under fire.

Last June, you may have seen an interview in the Harrow Observer with Justin Frishberg, a member of the London Wheelchair Rugby Club which trains at ASPIRE's facility in Stanmore. Justin detailed his experiences of Stanmore illustrating it is not just the ramp but the whole environment that is difficult for wheelchair users.

As Alex Rankin of ASPIRE said in that interview:

 "It's incredibly misleading to have that wheelchair symbol sign on Stanmore station.

"The wheelchair accessible ramp just isn't accessible for wheelchair users. It's far too long, the road is in such a poor condition and it's exposing people to danger. It is frustrating for anybody coming up to use Aspire or the hospital."

I'm of little doubt the issue at Stanmore illustrates the difficulties around a legal definition of 'disabled access', as first defined in the Disability Discrimination Act and now guided by the Equality Act 2010. Accessible in law doesn't necessarily equal accessible for all in practise, yet Transport for London's assessment is based on compliance with the law. We need a shift to focus on user's needs, not the bare legal minimum.

But the gradient of the slope is not the only problem at Stanmore. As users know, the car park is not open during the day time, and the disabled spot often used. I put these problems to the Mayor in a recent question:

Thank you for your response to Question No: 3660 / 2010. As you stated: “It should be noted that there is already a step-free route to and from the platforms at Stanmore using a ramp (which has been independently assessed as complying fully with British Standards) via the car park.” Unfortunately, the car park is closed during the daytime so step-free route is completely useless. Would you agree for a TfL representative to meet me at the station to fully discuss the options as soon as possible?

Answer by Boris Johnson

TfL is of course more than happy to meet you at Stanmore station to discuss the current accessibility arrangements in place and I understand that this meeting has now been set up.

 

It is true that, because Stanmore car park is heavily used, there are occasions when the NCP attendant responsible for the car park may temporarily prevent access for cars for a limited period during the day in the event of all the spaces already being taken. This is to prevent unnecessary congestion in the car park.

 

However, access for pedestrians requiring a step-free route is still available at all times. In addition, the car park should always remain open for mobility impaired customers to be dropped off or picked up even when the car park is full. If you are aware of any incidents when this has not been the case, please pass the details on to TfL who will investigate and take appropriate action.

 

What strikes me most about this response is the lack of imagination at Transport for London. No mention is made of interchange, it is presumed passengers with access issues will get to Stanmore by car, and Transport for London do not admit that the long walk from the bus stop to the car park entrance only compounds difficulties for those with mobility issues. A meeting has been set up between Transport for London, the Stanmore Society, ASPIRE, the Disability Foundation, the RNOH, the local MP, myself and consituents who have contacted me about access to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. I will of course report on the  outcome here.

In the meantime, you can find Transport for London's step-free access guide, which contains more information on Stanmore and all legally denoted 'step-free' stations, here (opens PDF).

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24th January 2011

Fire Brigades Union Endorse New Shift Patterns

On 14 January the Fire Brigade Union’s London Regional Committee endorsed a deal based on a collective agreement for changes to firefighters’ shift pattern.

Some outstanding issues between the Union and LFEPA however remain unresolved. These disputes which relate to the details of the terms of agreement for shift pattern changes could prove to be stumbling block for lifting of the current strike action by firefighters. Unless the strike action is formally lifted by the FBU, the 27 fire engines currently in the possession of private contractor, AssetCo, cannot be moved back to local fire stations.  

Navin Shah AM, Leader of LFEPA’s Labour Group said:

“I’m delighted that the FBU has now endorsed deal for a collective agreement.  This is a move in the right direction and should bring an end to the long and damaging dispute.  Unfortunately until the remaining issues are resolved and the FBU withdraws its strike action the fire engines taken away from fire stations across London cannot be moved back.” 

“I urge both the FBU and officers to act swiftly to resolve the issues.  The safety of Londoners is paramount and I want to see the return of local fire engines without any further delay. “

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17th January 2011

Asian Voice Column: Boris' Christmas Present: Fare Hikes

 

Since Sunday 2nd January London’s commuters have been hit with huge increase in fares demonstrating yet again Mayor Boris Johnson’s lack of concern for ordinary working Londoners.

 

The Mayor is consistent when it comes to fares increases. Three years running he’s burdened London’s commuters with fare rises unprecedented since the creation of Transport for London (TfL). The rises in bus, underground and over-ground trains were described as “unacceptable” by passenger watchdog for London ‘TravelWatch’ two years ago and is true for this year too. 

 

Following last year’s 20% fare rise, single bus fares have risen by yet another ten pence to £1.30 for a pay-as-you-go journey. A weekly bus pass has gone up from £16.60 to £17.80.  Single one zone tube fares including zone 1 now costs an extra ten pence, at £1.90.

 

Once again, it’s bus passengers who are feeling the pinch of these increases. When Boris Johnson became Mayor, it cost 90p for a single pay-as-you-go Oyster bus journey – it now costs £1.30 – that’s an increase of 44%. At the same time, we know that Transport for London are reducing bus subsidy and even cutting the miles that our bus services will cover – we are quite simply paying more and getting less. TfL and the Mayor say these latest inflation-busting increases are necessary given budget pressures, but the Mayor has just scrapped the Western extension of the congestion charge zone, which was bringing in £7million a year. Instead some of London’s lowest paid workers – who tend to rely on the bus as the most affordable form of transport will be footing the bill instead – and getting a worse service for it!

 

Rail commuters will also feel the pinch this year, as the Chancellor recently announced rail fare increases of three per cent above inflation. It all adds up to a not very happy new year present from the Mayor to Londoners. The Mayor of London is hitting Londoners hard just as they are being told their services will be cut and jobs will be lost. These are the people the Mayor should be protecting - people who have to use public transport every day. Instead we have a Mayor who defends the bankers and has put bus fares up a massive forty-four per cent since he was elected.

 

Londoner’s misery is compounded by the Mayor’s decision to close a large number of ticket offices or drastically reduce opening hours and reduce staffing by at least 800 who are managing these stations. Mayor Johnson’s U turn is deplorable as this goes against his own election pledges and makes many of our stations, particularly ones in the Outer London areas, inconvenient and unsafe. For those who use Jubilee and Metropolitan lines know the misery from never ending weekend closures and often faulty trains during weekdays.  Whilst London’s commuters pay the hugely inflated fares for its poor public transport service the Mayor has also shelved projects to make stations fully accessible for families, older and disabled in our community. Key examples my constituency are Harrow On the Hill station which is a major public transport hub also a prime candidate for regeneration of the town centre and Stanmore station linked with world renown Royal National Orthopedic Hospital and Aspire.

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10th January 2011

Asian Voice Column - January 2011

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By Navin Shah AM

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Beauty of living in London, a multicultural – multi-faith world city, is the privilege of being able to celebrate a wide range of festivals and religious days. In this sense autumn period (October to December) is very special to us when great holy days, interwoven with cultural/social events originating from many religions such as Hindu, Jain, Muslim, Jewish and Christian are upon us. This is the period when we have opportunity to remember and respect the great values different faiths offer. Bearing this in mind – I hope all Asian Readers have enjoyable and restful Christmas period and gear up for the many challenges in the coming year. Merry Xmas and warm wishes for a happy and peaceful New Year.    

BETRAYAL OF STUDENTS

Shame that the Christmas present for students, from the Tory and LibDem government, is £9,000 Tuition fees. Whilst I’m happy to have debate about the merits or demerits of tuition fees  – I find the shear treachery and hypocrisy on this issue on the part of the LibDems disgusting. During the general election campaign Nick Clegg signed the NUS Petition against tuition fees, but after becoming Deputy Prime Minister he lent and lead his support to the Tory proposals to levy huge financial burden on aspiring University students. How appropriate Ed Miliband called Nick Clegg a ‘crypto Tory’.

Brent Central’s LibDem MP Sarah Teather has followed her Leader’s route of betrayal. Worth reminding the readers that before the last election she vowed to vote against tuition fees and in her maiden speech in 2003 Ms Teather stated “Top-up and tuition fees are serious issues of concern to my constituents. All the evidence suggests that fear of debt will deter those from lower income families and ethnic minority communities. This is particularly the case for Muslims - a large community in my constituency - where attitudes to debt are very different. Fundamentally, I believe that this is about whether we want to encourage a world class education system, or a class based education system where students choose universities according to their ability to pay, and universities are judged on the level of their fees.” The level of hypocrisy of Sarah Teather is staggering. This ‘politician of principle’ when push came to shove betrayed the students and put her party and her own career before ideals. Brent is one of the most deprived local authorities in the country and we should be actively encouraging our young people to go to university – not put them off by pricing them out. Its clear Sarah Teather cannot be trusted on the issue of both principle and her election pledges.

In the same class is the Tory MP Bob Blackman. During the election campaign, I witnessed at a Hustings at Westminster University Campus in Harrow, Bob Blackman promising to vote against any hike in tuition fees. I am astounded but not surprised that having got elected now - he too has done a complete U-Turn on this issue. You’d think that signing the NUS pledge must prove embarrassing for Bob Blackman. But, his recent comments suggest that he has no shame even after so disgracefully letting students down. It’s blatantly obvious that Mr Blackman’s pledge was motivated for election success and not driven by ideology.