Friday, 15 December 2017

The Friday Joke 15/12/2017

Image result for execution jokes
The Friday Joke
A  US attorney arrived home late, after a very tough day trying to get a stay of execution for his cllent, James Wright. His last minute plea for clemency to the governor had failed and he was feeling worn out and depressed.

As soon as he walked through the door at home, his wife started having a go, 'What time of night to be getting home is this? Where have you been?  Dinner is cold and I'm not reheating it, why can't you ring up and let me know you're going to be late, why don't you ever show me any consideration'.

And on and on and on.

Too shattered to play his usual role in this familiar ritual, he poured himself a shot of whiskey and headed off for a long hot soak in the bathtub, pursued by the predictable sarcastic remarks as he dragged  himself up the stairs.

 While he was in the bath, the phone rang. The wife answered and was told that her husband's client, James Wright, had been granted a stay of execution after all. Wright would not be hanged tonight.

Finally realizing what a terrible day he must have had, she decided to go upstairs and give him the good news.

As she opened the bathroom door, she was greeted by the sight of her husband, bent over naked, drying his legs and feet.

'They're not hanging Wright  tonight,' she said. He looked down dejectedly at his dangling manhood and simply sighed "Is it really necessary to make such nasty personal comments after the day I've had?"

The Barnet Eye Advent Calendar Friday 15th December

Woo Hoo - only ten days until Christmas! And here we are at the Barnet Eye still going strong with our Advent Calendar!

Today we have a rather quaint video showing "new police training methods" from the old police training centre at Hendon. This was in the days when policemen looked like Policeman and there was not a shred of body armour or stab vest in sight. The days when villains said "It's a  fair cop guv" and didn't pull out  a knife and stab the arresting officer as all too sadly seems to be the expected outcome today if a villain isn't given a good Tazaring.

And as we are in Hendon, we focus on a really great little charity, one which can he;p transform the lives of the people it helps. We are focusing on the Hendon Branch of Guide Dogs for the Blind -  something which we think is a brilliant cause.
Image of three puppies laying down

Here's a little video to show the challenges faced by people with guide dogs. I hope that you take two minutes to watch and consider some of the issues raised.

For many people with issues of vison a guide dog can transform  lifestyles and give freedom and independence. especially at Xmas, please consider  a donation. Their Twitter hashtag is 



Thursday, 14 December 2017

Barnet Council Leader Richard Cornelius at Hartley Hall Mill Hill

Last night (Weds 14th Dec 2107), Richard Cornelius, Leader of Barnet Council, held a Q&A session with members of the public in Mill Hill. He started with a presentation about what the council has been doing. Here is my report

Cllr Cornelius reported that 9,000 new school primary school places had been created,  to support Barnets expanding population. He said the next challenge is to ensure that the places are available at secondary schools as these children grow up.

These have been created to support 7 major regeneration schemes. Of these Stonegrove is nearly completed.  The council will generate £895 million in revenue as a result of the developments. Brent Cross Shopping centre double in size. The business rates will pay back money to build Brent Cross West Railway station.

Cllr Cornelius then looked at the downside. He sated that traffic will be a nightmare. All major roads around Brent Cross will be reworked (A1, A406, A41). Three local schools will be rebuilt.

With regards to regeneration across the Borough, 27,000 new homes are in the pipeline. 20,000 have planning permission. Cllr Cornelius confessed that he is terrified by this,  especially as the Mayor of London wants more. He felt this could destroy the nature of Barnet.

On a  more postive note, he listed some developments for younger people. New youth zone in Burnt Oak. He said young people have to pay to get in a nominal fee to get in to ensure they understand that the service has value. The Council are also rebuilding Copthall leisure centre in2018. A new pool in Victoria recreation ground is being built.  

With regards to road maintenance, he detailed how a rectangular road repair machine has been purchased. This does "semi permanent repairs", which means that they last longer apparently. It seems square repairs are better than round ones. He detailed how street cleaning could be improved by New York style parking restrictions to clean one side of road at a time.

He finished off with by stating "We are a family friendly borough!".

Then the questions (in italics)

Why has MH Broadway. Why has it been allowed to degenerate into an eyesore?
RC. We need to be harder on people who put waste out. Whetstone and North Finchley are worse. He stated that businesses can only be fined small amounts, so we need to work with them.

A question about The Railway pub in Edgware. There is a sold sign,  and it is now a car wash. Huge coaches turn up and drop off immigrants what is happening?

RC: Tfl and Broadwalk are looking at redeveloping Edgware, but it is hard to police local private property. 

Richard Logue. Less difficult question first. Need more open comprehensive places. What options if Compton don't come.

RC. Due to law and govt policy, there are limited options, however Council supportive of Compton move to Mill Hill.  He noted that Saracens academy is opening and that all councillors voted to give Saracens freedom of Borough. for their community participation.

Pentavia. The busy retail park was popular, local wish to see retail on the site. Will council enforce design brief. 

RC. Noted that the scheme had the same developer as Barnet House, which has been refused. However Barnet needs 1,200 homes a year, so it is hard to oppose schemes.

A local residents stated that the council were looking for savings. He said that step free access to Mill Hill Broadway had been estimated as costing  £12 million. He had received a quote for  £2 million, from a recognised engineering company when running a campaign two yers ago. Why not use that company?

RC: We will check that out. I'd be mad not to.

A resident queried proposed budget savings. He said £70 million spent  on policy and resources. with £1 million of proposeed  savings, however Council spent  £60 million on children s services and were proposing £2 million on savings. Why are children being targeted.

RC: They are not, Policy and Resources is a bucket for all costs that don't fit other budgets easily. Huge savings made there already. 

Then it was my turn,  what are Barnet doing to address the funding crises being faced by local schools? Especially when the Education chair is not prepared to lobby the Secretary of State

RC we have not given up on changing the governments mind. We believe that it is better to do this quietly behind the scenes. 

A Burnt Oak resident stated that there are serious issues with Menorah school in Abbotts Road and  parents parking inconsiderately. 

The local Police were present and agreed to address with school

Jon Klaff, a local cycling activists asked a series of questions about cycling policy.   60 % of Barnet journeys by car. What is being done to promote other modes of transport.

RC. It is difficult to address the "Mr Toad" views of many Barnet drivers (who could he have been referring to?), action needed to be taken, but it is hard to re-engineer already busy roads. I suggested that maybe a dedicated cycle way between Mill Hill and Edgware on the disused rail line may be a start. RC stated that he'd prefer to see the railway rebuilt.

A worried resident asked Would less well off parents have to contribute to upkeep and maintenance of schools?

RC  replied No, funds come from central govt.

Another resident raised the issue of Pavements, which are disgusting in certain areas. Raised with councillors, nothing done. Hale ward.

RC. Stated that he'd investigate and get something done about it.

A lady from Colindale Foodbank reported  Addressing safeguarding is difficult. There are Serious issues in getting support. 

RC. "Email me privately. There are dedicated teams and we need to sort issues out if it isn't working"

A resident, concerned with the issues at Apex Corner asked "TFL responsible for major roads, can council influence them. "

RC. Yes, TFL have to consult the council.

The foodbank lady reported that "Increasing number of homeless people and  people taking drugs near fishmonger in Burnt oak. Can this be addressed as people do not feel safe"

Police.  "We have Operation Tungsten to deal with Burnt Oak issue. We have dispersal orders available, we go into area and deal with issues. Safeguarding issues top priority"

RC: Barnet have instituted a Borough wide street drinking ban.

The lady from the West Hendon campaign asked Can we have a nice hall like Hartley Hall?

RC: We will try, I'll will come back on that.

She then asked about the Compulsory purchase orders and how the price had been low.

Regarding CPO valuations on maisonettes. Initially £130k up to £220k. Are there examples of such increases? She was concerned by the role of Capita.

RC "I am pleased higher values were reached when it was revisited" 
RC  "I can't justify what happened".

She then asked about the inherent unfairness of the council tax system, where poorest residents pay proportionally far more than people in mansions. She noted that it is far quicker to empty bins in blocks of flats than in mansions. 

RC: I am happy to be able to double charge council tax on empty properties

Richard Logue asked about the fairness of  issues around the adoption of Millbrook Park. Residents pay twice for the same services, in a service charge and council tax. 

RC. Doesn't seem fair.

There was a question about pollution due to congested roads

RC, shame not in low emissions zone.

A resident was concerned about the use of dangerous pesticides on pavements. Noted other councils use steam. 

RC: The EU has changed its stance on this, but if you have details of better systems let me know.

I got in the last question. RC said "Have you been waiting to set this trap. I said no and asked for him to brief the audience on the West London Orbital Railway.

RC stated that he was enthusiastic and the council had put money in. He said that when he'd addressed the West London Partnership, he'd been cheered to the rafters by Momentum for his support! He explained how it is a no brainer to use under used rail lines for passenger services. He also said that he'd love to see the service extended to Mill Hill. The line runs from Cricklewood to Old Oak Common. I suspect that Richard is a bit of trainspotter on the quiet as he really seems genuinely excited by the plan. He said that he was extremely pleased that the scheme had cross party support and that the Deputy Mayor had adopted it.


And that was that. There were a few other little amusing incidents during and after. During the course of the session, I noticed a slight whiff of illicit smokeable materials. As I was wondering where it was coming from, the caretaker nudged me and said that young people were using the back fire escape as a meeting place and whether I could hear them. At this, I asked the police officer in front of me whether they could do something. One of them nipped out and dealt with the matter. It seems that there were young people smoking marijuana. The police stated that as they were under age, it was a safeguarding issue. It does seem sad to me that young people have to make their fun outside the Church Hall in a cold, dark fire escape. It emphasises that we really need to do more for teenagers. The devil makes work for idle hands.

I had an interesting chat with Richard Cornelius after on the issue of school funding. Richard doesn't agree with my view that the Barnet will be shafted by the govt. I hope he's right. I also asked him if he's retiring, as Brian Coleman had tweeted that he was.

Richard told me that this is absolute nonsense. He said that he loves the job of leader, he's now the third longest leader of the Council. He said he will go on as long as people want him to. I get the very strong feeling that Richard thinks the Tories will win the Council elections in May 2018. I think he may very well be right, because I am not at all convinced that the Barnet Labour Party have got a great strategy to win. Lots of Barnet Labour activists are putting in a huge amount of work, however I'm not seeing a huge amount of evidence that this is being put into the places that are most likely to effect regime change. It seems to me that they are running exactly the same campaign as they ran in 2006, 2010 and 2014 and each time they lost. It seems to me that the the huge influx of new members who support Momentum are not co-ordinating with the the mainstream Labour party. I've even spoken with members of Momentum who see the mainstream Labour activists as the enemy. This is all very well in smokey pubs, but it doesn't win elections.  It seems to me that there are plenty of Labour members who are starting to believe their own spin. This was reinforced by what Richard said to me as we parted. I asked if he'd enjjoyed the Q&A sessions (of which this was the last). He said "the first couple were a bit of a chore as Momentum turned up mob handed and took over and genuine residents were not given a chance. Then they seemed to get bored and the last few have been really enjoyable, with a genuine chance for residents to get answers".

This seems to sum it all up really. That doesn't seem like a winning strategy to me. I want a council that is prepared to listen, cares about its residents and runs the operations of the council efficiently. If I'd not written this blog for nine years, Richard would have convinced me that he's doing all those things. I don't think that shouting him down in ill tempered public meetings plays well with ordinary voters. I do however think that asking serious and difficult questions does.

If you want to know why I think that Labour will not win, let me give you one cast iron reason. Approx half the people a the meeting were from the part of NW7 which is in Hale Ward. This is a split ward and allegedly Labours no 1 target seat. Hartly Hall was full of ordinary voters last night, yet there was not one Hale Ward Labour candidate present. There was not one person asking difficult questions from the Labour Party. Both myself and Richard Logue are standing for the Lib Dems in Mill Hill. We think we will win. We made sure we were there and asked serious questions about our local ward and issues affecting local people. If Labour aren't prepared to put the work in, not only won't they win, they don't deserve to.  When it comes down to it, you get out of life what you put in. Labour will have to put a damn sight more into their campaign if they want to win. 

The Barnet Eye Advent Calendar - Thursday 14th December 2017

Just how much have we changed in the last 50 years? If we were to see a film of a popstar or filmstar relaxing at home with their wife and children, what would we expect? The Osbornes maybe? In the 1950's one of the countries biggest stars was Dennis Lotis, who at the time happened to be a resident of Mill Hill. So famous was he that Pathe News made a film about his homelife. I find it fascinating to watch films such as this. Nice to see the footage of an old bubblecar. I have an affection for one, as my elder brother had one and it was a rare treat to have a trip in it.

And for our charity of the day, we have Community Focus. If you have not heard of Community Focus before,   it is an inclusive arts centre based in the borough of Barnet in North London. Founded in 1978 by photographer Maria Bartha. We have cherry -picked our superb team who think on their feet and excel at designing bespoke projects and courses for our clients because, after all, we all have different needs!
Community Focus Logo | Link back to home page

About Community Focus

Our Vision:  We believe that everyone is an artist.

Our Purpose:  We empower communities through art.

Our Mission:      To encourage older people, those with physical, sensory, mental or social challenges and others to participate in creative activities in pursuit of education, recreation and personal development cultivating creativity, equality and strength.

CF actively seeks ways to extend its reach into the community, working with an unlimited variety of different groups and organisations including: our local authority, local resident networks, schools, special schools and higher education institutions, right through to theatre companies and national charities.

Find out how you can support Community Focus by CLICKING HERE
Community Focus has joined LOCAL GIVING ~ Any donation for Community Focus will be doubled by Local Giving.  Please donate generously.
Click here to make your donation.

Why not like the Community Focus Facebook page


Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Barnet Eye Advent Calendar - Wednesday 13/12/2017

This morning we are over half way through Advent to Xmas!

For today's gem, we visit Childs Hill (which if you are unfamiliar with the area is to the North Eastern side of Cricklewood, where Cricklewood station is located), the manor of my friend Jack Cohen. This is a spiffingly good little video, put together by Molly Brown. Some nice footage and quite amusing.

The Childs Hill and Cricklewood areas are blessed with a fantastic community spirit. I've seen this first hand this year as we've supplied sound systems for the Cricklewood festival and the Xmas lights switch on. The Town team really make the most of the spaces in the Borough, and work to keep the place neat and tidy.

And as we are in Childs Hill, it only seems polite to give the Town Team a plug. They have worked tirelessly to promote the area, conserve green spaces and make the place a vibrant community. So if you are a Childs Hill or anywhere else in Cricklewood resident, please checkout their website and consider becoming a member.

The larger Cricklewood area is quite an interesting place, three different London Boroughs have a chunk, Barnet, Brent and Camden. This means that not only does the Town team have the usual challenges, they have to contend with three large bureacracys rather than the single entity most of us are blessed with!

The Barnet Eye Advent Calendar is all about promoting our community and organisations such as Cricklewood Town Team is a fantastic example of what you can do if you  are prepared to put hard work into your community.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Time for a new approach to running Britains Railways and how it affects Thameslink in the Borough of Barnet

The Barnet Eye has spent the last month researching the history, the current state and the future of our local railway system, lovingly known as Thameslink. For many, this service is an essential part of our daily working lives. The railway has undergone huge change over the last fifty years. We believe that local residents, as stakeholders in the network, should have a significant say. We would like to see Barnet Council open up a local open transport forum to promote better local transport. Our extensive research has lead us to believe that there are many opportunities being missed to improve the local rail service on the Thameslink line (and ancillary connecting services).  This blog is our attempt to start a sensible dialog. We see consultations, but these are always in the form of  forms to fill in that simply give options on existing ideas. We'd like to see more blue sky thinking. Ideally we'd like to see a Transport Tsar appointed for Barnet, who has the remit of improving all modes of travel. We believe that in Barnet the best way is to encourage modal shift from car to public transport, walking and cycling, but not by making car journeys a nightmare, but by making other modes safer, more pleasant, cheaper and more accessible than they currently are.

The History of  Local Rail Services

As a regular commuter on the Thameslink Service from Mill Hill since around 1980, I've seen a whole succession of various organisations running the railway. When I was born in 1962, British Rail was the operator. At that, they operated two railways in Mill Hill. The Thameslink line, then known as the BedPan line (as it linked Bedford to St Pancras), was a steam and diesel railway.

Route of abandoned railway through Mill Hill
There was also a railway from Mill Hill East to Edgware, which was used to supply coal and builders depots. In the 1930's, it had been planned to inbtegrate this with the Tube network, however these plans were abandoned and in the mid 1960's, it was shut and the track pulled up, although much of the trackbed is still intact. I suspect with Saracens at Copthall, this would be a most useful route for many, had the powers that be had the foresight to retain it.

As for the Thameslink service, this was electrified in the early 1980's by British Rail. The commuter service to Moorgate became the main terminus for suburban trains. The line is also a main line route, carrying trains for the Midland Mainline. In the 60's trains from St Pancras served Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, as well as the ones still served at Sheffield, Derby, Leicester, Nottingham and the odd train to Leeds. The trains would thunder through Mill Hill. The route was also an importan freight artery, delivering coal, aggregates and a host of other materials. I can even recall seeing a "pigeon fanciers train" at St Pancras in the 1960's.

In the Mid 1960's, Dr Beeching came up with a new plan for railways. The idea was to save money and modernise. Out went steam, uneconomical freight services, branch lines and rural railways. Even some key mainline routes were closed, such as the Great Central Railway from Marylebone to the Midlands (leaving the suburban services). The mantra became "standardisation".

British Rail was the most fascinating organisation to ever exist. Not only did it run trains, it built them. It had one of the worlds most innovative design teams, the last major example we see of this is the Inter City 125 train. However they designed far more exciting things, including a nuclear powered UFO. They also owned Sealink ferries, which were officially designated as locomotives. They were, I believe, the countries largest catering company, with all the sandwiches made in Crewe and transported across the network. As I recall there were six flavours. There was the British Rail Property Board, the most valuable and profitable part of the organisation. I know all about them, as they rented me the land at the bottom of my garden, and my Dad rented a car park from them in Flower Lane (on the site of the disused Mill Hill East - Edgware route). They were also the largest roaster of coffee in the UK at one stage. They were the largest parcel delivery network and they consumed more than 2/3rds of the UK output of coal running their network in the steam age. They had a huge art and design team and virtually invented the way we make public signs in modern railway stations. They had teams constantly designing better signage, typefaces and advertsing material. They had their own film company and employed a whole swathe of famous celebrities. They commissioned poems and pieces of music. Their pension fund was the largest owner of art in the UK at one stage. This was exposed by the tabloids, but turned out to be one of the most lucrative investments ever made by a pension fund.

In terms of the running costs, it was also probably the most efficient rail company in the world. As successive governments squeezed it evermore for cash, it kept the railway running on a shoestring. As the rest of Western Europe built High Speed lines, BR kept the show running, with the odd upgrade and the odd electrification scheme. It was split into regions, Mill Hill being initially part of London Midland region and latterly Network South East.

Image result for "mill hill Broadway" trains Thameslink nsE
Thameslink Circa 1987
In 1987, Mill Hill had its rail transport links transformed. The BedPan line became Thameslink. The GLC and BR had identified the potential for reopening Snow Hill Tunnel in Holborn, to link the BedPan services with Southern region services to places like Brighton, Gatwick airport and East Croydon. The Thatcher government was won over by the prospect of a huge profit on the redevelopment of Holborn Viaduct station as part of the scheme.

Around the time of the conception of  this scheme, British Rail reached it's Nadir. The Thatcher government, which was pretty anti public transport, commissioned The Serpell Report to identify huge cost savings in railways. It appeared that this spelled the death knell of rail as a major part of the transport solution in the UK. Serpell's planned decimation was met with near universal hostility. Thatcher recognised that the effects would be electoral poison and the report was binned. In some ways, the fallout was good. Politicians had finally been forced to admit that the rail network could not simply be treated as a financial drain.

Perhaps the turning point was the signing of the treaty to deliver the Channel tunnel. This would see the first high speed railway in the UK. For Thatcher, the scheme was an opportunity to prove that the private sector could deliver a major scheme. It also offered huge opportunities for improved trade and communications links with Europe (what now seems like a very different age indeed). Whilst Thatchers dream of proving that the private sector could do things more economically went horribly wrong for small investors (I was one and I lost a packet), the link was built and has been a stunning success.

In the 1990's, the Conservative government privatised the network. There were many models that they could have chosen. The one they went for saw BR broken into hundreds of smaller companies. The concept of private franchises came in. All of the bits like making sandwiches, building trains etc were hived off. The Tories set up railtrack to run the rails and cash in on the property assets. That went horribly wrong and the company was effectively renationalised (under a different name) to become Network Rail. The whole franchise scheme was propped up with generous subsidies, far greater than anything BR ever received. Ironically, many of the franchises were gobbled up by nationalised operators from other countries. Many of the franchised companies started to develop reputations for running appalling services. In Mill Hill, BR was replaced initially by Govia. Many commuters grumbled about the service. In 2004, they were replaced by First Capital Connect, who were even worse. The company didn't provision enough drivers, the services were cut and the timekeeping plummeted. I ended up attending a meeting at Fratelli's coffee bar, between Elaine Holt, MD of FCC and angry commuters. She promised that things would improve. A couple of services were restored. Under BR there had been 8 per hour in rush hour. This was cut to 4. It was restored to 5-6. She also arranged for a second entrance to the station on platform 4 to be opened.

The service eventually improved, as FCC worked out how to manage the railway they'd been running. Their reward was to be stripped of the franchise. GTR (back to Govia) took over in 2014. Mill Hill Commuters now had their third different model. Rather than a Nationalised company or a Franchise, this was a "management contract". This means they run it and give all the dosh to the government for a fee. Sadly, the service once again deteriorated. It seems that whenever a new organisation takes over, it takes years for them to figure out how to make it work. It also appears that when organisations know they are going to be replaced, they stop investing in staff and leave a driver shortage for their successors.

The Present situation

Image result for "mill hill Broadway" trains Thameslink 700
New Thameslink Trains
GTR have had to deal with the huge challenges posed by the final stage of the massive Thameslink upgrade program. London Bridge has been closed to Thameslink services. New Seimens trains have replaced the trusty old BR designed stock. These have been delivered with faulty air conditioning. There have been numerous delays caused by passengers fainting.

What many have not really picked up on is that there has been a huge centralisation of rail planning. HS2 and the GTR contract have seen the central government take a far more proactive role in rail planning and delivery. Next year, this program will be completed. London Bridge will reopen and journey times to Gatwick and Brighton from Mill Hill will be cut. There will also be a new timetable with a more frequent service.

It is fair to say that the organisation does not seem to be fit for purpose in managing the huge change that is going on in the network. Twitter is awash with complaints about the service.

West London Orbital Railway
Another interesting development is the possible addition of a new service, which is proposing a four train per hour service between Hendon and West London under the banner of the West London Orbital railway. This will have three stations in the London Borough of Barnet, at Hendon, Brent Cross and Cricklewood (the Cricklewood service will terminate at West Hampstead). Whilst this sounds like a very sensible scheme, from a local perspective, I feel it is lacking in ambition. With the huge developments at Colindale, The RAF museum and the Saracens stadium close by, there is an opportuinity to address the transport issues to all of these with a short spur up to the RAF Museum or even Mill Hill. Sadly Barnet Council have expressed zero interest in exploring this.

For a major city, London has very poor radial links. A strategy is clearly needed, with some joined up thinking.

Whilst discussing rail, we should also not forget freight. Whilst this is not a day to day concern for commuters, the prospect of a huge rail aggregates terminal at Cricklewood is a clear issue for local residents. Sadly, the sponsors, DB rail, have not engaged local residents. The benefits of the scheme have not been explained (the reduction of lorry journeys across the Borough) and have neglected to reassure residents that such a depot can exist in a largely residential area. Steps to mitigate the dust, noise and disruption have clearly not been well thought through or explained. This blog is a supporter of rail as a means of delivery of goods, however this must be done in a sensitive way. It clearly hasn't in this case. Sadly the council has clearly not helped, by ignoring the whole issue.

The Future

This blog is committed to trying to contribute to the local, regional and national debate on this issue. We believe that the best transport schemes are ones which serve the local communities and all such communities benefit.

Image result for "mill hill broadway station"
 Entrance to Mill Hill Broadway Station
The first thing to make clear is that local residents in 2017 should expect a station such as Mill Hill Broadway, that sees over 3 million journeys a year should be fully accessible. It is truly disgraceful that no effort has been made. Mill Hill Broadway actually used to have a freight lift, from the 1960's that could have easily been adapted to be used for passengers. Under a refurbishment of the ticket office during First Capital Connect era, this was removed. The easiest scheme to implement would be via the small entrance on Bunns Lane Car Park. This would remove the requirement for a complicated lift system or another remodelling of the ticket office. A bridge similar to the one in use at West Hampstead would provide full access to all platforms.  The current access via the bus station is is far from ideal. A rework of the Bunns Lane Car Park and an adjacent bus stop would provide a far better solution. A proper disabled bay adjacent to the entrance would solve a whole myriad of issues presented by the existing layout.

The vast majority of passengers using the Thameslink service, currently as commuters to central London. There is a reasonable amount of secondary traffic using the service to get to Luton Airport. I am a little surprised that nothing has been mentioned in terms of using the West London Orbital Railway scheme as a way of providing a quick link between Heathrow Airport and Luton Airport. I mention this as I note that the West London Orbital Scheme seems to rule out an electrified option. This is clearly a folly. It would also allow a secondary route between Gatwick Airport, St Pancras International and Heathrow. Whilst I understand that the main driver is to open up West London for local services, it seems strange that the UK seems to be abandoning railway electrification at a time when we have recognised that Diesel is not a suitable solution given its potential for pollution. I am sure many people arrive on inter continental flights and then take cheap connections to the rest of the UK and Europe, so surely a Heathrow/Luton service over the Dudden Hill line is worthy of consideration. As there is significant route congestion in rush hour, why not make this a non rush hour service? I am always bemused as to why the UK never tries to join up transport schemes. An ancillary benefit of this for us would be a direct service between Mill Hill and Heathrow Airport.

When discussing the transport options for Thameslink, it is important to  recognise is that there are four different stakeholders in the rail equation. These are:-

Local Passenger Considertions
Regional Passenger Considerations
National Passenger Considerations
Freight Passenger Considerations

Image result for TFL Thameslink
To some extent these are all competing for bandwidth in the network. An advantage of the BR model is that as a unified network, these can all be balanced, although proponents of the existing franchise system claim that this was never the case in the real world. To some extent, we disagree. Far more effort was made under BR for connecting services to join up. Rival companies do not see much need to do this. In the London Borough of Barnet section of the Thameslink network, it is likely that we will have all of these interacting. There will be a very localised service, run by TFL providing the West London Orbital railway. This will interface with Thameslink regional services at Cricklewood, Brent Cross and Hendon under existing plans. Will any effort be made to ensure there are sensible connections? This service will also affect the freight services, which are the current users of the Dudden Hill Rail line. Given that there is a huge signalling upgrade required, one assumes that this should not be too problematical.

We also have the competing demands of the regional Thameslink services, the National Midland mainline Services run by East Midlands Trains and the freight services. As I understand it, this route is pretty much at capacity in rush hour. The Thameslink services currently terminal northbound at St Albans, Luton and Bedford. In rush hour all Mill Hill Services go to St Albans or Luton.

There has been a proposal to hand the local aspect of the Thameslink service to TFL. As I understand it, this would see more all stations trains between St Albans and central London. There would be a near tube frequency, especially in Rush Hour.

Our view is that in major conurbations such as London, we'd like to see the local services under TFL or their equivalent. That would allow developments such as the WLO line to be integrated with the local Thameslink line. TFL has done a reasonable job in transforming the services it manages such as the North London Line.

We'd like to see all local services to be 12 car trains and a far higher frequency. Whilst for commuters to St Albans, this would increase journey times, we believe that many would appreciate a more regular service and it would open up opportunities for better connections at Hendon, Brent Cross and Kentish Town.

Eventually, when developments such as Colindale, Mill Hill East and West Hendon are completed, we'll need more and better rail services than even those envisaged. We'd like to see some blue sky thinking for new and reopened routes. At the start of this blog we mentioned the Mill Hill East to Edgware railway which was shut in the 1960's. This offers an opportunity to improve transport. It is theoretically at least, possible for the West London Orbital railway to be extended to Mill Hill and even possibly Edgware, using this line. There may also be possibilities to join this up with the Mill Hill East Branch. We are not experts in the field, but there is definately scope. One option that has not been explored is the tram option. The WLO proposal suggest that this would require new parallel tracks on the Dudden Hill Branch, however a transport export we know, has suggested that this may simply be some passing loops at stations, which would take trams into platform bays. It has also been suggested that Hydrogen cell technology would be a low cost option. This would remove the need for overhead wires, whilst providing a green solution.

Image result for DB Rail Cricklewood
Finally we should say a few words about freight. As it appears that DB rail are looking at establishing a major Cricklewood hub for aggregates, we really need to see a proper framework for such schemes in London and Barnet. What worries us most is the fact that there will be a huge number of lorries servicing the site, with poor access to the Edgware Road and North Circular. In effect, if you were to look at a map of the railway site, given that most of the aggregates in the short term, will go to Brent Cross, the depot is in the worst possible place. Had the depot been sited on the Eastern side of the railway, then the journey would have been far less problematic. We suspect that this wasn't chosen as it would diminish the space available for the huge development.


 When it comes down to it, what has become clear is that BR was broken up with no regards to providing a decent, joined up service for customers, be it passengers or freight. The huge recentralisation of the system, with management contracts such as GTR has not provided a better service than more focussed and local operators such as TFL. Another lesson is that the longer a franchise is and the more control over infrastructure that the operator has, the better a result for the people who use the network.  For us living in Mill Hill, the conclusion is clear. A TFL run service would be a far better option than the one we currently have. Where the work would be, would be ensuring freight, national and regional customers still have their requirements met.

Another important issue to address is the one of investment. Passengers have been absolutely clobbered under the current system. A generation of commuters at London Bridge have paid through the nose, for appalling services, which many will have retired or moved by the time they see the benefits. Projects like WLO, which have a clear payback have to fight for funding, often against projects at the other end of the country. Given that all of these projects deliver massive economic benefits, we need a new way of funding and an end to stop/start/stop/start project management.

We would like to see more of a contribution for developers of large scale projects. We would like to see a fair levy on those who get benefits from projects.  If your house price doubles, because a rail service is improved, surely a percentage of that profit should go into the pot to fund future infrastructure projects. Likewise some of it should be given to residents who get no benefit and suffer a degree of property blight. Crossrail is a prime example, with huge winners and losers. We believe if some of the gains could be shared, we'd see less of the interminable public enquiry culture that has developed with all large schemes. It seems highly unreasonable that some win and some lose at the whim of a civil servant in the Ministry of Transport.

Another aspect that deserves some investigation is whether road users should have to contribute to rail schemes that alleviate congestion. If a rail scheme decreases journey times for road users and presumably reduces fuel costs, maybe a percentage of this cash could be funnelled back int future schemes. I personally don't think the concept of all beneficiaries of schemes having to chip in is unfair.

We often forget just how much better the rail network has become in many ways since 1962. It is far from perfect, but we don't have steam locomotives belching out soot and causing smogs. We have clean, air conditioned trains which have CCTV and are safe. Journeys from Mill Hill to central London  destinations such as St Pauls and Blackfriars are quicker.  We can pay with our debit cards. There are more destinations available. What we need to do is to start a conversation to ensure that the gains are built upon.