Sunday, September 28, 2008
Your carriage awaits
Fancy a look at the tube carriage of the future? Over the next few years TfL are introducing new trains on the Metropolitan, Circle, and Hammersmith & City and District lines, and this week you're invited to take a look inside. A big marquee containing a prototype carriage has been erected on the grass outside Euston station, and it's there until Thursday. Pop along and you can watch videos, chat to staff and even sit inside on the new moquette and watch the scrolling "next station" displays. [Just don't turn up today, it's closed today, but back open tomorrow]
I popped along up yesterday. It's not a proper carriage, it's more like the ends of two carriages joined in the middle, and with mirrors at each end to make the whole thing appear longer. They've done well in the presentation - it looks like the train has stopped at Euston Square station, and there's a fake platform alongside to help demonstrate low-floor accessible entry. It's all very bright, and spacious, and above all clean. But will these 191 new air-conditioned trains really be good news for London's commuters? You'd think so, and in most respects absolutely yes, but I doubt that everyone will see them as wholly positive.
Claim 1: Improved reliability
Well let's hope so... not that I've noticed the current trains being especially unreliable. You can expect the first über-reliable trains to start appearing on the Metropolitan line from 2010, on the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines from 2011, and on the District line from 2013. So be patient, this is no overnight quick fix.
Claim 2: More capacity
Rush hour on the Circle line can be absolute hell, more like climbing into a six carriage sardine can. The new trains should significantly increase the number of passengers who can squeeze inside. There'll be an extra carriage for a start, and wider aisles, and fewer seats. So that's brilliant... apart from the fewer seats. What "more capacity" really means is fewer people sitting and more people standing. Great if you're attempting to travel two stops at 8am, and brilliant if you have a pushchair or wheelchair, but less than ideal if you're travelling into town from Rickmansworth at 10am and have to stay on your feet all the way down. The new carriages have far fewer clusters of seats than Metropolitan travellers are used to - they reminded me more of DLR trains in this respect. But I guess with London's population growing and passenger numbers increasing, the priority has to be space rather than comfort. Welcome to cattle class.
Claim 3: Air conditioning
As you may have read, these will be the first air conditioned trains to run on the London Underground, and about time too. There's nothing worse than sweating on the tube in the summer, is there, and these new trains should finally end the spectre of rampant mutual perspiration. Although, I don't know about you, I'm perfectly capable of coping with a bit of excess heat every now and then, on the 20 or so days of the English summer. For the rest of the year air conditioning really isn't very important at all, and tube passengers have completely different grumbles. Plus these new carriages are only entering service on the sub-surface lines, with their broad shallow tunnels, where the problem is far less serious than on the deep level tubes. Bad luck to commuters on the Northern or Central or Piccadilly lines, where there is absolutely zero chance of any cooling breezes being installed any time soon.
Claim 4: Improved access
Wider doors will be a boon to travellers on the District line who currently have to squeeze in and out through a single door. Lower carriage floors will be a great help to wheelchair users attempting to get on and off, especially in comparison to some of the nightmare differences in elevation they currently face at certain far-flung stations. But low-floor trains are only useful if you can get your wheelchair down to the platform in the first place. At present there are incredibly few sub-surface stations with step-free access (on the Circle line only two) so it may be some years before this new feature is genuinely useful.
Claim 5: Improved customer information
And you know what that means, don't you? "The next station is King's Cross St Pancras change here for the Northern Piccadilly and Victoria lines Eurostar and National Rail services change here for the Royal National Institute for the Blind when leaving the train please take all your belongings with you stand clear of the doors please." It's blessedly quiet on existing Metropolitan line trains, but alas not for much longer.
Claim 6: Better safety and security
Which means CCTV, not a supply of knife-proof jackets stashed under the seats. Plus a fresh innovation for the London Underground - all the carriages will be interconnected without doors inbetween. This walkthrough feature helps security, obviously, because you need never feel trapped in one carriage with a nutter. Unfortunately it'll also make it impossible to hide away from a nutter in the carriage nextdoor, and it'll make steaming through the train and nicking everyone's valuables a lot easier too.
So new trains are on their way (more pics here), and Boris is duly chuffed that they'll be entering service on his watch. Just don't call them bendy trains, however much the concertina-ed interior reminds you of bendy buses. And do try to ignore that fact that Ken announced these new carriages all of two years ago, and all that's really changed this week is that there's a now a prototype you can sit in. Or more probably stand in. All change please, all change.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
(embargo 07:00 BST Tuesday 23 September 2008)
Mayor announces London to be renamed Londo
Mayor Boris Johnson has revealed proposals to shorten the name of our capital city by removing its final letter, in order to cut costs and save the planet.
The city of London will in future be rebranded as Londo, creating a 16% reduction in printing costs. This is in line with key manifesto pledges and creates a powerful environmental legacy in alignment with essential political priorities.
The Mayor said: “Over the past two millennia the name of London has served the capital well, achieving international awareness through a series of global expansion campaigns. But the name has also created needless expense, being longer than is strictly necessary, thereby ramping up the costs of ink, electronic display and signage. The taxpayers of Paris, for example, need print only five letters on their headed notepaper, and the good citizens of Rome pay even less. Our own six-letter wastage cannot be allowed to continue, and my lexicographical amputation will deliver better value for hard-pressed London residents.”
“The previous Mayor's cynical and irresponsible use of a superfluous 'N' is unsustainable, and has generated a funding gap that demands to be plugged. I am therefore pleased to take the lead by rebranding my own identity to become the Mayor of Londo. Let the red circle at the end of my personal logo signify aspirational zero wastage, which henceforth will be the watchword of the Greater Londo Authority.”
In order to deliver significant cost savings, the new Londo identity will be introduced immediately and not phased in over some namby-pamby transition period. All homes and businesses will be expected to comply by removing the second N from the penultimate line of their address. Airline tickets will be one letter shorter, helping to reduce aviation-related carbon impact. Electronic messages at Piccadilly Circus will scroll past quicker, ensuring that energy bills are substantially reduced. Not even leading bloggers will be immune from these important changes.
Kulveer Ranger, Director of Transport Policy said: “I am delighted to support the Mayor and all the people of Londo in increasing efficiency across our infrastructure network. As a result of the Mayor's innovative ecological enterprise, TfL will be renamed Transport for Londo with immediate effect. I'm also particularly excited to announce a radical redesignation of our tube network, which henceforth shall be known as the Londoground. This is an impressive 35% cut in lettering requirements, which will help to offset the scandalous rise in fare prices foisted upon the citizens of Londo by the previous incumbent.”
The Mayor's new initiative will be launched later this morning at a press conference on Londo Bridge. Stonemasons will chisel away the unnecessary Ns from the concrete beneath the bridge, creating an iconic symbol of the new City of Londo. Members of the press will then be invited to enter the Tower of Londo for a symbolic beheading ceremony, before boarding a Londo bus to the site of the 2012 Londolympics. It is anticipated that the carbon saved by this single journey will be sufficient to power one City Hall lightbulb for a week.
Commenting on the changes Boris Johnson said: “My forward-thinking strategy will spearhead sustainable development into the next century as the people and businesses of Londo move forward in adapting to meet the challenges of climate change. Through this simple-minded scheme I also believe we can cut knife crime, increase teenage participation in sport and bring back the Routemaster, all at no additional cost to the taxpayer. Three cheers for value for money, three cheers for Londo, and three cheers for Londoers everywhere.”
Monday, September 22, 2008
www.flickr.com: London Open House 2008
(A full 33 photos to explore)
London Open House (catchup): There are 700 potential buildings to visit on Open House weekend, so even when you think you've visited a lot you've barely scratched the surface. I managed 13 altogether, spread out across the capital. Here's a rundown of those I've failed to mention thus far.
Barnardo's Village: When I was little, and every penny counted, I used to have a Dr Barnardo's collecting box in the shape of a cottage. It was given to me by a nice old lady who lived up the road, and every year she'd invite all the box-owning boys and girls in the village to a big party in her back garden. I always felt slightly guilty attending because I knew how few pennies were inside my box, and that my share of the sandwiches and squash on the table beneath the tulip tree had probably cost considerably more. Yesterday I went along to Barnardo's HQ in Barkingside, out on the loopy bit of the Central line, and discovered that these cottages are based on real life buildings that played a major part in the charity's work. More to the point, my old collecting box is rare enough that it would now be worth more empty that it ever was full. If only I'd have known, I could have eaten those sausage rolls and jelly with a clear conscience.
Dr Barnardo's initial work with ragged children had concentrated solely on boys, but a wedding gift of Essex land in 1873 allowed him to establish a home for girls as well. He created a Girls' Village of 14 cottages set around a rural green, each housing about 20 girls looked after by a supervisor called 'Mother'. Girls were trained in washing, cleaning and embroidery, all the sorts of skills that might get them a job as a household servant when they were older. The village grew with the addition of further cottages around a second green, until more than 1300 girls were being housed, fed and educated on site. It took until the 1930s for boys to be admitted, ending the practice of splitting brothers and sisters on separate sites. It wasn't until the 60s that institutional care was frowned upon and the village emptied of residents. One of the greens was developed as a (criminally hideous) residential school for disabled children, and another area sold off to the council (now, perhaps unsurprisingly, home to a Tesco supermarket).
The Barnardo village in Barkingside isn't usually accessible to the public, but for Open House we were shown an Ever Open Door. One cottage has been restored as a heritage exhibit, with charity memorabilia and a reproduction of the good doctor's office inside. There was also access to the Children's Church, normal-sized on the outside but with child-height pews on the inside. "Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not" reads the inscription on the arch over the chancel, and this might well have been Dr B's motto. I doubt there'd have been volunteers selling squash and biscuits at the back in his day, let alone Christmas cards, pens and mugs. I followed a most informative tour round the perimeter of the green, viewing the modern housing association infill and trying to block out views of the 60s monstrosity office block in the old apple orchard. And we ended up beneath the clock tower at the bronze memorial marking the spot where Barnardo's ashes were scattered in 1905. His heart will be forever here on the edge of the London suburbs, amongst his girls, and deserving of our thanks.
» Bevis Marks Synagogue: Another Sunday, another synagogue. I'm getting the hang of covering my head now, but the skull cap they provided kept trying to slide off so I had to hold myself upright to avoid unintentional offence. Considerably more photogenic than Nelson Street which I visited last week, but conspicuously unwilling to allow photographs. [exterior photo]
» Christ Church Spitalfields: Hawksmoor's triumphant Baroque box, permitted to fall derelict but recently restored to former glories and reopened in 2004. The congregation's on the evangelical side, and they were just clearing off when I arrived on Sunday which may explain the two toddlers whizzing round the nave on scooters. But what a place in which to worship. [interior photo]
» Kirkaldy Testing Museum: The centrepiece of the museum is a Victorian curiosity - a 47ft long metal device for testing the stresses and strains of metals. It works on hydraulics, and so attracts (extremely keen) enthusiasts of a mechanical bent who like wearing overalls and getting greasy. The museum's small but rammed, and opens on the first Sunday of every month. Ian can tell you more.
» The Linnean Society: Serious natural historians, tucked away in a side wing near the Royal Academy, as they have been for centuries. Darwin first announced his theories of natural selection at a meeting of the Society in 1858. And they have a lovely library.
» Old Turkish Baths: Looks like a mini minaretted temple on the outside, accidentally discarded between two office blocks near Bishopsgate. Enter inside, down the steps, and it's a pizza restaurant. A damned ornate fame-obsessed pizzeria, but a pizzeria all the same. [exterior] [interior]
» Blue Fin Building: Yet another new office block, home to IPC Media, in the shadow of Tate Modern on Southwark Street. "Sorry, we're closed." Damn. [exterior photo]
» Greenwich Yacht Club: No, completely missed this one. How the hell am I supposed to get (promptly) from the East End to the North Greenwich Peninsula when the Jubilee line's shut, the East London line's shut and the only bus under the Thames refuses to pick me up because it's full. Damned frustrating. Yeah, should have gone by boat.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
London Open House (day 2): A perfect sun-dappled architectural weekend continues. I've been dashing around the capital again, lime green brochure in hand, although thwarted on more than one occasion by TfL's ubiquitous engineering works. A selection of Sunday reports are below, and I've saved a few more to post tomorrow.
One Bishops Square: Every Open House catalogue contains, if you know where to look, free access to some brand new shiny City office block whose owners are keen to show off their cutting edge interior to the general public. This year, admittedly just outside the Square Mile, the proud parents are Allen & Overy in Spitalfields. I think they're a bank - the glossy leaflet they handed us failed to mention this, so maybe the Brand Manager will get the sack tomorrow morning. Instead our visit was all about the architecture, in a wholly jealous 'I wish my workplace looked like this' sort of way. Deep glassy atria contain unexpected features like a shower of illuminated balls or a cascade of fluttering fabric flowers. Viewed from the glass lift, the flowers open and close to the rhythm of your descent. You might recognise the animated figure striding across the basement walls - that's your fractured image filmed earlier at the top of the escalator. There's a state-of-the-art gym, which they must be very proud of because our self-guided tour took an unnecesary diversion looping past whole avenues of rubber-handled cardio treadmills. From the first floor meeting rooms managers can look directly down into Spitalfields Market, a reminder that acres of heritage retail was eradicated to give these bankers their fresh new home. But the best view is from the spacious roof terraces - one on the sixth floor, another on the tenth - where clients can be opulently dined and secretaries can enjoy a full-on Gherkin with their coffee. Had the credit crunch not intervened, all our City fringes might have been destined to be consumed beneath towering temples to capitalism such as this.
Queen Mary College, Institute of Cell & Molecular Science: If university science labs conjure up visions of acid-pocked benches in musty halls, think again. Queen Mary's took a completely different approach with their most recent research facility, a wacky vibrant building full of light, shape and colour. It's tucked away behind the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, which might be why so few other visitors managed to find it this afternoon. But, wow. First point of call was the Perrin Lecture Theatre, which might have been quite normal were it not bright green throughout (bar ten randomly selected seats upholstered in red) and lit by flying saucer lights. Next across the bridge linking the two halves of the building - in today's bright sun, a tunnel of dazzling pinky orange. And on the far side a vast hall with room-sized organic pods floating in the centre, the shape of nuclei and headless insects. Look down to the open basement and you'll see the benches where QM students toil to discover stuff, like a scientific bazaar selling experimental equipment arranged in neat blue-capped rows. You get the feeling that working here might just be fun, and it's easy to see why the Blizard Building won a RIBA award in 2006.
Hoover Building: If There's nothing worse than travelling way out into the suburbs to an iconic Open House location only to find no banner, no volunteer and no sign of activity. Every OH minute is precious, and Zone 4 isn't a good place to waste them. I've been to this Art Deco treasure several times before, even bought teabags in the supermarket at the rear, but never managed to get inside the building proper. Thankfully, bang on ten o'clock, the chained front door swung open and we were invited within. The shiny angular lights and lift fittings delighted us all, until our guide informed us that almost all the decor we'd see was nothing but a carefully crafted fake. Hoover executives worked in these offices for 50 years, but the current lease is held by cigarette manufacturer Gallagher who dutifully refurbished the shell of the building in the 90s and then promptly moved out. What remains are epic stairwells, branded doors and echoing workspaces, all of them a curious mixture of modern and modernist. This was the canteen... this was the vacuum cleaner design studio... this was the boss's office. Even the ladies in our party appreciated the almost-original fittings in the gents toilets, including two central tub-like sinks. And it was great to get out onto the 2nd floor balcony and walk behind the giant lettering above the entrance, looking down over the gardens and the busy A40. Behind this magnificent frontage a timewarped warren of rooms awaits a fresh caring tenant.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
London Open House (day 1): Blimey, what magnificent late summer weather for a stroll around town looking at buildings. Lots of buildings, as it turned out. I even managed a walk through the middle of HM Treasury (past the coffee bars where scores of civil servants must have been fretting this week over a snatched latte), which isn't something you can do every weekend. Same again tomorrow?
William Booth College: If you're training to become a Salvation Army Officer, you'll spend two years here in the southern suburb of Denmark Hill. The college was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, and is built throughout in typical Twenties austere brick. There's a main Assembly Hall where ceremonial flags are paraded, and in which the faithful meet before a Blood & Fire emblem. But the most noticeable feature is the 190 foot tower which dominates the local skyline. For Open House, visitors were allowed to climb to the top. First up three floors in one of the oldest operational lifts in London (they filmed Poirot here, it's that old). And then a succession of red spiral staircases, the first 58 steps to the mobile mast gallery and the final 58 to the very top. From way up here, on a gorgeous sunny day like today, there's a fantastic view in all directions. From the City round to Canary Wharf, and Crystal Palace round to Battersea Power Station, all with ordinary modern estates in the foreground. Join the Sally Army and you might be able to sneak up here for an after dark panorama, or even to watch the New Year fireworks. Well worth the tottery ascent, and another unique Open House experience.
Royal Institution: Behind a pillared facade up a Mayfair sidestreet, an astonishingly high number of major scientific discoveries have been made. Here ten chemical elements were first identified, the first electric generator was powered up and the first laser beam was fired. You can see many of these pioneering experimental gizmos in a new museum in the basement of this just-reopened building. It's not yet quite complete, but the illuminated periodic table is ready for you to bash in time to Tom Lehrer's song The Elements. Upstairs is the Lecture Theatre, as viewed every year at Christmas on the TV. I got to sit on the newly refurbished pink seats and look down on the famous bench at which so many discoveries were first demonstrated. There's plenty for visitors to see scattered through the corridors and libraries, and a busy programme of upcoming events to herald the Institution's rebirth. Expect to hear a lot more from Albermarle Street in the future.
Marlborough House: This is one of those grand houses overlooking The Mall, the posh villas originally built by nobles but later snapped up the Royal Family. Not surprisingly the Duke of Marlborough built this one. His wife the Duchess supervised the interior design, shamelessly butchering a set of ceiling murals from the Queen's House in Greenwich by shrinking them down to fit her own central saloon. There are two main staircases, both fabulously decorated with oil paintings of the Duke's famous wartime victories. The house later passed on to the future Edward VII and his wife Alexandra. Hunt round the back of the garden and you might find gravestones to Caesar (Eddie's beloved fox terrier) and Bonny ('favourite rabbit' of the Princess of Wales). For the last 50 years the house has been at the disposal of the Commonwealth Secretariat, and world statesmen meet here every now and again to discuss matters of trade and sustainability and global stuff. Everyone has a seat crammed round the long oval table in the Red Drawing Room, arranged not by importance but in alphabetical order (the UK falls between Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania). A most elegant setting for such international relations.
Lambeth Palace: It's always tough to decide where to visit first on an Open House morning, and when to arrive. The ideal building is a rarely open architectural big hitter, and the ideal time is before the day's mammoth queues descend. I plumped for the Archbishop's pad on the Thames Embankment, and turned up an hour before opening time to ensure I was on the second tour and not still waiting round the corner at noon. We got a 50 minute look round, starting in the Crypt Chapel (which used to flood when the river was wider). There's a surprisingly spacious courtyard at the heart of the building, and a far bigger ornamental garden beyond. Outside the Great Hall is a 16th century fig tree, and inside is a spectacular hammerbeam roof carved with Moorish busts above the library. We were treated to tales of murdered archbishops, but didn't catch sight of the present incumbent (even though he was in the building somewhere). And finally to the main chapel, to sit on a bishop's chair beneath modern muralled vaulting. The complex is now too small to host the once a decade Lambeth Conference, but remains grand and reverential inside.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
The Jewish East End
The East End of London has a long-standing Jewish heritage. As with so many other immigrant groups, it was to the dockside slums east of the Tower that Jewish émigrés came... and settled, and grew, and thrived, and from which they eventually moved on. On Sunday I joined a guided walk round Jewish Tower Hamlets, as part of the East London Heritage Trails weekend, to try to discover what remains here. And it's not much.
There used to be nearly two hundred synagogues in the East End, and now there are only four. We began our walk outside one of the survivors - the Congregation of Jacob on the Commercial Road. I'd not noticed the building before, hemmed in between a pound shop and a travel agent, and with a bold black Star of David perched on the apex of the roof. The building was once a cobblers, transformed in the 1920s with an Arts and Crafts interior, featuring high balconies and side benches gathered around a central space for worship. At least that's how it looks in the photos. The synagogue hadn't opened by the time our walk arrived, and our guide Clive told us he'd probably not have been welcomed inside anyway. I'm sorry I didn't return later for a proper look.
Much of the rest of the two hour tour featured vanished locations once at the heart of Jewish life. A famous Yiddish theatre, now demolished with a Tesco Express on the site. A kosher street market, now little more than a run-down anonymous alley. A top Jewish school, long since escaped to the suburbs and replaced by an Asian convenience store. There's a new crowd of immigrants here these days, and streets that were once fiercely Jewish are now very definitely a Bangladeshi stronghold. Indeed, little expressed this transformation better than a refrigerated lorry which parked up beside us in Cannon Street Road. As Clive pointed out various former Jewish businesses, the driver emerged with a bloodied sheep's carcass slung over his shoulder and lugged it past us to the halal butcher round the corner.
The highlight of the tour was another synagogue, this time on Nelson Street and with the opportunity to venture inside. I'd not brought anything to cover my head so I thought I might be abandoned outside, but thankfully skull caps for visitors were available. This visit was a first for me, and it was fascinating to experience a very different place of worship. Again there were balconies for the ladies and ground floor galleries for the gentlemen, this time set beneath a light blue neo-Georgian roof. In the centre was a raised dais, and to the east two carved lions guarded the vault in the wall containing several golden scrolls of scripture [enlarge photo]. One of the synagogue's elderly worshippers spent a good half hour explaining what goes on here, and a little of the building's history, and just how much money they need to repair the roof. Most astonishingly he told of the steady decline in the number of worshippers, now reduced to little more than a quorum of 10, thanks to a Federation rule which permits only local Jews to join the congregation. The average age of the worshippers here is currently around 80-something, and as the elders die off there's a genuine risk that no Jewish East Enders will be around to replace them. A diminished congregation for the weekly service means that the building is increasingly likely to be sold off for flats, and one of the last survivors of a long heritage would be lost forever. A humbling visit.
I went on a second Heritage Trail walk in the afternoon, this time exploring the area around Mile End station. There's a surprisingly high number of intriguing locations in the vicinity, as you'll remember from my High Street 2012 chronicles. But our guide saved the best until last, a spot I'd never previously encountered, tucked away inside the Queen Mary's campus. Here was a field-sized fragment of an old Jewish cemetery, hemmed in on all sides by hedges and university buildings, containing around 2000 flat-topped graves. There used to be four times as many, but university expansion required several thousand bodies to be disinterred and relocated to a burial ground in Essex. The remainder created an impressive enough sight [enlarge photo]. As a rare treat the gate of the Nuevo Cemetery was specially unlocked on Sunday allowing access inside, and it was strangely moving to be able to stand alone amongst so many long dead generations. Hopefully this space, at the very least, will be properly protected against future development. The Jewish East End - visit now while evidence remains.
The East London Heritage Trails booklet is a fantastic 76-page colour guide to the secret heritage of Tower Hamlets. There's a wealth of historical information inside, as well as 13 short self-guided walks you can follow at your leisure. It took me three attempts to obtain a free copy from a local library (Whitechapel Idea Store finally managed to locate their booklets in a box behind the helpdesk, but only after I'd been sent on a 15 minute wild goose chase around the building). Alternatively you could send off a stamped addressed envelope or, for a virtual copy, download the booklet as a pdf. Recommended.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
OK, enough frivolity, it's time to get back to the desperately mundane.
Let's explore what's new on the street where I live, in a criminally uninteresting local feature I'm calling...
Bow Road update
Merchant's Quarter: I see they've taken down the scaffolding around this brand new development (pictured) at the top of British Street. No architectural gem, this block of shiny flats, just more dull modern ordinariness. I much preferred the scrap of wasteland on which it was built.
425: This new bus route, which I still can't quite see the point of, runs from Clapton to Stratford via Mile End. When the service started it was operated by leftover double deckers, scrappy old things cobbled together from a variety of operators, sometimes with the number "425" scrawled on a piece of paper and stuck on the front above the driver's head. Now, at last, there are some proper shiny new buses running the route, yet to be graffitied, yet to have some idiot's name scratched into the glass. It's a luxurious ride for the few passengers that bother to climb on board - I've yet to see any 425 even vaguely full. Should have saved some money and bought single deckers, guys.
Conkers: It's conker season at the big horse chestnut tree outside Bow Road station, long time readers will be pleased to hear. The pavement's littered with smashed spiky cases, but for the conkers themselves you'll need to arrive early in the morning to beat the local schoolkids.
Road works: Delays are expected for traffic along Bow Road on the last weekend of the month. No clues on the big yellow sign blocking the pavement outside the police station as to why, though.
Costcutter: The convenience shop with the old Co-op beehive on the roof isn't a Costcutter any more, it's metamorphosed into a Nisa. But no major changes inside.
Cupcake: I walked out of my front door earlier this week to find that some kind baking angel had left a small cupcake on my doorstep. I very nearly trod on it, squashing it flat, but thankfully avoided having to go to work with a spongey sole. The cake was iced with sugary whiteness, and had the words "eat me" piped in yellow around the circumference. I resisted the instruction, not wholly certain that the cake wasn't laced with arsenic, cigarette ash or recently-deposited rat droppings. I wonder if it came from this lot?
Bow Baptist Church: This erased building is now a building site behind a white wall, awaiting a highrise future (with a new church on the ground floor).
Byron Stingily: If there's an exciting weekend disco planned in SW Essex, you can guarantee that the promoter will have tied a big placard to the the traffic lights on the A12 roundabout beneath the flyover. Imagine my excitement when I saw on this poster that "TEN CITY featuring BYRON STINGLY" would be appearing in Loughton on the 27th "performing their all time classics alongside a legendary DJ line up." I struggled to remember any of Byron's banging screechy toons, let alone all time classics, but apparently they had plenty. 8pm til late, if you're interested. I shall be unavoidably elsewhere.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
I know I said that September in London was full of exciting activities and happenings, but all the fun stuff appears to be happening over the next three weekends. And definitely not today (which is probably just as well, given the miserable weather). So, being at a loss for something thrilling (and dry) to do, I thought I'd flick through the pages of this week's Time Out in search of some places to go. It'll make a change to actually use my copy for once, rather than just forking out £2.99, flicking through once and bunging it in the recycling. I've circled some stuff that looks interesting, and I'm about to head out across town to a variety of free events that I'd not have thought of attending if I hadn't spotted them in the listings. And then I'll report back here during the course of the day, via my mobile, to tell you what I'm up to. Better tuck my magazine away inside a waterproof bag! Cue Saturday Out.
Time Out Times (page 50): The only place to begin is the exhibition of Time Out covers at the Museum of London, celebrating 40 years of the capital's leading listings magazine. Plenty of iconic (and rather dated) imagery covers two walls near the entrance. There are also a few archive copies tethered to the display, including the very first folded A2 sheet from August 1968, so you can flick back and check which veggie restaurants were serving 'rabbit food' and where Jimi Hendrix was playing. Good start. [posted 10:47]
Skeletons (page 51): Twenty-six sets of human remains, lifted from former cemeteries throughout the capital, are on display at the Wellcome Collection on Euston Road. It's a minimalist but highly effective exhibition, laying bare the illnesses and chronic conditions of Londoners across the centuries. Roman soldiers with arthritis, babies with smallpox and a variety of nasty dental decay, it's a sobering look at centuries of mortality. And that's the second time I've been introduced to 'spondylolysis' in the last 24 hours. [posted 11:20]
Illumini (page 49): A great place to hide from a downpour is the crypt of St Pancras Church, currently illuminated by some rather nifty modern artwork. The theme here is light, and most of the pieces shine, glow or reflect. Exhibits include dancing dayglo filaments, glowing android torsos, lightbulb-shaped candles and mirrored lightboxes (Amy Winehouse has already bought one of the latter with her face on). Compact but unexpectedly impressive, and getting to wander round a dark undercroft is an added bonus. [posted 12:06]
Cliff Richard (page 65): Britain's most youthful pensioner has a new book out, and this lunchtime he's signing copies at Waterstones in Piccadilly. A queue of mostly 60-ish ladies snakes round the corner from the entrance, and every now and then the doorman allows another batch inside and up to the secondary queue on the first floor. Admittance to the autograph area is by £20 purchase alone, so I was unable to sneak a glimpse of Sir Cliff's radiant face. But streams of departing fans seemed delighted, jabbering away about the smile he'd shot and the photos they'd snatched. Congratulations, young ones. [posted 12:53]
London Through a Lens (page 49): Just round the corner from Oxford Circus, at the Getty Gallery, is this Time Out sponsored exhibition of a century of historic London photographs. Black and white they may be, but they're an extraordinarily powerful way of evoking the past. Londoners themselves are at the heart of it, from a folorn feathered King waiting for the royal coach to crowds of grinning urchins paddling in the Thames. The gallery was surprisingly crowded, and it wasn't always easy to read the informative labels bottom right. But you missed a trick, guys. If you'd had copies of the accompanying book available, you'd have sold a shedload. [posted 13:40]
Brick Lane Thrift Store (page 40): I've headed out to Shoreditch to Time Out's featured 'just opened' shop of the week. Good, I could do with a cheaply-filled slightly-trendy partially-updated wardrobe. But could I find the place? Could I hell. Sclater Street yes, unshuttered shop no. So I've hidden in the beigel shop to escape a rainstorm instead, yum. Next stop, the main event. [posted 14:31]
E17 Art Trail (page 48): From this weekend to next, 300 local artists are displaying their work around the streets and suburbs of Walthamstow. The idea is you pick up a map from a participating location and then track your way from gallery to temporary display space to enjoy what's on offer. Well that was the idea. I struggled in the wind with the flappy map, and the absence of a simple key made working out precisely where to go surprisingly difficult. Several times I walked past a unsigned participating venue without noticing, or missed the crucial message that they were only open next weekend. As a result I've seen a lot of streets, and a lot of rain, but not a lot of art. Some charming ceramics at the Vestry House Museum, some portrait photos in Waterstones' window, a couple of greyhounds and not much else. "It's normally much busier than this," said the lady behind the counter at Penny Fielding Beautiful Interiors, "the shop's usually rammed with people." Not this weekend, dear. If the maps dry out, maybe next. [posted 17:07]
Friday, September 05, 2008
If there's one news event that's guaranteed to annoy me every year, it's the early autumn announcement of TfL's New Year fare rises. But it's not the increasing prices that annoy me, it's the accompanying moaning from all corners of the media. That, and people's utter inability to cope with figures. This year, alas, is no exception.
"TUBE & BUS FARES SOAR" (Evening Standard)
Ah, never an organ to use a subdued verb where a scary one will do, the ES pounces with characteristic pessimism. Oyster bus fares will be going up all of 10p, from 90p to £1. By the end of a week's travelling this might cost about the same as an extra litre of petrol. Not exactly 'soaring' - I think London will cope.
"Mayor announces increases of up to 10 per cent in the New Year" (Evening Standard)
Now, stop me if I'm wrong, but a rise from 90p to £1 is more than 10%. It's just over 11% in fact. ES journalist Pippa corrects her mathematical incompetence in the next paragraph, but by then she's missed out on an even scarier strapline.
"TUBE AND BUS FARES GO UP 10%" (thelondonpaper)
Er, no they don't. Overall, the price rise is 6%. There are only two fares rising precisely 10%. One's a Zone 1 & 2 Oyster tube fare (£2 → £2.20), and the other's a one day bus pass (£3 → £3.30). Almost everything else rises less.
"Capital faces big travel fare hike" (This is Local London)
Actually, if you look carefully, some fares aren't going up at all. Buying a bus ticket with cash will still cost £2 and buying a tube ticket with cash will still cost £4. It may be extortionate, but not everybody's travel bill is increasing.
"Tube fares to soar to fill £84m shortfall" (Metro)
Boris has made a big deal of this £84m shortfall, supposedly created by his predecessor, but it equates to just £12 per Londoner per year. A pound a month. It's not exactly the biggest most gaping hole ever.
"Rise will fix Ken's TfL black hole" (Evening Standard again)
It'll also fix Boris's scrapping of the £25 Congestion Charge for guzzly 4×4s and fund the cost of replacing bendy buses with pseudo-Routemasters. But sssh, no mention of that in the lapdog Standard.
"It's Ken's fault says Mayor" (Evening Standard yet again)
Because it's all Ken's fault, obviously. Last year Ken raised fares in line with inflation, rather than by inflation plus 1%. Londoners appreciated that, but Boris didn't. If only Ken had raised prices by inflation plus 1%, Boris could have got away with just inflation this year, and looked less evil.
"‘tough choices’ necessary to tackle ‘the unfunded legacy of Livingstone’s largesse’" (london.gov.uk)
You just know that, later this year, Boris is going to cancel some upcoming transport project and blame Ken. He'll probably carry on blaming Ken for the next three years, because that's what politicians (on both sides) do.
"Elderly to benefit from 24hrs Freedom Pass" (london.gov.uk)
Hang on, that's rather brilliant, isn't it? The over 60s can travel anywhere any time for nothing. That's not a price hike at all, it's rush hour fare abolition. Still, you can always count on the bright young things in rest of the media to focus on themselves and not the pensioners they'll one day be.
"It's appalling that fares are going up when the service is so rubbish" (woman in street)
But my dear, if we're going to make the service better we need to spend more money on it. Sorry, but you don't get a better service by paying less. Do you not realise how lucky you are to live in a city with a cheap, extensive, accessible public transport network?
"You don't get a better service by paying less" (diamond geezer)
Well, actually, that's not always true. Sheesh, do you realise how many misguided inaccurate statements there are above? You could pick holes in almost everything I've written, especially if you're one of those tedious political ranty types. And that's why I hate TfL price rise announcement day - it brings out the illogical vitriol in us all. Fares go up every year, get used to it.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
2012 medal map
Forget Boris's statistically-suspect crime maps. Here's a much more reliable geospatial graphic - the London 2012 medal map. It shows which boroughs will be hosting Olympic events, and which boroughs are getting diddly-squat. And what do you know, some of the official host boroughs are getting diddly-squat.
I've used the same colours as the new crime maps:
Red means more than 50 gold medals, yellow means 2-5 gold medals and purple means no medals whatsoever.
High Above average Average Below average Low
(The green kidney shape in East London is the location of the Olympic Park)
(H = Host Borough)
Let me explain how I've worked out the figures, taking the borough of Westminster as an example. Westminster's hosting the Archery (4 gold medals), the Triathlon (2 golds) and the politically suspect Beach Volleyball (2 more golds). The cycling road races take place in both Westminster and Camden, so I'm sharing the 4 golds between them (2 golds each). And the marathon runs through several boroughs, so I'm sharing the two golds between all five (0.4 golds each). Total for Westminster = 10.4 gold medals. So Westminster is coloured orange.
The table below shows the medal totals for all the boroughs hosting events in London 2012. Please note that several of these boroughs are outside the capital (and therefore not on the map).
2012 medals, borough by borough 186.1 golds: Newham Athletics, Swimming, Wrestling, Weightlifting, Judo, Boxing, Track Cycling, Fencing, Taekwondo, Diving, Table Tennis, Synchronised Swimming, Water Polo, Hockey, BMX, Walk, Modern Pentathlon, Basketball, Marathon
45.8 golds: Greenwich Gymnastics, Shooting, Equestrian, Badminton, Basketball, Modern Pentathlon
26 golds: Windsor & Maidenhead Rowing, Canoe & Kayak (Flatwater)
11 golds: Weymouth and Portland Sailing
10.4 golds: Westminster Archery, Beach Volleyball, Triathlon, Road Cycling, Marathon
4 golds: Broxbourne Canoe & Kayak (Slalom); Hackney Handball, Hockey; Merton Tennis
2 golds: Camden Road Cycling; Kensington & Chelsea Volleyball; Castle Point Mountain biking
1.9 golds: Tower Hamlets Walk, Marathon
0.4 golds: City of London/Southwark Marathon
0.3333.. golds: Birmingham/Brent/Cardiff/Glasgow/Newcastle/Trafford Football
The lion's share of our 2012 Olympic medals will be competed for in either Newham or Greenwich. Newham (186) scores extremely highly because it contains the Olympic Stadium, the Aquatic Centre and the ExCel exhibition centre. Greenwich (46) does well because of events at the Dome (but might lose ground if organisers decide to shift the bang bang and the gallopy gallopy elsewhere).
But Newham and Greenwich are just two of the five councils that have been designated official "host boroughs" for the 2012 Olympics. The other three, despite being part of the Olympic Park, aren't hosting very much at all. Bad luck Hackney (4), there are only three mini-stadia within your boundaries, so all you'll get are the medal-feeble hockey and handball. Poor old Tower Hamlets (1.9). We were expecting the basketball stadium, except the latest round of cost-cutting shifted it over the river into Newham, so all we'll see are the middle sections of the marathon and some walking races. And sod off Waltham Forest (0), because you'll be generating absolutely no Olympic medals whatsoever. Which is rubbish.
Almost a sixth of London's 2012 medals are being awarded outside London. A bit of water outside Windsor gets to be the site of a giveaway paddling bonanza. The lovely Dorset Coast will be doling out 11 golds to capable sailors. Hertfordshire's whitewater slalom and an Essex mountain bike course will both be more productive than my home borough. And even far-flung Newcastle, host to a few football matches at St James' Park, will see more Olympic competition than supposedly-central Waltham Forest.
But never fear, Waltham Forest, because the Paralympics are coming to your rescue. The former Eton Manor sports centre is being transformed into the venue for the Paralympic Archery (9 golds) and the Wheelchair Tennis (6 golds), which means 15 precious ribboned discs are on their way. And Hackney at least scores highly in the legacy phase, gaining a new industrial resource when the huge International Broadcast Centre is handed over to the community.
But as for Tower Hamlets, being a "host borough" looks like being an underwhelming disappointment. One corner of our borough has been needlessly razed to build a food court and a non-existent basketball stadium, and all we'll see otherwise are a few brief sweaty-limbed athletes. Not one single Olympic or Paralympic event will either start or finish in Tower Hamlets. My local council has been reduced to crowing that "the world's greatest sporting occasion will be happening on our doorstep". But, alas, not at home.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
High Street 2012
WHITECHAPEL BELL FOUNDRY
Up at the Aldgate end of High Street 2012, on the corner of Fieldgate Street, a converted pub houses Britain's oldest surviving manufacturing company. It's the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, purveyors of fine chiming metal ringers since 1570. Big Ben started out here, and the Liberty Bell, and quite possibly that bell that rings out the hour in the village where you grew up. The foundry's open five days a week, during which time tourists are permitted to peer inside at a small exhibition and take a look round the tiny shop. But to get any further you need to join a tour, and that's mighty difficult. Tours run roughly fortnightly on Saturdays, and they're currently fully booked for months if not years into the future. But I managed to slip onto a recent extra tour and see inside for myself, and it was everything I was (and wasn't) expecting.
First stop beyond the shop is the central courtyard, a tiny space used for bell storage - some new, some old, some damaged and back for repair [photo]. There's a big bell-tree on one wall which chimes the quarter hours and can also play Oranges and Lemons (well, what else?). Then through into the foundry proper, an L-shaped open plan workshop space, within which generations of bells have been cast [photo]. Mind the dust. They've used pretty much the same process here for centuries, which essentially involves forming a mould out of earthy clay and then filling it with molten bronze. Precise moulds are created by rotating a simple metal template, sort of coathanger shaped, generating both an outer and inner shape for the bell-to-be [photo]. That's stamped with any required inscription [photo], in reverse of course, and only then is the ready-mixed copper and tin poured in. It takes a weekend to cool down, which is good news if your tour's timed right. And then the bell's lugged (or craned) round the corner to be tuned. This is a bit more hi-tech, wired up to a machine with red flashing lights, but in the end it all comes down to the skill of the operator to carve out the right grooves and get the harmonics right.
The foundry also repairs old church bells, several of which are older than the business itself. The floor of the rear workshop is covered with them, some on the way in, some on the way out. At the top of the building is the carpentry workshop where all the woodwork needed to hang a bell in a church tower is created, including giant wheels which allow each bell in a peal to spin round. Oh, and they make handbells too. It's not quite such a lucrative business as ten thousand quid a time church bells, but it brings in the money all the same. And it requires just as skilled a process, from shaping the newly cast metal to adding the final flourish with a neat leather handle.
The tour lasted a very full two hours and our guide, the site foreman, brought the entire process alive. It was clear that the foundry is still home to some very specialised professionals. You can't find folk like this down at the job centre ("I'd like a trained clapper fitter please") and apprentices have to be trained up on site. And there are signs everywhere that this is a genuine place of everyday work. Health and safety notices by the furnace, pin-ups of scantily clad girls carefully sellotaped at eye-level, stickmen scrawled on the workshop kettle. I don't know if you'd feel comfortable allowing guided tours round your place of work at the weekend, but I'm glad I got the opportunity to poke my nose into one of Tower Hamlets' most fascinating businesses. Book now for, er, 2011?
Whitechapel Bell Foundry (tours & history)
Big Ben (150 years old this year)
Other visitors this month: photoset, podcast
Saturday, August 30, 2008
London 2012: first signs of a stadium...
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Just another tube journey home, rattling steadily eastwards, and I'm slouching at the end of the carriage reading the paper. The train's not packed - it must be August - but otherwise it's an entirely unremarkable journey. At Bethnal Green the doors swish open and a few people storm off onto the platform, hurrying escalatorward. The train pauses, and those of us still aboard wait for the doors to close so that our journey can continue."Ladies and gentlemen..."Hmm, that's not the normal platform announcement voice. He sounds somehow different, more posh, more precise. Normally we get to hear someone a bit chirpier, someone who sounds like a real human being you might meet in a pub and not just a stilted robot. Even the nannying lady who repeatedly nags you to take all your belongings with you has an air of the 21st century about her. This bloke could be straight out of a 1950s documentary, probably wearing a bowler hat. I wonder what he's going to say next."...because of a reported emergency it has become necessary to evacuate this station."Ah. Hmmm. Ulp?
I look out onto the platform. There's no obvious sign of danger, no billowing clouds of smoke, no crack police team in gasmasks, not even a lonely looking rucksack. By now there's barely anybody left on the platform at all, just a silent tiled wall staring back at me. I wonder what the emergency could be. Is the world ending, is there a gunman on the loose, or is it just that the driver's radio is on the blink again?
It's not just me. Everybody else has stopped reading and is now looking up. Eyes dart nervously around the carriage in a flurry of reassuring communication. Some people smile weakly, others appear rather more nervous. We are all going to be alright, aren't we? Go on, tell us more."Please exit the station immediately."Erm, how? Should we all rush off the train and head towards the escalator (not good if the unspoken emergency is up in the ticket hall)? Or should we all stay on the train and wait for the driver to zoom us out of here (not good if the unspoken emergency is in the tunnels)? There are no clues.
The automated message is not repeated. Mr Posh has no more information to impart. There's no obvious member of station staff around to ask, nor any human being speaking over the station's tannoy with specific evacuation information. Even the driver is staying mute, perhaps because he knows no more than we do. This might be a false alarm for all we know. Or there again it might not.
We sit, and stare at each other, and wait, and wonder whether anybody else in the carriage is going to react. Nobody does. The doors are still gaping open, tempting us to stand up and escape, but we ignore the opportunity. Come on driver, slam the doors shut and whisk us out of here. And quickly please.
It's strange, but even though the voice reading the announcement was firm and proper, everybody has ignored him. We've all heard far too many automated announcements on the underground recently and we've learnt to disregard them. Planned engineering works? Don't care. Take our belongings with us? Yeah yeah. Don't change trains at Bank? Not listening. So when a recorded announcement tells us to evacuate the station, we don't take a blind bit of notice.
At last, after what's probably thirty seconds but feels much longer, the doors finally close. We set off into what we hope is the safety of the tunnel, keeping a close eye on any potential nightmare unfolding on the platform as we accelerate away. No sign. A brief perturbed smile from everyone in the carriage - what happened there? - and then back to reading the newspaper. No worries.BETHNAL GREEN STATION. Closed due to a fire alert. All trains are not stopping.Nothing dangerous this time, but in the event of a genuine "situation" we'd have been buggered. The general public appear to have no respect whatsoever for someone pressing a button to play the emergency tape, because familiarity has bred contempt. The unexpected, it seems, has to sound properly unexpected to be taken seriously. And one day, on some train in some platform somewhere, I fear passengers may not believe it's the real thing until it's too late.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Three things I did over the last fortnight which I didn't tell you about at the time
1) I went rowing on the roof of the Hayward Gallery (like you do)
I was able to go paddling courtesy of the Psycho Buildings exhibition, celebrating the Gallery's 40th anniversary. One of the upper terraces had been deliberately flooded, and a handful of two-seater boats were moored up beside a makeshift pier. The queues for this particular attraction were usually discouragingly long, but by turning up on a Monday morning there was nigh no wait at all. It was indeed suitably surreal splashing around high above the South Bank, grinning and waving at ladies drinking coffee in the Royal Festival Hall nextdoor. A couple of inflatable water bottles kept the craft away from the concrete rim, but there was still plenty of artificial lake to explore. Even better, with virtually no queue waiting on the shore, there was plenty of time available to learn how to steer the boat properly-ish. And if you fancy a go, sorry, the exhibition closed yesterday. [rowing photo]
2) I stumbled across Noel Edmonds in a subway (like you do)
This wasn't deliberate, you understand. I tagged along on one of Hammersmith & Fulham's cultural walking tours (every weekend, variety of locations, free), in this case related to the 1908 Olympics. Our effervescent guide took us from Shepherd's Bush Green to the site of the White City Stadium, relating tales of Team GB's unlikely medal haul a century ago. Our walk finished up at the London 1908 finishing line, in the grounds of the BBC Media Centre, which meant I could take a proper photo at last without some security jobsworth wagging his prohibitive finger. And along the way, just past Dorando Close, we were led into a grotty subway beneath the Westway to inspect the murals. Some of these depicted the 1908 Olympics, and others portrayed key BBC personalities from a golden 1980s era. Basil and Sybil Fawlty, a dalek... and the entire Radio 1 Breakfast Show posse. Rarely have grinning teeth been quite so cheesy, and quite so unexpected. [R1 DJ photo]
3) I attended Olympic handover in Hackney (like you do)
Not for me the big raffle-ticket handover party in the Mall. An afternoon hemmed in behind barriers watching Katherine Jenkins and Will Young whilst waving a flag promoting a credit card company, not for me thanks. Instead I rattled off to the not quite so trendy end of Hoxton to a 1948-themed street party, part of the Shoreditch Festival. There were men in flat caps (nothing new for Hoxton) jitterbugging with brightly headscarved ladies, and there were boxers from the local club knocking ten bells out of one another in a ring in the middle of the street. Throw in a nice bit of Make Do And Mend, and an Empire Windrush Dance Hall, and the whole event had a genuine unforced appeal. The biggest smile came courtesy of a tank parked at the top of the street, owned by the infamous Space Hijackers. A placard on the side of the tank proclaimed "FREE HACKNEY", allegedly marking the symbolic handover of the "Free Tibet" campaign. At a nearby tea stall two pearly queens seemed unperturbed - more cake Doris? [pearly photo]
Sunday, August 24, 2008
OK world, it's our turn next!
Sunday, August 03, 2008
BAKERLOO LINE: Minor delays are occurring due to a twat overheating and pressing the alarm button at Lambeth North.
CENTRAL LINE: Good service (we recommend Holy Communion at St Paul's)
CIRCLE LINE: Suspended, under the Trade Descriptions Act, for being squashed and elongated.
DISTRICT LINE: Minor delays are occurring due to a misplaced apostrophe at St Jame's Park.
EAST LONDON LINE: The line is closed to enable upgrade works to allow people in Croydon to travel to Dalston. Because that's a journey an awful lot of Croydoners want to make, obviously. A selection of inefficient underused replacement bus services operate.
Hammersmith & City
HAMMERSMITH AND CITY LINE: Severe architectural damage at Great Portland Street, and Aldgate East, and Mile End, courtesy of greedy Metronet shareholders.
JUBILEE LINE: Suspended between North Greenwich and Stratford, yet again, sorry. This is due to planned engineering works (probably twenty men standing around on the tracks in the Canning Town area pointing at things and drinking tea).
METROPOLITAN LINE: Severe delays are occurring due to some idiot union leader getting a bee in his bonnet about something pathetic.
NORTHERN LINE: Suspended between Finchley Central and Mill Hill East (60ft above ground level on the Dollis Brook Viaduct).
NORTHERN LINE: Miner delays at Colliers Wood.
PICCADILLY LINE: Trains are over-hot, over-crowded, intermittent and uncomfortable. In other words, a normal service is operating.
VICTORIA LINE: The Victoria line will close from 2200 on Monday to Thursday evenings for the foreseeable future while all our drivers knock off early and go down the pub.
Waterloo & City
WATERLOO AND CITY LINE: Oh who cares?
MONUMENT AND BANK STATIONS: Until summer 2009, we are pretending there is very limited interchange at Bank and Monument stations. This is due to a deliberate campaign of wanton patronising. You are strongly advised to travel miles out of your way, via alternative interchange stations, when in fact you could probably change trains here in minutes.
TRANSFORMING THE TUBE: Normal service will be resumed on all lines sometime in 2020, if you're lucky, although we probably still won't have finished upgrading the network by then.