Tuesday, April 20, 2010

East London Line Farce

This morning I attempted to travel between Deptford and Whitechapel. Being aware that the re-opening of the East London Line had been postponed I made the (perhaps naive)presumption that the ELW replacement bus service would be running the same service as in recent months.

Coming out of Shadwell DLR station there was a "Buses on diversion sign" at the south end of Watney Street pointing west (along Cable Street). I walked to the usual bus stop in Candle Street to find notices saying that the ELW would stop running on Friday 16th April.

I telephoned Transport for London's Travel Information line. The clearly uninterested 'travel advisor' was less than helpful, trying to tell me that the replacement bus service had stopped running several months ago. I explained that the ELC (south of the river) had stopped last year and repeated what the notices said. Eventually, after much umming and arring he transferred me to London Overground (or rather yet another menu). When I eventually spoke to someone their response was basically 'Dunno mate I'll have to transfer you to the East London Line". After brief ringing tone there was a recorded message "The dialled number cannot be reached" and the call ended.

I explained the result of my call to four other passengers at the stop and then a Wapping bound ELW came round the corner. I asked the driver if Whitechapel bound ELW buses were stopping there. He said yes, but he did not know if there were any other buses on the route today apart from him. Not knowing how long it would take to get to Whitechapel, or how long it would take to get home, I gave up and caught the DLR back to south London.

On my return I telephoned Transport for London's Customer Relations department to complain. I explained the above and the person suggested 47 to Liverpool Street and another bus from there. I explained that I was perfectly capable of working out alternative routes, but in addition to my complaint about how my earlier call had been handled I also wanted to know how often the ELW is actually running. I was told that I would get a response within 10 working days. I suggested that 10 days to find out how often a bus is running was a bit excessive, but to no avail.

I then searched on the TfL website for contact details for the East London Line and found 0800 587 2441, called it only to get the same recorded message as above. I then called the TfL main switchboard and was given the number 020 7826 4863. I dialled it and yet again received the same recorded message. I called the main switchboard again and was put through to a supervisor at the Travel Information office. He managed to be even less helpful than the travel advisor I had spoken to earlier. After telling him several times I wished to know how often the ELW was running he insisted on trying to suggest other routes. He then claimed that he could not tell me how often the bus runs unless I told him exactly which 'points' I was travelling to and from. (In that the ELW runs between Wapping and Whitechapel and only stops at Shadwell this was nonsense.) I reminded him that I had already told where I was trying to catch the ELW to and from. He than started telling me that buses stop at 'points' and that if I did not tell him what 'points' he would be unable to find out the information. He then suddenly said he would have to transfer me - to the same recorded message.

I rang the main switchboard yet again and they said that they had tried to find out what was wrong with the East London Line's telephones but to no avail and suggested I leave it an hour or two before trying again.

I took some time to look at TfL's Journeyplanner site and it suggested Deptford to Whitechapel via Cannon Street and Deptford Bridge to Whitechapel via Bank or Bow Road. Entering Shadwell to Whitechapel suggested DLR to Bank and District to Whitechapel - no mention of the ELW bus. Put together with the supervisor's waffle about points, the suspicion must be that Travel Information these days is merely people looking up journeyplanner without much idea about what to do if information is wrong or missing.

At 5.15pm the main switchboard eventually managed to connect me with the East London Line office. I was told that the ELW should be operating a 15 minute service until the line re-opens and that the signs on the bus stop should have been removed this morning. I explained all the problems that I had experienced today and was told that Journeyplanner would be updated, and that the incorrect signage would be removed.

There has been much speculation about when the East London Line will re-open, and why dates have been announced and then withdrawn. My farcial experiences today suggest that we should brace ourselves for a repeat of the shambles when the Jubilee Line Extension opened some ten years ago, and no doubt a re-run of the present day engineering works on the Jubilee to correct the construction foul-ups. After all if this multi-milion pound project cannot arrange the removal of signs from three bus stops and the entry of simple timetable information on a database can we seriously believe that they are capable of building a functioning railway?


  1. Ah, Bill, why so surprised? NOTHING is working right at the moment because EVERYONE is stuck in Europe (or the Maldives and Bejing if they work for the council, probably the States if TfL)...Do have a heart!!! It could go on for ages, that volcano! A marvellous excuse for inflation and all kindsa stuff...God loves a sinner.

  2. My word verification was 'lie sod' ha, ha, ha!