For months, indeed years now, a group of local users of the North London Line (Overground) have been trying to get a Users Group together.
We've made the offer to TfL, to Silverlink historically, now to LOROL and a range of associated officers.
The response is a warm enthusiasm and then silence. Put simply there is no sustained commitment or support for such a venture from those who appears to be responsible for the line.
The result is a culture that is distant and hand-to-mouth. The whole operation works on a 'surprises only' basis.
For example, we have the signs being re-done at all the stations without a conversation on improvements, the benches at Kensal Rise being moved, the clock at West Hampstead being moved, a bike rack at Hampstead Heath in the daftest of locations, a coffee bar in Hampstead Heath, a cash point at Brondesbury - all unannounced and all could have been done better.
None of these need be problematic but the fact is all of them could have been done better, smarter, cheaper, to greater effect, if there had been the most cursory conversation with users.
So the challenges to Tfl, LOROL and the asociated arms of transport agencies are very simple:
- Decide if you really (really) want a Users Group and if you don't then be honest and say so.
- Provide a written commitment to working with that Users Group on a no-surprises principle (ie. we won't arrive at the station one morning to find closures, changes and additions that have not ben consulted on or notified in advance).
- Make a geneuine effort to be far more joined up - it's no longer credible to be consulting on access arrangements for Brondesbury, at the same time as making the installation of a ash point, at the same time as consulting on Phase Three - all of which should be joined up.
- Provide an up-to-date real contact sheet for the stations from Hampstead Heath to Kensal Rise and the associated staff responsibilities in order to remove the excuse culture of 'sorry not my department/scheme/section'.
- Include the British Transport Police and the local residents and amenity groups and stop playing one off against the other but committing to public meetings and regular information briefings (that can also be issued at stations).
So there it is a pretty simple five point challenge to TfL, LOROL and the associated agencies. I won't hold my breath... (but hope to be proved wrong)...