Transport against london

I take a couple of weeks off (a week at home with the kids, a week in Dorset: very nice, thanks, since you ask) and when I first get back to posting, I find I’m channelling the excellent Disgruntled Commuter. This morning’s journey into work was a vision of madness and chaos straight out of Dante’s Inferno.

I exaggerate, of course. The Waterloo and City Line is a key link in my standard route to work, when I go purely by public transport. Hackney to Wimbledon is not the simplest route between two parts of London, but it doesn’t have to be insane. That line, though, is currently closed. Until September. If we assume it won’t reopen until the end of that month at the earliest, that means it will be closed for half the year. I understand that things wear out and break down and have to be maintained: but it only goes between two stations. There’s not that much to it. How long can things take?

So for two days this week I cycled to Waterloo (I work at home on Wednesdays) which is the best way to get in anyway, for all the usual reasons why cycling is best1. But lately I’ve fallen out of the habit. To break myself back in gently (in other words, to give myself a rest from it today, or out of sheer laziness), I decided to chance public transport today.

I’m a great fan of public transport generally, of course: but there are times and services that… don’t show it in its best light, let’s say. The North London Line is one that has a bad reputation at best: indeed, the aforementioned Disgruntled one has written about it in the past. Yet gettting that line to Highbury and Islington and then the Victoria Line to Vauxhall for the last leg to Wimbledon seemed the best alternative route for me.

You’ll have guessed, since I’m writing this, that it was not.

The North London Line is characterised by infrequent, jam-packed services, and it deserves the characterisation. Don’t get the idea that this was a surprise to me: I knew perfectly well what it would be like. What do you think was the biggest prod to get me back onto my bike?

So that wasn’t really the problem (though the difficulty of seeing the station name signs when you’re jammed in standing up makes it extra hard for the infrequent user to be sure they are at the correct station). No, the problem was my old friend2 the Victoria Line.

It was, in short, fucked.

So I got on that curious bit of non-Underground underground line that also runs out of Highbury and Islington (and that I can’t remember the name of), and got a train to Moorgate. Thence by Northern Line to London Bridge and Jubilee to Waterloo. I left home at about 8:15 (significantly later than I originally intended to, admittedly) and the train from Waterloo pullled into Wimbledon at 9:35. Bah!


1. Exercise, knowing fairly exactly when you’re going to get there, and not being at the mercy of the transport network chief among them.

2. Before I lived in Hackney I lived in Walthamstow. You get on at the start of the line (and thus are almost guaranteed a seat) plonk yourself down, open your book, and don’t look up until Vauxhall.

Transport against london

One thought on “Transport against london

  1. Assuming that your usual route is Hackney Downs-Liverpool Street-Bank-Waterloo-Wimbledon, can I suggest a Circle from Liverpool Street to Embankment and then a walk across Hungerford Bridge to Waterloo? Alternatively, stay on the Central Line to Tottenham Court Road and chance the Northern Line to Waterloo.

  2. Tony:

    My normal route is bus to Bethnal Green, Central Line to Bank, etc, although the above is one I use, too. Staying on till TCR always takes longer than I like, and I was trying to use a route with as few changes as possible.

    Thanks for the Hungerford Bridge suggestion, though. I like walking across the river, although when I’ve done that in the opposite direction recently, it has seemed like a long way from Waterloo to the bridge.

    Still, I might try it on the way home tonight.

  3. Actually, if you’re coming in from Bethnal Green, you might consider the walk from Bank to Monument, and then going from there to Embankment (or even stay on the District Line all the way to Wimbledon).

    You’ll certainly get fit.

  4. now you know why we moved out of Hackney – to get away from Silverlink. Imagine doing not just the three stops to Highbury but all the way to Kew … it’s what made me start the blog in the first place

  5. Hi, Disgruntled, thanks for dropping in. Yes, I once went round that way to Clapham Junction (avoiding a Tube strike, if I recall correctly). It was not nice, and not quick either.

    But note that, last Friday, there was nothing actually wrong with the Silverlink service, apart from the overcrowding. I hold out hope for it. I saw Ken talk at a “People’s Question Time” event at the Empire a few months back, and he promised — promised! that the service was going to be improved and increased to some useful number of trains per hour.

    We can but wait and see, though.

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