Transport for London is trying to close the District Line service to Kensington Olympia. Well, they say they’re not – its merely a “timetable change”. But a timetable change that means that the measly three-trains per hour service will go away entirely on weekdays, unless there is a “major” event going on at the Olympia exhibition centre.
By “major”, they mean an event that attracts more than 6,000 visitors a day, and crucially, only between the hours of 10am – 4pm. So if you’re at a conference or exhibition that starts at 8.30 or 9am, getting to the venue turns into an epic trip of planes, trains and automobiles.
And all this buried in announcements about “timetable changes” (no consultation required) rather than “service closure”.
Closing a wheelchair accessible station
Olympia is one of the few stations in London that is 100% wheelchair accessible. In order for local residents in wheelchairs to access the District Line – or mothers with pushchairs or other impaired people – the closest accessible station Hammersmith – almost a full mile away.
Why do TfL want to effectively close down a tube service in a part of London that is rammed with road traffic and whose existing tube and rail services as also full to bursting?
Minimal benefit for Wimbledon branch commuters
TfL claims that track congestion at Earls Court station means that running 3 trains an hour to Olympia causes untold train problems for the other Wimbledon, Richmond and Ealing branches. They claim that by eliminating the service entirely for one group of travellers, they will be able to run an extra – hold on to your hats – FIVE services during rush hour to Wimbledon, which they claim is massively overcrowded. Wow! 2.5 extra trains in the morning, 2.5 trains in the evening! You Wimbledon commuters will really be able to stretch your legs. Some quarters have been talking about “5 extra trains an hour” – this is completely inaccurate.
Bogus usage figures for Olympia Station
They claim that the number of people using Olympia is so small that it is justified to kill their service in the pursuit of better service for Wimbledon commuters. But they aren’t basing that decision on anything sensible like Oyster figures, they’re going on a manual count carried out in 2008, which has questionable numbers. And anyway, Oyster reader figures would not give the full picture as
- there are no barriers at Olympia station, so no compulsion to swipe an Oyster card or ticket
- only PAYG Oyster users have to swipe their Oyster at the station – season ticker Oyster users have no need
- visitors to the Olympia exhibition centre will most likely have paper travelcards or tickets – again, no visibility to the Oyster readers
We want a proper, independent manual count that is truly representative of current usage patterns on both exhibition days and normal weekday usage.
Oh, and its not long before the Earls Court exhibition centre closes, meaning that there will be even more demand for transport links to Olympia.
So far, I’ve heard nothing from TfL about how they have explored other ways of dealing with the congestion at Earls Court and providing a better service for Wimbledon branch commuters. Could they change working practises? What about technology upgrades? How about extending service from its current High St Kensington – Earls Court – Olympia to extend as far as Edgeware Road or Victoria in the other direction?
Anyway, I believe this to be a flawed decision and one that should be opposed.
- To keep up to date, you can find more information at the excellent MyOlympia.org.uk site.
- You can sign the petition to oppose the closure over at ipetitions.com/petition/olympia-service-closure/
- Contact Transport for London to oppose the closure of the Olympia District Line service.
- Write to your MP.
- Write to Boris Johnson, Mayor of London.
- Write to your London Assembly Member.