What is really going on with London’s transport infrastructure? | Daniel Evans

When I got home from work on the Jubilee line today, I noticed the old signal board near Platform 2 was no longer there. It had an old antenna above it, which was either…

What is really going on with London’s transport infrastructure? | Daniel Evans

When I got home from work on the Jubilee line today, I noticed the old signal board near Platform 2 was no longer there. It had an old antenna above it, which was either hanging down or completely missing.

I looked down at it myself and found an odd pattern of lines on the board. So I looked closer. Inside, under the letters “Inbound” and “Outbound”, there was a tape that said “SOUTH POINT”. There was also another tape, called “EAST POINT”, underneath the latter. An odd tape!

We want to stay in London. We want a fairer city. We want a London where people aren’t just served by a few transport companies. We want a London that reflects our diversity

Perhaps the architects thought this was a bit odd? I remember when I was a child, not so long ago, schoolmarmish park wardens who hated children’s thoughtless — and quite productive — use of the playground would constantly put up notices like this. My parents tried to help. They begged her to give me some space so I could wander about. She claimed she “didn’t have much time”.

Anyway, inside this tape, I found: “SIGNAL CANNOT BE REPLACED”. This seems to be the official line, provided by Transport for London.

I made a note of this, so if any of my readers would like to set me straight, I can probably warn you off being on the Jubilee line when the sign is being displayed at South End station. Someone you might read about may be reading your comments at your expense. (Dear reader, that is a fate worse than death.)

I will also direct you to the bus queue, as our buses are pretty well designed — sometimes. Other times, they are terrible. I was having a particularly bad ride, heading west, as I was expecting a bus to be nearby soon. Then I noticed this old, blackboard, with its wobbly lines. I shook my head.

I then stopped in my tracks. Perhaps I was looking in the wrong place. This was not the bus queue! Certainly not for a bus that hadn’t even taken off. All the buses in the bunch were moving in the opposite direction.

I wondered if I needed to cross the road. What if there were a car in the path of the bus I was about to cross? Not far behind me was another vehicle in an entirely different direction. All I had to do was look back and the whole mess was my fault, the unthinking mistakes of a self-absorbed metropolitanite who had let her fixation with some lost signal overtake her real concerns.

I wondered what other strange things were hidden in transit infrastructure around London. Yes, there are the increasingly common overhead dangle poles — and the millions spent since the 2011 riots on retaining these unsightly (and potentially dangerous) structures. But what about all the other unexpected places?

It’s a peculiarly London question to be asking in the first place. We want to stay in London. We want a fairer city. We want a London where people aren’t just served by a few transport companies. We want a London that reflects our diversity. These are all glorious goals, but the current state of infrastructure (i.e. all the things we love to hate) seems to be part of the problem.

We care about transport. That’s why we love our transport companies. But we also want a more diverse, accessible city. What started as an ideal has grown into a reality that is both a great compromise and a huge obstacle. The way we now live our lives just won’t work with the latest technologies — with all the connectivity, choice and instant gratification we crave.

I don’t understand how, for example, Londoners are supposed to be able to move around in their daily lives when, in this day and age, they are at the mercy of an age-old, first world problem: the buildings. So I’d like to see the city’s architecture take a few steps back. Let’s get the buses moving in the other direction.

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