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Syndicate content
Updated: 3 weeks 2 days ago

Construction works resuming on London’s transport network

Tue, 06/09/2020 - 14:00

Transport for London has announced that upgrade works are to resume at its sites as the lockdown regulations are relaxed.

Over the coming weeks a phased restart will continue on Bank Station Capacity Upgrade, the Northern Line Extension, Four Lines Modernisation, Barking Riverside Extension, the renovation of the Central line fleet and safety improvements at Old Street roundabout.

Bank Station Capacity Upgrade (c) TfL

Construction at around 300 TfL sites was brought to a Safe Stop in late March to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Since then design and other preparatory work on many of these projects has continued, with staff and many of TfL’s contractors working from home.During the next few weeks, site preparation to accommodate social distancing and construction work will begin in a phased manner.

Work will also restart on some step-free access improvements at stations, as well as station enhancements. Asset renewal works on DLR, Trams and London Overground are also due to resume.

Main construction works on the Silvertown Tunnel are not planned until later in the year, however, work on on-site surveys and other activities to support the ongoing design and construction planning will now restart.

Physical work at Crossrail sites has also resumed.

As you would expect, changes to worksites and ways of working are being introduced to ensure sites can reopen and help all workers maintain social distancing. Deliveries to sites are also being adapted, and delivery drivers must now enter sites with windows wound up. Instead of signing for goods being delivered, photographs are being taken.

TfL says that it is also investigating options to allow the construction sector to privately hire river boats and provide transport for workers at construction sites accessible from the river so they can reduce the numbers of people using public transport.

Bank Station Capacity Upgrade (c) TfL

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The Queen commands – put dinosaurs on the 50p coins

Tue, 06/09/2020 - 11:00

By order of The Queen, a trilogy of 50p coins has been released, featuring dinosaurs on them.

The Dinosauria Collection is actually the result of a collaboration between the Natural History Museum and The Royal Mint, which has seen dinosaurs featured on official UK 50p coins for the very first time.

The Dinosauria Collection (c) The Royal Mint

You won’t see them being used in shops though – as while they are official legal tender, they are also collectable coins, so while they can be used in exchange for settling 50p of debt, it will cost you £10 to buy the coin in the first place.

Being legal tender also means that they could only be issued by a Proclamation from The Queen herself, who takes advice from the Privy Council and issues the proclamation declaring the way the coins are to be made and decorated.

And signs off with God Save The Queen.

It’s all rather delightfully archaic.

The three coins feature a Megalosaurus, an Iguanodon and a Hylaeosaurus, along with the names and dates of their discoverers.

The coins were illustrated by paleo-artist Robert Nicholls with the guidance of Professor Paul Barrett from the Earth Sciences Department of the Natural History Museum – so they are as accurate as modern theory permits.

Which probably means that thanks to ongoing discoveries, in a century, people will look back at these coins much as people love the inaccurate depictions of the dinosaurs at Crystal Palace.

The coins are being sold by The Royal Mint.

The Dinosauria Collection (c) The Royal Mint

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The time the London Underground reached Windsor

Tue, 06/09/2020 - 06:00

It was once possible to catch a London Underground train out as far as Windsor, in Berkshire.

Launched by the District Railway on 3rd March 1883, the extension of the line wasn’t a success and it closed just 18 months later, with the last train on 30th September 1884.

It also arrived earlier than planned, but in the wrong way.

In 1880/81, the District Railway put forward a bill that would let it extend the railway from near Ealing up towards Uxbridge, with an implication that it wanted to loop around to Slough, and then Windsor.

The bill was blocked in 1881, and it was announced that the District Railway and the Great Western Railway had come to an agreement to run District line trains over the mainline railway out of Paddington to Windsor.

Not much was heard until February 1883 when it was announced that the company had agreed to launch the service, offering 10 trains per day each way extending the line from Ealing out to Windsor.

Just a month later, on Thursday 1st March 1883, District line trains ran a service from Mansion House to Windsor – using a connection at Ealing to switch from the Underground tracks onto the GWR mainline tracks out to Slough and then down the spur line to Windsor.

The normal service took an hour and a half, with an express doing it in an hour and a quarter.

To provide some context, today, even with changes needed at Paddington and Slough, the same journey would take just an hour and forty minutes.

There is a photograph of one of the Windsor trains here.

It was however not a huge success, and both the District line and the Great Western Railway jointly announced that the service would be discontinued from 30th September 1885, and there would instead be a “greatly improved” interchange at Ealing station instead.

Although the direct service was now discontinued, the District Railway continued to advertise a joint service with the GWR and the ability to buy through tickets from any Underground station to Windsor — with a change at Ealing — for several years afterwards.

As 2023 will mark the 140th anniversary of the District line starting the Windsor service, maybe there’s time to set up a heritage run with some old tube train carriages and a steam train – the London Underground can reach Windsor once more.

Although it may seem odd to run tube trains over mainline railways – it still happens to this day.

Network Rail owns the railway between Richmond and Gunnersbury which is then shared with the District line, and they own the tracks north of Queen’s Park used by the Bakerloo line.

And although, since 1994 it’s been owned by the London Underground, there are still the occasional national rail trains running along the District line between East Putney and Wimbledon, although that’s not a passenger service, just getting empty trains to the depot.

Sources:

Berkshire Chronicle – Saturday 04 June 1881

Globe – Thursday 01 February 1883

Uxbridge & W. Drayton Gazette – Saturday 03 March 1883

Windsor and Eton Express – Saturday 03 October 1885

Addendum:

Before anyone says it, there was also an occasional holiday service the other way, from London out to Southend between 1920 and 1939. That’s for another article.

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Campaign to pedestrianise Soho for the summer months

Mon, 06/08/2020 - 17:00

A large chunk of Soho could be pedestrianised this summer to help local cafes and restaurants spread out their tables and attract back customers.

The presumptive 2-metre rule would mean that most food and drinks establishments would have to operate with just a third of their normal customer capacity, which in many cases would mean it’s just not worth the effort of opening at all.

John James, the managing director of Soho Estates says that under the proposed rules, at “least a third of existing restaurants would not survive another quarter”.

If the venues can spread out over the streets – then they get extra space for more tables to make opening the venues more likely.

At the moment, not only with the small venues struggling to have enough customers, the narrow pavements and busy streets make for a difficult environment to socially distance, so taking over the roads would give people space to spread out sensibly, and give the area some of the atmosphere that it needs to show off that life is returning to some semblance of normality.

Soho Estates, the property empire built up by Paul Raymond’s Revuebar is working with the Soho Summer Street Festival to persuade Westminster Council that this is a viable idea.

If they get the go-ahead, then the following streets could be closed for the summer months.

  • Soho Square
  • Carlisle Street
  • Bateman Street
  • Old Compton Street
  • Greek street
  • Frith Street
  • Dean Street
  • Moor Street
  • Romilly Street

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Free performances from the Royal Opera House

Mon, 06/08/2020 - 14:00

This weekend, the Royal Opera House will have its first live performances at the Royal Opera House since they closed their doors in March — and they are broadcasting it online for free.

The online performances, Live from Covent Garden will celebrate a range of ballet and opera in programmes of dance and music.

The first concert will be free and will include work from Benjamin Britten and George Frideric Handel, as well as accompanying work from George Butterworth and Turnage, performed by stars including Louise Alder, Toby Spence and Gerald Finley. There will also be a world premiere by Wayne McGregor, Resident Choreographer of The Royal Ballet.

The first performance will be on Saturday 13 June, broadcast live at 7.30pm and will be free.

There will be three performances over the next three weekends, with the details of the next two to be revealed later – and will be paid for events, with tickets costing £4.99.

Details here.

(c) Royal Opera House

The live performances are in addition to pre-recorded shows which they are streaming online.

Il trittico

  • 719 June 2020
  • Online only
  • Puccini’s trio of operas tells contrasting stories of jealousy and murder, loss and suicide, romance and cheerful trickery.

Men at the Barre

  • 7–25 June 2020
  • Television broadcast
  • Richard Macer’s film explores what it’s like being a male dancer at The Royal Ballet. Broadcast on BBC4.

Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words

  • 7–21 June 2020
  • Television broadcast
  • Ballet and dance
  • The Royal Ballet perform Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet in a gripping film version by Michael Nunn and William Trevitt

The Cellist

  • 7–11 June 2020
  • Online only
  • Ballet and dance
  • Cathy Marston’s first work for the Main Stage is a lyrical memoir of the momentous life of cellist Jacqueline du Pré.

La Fille mal gardée

  • 12–26 June 2020
  • Online only
  • Ballet and dance
  • Marianela Nuñez, Carlos Acosta and William Tuckett perform the lead roles in Frederick Ashton’s most joyful and colourful ballet, The Wayward Daughter.

Król Roger

  • 13 June–13 July 2020
  • Radio broadcast
  • Opera and music
  • Szymanowski’s sumptuously scored opera is a powerful meditation on identity and desire.

The Magic Flute

  • 19 June–3 July 2020
  • Online only
  • Opera and music
  • Mozart’s glorious opera is brought enchantingly to life in David McVicar’s production with beautiful designs by John Macfarlane.

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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car comes up for sale

Mon, 06/08/2020 - 11:00

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, one of the most famous cars in the world, is coming up for auction.

It’s actually a semi-working prop from the 2015-2017 UK/Ireland touring musical stage production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and is one of around 100 props from the stage show being sold at auction next month.

They are being sold off as there are no plans for the musical tour to resume.

Photo by Hansons Auctioneers

Chitty’s price guide is set at £6,000 – £9,000 – which would be a bargain for any successful bidder, as the car actually cost £175,000 to build – including the lifting apparatus required to make her fly.

There’s quite a range of props being offered, and some of the chairs could even be used as domestic furniture – although I would suspect the beds are more practical for the stage than for sleeping in, alas for any children’s bedroom.

The Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Auction is due to take place online here.

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London’s Alleys: Conduit Court, WC2

Mon, 06/08/2020 - 06:00

This is the most popular of all the alleys to be found in Covent Garden, thanks to recent addition – an “infinity chamber” of mirrors that lines half the passage.

Conduit Court is one of several alleys that link Long Acre with Floral Street behind. The history is a bit complicated.

It seems to have originally been a dead-end alley and shows up on William Morgan’s map of 1676 as a rather wobbly passage leading to back gardens. A lot of building work must have been taking place though, as by the 1740s it has been straightened out, and adopted pretty much the alignment it has to this day.

The southern roar, today Floral Street used to be called Hart Street (after a local pub) and was a dead-end, but was extended in the 1860s. The area was light industrial until fairly recent times, with the famous market nearby and most of the buildings in the surrounding streets either warehouses or small factories.

In the mid-19th century, the buildings around Conduit Court were a mix of carriage builders for old horse carriages, paint shops, tailors and a large warehouse, Conduit Buildings that occupied both sides of the alley, linked with a footbridge.

The warehouse is interesting, as it was occupied by the Civil Service Supply Association, which was founded in 1864 as a co-operative to supply goods to post office workers, and later expanded to all civil servants. In 1927 it became a conventional department store on Strand, and closed in 1982. There’s a large blue plaque on the site of the department store.

Back to the alley, and a pub used to stand on the northern corner of the alley at number 17 Long Acre, but all the buildings there were demolished in the 1960s, and what is there today is a modern office development over a shop, dating from 1998.

Long Acre 1936 – the alley can be seen near the cart.

The recent change is the addition of the “infinity chamber“, a series of mirror-clad arches within the covered half of the walkway that’s lit up with ever-changing coloured lights.

It’s technically a temporary “festive” installation to last for 5-years, authorised for the lights to be on between October and January, but they recently secured permission to leave them on all the time until April 2021, to see if the increased visitor numbers don’t overly annoy the residents who live around it.

So that’s why it was possible for me to take some photos of “Christmas lights” in April.

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HS2 wins court case over Euston tunnels design

Fri, 06/05/2020 - 13:41

HS2 has won a court case which threatened to seriously alter their plans to dig train tunnels to Euston station.

The current plans are for three large tunnels to run from Euston station to link it with the HS2 line, but a local resident near the station, who it was noted also opposes HS2 in principle, Ms Hero Granger-Taylor had sued HS2 claiming that the design was fatally flawed.

Her argument was that the tops of one of the three tunnels would come too close to the bottom of the foundations of the retaining wall that lines the existing mainline railway cutting on the approach to Euston station.

The concern being that if the retaining wall were to collapse, not only would the landslip block the mainline railway, the collapse would likely cause considerable damage to the houses that line the road next to it – including her own.

Her claim was that the design of the tunnel approaches to Euston station was “inherently dangerous”, and as such it breached her human rights “to family and private life and quiet enjoyment of property”.

Schematic – image from the judgement

Although initial hearings allowed the case to proceed, the case was dismissed today following written submissions from both sides.”

Although the gap between the top of the tunnel and the bottom of the retaining wall seems small – at 1.5 metres, it’s well within tunnelling tolerances. Also, as with all tunnel projects, a lot of monitoring equipment is used to check for subsidence, and if necessary, apply compensation grouting or similar to offset the soil loss below. The shallowness of the gap does make that harder but is still achievable.

The main flaw in her argument as written up in the judgement was that at the moment, HS2 is still developing the plans for how it will dig the tunnels, and hence the plans are unsafe, whereas HS2’s counter-argument was that plans cant be deemed unsafe if the plans don’t exist yet.

The case, therefore, turned on whether the final designs were likely to be not just dangerous, but also that HS2 would proceed anyway knowing the risks.

In his ruling, the judge wrote that “I cannot conclude on all the evidence that the three tunnels design is so inherently flawed in the vicinity of the retaining wall that no engineering solution could be found to construct it safely”

He also noted that it seemed impossible to accept that HS2 would be “so reckless and so wilful that it is dogmatically persevering with a concept that it does not believe can be delivered safely.”

Although HS2 is pushing on with the design for the three tunnels approach to Euston station it is noted that if they are unable to design a viable method of constructing it, they are likely to seek an alternative design.

He concluded that the tunnelling project “strikes a fair balance between her private interests and the wider public interest in implementing an important infrastructure project”.

 

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Covid-19 themed playing cards released for charity

Fri, 06/05/2020 - 11:00

This is topical and nice, a special set of playing cards has been released as a charity fundraiser, with all the court cards as medical staff.

Released by the Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards,  the profits from their sale are being donated to the Lord Mayor’s Appeal, the annual charity that raises money in the City to support good causes across London.

Covid-19 playing cards (c) Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards

The four suits are conventional as you would expect, but what stands out are the courts or face cards, each by playing card designer Stacey Kelly. The three, the King, the Queen and the Joker are all medical staff in scrubs and wearing the protective gear we’ve all become used to seeing on television news articles.

Look carefully, as the Ace is the company Master himself.

Playing cards are a curious thing – both of use, for playing card games, but also aesthetically beautiful to look at, so doubly enjoyable to own.

Packs of cards are just £7.50 including postage and packaging and can be ordered from here.

Covid-19 playing cards (c) Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards

 

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London’s weekly railway news

Fri, 06/05/2020 - 06:00

A weekly round-up of London’s rail transport news…

The surprising reason for London Underground’s new heritage signs

London Underground

Night Tube to be suspended until March 2021 City AM

TfL is to restart work on major infrastructure projects this month, including the £655M upgrade at Bank station and the Northern Line Extension. NCE

Elizabeth line / Crossrail

Crossrail ‘three and a half months behind schedule before coronavirus’ LBC News

Renewed calls for Crossrail extension to North Kent Kent Online

Crossrail trains cleared to use the Heathrow tunnel ianVisits

Crossrail’s Bond Street station to be ready for trial running of trains next month Building (£)

Crossrail’s leadership is still targeting a summer 2021 opening date for its central section, despite the impact of the coronavirus crisis. Construction News

Mainline / Overground

East Croydon station could be moving to a new location if plans for a major railway upgrade in the area are approved, and funding found. ianVisits

Network Rail ask artist to remove lettering on controversial Thameslink Bridge street art Ham & High

Miscellaneous

Robert Gordon Clark: Who is to blame for TfL needing a bailout? And what will happen next? OnLondon

The government has announced that it is making the wearing facemasks on public transport mandatory from Monday 15th June. ianVisits

EPR has been given the go-ahead for all-new plans to convert TfL’s former headquarters at 55 Broadway overlooking St James’s Park into a hotel Architects Journal (£)

Rail arches owner extends rental help package for small businesses Standard

Commuters from outside London may need to pay more for their fares to fund London transport upgrades, a report into how to pay for the capital’s upgrades has suggested. ianVisits

‘No evidence of spitting’, say police probing death of railway worker Belly Mujinga ITV

Nude sunbather mistaken for dead body near railway line in Essex BBC News

And finally: “I’ve Never Met A Train I Didn’t Like”: Vogue editor on her lifelong locomotive obsession Vogue

Image above is from Feb 2019: The surprising reason for London Underground’s new heritage signs

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