Borking the Elizabeth line!

Borking the Elizabeth line!

Elizabeth line isn’t it fantastic! I mean who wants to use the tube these days when the Lizzy line is invariably so much better?

Given that its been suspended so many times since its opened for track work, signal upgrades and the likes, one would hope that, especially after a long 2023 Easter recess where no trains ran between Paddington and Abbey Wood – the very time most would probably want to be using the railway, the new route would at least behave for once and not be the shower of shit its regularly been on most days since its opening.

The Easter closure was four days of total shutdown in the central core to implement ELR400 – software that would allow the service to run better and allow a more intensive train service between Paddington and Whitechapel from May 2023. This software is also essential for that timetable change over date when services are due to run from Shenfield to Heathrow.

As many noted, rather than improving the service after the Easter recess the Elizabeth Line descended into chaos.

You’d be right! It wasn’t any better. Improvements? Nah! Not a bit! As soon as the line swung into action after four days of closure for upgrades to the signalling system, things couldn’t be much worse. Exceedingly long delays occurred throughout the Tuesday after Easter and people were beginning to notice that somehow maybe the brand new railway everyone had been banging on about wasn’t somehow what it was made out to be….

Come Wednesday, the Elizabeth line had a series of jolly good old heave hos which were somehow designed to invoke complete outrage and total disbelief among the passengers who use it. Trains stuck everywhere. One because someone pulled an alarm after having got frustrated at the delays that were being incurred. People’s rationality sometimes go out of the window I know, but when the Elizabeth line really throws crap, well I suppose some responses too must have an equal reaction.

Its somehow as if Newton’s third law – the cause of action and reaction – is being dutifully honoured. You know, something happens and it involves a reaction which undoubtedly was because of that first thing that happened. People don’t throw punches unless someone upsets them or throws a punch first, that sort of thing.

Lizzy line suspended between Canary Wharf and Abbey Wood due to involuntary imprisonment perhaps? Source: Twitter.

Notice the indicator pictured above didn’t even mention anything about the delays on the west side – e.g. Heathrow/Reading to Paddington – where many using the Elizabeth line encountered complete chaos.

Even one leading journalist aired something negative re the Lizzy Line – which was unusual…

Anyway, people bang on about being on the Elizabeth line don’t they? Loads of pictures of the escalators and station tunnels and so on, because its all so new so futuristic. But, I wonder, would anyone bang on about it especially if they had been held on it against their will? This is what happened to some rather unfortunate customers (sorry passengers) who boarded an already delayed train at Liverpool Street. It of course incurred delays at Whitechapel due to the other ongoing issues up and down the line.

But when it arrived at Canary Wharf the train doors (and the platform edge doors) refused to open! Apparently people contacted the BTP and also sent them Tweets highlighting their illegal yet sudden imprisonment at Canary Wharf…

Stuck there for what seems to have been thirty minutes, the driver was then advised to continue to Custom House where at least there would be no critical interplay between the train and the platform doors that was necessary – because Custom House didn’t have those darned platform doors!

That wasn’t what happened. The train still wouldn’t budge! Lizzy line says no. We’re not opening the doors at Custom House! Nah! Just sit on the train and watch the world go by! People ought to realise even though its transport its not at least transportation in any sense and they should be thankful for that! And that because Custom House isn’t a penal colony in some far flung country.

Some trains did in fact manage to move between Abbey Wood and Custom House. This however indicates there was yet further problems on the line – either it was the continuing signalling/CTBC interface issues or yet another borked train. It seems issue upon issue was piling on top of one another. One thing is clear these passengers had been waiting at Woolwich while TfL attempted to swing into action some sort of rescue plan and thus relieve the involuntary prisoners (sorry travellers) being held at Custom House! No doubt that amounted to nothing more than what could be considered a ‘slight delay!’

Such joviality! As if things couldn’t get any better, the whole line was in melt down. Due to involuntary incarcerations and the likes, passengers (sorry rail patrons) were finding judicious delays everywhere they went. TfL (or is it MTR in this particular case?) were, as usual, claiming there was a good service on the rest of the line. One certainly wonder what ‘good service’ actually means. Its probably euphemism for ‘things are really so very f**ked but we ain’t letting that on!’

Trains take a break outside stations while passengers (sorry transporters) fume at the delays. This was West Ealing. Source: Twitter.

More than two hours later people were still trying to work out whether the Elizabeth line had minor delays or not…

The Elizabeth line no longer the revolutionary experience it was. Just a railway that got borked too much, all too much.

Meanwhile Greater Anglia were announcing that ticket acceptance from Shenfield was no longer allowed. One wonders whether those accustomed to Elizabeth line trains being borked at Custom House were in fact somehow wanting to take great advantage of Greater Anglia’s goodwill custom in allowing said passengers to use their services…. Considerable arguments ensued….

And finally, many wanted to know the answers as to why the Elizabeth line was disrespecting most of its willing users – here’s a couple of examples with some blaming TfL who were no longer considered to be the experts they once were…. (TBH I’m not sure the argument in the first re the Lizzy line being ready has validity – but there we go!)

Clearly this is one over to London Reconnections/Pedantic of Purley!

Update 13th April 2023:

The Mayor of London had two announcements for the Elizabeth line one of which was the following tweet. I suppose after a full Easter ban holiday closure followed by a two miserable days of chaos, it was deemed a good idea to put out something positive. This isn’t new news by the way, but a sort of reassurance the Elizabeth line is fine.

There isn’t anything wrong with this sort of thing, but it seems the choice of words could lead down a rabbit hole. ‘This transformative line is set to get even better’. In the light of how the Elizabeth line has performed in its first ten months of operation (actually that should perhaps be nine months when one considers closures and total close-downs) such a claim could well fall back on the Mayor. For a start we haven’t got to ‘better’ yet, and that wont be for another four weeks or so! Current prognosis (at least on the Elizabeth line) is when things get better they actually turn out to be worse!

The other thing (for me at least) is ‘Shenfield > Heathrow Airport uninterrupted’. Its no doubt an important announcement because that’s what the ELR400 upgrade is set to achieve. However the use of uninterrupted could well be another thing that falls back on the Mayor because it would imply to most the service isn’t going to get borked or screwed in any way. Yes I know it means through trains to Heathrow but surely that could have been indicated rather than having used uninterrupted? The very first Shenfield to Heathrow service that happens to get delayed, turned back early, or encounters any number of other issues evidently won’t be uninterrupted as neither will subsequent services that encounter problems too on the same route. Commuters/passengers will simply be more irate when certain assurances have been made and these have not been kept.

In a sense most just want to get from A to B. If a train service advertises specific times and journey duration, that’s all most are interested in really. They just want to be able to plan a journey (or undertake a regular commute) and to experience a consistent and reliable service. They want their lives to be based on the basis they can reasonably plan their day ahead or work schedule with ease. All this rhetoric about these exciting updates are nothing really but when rail services are such a shambles as they have often been recently, people in their anger or distress will throw these words or claims back at the Mayor, at the rail service provider and even at the regional transport authority.

What is probably worse is the railways then lose custom. The Elizabeth line is doing well (given the problems it has had) and it has been heralded as the most successful rail line in the UK. I would think in the first instance every effort needs to be made to ensure the Elizabeth line is consistent and reliable and that it can be turned around quickly – and if problems do occur – that information and announcements are consistent and that every attempt is made to assure people their concerns are being looked after.

First prove to the rail user, prove to London and the home counties, that the Elizabeth line is the best option rather than use a car, and that people can honour the service the Elizabeth line offers. In short show it is indeed a transformative line! Only then should we think about exciting updates and uninterrupted services. Not the other way round.