Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Matthew Offord opens new train sidings at Cricklewood for Thameslink trains

I was intrigued to see a post on Matthew Offord MP's website detailing how he opened a "world class rail facility" at Cricklwood yesterday. Matthew's site says

Monday, 25 January, 2016
A disused piece of railway land in Cricklewood has been turned into a first-class railway facility that will play a crucial part in what will be one of the country’s busiest main line train services - the Thameslink route.
The new depot - part of the Government-sponsored £6.5 billion Thameslink Programme - includes a new drive-through train wash, toilet emptying facilities and walkways for staff to remove rubbish from trains. It is already cleaning trains on the Thameslink route and will be used by Thameslink’s new Class 700 trains when they are introduced this spring. The sidings are a crucial part of Thameslink's plans to modernise services to give passengers new, spacious trains and, from 2018, more frequent services at all stations between Bedford and London.
Opening the new sidings, Matthew said:“I am delighted that the Government’s investment in the Thameslink Programme is contributing to this new facility at Cricklewood. As a user of the Thameslink line, I am well aware that the overcrowding and delays on the current service are not acceptable. When completed, this Programme will provide a much-needed modern and efficient train service for all users of the Thameslink line including my constituents in Edgware, Hendon and Mill Hill. These new state-of-art facilities will enable trains to visit around the clock which will make a real difference to the service."
Cricklewood Depot in 1975

I was rather intrigued by the spin put on this rather modest upgrade to some stabling sidings. In the 1970's Cricklewood was a major maintenance depot for the Midland Mainline route of British Railways. Inter city trains, freight locomotives and local commuter trains were maintained at a large depot on the site. There was also an extensive marshalling yard for freight adjacent to the site. The GLC also built a rail waste transfer station on the site in the early 1980's under Ken Livingstones regime.

 In the late 1980's three things happened that saw the demise of this facility. Firstly the Midland mainline saw the introduction of HST services, replacing the old locomotive drawn trains. The maintenance of these was transferred to a new depot in Yorkshire. The second was the demise of coal trains to power stations in Thatchers move to gas and nuclear power. The third was the opening of the Thameslink service, with maintenance of trains transferred to Selhurst. Within a few years Cricklewood Depot, although relatively modern was closed, derelict and was demolished in the early 1990s.

Matthew Offord opens new Crickewood Depot

As the Thameslink service has grown ever more popular and more trains have been added, there has been a requirement for more stabling facilities. These are simply sidings where trains are cleaned and have the toilets emptied between journeys and trains are parked when not in use. The new facilities at Cricklewood are one of a number of such facilities refurbished for the Thameslink upgrade. The main train depot, where servicing and engineering will be undertaken will be in Hornsey, not Cricklewood. Unlike the former depot, there is no shed or inspection pits for engineers. In effect, the "state of the art depot" Offord refers to is a giant car park for trains, where bogs are emptied and carriages cleaned.

In truth, his constituency has missed out again on jobs and investment. Whilst Hornsey will get a real state of the art depot, providing skilled jobs for engineers and technicians, Cricklewood will get a few jobs for cleaners and people emptying toilets.  Matthew Offord has always seemed a rather semi detached MP, with little interest in the commuters who make up a large proportion of his constituency.  In his article, he talks of commuters in "Edgware, Hendon and Mill Hill" using the service. This is a truly odd choice of words. Firstly Edgware doesn't have a Thameslink station, being served by The Northern Line. He says  "These new state-of-art facilities will enable trains to visit around the clock which will make a real difference to the service." This is a truly odd thing to say about some train stabling sidings. They are designed to park trains outside of peak hours when they are not in use. I suspect Mr Offord has simply been given some publicity material by the Thameslink operator and regurgitated it without bothering to ask any questions.

Offord states that he is  "well aware that the overcrowding and delays on the current service are not acceptable." Despite being well aware, there is no mention of any action to resolve any of the issues faced by commuters. Today the Barnet Eye published a guest blog by Richard Logue calling for Govia to be sacked as operator and for TFL to take over immediately. Richard said "How many times have you stood on a Monday morning at Mill Hill Broadway only to be told your trains are cancelled while fast trains from St Albans and Bedford whizz past on the fast lines? These trains could stop at Mill Hill. We have 12-car capable platforms that could accommodate the longer and newer trains that First Group and now GTR don't allow to stop at Mill Hill." This simple change of policy by Govia would make a huge impact on the almost daily delays experienced by Mill Hill Commuters. Govia claim that DofT rules prevent this from happening. This is why we need a proactive MP to get stuck in. Offord has been MP for five years and in this period we've seen no improvements, only deterioration. There are rumours that following continual lobbying by our GLA representative Andrew Dismore, there will be step free access at Mill Hill announced shortly. I suppose Mr Offord will be invited to open this as well as he clearly has a very cosy relationship with the train operators.

I find the current culture of political spin disgusting. This attempt to portray the refurbishment of a few stabling sidings as a major new depot to be ridiculous and Mr Offord should be ashamed of himself for going along with it. Mill Hill Commuters have got a raw deal from Thameslink. We lost a major centre of excellence in the 1980's when Cricklewood depot was closed down and in truth all that is left is a few sidings and a few cleaning facilities. Of course it is good that a few jobs will be created, but please spare us this spin and tell is the truth.

Credits  - Cricklewood Diesel Depot photo courtesy of JeffP's photos - http://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/79590-jeffps-photos-early-70s-and-80s/page-11


Fras said...

Typical political spin that is indulged in by whatever party happens to be "in" at the time. OK he is a Conservative, but the same bullsh*t would be spoken if a Labour, Lib Dem or even a UKIP MP had been elected.

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