I have very strong views on housing. Partly I suspect because C and myself and our three boys had such difficulty finding a house in London in the 1970s. That was how we ended up in the Barbican, as we had enough income to rent a flat, but not enough deposit to buy a £7,000 house. Those who reckon today’s housing market is crazy, should read about how difficult in was in the 1960s and 1970s.
We lived in a variety of places including two rented modern flats, two large country properties, which we extended to my designs, another damp fourth floor walk-up flat and a new build estate box.
I feel strongly that housing should be matched to those who live in it, so one person living in a multi-million pound house could be just as scandalous as an empty one.
As a Control Engineer, I believe very much in stable systems and we’ve had a stable housing market bouncing on the bottom for decades, where houses are not matched to needs and because too few are being created, houses are far too expensive.
The general public like this status quo, as they can boast that their house has gone up £50,000 or so, whilst they made you cup of tea.
All new developments like new housing, high speed rail and fracking are opposed by the selfish idiot in the Chelsea tractor, as it might drop their house price.
So what should we do?
1. Every empty dwelling, should be brought back into occupation. Have you ever noticed how many empty flats are above shops?
2. We should give the building industry a good kicking, so that many of these empty dwellings are got ready.
3. Any empty dwelling should be heavily taxed unless it is in the process of being prepared for occupation. Those, who buy-to-leave should be taxed heavily so that they find renting the flat or house to someone who needs it, a much better alternative.
4. A person or family, who has more than one home for solely their personal use, should pay a special tax.
5. There should be no Council Tax discount for those living alone in large dwellings. Why for instance should I get one?
6.Perhaps too, like many European countries, we should pay Capital Gains Tax in some way on our houses.
7.Inheritance Tax drives too much of the housing market. Not only does it create worries for everybody, but it often condemns single elderly people to live in large draughty, energy-inefficient houses, when the best thing to do with the house is demolish it and create several new homes of which the elderly person has the pick! So let’s abolish the tax on principle recidences. However, whatever we do is going to be complicated with tax, so we had better get it right. The politicians who have done good impressions of Nero fiddling while Rome burned since the war, don’t stand a chance as they are all too tied to their vested interests.
8. But above all we need more new dwellings and a lot of those should be affordable. We have some of the best architects in the world in the UK, but underneath the top level, they just produce boring crap and much of it is just Pete Seager’s little boxes, where you park the car outside and live boring lives. C and I had a house like that in the country in the 1960s and we escaped to the damp flat in London.
Above all we must be radical. I was brought up in the suburbs of London and it was boring and bland. So why not clear some of these areas and create housing fit for purpose, that is energy efficient and doesn’t rely on every resident having their own personal car? In many ways, too many cars is one of the biggest problems in this country, as it necessitates that all houses must have space for two.
I don’t want this to turn into the rant of a bitter old man, which I am not! In some ways, it’s a fact that I made my money by inventing disruptive technology, so let’s disrupt the cosy cartel of those with homes, councils of fat-cat Tories or champagne Socialists, who like the certainty of getting elected and a building industry not fit for purpose, that likes big repetitive expensive contracts.
So if we are going to build more dwellings, where should we build them?
Although, it was done in a rather boring way, the development of the new Dalston Junction station, where flats were built over the station was very good. I have heard that Transport for London are rebuilding Dalston Kingsland station. They should be bold and effectively put the North London Line in a tunnel and build gardens and a new square over the top, with tower blocks providing the accommodation. C and I lived in a tower block with three children in the Barbican and it worked. At the present time, we have the architects and design skills to create housing, but those who live near-by don’t want it on their doorstep.
But imagine being a couple with two young children, living high above the city in a modern almost zero-energy flat in the clean air with superb views. To go shopping, you just take the lift to the shops and market below and to travel the same lift takes you into the railway station.
It was almost ideal like that in the Barbican, except that there was no supermarket, as there is today. But we had the market in Whitecross Street.
Every rail station, should have meaningful development over the top. Imagine putting the local hospital on top of a station, so that it is the easiest place in the city to get to.
We need more innovative solutions to our housing crisis, but most of the population still prefer what we have.
I sometimes think that the whole of the economics of this country is driven by the houses we own. Somehow we must break that link and allow everybody to purchase the dwelling that they need.
Crossrail don’t seem to do rubbish, as these pictures of the temporary station at Abbey Wood show.
It will probably be better without the rain and when they have finished the lifts. But how many times have you seen lifts in a temporary building. I’ve only seen them once befire and that was at the site of Crossrail’s Custom House station.
I’ve just heard Vince Cable on the radio saying that he will endeavour to get Lloyds to not close the last branch in a town.
I’ve afraid traditional banking is dead. For most people and companies, cheques are no more, branches have no purpose and everything is on the Internet.
If people don’t want to go that way, then I suspect that someone will accommodate them At a price!
People always go on about how would small shops bank their cash. Here in London, they banned cash on buses and although the usual Luddites had their say, nobody seems to bother now!
I took this picture as my train to Stanford-le-hope passed the rail line into London Gateway.
It shows the double-tracked rail line into the port.
I would assume it will be electrified, when the main routes through London, like the Gospel Oak to Barking Line, are also fitted with overhead wires, so that freight trains can use efficient electric haulage.
I saw this poster at Upminster station.
Quite right too!
A Charming Step-Free Station – Rating 9/10
This was definitely a case of saving the best to last.
London Overground will love doing up this station, as all they’ve got to do is add paint, new signage and perhaps erect a little shed for the staff they promise will be on duty between the first and last trains.
The station has a rural feel and is on what could be described as a village High Street with a selection of shops and businesses. I walked a couple of hundred metres to a busy cafe and had a very pleasant cup of tea.
Perhaps someone from London Overground, bagged this one for when they takeover the service in May 2015. It certainly had lots of orange, but I think it might have been an old Stansted Express unit.
I ask this question, as last night and today, I got stuck in the City, because of monumental traffic jams due to roadworks and was thinking that perhaps the Waterloo and City Line might be extended North East from Bank to perhaps Liverpool Street and Shoreditch to create another route across the City. It would be good for me, as I would just go to Shoreditch High Street on the East London Line and then use the Waterloo and City to get to Waterloo.
Reading Wikipedia, I’m eighty years too late, as it says this under plans for the line in the 1930s.
In 1934 the London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB), operator of most of the London Underground system, proposed that the Waterloo & City should have a new intermediate station at Blackfriars, connecting with the District line station there. They further proposed that the Waterloo & City line should be extended to Liverpool Street station and Shoreditch, the trains there continuing over the East London Railway to New Cross and New Cross Gate. It is not clear whether the scheme had been costed, but nothing came of it.
It would probably be more difficult now to do anything sensible with this orphan line of the Underground.
A better plan would probably be to improve the trains and the station to a modern step-free standard and run at an increased frequency.
As the Central Line runs directly underneath the East London Line at Shoreditch High Street, it would seem logical that after Crossrail is completed, these two busy lines are connected.
But what of all the other smaller and forgotten railways in London. Can any be used to improve London’s transport system?
East London Line
The East London Line used to be a semi-detached part of the Metropolitan line, but is now been extended to be a very important part of the Overground.
It just shows how infrastructure can be reused successfully.
Transport for London are now talking about squeezing 24 trains per hour, up and down this line.
Greenford Branch Line
Greenford itself is an unusual station, with two Central Line platforms on an island, that has a bay platform to accept the branch line trains. Platform sizes on the branch, mean that only two coach trains can be used.
I think it is true to say, that some very innovative thinking is needed to make something useful out of this line.
The only circumstances under which I can envisage anything radical happening, is if Chiltern Railways gets electrified and West Ruislip station gets rebuilt to allow the Greenford Branch to terminate there.
North London Line City Branch
Trains ran on the North London Line City Branch from Broad Street to Willesden Junction and onto Richmond.
Like the old East London Line the northern part of this line is part of the East London Line of the Overground.
I probably use the line at least half-a-dozen times a week.
Northern City Line
The Northern City Line used to be part of Underground, but since 1976 has been part of the suburban services to Welwyn Garden City, Letchworth and Hertford North.
The new franchise holder; Govia Thameslink Railway, has ambitious plans to replace the Class 313 trains on the line and extend the service hours. This document contains all the details on the new franchise.
Palace Gates Line
The Palace Gates Line ran from Seven Sisters to Palace Gates and I remember it well as a child, when I used to sit on ledgers in my father’s office in Station Road, Wood Green and watch the tank engines trundling up and down the line.
In my lifetime, it has probably never been viable as a working railway, but it seems that Crossrail 2 might run in tunnels along more or or less the same route, just as HS1 runs underneath the route of the North London Line. I suppose this might give construction advantages, if you want to sink something like a ventilation shaft down to the railway.
Romford to Upminster Line
In some ways the surprising thing about the line, is that it has survived at all and has even been electrified.
But obviously, it is needed or has a very important politician living on the line, because it is being taken over by the London Overground in May 2015 and they’re even spending money on a brand-new train for the line.
After writing this I found that the Stourbridge Town branch line, is shorter with only two stations and claims to be the shortest branch line in Europe. But that line is not electrified and passengers are transported in Parry People Movers, which uniquely have flywheel drive!
As the operating speed on the Romford to Upminster line is just 30 mph, perhaps the company could come up with an appropriately-sized train for this line!
On the other hand if you read about the history of the line through Chafford Hundred Lakeside station, it says this.
The single track line through the area was opened in 1893 by the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway as part of a branch fromRomford to Grays via Upminster.
So perhaps, as the other part of the old branch serves the Lakeside Shopping Centre, it might be an idea to recreate the old branch line, as it would give this centre,Grays, Tilbury and possibly even London Gateway simple access to Crossrail. It would mean that the shopping centre would be just fifteen minutes away from Crossrail. The Shopping Line would get another attraction.
With the exception of the Greenford and Romford-Upminster branches, there doesn’t appear to be much scope for reusing any more of London’s old railway lines.