In the second of our articles about what’s happened in London during 2014, we take a look at some of the year’s news events.
The row over TfL ticket office closures has dominated the year’s transport news, with repeated strike threats and tub-thumping on both sides. We decided to have a look at the reasons behind the strikes. TfL say not enough people use ticket offices and they can’t afford them anyway while the unions say it’s putting passengers at risk and would change staff’s roles and pay. So how many strikes have there been? Well, just four. Two were planned for February with one going ahead and the other suspended. Five days of strikes were announced in April and May — the 48 hour one went ahead and the 72 hour one was suspended. Central line drivers went on strike in August, but a further strike was averted. Strikes in October were also suspended but the Northern line strike on 1 December went ahead.
Thankfully for the Tour de France, a proposed strike on 7 July was halted too. Everyone had a marvellous time, lots of people were inspired to start cycling and London demonstrated once again that it could pull off a major sporting event without fucking it up.
“I’m shocked. Bob Crow was a fighter and a man of character. Whatever our political differences — and there were many — this is tragic news. Bob fought tirelessly for his beliefs and his members. There can be absolutely no doubt that he played a big part in the success of the Tube and shared my goal to make transport in London an even greater success. It’s a sad day.”
Also in London transport news for this year was the rollout of contactless payment, which hit public transport in September following a trial, during which we asked for people’s experiences with the new form of payment. There are some flaws — it could work out more expensive for some types of journey, but its introduction does seem to have been remarkably painless. Except for the relentless reminders about card clash.
To the excitement of London’s night-owls, TfL announced in September that some tube lines would go 24 hour at the weekends from September 2015. And it’ll certainly get a trial by fire with 400,000 visitors expected to the capital for the Rugby World Cup. Yikes. New tube designs were unveiled in October, though we won’t get to see them in the metal until 2025, by which time we’ll have driverless cars. We’re still hoping for flying pods.
Speaking of flying pods, the Emirates Airline cable car stopped being used by commuters which prompted us to ask Londonist readers where they’d move it to instead. You can see the answers here. We also solved the question of who gets the arm rest on the tube, made our own travel payment device and taken a ride on Heathrow’s self-driving pods.
2014 was the Year of the Bus, so we celebrated in style by going on a bus-spotting walk and talking to three ambitious passengers determined to travel on every line. London buses went cashless in July — see some of the experiences people had when travelling. The New Bus for London (NB4L) came under criticism for a second year running, this time over costs. Despite a warm summer in 2014, it seemed the air-cooling didn’t prompt quite as much outrage as the previous year.
The ever-present problem of London’s air quality erupted in October when City Hall allegedly made threats against King’s Environmental Research Group over their criticism of pollution on Oxford Street. In March, the capital experienced its highest levels of pollution.
The congestion charge went up, but London was also declared Britain’s least car-dependent city thanks to its fine array of public transport options. In a bid to improve air quality Boris Johnson has suggested charging drivers of diesel vehicles an extra £12.50 from 2020 under a new Ultra Low Emission Zone. The consultation began in October, and we asked if the ULEZ would kill off the congestion charge. To which the answer appears to be no.
City Hall continues to deny the claim that Oxford Street has the highest pollution levels in the world, saying in August:
“Contrary to any misleading claims, London’s levels of air pollution are lower than many world cities. We know this because we are serious about monitoring pollution levels.”