Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Going Overground - London Overground 3: Kew Gardens

And so onward to Kew Gardens, our second stop South of the River and somewhere very pleasant. For close by, in this part of South London, the London Overground serves two points of national interest. The Kew Retail Park and the South Circular. I will soon be visitng this fascinating part of London, come January. But for now, I was only briefly here to witness the dawn of London Overground.

And my oh my, TFL have been busy here. Only one stop away from Richmond, but in a whole different world. While it may seem that it is business as normal on the inside everything has changed. New staff, actually, there are staff. New penalty fares and on the inside, the transfer to London Underground.

But wait a minute, this is meant to be the London Overground? Yes, I know. But Kew also happens to be one of the few tube stations south of the river. As there are far more tube trains than overground trains running through Kew, it probably makes sense that Kew is staffed by Tube workers (and so more strike prone) than Overground workers. Those new 'Underground' stickers will probably mean much more to the average traveller at this station than 'Overground' due to the frequency of tube trains coming through.

All right, we are going to have a geek moment. Here goes. The station and track running through Kew Gardens is owned and maintained by Network Rail although the majority of services running on this particular piece of track is actually the District Line which is a part of the tube. The 'concession' to run services over the North London Railway that are mostly within Greater London was transferred by the DFT from Silvershit to TFL. This includes the piece of line through Kew Gardens station. The concession can be taken away at anytime as London Overground comes under the laws governing the rail network, not the tube network and so no new legislation is needed by the government. As a result of this, National Rail will answer all your queries to London Overground even though no Train Operating Company runs on this piece of track through Kew Gardens station. Although TFL now set the fares/timetables/service levels and staffing levels for the route, it is operated by a private company on the behalf of TFL. This includes the piece of track through Kew Gardens.

In other words, there are four different bodies responsible for the services at Kew Gardens station. Network Rail, MTRLaing, the DFT and of course, our friend TFL. This is meant to save the taxpayer money and this is what 'Intergrated Transport' is all about.

But you know what, despite all of this, London Overground is probably better than Silvercrap.

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