Hackney and Tower Hamlets’ political leaders have joined forces to demand answers from Transport for London (TfL) over recent disruption on the Overground line betwen Islington and Stratford.
Residents are complaining of historic delays and cancellations in the service, as well as the practice described as “increasingly frequent” by the NE London representatives of skipping Hackney stations.
Now, Hackney MPs Diane Abbott and Meg Hillier, together with Tower Hamlets MPs Jim Fitzpatrick and Rushanara Ali and the borough’s two mayors (Philip Glanville for Hackney and John Biggs for Tower Hamlets) are all calling on TfL commissioner Mike Brown to fix the problem.
A joint letter from the politicians reads: “This line provides a vital link for our residents and constituents ─ it has been key to driving regeneration in our boroughs.
“We consider the current disruption completely unacceptable and impacting our residents ability to move around our boroughs, as well as commute to work.
“There is also ongoing concern about the safety of passengers using the service, and Mayor Glanville has previously raised safety concerns regarding Hackney Central station overcrowding which is linked to the service performance.”
Glanville added separately that the recent cuts and changes to bus routes such as the 48, 242 and 277 in Hackney, reducing frequency on its services for the borough by 10-25 per cent, make the need for a solution from TfL even more pressing.
The scale of the problem currently remains anecdotal as TfL and rail operator Arriva have not yet made statistics public, despite requests to do so from Meg Hillier.
It is understood that TfL and Arriva make it policy to miss stations such as Hackney Wick in busy periods to create a ‘fast train’ to Stratford, but the politicians say that they have heard testimony from residents that these services end up waiting outside Stratford “for some time”.
Rory O’Neill, TfL’s general manager for London Overground, said: “We always aim to run services as planned and are sorry when customers’ journeys are disrupted.
“Changes to services are made as a last resort and are sometimes needed to prevent causing longer disruption.
“During the last six months fewer than 0.08 per cent of London Overground services failed to stop at their scheduled station in the London Borough of Hackney.
“We appreciate any delays cause inconvenience for our customers and are continually looking at ways to improve the reliability of our services.”