Earlier this week, the Evening Standard featured an article on the new, “improved” Circle Line. If you remember, back in December the Circle Line changed its shape to become a loop or spiral (I’ve also read it being described as a “snail”), starting its service at Hammersmith, joining the old Circle Line route at Edgware Road station, and then doing one complete circle to terminate there as well.
(There’s obviously a service in other direction too – London Underground haven’t quite become as mean as to make us travel in one direction only.)
The Standard reports that the Circle Line is now even worse than it used to be. Changes to the line have meant that it is less reliable – the number of trains in service has fallen from 93.2% to 90.4%, whilst the distance travelled by peak-hour trains has fallen from 90% to 87.8%. (These are all percentages of London Underground’s target number of trains and distance travelled – i.e. the number and distance that they should be reaching.)
As someone that (unfortunately) has to use the Circle Line everyday, I can honestly say that I’ve not seen any improvements to the service of the line since these changes have been implemented. In fact, anyone travelling through Edgware Road in either direction (for example, from High Street Kensington or Notting Hill eastbound, or vice versa) now has to change trains. This means an unnecessary addition to your journey time whilst you wait for your second train to pull into the station – or while you sit on a train, waiting for it to depart. I will admit, however, that I used to encounter some absolutely shocking delays on the old Circle Line which I’ve not seen…as yet. (Thought it’s only been three months, so give it time.)
The same article does mention something that I consider much more of a problem. Weekends see engineering works take place on a variety of lines on the London Underground, with the Circle and District Lines often partially or entirely shut. Whilst I appreciate that the works are necessary, in reality it means that travelling on the Underground during a weekend can sometimes be entirely hellish. Just a few weeks ago, I had to use the Central Line instead of the Circle en route to Kensington. With everyone piling onto the Underground lines that are open, they become ridiculously full; that day, several Central Line trains went by before I managed to get one. (For this to happen at 3pm on a Saturday, rather than a morning rush-hour, seems somewhat absurd). When our train reached Queensway, our driver suddenly told us that the next station, Notting Hill Gate (where I intended to change trains), was closed due to over-crowding*. Something I could readily believe, as everyone’s forced to use roughly half the Underground network that’s actually operational. I don’t know why, but it almost seems dangerous; another experience at Holborn station the following weekend was also exasperating because of the sheer number of people everywhere.
(*In the end, I had to walk from Queensway to Palace Gardens Terrace, get a bus from there to Kensington Church Street and then walk the remainder of my journey. Too much hassle!)
Article: Longer waits and fewer trains after Circle line extension (16th March 2010, The Evening Standard)