Wednesday, 29 December 2010

London transport

The recent snow has caused people to complain bitterly about the apparent terrible quality of the country's transport infrastructure. This seems particularly vocal from Londoners.

Yet a great deal of the complaining is blind. A few years ago a colleague came over to visit from our office in Shenzhen, China. This gentleman lived on Hong Kong, and would commute by ferry over to the mainland every day. He had travelled extensively around the Far East, but this was his first visit to Europe.

He was over for two weeks, and during the middle weekend a colleague took him around London. On the Monday morning I asked him what he felt of our capital. His reaction would amaze Londoners: he could not complement the transport system too highly. I have heard similar reactions from other foreigners.

London transport is not perfect, but it performs an amazing job. Three million people travel on the tube system each day, and double that number travel on the bus network. Prices are also cheap given the frequency of the services.

This compares favourably not only with other capital cities, but also with other areas of the UK. Southampton has to be one of the easiest cities I have ever seen to drive around and park in. Yet the local bus from my house near Romsey into the city centre costs over four pounds, far more than the cost to park all day in some central car parks. The buses run twice every hour via an indirect route and take an hour; they are always fairly busy. In comparison, I can easily drive into the city centre within half an hour. I want to use public transport, but it is rarely worth my while on a cost/time basis.

For these reasons, I get fairly fed up with the constant moaning that I hear in the media about London Transport. Some criticism is valid, but the system itself generally seems to work well.

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