Podcast: The Mersey Beat

Ooooh. A map. Image: Wikipedia.

It's another metro mayor special: this time, we're off to Liverpool.

Officially, of course, it's the Liverpool City Region. Unofficially, it'll probably end up being called Merseyside. It was nearly called the Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton & Wirral Combined Authority; there but by the grace of god.

Anyway. Whatever it is, on 4 May, it's getting a metro mayor. Specifically, it's almost certain going to be Labour's Steve Rotheram.

To talk about this not-particularly-close election, I've dragged in two of my colleagues from the New Statesman's politics desk: Patrick Maguire, who himself hails from the Sefton; and Stephen Bush, who's just returned from a trip to the Wirral.

We talk about how Rotheram is campaigning more like it's a marginal than a sure thing; how the other parties are responding; and how, in British local government, one-party states inevitably throw up other forms of opposition.

We discuss the May government's attitude towards these new metro mayor posts created by its predecessors; and chat about what kind of relationship the new mayor of the Liverpool City Region is likely to have with Joe Anderson, who is the, er, the existing elected mayor of Liverpool.

Also, for some reason, Power Rangers. 

The episode itself is below. You can subscribe to the podcast on AcastiTunes, or RSS. Enjoy.

 

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason.

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.

 
 
 
 

London Overground is experimenting with telling passengers which bits of the next train is busiest

There must be a better way than this: Tokyo during a 1972 rail strike. Image: Getty.

One of the most fun things to do, for those who enjoy claustrophobia and other people’s body odour, is to attempt to use a mass transit system at rush hour.

Travelling on the Central line at 6pm, for example, gives you all sorts of exciting opportunities to share a single square inch of floor space with a fellow passenger, all the while becoming intimately familiar with any personal hygiene problems they may happen to have. On some, particularly lovely days you might find you don’t even get to do this for ages, but first have to spend some exciting time enjoying it as a spectator sport, before actually being able to pack yourself into one unoccupied cranny of a train.

But fear not! Transport for London has come up with a plan: telling passengers which bits of the train have the most space on them.

Here’s the science part. Many trains include automatic train weighing systems, which do exactly what the name suggests: monitoring the downward force on any individual wheel axis in real time. The data thus gathered is used mostly to optimise the braking.

But it also serves as a good proxy for how crowded a particular carriage is. All TfL are doing here is translating that into real time information visible to passengers. It’s using the standard, traffic light colour system: green means go, yellow means “hmm, maybe not”, red means “oh dear god, no, no, no”. 

All this will, hopefully, encourage some to move down the platform to where the train is less crowded, spreading the load and reducing the number of passengers who find themselves becoming overly familiar with a total stranger’s armpit.

The system is not unique, even in London: trains on the Thameslink route, a heavy-rail line which runs north/south across town (past CityMetric towers!) has a similar system visible to passengers on board. And so far it’s only a trial, at a single station, Shoreditch High Street.

But you can, if you’re so minded, watch the information update every few seconds or so here.

Can’t see why you would, but I can’t see why I would either, and that hasn’t stopped me spending much of the day watching it, so, knock yourselves out.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.