I am starting to harbour a suspicion that I have some sort of London transport curse. I moved away from the District Line right before they finally ditched the ancient, cramped, D-stock trains in favour of the roomy new ones we have now, and my time living on the Gospel Oak - Barking Overground line coincided with it being not existent due to an upgrade plan that overran to the point that I’d moved before they actually completed it.
Still, this time I wasn’t going to get screwed. I was moving out east to the wilds of Manor Park, where within mere months I’d be able to take advantage of one of the country’s biggest ever infrastructure projects - Crossrail! Nothing could possibly go wrong!
Still, while Crossrail doesn’t officially exist as a working service yet, the section I live on, between Liverpool Street and Shenfield, is more or less functioning (albeit under the name TfL Rail), and is even using the shiny new trains. Here’s what I’ve learned in the month or so of being a pre-Crossrail commuter.
1. Any hope that being a ‘beta tester’ might be mean the trains aren’t that crowded was wildly optimistic
The trains are already as packed as any other line. Well, it was already a busy commuter line before it was taken over by TfL, so why wouldn’t it be?
2. People who use it as an express service to get from Liverpool Street to Stratford have no honour
On the one hand there are signs at Liverpool Street recommending it as the fastest route; on the other hand, stick to the Central Line you Stratford bastards.
3. Maryland station can fuck off
It takes almost as long to walk from my house to the nearest bus stop as it does to walk from Stratford station to Maryland station. You are all cowards.
4. Still, at least not all the trains stop there
Because TfL Rail’s service patterns are currently a little eccentric. At peak times, some trains skip Manor Park and Maryland, and those that don’t skip Forest Gate. Except when they skip Forest Gate and Maryland, or they do stop at Maryland but skip Forest Gate and Manor Park.
This is almost certainly to manage crowding, not least because:
5. Although there is some Crossrail stock running, they’re still using quite a lot of the rubbish old trains
Although there are shiny new trains running alongside them, a lot of the service makes use of white-painted old, and lower-capacity stock. Still, at least this adds a fun element of chance to commuting – can you can get a new train to work AND a new train home? Congratulations, you have won TfL Rail.
6. The crowding issue would be helped if more passengers understood the concept of moving down the carriage to make some room
This is a problem on every single form of London transport (Elon Musk was right, get rid of the other passengers and just run the whole system for me). But anecdotally I suspect it’s slightly worse on suburban rail lines – which this basically still is – partly because there’s less space to bunch up into on the old-style trains. Or maybe people in East London just really like cosying up to each other by the doors, who knows?
7. You have to press the button to open the doors
Again, not unusual for a suburban rail line, but my hot take is that London transport needs to go one way or the other on this, because my brain can’t handle switching door opening paradigms and I keep lamely hitting the button on underground trains like some sort of idiot tourist.
8. Even the stations that didn’t need that much done really aren’t finished
Even Manor Park, a pre-existing above ground station, still has upgrade work going on, meaning that to get from the ticket hall to the platforms you have to exit the station and walk round the side to a gap in the fence. Obviously this isn’t the biggest deal in the world and it will look all spiffy and new when they’ve finished doing it up, but come on guys, this one didn’t even involve digging any holes!
9. Judging by how much the train empties, at the moment Stratford is at least as useful an interchange as Liverpool Street, if not more so
So at least I can get a seat for the last bit of my commute. Presumably this will change a bit once it reaches central London stations with more promising options than Liverpool Street – not least because you basically have to cross the entire concourse, which at peak time is understandably full of people trying to work out how not to be in Liverpool Street station.
10. Crossrail will be really, really good, once it actually exists
When it actually exists. If it ever actually exists.
Maybe one day I might even be able to persuade someone to come and visit me in the wild lands of Epping Forest occasionally, once they’ve worked out that Manor Park and Manor House are different places.
11. I am never calling it the Elizabeth Line and you cannot make me
Crossrail ‘til I die.