Friday, May 06, 2011

A note I just sent to my MP

Dear Ms. Ruddock,

This letter is intended to share with you my views regarding the Shoreditch High Street Overground "toll booth" and its impact on Lewisham residents. I don't know if you're aware that Shoreditch High Street Station was moved into Zone 1 in 2009 thanks to pressure from National Rail over concerns that the Overground would hurt their ticket sales. Because of this, your constituents must pay £11 extra every week just to pass through this station to get to our offices--a charge which commuters from other areas of zones 2 and 3 are not subjected to.

As the Shoreditch Toll Booth only affects commuters coming into town from our neck of the woods, I believe this is a regional equality issue that warrants your concern. We've been monopolized by National Rail for too long--and now rather than force it to compete with the less-convenient but lower-priced Overground as intended, TfL has caved to financial pressure from this for-profit enterprise, prevented the people from having a money-saving option, and undermined their own initiative to reduce traffic.

For every other region, the Overground costs £21 a week, but for us it's £32. If we didn't pay London taxes maybe a surcharge to get into town would make sense, but since we do, pricing us out of the Overground network is clearly unfair.

When the Overground was being built we were told that it was intended to help reduce congestion in the Tube and the central stations by providing an orbital service for the outer zones. But because of National Rail's shady dealing it's the same price for me to get to my office in Angel via London Bridge as Highbury & Islington, so I squeeze onto the Northern line every morning. We have no option but to pay for Zone 1, so we might as well use the faster routes straight through it. The few occasions when I've had cause to catch the Overground it's been practically empty--and rightly so.

Once construction begins in earnest on London Bridge Station rail travel in our region is going to be a nightmare. Surely TfL can see wisdom in keeping as many people as possible out of that! And with the Olympics coming up it seems contradictory to our city's best interests to Not offer a real incentive for locals to stay out of the city centre. We're all used to overcrowding--avoiding the tourists is not an effective incentive!

A solution that has been proposed to mediate the conflicting interests of National Rail and southeasterners is Shoreditch could behave like Zone 1 if you enter or exit there (the City is technically within walking distance, so fair enough) but if you only pass through without getting off your train, it remains Zone 2 as originally intended. This would not be difficult to programme, and it would encourage Zone 2 workers like my partner and I to go out of our way to lighten the load on London Bridge.

Moreover, Ben and I don't earn much, so the £1,000 per year this small change could save our household is significant. And as I'm well aware of National Rail's pay and neglect scandals, regular price hikes and service cuts, and the fact that they get our tax money regardless of the quality of their service, you'll have a hard time convincing me they deserve that grand more than we do.

Please help your constituents make ends meet and unclog the Tube by making the Overground serve its purpose. The Shoreditch High Street Toll Booth extorts the South East and should be eliminated.

Thank you for your time.


Kim said...

Way to go! Nice letter.

Kristen said...

I received an official response from her office saying that I raised a fair point and she'd sent a note to Transport for London on my behalf and would let me know if she heard anything back. Best outcome one could hope for, I suppose. I doubt I'll change the world but it might annoy someone at TfL, which in my view is worth the effort.