Jubilee Line implodes – only nine weeks until the Olympics…

Above is Stratford station at 6.55pm last night – the Jubilee Line service effectively suspended after a broken-down train became stuck at St John’s Wood, with problems further compounded by a signal failure at London Bridge and the Docklands Light Railway struggling to cope with the crowds.

Police had shut the platform entrances, yet the departure boards appeared to show business as usual. When an announcement came, it was to advise passengers for the O2 to take the 108 from the bus station – it’s very unlikely that particular pint pot would have coped with that quart; the single-decker bus is hopelessly unreliable at the best of times, and was about to drop down to a miserly three buses an hour.

When the gates opened, I legged it to the front of the train to bag a seat, but it was 20 minutes before we finally got the go-ahead to move off. But I can count myself lucky, considering people had to be led off trains through tunnels elsewhere on the line.

But it’s been like this all week. On Tuesday, both the Jubilee Line and Southeastern services were hit by problems; a signal failure at Deptford causing trains to be routed away from the Greenwich line. On the big equestrian day, 30 July, all it’ll take is a signal failure at Deptford and a broken bit of track at Green Park, and the big Olympic party will come sliding to a halt.

Where’s the contingency plans? Where’s the co-ordination between mainline and Tube lines? Who’s in charge? And with the woefully under-resourced BBC London website still implying it was some little local difficulty “in St John’s Wood, north west London”, who’s properly reporting on them?

(The crap BBC London web coverage bears out something I wrote for Snipe about the woeful state of London’s media now the Standard’s returned to joke status, with the BBC among the worst culprits for under-utilising their reporting talent in the capital.)

On the upside, maybe it will take an massive Olympic-sized failure this summer to finally see some action taken. Perhaps we need to keep our fingers crossed for more. Brace yourself for an interesting summer.

(PS. Don’t forget to claim your refunds, even if you have a travelcard.)


  1. It will be sheer luck of something does not happen during the Olympics.

    The Tuesday Jubilee Line problems started early. Engineers spilt a load of grease onto the rails in between Westminster and Green Park. The first two scheduled trains slithered through Green Park without being able to stop which caused SPAD alarms to be triggered. One of the train’s comms malfunctioned and that was that.

    When I was at Canary Wharf (about 0600) the trains were backing up to Stratford. These trains are the one that will travel southbound during the rush hour. They couldn’t get north!

    All because some klutz dropped a load of grease.

    There’s a lot of other things that can go wrong.

    I actually like the fact we’re hosting the Olympics. But if it takes a ginormous cock-up by TfL during the events for something to be done about our transport system, then so be it.

  2. Amusingly, the TfL homepage this morning led with ‘Jubilee Line: Upgraded’.

  3. Those words could come back to haunt you Nelson!!

    TfL have an uncanny ability to cock up when it is seemingly impossible to. IE The other day when the director of TfL, live on the London news, said the secondary system (on the District Line I believe) had never failed in testing.

    But when it came to the crunch….

  4. Someone spills some grease on a railway track and, all of a sudden, the entire country is incapable of hosting a sporting event.

    Yep, that makes sense.

    No, seriously, let’s ignore that we already have a transport system that can move 3 million people around the entire city within a two-hour period….twice a day.

    Let’s ignore that we can efficiently move 80,000+ people to and from Wembley after a game/concert. And Twickenham. And Wimbledon. And Emirates. Then only slightly smaller crowds to and from the Oval, Lords, White Hart Lane, Stamford Bridge, the O2, Wembley Arena, Albert Hall, Earls Court….oh, and Hyde Park after a concert.

    And then there’s the hundreds of thousands who all want to go home from the West End every Friday and Saturday night.

    And then there’s the million people who go to the Notting Hill Carnival.

    And the 1.5million who come into central London for the New Year’s fireworks.

    No, no. Regardless of *all* that, solely because one individual spilt some grease on one section of railway track, London is clearly not prepared to host a sporting event.


  5. Lets not forget that things are a little easier on the transport network during the school holidays

  6. Whatever, Nelson – it was a mess, I was there too. And it came after a string of delays and cancellations during rush hour in the previous days on southeastern. There will be a number of extremely busy days during the Olympics and something like this has the potential to be a real disaster.

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