I’ll be glad to see the back of the Piccadilly line when my office moves from Hammersmith to Waterloo in a few weeks. Here’s why. Yesterday there was a “fire alert” at Holborn. It was all over by 5:09pm. At 6:30, westbound services out of Hammersmith were almost non-existent. The hapless platform announcer had to explain that the indicator boards were unreliable (regular passengers know that). I took a District line train up to Acton Town. We passed two Piccadillys stationary just outside and there was a third at the platform. Amazing – although the indicator board said Heathrow the station announcer told us it was going to Ruislip. So I hastened aboard. From the demeanour of the passengers it had been there for some time. We waited. The driver told us he did not know but probably the train would turn round at Rayners Lane. The announcer apologised for the delay. We waited (remember there were two trains stuck behind us on the track). After about ten minutes we left. By now the train was crowded. On arrival at Rayners Lane, no sooner had our train moved into the siding, in order to turn round, than another arrived, almost empty.
So what was going on here? The delays should have been to trains to the east of Holborn, not trains moving away from it westbound. Why was our train held at Acton? Why was there another Rayners Lane immediately behind when normally after a delay nearly all trains are diverted to the Heathrow branch? Why couldn’t they tell us about the second train so that some people could have waited for it and reduced the overcrowding on the first? How can they possibly say, as they did several times over the PA, that the delays we were experiencing were due to an earlier fire alert? They clearly were not. They were due to the instructions that the trains should wait at Acton Town.
To my mind the purpose of a public transport system is to move people. Keeping the trains halted with people aboard, unless obviously there is a hazard ahead, should be anathema. I’d fine the operating companies for each unnecessary delay – just give me the power!