As you can see from the upper of the two images above, click on either for a larger version. Construction work on the low rise apartment block in Wharfside Close Erith, adjacent to the new Pier Square Gardens is progressing. The site of the new apartments is on what used to be the large garden of the former White Hart pub. The apartments will overlook the river and Erith Pier. Construction of The building has as with many other things been delayed by the global pandemic. The lower of the two images above shows the ground layout plan for the development. It will be interesting to see once the apartments are completed and occupied, whether the residents have any complaints about noise and disruption coming from the adjacent White Hart restaurant.
As regular readers will be aware, I have written extensively about electric scooters, their pros and cons, and the current rather unsatisfactory situation with the law, where they are currently illegal to use anywhere except on privately owned land, yet they are widely available for sale, and generally any regulations are somewhat patchily enforced, if at all. Regular reader and occasional contributor Miles has covered this in an article he wrote some time ago. The reason for me mentioning this now is that the situation affected me personally on Thursday evening, when I was the victim of a hit and run accident. I was walking home when an individual on an electric scooter crashed into me from behind, knocking me to the floor. The rider then made off. I have injured my ear - I was listening to music at the time and was wearing earbuds. The left ear bud got crushed when my head the ground and broke into pieces, cutting my ear in the process. I injured my ribs on my left side, both of my hands and my left knee. I'm taking painkillers at the moment. Kind neighbours gave me first aid, and made sure I had no serious injuries, and found my glasses which had fallen off when I was knocked over. I'm OK now but rather battered and bruised. I've reported the issue to the Slade Green and Northend Safer Neighbourhoods team. I have a suspicion as to who the perpetrator may possibly be, but I have absolutely no way of proving it. To my mind this incident just underlines the need for these electric scooters to be properly licenced and regulated, with mandatory rider training, scooter registration and insurance. What do you think? Email me at email@example.com.
Some months ago - last December - I mentioned that the view over the River Thames from Erith was due to change, with the construction of some new structures. Reader Simon, alerted me to an update which recently appeared in the local paper The Romford Recorder. This follows an article I wrote on Boxing Day last year about the initial proposed development, which you can read by clicking here. The new story about the building work reads as follows:- "Plans have been submitted for the first phase of redevelopment on an industrial park in Rainham. Outline planning permission was given in March 2020 for the demolition of all existing buildings on the 13-hectare Freightmaster Estate in Coldharbour Lane and for the creation of 43,000 sqm of commercial floor space for industrial, storage and distribution use. Henry Boot Developments has now submitted an application which details reserved matters for the first phase of the development, which would see 35,264 sqm floor space realised, slightly more than 80 per cent of the permitted amount. The site’s existing five industrial units would be replaced by three two-storey buildings, separated into four units and no higher than 23m. There will be 266 car parking spaces, 16 disabled bays, 35 slots for HGVs, 150 bike parking places and 58 electric vehicle charging points. Landscaping enhancements to the public foot and cycle path along the Thames, immediately south of the site, are also proposed. The developers are seeking permission to begin work in April this year".
There was serious disruption on the North Kent rail line on Saturday morning and early on Saturday afternoon last week. I was trying to get a train from Woolwich Arsenal station to Rochester. After having purchased a ticket, I walked down to the Kent bound platform as you can see from the photo above – click on it for a larger view – I then discovered that train services both into Kent and into London were disrupted. Speaking to the very helpful station staff, I discovered that there had been a serious incident just outside of Erith station. A passenger had suffered from an epileptic fit. Somebody had hit the emergency alarm and the train had stopped just outside of the station. To make matters worse, a number of irresponsible passengers forced open the doors of the train and walked along the rails to get to Erith station. Because of this, the power to both sets of rails had to be immediately switched off, stopping all rail traffic in both directions. The police and ambulance service were called. The people who had illegally walked along the railway were being pursued by the police for another matter in addition to their trespassing. Unfortunately, I do not have details of what other crimes they were alleged to have committed. My journey to Rochester had to be abandoned. I understand that power was restored and train activity resumed just after 3:00 p.m.
If you are a user of Southeastern Trains, you may notice that they are even dirtier and rubbish filled than usual in the near future. The reason for this is that cleaning staff on local railways are staging two days of strike action this weekend as part of their on-going pay dispute. Workers for cleaning contractor Churchill - which holds the contract for Southeastern, Southern, HS1 and Eurostar services - walked-out yesterday and today. Organised by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, it follows a similar day of action last month. The RMT says Churchill made £39 million profit yet continues to pay its staff the minimum wage. It says it wants to see staff paid £15 an hour, given the right to company sick pay and made direct employees of the railway. Churchill also handles the cleaning contract for the Thameslink and Great Northern rail services. In an interview with website Kent Online, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: "Churchill have shown scant regard for their staff and have failed to pay them properly despite ballooning profits.These workers performed heroics during the pandemic, risking their health and safety to keep London moving, but Churchill have so far not offered anything meaningful for our members to consider. RMT will not rest until we achieve pay justice and ensure that these greedy multi million pound contractors are stripped of their ability to exploit workers on our railways." Quite. In my personal experience, many of the Southeastern Trains that operate out of the Slade Green Depot are old, worn - out, and frequently dirty. I cannot recall the number of times I have tripped due to the large air bubbles that appear in the rubber flooring, where the rubber has come away from the underlying structure. The seats are both faded and worn, and the carriage interiors feel old and unkempt. The level of cleaning on these carriages is not perhaps what it could be, and I do wonder that if following the strike this weekend, if any regular commuter will actually notice any difference from normal. What do you think? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In another transport related article, Website Kent Online has published a press release by Thames Clippers - the company that operates the commuter ferries on the River Thames. The announcement reads:- "New dates have been announced for the Uber Boat by Thames Clippers route from Gravesend to London. After running sell-out trips throughout February, the popular route will set sail again on March 19 having already completed the journey on Saturday (March 5). The route takes around 40 minutes to the Greenwich Peninsula and an additional 20 minutes before you reach London Bridge. It's certainly a unique way to travel into the city, as you sail past many iconic sights including the Thames Barrier, O2 Arena, Canary Wharf and you even pass under Tower Bridge. The boat will then depart London Bridge City at 4pm, meaning passengers have plenty of time to spend in the city. Passengers can make unlimited use of the full Uber Boat by Thames Clippers' services for a day by purchasing an All Day ticket. Services also include a licensed onboard café bar which will serve refreshments for both journeys. A single adult journey is priced at £11.55 per person, while adult return journeys can be bought from £20.50. An All Day ticket costs £26.20 per adult, and passengers have the option to upgrade their single-trip tickets. Children four years and under can travel free of charge as standard but a seat must still be booked for them online. Passengers should arrive at least 15 minutes prior to their scheduled departure time, with the boat set to leave Gravesend at 9.45am before arriving at London Bridge City at 11am". You can find out more about the trips, and book tickets by clicking here. Although the trips are currently only for pleasure, the increasing regularity of their occurrence leads me to believe that they may be "testing the water" prior to launching a regular daily commuter service to and from Gravesend. The obvious elephant in the room is if the service will ever call at Erith Pier. Unfortunately there are considerable barriers to setting up an Uber Thames Clipper ferry terminal on Erith Pier; the problems can be divided into two specific types. Firstly there are the engineering and physical challenges to enabling a ferry to dock at the pier. A free floating pontoon extension to the existing pier structure would be needed; this would project out into the deep water channel closer to the middle of the river. This would, however create problems of its own. Whilst the floating pontoon would enable ferries to dock at the the pier whatever the state of the tide was, it would also create a hazard to other shipping that uses the river. Commercial vessels, including cargo ships and bulk freighters use the deep water channel, and if a jetty was protruding into the channel, this might create a hazard to navigation, especially at night and at times of reduced visibility. There are several ways to manage this, the most obvious one being to make the floating jetty movable - to swing it out into the deep water channel only when a ferry was approaching the pier. Unfortunately this would add complexity, and therefore cost to the design, and for safety reasons would almost certainly require a supervising operator to be located on site. The jetty, whether movable or fixed, would require hazard warning lights, a fog horn, and a radar reflector. The pier itself would also require some shelters for waiting commuters to occupy in inclement weather - the wind coming off the Thames at Erith in winter can be absolutely bitter, not to mention the freezing rain. Who would foot the bill for all of the alterations and upgrades is uncertain - at this point it has not actually been debated. The second barrier to using Erith Pier as a landing place for Uber Clipper Ferries is actually by far the more difficult one - the bureaucracy and vested interests of the likes of The Port of London Authority, Morrison's Supermarket (who own the pier) and Bexley Council. I know from personal experience that dealing with these organisations, when any mention of Erith Pier is made, it tends to provoke the response of "The answer is no, now what is the question?" What do you think? Email me at email@example.com.
The Erith Riverside Shopping Centre still has empty and un-let retail units available. The Covid pandemic lockdowns did not help matters, and the loss of large chain retailers such as Argos have been especially painful. Bearing in mind how long it has now been open, this is something of concern. I understand that the original aim was to have small local shops in the centre, alongside the larger national chains. With the exception of the wildly successful Mambocino (which is technically part of a small chain, but seems to operate to a very different business model to other branches, it being far more concerned with serving “sit down meals” than just serving coffee). Pretty much all of the other shops in the centre are branches of large chains. I predict that this may well change as the profile and demographic of Erith changes with the influx of new residents over the next few years;
Two technology anniversaries have come up this week; the first of which is - did you know that the humble wine box is fifty seven years old? The Australian invention, known over there as a “goon”, has been occupying wine drinkers fridges since it was first developed back in 1965. The wine box actually owes a lot to the space race and NASA. The bladder that is located inside the cardboard outer box is made of a material called Mylar – or more correctly, Biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate. This form of polymer was originally invented back in the mid 1950’s by American chemical giant DuPont, for use in early spacecraft. The inert, tough and flexible plastic has since found hundreds of uses in everything from drum skins, the magnetic media in recording tape and computer floppy disks to tiny flecks of it being added to nail varnish to make the varnish “sparkle”. It is a very versatile material that is tasteless and impervious to liquids and gases, thus making it an excellent choice of material to form the wine containing bladder that sits within the reinforcing cardboard box. The clever concept of the wine box is that the Mylar bladder collapses as wine is drained from it, so air does not seep into the container - which would cause it to begin oxidising and would seriously shorten the shelf – life of the wine once it was opened. As it is, wine inside a wine box remains drinkable for around six weeks once the seal has been broken. Having said that, I don't know of anyone who has managed to make a wine box last anything like as long as that! At one time wine boxes were thought of as being suitable only for student parties and barbecues; nowadays the quality of wine found in boxes is far higher, and they have achieved greater social acceptability. The problem with wine boxes is that Mylar is pretty much indestructible and also very hard to recycle. It has been estimated that a Mylar bag or balloon will take at least 450 years to decompose.
The second anniversary is one that affects a great many people around the world -the seventeenth birthday of Google Maps – a service that has revolutionised the way we navigate. Google Maps was by no way the first online mapping service, but the way in which it integrates satellite imagery, GPS data, conventional maps and the highly innovative Street View into one integrated online application which works over a wide variety of devices. The fact that Google Maps launched at around the same time as the first smart phones went on the market was also a shrewd move. Most many people know that before Apple launched the original iPhone, they were in talks with Google over integrating a Google Maps App as a pre – installed software package on all Apple mobile phones. It was only later that Apple decided to work on their own, alternative mapping application when Google launched Android – their own mobile device operating system, in direct competition with Apple. Apple Maps was, and is, in my opinion, somewhat inferior to Google Maps – for example, until quite recently, Apple Maps shows the location of Pewty Acres nearly half a mile from where it is actually located, and on the wrong side of the road. Google Maps is spot on. In many ways mapping services are the “killer app” for mobile use, and Google managed to launch their product at precisely the right time. There have been privacy concerns over Street View, and some countries like Germany have banned the collection of street level photographs for this very reason, though the ability to “zoom down” from a satellite view down to street level is something that many people use on a regular basis. Google are so committed to high quality satellite imagery for incorporation in Google Maps that they have actually bought two imaging satellites for a total of $500 million for the very purpose, enabling them to have “end to end” control over their product. It is something that has served Google well, though their innovation is more a case of being incredibly wealthy and able to fund a great many research projects, some of which may well amount to nothing. Google do have quite a reputation for launching ambitious projects, then suddenly dropping them - Google Glass is one example that springs to mind.
The end video this week comes from transport journalist and well known YouTuber Geoff Marshall, when he gets to be the very first ever paying passenger on Crossrail / The Elizabeth Line. Geoff will be making a further video on concentrating on the Abbey Wood terminus shortly. Comments, feedback and questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.