Sunday, May 29, 2022


Local resident Shane took a series of photographs at the launch of the Elizabeth Line at 6.30 am on Tuesday morning at Abbey Wood station, one of which you can see above. It shows popular transport YouTuber Geoff Marshall, who I have featured before, and who will appear in the ending video this week. Shane also is the guest Blog contributor this week - more on this shortly. Following the well publicised launch of the Elizabeth line, questions have been asked as to whether the former Crossrail project will be extended to run through Belvedere Erith, Slade Green and onwards to Ebbsfleet. This had been proposed some years ago when the paramount London theme park was still a viable proposition. Since the theme park is now almost certainly a defunct project, there are some doubts as to the likelihood of an extension to the Elizabeth line. The cancellation of the theme park project also to my mind brings downs as to whether Ebbsfleet Garden city will ever see the light of day. Ebbsfleet would become the UK’s latest garden city where there are plans to deliver 15,000 new homes and major economic opportunities. The preferred scheme would see eight of the 12 Elizabeth Line trains per hour that are currently planned to terminate at Abbey Wood extended eastwards. This would mean the Elizabeth Line extended from south London to Dartford, Greenhithe and Swanscombe before stopping near to HS1 at Ebbsfleet / Northfleet. It would share existing North Kent line tracks with the Southeastern and Thameslink network and would see eight trains depart an hour with four destined for Gravesend. If approved, significant construction works would be required at Dartford station, with some additional sections of track and junction also required along the route. After several years of consultation a business case signed by all councils in the partnership was sent to the government for consideration. It was submitted last October alongside a large body of technical evidence to justify the preferred transport options, their development impacts and included a funding and finance strategy. Other plans have also been considered. These include extending the line, but only as far as Dartford using new dedicated tracks, with extra National Rail services, combined with a a new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service linking Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet, and other stations along the North Kent line. One thing that does come from this is the observation that certain local train tickets can be more pricey than other forms of transportation. An anytime day return ticket for a commuter between Dartford and Charing Cross costs about £19, but a round trip to Hamburg in Germany from Stansted Airport is just £17 on Ryanair. On Friday, Bexley Council published the following press release:- "Tuesday 24 May saw the long-awaited commencement of Elizabeth Line services, including twelve trains per hour from Abbey Wood across central London to Paddington. Through services to Heathrow and Reading will follow in the Autumn and the full network will be operational by May of next year. However, both Estuary Envoy, Kate Willard, and Bexley Leader, Councillor Teresa O’Neill, are clear that the story doesn’t end there. Welcoming the new service, Kate Willard, government-appointed Estuary Envoy, commented: Bringing the new service to Abbey Wood is a game-changer - but we now need to complete the vision and connect Ebbsfleet and communities in Bexley, Dartford, Gravesham and - through greater connectivity - coastal East Kent, which are amongst the Government’s top priorities for levelling up. Completing the line would bring new capacity, resilience and rail destinations to some of our hardest pressed Estuary communities.”Councillor O’Neill explained: The original vision for Crossrail was that it continue through Bexley and into North Kent. It was only dropped because of uncertainties over growth and worries about delays. We think we have shown in our recent work that these are no longer significant issues.”The C2E Partnership received government funding to explore transport improvement options between Abbey Wood and Gravesend at the beginning of 2020 and submitted a strategic outline business case to ministers in October of last year. This detailed study looked at a range of different schemes and concluded that three options should be shortlisted for further work, two of which incorporate the eastward extension of Elizabeth Line services. In its submission letter, the Partnership confirmed that one of these Crossrail options is its preferred choice and has the potential to deliver significant new growth as part of carefully designed places. Councillor O’Neill said: The Government is yet to respond to the submission but the Partnership considers that the celebrations around the opening of the Elizabeth Line are just the right time to kick on with the project. “The Elizabeth line is a world-class transport system that will blow people away but we can’t stop there. We have got to make sure that we make the most of all this knowledge and investment and that we spread the benefit as widely as possible. The opening of the line offers a unique opportunity to commit to doing that and show we are not content to rest on our laurels.” The Partnership will be writing to government ministers urging them to use the recent opening as a launch pad for further work on C2E". So much for the official announcements and potential plans for the future. What of the here and now? Regular reader and occasional contributor Shane was at Abbey Wood for the launch of the very first passenger service on the Elizabeth Line. He is guest writer this week; here is his account of the historic day:- "At 5:15am, I joined the queue at Abbey Wood. It snaked from the locked metal gates all the way down the entrance ramp and looped back on itself. The atmosphere was electric; more akin to New Year’s than a sleepy early Tuesday morning in a train station in south east London. More and more kept coming. One theme was constant: purple. Purple jumpsuits, purple trainers, purple hats, purple socks. I overheard somebody mention they had taken two night buses and several hours to be there. This showed quite a bit more dedication than the 15 minutes it had taken me on the 469 from West Street. A BBC London reporter then arrived with a large microphone pacing up and down the queue which had rapidly grown the length of Felixstowe Road. Then famous You-Tuber and rail enthusiast Geoff Marshall appeared. Fans erupted into cheers. He darted back and forward, had a brief chat with the crowd and then disappeared. The queue continued to grow. By 6am it stretched into the distance and beyond the line of sight. A tall man appeared, dressed immaculately, with a dark purple tie and a white name badge. Clearly someone of some importance. To the crowd’s delight, he started handing out commemorative Elizabeth Line pins. The queue suddenly lurched forward a few feet so I could see the entrance of locked metal gates. The BBC London reporter appeared again and thrust his microphone towards the dedicated souls who were first in the queue and asked how they were feeling. The reply came, “well it’s three and a half years late, which is better than never i suppose” followed by a massive cheer. Excitement was building. Then two orange vests and a ribbon appeared behind the metal gates. It couldn’t be long. Suddenly a voice was heard over a mega phone. “Good morning and welcome to the new Elizabeth Line service from Abbey Wood.” Huge cheers erupted. “I hope you have a wonderful day and we will see you on the train.” Then: “I now officially open the Elizabeth Line at Abbey Wood station.” More cheers. Followed by: “Please, please walk to the train, please walk to the train.” As the metal gates were pulled open, the crowd raced forward. This was no time for restraint. I would consider myself reasonably controlled in most circumstances, but I felt a surge of excitement as I made my way towards the entrance. Like a child on Christmas morning ripping off wrapping paper. I’m sure I wasn’t alone. Then disaster struck. Suddenly the metal gates were pulled closed to audible groans. My heart sank. Would we make the first train? After a tense few moments that seemed like an age they were opened to everyone’s relief. I quickly made it through the barriers and spotted Geoff again on the platform being interviewed with a few known youtubers. With no time to lose I headed towards the first carriage. The interiors are a thing of beauty. Clean, spacious and modern. I found my seat. There was only a few minutes to go. It had taken decades to get to this point. What has now become the Elizabeth Line has been a long and sorry tale, with many twists, turns and missed opportunities over the years. A cross london train using a large diameter tunnel was first speculated by the fabled railwayman George Dow, father of the modern Tube map, in 1941.  After many false starts, the term “cross rail” emerged in 1974, and in the subsequent years various proposed schemes were mothballed, reconfigured and cancelled until finally the Cross Rail Act received Royal Assent in 2008. The proposal meant Abbey Wood station, which sits upon the borders of Bexley would be the final station of the line. Work began in earnest the following year with a deep shaft excavated in what was to become the Elizabeth Line Canary Wharf station. The scale of the project was immense. Giant boring machines worked unceasingly heading from the west and from the east slowly churning through 26 miles of the london clay into a vast underground network. All finally met at Farringdon in May 2015 when the tunnelling machine “Victoria” broke through the last remaining chunks of earth. All seemed to be going to plan. But behind the scenes a perfect storm was brewing: strategic failures, poor planning and some say a culture of complacency. The project ran into huge problems which are well documented, including the notorious nickname of the “hokey kokey line” given the number of times things had to be installed, uninstalled and reinstalled. In August 2018 problems were first admitted to the public when the 9 December opening date was scrapped. There were constant delays and false hopes for opening over the years. There were ten indications of a start date, each one being pushed back or amended. On 4 May 2022, TFL finally announced the opening day: 24 May. At last, a date was set. The clock ticked towards the departure time. Then at 6:30am came the familiar train beeping sequence and the doors locked themselves firmly shut to murmurs of appreciation. The thrill of riding the first service was upon us.  A softly spoken woman announced: “We are ready to go! I hope everyone is as excited as we are! 3…2…1. Go!” The loudest cheer of the day, in a day of many cheers, erupted along with whistles and clapping. Gently at first, the carriage pulled away before gaining speed quickly. As it approached Plumstead we suddenly found ourselves looking at darkness, the first underground section. At Woolwich’s magnificent new station more excited passengers joined and this pattern continued as we moved along the line. One thing that was noticeable was how smooth and quickly it ran. After 29 minutes we found ourselves in Paddington, another world from Abbey Wood, in one of the monolithic new stations that have been described as secular cathedrals. This is going to change transport in our area forever, particularly Abbey Wood itself. We can only live in hope that in due course Erith may be able to benefit with the proposed extension towards Kent. If it ever happens I, for one, would be more than willing to make another early start". A fascinating and very detailed account from local resident Shane. If you would like to be a guest contributor to the Maggot Sandwich, then please send an email  to me at

British film and television actor Karl Howman is well known to many audience members for his work with the legendary comedy writing duo John Esmonde and Bob Larbey in the late 1980’s. Appearing as Jacko in Esmonde & Larbey’s Brush Strokes and Mulberry in Mulberry, Howman is a versatile and memorable actor who has played a number of both comic and dramatic roles. Appearing on both the big and small screens Karl Howman’s filmography includes a vast range of genres, from the video Nasty Expose, 1980’s gangster hit The Long Good Friday and, more recently, the Anglo-American rom-com The Truth About Love. He also had a regular role in Eastenders for a couple of years. He has also appeared in a number of TV shows, including The Professionals, Minder, The Bill, Blake’s Seven and Casualty, to name a few. He is also well known for providing voice overs in a number of TV adverts. He was also the face of the Flash cleaning products commercials. What many people are not aware of is that Karl Howman was a local lad; he was born in Woolwich, and he lived for many years in The View, off Woolwich Road in Upper Belvedere. He attended Picardy School in Erith Road - what is now Trinity C of E school. By all accounts his academic record was not impressive; he was however a very gifted sportsman - he was captain of the Picardy 1st 11 football team - one account says he avoided expulsion for bad behaviour on at least one occasion because of this. Upon leaving school he had a trial with Charlton Athletic, though this did not result in him being hired by the local club. Howman is, even after a considerable period of time, best known for his starring role in the sitcom Brush Strokes, which was broadcast on BBC television from 1986 to 1991. It depicted the (mostly) amorous adventures of a wisecracking house painter, Jacko, played by Howman. There were 40 episodes spread over five series. Karl Howman kept a fairly low local profile, though he did attend a few fairs at Picardy School, where he was the guest of honour. I saw him on a semi regular basis on Friday evenings at the height of his fame. He used to park his red Ferrari 328 in Nuxley Road, Upper Belvedere, whilst he popped into Mr Mann’s fish and chip shop to pick up a takeaway fish supper for him, his wife and children. 

Some of the most important and interesting stories that I feature on the Maggot Sandwich are those sent to me by readers; contrary to some opinions, I do not find every story myself. In some cases the people who supply the information prefer to remain anonymous, and I will always respect this; other times the person is happy to be named.Regarding submitting stories for inclusion on the Maggot Sandwich, some guidelines; any story needs to be with me by the Thursday night prior to publication on Sunday; this is to allow me to check the factual accuracy of the story, and to edit and reformat the text where necessary. Please send text in plain Email format - not in Microsoft Word, as contrary to popular opinion, Word is not a standard format (a word document contains a lot of hidden metadata that has to be stripped out prior to being uploaded into the Blogger interface). I do occasionally get stories sent to me on a Sunday morning, with a request that it be included in the latest update - which is published early on each Sunday afternoon. Unless there is a really compelling reason, such stories will be carried over to the next edition. Every Maggot Sandwich update takes around ten hours to research, write, edit and error check, all of which is carried out in my spare time. I do not accept advertising or any kind of goods in kind for any promotion - the blog is entirely run as a free local news and information portal with no political or economic bias.

The highly influential iMac range of computers from Apple had its twenty fourth birthday last week. The original - and some way the most revolutionary - version of the computer was launched in May 1998. You can see a photo of the "mark one" version above - click on the photo for a larger view. The original iMac was a product full of firsts. It was Apple’s first computer to be built for the internet era (that is where the i comes from.) It was the first to drop all legacy I/O such as serial and parallel ports in favour of the more modern USB standard. It was the first to show that computers could be cool. To design the iMac, Apple pushed its latent industrial design team, a group that had been underserved by previous company leaders. While the iMac wasn’t the first Apple product to use translucent plastic, it was decidedly more “Un-PC,” without a spot of beige to be found. At the time, all other desktop computers were inevitably beige in colour - whilst other manufacturers were aware that other colours were available, the beige option was the cheapest to produce, as being beige at the outset tended to hide the case discolouration over time due to the Bromine compounds introduced into the ABS plastic to act as a fire retardant. Incidentally old computer restorers have created a chemical cleaning product called Retrobright to restore discoloured computer cases, which I wrote about back in 2014, that you can read here. I digress; The iMac did not come with a bland beige case; quite the opposite. Then-Vice President of Industrial Design, Briton Sir Jony Ive asked “What computer would The Jetsons have had?” when designing the original iMac. Retro-futurism played a quietly important role in the computer’s appeal to customers, which was reminiscent of both the aesthetic used in the animated cartoon series and even vintage computer terminals. The iMac’s vibrant hues also embodied the spirit of 1960s Olivetti typewriters, which were notable for their use of colour in a market dominated by dull, corporate designs.

The advert above was first published back in 1903. It does rather infer that other local bakers were not hygienic - I am not sure if such an advert would be permitted nowadays. Still, it does show that even 118 years ago, a local food producer was very conscious about cleanliness. Something that some local outlets today seem to have forgotten.

The latest radio listening figures from industry body RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research) show that BBC Radio 6 Music has achieved its highest ever audience with 2.8 million listeners tuning in each week. This comes as the station recently celebrated its 20th birthday. BBC Radio 2 has seen a dip from 14.9 million in Q4 2021 to 14.6 million in Q1 2022, with The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show being down to 7.4 million, from 7.5 million the previous quarter. BBC Radio 1 has lost listeners across the day – down 6% to 7.7 million and Greg James at breakfast is down from 4.5 million to 4.1 million listeners. Chris Moyles on Radio X at breakfast is still ahead of Chris Evans on Virgin Radio. Both Moyles and Evans saw a slight drop in numbers for Q1 2022 compared to Q4 2021 – Moyles from 1.2 million to 1.1 million and Evans from just over 1 million to 964,000. Capital, KISS, Magic, Smooth and Heart all saw a fall in the audience, but Heart Breakfast with Jamie Theakston and Amanda Holden is the biggest commercial radio show in the UK and the biggest commercial breakfast show with 3.9 million listeners. The Hits Radio Network’s reach increased by 2.4% to 5.8 million, while the Greatest Hits Radio Network continues its growth with a 26% increase to reach 4.2 million. Simon Mayo has increased the audience for his Drivetime show on GHR by nearly 20% with 1.6 million now tuning in to his show each week, he says: “It’s so fantastic to be back on Drivetime. We are all having a blast and thrilled the audience keeps getting bigger”.

The end video this week is another short piece by transport journalist and YouTuber Geoff Marshall, as I mentioned at the start of this Blog update - who says I don't plan these things. Geoff visits Abbey Wood Station on the day of the launch of the Elizabeth Line, and meets many people who join him on the first passenger train out of Abbey Wood Station, on the way to Paddington Station. Comments and feedback to me at

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