Yesterday morning, we bumped in to a Brockley Central regular at Brockley Station. She normally commutes via Crofton Park, but there had been a problem with the service that morning, so she had caught the bus down to Brockley, to use the London Bridge service. We both agreed that crowding on the trains seemed a little bit better lately, despite the closure of the East London Line. Then, to serve us right, a train with only 4 carriages pulled up, stuffed to the gills and the announcer said that the next train would be delayed.
This chastening experience, coupled with the fact that Clare just became the thousandth person to trot out the 'it isn't a tube and who wants to go to Hoxton anyway?' line of argument, means that we felt compelled to write this on a Saturday morning, when we really should have been doing other things.
Six ways to look a gift horse in the mouth:
1. It's not a tube.
Don't be silly. All the tube lines are a bit different from one another. Different trains, different stations. Some go very deep underground, some barely go underground at all. The trains will be like overland / Central Line hybrids (a bit like the Metropolitan line, only much nicer), they will stop at other tube stations, Brockley will be on the tube map and the station will have Oyster and be dressed with those familiar little roundels. What bit of the tube experience doesn't that offer?2. But it won't be part of the London Underground - it's called London Overground.
And your point is? The name is only different because the service will be managed by Transport for London, rather than London Underground. It's a semantic distinction that should only bother the sort of people who object to phrases like "I'll Hoover the stairs" or "I'll just Google it."
3. But there will only be a few trains an hour.
At Brockley, there will be 8 ELL trains an hour in either direction or one every 7.5 minutes. Add that to the fact that we'll have 8 trains an hour on the overland service, we'll have a service frequency that many other zone 2 stations would envy - less than 4 minutes per train.
4. It won't go anywhere useful.
Well if you don't work in Canary Wharf or the Eastern side of the City, if you don't have family or friends in Hackney, if you never want to go to Islington or the Dome, if you don't want to explore East London, use the DLR or fly from City Airport, then yes, it's not necessarily going to make a big difference to your regular journeys.
The overland service is great if you specifically want to get to London Bridge, but the East London Line will plug us in to a much wider network, giving us new options and connecting to all kinds of different transport hubs, making a whole range of journeys much easier.
It will also alleviate crowding on the overland service, so even if you never set foot on one of the trains, you should be grateful they exist.
And in the highly unlikely event that the overland service you were expecting should ever be cancelled, delayed or reduced to four carriages, you'll be bloody glad of the East London Line.
5. People who are afraid of getting an overland service to Brockley are stupid and we don't want them here anyway if they've got that attitude.
Yes they are stupid. But can you honestly tell us that, when you are trying to get somewhere in London and you realise it doesn't have a tube station nearby, your heart doesn't sink a bit at the prospect of having to take things like Chiltern Railways. The tube is handy, it's familiar - people immediately and intuitively understand how to get somewhere by tube. Railway journeys to somewhere unfamiliar take a bit more mental effort - and people are lazy as well as stupid.
And one day, some enterprising bar owner with a dream of creating a decent place to have a drink near Brockley Cross will justify their business plan to their bank manager on the basis of those lazy and stupid people.
6. It's taking ages to build
It's two years away. If you think that's a long time, good luck waiting for Crossrail!