Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Making Ticket Payment easier on London Transport

Contactless Payments is one of the latest innovations to be introduced to public transport in London.  In the past you needed to buy paper tickets.  Then, when Oyster card was introduced, you only needed to tough your Oyster card to the sensor on the bus or at the station entrance.

Now making contactless payments makes your travel even easier.  Before long you will be able to pay using your Credit or Debit card which is automatically detected, rather than use the Oyster card.

A great advantage will be, as when you use Oyster cards, after you have used up a certain amount of money for a travel on a particular day, you won't be charged any more.

For instance, the maximum you will pay for bus travel will be £4.40, so that any travel after your fourth bus ride of the day you won't need to pay any more.  For Monday to Sunday travel, the maximum you will need to pay is £20.20, the same as a weekly Bus and Tram pass.

Hopefully, this greater ease in paying for travel, and the convenience of having a maximum amount you will need to pay on any day or week, will encourage more people to take advantage of public transport in London.  Further advances to be introduced by Transport for London will be welcomed.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Major Community Cycling Event in London and Surrey

Over the weekend we had lots of rain from the remnants of hurricane Bertha.  Nevertheless the RideLondon cycling event went ahead, and despite the sogginess over parts of Sunday afternoon, the day was undoubtedly a great success.

Altogether around 60,000 cyclists competed over the two days along roads which had been specially closed in London and the neighbouring county of Surrey.

The climax to the weekend was the finish over the 86-mile route of Adam Blythe who is the national circuit race champion.  Sir Bradley Wiggins also took part, although unfortunately his finish was a bit further back.  Nevertheless it was great to see him competing again.

The event director, Hugh Brasher, declared the festival to be "a fabulous celebration of cycling".  An indication of its success is that this year, despite the stormy wet weather, 25% more people finished than in 2013.  This makes it surely one of the most important sporting events in the world, particularly in terms of numbers of people actually participating.

Boris Johnson went so far as to assert that RideLondon "has cemented its status as the world's premier mass-participation cycling event".  He was so positive that "for all the families and kids who've hopped on to the saddle, to the elite athletes and enthusiastic amateurs who've battled through driving rain, it's been a fantastic advert for cycling and for our city".

It would be interesting to know the number of people from outside the UK who make a special trip to London for this event, just as they do for the Triathlon which was staged recently in East London.  One more feather in the cap of (sporting) London?  I think so!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Newest Bridge for London in the East End

Now this is definitely not the most imposting bridge in London, but nevertheless will be useful to many people over the coming years.

It is situated immediately next to Canning Town station, to the east of Canary Wharf and south of Stratford.  It is designed for pedestrians only, and will give access to a virtual island in an almost complete curve of the River Lee, shortly before it meets the Thames.

Initially it will be mainly used by workmen to gain access to a large housing development site, although it is possible that it will also be used by people wanting to visit the sales office.  As you can see, the bridge has been positioned well above the level of the river as boats will be passing beneath on a regular basis, and it has been necessary to take into account the rising of the water level due to tides.

There will be an impressive City Island development on the other side, designed to be a "12-acre micro-Manhattan joining commercial and creative neighbourhoods".  By the time the site has been fully developed there will be 1,700 new apartments, outdoor spaces, waterside parks, bars and restaurants, artist studios, boutique shops, a school and a private residents' club.

It promises to be a highly attractive place to live, particularly for anyone working in the immediate area or at Canary Wharf.  It remains to be seen whether it will attract many artists, although there is already something of an artists community at Trinity Buoy Wharf, just a short walk away and directly overlooking the Thames.

At this stage, as far as I know, none of the apartments has been put on the market.  I'm sure they will be high-priced, but for many people it will be worth paying extra for all the attractions of the location and the development, and to live in such a unique situation.

Friday, 8 August 2014

London - Fascinating Views from Maps of the City

One of the most amazing ways to see London is from close inspection of historic maps of the city.  Too much we take the current layout and structure of London for granted, and don't take into account how it has evolved over the last two thousands years.

If you are want to get further insights into how London has changed, then I recommend an exhibition soon to take place at Oxo Tower Wharf, a short way east of Festival Hall on the South Bank.  The exhibition runs from 4th to 8th September 2014.  This is part of September's Totally Thames festival which will emphasise the key role that the Thames plays in London life.

The maps on display cover a 450 year period, showing the changing and enlarging landscapes.  The first available map dates to 1572, and there are also three printed visual surveys of the capital from 1746, 1799 and 1827.  There is even a contemporary map of underground London, produced last year, which no doubt which have many curious features for people looking at it in a hundred years time.

Even if, up to now, you haven't had a particular interest in maps, this exhibition will nevertheless give you a new understanding of how London has become the way it is.  You can learn more of the London Maps exhibition, which includes a slideshow of some of the maps to be included in the exhibition.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Boats Tours of London's Olympic Park Waterways

There have been plans for boat tours of the Olympics Park for a long time .. and now they have come to fruition.  You can see proof above, with a substantial passenger boat passing by the Aquatic Centre which had been used for the 2012 Olympics swimming and diving events.

For the most part the boats will be travelling up the Waterworks River, which extends from south of the Aquatics Centre, northwards to the Velodrome and on to the Broadcasting and Media Centre.  Sights along the way will include the Olympic Stadium, the Orbit, and Copper Box.

Both sides of the river are lined with a wide range of attractive greenery, with a particular feature being the reed beds.  These have encouraged occupation by a variety of birds including herons, coots and swans.  If you are lucky you might be able to spot a cormorant.

The boat tours last around 45 minutes, and run three to five times a day.  Cost for adults is £8, and children £4.  At present the tours are expected to run until the end of August, although I'm sure there will be some demand from passengers after that date.  It would be great if some boats could come up all the way from the Limehouse Basin, immediately adjacent to the Thames, as was originally planned.

These boat tours are another welcome addition to the range of activities available in London, and will help build visitor numbers to the city still further.  Apart from anything else, there will be plenty of excellent photograph opportunities, and friends and relatives are sure to be impressed by the images.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Moving West to East in London

There can be no doubt about it: the 'centre of gravity' in London is moving from the western, typically more upmarket side of London, to the eastern, traditionally more working side.

Sure the west is still prospering, and generally speaking property prices and rentals are much higher in most parts of west London than in the east.  However gradually people are beginning to like particularly parts of east London more, and in the future many people will actually prefer to live there.

This ongoing change has come about for a number of reasons.  The development of the business location of Canary Wharf, a few miles to the east of the City of London, has encouraged people to live closer to where they are spending most of the day.  This has been helped by the building of dozens of high-rise luxury apartment buildings.  These are particularly popular if they have river, or even canal, views as everyone likes to look over water from their living rooms.

The Olympics being staged at Stratford helped a lot too as this event brought about the regeneration of one or two square miles of previously run-down land.  At the same time, the massive new Westfield Shopping Centre was built: with almost 300 stores and 70 bars and restaurants: this has meant that people living in the general area no longer need to head into the West End for their shopping.

And this remaking and improving of the East End is ongoing.  The next focus will be on the Royal Docks where large-scale business parks are going ahead, along with luxury apartment developments.  With the famous Earls Court exhibition centre due to be demolished within the next year, the ExCel Centre which overlooks the Royal Docks will monopolise the staging of exhibitions in London.

Plenty more can be written about future developments in East London, so look out for future posts on specific topics.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

London's West End Theatres continues to Sparkle and Excite

If you are a lover of theatre, particularly glossy musicals, then there is nowhere better in the world than London.  And just now there is plenty new on offer if you have already been to many of the most popular productions here.

For example, there is a one-off performance of Billy Elliot the Musical starring Liam Mower playing an Older Billy (he is considered to be too old to be playing the original part now).  This will be at the Victoria Palace.  What is particularly exciting is on that particular night the production is being screened live to various cinemas, so you don't need to buy a ticket to the actual live performance as these will be particularly difficult to obtain for that performance.

Kerry Ellis will be returning as the Wicked Witch to Wicked as Willemijn Verkalk is having surgery and is needing to withdraw from the production.  Hopefully she will be able to resume the role before too long.

That very famous musical Phantom of the Opera is welcoming to the cast Liam Tamne who made such an impression on the BBC TV show The Voice UK, even though he didn't quite win.  He will be playing the part of Raoul, starting from the 1st of September.

As it happens, various productions are moving between theatres.  The distinctive Urinetown is transferring from St James Theatre to the Apollo in September.  Great Britain, which sends up the political establishment, the police and the press has done surprisingly well in the National Theatre and so will be able to play to larger audiences at the Royal Haymarket theatre from September.  Similarly Forbidden Broadway is upgrading from Menier Chocolate Factory to the Vaudeville Theatre.

So there are regularly new developments in London's West End, which partly explains why it remains so popular with large numbers of people from around the world.