Labour MP for Ealing North, Steve Pound, challenges readers to imagine life without their car in his latest getwestlondon column:
About three years ago I was purring westwards on the A40 when I started to notice a catastrophic pressure drop and that sick to the stomach feeling of a gradual loss of engine power.
I nursed the poor old Astra through the underpass and limped as far as the Perivale slip when it just died on me. In the next few days I discovered that Vauxhall no longer made parts for dual fuel vehicles even though mine was only bought a couple of years ago.
A large sum in readies handed over to a trusted local mechanic produced nothing other than a hole in the bank account and I gradually came to realise that I was completely without a car.
Now I’d always been a biker until the children arrived and I found it difficult to get four people on a VT500E. Reluctantly I started driving a four wheeler and, as is the way of things, I came to imagine that I could not do without the powerful vehicular beasts.
Following the slaughter on the Western Avenue I had no choice. The Astra disappeared off into garage world so there was no resale money or insurance and – frankly – I couldn’t afford a new car from scratch. I suddenly realised that you just do not need a car in London.
The children didn’t need transporting to dance classes or football training and there is no part of Ealing North that is not reachable by public transport.
I can walk home from Ealing Broadway to Hanwell in a best time of 29.5 minutes and have come to be on speaking terms with all the drivers on the E1, E2, 297 and E10.
The District Line takes me directly to Westminster in 34 minutes and it is a truth universally acknowledged that there are few better ways to travel than on the leisurely District Line as it takes the stately scenic route through the suburbs.
For those with less patience the Central Line bullets through to Bond Street where I change onto the Jubilee and end up at Westminster in an average journey time of 31 minutes.
What are the up-sides?
No road rage, no gut wrenching fear that she’s going to die on you, no searching for the cheapest petrol and none of the endless sitting in traffic jams because something nasty has happened at the Polish War Memorial – above all: no panic searching for a parking spot or that terrible feeling when you find that someone has put in the window through and stripped everything of any value out of the car. The last time this happened to me they took my coat, all the change I kept for parking meters and my water supplies but threw all my CDs into the street in disgust.
I hope that The Dubliners, the Wolfe Tones and the Dropkick Murphys never get to hear of that ignominy.
The downsides are few. There has never been a time in my life when we’ve had a better ‘bus and tube service in London than we have at the moment – and I used to be on the ‘buses so I know how things were! People nowadays have portable telephones that actually tell you when the ‘bus is coming and there are marvellous indicators at my regular stops such as Yeading Lane and Greenford Avenue which actually list the next dozen or so ‘buses in order of arrival.
There is, however, one unpleasant aspect to public transport.
If I had a pound for every time that someone has clocked me and said in a loud and aggressive voice "bet you’ll be claiming this on expenses” or "where’s the camera? You’ll be jumping off as soon as they take the picture" or "you politicians are scum”. In the last case I am sore tempted to lamp the speaker but that would cause very considerable problems and delay the homebound commuters.
Much more common is the phenomenon of the mobile advice surgery. I’ve actually had a queue on the 92 and pick up a lot of casework this way.
In conclusion – the ‘bus and tube are great ways to travel and when the District starts running at weekends I’ll be even happier. If we derail Mayor Johnson’s daft idea to sack 750 essential station staff then my cup of happiness will be overflowing!