Alternative to the Northern line ‘that TfL doesn’t want passengers to know about’


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Transport for London was today accused of failing to inform passengers about a “second Northern line” through central London because it will be operated by a rival firm.

Thameslink services are to expand in May when trains from Cambridge and Peterborough, currently part of its sister Great Northern franchise, will continue south of King’s Cross and across the Thames to Brighton or Horsham via Gatwick airport for the first time.

This is part of a £7 billion taxpayer-funded modernisation of a north-south line said to be as important as Crossrail.

New Thameslink map

It includes a key section – Finsbury Park, St Pancras, Farringdon, City Thameslink and Blackfriars – where services will run at “metro” frequencies of eight trains an hour, creating an alternative to the overcrowded Northern line to and from London Bridge.

This means there will be 24 trains an hour between St Pancras and Blackfriars, once the Bedford/Luton trains are included – equal to Crossrail’s peak frequency.

See here for a map of the expanded Thameslink services:Thameslink future service

Existing Thameslink services, which run between Bedford and Brighton, will also be expanded, including a new route linking Luton and the Medway towns via Greenwich and Abbey Wood. An extra 80 stations will join the Thameslink network.

The Standard has learned that TfL had refused to add the new Thameslink services in central London to its Tube map – despite reprinting it to include its own Crossrail, or Elizabeth line, services, which start in December.

One rail source told the Standard: “It’s a high-frequency service that is meant to complement the Tube but nobody is going to know about it.”

Rail expert Barry Doe said the decision was probably because TfL, which saw Tube passenger numbers drop by 13 million last year, “fears an income loss” if passengers switched to Thameslink.

Writing in RAIL magazine, he called on Mayor Sadiq Khan to “overrule this parochialism, and allow visitors and Londoners alike to see all the benefits of recent public investment”.

New Thameslink train at King's Cross

A new Thameslink train being tested arrives at King’s Cross

The Thameslink expansion has been made possible by a new rail tunnel linking King’s Cross and St Pancras, and Network Rail’s rebuilding of London Bridge station.

New 100mph German-built trains, costing £1.4bn to lease and dubbed the “Hoover” because of their ability to suck-up 1,750 passengers, are being introduced. The 12-carriage units have 666 seats – fewer than the trains they replace – but more standing room, wider doors and indicators showing which carriages have space. Unlike Crossrail trains, they also have lavatories.

The improvements will add extra capacity to a franchise found by the National Audit Office last week to have suffered the most delays and cancellations in the country for the last three years. This was mainly caused by industrial action on Southern and driver shortages on Great Northern.

TfL said Thameslink services were shown on the London Tube and Rail map, which can be seen at most Tube stations, and on the TfL website and app.

However, copies are not available for passengers at TfL stations to take away – unlike the pocket Tube map.

A TfL spokesman said: “The London Tube and Rail map is produced in partnership with the Rail Delivery Group, who print these maps for distribution at national rail stations.

“We review leaflets available in our station on a regular basis and are happy to consider the possibility of stocking these in central London in the future.”


Flu rates in London doubled over Christmas – while incidence of common cold was highest in country



Flu rates in London almost doubled in London over Christmas but remain below the national average, GPs revealed today.

However the capital leads the country in the number of people suffering from a common cold, according to the Royal College of General Practitioners.

The figures came after 27 people in the UK died from flu in the first week of January, taking the total since the start of winter to 85.

The RCGP’s weekly survey of communicable and respiratory diseases showed rates of influenza-like illness increased in London from 16.7 to 30.3 per 100,000 people, between the last week in December and the first week in January. The national increase was from 21 to 37.3.

London also had lower rates of acute bronchitis and asthma but the highest rate of common cold, which rose form 119.4 to 158.2. The true rates could be even higher as GP surgeries were only open on four weekdays at the start of the year.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of RCGP, said: “Things are incredibly busy, and demand is increasing – not just with flu but with other common winter illnesses as well.”

Public Health England said the rate of flu hospitalisations was 2.5 times higher than at the same time last year. The highest rates are in the South of England and the lowest in London, Public Health England figures show.

Influenza B is more common in London than Influenza A, but the strains are broadly similar across the country.

In the first week of January, there were 758 hospitalised confirmed cases of flu in England. Of these, 47 were the A(H1N1) “swine flu” strain, 157 were the A(H3N2) strain – the so-called Australian strain that killed dozens last year – another 135 were an unknown subtype of A and 419 were of the B strain.

Campaigners insist the NHS winter meltdown – which yesterday saw emergency doctors tell the Prime Minister that patients were dying prematurely in corridors – was due to a lack of funding and not flu. Overall mortality rates in England are slightly lower this year than in previous years.

Dr Dominic Pimenta, a junior doctor and blogger, tweeted: “There is not a flu crisis. It is flu season amidst a #fundingcrisis.

“The real problem is crippling underfunding relative to demand, catastrophic understaffing, and a health service on its knees.”

‘Pick it, lick it, stick it’: trauma dentist’s advice to West Ham footballer who lost tooth from kick in face



West Ham medics missed the best chance of saving a tooth lost by one of their players when he was accidentally kicked in the face by an opponent, an expert trauma dentist said today.

Viewers watching yesterday’s televised FA Cup tie between Shrewsbury and the Hammers saw midfielder Josh Cullen spitting blood after the challenge from rival player Abu Ogogo.

Josh Cullen BBC

Josh Cullen: Pic via BBC

A West Ham medic went onto the pitch to retrieve a tooth and it was placed in a cup of milk in the team dug-out.

Serpil Djemal, a consultant in restorative dentistry at King’s College hospital, said West Ham’s medical team acted correctly by putting the tooth in milk, but missed the best opportunity to save it.

Ms Djemal, who is chairwoman of Dental Trauma UK, a charity set up to improve the way trauma to teeth is managed, said: “The best way of saving a tooth is to pick it, lick it and stick it. In other words, immediately pick the tooth up by the crown, lick the tooth clean – the owner only! – and stick it back in position.”

She said putting the tooth in milk could help preserve the cells on the surface of the root, but was not as good as re-implanting.

After the game, West Ham boss David Moyes revealed Cullen, 21, had in fact lost two teeth. He had been sent to A&E to see if they could be saved. Club captain Mark Noble teased his team-mate by tweeting: “Mind the gap.”

Serpil Djemal

Serpil Djemal: footballers should consider wearing mouth guards

Ms Djemal runs a dental trauma clinic at the hospital, in Denmark Hill, and she and colleagues regularly see people with dental injuries from sport – as well as those caused by cycling to work.

She said professional footballers should consider wearing mouth guards. In 2014, Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta lost a tooth in a match versus Hull, while in 2016 Man City defender Aleksander Kolarov lost a tooth in the Manchester derby.

“The reality is that prevention is always better than cure,” she said. “If professional footballers and sports people started wearing mouth guards more regularly, people playing amateur sport would soon follow suit.

“They aren’t expensive, particularly compared to how much you might need to pay for expensive and repeated restorative dental work.

“Footballers can afford dental implants, but they are no way near as good as preserving your own, natural teeth – and football clubs can help ensure their medical teams are doing everything possible in the minutes after injury occurs to maximise the chances of an injured tooth surviving.”

A West Ham spokesman today said an update on whether Cullen’s teeth had been saved was awaited from medical staff.

City financiers unite on second Alps adventure to raise £5m in research funds for childhood brain tumours



Rob Ritchie in the Alps

A HSBC banker and his wife are a leading a squad of City financiers on a return charity expedition to the Alps in a bid to find a cure for their son’s brain tumour.

Rob and Tanya Ritchie aim to top £5 million for pioneering research into childhood brain tumours – an unprecedented amount in an area that receives a fraction of that invested in other cancers.

Their son Toby, 10, was diagnosed at the age of five with a low grade tumour “the size of a golf ball” on his brain stem, which connects the spinal cord with the brain and controls motor skills, coordination and breathing.

See here for previous coverage of Toby in the Evening Standard.

About 500 UK children are diagnosed with a brain tumour each year but treatments have not changed for decades – a “sledgehammer” combination of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and neurosurgery.

Toby Ritchie in sports gear

Toby, above, has undergone chemotherapy and two rounds of life-threatening surgery but the tumour’s location means it cannot be fully removed.
His parents hope the funding will lead to a breakthrough benefiting Toby and countless other children who face uncertain futures and debilitating side-effects.
The first “Everest in the Alps” challenge, led by Mr Ritchie in March 2015, raised £3 million from friends and his then colleagues at Goldman Sachs.

Now a 30-strong team, led by Mrs Ritchie and many of her friends, will return to the Alps next month [February] and again ascend the height of Mt Everest on skis in a bid to raise a further £2 million.

Friends from Barclays, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Cazenove, insurer BMS and Smith & Williamson stockbrokers will also take part.

Rob and team in the Alps

Their efforts have already enabled the Brain Tumour Charity to launch a research centre in Germany, drawing on experts at Great Ormond Street Hospital and Queen Mary University of London.

Led by Dr David Jones, The Everest Centre hopes to launch international trials on “re-purposing” adult drugs for melanoma and bowel cancer on children such as Toby within the next one to two years, as one of a series of initiatives.

Sarah Lindsell, chief executive of the Brain Tumour Charity, said: “A cure can’t wait. We are putting a huge amount of pressure on David and his team to do it in a short space of time.”

Toby’s diagnosis in 2013 was followed by 18 months of chemotherapy. That slowed the tumour but it continued to grow. He became confused at school, his balance got worse, and one of his eyes began to close.

Last year, he underwent a seven-hour operation at King’s College hospital to “de-bulk” the tumour.

Mr Ritchie, 44, co-head of HSBC’s global banking business in the UK, based in Canary Wharf, said: “That was a very dramatic operation when they took out just over half of the tumour, next to his brain stem. It’s a very complicated place and he needed to learn to walk again.

“All the things that mattered most have improved, however – his balance may be worse but his eye is open again. His breathing is also better. By and large he has done brilliantly although he gets frustrated when he can’t play sport as his friends can.”

Dr Jones said there was a lack of knowledge about how best to treat the tumours, but said the funding “changes the scope of what we can aim for”.

He said: “We still don’t understand what is the normal course of this disease. It’s often very unpredictable. We don’t know from one scan to the next what we are going to find.”

The new treatments being investigated are known as MEK inhibitors, which block alterations or “over-activity” in the cell.

Dr Jones said: “Previously it was not realistic to think you could apply for this sort of money for low-grade brain tumour research. It was something not seen as ‘sexy’ when you have other tumours that children are dying from very quickly.

“But if you think of the longer-term terrible effects that children and their families have to suffer, this is one of the areas that the research can have a massive impact.”

* To sponsor the team, visit:

Hospital boss: donating my shoes to a patient was typical of the compassion shown by front-line staff every day




A boss at a London hospital badly hit by the NHS winter meltdown donated his shoes to a patient to enable him to be discharged home – freeing-up a desperately needed bed in the process.

Dave Stacey, 33, director of finance at North Middlesex hospital, was praised by colleagues and politicians for his “amazing compassion”.

Rachel Anticoni, the hospital’s chief operating officer, said that staff at a morning bed availability meeting yesterday were told that a “patient was delayed going home as he had no shoes”. She added: “Our director of finance was in the meeting and donated his shoes. This is what it’s all about #actsofkindness.”

MP Jon Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, tweeted today: “The amazing compassion of our NHS staff – finance director donating own shoes to a patient so can be discharged.”

David Stacey North Middlesex

Dave Stacey: shoe donation “was a really simple gesture to help someone out of the hospital.”

Mr Stacey, above, who lives in south-west London, today played down his contribution, saying similar acts were made every day by his colleagues on the frontline. He told the Standard: “It was a really simple gesture and a small and practicable action to help someone out of the hospital.

“All I know is that he needed a pair of shoes. I happened to have a pair of ‘back-up shoes’ here, because of the inclement weather, and made them available.

“I’m slightly taken aback by the reaction [on social media]. In my mind it was a really minor thing to do. If you think about the 3,000 staff who work at North Middlesex, particularly our doctors and nurses on the front-line, they are doing something like this every day. I don’t hear about it, and Twitter doesn’t hear about it, but it happens.”

North Middlesex, in Edmonton, has consistently been the most under pressure hospital in the capital, with its every one of its general and acute beds filled for virtually every day for the last three weeks. Yesterday it had more than 500 patients in its emergency department, and received 130 ambulances.

Hospital managers such as Mr Stacey, who is married with one child and another on the way, have moved onto the front-line to help. Mr Stacey, who joined the trust last February, was helping to move patients on trolleys on New Year’s Day and on Wednesday night.

“I’m really proud of how we have all pulled together,” he said. “It’s been all hands to the pump to make sure our patients are safe.”

He said the size eight shoes were from Matalan and had cost about £10 four years ago. He rarely wore them because they were a bit too big – but hoped they fitted the patient, who had asked for a size nine.


Child patients at under-threat Royal Brompton say it is one of best hospitals in the country


The London hospital at risk of having heart surgery axed by NHS England was today among only two in the capital to get top marks from child patients.

The Royal Brompton, in Chelsea, was rated as “much better than expected” by children aged eight to 15 in a national survey of more than 11,000 paediatric patients and their parents.

The vast majority of respondents gave the Brompton a 10/10 rating. Moorfields eye hospital was also rated much better than expected by eight to 15-year-olds.

NHS chiefs are due to decide on Thursday on whether to remove child and adult congenital heart surgery from the Brompton as part of a nationwide shake-up of care.

Great Ormond Street hospital were rated “better than expected” by parents of babies and children aged to seven. Homerton, in Hackney, and the Royal Marsden cancer hospital were rated better than expected by the older age group.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge, which runs Queen’s hospital in Romford, Croydon hospital, and North Middlesex hospital were all said to be worse than expected – with North Middlesex, in Edmonton, worse for both young and older children.

Today’s survey, by the Care Quality Commission, found 91 per cent of older children had been looked after “very well” or “quite well” in hospital. A total of 81 per cent of parents rated their child’s experience as 8/10 or above.

Professor Ted Baker, CQC chief inspector of hospitals, said: “Overall, the NHS should be pleased with the results. This is a testimony to the hard work and dedication of hospital staff.”

Trauma annual report reveals increase in victims of knife crime and road collisions in London


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LAS ambulance 2015

A dramatic illustration of the extent of the knife crime epidemic emerged today as London Ambulance Service revealed a large increase in victims it had rushed to hospital.

It took 1,542 patients who had suffered “penetrating injury” to the capital’s four major trauma centres last year, up 17 per cent on the previous year.

Just over half, 773, were found in the street. A third had suffered multiple stab wounds. The average age of victims was 24.

Eighteen teenagers have been murdered with knives in London this year. Last week, Jason Isaacs and Kacem Mokrane, both 18, died following separate suspected gang attacks near their homes in Northolt and Walthamstow.

The LAS figures reveal a total of 6,068 patients – about 17 a day – were taken to the major trauma centres at St Mary’s, St George’s, King’s College hospital and the Royal London in the 12 months to April.

Blunt trauma stats 2016

This was up 960 on the previous year. More than 70 per cent of patients had suffered “blunt trauma”, such as being hit by a car, bus or train, or a weapon such as a baseball bat, or had been injured in a fall.

Almost 400 of the patients were children under 12.

The penetrating trauma cases included random impaling injuries and attacks with weapons such as screwdrivers, but the bulk related to knife wounds.

Dr Neil Thomson, LAS deputy medical director, said the figures for penetrating injury were not a “direct indication of knife crime”.

LAS statistics showed that stab wounds to the abdomen increased from 281 to 293, while those to the thorax (chest) rose from 411 to 422.

Dr Thomson told the Standard: “What the report does show is that these are, to a large extent, young people. Penetrating trauma definitely seems to be a bigger problem in younger people. That ties in with the Met [police crime] figures and the work that charities are doing to address knife crime.

“With penetrating trauma, the median age is low, and that is an absolute tragedy. These are young people with what may look like a relatively innocuous wound that can have devastating consequences internally.”

The increase in blunt trauma was attributed to falls in an increasingly elderly population – so-called “silver trauma”.
Pensioners are often on blood-thinning medication to protect them from heart attack or stroke, but this can mean that a seemingly innocuous fall causes major bleeding.
The report revealed that emergency medics were typically on scene in seven minutes – the new national target for the most serious calls.

Victims of penetrating trauma reached hospital a further 17 minutes later on average, while those who had suffered blunt trauma arrived 39 minutes after the first ambulance arrived at the scene.

This is due to the knowledge that knife victims require urgent investigation in hospital to ascertain the extent of their wounds, while victims of blunt trauma, such as road collisions, may need to be stabilised and have bones splinted before they can be moved.

St Mary’s, in Paddington, received most trauma cases, a total of 2,055, followed by the Royal London, in Whitechapel, on 1,874. King’s College, in Denmark Hill, handled 1,129 and St George’s, in Tooting, 971. All hospitals except St Mary’s have a helipad, meaning they also receive critically ill patients from across the South-East.

The greatest number of trauma cases was in Croydon, with 311, followed by 299 in Lambeth and 257 in Brent.

Lambeth had most penetrating trauma cases – 98 – followed by Enfield on 85 and Croydon on 81.

  • An edited version of this article appeared in last night’s Evening Standard.

London cycle wars: can Boris bikes hold out against Ofo, Urbo, Mobike and oBike?


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When the new generation of Boris bikes were unveiled earlier this week, Sadiq Khan was nowhere to be seen.

His predecessor as Mayor, Boris Johnson, rarely missed a two-wheeled photo opportunity. By contrast, Mr Khan, despite picking up the £80m bill to keep the scheme running until 2022, preferred to be in Dagenham to plug his vision for a Hollywood-style film studio.

London’s affably intellectual walking and cycling commissioner Will Norman, (below), despatched in place of the Mayor, was predictably upbeat about the future of the Santander-sponsored bike hire scheme.

Will Norman and new Boris Bike

But this week a turf war began in earnest that pits the £1,000 Pashley-built bikes against cheaper upstarts from China and Ireland, and which could threaten the long-term viability of the City Hall scheme.

Ofo Islington

Ofo, which claims to have 10 million bikes in 180 cities across the globe, yesterday  expanded from its pilot borough of Hackney into Islington and the City of London.

Urbo Waltham Forest

A day earlier, Urbo launched 250 bikes in Waltham Forest. Two months ago, Mobike launched 250 bikes in Ealing. Earlier this summer, oBike was first on the scene with 1,000 bikes spread across central London.

See here for my interview with Ofo co-founder Zhang Yanqi:

From modest beginnings, great things are planned. Ofo wants to operate “across all of London, central, inner and outer” with a fleet of “50,000 to 150,000” bikes. Mobike is talking to numerous London boroughs. Urbo wants to expand across London and the UK.

The bikes are the latest example of “disruptor” firms shaking-up an established market. Look to China to see how they are on every pavement and have proved popular with the smartphone savvy, cost-aware younger generation. Globally there are millions in circulation.

Their primary advantage is that they are “dockless” – meaning that, unlike Boris bikes, they can be left anywhere. In-built with a GPS mapping device, they are located, unlocked and paid for with a smartphone.

“Geofences”, virtual geographic boundaries that prevent the bikes from being unlocked by others outside a chosen area, are used to encourage riders to return them to their “home” borough. Bonus points are awarded to riders who leave them in designated parking areas.

Unlike Boris bikes, dockless bikes require little infrastructure and can be introduced almost overnight. They are cheaper to hire – 50p for 30 minutes, compared with a £2 minimum daily charge for a Boris bike.

Ealing council leader Julian Bell was one of the first to spot their potential. He had failed to convince Mr Johnson to expand the Boris bikes scheme west to his borough. “We always got the message: ‘We are going east rather than west,” he told the Standard.

“Once I was shown the dockless scheme, I thought it was a much more flexible and customer-friendly system. In my view, docked schemes are more expensive, less flexible and dockless are the future. Once Mobike came and said ‘no cost to you’, it was a no-brainer.”

It was a similar situation in Waltham Forest, the capital’s “Mini Holland” borough, with its cycle paths and closed residential streets that favour the cyclist and pedestrian over the rat-running commuter.

It too had wanted Boris bikes, but was told they would go no further east than the Olympic park.

“There has been a history of requesting Boris bikes to a wider catchment than central London,” said Clyde Loakes, Waltham Forest’s deputy leader.

“We pretty much recognised two or three years ago that as we hadn’t got them for the Olympics, we were never going to get them, because of the cost of implementing the infrastructure. We have not been chasing that dream for the past couple of years.

“Dockless bikes came onto the horizon nine to 12 months ago, with a number of different players. We had all the companies in to present to us. We thought Urbo were the best fit for us.”

The dockless bikes are most easily differentiated by their deliberately eye-catching colours. Mobike is orange, Urbo is green, Ofo is yellow – as was oBike.

oBike Wandsworth

It was first on the scene in central London but its plans went horribly wrong when 130 oBikes were impounded (above) by Wandsworth council. It branded them a “yellow bike plague” for cluttering pavements, especially around Clapham Junction station.

oBike had to pay the council to get them back, and quit the capital for Oxford. But it has vowed to mend its ways and return to London. “We are in negotiations with numerous councils,” its UK lead, Haroon Khan, revealed.

“We had to pay an impound fee. We can look at that as a negative. But the conversations that came out of having to pay made us incredibly empathetic to the cost to the taxpayer of the council getting involved.”

There is big money at stake. Venture capitalists have invested billions in the likes of Ofo and Mobike. According to BikeBiz magazine, it is the use of smartphone technology – and the direct link it creates to users’ bank accounts – that has sparked interest, in the same way that apps for iTunes or Uber enable a one-click revenue stream.

The new firms also share an unwillingness to talk about their business models. Urbo is said to need each bike to be hired 10 times a day. Mobike aims for five hires a day. At present, its 250 bikes centred on Acton are being used about 600 times a week.

Safeeyah Kazi and new Boris Bike

Boris bikes: 11 million rides but subsidised by £3.6 million a year

By comparison, the vital statistics of Boris bikes are measured in millions. They will clock up about 11 million journeys this year and generate more than £11 million in hire charges.

But even with Santander’s annual sponsorship of £6.4 million, they require £3.62 million a year from Transport for London to break even. That’s about 30p subsidy per ride.

Councils now have to pay TfL if they want Boris bikes to expand into their borough. The scheme will reach Brixton this winter, at a cost of about £3 million to Lambeth council. There are “no plans” to extend it into the suburbs.

Mr Johnson’s aim of requiring no taxpayer funding was never achieved but it is second only to Paris as the most popular bike hire scheme in Europe. It has clocked up more than 60 million journeys since launch in 2010.

Will Norman believes dockless cycles can co-exist alongside Boris bikes. City Hall is not panicking but “watching with real interest”, he said.

“There are almost 12,000 [Boris bikes] in London,” Mr Norman said. “We have seen five or six record hire months this year. I think we can see the enduring popularity of this. At the same time, we can count the dockless bikes in the hundreds at the moment.

“For our ambition to get more people cycling round the city, one of the biggest barriers is people who don’t have access to bikes. The Santander bikes are fantastic for that in central London, but in other places I’m really keen to see some of the dockless bikes work.”

He added: “I think the price point is not necessarily the key here. It’s the quality of the experience and the ability to know exactly where you are going to find the bikes, and their ease of use around central London.

“The dockless schemes will continue to grow and evolve, but I think there is a space for those to grow and evolve with the Santander scheme.”

Ofo, which launched in the UK in Cambridge, followed by Oxford, Norwich and Hackney, has set its sight on operating within the North and South circular roads, then possibly beyond.

Mobike, which has partnered with British Cycling to get two million people on bikes, is understood to be in discussions with Brent and Hounslow councils, and is also keen to move into Richmond and Kingston.

Steve Pyer, UK general manager for Mobike, said: “We are talking to pretty much every borough. I can see it going Londonwide.

“The rhetoric has changed from six to 12 months ago. Then it was: ‘The Chinese are coming, how do we stop it?’ Six months ago, people were a little bit nervous. Now they are starting to realise this is a benefit and it can work.”

Councils, for their part, are avoiding exclusive deals with one operator as they see how the market develops. They don’t pay for the bikes, but neither do they benefit financially from them – though some boroughs have tried (and failed) to levy a fee.

The main concern for councils, post the oBike fiasco, is for operators to behave responsibility and for streets not to be littered with abandoned bikes. A code of conduct has been drawn up by TfL and the boroughs.

“Clearly, we want to learn form others’ unfortunate experiences,” said Cllr Loakes. “If you are going to bring your dockless bikes to Waltham Forest, it’s got to be done with our consent and our support. Do it in the face of us and we will not be best pleased.

“Success for me is having plenty of people using the bikes, using them responsibly, a low level of complaints and good customer service response from Urbo if there is an issue.”

Most agree that there will be a “market shakedown” within the next 12 to 18 months that will determine who survives.

“I think there will eventually be two dockless models in London – the market will determine that,” said Cllr Loakes. “It will also be hard for boroughs to resist dockless bikes coming their way. The sooner we get there, the better – then we can ‘geofence’ the whole of London, and people can go out of borough and not be restricted.
“We still have not cottoned on to the impact of electric-assisted cycles. I think that is the next big thing coming over the hill. That is probably where Santander will go. The infrastructure is largely there to support that.”

Cllr Bell agreed: “We need to resolve the issue of having a Londonwide scheme that can cover every borough and is much better for the customer. Yes, we do want competition, but we also want the ability to cover all of London.

“I think we will find that the dockless bikes will go into central London as well. We will have to see how the Santander scheme holds up against the competition.”

  • An edited version of this article appears in tonight’s Evening Standard

Ready to rumble: new £1,000 Boris Bike is a Brit (and a bit slower than the old one)


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Wil Norman and Keith Moor

Cycling comissioner Will Norman and Santander’s Keith Moor

The first Boris bikes to be built in the UK were unveiled today as part of an upgrade of London’s cycle hire scheme.

The bikes are built by Pashley, known for its traditional cycles, and cost about £1,000 each. About 600 a year will gradually replace the older Canadian-built bikes that date to the launch of the scheme in July 2010.

They have been introduced under the £79.7m five-year contract with operator Serco that was signed by Mayor Sadiq Khan in September last year.

They are broadly similar in appearance, but have larger front and rear lights to improve safety and smaller wheels to make them easier to manoeuvre. A gel seat has been designed to improve comfort and there have been upgrades to the gears and brakes. The frame is about 1cm shorter to make it easier to get on and off.

Boris bike details

Thousands of the bikes, built in Stratford-upon-Avon, are due to be added to the 11,500-strong fleet over the coming years. They are said to be easier to maintain, helping to reduce costs.

Mr Khan said: “Tens of thousands of Londoners and tourists enjoy using the bikes to get around our city every single day, so by making them more comfortable and manoeuvrable we’re hoping they’ll be even more popular. That’s good for our health, our air quality and for tackling congestion.”

Will Norman and new Boris Bike

Cycling commissioner Will Norman and the new Boris bike

Last year saw a record 10.3 million hire of the bikes, making the scheme, which costs from £2 a day to use, the second most popular in Europe after Paris. There have been 8.7 million hires so far this year, with a new record within sight.

The new cycles have inbuilt bluetooth and the capacity for GPS technology, which will allow Serco to record the performance of the bikes. They have undergone robust tests, including on mountain bike routes.

The bikes use the same docking stations as the current models. There are almost 800 docking stations across inner London, with the scheme, officially known as Santander Cycles, due to expand to Brixton this winter.

Adrian Williams, Pashley Cycles chief executive, said: “I am immensely proud of our team’s achievement in successfully developing a completely new bicycle for London. It is a bicycle of exceptional quality, designed with the rider’s safety and enjoyment in mind, whilst ensuring that maintenance and operating costs are kept to a minimum.”

Safeeyah Kazi and new Boris Bike

Evening Standard trainee reporter Safeeyah Kazi with the new Boris bike

My test rides on the new Boris bike:

At first sight, only the reshaped mudguards appear different. But on a test ride, the first thing I noticed was the speed of the new bike – it definitely felt slower.

There are three gears as before, but it didn’t take long before I was coasting along, with no resistance in the top gear to pedal against. Boris bikes were never fast – a factor that no doubt has prevented many accidents – but the Pashley bike gives as leisurely a ride as you’d expect from its own-brand cycles.

The lack of speed may also be due to the smaller wheels and the wider handlebars, which result in more nimble handling but poorer air dynamics.

There appears to be little difference in weight, despite a promised 2kg reduction in what in bike terms is something of a tank.

Borois bike rumble strip

Ready to rumble: the new bike copes better with Royal Parks’ rumble strips

The good news, for those who have to endure the “rumble strips” in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, is that it copes with these slightly better than the older bike.

A new saddle-post clamp makes it easier move the seat up and down, replacing one of the most breakable parts of the previous bike.

I initially thought the vertical “guide line” had been removed – making it harder to avoid a wonky saddle position – but it has been moved to the side of the stem. Alas the temperamental bell has been retained.

New bikes are always a treat, but don’t expect to get out of the slow lane on this one.

  • An edited version of this article appears in tonight’s Evening Standard

Colleagues save matron after ‘pain from Planking’ turns out to be massive heart attack


A hospital matron was saved by her colleagues when she suffered a heart attack at work.

Liz Hutchison was minutes from death due to a rare cardiac defect when cardiologist Dr Ahmed Elghamaz managed to restore the blood flow to her heart.

A colleague had persuaded her to undergo an ECG (electrocardiogram) scan when she complained of chest pain, and this revealed there had been unusual changes to her heart.

She was rushed to the catheter lab at Northwick Park hospital in Harrow, where she is the cardiology matron. An angiogram revealed she was suffering from spontaneous coronary artery dissection, preventing blood flowing to her heart.

“I was so lucky that I was at work at the time,” Mrs Hutchison, 57, told the Standard. “Dr Elghamaz said to me if I had ignored it and got in my car to go home, I wouldn’t have survived.

“His prompt action saved my life that day. He literally had seconds, minutes, to get a stent in there to allow blood flow. He is my knight in shining armour.”

Mrs Hutchison thought the pain in her chest was a pulled muscle – she had been doing a “planking” challenge earlier in the week – but when it returned she agreed to be checked over. “It went from my chest into my armpit, and I mentioned it to my team mate, who said, let’s do an ECG,” she said.

“They did the angiogram radially, through the wrist. I was watching the screen, and everything looked fine. Then they did a couple more shots, and I remember Ahmed saying ‘What the hell is that?’ and asking for a stent.

”I knew something was happening, but I was just thinking, ‘That’s an awfully large stent.’ One of my colleagues said, ‘Shall we put the call out?’ – meaning the cardiac arrest call – and the next thing I remember is opening my eyes and seeing the anaesthetist standing over me.”

Mrs Hutchison did not go into cardiac arrest but her blood pressure and heart rate were dropping, and the team was on the verge of intubating her to take over her breathing.

Dr Elghamaz, who was the cardiac consultant on duty that day, said: “It was the worst dissection I have ever seen. It progressed so quickly while we were operating, which is uncommon, and we almost had to revive her.

“It was so dramatic. Half the staff were pretty much crying and almost saying goodbye. Another minute or two and she would not have made it. When you’re working with the heart, you only have a very short window of time. We had to act very quickly. The nurses were heroic – I needed tools very quickly and they just focused on what they were doing and helped me.”

Mrs Hutchson, a grandmother, has fully recovered since the incident in March, and began running mini marathons again in June. She has returned to work and wants to raise awareness of spontaneous coronary artery dissection, which affects about one per cent of heart attack patients.

Dr Elghamaz said: “I’ve known her for the best part of 10 years – so have many of the team. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever faced, operating on her, but she’s well now and that’s the most important thing.”