“All aboard… for the rail replacement bus.”
That’s the depressing announcement many revellers will hear as they try to head to Notting Hill Carnival. While feathers and sequins, soca and steelpan are ruling the streets of west London, on Britain’s railways over the August bank holiday the dominant colour will be orange, the headpieces reinforced and the sound on the ground will be the clang of steel.
It’s essential work they are doing, but Network Rail’s ‘mas band’ of maintenance men and women won’t get many thanks from delayed passengers. Particularly if it’s 1pm on Carnival Monday and you’re still stuck at Crewe. So here’s Soca News’s heads-up on what to expect.
There won’t be any services to London Charing Cross, Cannon Street or Euston. Nothing will be moving between Shenfield and Liverpool Street, and there will be disruption on some services running from Wales and the West to Paddington.
Two-thirds of Waterloo will be shut down over the holiday and some other South Western stations will be closed too. The enduring nightmare that is London Bridge is set to continue, so expect construction chaos, late and cancelled trains, gross overcrowding and maybe even demonic possession.
Mention of which brings us inevitably to the train operator from Hell – Southern. Its services are so unreliable that carnivalists travelling up from Surrey and Sussex into Victoria and London Bridge will probably find it quicker to cycle.
What about Tubes and Overground? At the time of writing, Transport for London hadn’t announced what obstacles it plans to put in our way, but it’s likely the usual rules will apply: Ladbroke Grove closed both days, Notting Hill Gate exit-only in the morning and entrance-only in the afternoon, Westbourne Park madly crowded, and passengers advised to use Bayswater or Queensway if possible. Last year the Night Tube was not extended to Sunday and bank holiday Monday, so if you’re heading out of town late in the day you’ll have to rely on night bus, minicab or Uber.
While a million or more people are enjoying themselves noisily and messily in Notting Hill, buses behave a bit like some of Notting Hill’s snootier residents – they put up the shutters and stay away. Luckily, they don’t all head off to second homes in the countryside, but start and finish just outside the Carnival Zone. Expect them to be very crowded and very slow, so if you’ve still got any energy left it may be quicker and more comfortable to walk to somewhere quieter, like Paddington, Queen’s Park or Kensal Rise.
Trying to get through the crowds with a car, bicycle, double-buggy or monster rucksack will have you marked down as a certifiable lunatic and a menace to society just don’t try it.
After the Nice and London Bridge attacks, we can expect even stricter security controls on vehicles, especially vans. Mas bands and traders should therefore ensure their drivers have all the correct permits and paperwork, and follow police instructions to the letter.
Check Soca News for updates, or go to the following websites for detailed travel information: