Thursday, 24 September 2015

Sussex relief line

The railways to the south of London into Sussex and Kent are, like many other routes, under capacity pressure. Finding space for the projected growth in passengers is becoming very difficult, especially as trains start to reach the maximum practical length of 12 cars. This blog looks at one possible solution for Sussex and West Kent.

Sussex and Kent lines

The Sussex and Kent lines are some of the more complicated services out of London. The long distance Sussex services run from both Victoria and London Bridge, through East Croydon and Gatwick Airport, with routes to Horsham and Lewes off the mainline to Brighton. There are four tracks from East Croydon to just south of Three Bridges, after the Horsham route separates. The two track mainline continues through to Brighton, an area which is under capacity pressure. More pressure occurs through East Croydon, where there are only four tracks to serve the whole of Sussex, including some suburban services. Solving the Easy Croydon problem is key to the Sussex area.

The Kent services are complex due to their history of two competing companies. Services run from Victoria to the north and east of the county and Charing Cross to the west. As this is primarily a Sussex plan, the route from Charing Cross to Tonbridge and Hastings or Ashford is the one to discuss. It has four tracks through London to Orpington, dropping down to two tracks from there on. With just two tracks, it has some real limitations on the service that can be provided. In addition, there is a two track section between London Bridge and Charing Cross which provides an extra limitation, as it is shared with other routes to Dartford.

Current plans involve an upgrade at East Croydon. This will potentially add two platforms to the station, and more tracks with a flyover to the north. Such an upgrade will ease the immediate pressure and allow the main line to be used to its maximum, but the capacity pressures are greater than this. The Network Rail route study is also available.

A proposal from outside Network Rail, the BML2, involves reopening the line from Lewes to Uckfield to provide a second route from Brighton to London. However, this would result in more trains through East Croydon, not less. As such, the plan's authors propose using an old rail link to Elmers End, displacing the popular tram. They would then run on the existing railway line to Lewisham, currently discussed as a Bakerloo line extension. While this plan has some merits (the route from Lewes to Uckfield should indeed be reopened), the London part of the plan is in the author's opinion completely unreasonable.

Finally, it is important to emphasise that the UK's second busiest airport, Gatwick, is located directly on the main line. This provides significant traffic, but is also a problem to capacity. In recent years, it has proved difficult to maintain the dedicated 4tph (trains per hour) airport express, resulting in a significant service degradation to the airport. To provide a second runway at Gatwick, and handle the significant growth that entails, will need more investment.

When looking at the area in its entirety, it is clear that at some point a radical solution will be necessary.

Sussex Relief Line

The Sussex Relief Line is a proposed approach to providing the step-change in capacity needed for the area. This is a high level proposal, so readers should not consider any lines on the map as being accurate. The goal is to produce a scheme with widespread benefits to boost the business case.

The core of the Sussex Relief Line is the provision of a new main line for the area. This is needed to cope with capacity in the future, especially if Gatwick is to expand. Since London is so heavily built up, any sensible proposal is going to involve significant tunnelling.

The interesting part of this proposal is the proposal routing. Once a new line and significant tunnel are accepted, there is no need for such a line to be routed close to the existing line. Rather than go via East Croydon, which would still be well served, the new line could run via a different outer London centre. Bromley is the obvious candidate here, especially as it is very poorly served at the moment. And while tunnelling is fairly expensive at around £100m per km, it tends to produce reliable services (less weather issues for example).

The route is as follows:

  • Gatwick, connecting to the existing line
  • "Godstone Vale", between Oxted and Godstone
  • A connection to the East Grinstead, Uckfield and Tonbridge routes
  • "Biggin Vale", west of Biggin Hill
  • Bromley South (in tunnel)
  • Lewisham Junction (in tunnel), see this proposed new station
  • Canary Wharf (in tunnel), connections to Crossrail, Jubilee and DLR
  • Potential to extend on to Stratford and the Anglia Relief Line

This diagram shows the route more clearly, together with the major connections, Crossrail and the Jubilee line. The red line is the new relief line, and the light purple are existing lines that could be served from the new line. Not shown on the diagram is the potential to link East Grinstead to Haywards Heath, or to link Uckfield to Lewes.

The London section is particularly key to the benefits of the scheme. Bromley to Canary Wharf is currently 45 to 55 minutes. With this scheme, that would drop to just 10 minutes. Lewisham to Canary Wharf would drop from 15 minutes to 4 minutes. And as both stations would be junctions, it would be easy for passengers at other stations in south east London to change and benefit from similar journey time reductions.

Gatwick access is similarly improved. For example, passengers from places such as Chatham and Canterbury would simply change at Bromley South rather than be forced to change at Victoria as they do now.

By reaching Stratford in the north, passengers from Sussex and West Kent would have a much faster cross-region journey. Trips to Norwich, Colchester, Cambridge and Stansted would no longer involve travel via central London. For example, Brighton to Colchester would see journey times drop from more than 2 hours 40 to less than 2 hours. If the Anglia Relief Line were also built, then the effect would be even more transformative.


While the transport benefits of this proposal are large and beneficial, it is also necessary to consider the development potential that the new line could generate. Such development would no doubt be unpopular, but we are in a housing crisis and new options should be considered.

The two locations on the map marked with grey stations - "Biggin Vale" and "Godstone Vale" are possible locations for housing development in new towns. The "Biggin Vale" potential development site is likely to be in the valley west of Biggin Hill, although the airport itself might be considered an alternative development site. The "Godstone Value" potential development site is likely to consist of much of the land between Godstone and Oxted, with a focus on the existing golf courses.

Since the whole area is green belt, no development can occur without Government decision makers choosing to permit the green belt protection to be selectively removed. However, were development to occur, the sites would be about 15 and 20 minutes from Canary Wharf, making them highly desirable.

Were the Biggin Vale site to be developed, it would make sense to extend the tram from New Addington to the new station. This would provide connections to the major centre of Croydon, and also provide a big boost to New Addington itself, potentially including regeneration.

In addition, such a new line would permit greater development to occur at existing towns, including Lingfield, East Grinstead, Edenbridge, Crowborough, Tonbridge and Three Bridges, with all these places likely to be within 45 minutes of Canary Wharf.


There are many potential services that could be run with such a new line. One possible set of services would be:

  • 4tph to Horsham, stopping at all stations
  • 4tph to Brighton, not stopping at the two "Vale" stations
  • 2tph to East Grinstead
  • 2tph to Uckfield
  • 4tph to Tonbridge, and one to Tunbridge Wells or Ashford

Since all services would stop at Bromley South and Lewisham Junction, those stations would have a truly excellent service.


This proposal outlines a conceptual new line for Sussex and West Kent. It tunnels through London from Stratford to Bromley before serving potential development sites on the way to Gatwick. Connections would allow services to run to Oxted, East Grinstead, Uckfield and Tonbridge. At the north end, it has the potential to link on to the Anglia Relief Line, providing fast cross-region services.

If you think the concept proposal has merit, or have any other opinions, why not leave a comment!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Old Oak Common - Queens Park tunnel

In my last post I laid out the Shared Loop option for Old Oak Common. This post expands on that option, so if you haven't read it yet, please do!

Shared Loop option

The previous blog outlines a plan for Old Oak Common that is relatively cheap and far more effective than the 3 current options TfL has presented. The plan developed in three phases, resulting in a final phase that yields much more spare land for development.

This is an updated version of phase 3, with two additional freight lines (to retain freight capacity) and a realignment of the Dudding Hill station (to avoid the tall cranes of the freight depot on the south side of the West Coast Main Line):

The service pattern with phase 3 would be something like:

  • 8tph Crossrail from Paddington via Old Oak Common, shared loop and Dudding Hill to Watford
  • 2tph Southern from East Croydon via Old Oak Common, shared loop and Dudding Hill to Watford
  • 6tph Overground from Clapham Jn via Old Oak Common, shared loop and Dudding Hill to Willesden Jn
  • 6tph Overground from Richmond via Dudding Hill to Willesden Jn

The plan specifically acknowledged that the Richmond service could access the Old Oak job market and Crossrail, but not HS2 or the Great West Main Line without a change of trains (simply accomplished at Dudding Hill.

Having visited the area, I now outline an additional scheme, the Queens Park tunnel.

Queens Park tunnel

The Queens Park tunnel is intended to be built after the completion of phase 3 of the Shared Loop option once the site is a growing business district. It involves bringing the Richmond (or Hounslow) services into Old Oak Common station via a new link.

This link would run entirely on viaduct above the initial Old Oak Common station. Once through the station, it would drop down on the north side of the Great West Main Line, next to the canal and under the current West London Line bridge. From there it would slowly descend to a new station at the Kensal Gasworks site. Beyond there, it would run in a short tunnel to surface in the builders merchants yard to the west of Queens Park station.

The Queens Park tunnel scheme fully separates the Bakerloo line and the Overground in the Queens Park area. Only the Bakerloo would serve Kensal Green, Willesden Junction, Harlesden and beyond (Crossrail might be required to takeover the Overground route beyond Harrow and Wealdstone). The Overground would run from Old Oak via Kensal Gasworks to Queens Park, then on to Camden Road (replacing the Overground service to Euston. It is likely that this would save at least 10 minutes on the journey time from Camden Road and beyond to Old Oak, and reduce conflicts on the section of the North London Line via West Hampstead.

The service pattern with the Queens Park tunnel would be something like:

  • 8tph Crossrail from Paddington via Old Oak Common, shared loop and Dudding Hill to Watford
  • 2tph Southern from East Croydon via Old Oak Common, shared loop and Dudding Hill to Watford
  • 6tph Overground from Clapham Jn via Old Oak Common, shared loop and Dudding Hill to Willesden Jn
  • 8tph Overground from Richmond via Dudding Hill to Queens Park and Camden Road
  • 4tph Overground from Hounslow via Dudding Hill to Willesden Jn

While the gradients in the Queens Park tunnel are definitely fine for passenger services, it is uncertain as to whether freight could use the tunnel. It would however be desirable if freight could use the tunnel, as it would provide a direct link to the South and West without going via Willesden Junction.


This blog post outlines a development beyond the Shared Loop option - the Queens Park tunnel. It must be emphasised that Shared Loop is highly successful as an option without the tunnel. However, it definitely seems worth investigating it, given the capacity and time saving benefits of an express service to Camden Road and separation of the Bakerloo and Overground.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Old Oak Common - Shared Loop option

A new cost-effective phased option for Old Oak Common. See the Central Viaduct option post for more details on the problems of the site and for a more comprehensive, but expensive, option.

This option makes use of the proposed Crossrail to West Coast Main Line (WCML) link, avoiding building a second sharp curve in the South West of the site (as proposed by TfL's option A).

Phase 1

Phase 1 builds on the planned construction of the Crossrail link from Old Oak Common (main) to the West Coast Main Line. Phase 1 of the TfL element simply adds a new viaduct link from the West London Line to the middle two platforms of Old Oak Common (main). This allows Southern services (green) from East Croydon to Milton Keynes to travel via Old Oak in addition to the Crossrail services to Tring.

(Old Oak Common main station is due to have 8 platforms, 4 for Crossrail and 4 for the fast lines. This plan aims to send 4tph of Southern services via the central 2 of the 4 Crossrail platforms. Crossrail 24tph plus Southern 4tph can be handled on 4 platforms.)

Phase 2

Phase 2 builds on phase 1 by constructing a new viaduct across railway lands in the North West of the site. This allows Overground services from Clapham Junction to reach Willesden Junction (two new platforms, north of the Bakerloo ones). This phase allows the existing line in the East to be closed and sold for development:

Phase 3

Phase 3 builds on phase 2 by diverting Overground services from Richmond via the new North Western viaduct. This would be accompanied by a new station in that area to serve the ongoing developments. This phase allows even more existing lines to be closed and sold for development:

Obviously, the final phase does not integrate Richmond services directly with HS2, but it does link it with Crossrail (the Tring services). Linking Richmond into the main Old Oak station would require two more platforms to cope with demand, which is a big ask at this initial stage.

As a final note, all the phases are compatible with extensions to link Old Oak Common to North Acton (and beyond) and to open an Overground route to Brent Cross.

Update 14th October 2014: See the updated phase 3 map here.


Section added 28th September 2014.

This option was triggered by the release of the Crossrail to WCML link plans. When you overlay that link and the option A viaduct over Wormwood Scrubs, you have two very similar pieces of infrastructure, just at different levels. The Shared Loop makes no changes to the Crossrail plan save the ability to access the Dudding Hill line in phases 2 and 3 (in reality, some form of grade separation may be needed there).

In terms of vertical alignment, the Shared Loop option involves a simple, low gradient descent from the WLL to the GWML/Crossrail level to use the OOC platforms. This naturally means that it is at the correct level to be able to access the Crossrail WCML link which ends up on a bridge over Victoria Road. From there, the later viaduct runs over the freight depot to Willesden, which probably requires a reconstruction of the Old Oak Common Lane bridge over the WCML (or a higher than originally intended viaduct). I would also note that with increasing land values, the freight depot area could be considered for sale, making that viaduct simper to build (looking forward 10 years).

Finally, a key part of both the Central Viaduct option and this Shared Loop option is the goal of maximising the land available for development. The existing rail lines make the site difficult to access and develop, and fewer rail lines can have a big impact.

Updated plan

Section added 7th December 2014.

I've slightly tweaked the plan to provide more freight capacity, and some more detail. See below:

And some track diagrams:


This blog outlines an alternate approach to Old Oak Common - the Shared Loop option.

Monday, 7 April 2014

HS2 - West Midlands Express

HS2 phase 1 provides a new railway from London to Birmingham Curzon Street and Lichfield. In the Birmingham area, a new station is also proposed at Birmingham Interchange, north of the current Birmingham International station. This blog examines a way to make best use of the new assets.

West Midlands Express

The new Birmingham Interchange station is deeply flawed as it currently stands. It provides no interchange with any existing public transport, and will rely on a "people mover" solution to connect to the existing Birmingham International station. The practicalities of a people mover mean that passengers from the local area, notably Coventry, will be highly unlikely to use rail to access Birmingham Interchange. This will serve to increase demand on the roads in the area. Not a desirable outcome.

In addition, the new HS2 line fails to provide any real new capacity for travel between Coventry and Birmingham. The current railway is just two tracks between the two cities and carries a slow stopping service for the many intermediate stations. Providing paths for a fast non-stop service in addition to the stopping one is a challenge.

The West Midlands Express proposal is a simple change to HS2 that solves both these problems.

The proposal is to construct two new connections to HS2. The first is from Birmingham Interchange to Coventry, allowing HS2 trains from the north and Birmingham to reach Coventry (the HS2 section around Birmingham Interchange has 4 tracks, so capacity exists for this). The second is from the existing lines east of Birmingham New Street, allowing trains from New Street to reach HS2.

The current service plan for HS2 includes the following: 3tph from Birmingham Curzon Street to London, 3tph from Curzon Street to the westerly leg of phase 2 (Manchester and Glasgow), and 3tph from Curzon Street to the easterly leg of phase 2 (Leeds and Newcastle). This gives a total of 9tph on the Curzon Street branch.

The West Midlands Express proposal would add an additional 3tph service on the Curzon Street branch. Trains would run Wolverhampton - Sandwell & Dudley - Birmingham New Street - Birmingham Interchange - Coventry - Rugby (shown in red). Extensions to Telford, Shrewsbury, Northampton and Leamington would all be possible.

Services would use either classic compatible HS2 trains, or trains similar to the Javelin trains used in Kent. Note that it is likely that trains between Birmingham and Coventry would be no faster than today using this route, as it is longer. However, it is the increased connectivity that is the justification.

The benefits of this service are clear:

1) Passengers from Wolverhampton (and the western West Midlands) to London would have a quick and easy change onto HS2 at Birmingham Interchange, avoiding the long slog between New Street and Curzon Street. They would also have much better access to the North at Interchange.

2) Passengers from Coventry to the North would have a quick and easy change onto HS2 at Birmingham Interchange. This would reduce the need for driving from the Coventry area.

3) Genuine additional capacity is provided between Coventry and Birmingham, with the new HS2 tracks becoming used for regional connections. This would allow an increase in the frequency of the stopping service.

4) The Coventry link provides a location for services from the phase 2 branches to terminate if there is no free path to reach London. This could increase the number of trains using the phase 2 sections, increasing their value.

In effect, the West Midlands Express proposal is similar to ideas already put forward for express services between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and between Liverpool and Manchester. In each case, the goal is to maximise the value obtained from the new railway infrastructure. In this proposal, it is places from Wolverhampton to Coventry to Rugby that would benefit.


The West Midlands Express proposal is a simple change to HS2, consisting of just two new junctions. Yet it provides greatly enhanced connections to the spine of the West Midlands, changing Birmingham Interchange from an embarrassing car park in a field to the hub of the national and regional network. Coventry and Wolverhampton particularly benefit from the proposal.

If you like the sound of the proposal, why not add a comment!

Monday, 3 March 2014

Old Oak Common - Central Viaduct option

Old Oak Common, where the high-speed HS2 railway meets Crossrail, provides a huge opportunity to create a fantastic transport hub. But Tfl, Network Rail and the DfT are missing the opportunity.


The site at Old Oak Common, next to Wormwood Scrubs, is planned under by HS2 Ltd to provide a new station linking the high speed line with Crossrail and the GWML (Great Western Main Line) to Reading and beyond. All trains on HS2 and Crossrail are intended to stop, and potentially every train on the GWML as well.

Current HS2 plans include a station at Old Oak Common. There are to be 6 platforms on HS2, deep within a cut-and-cover box, and 8 platforms on the GWML. The eight would be divided into 4 for Crossrail and 4 for the main line:

On the maps, the Central line is in red, the Bakerloo in brown, HS2 in blue, London Overground in orange, Southern services from East Croydon to Watford in green, Crossrail/GWML in black (across the south side of the site) and the WCML (West Coast Main Line) in black (across the north side of the site). Freight lines are shown in black and a narrower. The base map is taken from an official guide to the regeneration and thus shows future buildings, not current buildings.

However, there are no finalised plans for integration of other railway lines in the area. These include the Central line, the Bakerloo line, the Overground line to Richmond and the Overground line to Clapham Junction. To remedy this, TfL have been working on plans to link the new Old Oak Common station to the Overground.

Unfortunately, TfL's plans are very poor.

TfL have proposed a new line along the south side of the site from North Pole Junction to Acton Wells Junction (see this map for junction names). This line would include a new station, "Old Oak South", parallel to the GWML Old Oak Common station, but separated from it by about 100m. There would also be a new "Old Oak West" station, located just north of Acton Wells junction, a good 400m or more from the HS2/Crossrail station. The line also requires a tight curve on a viaduct and some land take from Wormwood Scrubs itself:

This option (known as 8.2) is very poor, for a number of reasons:

  • No direct integration with Old Oak Common station itself
  • Passengers from Richmond face a 400-500m walk
  • Passengers from Clapham Junction face a 100-200m walk
  • No integration with the Central line
  • Extended journey times
  • Land is required from Wormwood Scrubs
  • Minimal land is freed up for development

TfL have also put forward a cheap as chips option (known as X) which does not include the southern station and only includes the western station, forcing passengers on the Overground from Clapham to North London to endure a 10 minute longer journey and a reversal of direction. It is so bad its not even worth covering here.

A better approach

The challenge of Old Oak Common is threefold:

  • Allow London Overground services to serve the main hub station
  • Continue to provide rail links for freight
  • Open up the site for redevelopment by minimising the railway lines

The first is the obvious one - without a good rail connection into the heart of the hub, millions of potential passengers in South West London and beyond will face a much worse experience accessing HS2 than they should. As a result, many will choose to travel to Euston rather than Old Oak Common, overloading Euston's capacity.

The second point is freight. The Old Oak Common area currently supports many links between the various lines, allowing freight to move around the country. These links need to be protected.

The final point is redevelopment. A key rationale for the site is enabling a major redevelopment of the area. Achieving redevelopment is hampered by the presence of lots of railway lines, each requiring bridges and taking up lots of land.

As such, I propose a solution which tackles the three points above, while also providing a link to the Central line:

The plan consists of the following elements:

  • Two new "high-level platforms" at Old Oak Common (one island) located directly above the four Crossrail platform
  • Direct access from the Overground platform island to both Crossrail platform islands
  • A new line from the Overground Richmond line and the Ealing freight line to the high-level platforms
  • A new line from North Acton to the high-level platforms
  • A new line from the Overground Clapham line to the high-level platforms
  • A new line, the "Central Viaduct", from the high-level platforms to the existing Willesden Junction high-level station
  • A new link to allow freight from Clapham to reach the North London Line, also used by Southern services from Clapham to Watford
  • A new line from the Central Viaduct to the Dudding Hill freight line (in the top left) with a link to the WCML (mostly built across railway land)

The result is a dramatic improvement in the viability of the rail hub.

Overground services from Clapham would run from Shepherds Bush to Old Oak Common and then on to North Acton. Beyond North Acton there a various options (not discussed in detail here) including High Wycombe, Alperton, Uxbridge and West Ealing.

Overground services from Richmond would run from Acton Central to Old Oak Common and then on to Willesden Junction. Passengers travelling from Clapham to Willesden Junction and beyond would have a simple cross-platform change at Old Oak Common.

Southern services would run via the Central Viaduct without stopping at Old Oak Common.

A new Overground service would be possible from Old Oak Common up the Dudding Hill freight line to Neasden and beyond.

A good set of freight links are provided, including a new one from the Dudding Hill line to the West London Line. However the link from Reading to Euston is lost.

So why do I propose this scheme rather than other possibilities?

The key is that, as shown on the map, a large number of railway lines could be removed entirely, opening up the site for redevelopment. In particular, the eastern side is opened up to Scrubs Lane, and the western side is completely opened up between Old Oak Common Lane and Victoria Road.

All that would remain would be a single central viaduct, designed to handle all north-south traffic. And it is that unifying factor that makes the plan work most effectively.

It is likely that the central viaduct approach is more expensive than TfL's option. However, that extra cost is paid back by the value of the additional land that is made available for development. A cheaper version is also possible if required.

As a final note, if a Crossrail link to the WCML is built, that works fine with this scheme. Southern services would be diverted via the new Crossrail link. In addition, it would be possible for the London Overground Clapham route to run to Watford Junction via the same link.


I propose a plan for Old Oak Common based around a unifying central viaduct. Such a viaduct allows the replacement of all the north-south lines in the area, making redevelopment much more effective and increasing the land available. It also enables the London Overground to be integrated into the heart of the hub, where it needs to be to be effective. Finally, additional Overground links to North Acton for the Central Line and Neasden for the Jubilee line become possible.

Feel free to comment and ask questions!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Crossrail 2 - Wink option

This is the final post in a series about Crossrail 2. The last post identified four small change to the proposed scheme. This post has my full alternative proposal to address the flaws previously identified.

Overview - The Crossrail 2 "Wink" option

This proposal is a direct alternative to the TfL Crossrail 2 regional option. It comes in two parts, SwiftLink and PalaceLink, together known as the "Wink" option for Crossrail 2. (The "wink" name comes from the two lines together having roughly the shape of an eye in central London).

The TfL Regional option is costed at £12bn. Through careful routing and planning, the combined SwiftLink and PalaceLink is costed at just £12.9bn.

In other words for just £900m more, London can have two new lines, not one.

To emphasise one key point - the concept is to build both new lines, not just to build one. The costings assume shared project management and construction.

Map of the proposal. Click to view in Google Maps.

SwiftLink - Wimbledon to Canary Wharf

The SwiftLink proposal is focussed on South West London. It provides a direct service from Clapham Junction and beyond to the City and Canary Wharf where the majority of South West Londoners work. This direct link greatly enhances the benefits of Crossrail 2 to South West London.

The SwiftLink route is a simple variation on the TfL proposal:

  • Wimbledon (and destinations beyond)
  • Earlsfield (serving Tooting Broadway is possible but is expensive)
  • Clapham Junction
  • Battersea Power station (serving Chelsea is possible but is expensive)
  • Victoria
  • Tottenham Court Road (double ended to Shaftesbury Avenue)
  • Euston and St.Pancras (double ended between the stations)
  • Angel (double ended to City Road)
  • Old Street and Shoreditch High Street (double ended between the stations)
  • Whitechapel (interchange with Crossrail 1)
  • Canary Wharf (Crossrail 1 tracks)
  • Custom House (Crossrail 1 tracks)
  • Woolwich (Crossrail 1 tracks)
  • Abbey Wood (Crossrail 1 tracks)

As indicated above, the SwiftLink scheme can adapt to the choices made South West of Victoria - Chelsea vs Battersea Power station, and Tooting vs Earlsfield. It retains the primary route through the West End from Victoria to Angel, simplifying comparisons. The Green Park proposal is compatible and beneficial to both schemes at extra cost, so not discussed in detail here. Thus, the main difference is East of Angel.

By turning East at Angel, the route provides a direct connection to the Northern City (where there is significant growth due to Tech City). It provides a connection to Crossrail 1, which would ideally be cross-platform. It then takes over the route to Canary Wharf entirely - Crossrail 1 services from Abbey Wood would run to Wimbledon instead of Paddington.

For those along the Crossrail 1 Canary Wharf and Abbey Wood branch SwiftLink has the following impact:

  • Over double the number of trains, from 12tph on Crossrail 1 to 30tph
  • Two minutes longer journey time to Tottenham Court Road, but two minutes less waiting time, thus overall neutral
  • Different selection of direct services, with all other destinations involving a simple change at Whitechapel
  • Greater reliability, as no interworking with the Stratford branch
  • Less overcrowding, as Crossrail 1 is predicted to be very busy on the Canary Wharf branch

For those along the Crossrail 1 Stratford branch SwiftLink has the following impact:

  • Double the number of trains, from 12tph on Crossrail 1 to 24tph
  • No changes to the Crossrail 1 destinations
  • Additional destination options via a simple change at Whitechapel
  • Less overcrowding, as Crossrail 1 is predicted to be very busy on the Stratford branch
  • No need for any "residual" services into Liverpool Street main line station
  • The potential to use the extra services to add a branch to Barking via Woodgrange Park (other options available)

For those along the South West Main Line slow lines SwiftLink has the following impact:

  • Increased frequency, from 18tph to 30tph (as per the TfL scheme)
  • Direct service to most major job markets, Victoria, the West End, the City and Canary Wharf
  • Simple change to reach Stratford
  • Cross-platform change to reach Waterloo at Wimbledon, greatly reducing the potential for negative political campaigns

SwiftLink has some large potential journey time savings:

Estimated journey times
Journey*Now (off-peak, TfL website)With SwiftLinkSaving
Wimbldon to Victoria22139
Wimbldon to Tottenham Court Road331518
Wimbldon to Euston311714
Wimbldon to Old St/Shoreditch392118
Wimbldon to Canary Wharf392712
Wimbldon to Stratford452817
Wimbldon to Hoxton462521
Wimbldon to Woolwich513318
* Note that Wimbledon is used as the base location, but journey time savings apply over the entire suburban route network via Wimbledon.

The estimated cost of SwiftLink is £7.2bn. The following cost breakdown follows the same methodology used to evaluate the cost breakdown for TfL's £12bn scheme.

Item Cost estimate Rationale
Tunnelling £1,500m 12.7km at £100m per km plus one junction
Stations £2,600m See below
Upgrade Network Rail £1,000m Work needed in Clapham Junction area and beyond
Depot £1,000m -
Track, Electrical, Comms £700m -
Fees, consultancy £400m -

The stations were costed up as follows:

Clapham Junction£50m
Battersea Power£150m
Tottenham Court Road£400m
Old St & Shoreditch£500m

These costs assume a tunnel portal at Battersea Power station. A portal at Earlsfield to serve either Chelsea or Battersea is about £600m more expensive at £7.8bn.

Overall, the SwiftLink scheme is simple. It takes passengers from South West London directly to their jobs in the City and Canary Wharf, something which TfL's proposed scheme fails to do. By re-using the Canary Wharf branch of Crossrail 1, better service can be provided to both Stratford and Canary Wharf, supporting regeneration in the East.

PalaceLink - Alexandra Palace to Victoria

The PalaceLink proposal is focussed on North London and is based on TfL's Metro scheme in the North. It provides a direct link from Alexandra Palace, Turnpike Lane and Seven Sisters to a wide selection of zone 1 stations. The terminus at Victoria also allows passengers from South and South West London to use the line to access more of zone 1 direct without changing.

The PalaceLink part of the proposal is based on Metro technology, with up to 40tph. This is a better technology fit for the North, where distances are shorter, and high frequency matters. It is important to note that Metro technology is not better or worse than Crossrail technology, just different. For example, a Metro train can accelerate and decelerate faster than a Crossrail train, resulting in a faster journey time, or more stops.

The PalaceLink route proposed here is designed to be simple and effective:

  • Victoria (for SwiftLink, Victoria, District and main line)
  • Charing Cross (for Northern, Bakerloo and main line)
  • Covent Garden South/Strand (named to relieve Covent Garden)
  • Chancery Lane (for Central line)
  • Barbican/Farringdon (for Crossrail 1)
  • Old Street (for SwiftLink)
  • Dalston (for Overground)
  • Seven Sisters (for Victoria line and mainline)
  • Turnpike Lane (for Piccadilly line)
  • Alexandra Palace (for main line)

There are many possible routes in the North, which all have relatively similar costs. Ultimately, the PalaceLink proposal uses this route to make comparisons with TfL's Metro option simple. Hackney is not served, as per the TfL Metro option, but could be at extra cost.

Benefits include:

  • Capacity relief on the Piccadilly line
  • Capacity relief on the Victoria line
  • Direct access to Dalston from the West End
  • Additional services for the growing Tech City area
  • Extra distribution from Victoria and Charing Cross main line termini
  • The potential to extend South or West from Victoria at a later stage (such as to Tooting Broadway, about £2.1bn via Chelsea)
  • The potential to add a branch to the Lea Valley at a later stage (about £0.9bn)

PalaceLink is designed to create journey time savings:

Estimated journey times
JourneyNow (off-peak, TfL website)With PalaceLinkSaving
Seven Sisters to Victoria17161
Seven Sisters to Charing Cross19145
Seven Sisters to Covent Garden18135
Seven Sisters to Barbican20911
Seven Sisters to Old Street1376
Turnpike Lane to Victoria20191
Turnpike Lane to Charing Cross25178
Turnpike Lane to Covent Garden19163
Turnpike Lane to Barbican241212
Turnpike Lane to Old Street19106
Hackney to Covent Garden271413

The estimated cost of PalaceLink is £5.7bn. The following cost breakdown follows the same methodology used to evaluate the cost breakdown for TfL's £9.4bn Metro scheme.

Item Cost estimate Rationale
Tunnelling £1,500m 15.4km at £100m per km
Stations £2,200m See below
Depot £800m -
Track, Electrical, Comms £800m -
Fees, consultancy £400m -

The stations were costed up as follows:

Charing Cross£200m
Covent Garden South£250m
Chancery Lane£250m
Old Street£100m
Seven Sisters£250m
Turnpike Lane£250m
Alexandra Palace£250m

Note that some items have lower cost estimates because of shared costs with SwiftLink. Notably this includes Victoria and Old Street station, and a minor reduction in tunnelling costs. In addition, cost at Charing Cross is reduced by reusing the access passageways to the old Jubilee line platforms (although still requiring work to enlarge the platforms themselves).

Overall, the PalaceLink scheme is a simple Metro in the tradition of London's existing tube lines. It deals effectively with the capacity issue of the North while offering a much wider range of destination choices in zone 1. The major job markets of Victoria, the West End, Mid Town and the northern City are all served, with an easy change at Old Street for Canary Wharf. It also provides additional, much needed, distribution from Charing Cross and Victoria termini, linking in well with SwiftLink to provide even more choice to South West London.


Its not often that a transport proposal comes along which offers a supermarket style "two for one" offer. Yet that is almost what the Crossrail 2 "Wink" option provides, at a cost of £12.9bn, vs TfL's £12bn.

Swiftlink serves South West London far better than TfL's plans, by taking passengers to the destinations they desire in the City and Canary Wharf, and linking with PalaceLink to serve Covent Garden and Mid Town. PalaceLink serves North London better as well, using the more appropriate Metro technology to provide a high frequency service to greatly relieve the Piccadilly and Victoria lines, without simply duplicating the existing route via Kings Cross.

If you back the proposal, or have any other opinions, why not leave a comment!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Crossrail 2 - Small changes

This is the third post in a series about Crossrail 2. The last post examined some of the flaws with the proposed scheme. This one focuses on small changes to the proposed scheme that would improve it. The final post will outline the larger changes that I really want to see.

Additional West End station - Green Park / Jermyn Street

One of the key issues I identified with the proposed scheme is the over-reliance on Tottenham Court Road (TCR). It is used to both serve the entire West End, and provide a change to Crossrail 1 for the City and Canary Wharf.

The safeguarded route wasn't quite as restricted to TCR, as it has provision for a station at Piccadilly Circus (to the SE of the current station between Haymarket and Oxendon Street). This option is retained in the proposed Metro scheme, but missed out in the Regional scheme that almost everyone is arguing for.

I believe that the Regional scheme's over-reliance on TCR would be mitigated to some degree were an additional station provided in the West End. However, I don't believe that additional station should be at Piccadilly Circus where the safeguarding is. That location is too close to TCR and not far enough West.

My proposed location is under the Green Park end of Jermyn Street. Due to the length of the Regional scheme trains, a double ended station is possible, however the distance between Green Park and Piccadilly Circus is just too great to link the two stations. Given that, I would argue that it should link to Green Park, rather than Piccadilly Circus, with the second exit near Air Street for Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus.

This location is primarily about distributing passengers more evenly in the West End and beyond. In effect, it would act as Crossrail 2's equivalent to Bond Street. It would serve office locations in Mayfair, St James and the north end of Whitehall, as well as the major shopping and leisure areas.

The link to Green Park is also very useful because it provides connections to tube lines. The Piccadilly line would provide access to South Kensington, Hammersmith and beyond While the Jubilee line provides access to Bond Street, Baker Street, Waterloo and London Bridge. This reduces the backlash in South West London, as Waterloo, Southwark and London Bridge would be relatively easily reached from Green Park, and in comparable journey times to today's service. Thus, this link would also reduce the pressure of passengers changing from Crossrail 2 to the Northern line at Tooting Broadway.

The Jubilee line also provides resilience if Crossrail 1 fails, providing a second link to Canary Wharf. In addition, Green Park station is already modernized and step free, reducing costs.

Map shows the TfL proposed route in orange and the deviation necessary to provide the many benefits of a station at Green Park / Jermyn Street.

Battersea Power station, not Chelsea

The harsh reality is that the needs of Battersea and the Vauxhall-Nine-Elms-Battersea area far outweigh the needs of Chelsea, particularly for a Regional type scheme.

There was a submission to the GLA Transport Committee which put this pithily:

The residents of Chelsea neither want or have use for a Crossrail station at Kings Road. The vast majority will use a taxi or car. The residents of Battersea and Wandsworth are, however, starved of adequate public transport. Furthermore there are announced proposals for 20,000 new homes to be delivered within the next 10 years between Nine Elms and Wandsworth town centre plus numerous Embassies and ambassadorial staff moving into the same area. There are also multi-million square foot mixed use developments taking place at Battersea Power Station and Wandsworth Town Centre. Why then is Crossrail 2 proposed to go to Kings Road Chelsea where there is low demand when there is such massive demand growing to service a population undergoing rapid expansion along the South bank of the River?

There should really be little doubt that an objective look at the case of the two locations would select Battersea Power station. The Northern line extension is useful for local transport, and heading East, but rather indirect for heading to the West End. Furthermore, there will be far more jobs created south of the river, as compared to the mainly residential areas of Chelsea. Those jobs are going to have commuters, and many will come from the South West area, making a stop there far more valuable than Chelsea.

Northern branches

The split of the northern branches after Angel is plainly nonsense. It means that Hackney only gets 10tph (trains per hour), something which is ridiculously poor and a large under-use of the expensive tunnel.

The simple solution (based on minimal change to the proposed scheme), would be to change the routing slightly. After Angel, take the line to Haggerston for the East London line instead of Dalston. Then via Hackney and Upper Clapton. Only then branch in two for Seven Sisters and Tottenham Hale. This provides the full 30tph to Haggerston (near Dalston), Hackney and Upper Clapton, without changing the split to the ultimate two branches in the North.

Map shows the TfL proposed route in orange and my simpler alternative in red.


In the spirit of minimal change to the proposed scheme, there is a way to tackle the problems of service to Earlsfield - the Northern line. The concept would be to extend the Northern line from Battersea Power station to Wimbledon.

This would involve a new tunnel from the power station, via either Battersea Park Road or Lavender Hill and Clapham Junction, surfacing in time to take over the two slow lines through Earlsfield to Wimbledon. This is not a cheap change, as it requires a new tunnel, but it would provide Earlsfield with a frequent service, even if not quite as fast as today.

Since the faster route to central London from Wimbledon would be Crossrail 2, it should be the case that such a Northern line extension would not be overloaded. This would particularly be the case if Crossrail 2 goes via Battersea power station as argued above.

It may be possible to continue the Northern line to St Helier on the Sutton route. This would allow the Northern line trains to reach the Morden depot. The remainder of the route to Sutton could then be converted to a tram.


This post has outlined four small scale changes to the proposed scheme that would have a big impact on its ability to deliver.

The key item is the additional central station at Green Park / Jermyn Street. It has multiple advantages, including spreading the load in the West End, provides resilience and additional job market access via the Jubilee line, and avoiding the need for most changes from Crossrail 2 to the Northern line at Tooting Broadway.

If you have any other small changes to Crossrail 2 you'd like to suggest, add a comment!

Update: Next in the series: Crossrail 2 wink option