Monday 17 December 2018

Sutton Link tram - Option 4

The Sutton Link is a proposal by TfL together with the London boroughs of Merton and Sutton for a new high-capacity connection between Sutton town centre and Merton. The link is proposed to use a tram or bus rapid transit (BRT).

TfL's options

TfL have presented three options to consultation:

Option 1 runs from Sutton to South Wimbledon via Rosehill, avoiding the centre of Morden. Unfortunately, South Wimbledon is not a major destination, so demand on this section is likely to be only for passengers changing to the Northern line. However, the actual terminus is likely to be at Nelson Gardens, a public park 130m short of South Wimbledon tube station (I don't know this for certain, but it is my interpretation of the consultation documents). My opinion is that South Wimbledon is not sufficient a destination to justify the proposed investment. In addition, my view is that not enough passengers would find the interchange to the Northern line at South Wimbledon attractive, nor would they want to use the interchange to the existing tram to travel to Wimbledon. Option 1 is a dud.

Option 2 runs from Sutton to Colliers Wood via Rosehill, totally missing the centre of Morden. While Colliers Wood is a bigger destination than South Wimbledon, it is still not a major destination justifying a tram at this point. The option as a whole simply looks like two separate schemes joined together, with a low likelihood of generating through journeys. Colliers Wood would make sense as a branch of the existing Croydon tram, with services from Colliers Wood to Croydon, but it makes no sense as a route to Sutton. Option 2 is a dud.

Option 3 runs from central Wimbledon to Sutton by taking over most of the existing underutilised railway line. Unlike options 1 and 2, this gets passengers directly into Wimbledon as well as Sutton, providing a key end-to-end link. One of the key success points of the Croydon tram is that passengers use it to travel from Wimbledon to Croydon. Replicating that success will be key to passenger numbers on the Sutton Link, and that means it absolutely must run from central Wimbledon to Sutton. While option 3 is the best of the three TfL options, it fails to reach Rosehill and Angel Hill, which are seen as key destinations for the scheme.

A better choice - option 4

I find all three options presented by TfL to be weak. I struggle to see any of the three generating enough passenger journeys or funding. As such, I present option 4 (in red below), which combines the northern part of option 3 with the southern part of options 1/2, using a novel route to link them:

Here is more detail of the central section:

Routes that combined rail and on-street sections were considered and rejected by TfL in their analysis partly because of the difficulty of reaching street level from rail level. Option 4 solves that problem by making the connection alongside Morden Park, where there is plenty of available land and the height difference is minimal. For more pictures, see the photo album. This picture shows the area alongside Morden Park:

Option 4 then continues south down the A24 to Merton College, which is also the site of local leisure facilities. The A24 is a dual carriageway at this point, but this road width is completely unnecessary, so taking half the road for the tram will not be a problem. From there, option 4 follows Green Lane to Rosehill, where it joins the option 1/2 route via Angel Hill to Sutton.

Option 4 has a number of key benefits. Firstly, it serves Merton College and leisure facilities, generating lots of local journeys. Secondly, it serves Rosehill and Angel Hill, which I believe are seen as key to the scheme by TfL and local politicians. Thirdly, it frees up a lot of land.

For completeness, the map includes option 4a and 4b as variants. Option 4a omits Merton College and has a more difficult ramp from rail level to street level. Option 4b avoids Green Lane to serve more of St Helier Avenue. In both cases, my view is that the main option 4 is simpler and more beneficial.


The harsh reality of a scheme like the Sutton Link is that it needs to be funded at a time when TfL finances are hugely stretched. But this part of London is well established and has limited development options (and development is where the money mainly comes from). The main sites earmarked are apparently as Rosehill. But option 4 offers something different to all three TfL options - lots of spare land.

With option 4, the existing railway line from Morden South to West Sutton would close. While not all would be available for development (due to limited access), a large amount would be available. It is the money from developing this land that would, in my view, provide the only realistic funding stream for the whole Sutton Link scheme.


Option 1 and 2 from TfL would be expensive and unsuccessful. Option 3 is better in that it serves Wimbledon town centre, but doesn't serve Rosehill.

I strongly believe option 4 outlined above is a much better choice. It gets the benefit of a fast, traffic free route into central Wimbledon, while still serving Rosehill and Angel Hill. And it has the key bonus of providing development land suitable for funding the entire scheme.

I encourage you to respond to the consultation before the 6th January 2019 deadline!

Tuesday 7 November 2017

Crossrail 2: TfL has a plan B. Will it work?

Public news on Crossrail 2 is very limited, however it is slowly becoming clear that TfL has a plan to try and move the project forward. Whether it succeeds or not, depends on the Government.

Plan B

There was supposed to be a consultation on Crossrail 2 in late Autumn last year, 2016. It was stopped at the last minute, when the Government asked for more details on the business case.

So, TfL went away and produced a business case with the goal of funding half the cost of the project. But when the meeting with the Transport Secretary came in July 2017, it was clear that they hadn't entirely seen eye to eye.

What has become clear since is that TfL has now been asked to fund half the cost during construction. This is a much harder task, as TfL is already at maximum borrowing, and much of the money coming in for the next 15 years or so is allocated to paying off Crossrail 1.

One of the asks the government made of us was to pay for half the costs of Crossrail 2 in real time, so not simply paying it after the event, but paying during the course of construction. We think that's onerous and difficult, but we're trying to meet the needs of the government.
Sadiq Khan

The Crossrail 2 team needed a Plan B.

Based on various snippets of information, I believe that the Plan B involves splitting the project into at least 2 phases. Phase 1 would need to be quick to build and relatively cheap. Once phase 1 is open, money from farepayers starts flowing in, and that can be used to fund phase 2.

We've looked at the way you construct this, so what cash you have to spend at different stages of construction to ensure that you don't have to pay everything upfront for the whole scheme all at once. So what you do is you pay enough money to get certain sections of it delivered first of all, and then you pay some more further on.
Mike Brown, TfL commissioner

Other reports have mentioned a 10 year delay in Crossrail 2, which fits with this Plan B. ie. a 10 year delay to full completion of the project, not the opening of the first phase.

But what is Plan B?

The short answer is we don't know. However we can do some thought experiments.

Crossrail 2 as a whole is designed to tackle numerous problems (too many in fact, but that is a discussion for another day). Specifically it is intended to tackle overcrowding on the Northern line, Piccadilly line, Victoria line, overcrowding at Euston, and enable perhaps 80,000+ houses in the Lea Valley and 50,000+ south of Chessington. But meeting these goals makes the scheme expensive. For phase 1, the project has to be viewed entirely differently.

Phase 1 needs to deliver the highest farepayer revenue for the lowest cost in a short time period.

Enabling housing development is a good thing, but it tends to have a long payback period, as houses don't pop up overnight. Thus, our thought experiment suggests that house building would not be a big driver of phase 1, so no need to focus on either the Lea Valley or Chessington.

Whereas providing extra capacity at Euston by 2033 is repeatedly mentioned as being necessary. Thus, our thought experiment suggests that Euston is required in phase 1.

A lot of work has already been done at Tottenham Court Road as part of the Crossrail 1 project, and at Victoria as part of the upgrade there. Thus, our thought experiment suggests that the Euston - Tottenham Court Road - Victoria section will be part of phase 1.

Other leaks have suggested that Chelsea's station may be for the chop. Thus, our thought experiment should probably exclude that.

Now it gets interesting. Phase 1 cannot consist just of Euston - Tottenham Court Road - Victoria because two things are missing. There is no depot to maintain the trains and there is nowhere for the tunnelling machines to work from. Thus, phase 1 must extend either north of Euston or south of Victoria.

Heading north is cheap. All the cheap stations to build are in the north. But, many of the farepayers would currently be using the tube (Victoria or Piccadilly), so this wouldn't be new money for TfL. (Fewer passengers on the tube balanced by more passengers on Crossrail 2, thus not much genuine new money.)

Heading south is more expensive. Clapham Junction, Tooting Broadway and Wimbledon are all in the top 2 bands of cost. But, a lot of the fare revenue would be moving from the South West suburban to TfL. Another key aspect is that the depot was planned to be Weir Road, Wimbledon.

So, our thought experiment only gets us so far. Overall, I believe that phase 1 would need to include Clapham Junction to get revenue from the south. And just building Clapham Junction to Euston would be enough to get a decent amount of extra fare revenue.

Beyond the Clapham to Euston section, its pretty much total guesswork. I could make a case for these and many other routes: to Streatham Hill (surface) via Balham (underground), Wimbledon (surface) via Earlsfield (surface), Lea Valley via Tottenham Hale, the Shoreditch High Street development site (surface) via Angel (underground). We'll just have to see.


Crossrail 2, as planned, was too expensive for the Government, and it has basically told TfL to figure out a cheaper approach. TfL's plan B looks to be a two (or three) phase approach, getting fare revenue in as soon as possible to pay for phase 2. My thought experiment suggests Clapham Junction - Victoria - Tottenham Court Road - Euston will be in phase 1, but there needs to be something else to reach a depot and tunnelling site.

Thoughts welcome!

Thursday 19 January 2017

Metropolitan Line Southern Extension?

The Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, recently killed off the plan to allow the London Mayor to take over the Network Rail lines in South East London. This was despite a high benefit:cost ratio and broad agreement between all groups concerned earlier in 2016.

Given this, and the difficulty more generally of providing enough capacity in south London, this blog considers an alternative plan to provide additional capacity for South East London.

Metropolitan Line Southern Extension

South East London has a reasonable network of rail lines, and they reach two good central London terminals at Cannon Street and Charing Cross. But the time is fast approaching when that network is simply beyond capacity. Rather than look at Crossrail 3, or other super-expensive solutions requiring a new tunnel across Central London, it is time to consider extending the Metropolitan Line. Such an approach would complement the proposed Bakerloo Line extension to Lewisham.

Having looked at the options, an extension to Abbey Wood seems to make the most sense. In this scenario, the Elizabeth line (Crossrail 1) would extend to Dartford (or beyond) using the existing tracks:

The full route would be as follows:

  • Aldgate - rebuilt, interchange with District line
  • City Hall - new underground station
  • Bermondsey - underground interchange with Jubilee line
  • Surrey Quays - underground interchange with Overground
  • Deptford
  • Greenwich - interchange with DLR
  • Maze Hill
  • Westcombe Park
  • Charlton - interchange with service to Lewisham & Victoria
  • Woolwich Dockyard
  • Woolwich Arsenal - interchange with DLR
  • Plumstead
  • Abbey Wood - interchange with Elizabeth line (Crossrail 1)

For comparison, here is the existing map:

The first question to ask is whether it is possible to extend the Metropolitan Line at Aldgate, the current terminus.

Given this is a site at the edge of the City, it is certainly tricky, but it seems that it should be feasible. Just south of the existing Aldgate station is a large bus station (behind the buffer stops in the second picture). The extension would use the bus station site to develop the new interchange station using standard top-down construction. To provide space, the Metropolitan line and Hammersmith & City line trains would have to terminate at Liverpool Street during the works, with the Circle line ceasing to run. The goal of the construction would be to build a four platform station - two platforms for the District line above two platforms for the Metropolitan line.

The Metropolitan line trains would need to descend from the current level to be beneath the District line. This would be achieved using the site of the existing Aldgate station (the first picture). Once complete, the tracks would be covered over, and the station turned into a bus station. The site of the new station (the existing bus station) would be developed.

Once complete and open, the service patterns of the existing lines would change radically. There would be no Circle line and no Hammersmith & City line. District line trains would all run from Earls Court through Victoria and Tower Hill to Whitechapel. Similarly, Metropolitan line trains from Hammersmith and Harrow would all run through Liverpool Street and on to Greenwich and Abbey Wood. In the west, a shuttle service would run from Edgeware Road to Gloucester Road in place of the existing Circle line. This service pattern eliminates most of the flat junctions from the District and Metropolitan lines, making services much more reliable and able to run at a higher frequency. Note that the loss of services from Liverpool Street to Whitechapel (the current Hammersmith & City line) is mitigated by the Elizabeth line, which runs on exactly that route.

Constructing the rest of the proposed extension is relatively easy by comparison with Aldgate station. It would involve two tunnel boring machines and three underground stations. The station at City Hall would be entirely new. The station at Bermondsey would be an underground interchange, designed for ease of use, while the station at Surrey Quays would require a rebuild of the Overground station as well.

The Bermondsey interchange is key to the success of the plan, because it provides passengers from the extended Metropolitan line a simple change to reach the West End. Journeys such as Greenwich to Bond Street become a pleasure, with one simple well-designed interchange. This is vital, as it greatly increases the time benefits to passengers, boosting the business case.

The final piece of the puzzle will be a tunnel portal location to access Deptford. One possibility would be to use the land of the New Cross branch of the Overground. Such an approach would allow more Overground services to run to Clapham Junction, Crystal Palace and/or West Croydon, but would also require the Metropolitan extension to have a short branch to New Cross.

Costs and Benefits

The benefits of this scheme are not limited to the line through Greenwich, because the scheme would free up paths into Cannon Street. (No services would run from Greenwich to Cannon Street - the line through Greenwich would be transferred from Network Rail to TfL.) Currently, there are 7 trains per hour from Greenwich to Cannon Street between 7am and 9am. These paths would be reallocated to other services, benefiting passengers on other lines, including the routes to Sevenoaks, Hayes, Bexleyheath and Sidcup.

Passengers currently using services from Greenwich would still have direct trains to the City, but would have a choice of Aldgate, Liverpool Street and Moorgate instead of Cannon Street. Passengers for London Bridge would get off at City Hall, while passengers for the West End would change at Bermondsey. As such, existing passengers would not see major changes to their journeys causing disbenefits.

Costs are always hard to estimate, but a rough guess can be based on 5km of tunnelling, four underground stations and line conversion works on takeover from Network Rail. Say £500m for the tunnels, £1bn for Aldgate, £2bn shared between the other three underground stations, and £1.5bn of other work, suggests a possible total of £5bn. This compares with £3bn for the Bakerloo line extension, so the cost estimate seems sound enough.

The cost of extending the Elizabeth line to Dartford would need separate examination. I'd note that initially, the Metropolitan line extension could run to Charlton, rather than Abbey Wood to side-step that problem.


This is a proposal to extend the Metropolitan line from Aldgate to South East London, taking over the line from Deptford to Abbey Wood via Greenwich and Charlton. It provides a step change in service to that line, a radically simpler and more reliable service on the District line, and an additional 7 peak-hour paths into Cannon Street for the rest of South East London and Kent. And all for around £5bn.

Given that there won't be a TfL run South Eastern Overground any time soon, a plan like this may well be the best way to improve rail services in this part of London. Thoughts welcome!

Friday 4 November 2016

South London rail devolution

TfL recently published a new document on south London rail devolution in response to a Government request. This blog examines what it says for South East and South Central London.

Rail devolution in south london

The new document provides a narrative and formal business case for devolution from the Department for Transport (DfT) to Transport for London (TfL). The headline benefit/cost ratio (BCR) is 4.3 : 1, which is high value for money, and difficult for DfT to argue with, however devolution is by no means certain, with the new Transport Secretary being more cautious on the topic than his predecessor.

The document focuses on a number of themes. It makes the case that long distance travelers will not lose out, something that will be key in making the plan happen. It argues that there is considerable scope for additional housing, currently held back through poor rail services. Fiscal neutrality is claimed, so the Treasury is no worse off. And wide stakeholder support is identifier, with many supporting letters.

All in all, considering TfL and the Mayor had just three and a half weeks to pull it together, it is pretty impressive. The most interesting part however is appendix 5, where the concept of "metro-isation" is examined.

Metro-isation of rail in south London

Due to history, the tube does not extend far into south London. This results in pressure on mainline rail, with an extensive network of tracks and stations. However, while the network is relatively dense, it is also tangled. Service patterns are complex and low frequency, often only two trains per hour 2tph. The key question is what would it take to increase frequencies to 6tph on most lines?

TfL identifies six points that need to be addressed:

  • Predictable services
  • Better connections
  • More capacity
  • Shorter journey times
  • Reliability
  • Better customer service

For details of each of these, see appendix 5 of the document.

The most interesting parts are where the current and potential service patterns are shown. These are of course speculative by TfL, requiring investment in new trains, signalling and turnbacks, but they give a good idea of the plan TfL has in mind. This is the concept for South Central London:

Click the diagram to enlarge it, and click here for the current service pattern.

The most significant would be an enhanced station at Streatham Common, with new platforms on the high-level tracks from Streatham to Sutton. This would provide the key interchange necessary to allow people to move across south London. Additional turnbacks would be needed at Belmont (for a healthcare campus), Wallington, Cheam and West Croydon, with two additional platforms likely at East Croydon through other planned work (a turnback is a location where trains can terminate and head back the way they came from).

This provides a summary of the key services:

  • Balham to Victoria - from 14tph today to 18tph
  • Streatham and Tulse Hill to Blackfriars - from 4tph today to 8tph
  • Tulse Hill to London Bridge - stays at 8tph
  • Crystal Palace, Gipsy Hill, West Norwood and Streatham Hill to Victoria - from 4tph today to 6tph
  • Crystal Palace, Gipsy Hill and West Norwood to London Bridge - from 2tph today to 4tph
  • Selhurst, Thornton Heath, Norbury and Streatham Common to Victoria - from 6tph today to 8tph
  • Selhurst, Thornton Heath, Norbury and Streatham Common to London Bridge - from 2tph today to none
  • Sutton to Streatham and Tulse Hill - from 4tph today to 8tph
  • London Overground, from 4tph today to 6tph on each of the three routes in South Central
  • Leatherhead and Epsom semi-fast services - unaffected

The key trade-off is the loss of direct services from Selhurst, Thornton Heath, Norbury and Streatham Common to London Bridge. Passengers get a more frequent service to Clapham Junction and Victoria instead, with the new Streatham Common interchange allowing passengers to change to reach London Bridge and Blackfriars.

Is it feasible? For the most part, it should be with new trains and signalling. However, Herne Hill will certainly be tight, with 8tph of Thameslink services crossing 13tph of South Eastern services on the flat. There will also be some slightly awkward timetables where 6tph services and 4tph services share the same tracks. In this respect, the 6tph frequency on the Crystal Palace and Streatham Hill to Victoria route looks odd, when 8tph would be easier to timetable.

In South East London, this is the concept:

Click the diagram to enlarge it, and click here for the current service pattern.

Again, there would need to be investment - extra tracks around Penge East to allow fast trains to overtake slower ones, Cannon Street, Lewisham and Dartford enhancements, plus better signalling.

The service pattern is not as neat as South Central in places, but that is probably because it has been developed more. It does provide a solid 6tph to the Greenwich, Bexleyheath and Sidcup lines. From Victoria to Orpington via Herne Hill would move to 6tph, and also 6tph Victoria to Lewisham via Peckham Rye.

Is it feasible? Well Cannon Street certainly sees a big increase in services, but far from impossible with the right investment. And off-peak it shows no trains from Sidcup to Dartford, which would need fixing. However, it looks like a fairly solid plan off-peak, and harder to judge in peak.


The document shows TfL are still pushing hard for rail devolution for South East and South Central London, and for good reason - there is the potential to make a big difference in service, driving growth and housing. The specific concept frequency maps are interesting, but obviously only outline at this point. Nevertheless, were they to come to pass, they would be a major improvement on current services.

Thursday 24 March 2016

Crossrail 2 and Merton

Crossrail 2 continues to progress. The National Infrastructure Commission has backed it. And the chancellor has provided money for the next stage of planning. The next few months will be key for how Wimbledon and Merton will be impacted over the next 20 years.

Crossrail 2 and Merton

Crossrail 2 is coming to Merton and that potentially means big changes for Wimbledon, Raynes Park and Motspur Park. While it may be tempting to try and stop the scheme, the passage of the HS2 third reading yesterday in parliament indicates clearly how ineffective the "stop HS2" campaign has been. Given this, I argue that it would be wise for Merton residents concerned about Crossrail 2 to fight for improvements to the project, rather than trying to stop it altogether.

Sadly, the Crossrail 2 team only put forward one option at consultation. However there are four basic approaches which could be adopted at Wimbledon. This table summarises the impacts of each option:

Option Option 1:
Demolish to the south
Option 2:
Demolish to the north
Option 3:
Deep tunnel platforms
Option 4:
Fast line tunnel
Total amount of demolition in Wimbledon town centre Major Major Some None
Demolish Centre Court shopping centre Yes No No No
Rebuild entrance to Wimbledon station Yes Yes Yes Yes
Trams move up to street level, platform 10 destroyed Yes No No No
Tunnel portal site Gap Road Gap Road, or perhaps Waitrose Demolish 150 houses in Raynes Park, or needs two tunnel portals Wasteland at Berrylands & Weir Road industrial area
Turn-back & dive-under in Dundonald area Yes Yes No No
Widen from 4 to 6 tracks between Wimbledon and Raynes Park Yes Yes Partial No
Impact on Raynes Park station rebuild Major rebuild Major rebuild Major rebuild Smaller rebuild
Cost Baseline Assumed to be similar to basline £2bn+ more expensive In theory, should to be cheaper
Is it viable given what is currently known? Yes Yes No Yes

The four basic approaches to get Crossrail 2 through Wimbledon are:

Option 1: "Demolish to the south" - This is the current official plan, where Centre Court, the Prince of Wales and many other buildings are demolished to build new sub-surface platforms (just 10m underground).

Option 2: "Demolish to the north" - A similar approach to the current official plan, but demolishing the north side of the station instead (the taxi rank, HSBC, magistrate courts etc). Again the new platforms would be sub-surface (just 10m underground).

Option 3: "Deep tunnel platforms" - This would involve constructing two or four deep platforms (perhaps 30m underground), similar to Crossrail stations in central London. The Crossrail 2 team estimate this would cost £2bn more, and potentially involves demolition of 150 residential properties in Raynes Park. It would also require significant demolition in Wimbledon town centre for the lift and escalator shafts to the deep platforms. Since I have seen no evidence of a viable way to build this option without ridiculous residential demolition impacts, I've marked it as not viable in the table.

Option 4: "Fast line tunnel" - This involves a new tunnel from Berrylands to the Earlsfield area, taking the trains on the current fast lines. This frees up two tracks and two platforms at Wimbledon, providing the space for Crossrail 2 without major demolition. This is also known as the Swirl plan. (Note that a fast line tunnel for Merton is viable with whichever station is chosen for Wandsworth - Balham, Tooting or Earlsfield. Note also that the table describes a minimal fast line tunnel option where either all 30tph run through to the branches, or 10tph turn-back at Clapham Junction.)

A key point arising from the table is that option 2 is very similar to option 1. Both involve major demolition in the town centre, turn-backs, dive-under and widening to 6 tracks.

Wimbledon, London

As a little bit more detail, these bullet points outline the work involved for option 1 in Merton (the official plan). This is intended to help explain the rows in the table above:

  • Four new sub-surface platforms at Wimbledon station, created by demolishing much of the Centre Court shopping centre and many other buildings in the town centre
  • The loss of platform 10 from the existing Wimbledon station, permanently restricting the frequency of Thameslink services
  • Trams moving out of the station up to street level
  • A tunnel portal at the Gap Road worksite, where the main tunnel is dug from
  • A new road bridge between Queens Road and Alexandra Road
  • A turn-back facility at the Dundonald Road worksite, to allow trains to reverse
  • A dive-under at the Dundonald Road worksite, for Northbound trains to reach the new platforms
  • Two additional tracks between Wimbledon and Raynes Park (6 tracks instead of the current 4 tracks)
  • Major rebuild of Raynes Park station for cross-platform interchange and access for all, likely to involve land take north of the current station site

The construction period is likely to be around 10 years, plus subsequent work to redevelop the worksites. There are also likely to be many resulting lorry movements.


When the four options for Wimbledon town centre are evaluated side by side, it is clear that only a fast line tunnel will really improve the Crossrail 2 scheme for Merton. The key benefit is that it removes all town centre demolition apart from reconstructing the station itself. However the benefits go beyond that, avoiding the need to widen to six tracks between Wimbledon and Raynes Park, require no turn-backs or dive-under in the Dundonald area, and reducing the land take needed by the rebuild of Raynes Park station.

Hopefully the table above helps clarify why this blog is arguing that a fast line tunnel is the only option Merton residents should be arguing for (via your residents association and elected representatives).

Sunday 13 March 2016

Crossrail 2 and the National Infrastructure Commission

The National Infrastructure Commission provides an independent high-level view of significant infrastructure projects. It is led by Lord Adonis and has recently published a report on transport in London.

Transport for a World City

The Commission published two reports on the same day. The first is the commission's opinion. The second is an independent report drawn up by consultants. This section examines the commission's report.

The commission report is relatively simple.

The Commission concludes that the strategic case for Crossrail 2 is well founded and recommends that it is taken forward. It is not a substitute for smaller scale improvements, but these alone will not be enough.

Later it adds:

The case for Crossrail 2 is that it will:
* Provide vital relief for the congested southern end of the Northern Line and for the Victoria Line through north-east and central London. These are forecast to see much of the highest levels of crowding anywhere on the Underground, after the opening of Crossrail 1.
* Provide an alternative route, via its connection to Crossrail 1, from southwest London to the City and Canary Wharf, reducing passenger numbers on the overcrowded Waterloo and City line and the eastern part of the Jubilee Line.
* Relieve capacity constraints on the critically over-crowded south-west London commuter lines coming into the capital through Wimbledon, Clapham Junction and Waterloo by providing an alternative route for inner suburban services via a new tunnel from Wimbledon into Central London.
* Reduce terminal congestion at the UK’s busiest station, Waterloo, as well as cutting crowding levels at Clapham Junction, Vauxhall and Wimbledon, all of which are forecast to face insuperable operational difficulties due to the volume of passengers at peak hours.
* Release capacity on the existing south-west network for longer distance services from Basingstoke, Woking, Guildford, Southampton and beyond.
* Provide four tracks on the West Anglia Mainline to enable faster services on the London-Stansted-Cambridge Corridor.
* Link with Euston/St Pancras, to provide onwards dispersal for those arriving into London from the north on HS2, which is planned to be completed to Manchester and Leeds in 2033.
* Stimulate new housing, jobs and development along the whole route. In particular the line will transform access to the Upper Lee Valley Opportunity Area – one of the largest in London.
* Establish a turn-up-and-go level of service at a range of underserved destinations allowing for regeneration around transport hubs in Hackney, Haringey, Enfield and Tottenham.
* Unlock 200,000 homes, provided the right planning framework is applied.

It is interesting to note that the first item is relief of the southern section of the Northern line (not the Victoria, Jubilee or Piccadilly). Regular readers known my scepticism of this claimed relief.

Finally, there is this key section:

The costs of Crossrail 2 are high and therefore every opportunity should be taken to improve its affordability.
* The updated case should include detailed options to reduce and phase the costs of the scheme. The most promising option identified to enhance affordability would be to delay the construction of the northwestern branch to New Southgate. This could reduce the costs of the initial scheme in the 2020s by around £4 billion. More work should also be done on the costs and benefits of individual central London stations.
* If construction of the north-western branch is delayed, this would also provide the opportunity to consider the case for an eastern branch from Hackney as an alternative.

On cost savings, the following possibilities are mentioned:

  • Dropping the Chelsea station
  • Balham, not Tooting
  • Work on the station design and approaches to Wimbledon
  • Wood Green, not Turnpike Lane and Alexandra Palace
  • Dropping or delaying the New Southgate branch

All in all, there is nothing particularly surprising about the commission's report. It says lots about finance, housing and growth. And on Crossrail 2 itself, it backs the official scheme almost in entirety, the main exception being the possible dropping of the New Southgate branch.

Review of the Case for Large Scale Transport Investment in London

The second report is from independent consultants. It is much more interesting in the ideas presented, however it cannot be seen as the commission's opinion. Nevertheless, it is worth summarising some of the key ideas mentioned in the report.

In the North, the second report also discusses dropping the New Southgate branch. (This may be where the commission got the idea.) However, dropping the branch is not discussed in isolation. Instead, the report proposes investigation into a "cost effective cross-London route" from Moorgate to Waterloo. The map shows the proposal in red, with the dropped Crossrail 2 branch to new Southgate in dashed blue.

The proposal is to take the existing National Rail services from Hatfield, Welwyn and Hertford to Moorgate through a new tunnel to Waterloo and beyond. Potentially this may need only two new underground stations - Cannon Street and Waterloo - although it is more realistic to also expect Moorgate may require a rebuild. Beyond Waterloo, the proposal is to take the line to the Battersea area, and beyond.

This is a sensible proposal, very similar to Swanlink. Construction would however probably require some lengthy closures of the line from Finsbury Park to Moorgate. It is likely to be relatively cheap, with minimal tunnelling and few new stations.

In zone 1, the second report enthuses about an extension of the DLR from Bank to Euston/Kings Cross, with closure of Tower Gateway. Such a scheme would be well used, but whether it is the best option is a different question.

In the east, there is discussion of a north-south line from Stratford to Lewisham via Canary Wharf. This is similar to the Sussex relief line proposal. There is little detail however - it is little more than a couple of sentences.

In the South, the second report outlines a whole range of thoughts under the heading "Potential refinements to Crossrail 2". The section begins by talking about cost savings, where it suggests surfacing the tunnel between Clapham Junction and Earlsfield, noting that this does not provide any Northern line relief. Again, it hints at removing Chelsea without being explicit. These two changes are shown here:

The next section discusses phasing, including the rather impractical suggestion of only building Victoria to Euston.

In another section, thoughts turn to changing the specification of Crossrail 2 to an automated metro with dedicated access to tracks. This would require there to be no services from the southern branches to Waterloo. Undoubtedly, this would simplify operation, and raise the potential of 40tph (perhaps of shorter trains). However, it seems that it would be tricky to get the segregation necessary.

The report then discusses increasing the scheme benefits. Here the report argues that Crossrail 2 leaves Earlsfield "stranded", and that a branch to Balham and Streatham would makes sense. This is essentially the argument I made in the Swirl-Max plan. In an ideal world, I remain convinced that Swirl-Max servces southern Wandsworth better than the official plan, with an expectation of more Northern and Victoria line relief. If money is tight, then Swirl remains the better option.

Finally, the report suggests a link from Motspur Park to New Malden, shown in red on the map above. This link, potentially funded separately from Crossrail 2, would allow through services from Epsom and Chessington to Kingston and Twickenham. This would effectively be orbital, rather than radial travel. This seems very sensible, and potentially allows the frequency on the Epsom and Chessington branches to reach a more sensible 8tph rather than the currently proposed 4tph.


It is easy to get carried away when reading the second report, as there are lots of potentially great ideas in there. However, it is only the report of consultants, not the report of the commission itself. And the commission's report is very bland, backing the existing plan almost in its entirety, Although it does look like the New Southgate branch is for the chop.

That said, it is great to see a tunnel south from Moorgate, and routing Crossrail 2 via Earlsfield with a branch to Streatham in a key document. While it may come to nothing, it is at least a marker for the future.

Finally, it is clear that residents in Merton looking to reduce the impact on Wimbledon and Raynes Park need to continue arguing for a "fast line tunnel", as it is still the only option that will make a significant difference. And residents in the London/Surrey borders should continue to argue for a routing via Earlsfield to avoid their services being slowed unnecessarily.

Friday 15 January 2016

Orange South London

The think tank Centre for London published a report on rail in South London today (14th January 2016), entitled "Turning South London Orange". This is my thoughts on the report.

South London

The report outlines the problems facing rail in South London (specifically South Central, not South East or South West) and proposes some solutions. It tackles these in the context of London Overground, the "Orange" network of tube maps. As well as covering the transport side, the report adds background and numbers on the project growth and potential additional growth that could be unlocked by an investment. It recommends TfL (Transport for London) takes over the existing services within London (ie. conversion to London Overground), and it gives consideration to a new regional transport body covering London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex to balance the needs of London with those beyond.

The rest of the article will focus mainly on the proposed investment ideas. Firstly, there is a set of ideas that few would disagree with:

  • Enhanced signalling, with greater automation
  • Better trains, with wider doors, better braking and acceleration
  • More effective station stops, using staff and technology
  • More turnbacks, to provide for a high frequency service

Beyond the basics, three more specific investment ideas are discussed, starting on page 44.

A new South London Line

This proposal is to increase the frequency of the line from Victoria to Lewisham and provide more stations.

The current Overground service runs from Clapham Junction to Canada Water and beyond at 4tph (trains per hour). The report propose increasing this to 6tph, and adding an additional Victoria to Lewisham service, also at 6tph. To make this work, the report suggests additional platforms at Battersea (near the power station), Wandsworth Road, Clapham High Street, Clapham East, Brixton and Brockley.

Thameslink, Herne Hill, and a resolution for Brixton

This proposal is for a new tunnel running from the Wandsworth Road area to the Dulwich area. This would be a fast line tunnel, taking those services from Kent that run non-stop from Bromley South to Victoria.

By building a new fast line tunnel, the flat junctions at Herne Hill and Brixton are relieved. This would provide enough space for the proposed Victoria to Lewisham service, plus an enhanced local service from Victoria to Bromley South. In addition, the extra capacity would allow platforms to be built at Brixton, not on the high viaduct, but on the lower level one on the north side.

The report discusses the flat junction at Tulse Hill but does not propose anything specific. It does indirectly mention a flyover, which is likely to be necessary to enhance frequencies through there.

Streatham ‘Virtual Tube’

The concept here is to build a new tunnel from Streatham to Streatham Hill with a rebuilt four platform hub station at Streatham. This would allow services from Streatham Common to run via Streatham and Streatham Hill to Balham and Victoria. A flyover junction is discussed to ensure the service to Streatham Common would be reliable.

The report claims a frequency of a train every 2 to 3 minutes at Streatham with this investment. I suspect the report authors mean 12tph to Victoria (one every 5 minutes) and 12tph to Tulse Hill, split between London Bridge or Thameslink (one every 10 minutes to each).

My thoughts

These proposals are a good starting point for discussion.

The proposal for a fast line tunnel under Herne Hill and Brixton seems pretty sound to me. The goal is correct - to separate the long distance services from Kent to Victoria from the metro services. The current timetable from Bromley South to Victoria shows 9tph of fast services and 4tph of slow service.

A fast line tunnel would easily have capacity for the 9tph of fast services, leaving free space on the existing surface lines for additional slows services. However, the devil is in the detail. To work effectively, the fast line tunnel must start far enough south to free up the additional capacity. Otherwise, there will still be conflicts between Bromley South and West Dulwich. As such, it may be necessary to run the new tunnel as far south as Kent House, which is quite a lot further.

Another question with the plan is that 9tph is relatively low usage for an expensive new tunnel. Of course, with increasing demand, this 9tph might be increased once the new tunnel opened. But it seems unlikely that it would reach 20tph. As such, it is fair to look to see if anything else could use the tunnel, potentially increase the value of the investment.

One possibility would be a second southern portal somewhere north of Norwood Junction. This would allow some services from there to run non-stop to Victoria. This would be of most use to the services from Caterham and East Grinstead, which deserve fast services but are in danger of being crowded out. A tunnel providing 12tph non-stop from Bromley South to Victoria and 8tph non-stop from Norwood Junction could be a powerful combination.

The plans for platforms at Brixton make sense with the additional capacity of the tunnel. However, since the tunnel would remove all fast services, it would seem that the high level viaduct in Brixton would be unused under the proposed plan. This possibility offers another way to provide platforms at Brixton.

If the low level viaduct was reduced from 2 tracks to 1 track, an eastbound platform could be added on the viaduct in the space saved. Similarly, the high level viaduct could be reduced from 2 tracks to 1 track with the space saved used for the westbound platform. Together, this would provide a flyover junction at Brixton for the metro services of the three routes - Victoria to Lewisham, Clapham Junction to Canada Water and Victoria to Bromley South (via Herne Hill) - which would increase reliability.

The second major investment discussed is the Streatham 'virtual tube'.

A tunnel from Streatham to Streatham Hill has long been a sensible thing to consider. Access to Streatham is perhaps the key piece in South London's jigsaw, and tackling it a necessity of any scheme.

My problem with the concept outlined in the report is that it takes services from Streatham Common, via two additional stations, something guaranteed to extend journey times. A more likely, and cheaper plan, would be to serve Streatham and not Streatham Hill.

Regular readers will know that I am championing the Swirl-Max plan for Crossrail 2, which has a branch from Clapham Junction to Streatham via Balham. This includes a tunnelled curve from Balham to Streatham, very similar to that proposed in this report.

So, could the Swirl-Max tunnel be extended to serve more of South London? The answer is yes, but it relies on an additional tunnel from Clapham Junction to Central London, ie. Crossrail 3. This is because at least 20tph of Crossrail 2 are needed by Wimbledon, leaving just 10tph for Streatham. While 10tph is enough for Streatham alone, it is not a high enough frequency to cope with the demands of serving the broader South London area directly.

In brief, here is what would have to happen to convert the Streatham branch of Swirl-Max into Crossrail 3.

  1. Build a new tunnel from the start of the Streatham branch to Clapham Junction
  2. Build two new tunnelled platforms at Clapham Junction
  3. Build a new tunnel from Clapham Junction to somewhere in Central London, such as Blackfriars via Vauxhall and Charing Cross, or Baker Street via Victoria
  4. Build a new connection from the surface at Streatham Hill to the tunnel under Balham
  5. Run 10tph from Crossrail 3 to Crystal Palace, and 10tph to West Croydon via Selhurst, plus the original Swirl-Max 10tph to Wimbledon via Haydons Road.

As can be seen, the Swirl-Max Streatham branch can very effectively be the base building block of Crossrail 3. (And in an ideal world, points 1 and 2 would be done as part of Crossrail 2.)

Finally, I have to note the elephant in the room when looking at the Centre for London report.

The report proposes doubling the usage of South London's rail network. But this network ends at London Bridge and Victoria. Only the Thameslink line runs through Central London, and only a maximum of 8tph is available there. But how many of those new passengers will have a job right by the terminus station?

As such, it is my opinion that the plan in the report would dramatically increase the pressure on the tube in Central London, with only Crossrail 2 providing any relief. While the report seeks to explore options without tunnelling in zone 1, it seems to me that there is simply so much demand as to require an additional Crossrail.

Which brings us full circle to Swirl-Max and the building blocks it provides for Crossrail 3!


The new report into rail in South London makes a good contribution to the debate, particularly on the governance and growth sides. On the transport investments, there is no doubt that if built as proposed, they would be a step up for South London. However, I fear they would also create major overloading of the tube, particularly from Victoria. As such, I don't see how rail in South London can be considered without at least one eye on a future Crossrail, with the Swirl-Max plan plan for Crossrail 2 offering a great starting point.