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

Friday, 9 August 2013

Crossrail 2 - flaws

This is the second post in a series on Crossrail 2. This one focuses on flaws in the current plans. The next focuses on small changes to fix some of the flaws. The last focuses on much better alternative.


TfL have proposed two variants of Crossrail 2, the cheaper £9.4bn Metro scheme based on DLR type technology, and the more expensive £12bn Regional scheme based on Crossrail 1 technology.

Both schemes have the same core. Wimbledon - Tooting Broadway - Clapham Junction - Chelsea - Victoria - Tottenham Court Road (TCR) - Euston/St.Pancras - Angel - Dalston - Seven Sisters - Turnpike Lane - Alexandra Park. The Regional scheme has a branch from Angel via Hackney, plus the SWML (South West Main Line) slow services. Documents show that there was considerable effort drawn up to propose this alignment with numerous options tested. So what could go wrong?

Over reliance on Tottenham Court Road (TCR)

The peak traffic that any London railway line has to deal with is the morning commute. As such, it is vital to consider where the jobs are in London, and how people will get to them. While I've been unable to find detailed figures, I'll work on the basis that the primary job areas are (a) the West End, (b) the City, (c) Canary Wharf, (d) Midtown/Farringdon and (e) Victoria. There are of course numerous secondary job areas as well, but the 5 above tend to dominate.

Crossrail 1 has a very simple route through the centre of London. It serves 4 out of the 5 primary job markets listed above via Bond Street, TCR, Farringdon, Liverpool St and Canary Wharf, with only Victoria not served. Thus, this route allows commuters to get on the train and get off at a location where they can walk to perhaps the majority of central London jobs. This is highly efficient in distribution, avoiding crowding on the tube.

By contrast, the proposed Crossrail 2 simply does not achieve this. Instead it serves just 2 major job markets - Victoria and the West End (via Tottenham Court Road). This is a particularly big problem, because for historical reasons, many commuters on the SWML work in the City and Canary Wharf, rather than the West End or Victoria.

The official line from TfL seems to be that commuters from the SWML should change at TCR to Crossrail 1, for services to the City and Canary Wharf. Firstly, it should be noted that this is no better than today, simply substituting a change at Waterloo with a change at TCR. However, I would argue it is in fact much worse.

For the sake of argument, lets say that 60% of SWML passengers work in Midtown, the City and Canary Wharf, 15% work in Victoria and 15% in the West End. This means that 75% or more of the passengers from SW London will be getting off at TCR. That is a very large number of people, potentially 1100 people every 2 minutes just from the south. There have to be real questions over the ability to clear that many people from TCR station, particularly if Crossrail 1 has a fault. This is especially significant as Crossrail 1 is expected to be full by 2031, thus there actually won't be any space for Crossrail 2 commuters to change into.

This also impacts on dwell times. In order for there to be a train every 2 minutes, the train has to spend less than 2 minutes in the platform. In fact, with signalling constraints, door opening and closing, the train will need to empty out 75% of its passengers in perhaps as little as 60 seconds. This is a huge ask.

Northern line

The proposed Crossrail 2 interchanges with the Northern line at Angel and Tooting Broadway. The former is barely mentioned in documentation, but the latter is held up as the ideal solution to solving the capacity problem on the southern Northern line. If only that were so.

Looking from the north, a commuter at Tottenham Hale, Seven Sisters or Turnpike Lane may want to commute to the West End or Victoria for which the proposed scheme would be fine. However, they may also want to commute to the City. The most likely option here is to take the proposed Crossrail 2 to Angel, and change to the Northern line to Old Street, Moorgate, Bank or London Bridge. The problem is that, like all tube lines, the Northern line at Angel is pretty full. Thus it seems likely that the proposed scheme will worsen the problems on the Northern line in the north.

Looking from the south, the Tooting Broadway connection is an expensive dogleg that I have already discussed. The claim that it will relieve the Northern line bears closer examination.

Firstly, those travelling from Morden and South Wimbledon are highly likely to have a seat. If they change to the proposed scheme, then they will be joining a busy/full train and no longer have a seat, something probably not captured in TfL models. Secondly, the proposed route would make no difference to journeys to the City or Canary Wharf. Those commuters might as well stay on the Northern line, as it involves less changes. Experience suggests that there are more City/Wharf commuters than West End commuters from south of Colliers Wood.

Finally, the link to Tooting Broadway is bi-directional, allowing SWML commuters to join the Northern line. TfL clearly do not believe that many will do this, yet for anyone working in Elephant and Castle (university), Borough, London Bridge and even Bank, changing to the Northern line is likely to be their best option (given that they will no longer have a service to Waterloo).

In both cases, the Northern line interchanges don't stand up to scrutiny.

Changing commutes

As recently shown with the Wimbledon loop Thameslink trains, and previously with the failure of the Crossrail 1 Richmond branch, changing peoples existing commutes is fraught with risk. A political campaign can easily be created with significant pressure to bear. The proposed scheme is particularly vulnerable to this in the South West. (In the North, the scheme is mostly adding new options, rather than taking existing ones away)

In the South West, the sensible approach to utilising the available train paths with the proposed scheme in place is for Crossrail 2 to have exclusive use of the routes to Chessington, Epsom and Shepperton. But this means that there would no longer be any services to Waterloo from those locations and points in between. While Network Rail has not confirmed this, it is clearly being considered.

Replacing a Waterloo terminus with Victoria or TCR will be good for some, but probably worse for others (the TCR problems are discussed above). Bear in mind that a large number of people walk or cycle from Waterloo, which won't be possible to many destinations in the same way from TCR.

It is also the case that the proposed scheme makes it hard to reach Waterloo. There is no cross-platform interchange that allows the existing Waterloo commute to continue. As such, passengers will have to trog around either Wimbledon or Clapham Junction stations from the new underground station to the old main line station. This will likely add 10 minutes to the journey time to Waterloo, potentially a 50% increase in commuting time from Raynes Park.


Related to the changing commutes problem is the Earlsfield problem. While Network Rail have yet to be clear on the topic they have said that other benefits (to long distance commuters) can only occur if there is a "significant reduction" in the residual services into Waterloo. Thus, it is highly likely that the service at Earlsfield will drop from 18tph (trains per hour) to 12tph or lower.

Earlsfield will also have fewer services to other London centres. There will probably be no through trains to Epsom and Kingston for example.

Northern branches

The Regional scheme includes two Northern branches. Documentation shows that the Alexandra Palace branch must have 20tph or more to be credible in its goal of relieving the Victoria and Piccadilly lines. This leaves just 10tph for the Lea Valley and Hackney. I suspect that many in Hackney who are supporting the scheme would be surprised that they will be getting at most one train every 6 minutes, and less outside the peak. Especially when the already well served Seven Sisters will be getting 20tph!

The proposed scheme fails in the North by trying to do two things, rather than focussing on one. As a result, it has a branch to Hackney that departs from the main branch south of Dalston, which is certainly odd. It then means that there are parallel tunnels one heading for Seven Sisters and one for Tottenham Hale, which is very wasteful. It is hard to see this passing more detailed scrutiny.

Wrong goals

A big part of the problems with the proposed scheme in the North is that they are heavily focussed on capacity relief of existing lines. This is an excessive focus in my opinion, and skews the scheme and the associated scoring.

The Victoria line is already a fast, modern metro line. As such, it is very difficult to build a parallel line that will encourage people to use the new Crossrail line as opposed to the original Victoria line they are familiar with. In fact, the only way to come close is to create a line that has very few stops. Hence Stoke Newington misses out. The proposal simply becomes a way of serving existing stations, rather than serving new areas which the Northern area actually needs.

North-South tension

The problems of the North and different to the problems of the South West. The proposed scheme does not really recognise this.

The Northern area has problems of capacity on existing lines, and serving new areas. This would be best achieved by a Metro-style solution, not a Crossrail one. The faster Metro acceleration and more frequent stops (like a tube line) would better serve the area. (And by Metro here, I don't mean the proposed Metro scheme, which fails to serve new areas).

By contrast, the South West is ideally setup for a Crossrail solution. It has large numbers of existing Network Rail lines to link into, all with existing infrastructure to reuse. The trains are already packed, and simply taking people to their desired destination would make a huge difference to tube crowding generally.

Thus, the proposed Regional scheme ends up as a weird combination. It correctly fulfils the needs of the South West, but is the wrong technology for the kind of purpose it is being used for in the North.


The proposed Crossrail 2 schemes have multiple flaws, far more than Crossrail 1 had. The over reliance on Tottenham Court Road and the lack of distribution of passengers directly to jobs are the prime concerns, but there are many others too.

Feel free to comment if you agree or disagree with the analysis!

Update: Next in the series: Crossrail 2 small changes

Monday, 5 August 2013

Crossrail 2 - Cost breakdown

This is the first post in a planned series on Crossrail 2. This one focuses on cost. Specifically, what might be a reasonable breakdown of the headline figures we have.

Cost breakdown

TfL have given us two estimates for the two variants of Crossrail 2 that they are putting forward.

The cheaper option is the Metro scheme, which plans 40tph (trains per hour) of 120m long trains based on DLR type technology. This is costed at £9.4bn (without optimism bias). This proposal can be thought of as a modern tube line, rather than as a Crossrail line in the style of Crossrail 1.

The more expensive option is the Regional scheme, which plans 30tph (trains per hour) of 250m long trains based on Crossrail 1 technology. This is costed at £12bn (without optimism bias)

In order to better offer my own alternatives to these schemes, I found it useful to break down these high level costs to more manageable units. The following is published to allow criticism and comment.

Metro scheme cost breakdown (estimated)

This is my estimated breakdown of the total £9.4bn cost.

Item Cost estimate Rationale
Tunnelling £2,800m 27.9km at £100m per km
Stations £4,400m See below
Depot £800m Estimate
Track, Electrical, Comms £1,000m Extrapolation from Northern line extension
Fees, consultancy £400m Extrapolation from Northern line extension
TOTAL £9.4bn  


Regional scheme cost breakdown (estimated)

This is my estimated breakdown of the total £12bn cost.

Item Cost estimate Rationale
Tunnelling £3,600m 34.4km at £100m per km plus one junction
Stations £4,400m See below
Upgrade Network Rail £1,200m Work needed in Lea Valley and South West
Depot £1,000m Bigger trains than Metro
Track, Electrical, Comms £1,300m More complex signals than Metro
Fees, consultancy £500m Bigger project than Metro
TOTAL £12.0bn  


Station cost (estimated)

I costed the stations up as follows:

Tooting Broadway£300m£300m
Clapham Junction£500m£500m
Piccadilly Circus£400m 
Tottenham Court Road£300m£400m
Seven Sisters£300m£300m
Turnpike Lane£300m£300m
Alexandra Palace£200m£200m
Hackney £300m


The headline figures from TfL are only of limited use, particularly if you are proposing changes. The purpose of this blog is to provide a basis for estimates in other posts.

If you are reading this and thinking that I've forgotten something, or got the cost breakdown greatly wrong, please leave a comment!

Update: Next in the series: Crossrail 2 flaws

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Mole Valley Link

In my last blog I outlined Crossrail SSW, a plan that gains 50% extra train paths on the SWML (South West Main Line) into London Waterloo, fully separating the long-distance, outer suburban and inner suburban services. This blog extends that proposal, making use of the extra capacity to enhance services in the Mole Valley.

Mole Valley Link

The Mole Valley towns of Leatherhead and Dorking do not get an especially good train service. The fastest train from Dorking takes 50 minutes, with neither the route to Waterloo nor the route to Victoria being especially fast. This proposal allows for a faster service, with other knock-on benefits.

The proposal involves constructing a new railway line across open countryside from north of Leatherhead to south of Claygate. The route crosses the M25, A243 and A3, as well as the Prince's Coverts forest. The length of the link is 5.5km.

Here is a map of the new link being proposed (click for Google Maps). New link in red, existing lines in black:

Mole Valley Link map

At first glance, the link can seem like a strange choice. The shortest "missing link" in the area is Leatherhead to Chessington South, a link which was planned to be constructed in the past. However, the Chessington link would not have the same benefits as this proposal.

The key point to note from the Crossrail SSW proposal is that the inner suburban service pattern is fully accounted for with Epsom, Chessington, Hampton Court and Kingston (the SWML slow lines). The long-distance service pattern is also fully accounted for (in the new express tunnel from Esher). However, there is still available tph capacity on the outer suburban pair of tracks (the SWML fast lines from Surbiton to Waterloo) as services to Woking and Claygate would not fill the available paths.

Given the available spare paths, clearly the purpose of this proposal is to use some of them, say 4tph (trains per hour) to enhance the Dorking service. But this is only possible if the Dorking trains can reach the fast lines of the SWML before Surbiton. If the link were to go via Chessington, then the additional services would hit Raynes Park on the SWML slow lines, which would defeat the objective of enhancing the Dorking service (and detract from Crossrail 2 generally). By linking Leatherhead to Claygate, the fast Dorking services are able to join the SWML fast lines, exactly as the Guildford via Claygate services would.

In total, the route from Leatherhead to Waterloo is about 1.5km longer via Claygate than via Epsom. But the faster line and fewer station stops would more than compensate. The expected service pattern would be 2tph Dorking, Leatherhead, Surbiton, Wimbledon, Clapham Junction, Waterloo. A journey time of 40 minutes from Dorking should be easily achievable, with 35 minutes being a better target.

In cost terms, building in open countryside should be relatively cheap, however there are crossings of major roads to manage. An initial estimate of £250m seems appropriate (based on the Hitchin flyover at £50m).

Improving the lives of the residents of Dorking and Leatherhead is not, in and of itself, going to be sufficient to justify the link. There are two other factors that should be considered.

Firstly, the link provides much better access from mid-Surrey to the county town of Kingston (accessed via Surbiton). Providing the local links from Surbiton to Kingston town centre are top notch, this could encourage a reduction in the traffic making that journey, especially to shop.

Secondly, and more significantly, the new link can be used to change services from Horsham.

The Horsham connection

The route from Horsham to London (Victoria) via Dorking was the traditional route for services from the Arun valley line (Billingshurst, Arundel, Bognor Regis, Chichester). Over time however, the route became less well used by fast services, with a desire to boost services to Gatwick airport and East Croydon.

Unfortunately, over time, the route via East Croydon has become very full, to the extent that major work will be needed to avoid or enhance East Croydon. Such a project would undoubtably be multi-billion pound. The great thing is that this proposal can step in to be a cheap approach to delay the need for that work.

With the Mole Valley link open, this proposal intends for fast services from Horsham and the Arun Valley to run via Dorking and Surbiton to Waterloo instead of via Gatwick and East Croydon. This would be at least 2tph, and probably 4tph, of additional running between Horsham and Dorking. Horsham would still have services to Gatwick and East Croydon, but they would be slower ones via Redhill (probably Thameslink). There would probably be no direct service from the Arun Valley to Gatwick, at least in the peak.

While Horsham has a long standing link to London Victoria, Waterloo is similarly located for Whitehall jobs and the West End, and cross platform interchange for Victoria at Wimbledon in Crossrail SSW provides for the rest. With this plan, it is intended that there would be no direct fast services from Horsham to Victoria.

The key to this move is that it frees up at least 2tph through East Croydon. Those two paths would be enough to reduce the pressures on the need for a multi-billion pound rebuild there. As such, the £250m of the Mole Valley Link is a real bargain, even allowing another few million to improve the Horsham to Dorking route's line speeds.


The Mole Valley Link is a 5.5km new railway line from north of Leatherhead to south of Claygate. It allows the Dorking services to join the SWML fast lines at Surbiton, avoiding the slow lines at Raynes Park. By enhancing journey times to Dorking it allows the fast services from the Arun Valley and Horsham to run via Dorking and Surbiton into Waterloo, instead of Victoria.

Benefits are threefold - enhancing journey times to Dorking and Leatherhead (a 10 to 15 minutes saving), better links for mid-Surrey to Kingston, and reducing pressure on East Croydon through the re-routing of the Horsham services.

If you have any views on the Mole Valley Link then why not leave a comment!