Sunday, 22 November 2015

Crossrail 2 and Surbiton

Planning for Crossrail 2 is underway with a consultation currently open. The consultation invites feedback on the following topics:

  • Station locations, entrances and exits
  • Shaft locations for the tunnelled section of the scheme
  • The construction sites required to build and operate the tunnelled section of the scheme
  • Proposed service patterns

The last of these is of most relevance to Surbiton.

While this article is focussed on Surbiton, much of the logic applies to other stations - Esher, Hersham, Walton, Weybridge, Byfleet and West Byfleet.

Crossrail 2

The South West Main Line (SWML) from Waterloo through Surbiton to Woking and beyond is one of the busiest railway lines in the country. It consists of 4 tracks all the way from Woking to Waterloo, with 5 tracks available for services on the final Waterloo approach. The 4 tracks consist of two pairs - the slow lines and the fast lines. Unfortunately, 4 tracks are no longer sufficient for the demand.

For Network Rail, the key purpose of Crossrail 2 is to provide an additional 2 tracks from New Malden to London, creating a 6 track railway. Current plans have this as 6 tracks on the surface between New Malden and Wimbledon, where the additional 2 tracks descend into tunnel for the rest of the route to London.

For Transport for London (TfL), the key purpose of Crossrail 2 is different. They need the new line to relieve the underground network, specifically the Victoria Line and Northern Line. As such, Crossrail 2 is planned to route via Balham (on the Northern Line) and then on to Victoria, Tottenham Court Road and Euston. This means that Crossrail 2 is not currently planning to serve Earlsfield.

The current consultation is the first step in deciding which train services run once Crossrail 2 opens and there are 6 tracks available from New Malden.

Current peak services

Currently, Surbiton has the following peak services:

  • 07:01 - 29mins - from Hampton Court (all stations to Waterloo)
  • 07:08 - 16mins - from Woking (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 07:11 - 25mins - from Guildford via Claygate (fast to Wimbledon, then all stations to Waterloo)
  • 07:27 - 20mins - from Woking (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 07:31 - 31mins - from Hampton Court (all stations to Waterloo)
  • 07:38 - 16mins - from Woking (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 07:41 - 28mins - from Guildford via Claygate (New Malden, Wimbledon, then all stations to Waterloo)
  • 07:53 - 18mins - from Guildford via Claygate (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 07:57 - 20mins - from Woking (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 08:01 - 30mins - from Hampton Court (all stations to Waterloo)
  • 08:08 - 16mins - from West Byfleet (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 08:11 - 27mins - from Guildford via Claygate (New Malden, Wimbledon, then all stations to Waterloo)
  • 08:19 - 15mins - from Woking (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 08:25 - 19mins - from Woking (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 08:31 - 30mins - from Hampton Court (all stations to Waterloo)
  • 08:38 - 19mins - from Farnham (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 08:42 - 17mins - from Guildford via Claygate (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 08:48 - 16mins - from Woking (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 08:57 - 25mins - from Guildford via Claygate (fast to Wimbledon, then all stations to Waterloo)

The lines in bold are the fast services, "Surbiton Express", which currently run non-stop from Surbiton to Waterloo.

In the authors opinion, the Surbiton Express trains are unlikely to survive after Crossrail 2.

Network Rail planners have a tough job. There are simply too few train paths available into Waterloo for the number of people wanting to travel. Unlike some other routes into London, practically every train in the peak is at the maximum length. In addition, ideas such as double decker trains, or even longer trains, are impractical. (Better signalling may be an option, however at present Network Rail has limited experience in running any line with more than 24 train paths an hour.)

Faced with increasing demand and fixed paths into London, Network Rail simply has to allocate trains as best it can. The most efficient way to do this is to use the two fast lines from Woking to Waterloo solely for trains running non-stop from Woking to Waterloo. The effect of that is that all trains to Surbiton would run on the slow lines, not the fast lines. As such, the Surbiton Express trains would almost certainly cease to exist in their present form.

As it turns out, removing the 5 Surbiton Express trains (per hour) probably yields more than 5 extra train paths from Woking to Waterloo. This is because there is no need to provide space in the timetable for lateness at the junction at Surbiton. This fact emphasises why the Surbiton Expresses are seen as poor use of the limited train paths.

While these changes could happen prior to Crossrail 2 opening, the new line offers the best chance to mitigate the loss of the Surbiton Expresses. This is because the existing slow services to Shepperton, Chessington, Hampton Court and Epsom move off the slow lines and onto the additional Crossrail 2 tracks. This leaves the existing slow lines free to handle traffic from Surbiton.

Peak services with Crossrail 2

The consultation leaflet for Crossrail 2 proposes the following services with Crossrail 2 (tph = trains per hour):

  • 4tph Surbiton to Crossrail 2 - from Hampton Court, all stations including Berrylands and New Malden
  • 8tph Surbiton to Waterloo - no information provided on stopping patterns

The key question for Surbiton is what will the stopping pattern be of the 8 peak trains to Waterloo? As it turns out, some clues are buried in other parts of the consultation:

  • 4tph New Malden to Waterloo - but these are services from Kingston, not Surbiton
  • 8tph Raynes Park to Waterloo - but these are services from Kingston and Epsom, not Surbiton

Thus, none of the trains from Surbiton to Waterloo are expected to stop at New Malden or Raynes Park. (The Crossrail 2 trains from Hampton Court via Surbiton will provide the connection to New Malden and Raynes Park.)

Verbal conversations at consultation events have indicated that the current plan is for 10-12tph to Waterloo from Wimbledon and the same at Earlsfield. Thus it can be seen that 8tph of the 10-12tph at Wimbledon and Earlsfield stop at Raynes Park, with only 2-4tph from Surbiton expected to stop at Wimbledon and Earlsfield. The simplest timetable for Surbition would therefore be:

  • 4tph Surbiton to Crossrail 2 - from Hampton Court, all stations including Berrylands and New Malden
  • 4tph Surbiton to Waterloo - stopping at Wimbledon, Earlsfield, Clapham Junction and Vauxhall
  • 4tph Surbiton to Waterloo - stopping at Clapham Junction and Vauxhall

It is important to emphasise that this is speculation by the author based on the available facts.

To drill down further, see these unofficial journey time estimates. To summarize, I'd estimate journey times of 23 to 26 minutes from Surbiton to Waterloo once Crossrail 2 opens, and 25 minutes from Surbiton to Victoria.

The reason for the relatively slow journey times is that all trains from Surbiton will be on the current slow lines. The slow lines need to serve Earlsfield and Vauxhall, and there is no possibility to overtake the stopping train in front, thus missing out stations saves relatively little time.

Additional data

Updated 2016-01-10.

These are some additional points that provide evidence for the impact on Surbiton.

1) The speed limit on the slow lines is less than that on the fast lines. This can be found in the Network Rail Sectional Appendix.

2) The slow lines run into the low numbered platforms at Waterloo. These can only take 8 car trains today, and are only planned to be extended to 10 car trains. As such, without an additional investment, services from Surbiton will be limited to 10 cars.

Alternate Crossrail 2 plan - Swirl

This blog is also promoting a change to Crossrail 2, the Swirl plan. Swirl proposes routing Crossrail 2 via Earlsfield instead of Balham.

If the Swirl plan happens, then journey times from Surbiton would have the potential to be 1 to 2 minutes shorter. This is because no train on the slow lines would be responsible for stopping at at Earlsfield, allowing trains to run slightly faster. Note however, that the Swirl plan would need widespread support from the public to be adopted.


The Surbiton Express trains are on borrowed time. They will probably end when Crossrail 2 starts, but they just might reduce in number before that.

Comments welcome, but make sure to respond to the official consultation.


  1. says

    "Surbiton would also retain fast and semi-fast services
    into Waterloo. These would operate to at least the current
    service levels, with the potential to increase the frequency
    to take advantage of the capacity released by Crossrail 2
    services at Waterloo."

    1. Last Friday, at the first of two CR2 consultations in Surbiton, CR2 staff admitted there was no guarantee that non-stopping Surbiton to Waterloo trains would continue under Crossrail 2. They did emphasise that nothing is set in stone at this stage, but that network efficiencies could possibly be gained by not switching trains from the slow to fast tracks at Surbiton.

      What are colloquially known as "fasts" could run as "semi-fasts", skipping some stations, but not all. The ability to run fast, as Stephen points out, would be curtailed by preceding all-stoppers on the same slow track.

      Wrt the official consultation leaflet - well it's misleading at best, and could be construed as downright deceit. CR2/Netwrok Rail/TfL should be held to account over it.

      Iirc, the screens in Surbiton Station also differentiate Surbiton services according to fast/semi-fast and slows. If CR2/Network Rail wanted to play verbal gymnastics, they could claim that semi-fasts are still fasts, but that's not what residents in Surbiton understand by the term. You don't engender trust by glossing over unpalatable possibilities.

    2. An interesting quote from the published consultation docs. I'm not Network Rail, but I cannot see how that can be. There is no magic second set of fast tracks from Surbiton to Waterloo. At some point, the Surbiton Express trains will stop running on the fast tracks to meet voracious demand from beyond Woking. At that point, they run on the slow lines. Even if they do not stop anywhere, they are necessarily slower IMO. My Swirl campaign for CR2 via Earlsfield is at least in part to reduce the number of things that will slow down Surbiton trains.

    3. I held that section of the consultation document under their noses last week and asked how what they'd written could possibly be true given the verbal admission there was no guarantee that non-stopping trains would continue under CR2 (or even before it under the WRS).

      They couldn't give me any coherent answer, including the person who admitted writing the leaflet. All they kept coming back to was nothing is set in stone yet.

      In which case, why are they assuring people in Surbiton that fast trains will continue, when they can't guarantee it? Not acceptable.

  2. I should add - there's nothing to stop Newtork Rail / SWT making the changes before CR2 ever comes along. Well, apart from government funding to run the extra longer distance services made possible. The budget might have to include an allowance for riot control at Surbiton station when the news breaks!

  3. If they cut our fast services maybe that 'bad' could be used as a carrot to help get Surbiton re-zoned at least!

  4. Looking at the estimated train time page this seems like a good thing for surbiton only negative I can see is that there will be less trains to Waterloo and that they will be slower, all other destinations are improved. For me direct to TCR seems to be a big Plus. Am I missing something here?

    1. For Surbiton, the proposed plan does indeed have some benefits, ie. 4 Crossrail 2 trains per hour to Tottenham Court Road. For some, it will undoubtedly be better than today. However for those beyond Surbiton, in places like Walton and Esher, there will be no beneficial Crossrail 2 service, just slower Waterloo ones.