Friday 27 July 2012

DLR to Lewisham Junction

In the last few blogs I've argued the case for Lewisham Junction, the development of a major new rail interchange for South East London, backed by regeneration of Lewisham. This blog looks at how the DLR interacts with the site.

Lewisham Junction and the DLR

The Lewisham Junction proposal faces an immediate peoblem in that it acts as less of a junction than the current Lewisham (North) station. This is expected and is the trade off between the inability to further expand the existing site and building a new junction from scratch.

Key to making the new junction work is the DLR.

The first DLR extension would need to be from Lewisham (North) to Lewisham Junction. This would almost certainly be in addition to the existing railway line that runs to Hayes. This extension would be essential to the viability of the station as a junction, especially for connections to Canary Wharf and Stratford.

There has also been talk of extending the DLR, to Catford separate to this proposal. Having been to Ladywell, I'm uncertain as to how that would happen without closing the Hayes line north of Catford. Now this may be a longer term option, but doesn't seem likely now.

Instead, I want to focus on a different DLR extension - from Woolwich. It isn't always appreciated that the DLR station in Woolwich faces west, rather than south. As such, the most logical direction for extension is to the west.

DLR from Woolwich to Lewisham Junction

This proposal would extend the DLR from Woolwich to the new Lewisham Junction station. There would seem to be two main approaches.

The first approach (in purple/red) would see a new tunnel of 2.2 miles from Woolwich to Charlton, probably via the B210 Artillery Place/Hillreach. From there, it would take over the Charlton to Blackheath line from Network Rail, potentially adding a new station by opening up the tunnel near Old Dover Road. From Blackheath to Lewisham Junction, the DLR would then run on the surface alongside or above the existing line to Lewisham before turning to Lewisham Junction. This last section could also be tunnelled.

The second approach (in green) is to tunnel the whole way, running via Blackheath, but not via Charlton. This approach would allow new areas to be served that are currently remote from rail public transport. The amount of tunnelling is of the order of 4.5 miles. Note that the tunnel length is only twice that of the first approach.

The two routes are shown here:

The key benefits of these two DLR extensions is a major boost to public transport connectivity in the area. Lewisham Junction would have direct services to both Canary Wharf and City airport, as well as boosting regeneration in Woolwich.


The Lewisham Junction proposal cannot work without extending the Lewisham DLR branch to the site. However, the site really starts to work if the Woolwich DLR line is extended to Lewisham Junction as well.

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Lewisham Junction

Building a key interchange for inner South East London, similar to Stratford or Clapham Junction, would have many benefits to the area. This blog expores a proposal to develop Lewisham Junction as that interchange.

Lewisham Junction

Lewisham Junction is a proposal for a brand new station on a new site on the south side of Lewisham town centre. This blog explains the rationale for the site choice and how it could be developed.

The first thing to note is that Lewisham Junction is a separate site to the current Lewisham station. The current Lewisham station suffers from a complex flat junction and curving platforms, with little room to make alterations. It is not a practical place to expand or convert into a major junction. That said, the existing station, referred to here as Lewisham (North), is already a reasonably major junction, with lines to Victoria & Blackfriars, Charing Cross & Cannon Street, the DLR, Hayes, Chislehurst, Sidcup, Bexleyheath and Charlton.

The Lewisham Junction site is known to the railway as Courthill Loop Junction. To locals, it is to the west of the river at the south end of the High Street. The map hopefully clarifies the location:

This location is closer to the centre of the High Street than the current Lewisham station. And this access could be dramatically improved as part of building the station by opening up the south end of the shopping centre, across Molesworth Street.

While much of the core land is in railway ownership, the access land is not. The southern part of the High Street and Engate Street would ideally be totally redeveloped to provide good access, including for buses.

The station itself would need 4 platforms on the main-line and 2 platforms for the slow lines to Sidcup and Chislehurst. There would also need to be 2 platforms on the Hayes line that runs at right angles to the main-line under the site. (4 platforms are needed on the main-line to allow a train to pull into one platform while another train is pulling out of the other one).

Key to keeping initial costs down would be to no longer provide for trains to run from Hayes to London direct from Ladywell via the "short cut" on the western part of the site. All Hayes trains would have to go via Lewisham (North). Similarly, there would no longer be a connection from Hither Green to Lewisham (North). All Sidcup and Chislehurst services would run "straight on", avoiding Lewisham (North). This change to the services requires that the DLR is extended to Lewisham Junction, so that passengers from Sidcup and Chislehurst can still access Greenwich and Docklands (extending the DLR south of Lewisham North is not simple, but nor is it impossible).

Note that Lewisham (North) would remain open and unaltered with this proposal, serving that area of Lewisham.


The real question is what have we gained through this scheme?

The benefits to the railway are simpler operation around the Lewisham area. The Hayes and Sidcup/Chislehurst lines have clearly defined routes/destinations, with less need for complex timetabling. Specifically, there is relief of the Lewisham flat junction, which would allow more Blackheath services. These railway benefits are important, providing a step change in capacity. However, there are much larger benefits around regeneration, with longer term benefits.

Next to this site is Wearside, a Lewisham Council Depot. This is a large plot of land that would suddenly be located next to a key railway junction, with fast access to London. Using this land to drive a major regeneration project would be key to the whole scheme. In addition to the Wearside land, there would need to be concerted effort to completely redevelop the southern end of Lewisham High Street. It would also make sense to redevelop Riverdale House, a nearby office building.

Finally, the main shopping centre would need to be opened up to the south, no doubt providing a major boost to retail in the centre. With the increase in people travelling only by publc transport, and not owning a car at all, improving public transport access to urban shopping centres is of increasing importance.

If these redevelopments could be linked together, there may be a surprising aount of money available to fund the scheme.

Some pictures that may help set the scene.
The southern end of the High Street, station site on the right, ideally replacing this row of shops:

Lewisham, London

Engate Street, behind the High Street. The station site would include this area, requiring demolition of this building and using land further to the right (the High Street is to the left):

Lewisham, London

Wearside depot, targetted for redevelopment:

Lewisham, London

The heart of the site itself, taken here from behind Riverdale House:

Lewisham, London

Longer term

Stratford and Clapham Junction stations are the models that this proposal looks to. Stratford in particular, didn't start as the huge interchange that it is now. Over time, other railway lines came to Stratford, the DLR twice and the London Overground. A key interchange becomes an attractor that reinforces the location.

In future entries I will look at some possible options that would reinforce the "junction" nature of Lewisham Junction, creating the hub for South East London that is needed, but cannot be built at Lewisham (North).


The current Lewisham (North) station is a reasonable junction, but cannot be expanded. This leaves the Lewisham Junction site, an opportunity for regeneration over a large part of Lewisham town centre and through the Wearside depot to Ladywell. Something that could change Lewisham forever.

South East London interchange

Inner South West London has Clapham Junction as a key interchange. Inner North East London has Stratford. But Inner South East London doesn't have anything that matches the pattern. This blog looks at some of the options.

A key interchange for inner South East London

The key rationale for enhancing and creating key interchanges around central London is to encourage more travellers to avoid the city centre. With the ever increasing number of travellers expected in the next 20 years and limited funds, developing stations and routes outside the centre (like London Overground) look appealing.

Clapham Junction has long been the model of this, recently seeing major growth through London Overground routes around the core city. Stratford is the equivalent in the North East, which has seen major investment for the Olympics and general redevelopment. If HS2 continues, it is likely that Old Oak Common will become a similar junction for the West of London.

Creating a junction of similar scale for South East London is clearly a long-term project, but the connectivity benefits would be huge, for those travelling around the city centre, or between parts of the suburbs. These are the principal location options that I see for building such an interchange:

  • Deptford Park - south of Surrey Quays, where the London Overground crosses the main line to Greenwich, Lewisham and Orpington (Landmann Way)
  • New Cross Gate
  • New Cross
  • Lewisham
  • Lewisham Junction - where the line from Lewisham to Hayes crosses the main line

The key requirements for this site are to be a major junction station, linking networks in different directions. To achieve this requires a large site and main line services as well as local ones. (A junction of only local services doesn't get passengers from outside London routing around the city core). Its also the case that both Stratford and Clapham Junction have major shopping centres nearby, so that should be seen as a good test as well.

Deptford Park is the "obvious" site. It is already a major rail junction, and with suitable investment could have platforms for main-line trains on both the Thameslink East Croydon route and the South Eastern Orpington route, plus London Overground, all the Dartford locals and Hayes. However, Deptford Park is already scheduled for major work as part of London Overground and the Thameslink project, neither of which are building a station. In effect, the ship has sailed here. Furthermore, the site is perhaps too close to London Bridge - certiainly closer in than Stratford or Clapham Junction. There is no development there at the moment, this no major shopping centre or destination for local traffic.

New Cross Gate would be a reasonable option if a new tunnel was built to take all the Dartford locals (via Lewisham). But even then, it misses out on the opportunity to grab South Eastern main-line pasengers before London Bridge. I'm also uncertain that there is enough land there, and there is no major shopping centre.

New Cross is already a junction, but its hard to see what adding more services to it would achieve. There are limitations in available land, and there is no major shopping centre

Lewisham is already a key junction between the DLR and the lines to Blackheath, Hayes and Hither Green. It is however a badly laid out station with a horrendous junction that limits train frequency. The site is near a major shopping centre, although the shopping centre does rather turn its back on the station. It is a site with some ability to grow, but I cannot see how it could become a major junction towards the scale of Clapham Junction or Stratford - there simply isn't the room to add the platforms and sort out the junction.

Lewisham Junction would be a new station located where the Hayes line runs under the South Eastern main-line to Orpington, and where there are links from Hayes to the main-line and from Lewisham to Hither Green. The site is near a major shopping centre (its as close to Lewisham, if not closer, as the current Lewisham station). And the site has lots of land available - there is lots of existing railway land, plus a large council depot right next door.

In practical terms, I suspect that only Deptford Park and Lewisham Junction have the necessary land available to build a suitable large station. But Lewisham Junction wins the prize by being near an existing shopping centre, as well as a large parcel of land that has the potential to be developed (providing cash to find the project).

The next blog will discuss Lewisham Junction in much more detail and what would be needed to make it a key interchange.


Building a new major rail interchange is not a simple task. Locating it near an existing destination helps provide the initial boost it needs, especially if it enables a major redevelopment project.

Do you have another location where a junction in South East London could go?

Saturday 7 July 2012

Lewisham station

If you want to get to know an area, perhaps before proposing changes, it is always worth visiting. As such, I recently visited the Lewisham area.

Lewisham station

Lewisham station has four platforms. Platforms 1 and 2 serve the line to Hayes and Hither Green:

Lewisham station, London

Platforms 3 and 4 serve the line to Blackheath:

Lewisham station, London

The definining feature of the station is the flat junction on the London side of the platforms. The junction provides access to Victoria on the left and London Bridge on the right. There is also access to the south side of the main-line to London Bridge from the Victoria route. This junction is a huge constraint to the local rail network, with trains waiting to cross it. (Trains from platform 1/2 are behind me on the left, and from platforms 3/4 behind me on the right):

Junction at Lewisham, London

Junction at Lewisham, London

Junction at Lewisham, London

Finally, the DLR station has been built beneath the main-line station, providing a connection to Greenwich and Docklands.

In a wet rush hour, the trains were fairly full, and occasionally very full, but perhaps a little less busy than those in the South West. The main surprise was the number of travellers taking trains towards Peckham Rye and Victoria, which was many more than I expected. It was also very, very clear as to just how constraining the flat diamond junction is - there was almost always a train waiting to cross it.

Friday 11 May 2012

Anglia relief line

London's rail network is in many places absolutely full, yet there is still a need for capacity growth of 40 to 50% in the next 20 years. One of the most congested areas is the north-east segment of the London area - the Anglia lines - and this blog looks at a possible radical intervention.

Anglia lines of north-east London

The Anglia lines form are those mainline rail services into and out of Liverpool Street. These naturally form 4 sub-groups of services:

  • Great Eastern slows - all-station services via Ilford and Romford
  • Great Eastern fasts - fast services to Shenfield and beyond, including Chelmsford, Colchester and Southend Victoria
  • West Anglia slows - all-station services via Hackney Downs, Seven Sisters and Tottenham Hale
  • West Anglia fasts - fast services to Harlow and beyond, including Cambridge and Stanstead Airport, although Hertford East could be included in this group

The infrastructure currently has 4 tracks on the Great Eastern route - 2 tracks for slow and 2 tracks for fast. On the West Anglia route, there are 4 tracks between Bethnal Green and Hackney Downs, but there are only 2 tracks via each of Seven Sisters and Tottenham Hale, with Tottenham Hale being the faster route. There are only 6 tracks on the entry to Liverpool Street station as well, which tend to be allocated as 4 tracks for Great Eastern and 2 tracks for West Anglia. There is also a 2 track section from Tottenham Hale direct to Stratford.

There is current investment in the area through Crossrail. This is intended to take most of the Great Eastern slows away from Liverpool Street and into the new tunnel. Unfortunately, there is not enough capacity on Crossrail (due to the eastern branch problem) to remove all Great Eastern slows in the rush hour, thus it is intended that a "residual" service of 6tph (trains per hour) will still run into Liverpool Street.

There is also a potential plan to widen the section from Tottenham Hale to Brimsdown on the West Anglia route. This would be used to run more slow services on that route, but only to Stratford (not Liverpool Street) via the direct route from Tottenham Hale to Stratford.

The problem is that the Crossrail and Tottenham Hale investments are not really sufficient to fix the capacity problems of the area. The main problem is with the fast services, although the slow West Anglia services also have issues.

On the Great Eastern route, the fast services are at 24tph today and the London and South East RUS (the official document examining capacity constraints) suggests that any further increase in number of trains is difficult. The issue is that the 2 fast tracks from Liverpool Street serve 2 branches beyond Shenfield - the main line to Norwich via Chelmsford, Colchester and Ipswich, and the line to Southend Victoria (with London Southend airport). The effect of taking trains from 2 busy lines and merging them into 1 pair of tracks is congestion - trains often crawl through the junction at Shenfield.

On the West Anglia route, the fast services have to run on the same tracks as the slow services. This greatly reduces the frequency of the slows, something which the potential 4 tracking of Tottenham Hale to Brimsdown would help with. The fast services are also not especially quick, which is significant to Stanstead Airport, with its long 45 minute journey time to London.

When looking at the problems and constraints, it seems like a radical solution may be necessary.

Anglia Relief line

The Anglia relief line is an outline approach to the capacity problems in the area, detailed here as a high level proposal. The key aim is to produce a single scheme with widespread benefits to boost the business case.

The core of the Anglia Relief line is to recognise the need for a new fast line to serve the area. This is vital, as the 2 fast Great Eastern tracks are full. London is heavily built up, so adding a 2 new tracks obviously requires a tunnel. When looking at the problems of both West Anglia and Great Eastern together, one route made sense.

The Anglia Relief line is thus proposed to be a tunnel from Stratford to a location alongside the M11. From there, the line would continue beside the M11 with either a branch or routing via Epping. After Epping the line would split - 2 tracks to reach the West Anglia route east of Harlow and 2 tracks to reach the Great Eastern route south of Chelmsford. The junctions at Epping and Harlow east would be triangles to enable flexible routing (Chelmsford south could also be a triangle, but that would be mostly for freight to go from east London to Cambridge and the north). New stations would serve Chipping Ongar and Harlow South.

This new line would allow a recast of services:

  • Most West Anglia fasts from Stansted/Cambridge would be diverted via the new line (faster journey time)
  • Some Great Eastern fasts from Chelmsford would be diverted via the new line (assuming comparable journey time)
  • More Southend services could be run on the Great Eastern route via Romford
  • More slow and semi-fast services could be run on the West Anglia route via Broxbourne
  • A fast service can be added to Epping, relieving the Central line
  • Direct service from Colchester and Chelmsford to Stansted

One conceivable timetable would be:

  • 6tph first stop Epping with 3tph continuing to Harlow and 3tph to Chelmsford
  • 4tph Stansted Express (not stopping at Epping)
  • 4tph West Anglia fasts to Cambridge and beyond (not stopping at Epping)
  • 6tph Great Eastern fasts to Chelmsford and beyond (not stopping at Epping)
  • 3tph Colchester and Chelmsford to Stansted

(This timetable is an initial guess. It may be that there need to be more West Anglia fasts, or more Great Eastern fasts, or there isn't room for the Epping slows, more detailed work would need to establish that.)

However, the big issue with the scheme isn't the routing or the potential service gains, it is the perennial problem of where the trains can go once they reach London. Liverpool Street is pretty full. Broadgate is an office development. Shoreditch will soon be an office development. Stratford has been built over without thought of further rail expansion. All in all, a big problem.

I'm open to suggestions on this aspect. Perhaps the Anglia Relief line would have to link to a new tunnelled line through London, possibly Stratford - Canary Wharf - Lewisham - Brighton Main line (as opposed to through the zone 1 core).


This proposal outlines a concept proposal to route a relief line to both West Anglia and Great Eastern via a tunnel and alongside the M11, with a raft of benefits. However, the biggest problem is not the scheme itself, but where the trains go when they arrive in London.

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

Saturday 25 February 2012

Rail demand growth in London

Transport for London have recently given some figures for expected growth over the next 20 years in London, and they emphasise the need for investment in transport.

At the recent GLA transport committee, Geoff Hobbs, Head of Strategy, London Rail, TfL, was asked about various issues, including growth. The committee is a question and answer session, which I've tried to transcribe key sections of. See the Webcast at 1hr 51.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about projected passenger numbers in the next 5 years?

A: What we've observed during the recession is a small decline in 2009 and then some really quite substantial increases during 2010 and 2011, and in the world of railways the recession has not bitten at all. We anticipate that to continue growing.

To pick the next 20 years to put it in the long-run context first, we've got growth in employment and population in the London Plan of roundly 14%, and we anticipate railway growth - rail, National Rail - of roundly 40 to 50%. There's a spuriously accurate number of around 43% if I remember rightly. Its much greater than the growth in employment and population because the sorts of places where the growth is occurring, in London Plan jargon "opportunity areas", often tend to be very close to where railways are. You see round here, More London, the Shard, Paddington, Stratford, all the major stations, Liverpool Street, Kings Cross - full of big new buildings where the growth in employment is happening. And in contrast, the sort of places where population is growing, are journeys well made by rail. Thats why we see that dichotomy.

To take the short run view through the next 10 years, then its about half that, 20% if I remember rightly.

To emphasise that, the official estimate is that capacity on rail (possibly including the tube, its unclear) needs to be increased by 40 to 50% in the next 20 years, with the calculated single figure quoted as 43%. This is a massive rise, and fits with an indirectly obtained figure of a 70% increase in total transport capacity in 20 years.

Now, Crossrail is intended to add 10% to the total capacity of rail in London, and Thameslink probably adds another 4 or 5%. So 15 units out of the 43 are already accounted for there. Longer trains out of various stations account for more, but there will still be a gap the size of another 1 or 2 crossrails. Here is how TfL might address some of that demand growth:

Q: Are those figure leading TfL in the direction of improvements that are needed?

A: Very much so. Working closely with National Rail we did a lot of work on the London and South East RUS (Route Utilization Strategy). That's an important document because it has some status in the world of planning, it gets adopted by the Office of Rail Regulation and its the document that feeds into the Government strategic rail planning process, which cumulates in something called the HLOS (High Level Output Statement) in July this year. And that's the process where the Secretary of State for Transport decides how much she wants to spend on National Rail for the 5 years ending 2019.

For that reason, we put a lot of effort into getting a good evidence base, using computer models to describe how much demand we expect to increase and exactly where, to see what the impacts are against a do minimum case. Now, "do minimum" in this instance is actually "do quite a lot", because it includes things like Crossrail and Thameslink and a whole range of other projects that are coming to fruition right now, but they don't solve every known capacity problem. So, we've come up with a range of other projects on some of the other railways around London that will complement some of the big projects that you see extant on site right now.

Q: What can we look forward to?

A: The question isn't related to whether TfL takes over franchises. This is something TfL would want to take forward anyway even if nothing changes in the world of franchising through the Government railway strategic planning process. What we have recommended, and what is in the London and South East RUS and the Initial Industry Plan are the following projects. Number 1, we'd like to see an increase in capacity on the London Overground, longer trains and electrification of Barking to Gospel Oak. Number 2, we'd like to see a big increase in capacity up the upper Lea Valley, which is the bit between Stratford, Tottenham and further north to places like Brimsdown and Ponders End. Number 4 [sic], we think there will be a need for additional capacity on the line out of Waterloo, the South Western sector, particularly towards Richmond, Twickenham and Staines.

And then there is a range of "making the most of what we've got" type projects, more longer trains on the rout out of Fenchurch Street, out of Victoria towards Bromley, and out of Victoria and London Bridge towards Croydon and further south. Thats it in summary, so we've got a range of projects there.

National Rail: In addition there are all the major station schemes too. In Control Period 4 it tended to get overlooked in the process a little bit, but we're in strong agreement of the kinds of capacity schemes we need as well, Fenchurch Street, Waterloo, but also some of the non central stations, Wimbledon, places like that. So, we're pushing for capacity enhancements at stations like that to enable them to cope with the kind of demand we're talking about.

Q: More ticket gates? More staffing?

More ticket gates would definitely be part of it. You see at Victoria for example, if you get two trains arriving at adjacent platforms you get a big bundle, and some of these things are relatively simple, manual gates that can be turned into the wide aisle gates, some of them need changing retail, moving them around so you don't get blockages. And thats something Network Rail are doing right now at Waterloo for example and you'll see other stations having similar works of that nature.

Congestion at stations is always very peculiar and specific to a location. Lots of small individual actions, moving a telephone booth here, adding an extra ticket gate there, these sorts of things not huge in their own right but can make a big difference. Small changes in layout make big differences in crowding.

I note the explicit drawing out of the Richmond/Twickenham/Staines route I discussed in my last blog and also with Swanlink.

Crossrail 2 is also mentioned in the context of HS2 (although reading the growth projections, its probably needed separately from HS2).

Q: I am quite concerned about the amount of capacity on underground and buses when HS2 hits Euston. And there doesn't seem to be any money, and planning available for that?

Its fair to say that we are too. The point we've made at Euston is, the two places where people go most often having arrived at Euston are southbound towards Bank on the northern line, and southbound towards Oxford Circus on the Victoria line, and they are two very, very busy London Underground lines.

Now, there are various things one can do to mitigate the impact, that get harder to do as HS2 gets bigger in various phases. So, the bit to the West Midlands, the solutions are not too massive, but by the time its stretched all the way up to Yorkshire and Scotland, life gets very tricky indeed. The sorts of things that we would want to see done, and the sorts of things that are now beginning to be reflected in the thoughts of HS2 Ltd, are number 1, lots of works to Euston underground station itself, which is really busy right now.

It is over capacity right now. For those of you with an interest in obscure facts, it is the only underground station that you can only get into through another station. Which means that if you want to get out of Euston you have to go through the concourse of Euston National Rail station, which just leads to more congestion.

Number 2, direct access to Euston Square, because the sub-surface lines will have a lot more capacity in the future courtesy of the upgrade. Number 3, there are things you can do to the northern line to upgrade it further.
Old Oak Common is a big part of the solution, and making the interchange a big part of the solution, and making that interchange as good as possible, as opposed to an enormous hike.
It would be extraordinary indeed if one saves 20 minutes on one's journey from Birmingham if one spends 20 minutes getting out of Euston.

At the end of the day, when HS2 grows to its full extent as planned by Government, we think that there will need to be much more thorough interventions, and what we have in mind by that elliptical language is Crossrail 2. And we've put forward ideas for how that could be made to grow in a staged way so that the cost isn't too enormous all at one time, and that could make a big, big difference. If you built the station between Euston and Kings Cross then thats the obvious place to put it, and run the route through there. We've been looking at the various different routes. North east to south west looks like the most pressured corridor, so we would continue a route something like that.
Its by no means an easy build, and there is an enormous amount of work to do. Happily for at least HS2's eventual to Yorkshire and Newcastle and beyond, we've got a bit of time on our side. Not huge amounts, but a bit of time, and we can work out precisely what the best solution is. And there is a solution, its just not an easy one.

I note how TfL emphasises the importance of a good interchange at Old Oak Common, something that I think is vital. Perhaps those in Birmingham might learn the lesson?


Growth of 40 to 50% in the rail capacity of London is required in the next 20 years, and 70% in total transport capacity. That figure is massive, and emphasises that big money is going to continue to need to be spent in London on transport, even after Crossrail and Thameslink finish in 2018/9.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Richmond Crossing - Improving the Windsor lines

This blog looks at the Windsor lines, around Twickenham, Richmond and Putney, in South West London, outlining a proposal that would dramatically improve transport in the area.

Windsor lines around Richmond

The Windsor lines are the route from Waterloo to Staines and on to Windsor and Reading in South West London. The key problems that they suffer from are a large number of level crossings and a low frequency service.

Level crossings are a huge problem to the modern railway. They are a real accident problem given the relative safety of the rest of the network. Eliminating level crossings is now considered a key railway safety issue.

However, in South West London, the issue with level crossings is less about safety and more about congestion. These are heavily built up areas where car ownership and use is high. Over recent years, the level crossings have become a battleground, with vocal campaigners resisting increases in the rail service because it would mean the barriers at level crossings would be down more and more. The prime case of this is at Egham, where the Airtrack Heathrow rail proposal was heavily opposed as it would increase the amount of time that the crossings were blocked.

This blog is focussed on Twickenham to Clapham Junction however. Here, there is a four track railway from Waterloo to Barnes with no level crossings (there is a short 3 track section in the Battersea area, but that is relatively simple to fix). Beyond Barnes, the railway splits, with tracks going via Richmond/Twickenham and 2 tracks via Brentford/Hounslow. Both of these lines have level crossings, but the Barnes to Richmond section has 4 in less than 3 miles.

Although Barnes to Richmond does benefit from a number of bridges, the level crossing barriers are still a problem. Increasing the rail service frequency would cause the barriers to be down even more, and that would not be acceptable to the local residents. As it is, traffic flow in the area is poor, especially considering that the parallel road is the A205 South Circular trunk road. The congestion also affects local buses.

The current frequency of service is 4tph (trains per hour) slow all stations on both the Hounslow and Richmond routes, creating 8tph from Barnes inwards. In addition, there are semi-fast and fast services down both lines. All types of service are restricted by the available lines, both from the level crossings, and the mixture of slow and fast services west of Barnes (east of Barnes, the fast trains have two dedicated tracks).

The effect of these constraints is that it is impossible for anyone to board the train at Wandsworth Town during the high peak period - the trains are full. By comparison, the South West Main Line has 18tph slow all stations to Wimbledon, emphasising how poor 8tph is for a similar population density.

Widening the line to 4 tracks is not possible, as the section from Richmond to Barnes has houses just a few metres from the track on both sides. Building bridges or underpasses is similarly difficult, requiring major demolition. Lowering the track would require closing the railway for 18 months, which would affect the journeys of travellers over a large area. Thus, solving this combination of problems is not easy and not cheap.

Richmond crossing

The Richmond crossing proposal consists of a step-by-step approach to the problem.

Step 1 - Build a new 2 track tunnel from east of Barnes to east of Twickenham. The tunnel would be designed for the fast services and would have no stations (an underground two platform station at Richmond may be desirable and is an optional part of the proposal).

Step 2 - When the tunnel opens, the line between Richmond and Barnes would be closed for 18 months. During that time, the railway would be lowered into the ground, removing the level crossings and effectively creating a cut and cover box along the key section between Barnes and North Sheen. The stations would be rebuilt. The new tunnel would take most of the trains during the closure, so only stations between Barnes and Twickenham would be directly affected (use of the District line or bus would be required for this period). It may also be possible to run a Richmond to London train reversing at Twickenham during this period.

Step 3 - Reopen the line and enhance the service.

The end result would be the equivalent of a 4 track railway all the way from Waterloo to Twickenham - 2 fast tracks (including the new tunnel) and 2 slow tracks (including the cut and cover box). There would be no level crossings on the key section through Richmond, and no conflicts betwen fast and slow trains. The net effect is the ability to run a much higher frequency service with greater reliability.

For example, here is a possible service pattern.

  • 8tph slow all stations Waterloo to Hounslow via Brentford, 4tph continuing on to Whitton and Twickenham, 2tph continuing on to Staines, 2tph terminating at Hounslow
  • 8tph slow all stations Waterloo to Twickenham via Richmond, 4tph continuing on to Whitton and Hounslow (forming a loop) and 4tph continuing on to Kingston
  • 4tph semi-fast Waterloo to Shepperton (stopping at Clapham Junction, Putney, Twickenham and then all stations), replacing the current Shepperton via Kingston service
  • 4tph fast Waterloo to Windsor (stopping at Clapham Junction, Twickenham and then all stations)
  • 4tph fast Waterloo to Reading (stopping at Clapham Junction, Staines and then all stations)

This gives 16tph slow all stations from Waterloo to Barnes, 8tph on both the Hounslow and Richmond slow lines, and 12tph fast to Twickenham. 12tph would use the new tunnel and 8tph the cut and cover box.

The proposal is by no means cheap, probably between £500m and £1bn. However, on the benefit side it does radically enhance the rail service, as well as relieving congestion and enhancing local buses. On completion, the new lines would not be full, so further increases in frequency (to tube levels) would be possible if demand warranted.


This proposal outlines a proposal that uses an express tunnel and reconstruction of the existing track to dramatically improve the transport system of the Richmond area. While not cheap, it is perhaps the cheapest scheme that can deliver this degree of benefits.

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

Tuesday 14 February 2012

A four track HS2?

The current HS2 proposal (phase 1) is for a new 2 track railway from Lichfield and Birmingham to London. What would be the impact of building the new line as 4 tracks?

A four track HS2?

HS2 is currently designed as a 2 track railway from London to the Midlands and the North. Current plans for services show 18tph (trains per hour) on the first London to east Birmingham section, a level which many rail experts consider to be difficult to achieve.

Widening the railway to 4 tracks between London and the junction east of Birmingham would clearly provide a greater number of train paths, allowing 36tph based on the current plans. However, with twice as many tracks to spread over, it would be more reasonable to plan for slightly less, say 32tph, in order to provide more resilience in the event of disruption.

There would seem to be a variety of options with real benefits that the paths could be used for.

Heathrow. Phase 2 of HS2 is supposed to include a direct link to Heathrow airport. The problem is that there is no spare capacity (in tph) to actually provide any through trains! With a 4 track HS2, there could be 4tph to east Birmingham, with those services continuing once per hour to each of Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds and Birmingham. This approach would make even more sense if the Heathrow line actually continued to somewhere on the South West or South of London.

Europe. The desire for through services to Paris and Brussels is undoubtedly there, but the 18tph limit of 2 tracks does not allow these through services in the peak without compromising services elsewhere. A 4 track HS2 would provide enough paths for at least 2ph direct from the continent.

Aylesbury. A link could be built from the HS2 line to the existing line at Aylesbury. This would solve a key problem HS2 faces in that it currently passes through the Chilterns without providing any benefits to local residents. A 4 track HS2 together with a new junction would allow a fast commuter service to Aylesbury. Potentially, this could run through to Kent on HS1 and on to Milton Keynes via the reopened route to Bletchley.

Warwick area. A link could be built to connect the HS2 line to the existing line to Leamington Spa, allowing through London services to Warwick, Coventry and Solihull. Again, this service might run through from Kent.

Towns in the North. The additional trains-per-hour capacity would also permit through services to destinations HS2 currently intends to miss out, including Stoke-on-Trent, Derby, Blackpool and North Wales.

Oxford area. A north-facing link could be built to connect the HS2 line to the existing line north of Banbury, allowing through services from Manchester and Leeds to Oxford, Swindon, Bath and Bristol. This link is one of the most important missing elements of the current plans, as current HS2 plans make journeys from Oxford and Banbury to Manchester and Leeds significantly worse as existing Oxford services serve Birmingham New Street, but the new HS2 services to Manchester and Leeds go from Curzon Street. This connection also spreads the benefit of HS2 over more of the country, making the spending fairer to the South West.

But what about the London terminals?

Clearly it is not possible to almost double the amount of trains on the line without addressing where they might go in London. However, a careful reading of the above indicates that most services could be routed to Heathrow or Kent, avoiding terminating in London. For the remaining services it may be necessary to terminate at Old Oak Common.

But what about the cost?

Well undoubtedly building HS2 with 4 tracks is more expensive than building with 2 tracks. And there is extra cost in the additional junctions. But the relative cost compared to building a second high speed line to the North (something which is talked about in railway circles) is much lower. The benefits of greater integration with the existing rail network is also a huge factor.

But what about the land used?

Building 4 tracks rather than 2 tracks will be a relatively minor change to the land take of the project. Cuttings and viaducts would be twice as wide in terms of the track itself, but the width of the slope of the cutting/embankment would need no more width. The main pain would be the tunnels, which would generate twice as much spoil.

Is it a good idea?

Ultimately, HS2 is a political decision. While I have grave doubts about the HS2 approach to new lines in general, I'm also trying to ensure that HS2 is the best it can be if it does go ahead. Making it a 4 track railway to east Birmingham would have clear benefits. So, in my opinion it is definitely a good idea and improves markedly on the current scheme.

But those benefits can only be realised if 4 tracks is built from the start. Once constructed, it is likely that Old Oak Common will be unable to be expanded (as there will be a large development built on top). As such, the argument for 4 tracks must be discussed sooner rather than later.

Sunday 8 January 2012


HS2, like many large projects, has polarized opinion amongst those that care. In this particular case the modern mediums of social media have boosted traditional media coverage to create a mess. Frequently the same claims are made, yet a fair analysis consider many of them to be little better than FUD - fear, uncertainty and doubt. And this refers to the tactics of both supporters and opponents. Lets examine some specifics.


"A new line from London to Birmingham"

True but incomplete, and misleading as a result. The whole project of HS2 is split into two phases, phase 1 is from London to Lichfield with a branch to Birmingham, while phase 2 extends the line to Manchester and Leeds. By describing it as "to Birmingham", a certain implication appears that there is no benefit to other cities from phase 1, something that isn't true. In fact, after the first phase of HS2 is open there will be through "classic compatible" services to other West Coast Main Line destinations, including Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow, all of which will see improved journey times with phase 1.

"32 billion pounds"

True, but also false, and thus a very clever trick. The first phase (London to Lichfield/Birmingham) costs 17 billion pounds, with phase 2 at 15 billion. Those opposed to HS2 have effectively managed to attach the 32 billion price to just phase 1, which is clearly false once the true numbers are understood.

"17 billion pounds"

True, but also intended to be scary. The actual investment required is actually supplied per year, not as a single amount in a single year. If the public is asked to spend less than 2 billion pounds per year on major infrastructure, they are far more likely to say yes than when presented with much larger single figures.

"We can't afford it"

False. The amount of money being spent (between 1 and 2 billion per year) is already being spent. The money is currently going on London's Crossrail project, another scheme with a total cost of 15 to 17 billion. The investment budget is effectively fixed at the 1 to 2 billion range (at the moment) and the flow of money simply shifts from Crossrail to HS2 when Crossrail finishes in 2017/8. That said, there is a body of thought that suggests that the total cost of 17 billion could actually be reduced if the money was spent more quickly (something other countries tend to do).

"The costs will over-run"

Possible, but unlikely. Predicting future costs of major infrastructure investment is always going to be tricky. To compensate, the Government insists on an "optimism bias" amount to handle under-estimates. What this means is that the cost quoted (17 billion) already includes a 60% buffer for cost overruns. The impact of the optimism bias can be seen here, where the Crossrail Paddington station contract reportedly came in 40% under-budget.

"The countryside/villages will be destroyed"

Simple scaremongering use of words. HS2 is best compared with a new motorway, the M40 being the classic example in this case. Anyone who has travelled that route cannot fail to have noticed the huge great scar in the landscape at Aston Rowant. It is wide, and the noise from the motorway affects a large area. HS2 is a dual track railway line which will take up far less land than a new motorway, and will use a long length of tunnel in the Chilterns. "Destroyed" is a scary, emotive term which drives fear rather than debate.

Rather strangely, the word "destroyed" does apply to part of the route, the expansion of Euston station in London, where a large number of homes and businesses will be demolished. However, the campaign there simply hasn't been widely heard, perhaps (dare one say) because those in the Chilterns have more money and better contacts.

"There is no alternative"

False in my view. This one is from the pro-HS2 camp. When used to discuss small improvements to the existing West Coast Main Line it is effectively true. The most recent Network Rail report (discussed from 7th January 2012) effectively dismisses every attempt to increase capacity without major new line construction on the grounds of insufficient capacity. However, the report did not evaluate the concept of focussed new line construction targeted at the worst hot-spots, built as a sequence of separate investments (described here). Thus, I claim that there is at least one alternative yet to be evaluated.

"HS2 will create 1 million jobs"

Utterly false. This is the worst of the pro-HS2 claims. It came from a Volterra report that made many assumptions and suggested that HS2, together with a boatload of other investment might support, not create, that many jobs. As a claim it was best demolished here.


The first casualty of way is the truth, and HS2 has continued to keep that claim true. Calm rationale analysis is hard to do (and impossible on Twitter), but it is essential given the scale of what is proposed and the impacts it will have to locals and nationally.

Saturday 7 January 2012

HS2 scores out of ten

Speculation is rife that the first phase of the HS2 rail link from London to the North will be approved next week. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have severe doubts about the scheme as planned, but I thought it might be good to summarize my views with scores out of ten:


Proposing a new line rather than upgrading the existing one - 8/10

A large part of the campaign against HS2 has been focussed on alternatives that seek to improve the existing lines. I have always considered this to be a mistake by the campaigners, essentially caused by lack of knowledge of recent rail history. The last West Coast Main Line (WCML) upgrade was a £10bn fiasco. It caused huge disruption to travellers, went hugely over-budget, and achieved a fraction of its original goals. Major upgrades of the existing line to handle the capacity growth is simply an unwise course of action.

That said, some upgrades of the existing WCML line are needed to handle passenger growth in the time between now and the opening of HS2. The Government has failed to indicate that this will happen, or that they will fund the enhanced local services that will be possible with the new line open. Because of the lack of joined up thinking, I only give a score of 8 out of 10.

The core route choice (Old Oak Common - south Aylesbury - M42 east of Birmingham) - 5/10

If you start with a location somewhere near Heathrow (Old Oak Common) and have to head close to Birmingham, then the route chosen is what I'd call fair. Given those constraints, there were only a few route options and the one chosen really isn't that bad (unless you're directly affected). For reference, I don't consider the possible M40 route to be markedly better - just different.

The real problem I have is that I disagree with the constraints of "near Heathrow" and "east of Birmingham". I explored this further in my HC-Midland route proposal. That focussed on enhancing local and regional journeys, not just national ones - a strategy that should have been evaluated in detail.

Old Oak Common - 7/10

Old Oak Common is one of the two London stations and is designed to integrate with Crossrail. So far there has only been limited discussion as to how Old Oak can be integrated into the local rail network in London. This integration is vital, as most travel to HS2 in London will be by public transport. The HS2 proposal should have provided much more detail and plans on how that integration (with the London Overground, Central line and Bakerloo line) will work. There is potential here, but it could easily be ruined without additional money being spent on connecting the station to nearby lines.

Euston - 6/10

HS2 requires a huge amount of space in its London Terminus, something that will require a complete rebuild of Euston and the demolition of a large area next to the station. This isn't terrible (unless you're directly affected), but is far from ideal. Furthermore, Euston will probably require the expensive Crossrail 2 scheme to assist with distributing passengers.

My view is that a far better terminus would be Waterloo. It already has 5 empty platforms of the correct size (the ex-Eurostar platforms), and gaining the additional room is possible by tunnelling local London services (which has additional benefits to Londoners and is cheaper than the comparable Crossrail 2 scheme for Euston). But the key benefit of Waterloo is that it enhances access to the North of the country from the south of London and the southern home counties, something that would provide journey time reductions of over an hour in total (evaluated door-to-door, rather than HS2's flawed point-to-point). So, choosing Euston misses a huge opportunity to really change national accessibility.

Birmingham Interchange - 1/10

Birmingham Interchange is an offensively named station that simply isn't an interchange. It is a car park in a green-belt field with a local people-mover to the airport. There is absolutely no planned integration with the local rail network and all access will be by car, in an area where traffic problems are already very serious. It has no redeeming features.

This is the single worst part of the proposed scheme, as I wrote in a full blog post.

Birmingham Curzon Street - 2/10

The site for Birmingham's new central station is Curzon Street (Fazely Street). This location is close to Moor Street station at one end and alongside the existing access to New Street station. The site is ideally located for Birmingham City Centre and if that was the purpose of HS2 all would be fine. However, HS2 is supposed to serve the West Midlands, not the city centre.

The key problem is one of integration with the local rail network. How is a person living along the Cross-City line from Redditch to Sutton Coldfield meant to access Curzon Street? Well all we have are vague hand-waving statements of it only being a "short walk". This is pathetic stuff, as it ignores what that means in practice: "Take train from Redditch to New Steet. Exit the station. Walk through the city centre (late at night?). Enter Curzon Street station. Finally board train for London. All with a heavy suitcase."

We already know that this doesn't work in practice, at Stratford. Eurostar determined that there was no demand from Stratford International despite Stratford being a huge railway junction providing access to a huge population of East London, Essex and beyond. The reason is the "short walk" of 6 minutes between the two stations - Stratford Regional (where all the local trains are) and Stratford International (where the Eurostars would have been). Failing to learn from the mistake at Stratford would be a huge error for the West Midlands.

But the answer isn't New Street station. That really is full. Instead, I wrote up details of how a new Birmingham Central station could solve the problem, plugging HS2 into the local rail network in the same way that Euston plugs into the London Underground.


The current HS2 scheme has some "OK" aspects and a few really dire ones. I am in agreement with the principal of a new line, although not with the 250mph speed. The chosen core route is alright, but one providing enhanced local and regional access (the M1 HC-Midland route) would have been much better. But my real ire is for the two Birmingham stations, which are extremely poor.

My hope is that the HS2 scheme now moves more into detailed planning where some minor variations can be worked on at the stations. Specifically, I hope that Birmingham planners finally realise the ensuing disaster and start to argue for integration with the local rail network.