Tuesday 14 October 2014

Old Oak Common - Queens Park tunnel

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

Shared Loop option

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

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

The service pattern with phase 3 would be something like:

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

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

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

Queens Park tunnel

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Thursday 25 September 2014

Old Oak Common - Shared Loop option

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

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

Phase 1

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

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

Phase 2

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

Phase 3

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

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

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

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


Section added 28th September 2014.

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

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

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

Updated plan

Section added 7th December 2014.

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

And some track diagrams:


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

Monday 7 April 2014

HS2 - West Midlands Express

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

West Midlands Express

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The benefits of this service are clear:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Monday 3 March 2014

Old Oak Common - Central Viaduct option

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


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

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

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

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

Unfortunately, TfL's plans are very poor.

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

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

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

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

A better approach

The challenge of Old Oak Common is threefold:

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

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

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

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

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

The plan consists of the following elements:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Feel free to comment and ask questions!