Thursday 24 March 2016

Crossrail 2 and Merton

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

Crossrail 2 and Merton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wimbledon, London

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

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

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


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

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

Sunday 13 March 2016

Crossrail 2 and the National Infrastructure Commission

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

Transport for a World City

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

The commission report is relatively simple.

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

Later it adds:

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

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

Finally, there is this key section:

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

On cost savings, the following possibilities are mentioned:

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

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

Review of the Case for Large Scale Transport Investment in London

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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