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A new Thameslink 2? And more…

Following on from my last post about the BML2 campaign www.bml2.co.uk I want to continue in this vein and also note another rail blogger whose ideas are really thought-provoking and eminently sensible http://ukrail.blogspot.co.uk

There has been a joining of ideas between these 2 which is what I want to explore.

The BML2 campaign wants to create a second mainline to East Sussex, Kent and the South Coast by:

– reconnecting the line between Uckfield and Lewes, allowing services from London to Seaford and Eastbourne via Lewes and also to Brighton via Falmer

– reconnecting the line through to Tunbridge Wells West and the existing station allowing relief for the Kent Main Line into London.

BML2 then pitch further though – the regional lines are one thing but it is in London that the capacity crunch really hits again with track congestion, particularly on the Central London approaches being a severe impediment to growing capacity and frequencies form Sussex, Kent and Surrey.

BML2 add a London proposition which is:

– a new Croydon Junction station linking the existing Sanderstead and Purley Oaks stations together on a nearby site providing a major interchange between the 2 mainlines and suburbans as well as loops giving real track space and capacity benefits as well as interconnectivity (adding in a Croydon Tramlink connection as well…!) and relief for East Croydon station.

– reopening the Selsdon tunnel and reconnecting the line through to Elmers End and inwards (the Hayes branch) then 4 tracking that line into Lewisham and tunneling through to Canary Wharf (interchange with Crossrail, Jubilee and DLR) and on to Stratford (a topically massive interchange station)

– this link would then go on to Stansted Airport so you would have a Thameslink 2 proposition linking Stansted and Essex through Stratford, Canary Wharf and Lewisham and then on to Croydon and the South Coast.

I now want to link in with Stephen’s (ukrail blog author) ideas and 2 particular schemes:

– Lewisham Junction station, providing relief around the current Lewisham station, a DLR extension, relief for better and more efficient train paths, a much improved central Lewisham station in the heart of the town centre – this would create the world class station, connectivity, space and facilities for a new major South East London interchange station that would really create huge opportunities and benefits for a Thameslink 2 project

– going north-east from Stratford, Stephen has a crucial new Anglian Main Line proposition with a new main line running from Stratford to Epping before splitting with one limb linking northwards near Harlow to the West Anglian Main line (bringing ‘Stansted in 30’ ambitions into play) and the other limb heading eastwards to south of Chelmsford and into the East Anglian Main Line.  These would both provide significant capacity relief on the Liverpool Street approach as well as providing the speed, reliability and capacity benefits.

So in summary we have a combination of big projects here that together can bring a huge transformation to London and the South East’s transport infrastructure:

– a new Thameslink line connecting Gatwick and Stansted Airports

– ‘Stansted in 30’ achieved from Liverpool St/Canary Wharf/Stratford

– a new Thameslink line connecting Croydon and the South with Stratford via Canary Wharf and Lewisham

– significant transformational new interchange stations at Croydon and Lewisham that can be catalysts for significant regeneration and transport improvements across their wider catchment areas

– key relief on the Brighton Main Line, West Kent line and West and East Anglian Main Lines

– major connectivity improvements for East Sussex/West Kent plus South East London and into Crossrail 1 and the London transport network via Canary Wharf and Stratford

There is a lot here but this is the scale of ambition required.

More trains please… but how??

Well there is so much ‘good news’ coming from the Government about how the trains are all fantastic and getting better, but we need a reality check here.  There has not been stable continued investment in the railways which means there is still catching up to do.  Furthermore, many parts of the network still have to put up with appalling rolling stock – i was reminded of this on Tuesday as I saw the Pacers in Sheffield, awful old rickety trains!

The crux of the matter though is the network capacity which has hit its limits on a number of parts of the network.

Firstly we have the West Coast Main Line which is almost full, will be totally full by the end of decade and cannot take any more freight or intercity trains without sacrificing other services (which has already happened seeing the closure of 3 stations in Staffordshire – Norton Bridge, Barlaston and Wedgwood).  This fortunately has High Speed 2, the next sections of Britain’s national high speed rail network, in planing to be built by 2026 to Birmingham and 2033 to Leeds and Manchester.

Secondly we have the South London rail network with its many pinch points and bottlenecks.  I have written previously about the South London Metro and hope to see support rising for this in the future.  But recently I have become aware of the more formal and far more developed campaign to reopen the stretch of line between Uckfield and Lewes.  The campaign isknown as BML2 ie a 2nd main line to Brighton from London. Their website is http://www.bml2.co.uk (they are also on twitter) and i would urge everyone to give them support.

The idea is painfully simple.  This link when reopened can serve a number of purposes rather than just connecting Lewes and Uckfield.  You have a 2nd main line/diversionary route between London and Brighton.  You can send Eastbourne/Seaford via Lewes trains from London that way to make space through Gatwick and Haywards Heath on the current Main Line.  You can also reconnect Tunbridge Wells and the old Tunbridge Wells West station onto this line up to London via East Grinstead thus alleviating capacity restrictions on the South Eastern Main Line through Sevenoaks.  You can connect Brighton and Tunbridge Wells and places in between.  You can provide significant rail access in to Falmer which is home to Brighton & Hove Albion’s superb new football stadium.

This relatively simple piece of infrastructure reopening could significantly improve connectivity and capacity for Surrey, West Kent and East Sussex.  So a big shout out to the BML2 campaign and please let’s all support them!

This is what we need to look at across the country – where can we make a big difference and if we can do it relatively quickly and easily then it would be crazy to ignore it.

Finally I have developed 5 principles that every piece of transport investment, every scheme and policy should comply with to justify itself and support: affordability, accessibility, efficiency, efficacy and proportionality.  Although self-evident you sometimes wonder whether they are always fully considered every time – they should be!

DfT launch consultation on South Eastern franchise

The Department for Transport have launched their public consultation on the next South Eastern franchise – you can find it here:

http://assets.dft.gov.uk/consultations/dft-2012-29/southeastern-consultation.pdf

My ongoing lobby for the South London Metro network continues (see previous posts) and I will respond calling for the Metro services to come under a South London Metro franchise.  The relevant services would be the Metro routes to Dartford/Gravesend/Gillingham/Hayes on the North Kent lines, plus the Metro routes to Orpington/Sevenoaks via Bromley South.

These routes for South London Metro are merely those currently in the South Eastern franchise – i am lobbying for South West, Southern and FCC to all come within the South London Metro network (see previous posts again!).

A reminder of the South London Metro principles and benefits are:

– regular, frequent services (minimum 4 tph and at least 6 tph on key sections)

– A Metro map akin to the tube map, but also adding the SL Metro network onto the tube map – equivalent to the Overground services

– a new, standardised fleet of electric trains with some tube style features, more doors, air con, audio and visual passenger information (presuming 5 car sets, completely open through carriages to maximise use of space; usually running in 10 car formations)

– all branding, ticketing and information integrated into the TfL style and feel

I would of course welcome any support and if people do respond that they consider this proposition in their response!!!

Good luck!

Spreading the benefits of Crossrail 1 and HS2

Fellow Wombles and/or transport people – on the day the fixture list has been announced for 2012/13 season I want to talk about a transport intervention that I consider could make a very strong and appealing case for a large number of people.

Crossrail 1 is well under way and a lot is made of the station next to the depot at Old Oak Common that will be a key interchange station with the High Speed 2 line out of Euston to Birmingham, the North West and North East.

Old Oak Common holds another key that I think could unlock huge benefits for people, for transport and for connectivity and capacity.  My proposal is this:

– add a Crossrail spur west of Old Oak Common onto the existing Central line through North Acton;

– Crossrail can then take over Central Line services from North Acton to West Ruislip and beyond onto the Chiltern line providing additional capacity and connectivity;

– add a further Crossrail spur west of Old Oak Common onto the existing northbound line heading to Harlesden and then connect Crossrail to the West Coast Main Line.

Greenguage 21 have pressed for the WCML-Crossrail connection previously (http://www.greengauge21.net/wp-content/uploads/GG21-Press-Release-August-2011.pdf)

The benefits are multiple:

– better use of Crossrail 1 with a broader network – providing greater connectivity and accessibility for many more into the heart of London;

– relief for the lines into Euston and relief for Euston station itself as it prepares to become a major terminus for the WCML intercity and HS2 services;

– significant benefits for Chiltern line users in terms of greater connectivity and accessibility with longer trains into the heart of London;

– relief at Marylebone station and underground with passengers transferring onto Crossrail;

– potential for significant Central Line benefits and improvements including reliability and turnback for the core central London section;

– major benefits for the West Coast Main Line commuters from Northampton, Wolverton, Milton Keynes, Bletchley, Leighton Buzzard, Cheddington, Tring, Berkhamsted, Hemel Hempstead, Apsley, Kings Langley, Watford Junction, Bushey, Harrow & Wealdstone – providing these stations with direct connectivity into Central London and also to East/SE London and bypassing Euston thus relieving significant pressure at Euston;

They key is, can sufficient Crossrail 1 Western services be provided – essentially you would have 2 new routes along with existing Maidenhead and Heathrow services.  Well at 18/24 tph you would suspect so depending on demand to Heathrow particularly; they key is proving the demand is there – unless the rationale is compelling from an operational perspective.

I would welcome the views of others on this.  From 2 fronts: making best use of the £16bn investment in Crossrail 1 and secondly from the operational side, is it feasible and would it bring key additional benefits?

I did also see today that Boris is pushing for Crossrail to provide a key rail link eastwards to Stansted Airport – this could help the Stansted in 30 Campaign (30 min journey time from Central London) and also helps his statement of now wanting a 2nd runway at Stansted… not one for here or now though!!!

Crossrail 2 lobby opens up the debate

Well folks, the football season is over and we are happy Wombles with AFC Wimbledon finishing in a solid 16th in League 2.

Exciting news though on the transport womble front as today London First (the London business lobby group) have published a working policy document pushing the case (in principle) for Crossrail 2.

The document is available to read here: http://www.londonfirst.co.uk/documents/120515_Crossrail_2_-_Supporting_London’s_growth_report.pdf

It makes fairly interesting reading although in fairness I have read most of this before. However this document pulls it together and puts some serious weight behind the lobby for investing in Crossrail 2.  The London First working group are no small fry but some big hitters with a real interest in continuing the investment in London’s transport network and chaired by Lord Adonis.

Interestingly, comments to the group are welcomed and I will prepare and share my response in due course.

Also, the group sets out a key first consideration for Crossrail 2 which is the role and purpose of this scheme – should this be a metro or regional scheme?

For me the answer is clear, Crossrail 2 should be a regional scheme and I argue the following points:

– long term rail capacity: for maximum effect it needs to be a transport scheme with as broad a reach as possible;

– strategic transport investment: this will be a big project, if it is going ahead then scope it up not down to create better value for money – for example, if £10bn gets a metro and £15bn gets a regional service, the additional cost will bring hugely wider benefits both geographically and economically

– reaching further across London: it is all very well looking to relieve pressure on the central/inner London tube and rail networks, but that is being squeezed by pressures from further out; additionally, significant infrastructure investment should enhance and benefit the needs of as many people as possible

– London RER: Paris (Ile de France) has benefited immensely from the long term vision that brought the investment in the RER network and Crossrail could be the London equivalent.  Getting people from the outer suburbs through the centre and out the other side is important – the radial networks prevalent in cities are great but it is not all about going from outside to centre and back again, many journeys are through or around or past.  We need a more sophisticated network.

– helping Euston, St Pancras and Kings Cross – these are major stations with HS1, HS2, Eurostar, West Coast and East Coast services with passengers that would derive greater benefit form greater connectivity and accessibility

– and finally, as Wombles of Wimbledon we want to see the benefits spread further across South West (and indeed North East) London…!

So please do press on with Crossrail 2 but look to the long term and the big picture, do not limit the scope of the possible with this project – if it is going to happen then make it the best possible outcome for London and Great Britain.

My South London Metro Campaign Continues…!

OK, so it may not be the biggest or most urgent campaign but the arguments are gaining ground and conceptually this provides some strong answers to the questions being asked at the moment:

– how can South London get a fairer deal on transport and connectivity?

– how can South London be better integrated into the TfL network?

These 2 questions are basically addressing the point that South London really does not feature much on the tube map.  This needs to changes, the Metro can change this.

– should the Mayor get rail franchise powers?

– how can we better integrate and improve rail services that are critically important to London residents and London’s economy?

There is a real possibility that rail franchise powers will be devolved from the Department for Transport.  The Northern Rail franchise and the London Midland franchise are being eyed up by the Integrated Transport Authorities in the 6 northern and west midland conurbations – significant progress is being made is discussions between the DfT and the ITAs on how this might work.

Politically, all 3 political parties are seeing the DfT as a department that should lead national transport strategy that can then be fed down to sub-national bodies to deliver locally/regionally.

For South London, TfL is the obvious choice to pull together the constituent rail services that make up the conurbations commuter lines and bring them into the TfL network completely.  And completely means through integrated fares and ticketing, passenger information, branding, station facilities and appearance, performance standards and responsibility.

We can also see better integration between the South London Metro and other transport modes e.g. bus, tram, taxi, river through TfL managing the network.  We could also see significant cost savings through procurement and greater standardisation in terms of stations and rolling stock – that is key.  All the South London lines need new trains with significantly improved passenger facilities – seats, space, air con, audio and visual passenger information systems.  One contract for the whole new fleet covering all the South London Metro network would bring a significant cost reduction.

It is surely a no-brainer.  I suspect it is being considered in some form at TfL and by the Mayoral candidates – i beseech them to turn the South London Metro into a reality.

Oh and for info, in my previous post, I considered the South London Metro network to include these lines:

South West, from Waterloo to: Hampton Court, Shepperton, Epsom/Dorking, Chessington South, Strawberry Hill, Hounslow Loop

Southern, from Victoria/London Bridge to: Epsom, Epsom Downs, Tattenham Corner, Caterham, East Grinstead, Beckenham Junction, Crystal Palace Loop, East/West Croydon

South Eastern, from Charing Cross/Cannon Street to: North Kent lines to Dartford/Gravesend/Gillingham, Hayes, Orpington/Sevenoaks

South Eastern, from Victoria/Blackfriars to: Dartford, Orpington

First Capital Connect, from Blackfriars to: Wimbledon, Sutton

Introducing… The South London Metro

It all seems so bleeding obvious and yet somehow we never seem to pull it all together and make the links. OK, so if we add factors 1, 2, 3 and 4 together it leads us to conclude with 5 … let’s try it…

1. TfL/Mayor want to take control of suburban rail services

2. South London gets a bum deal compared to North,East and West over tube services and connectivity (cross-ref to huge success of London Overground)

3. Rail costs can be reduced by standardisation and commonality

4. South London wants a proper integrated transport network equivalent to tube and with the accountability of TfL rather than private operators

So, where does that lead us…???

5 Well, let me introduce the South London Metro network.

Right, the idea is simple. Strip away the London suburban services from SouthWest Trains, Southern, Southeastern and FirstCapitalConnect (i’ll list them later) and bring them into a South London Metro franchise (equivalent to LOROL for the Overground). But this is not Overground ok! Let Overground be the London Orbital and what it does now – and maybe if it can take more then so be it.  But South London Metro is a network concept that can integrate into the TfL system as its own network.

So now we have a full mini-franchise network that can then integrate all the stations, information, look/feel/branding into the TfL standard (desperately needed!!!) along with the turn up and go frequency of proper metro (i.e. max of 15 minute wait so minimum of 4 trains/hour).

So what about the standardisation point? Well… rolling stock… a new fleet is needed for South London across all 4 franchises.  The same train, same parts, same branding, same mechanics, same depot, all together, the same trains for South London – dedicated South London trains! I’m guessing we would want 5 car sets with 10 car services the norm across virtually the whole Metro network (style of the Overground class 378s?).

So where are we talking about then? Well, here goes…

South West, from Waterloo to: Hampton Court, Shepperton, Epsom/Dorking, Chessington South, Strawberry Hill, Hounslow Loop

Southern, from Victoria/London Bridge to: Epsom, Epsom Downs, Tattenham Corner, Caterham, East Grinstead, Beckenham Junction, Crystal Palace Loop, East/West Croydon

South Eastern, from Charing Cross/Cannon Street to: North Kent lines to Dartford/Gravesend/Gillingham, Hayes, Orpington/Sevenoaks

South Eastern, from Victoria/Blackfriars to: Dartford, Orpington

First Capital Connect, from Blackfriars to: Wimbledon, Sutton

This is South London Metro. In the style of a proper London Transport network, with the roundels, the real time information, the network maps, the branding, the route maps, the colour schemes, the ticketing – this makes South London rail services actually feel part of London more than they currently do.  Bring the stations under TfL’s auspices properly.  These are London commuter stations, a key part of the capital’s transport system just like the tube stations are.

So, the Mayoral candidates want to take control of suburban rail. The Department for Transport are talking about devolution from the Department to local government i.e. the Mayor/TfL.  Now is the time, but it would be a shame not to do it in a way that kept separation – one network for South London, integrated fully into the London Transport network – this is South London Metro.