The Anonymous Widower

Painting London Orange

This article on BBC News is entitled Transport for London to take over suburban rail routes and it describes how TfL will have much more control over trains within and around London.

These are relevant points from the article.

  • The new partnership between the Department for Transport and TfL says it aims to ensure there are more frequent trains and increased capacity.
  • As franchises come up for renewal, they will come more under TfL’s control.
  • The plan would mean more than 80% of stations would have a train at least every 15 minutes, up from 67%.
  • Services running from London Bridge, Victoria, Charing Cross, Cannon Street and Moorgate would all be transformed under the scheme.

I think we’ll be seeing a lot more Overground orange on stations.

The Overground Philosophy

There are well-run railways all over the world, but somehow the Overground is different.

Whether it is because it is an offspring of the well-respected and much-loved Underground or whether because it reaches the parts the Underground doesn’t, it is difficult to explain, why in only a few years, the Overground has wormed its way into the hearts and minds of residents and visitors alike.

All lines adhere to the following principles.

  • Trains at a frequency of at least four trains per hour.
  • Staff on the station from the time the first train arrives to the time the last train leaves.
  • Clean, modern trains and stations.
  • Simple contactless ticketing.
  • Increasing the proportion of step-free access.
  • No pre-booking for passenger assistance for the disabled.
  • All profits made, are invested back in the network.
  • Continuous innovation and improvement

Some of these principles have come direct from the Underground.

The North London Line

Around the turn of the millennium the North London Line, had all the charm of a set of travelling urinals. Everything was tired and worn out, but within a few years of the start of the Overground, with new Class 378 trains, a couple of new stations and a deep clean of the others, ridership had soared and its major problem was increasing the size and number of the trains to cope with the growth in passenger numbers.

One of my local stations is Canonbury. The Overground has improved the station in the following ways.

  • Six trains per hour on the North London Line and eight trains per hour on the East London Line.
  • A new ticket office and two extra platforms.
  • Full step-free access to all platforms.
  • Large platform shelters.
  • Cross platform interchange between Westbound NLL services and Southbound ELL services.

The only thing it lacks is a high quality artwork on the spacious island platform.

Canonbury even gets the occasional steam train, as I wrote about in Tornado at Canonbury Station.

I think it’s probably true to say, that Transport for London haven’t spent a fortune at Canonbury, but somehow they’ve created a quirky station that does its job with style.

London needs more Canonburys.

London Votes

London doesn’t vote red or blue any more. It now votes red, blue and orange!

In other words, if you stand as Mayor and don’t have a creditable policy for expanding London’s transport network, you won’t get elected. And one of the things you must do is support the Overground.

So now that Transport for London is going to get overall control of suburban services, it is perhaps worth looking at what lines out of London stack up against the principles of the Overground.

The Orange Standard

I’ll first look at various Overground routes to gauge their characteristics.

All have or will have new trains by 2020.

Non-Train And Station Improvements

When you travel to a TfL-controlled station like say my local one of Dalston Junction and need to get a bus to your ultimate destination, there are lots of maps; geographic and spider and staff to ask as well.

This is not the same if you turn up at some stations controlled by South West Trains, Southeastern and other companies.

Transport for London should devise a standard for all stations connected to London.

London Lines To Paint Orange

The next few sections deal with London terminals.


These are the suburban lines out of Waterloo.

Quite frankly it’s a mess.

  • There are not enough platforms at Waterloo.
  • Some stations like Raynes Park come from the Topsy school of design.
  • Some stations need lengthened platforms.
  • There is a lack of turn-back platforms.
  • Services tend to go a long way out of London, stopping in too many places, so you have overcapacity at the outer ends and overcrowding towards Waterloo.
  • Connectivity meeds to be improved between the various lines.
  • A lot of sacred cows need shooting.
  • Action is needed now!
  • South London can be very obstructive of changes!

Transport for London are promoting Crossrail 2 to sort out the mess, but I think there is a need to act immediately.

I think that these services need balancing, so that the outer overcapacity and inner overcrowding are reduced.

I have my ideas, which I’ll keep personal, but they involve rebuilding the truly awful Raynes Psrk station.



January 25, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

The New Roof At Crystal Palace Station

In August 2010, I wrote A Day At Crystal Palace, after a visit to Selhurst Park to see Ipswich play. I took this picture of Crystal Palace station.

East London Line Platforms at Crystal Palace

East London Line Platforms at Crystal Palace

Now compare it with these I took today.

As you can see, they’ve now fitted a roof.

I like it.

December 30, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

New Trains For The North

That is the headline on a two page article in Modern Railways magazine.

It is an article that is strong on promises, in what it says that First TransPennine and Arriva Northern Trains will do.

Under a sub-heading of Bi-Modes for TransPennine, this is said.

FirstGroup is to invest over £400 million in a fleet of 44 new five-car 125 mph trains, which are expected to be based on the Hitachi AT300 design already being procured by sister operator Great Western Railway.

It also states that twelve will be electric only and the rest will be bi-modes.

The timetables state that the first bi-mode will enter service in December 2017.

Under a sub-heading of New and Upgraded Fleet for Northern, this is said.

Arriva is to invest £400 in 98 new air-conditioned 100 mph trains comprising 281 carriages, of which 43 will be three- and four-car EMUs and 55 two- and three-car DMUs. The latter will enable the withdrawal of all Pacers by the end of 2019.

The delivery schedule for the new trains stretches to 2020.

All these promises are all well and good, but I do wonder if they are deliverable with new trains.


Hitachi have been clever and have bought AnsaldoBreda, so they can build AT300 trains in Italy. This is said in the Wikipedia entry for the AT300, which is based on the Class 800 train, they are building in Newton Aycliffe.

In mid 2015 Eversholt Rail, a rolling stock operating company signed a £361m contract with FGW to purchase 173 new AT300 carriages, consisting of 22 five-car and seven nine-car trains. The AT300 trains are to be built at Hitachi Rail Italy’s Pistoia plant.

The trains are expected to enter service with Great Western Railway from December 2018. and are also expected to reduce journey times from London to Exeter by up to 5min, to Plymouth by up to 6min, and to Penzance by up to 14min.

It puzzles me how First TransPennine will be able to introduce the first bi-mode into service in December 2017, as where will the train be built?

It can’t be built in Italy, as Hitachi won’t have even delivered their first train until December 2017.

The only possibility will be to take trains from Newton Aycliffe and delay deliveries to Great Western Railway and Virgin Trains East Coast. Wikipedia and other sources is rather short on dates for the delivery of the Class 800 and Class 801 trains.

Hitachi in Newton Aycliffe are also involved in the building of AT200 trains for Abellio ScotRail. This is said in Wikipedia.

Abellio ScotRail will introduce a fleet of 46 three car and 24 four car Hitachi AT200 electric trains from December 2017, to operate services on the lines being electrified as part of the Edinburgh to Glasgow Improvement Programme, if it granted a three-year optional franchise extension, it will order a further 10 three car units

I doubt that we’ll see more than a token AT300 running on First TransPennine before the end of 2017.

Class 185 Trains

The Modern Railways article says this about TransPennine’s Class 185 trains

First is expected to retain 28 of the current 51×3 car fleet of Class 185s; the units to be retained will be refurbished.

This means that twenty-three of the Class 185 trains will be available for cascade.

Modern Railways says the two franchises will be jointly managed from Leeds, so would it be sensible to perhaps keep the current fleet together for refurbishment and maintenance?

So perhaps if the answer is yes, then common sense would dictate that the cascaded twenty-three trains would go to Arriva Northern.

Class 319 Trains

Handsome is as handsome does, goes the old horseman’s phrase and you couldn’t call a Class 319 train beautiful.

My Ugly Class 319 Arrives

But for some of the electric routes in the North, they’re all we’ve got! And like some elderly actresses, they scrub up well.

A Class 319 At Lime Street

The Modern Railways article says this about Northern’s use of the Class 319.

It is understood that refurbished Class 319s will be used on these services on an interim basis until new build units arrive.

I suspect that these will soldier on for a few years yet!

At least there are eighty-six of these 100 mph four-car trains.

There must be a lot of laughter at reunions of engineers from BREL York, when they see how far their Bedpan Special has gone. after being built especially for the Bedford-Brighton route through the tunnels under London via St. Pancras in the 1980s.

He who laughs last, laughs longest!

Class 442 Trains

This is said in the Modern Railways article about Class 442 trains.

First says it did evaluate the use of Class 442 EMUs displaced from Gatwick Express workings hauled by diesel locomotives.

But they found it was too challenging and have discounted them.

So it looks like the Class 442s won’t be going anywhere in the North and probably have no worthwhile future.

Class 390 Trains And The West Coast Main Line

Virgin Trains have aspirations to run their Class 390 trains that work the West Coast Main Line, at their design speed of 140 mph in as many places on the route as possible. This section in Wikipedia gives more details.

At present because of signalling and regulations, trains are limited to 125 mph, but it is likely that once ERTMS is fully implemented, that pressure will increase to allow 140 mph in places on the West Coast Main Line.

TransPennine’s Scottish Services

TransPennine are increasing their Scottish services and this timetable is given.

  • December 2018 – Liverpool-Glasgow service launched
  • December 2019 – 12 new electric trains introduced on Anglo-Scottish services.
  • December 2019 – Liverpool-Newcastle services extended to Edinburgh

This is said about the Class 350 trains currently running their Scottish services.

The 10 four-car Class 350/4 EMUs currently used on Manchester-Scotland services are expected to be phased out over the first three years and offered to other franchises. First say these trains are too small to run on many diagrams as single units.

So it looks like trains with this specification will be needed.

  • Electric power only
  • 140 mph top speed, as parts of the West Coast Main Line, will probably get upgraded to this speed, within the service lifetime of the trains.
  • Five cars or longer.
  • The ability to work in pairs. As all Glasgow trains will probably call at Preston, it might be sensible to join and split Liverpool and Manchester trains there to save train paths on the West Coast Main Line.
  • Full on-board customer service.

The specification fits the Hitachi AT300  well, as these trains are available in five car sets and can be upgraded with minor modification for 140 mph running.

But will the timetable of 2019 for twelve new trains, fit the production capabilities?

As delivery into service by December 2019, to give TransPennine their promised service might be exceedingly challenging, could we be seeing something from another manufacturer?

After all, there are several around the world, who could create five-car 140 mph electric express trains?

  • Some open-access operators like Alliance Rail are talking about using Pendolinos on Scottish routes, so Class 390 trains or an updated design of Italian-built Pendolino train must be a very real possibility.
  • Siemens must also have a suitable train perhaps based on a German ICE design.
  • The Chinese, Koreans, Spanish and Swiss shouldn’t be discounted.

If Hitachi can’t deliver, I’d put my money on a five-car Pendolino. After all, it is proven on the West Coast Main Line.

EMUs For Northern

Arriva have said, they will be buying forty-three 100 mph air-conditioned electric multiple units (EMUs), in a mixture of three- and four-car units.

These are probably the easiest trains to source and they might even already have been ordered or even built, in the shape of Class 387 trains. These have the following specification.

  • Modern air-conditioned four car electric train.
  • 110 mph capability
  • Proven performance and certification.
  • Bombardier can probably build them alongside all their Aventras at Derby.

But there are few electrified routes in the North, where they can be run.

However on the other hand!

I’ve believed ever since I rode the Class 379 BEMU or IPEMU demonstrator, that battery-powered trains based on this technology, are ideal for some of Northern’s routes.

Partially electrified routes or ones that run between electrified hub stations at Carlisle, Doncaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and York, could have virtually brand-new four-car electric trains, as soon as Bombardier can add IPEMU systems to Class 387 trains, currently in service or on order and staff can be trained.

A few months ago, I wrote  Rumours Of Battery Powered Trains, where I said there were rumours of some of Great Western Railway’s order for Class 387 trains would be delivered as IPEMUs to help solve the shambles of the Great Western Main Line electrification.

Using an IPEMU is an attractive approach for several reasons.

  • IPEMUs have a range of around sixty miles on the battery, if it is fully charged.
  • IPEMUs have regenerative braking at all times, whether there is an electric supply or not! This improves efficiency and increased on-battery range!
  • Bombardier feel that all trains should have energy storage for myriad operational reasons and the upcoming Aventra will be designed to accept an energy storage device as standard.
  • Passengers will have the same experience on overhead line or battery power.
  • On many routes, IPEMUs need no modifications to be able to run, except perhaps lengthening platforms for four-cars.
  • On a scenic line or one in the middle of nowhere, the problems of electrification and its maintenance can be avoided, if services can be run by IPEMUs.
  • Electrified hubs can be upgraded or created to charge the trains. In the North, Carlisle is being upgraded and Hull and Middlesbrough could be electrified.
  • Some lines are currently run by some of the better diesel multiple units (DMUs) like Class 158 trains. Releasing these would probably eliminate a few of the dreaded Pacers on other lines.

All stakeholders will like these trains.

  • Operators know that new four-car trains will attract more fare-paying customers.
  • Network Rail will save money on electrification and can skip difficult bits.
  • On many routes, opening up bridges and tunnels for the overhead wires is difficult, very disruptive and a time- and money-consuming process.
  • Passengers and staff like new trains.
  • More places can be served by electric trains.
  • New four-car trains replacing ageing diesels will improve the prosperity of an area.

Routes that could be easily converted include.

  • Barrow to Manchester Airport
  • Chester to Manchester Victoria
  • Windermere to Manchester Airport
  • Blackpool North to Manchester Airport
  • Liverpool to Manchester Airport via Warrington

Add in some electrified hubs and short lengths of tactical electrification to charge the trains and other lines like the scenic Tyne Valley Line between Newcastle and Carlisle could be run using new four-car electric trains.

I believe that these trains have enough energy storage to actually bridge the notorious forty mile gap in the electrification between Manchester Victoria and Leeds, thus creating an electric train service from Liverpool to Edinburgh via Manchester, Leeds, York and Newcastle

Note that news on development of IPEMU trains has been very quiet for several months and the only report is this article in the Derby Telegraph, which is entitled Battery-powered trains win award for Bombardier.

So someone other than I do, think the technology works and deserves its place on the railways of the UK.

Class 323 Trains

Before leaving Northern’s EMUs something must be said about the seventeen three-car Class 323 trains, that run services out of Manchester.

As they are being transferred to London Midland, they will need to be replaced.

Also, according to Wikipedia at times, some of the Class 323s are currently replaced by a pair of Pacers. So perhaps they need a bigger fleet anyway!

So until new units are ordered, will we see Class 319s working these routes? Or could they be a home for some of Porterbrook’s Class 387s?

It’ll all come out in time and in the contracts?


DMUs For Northern

Arriva have said, they will buy fifty-five two- and three-car DMUs.

Two factors could decrease this number.

  • If Arriva go down the Class 387 IPEMU route, more routes will be running electric trains.
  • The twenty-three Class 185 trains cascaded from TransPennine should they end up with Arriva.
  • It seems likely that other companies including Great Western Railway could use the IPEMU route, thus making some high-quality DMUs available.

I won’t speculate on how many new DMUs will be actually ordered and built. If any!

Northern Connect

Northern Connect will be a sub-brand comprising a dozen long distance routes across the North.

Modern Railways publishes a table of the routes and indicates eight routes will be run by new DMUs, two by refurbished trains and two by new EMUs.

Obviously, Northern have a plan to create five of these routes by the end of 2018 and the rest by the end of 2019.

Where will the various classes of train fit?

  • Some routes could be run by EMUs, with Class 319s providing an interim service until the new build arrive.
  • Some routes could be run by Class 387 IPEMUs, once they are delivered.
  • Some of the longer routes around Sheffield and Hull would be ideal for Class 185s.

If the long-rumoured Class 387 IPEMUs do appear, Barrow and Windermere to Manchester Airport, would be ideal routes on which to trial and showcase the technology.

Northern’s Train Philosophy

The Modern Railways article also says this.

Arriva says that it is still in negotiations with the supply chain but expects to sign a contract by April. It also says that the new fleet ‘has the capacity to grow’ with the trains ‘ordered as a family that are expandable’. The first 92 carriages will enter service by the end of 2018, with a further 163 by the end of 2019 to ensure all Pacers are replaced and the final 26 in 2020.

That is a very sound train procurement philosophy, which has a fairly relaxed delivery schedule, given the shortage of train building capacity in the UK and Europe. I suspect the Chinese could build them, but would that be politically acceptable?

I would not be surprised if Arriva went for a purchase of Class 387 trains, of which a proportion were IPEMU variants and some tactical electrification to produce electrified hubs in places like Huddersfield, Hull, Scarborough and Sheffield. It would be an afordable way of getting the benefits of new electric trains at an affordable price.

They would still need a few diesel multiple units, over and above the good ones they replaced with electric trains. But London Overground and hopefully Great Western Railway should be releasing some that are suitable.

Only as a last resort, would any new ones be ordered.

Class 387 Trains

I believe that the Class 387 Trains will play a large part in Northern’s plans.

They are a 110 mph four-car modern unit and currently there are twenty-nine units in service and another twenty-eight on order, if you ignore the separate order of twenty-seven trains for the Gatwick Express.

Thirty seven units are destined for the Great Western Railway and in Rumours Of Battery Powered Trains, I wrote about unconfirmed reports that some of these trains for the GWR would be IPEMU variants. I suspect that this will be confirmed, as it will enable electric services to be started on the shambles that is the Great Western.

The Gatwick Express variant of the Class 387 is going to be a train, worth looking at, as it will be the first Airport train we’ve ordered since the Heathrow Express.

There are to be twenty-seven four car trains replacing twenty-four five-car Class 442 trains.

There may be a few less carriages, but they are designed for the route.

They are also built as dual-voltage trains. Is that just so they can be tested on the West Coast Main Line, as was reported in this article in Rail Magazine, or because they think the type will have other Airport applications, like possibly Manchester, Cardiff, Glasgow, Luton, East Midlands and Stansted.

I can’t wait to ride one in the near future, as I think it might offer, a whole new experience of getting to an airport by train.

A lot of the services in the North West go via Manchester Airport. So would a follow-on order of this variant be ideal to get passengers to the fast growing airport?

Some questions have to be asked.

  • As some of these services go all the way to Scotland, could the train be certified to the 125 mph of the West Coast Main Line?
  • Could an IPEMU variant be created to bridge the gap between Manchester and Leeds?
  • Could an IPEMU variant link Manchester Airport to Barrow, Blackpool North, Liverpool and Windermere?
  • Can Class 387 trains be built in five-car formations?

If the answer to all or some of these questions is in the affirmative, Manchester Airport and the Nortrh might receive some interesting trains from Derby to create a 125 mph network of five-car Airport trains all across the North.

I suspect that Bombardier are working hard to see if they can fulfil that dream, as if they can, the rewards to the company, Arriva Northern, First TransPennine, Network Rail and the North in general, could be substantial!

There would be no waiting until 2018 for true bi-mode trains.

Could the silence on the IPEMUs be just because all parties don’t want to show their hands until all of the tiniest details are totally settled?

Political And Commercial Considerations

I mentioned in the section on the Class 387 trains, how important to get any trains, that can improve services in the North is to the companies involved and Bombardier in particular.

Bombardier have been going through a rough patch and were bailed out by the Quebecois. They seem to be sorted with large orders, but creating some more Class 387 trains, must be good cash-flow and profitable.

Network Rail are in a deep mess over electrification everywhere and desperately need some help in creating lines for electric trains. Peter Hendy is trying to sort out the shambles and there is a report in Modern Railways this month with a headline of Hendy Finds £2.5 Billion To Save Enhancements. The article says assets will be sold and there will be more money from the Government.

Arriva and FirstGroup have spent a lot of time and effort to create plans to give the North a modern world-class railway system.  It is unlikely, that the train manufacturers will fail to deliver to agreed contracts, as all trains proposed for the North or either in service or at the certification and trial stage. The problem is the tracks. They will not be pleased if Network Rail fail to deliver, the electrification they have promised on time, as pictures of new trains stored in sidings are not good publicity.

Read a lot of the stories about new trains to run on newly electrified lines and dates have a vague air about them.

I suspect all will become a lot clearer, when Peter Hendry fills out his plan for Network Rail in the Spring. All we are getting at the moment are worthwhile aspirations.

And then there is the small matter of the local elections in May!

If the shambles is still persisting before the election, Corbyn and the Labour Party will have a field day, when they say they will nationalise the railways.

This would be a disaster for Arriva, FirstGroup and probably Peter Hendy. The companies would probably lose millions and Peter Hendy would have totally failed.

With my engineering hard-hat on, I’m getting more and more convinced that those clever engineers in Derby will pull the IPEMU rabbit out of the hat.

They have form for this, as in the 1970s, they created the peerless InterCity 125, after the wreckage of the APT.


Wait for April and hopefully before then a lot more will be revealed!


December 25, 2015 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments

There’s A Lot Happening Around Tilbury And Gravesend

Look at this Google Map of the Thames around Tilbury and Gravesend.

Tilbury And Gravesend

Tilbury And Gravesend

The North (Tilbury) Bank

Note the following.

Interspersed between the developments is the usual estuarine mix of creeks, salt-flats, a couple of nature reserves and lots of wildlife.

It may not be everybody’s idea of a place to have a good time, but there is a lot going on.

Developments On The North Bank

Several factors will drive developments in the area.

  • London needs housing and is already developing large numbers of houses and flats at Barking Riverside, which is a few miles to the East.
  • Will there be more housing developments along the river?
  • Crossrail will arrive in the next few years and will pass a few miles away to the North, through Romford station.
  • London Gateway might want their staff to come and go by train or light rail.
  • There is a need for another Thames crossing and how does a possible Lower Thames Crossing, which could cross Thames by East Tilbury, fit into the mix?

Many would argue that there should be better public transport along the north bank of the river.

The Gravesend (South) Bank

Note the following.

  • The Swanscombe Peninsular in the top left corner of the map.
  • Swanscombe and Northfleet stations on the North Kent Line, which runs to the North of Ebbsfleet International station.
  • According to Wikipedia, the walking routes between Northfleet and Ebbsfleet International stations are not the best.
  • Gravesend station is in the middle of the town and the Ferry to Tilbury is within walking distance.
  • Hoo Junction, which is just off the map to the East is safeguarded as the end of a possible extension to Crossrail.

In contrast to the North Bank, the South Bank seems to have much more housing and a lot less green space and industrial development.

Developments On The South Bank

Like the North Bank, there is also development on the South.

I don’t know the Gravesend and the South Bank well, but on my walks in the last few months, it strikes me that there needs to be some public transport improvements.

Transport Improvements

Transport improvements in Tilbury, Gravesend and the surrounding area fall into three categories.

  • Tilbury and the North Bank
  • Gravesend and the South Bank
  • Cross-River

In some ways the last is the most difficult, as other factors like a new Thames Estuary airport and a higher Thames Barrier must also be considered. The Wikipedia entry for the Lower Thames Crossing gives some options and says this about Option C.

A new road crossing connecting the M2 and M20 motorways in the south with the M25, which might be linked via a proposed new Thames flood barrier. The route from the north would pass close to South Ockendon, Orsett, Chadwell St Mary, West Tilbury, East Tilbury, across West Tilbury Marshes before it crossed the Thames just to the east of Gravesend and Thurrock. It would join the M2 in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and in the Special Landscape Area. This proposed link is also within the Kent Downs AONB and special landscape area. According to the DfT, this long route would have “considerable environmental impacts”.

It won’t be a small fight to get that option built.

I will list the possible public transport improvements in the area.


Crossrail is more than just a major East-West route across London.

It is effectively a four-branch railway.

  • Abbey Wood – Connecting to Kent
  • Heathrow
  • Reading (or Paddington) – Connecting to the West Country and Wales
  • Shenfield or Liverpool Street) – Connecting to East Anglia

I believe that Crossrail should be considered as a two line railway, by including the equally capable Thameslink, which connects at Farrington and adds the following major branches.

  • Bedford (or St. Pancras) – Connecting to the East Midlands and Sheffield
  • Brighton and Gatwick
  • Peterborough (or Kings Cross) – Connecting to Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, the North East and Scotland

The major lines not connected to either Crossrail or Thameslink are the West Coast Main Line and the lines out of Waterloo and Marylebone.

Although care is being taken to create a good passenger link between the Bakerloo Line and Crossrail at Paddington.

The connectivity of the Crossrail/Thameslink system will be further improved by some smaller schemes.

There are two possible feeder lines in the area I am considering in this post.

Whatever happens Crossrail will become important to those in Kent, who want to get to the Southern part of Essex, as it will be a walk across platforms at Whitechapel.

At present from Abbey Wood to Shenfield takes about ninety minutes with two changes, but when Crossrail opens with a ten metre level walk at Whitechapel, it could be as short as fifty-two minutes.

Don’t underestimate how Crossrail will change the lives of everybody, who, lives, works or visits.

A Romford To London Gateway Train Service

I strongly believe that a train service from Romford to the London Gateway will eventually happen.

Consider the following.

  • As London Gateway develops, it is expected to create tens of thousands of jobs, which in turn will put enormous pressures on the roads.
  • A full service would improve connectivity to the large Lakeside Shopping Centre.
  • This could become an important feeder route to Crossrail.
  • The northern part of the route is the Romford to Upminster line, which is operated by London Overground as a shuttle using a dedicated train and platforms at the ends of the line.
  • London Overground is increasing services on the Romford to Upminster Line, so they must believe there is a need.
  • Track and electrification for the line is complete, although there would need to be some changes at Upminster.
  • c2c and London Overground are both very ambitious train operating companies.

We have evolving needs, an ease of creating the service, and ambition, which all work in favour of  implementing the service.

This route map from Wikipedia shows the stations in the area.

North Bank Lines

A full service on the route could  call at these stations?

The service could also call at Tilbury Riverside, as services used to do. This would serve the London Cruise Terminal and Tilbury Fort.

I wrote Exploring Tilbury Riverside about this area.

This is one of those ideas, that should be filed under Watch This Space.

Crossrail Extension To Gravesend

I wrote Crossrail Extension To Gravesend on this and the extension brings benefits.

  • It will give vastly improved connections from Central London to East Kent and East Sussex.
  • It would make Crossrail an even better option than driving across the Dartford Crossing.
  • It would mean that Heathrow Airport had a direct link to Continental rail services at Ebbsfleet International.
  • Ebbsfleet International is one of the few stations that could be an enormous Park-and-Ride station.
  • The proposed depot at Hoo could be good for both Crossrail in terms of flexibility and East Kent, in terms of employment.

I think this extension of Crossrail will happen.

Barking To The Dartford Crossing

I’m including this map, as it shows the nature of the area.

Barking To The Dartford Crossing

Barking To The Dartford Crossing

Barking is in the top left and the The Dartford Crossing is in the bottom right of the map.

Note the following.

  • The east-west main road just north of the river is the A13.
  • Dagenham Dock station is on this road with the Barking Riverside development below it and to the south-west.
  • To the south-east of the station, there is a large amount of industry.
  • The Beckton Sewage Works are on the North Bank, with Crossness on the south.
  • As you get towards the Dartford Crossing, the green space is Rainham Marshes RSPB Nature Reserve, with closer to the crossing Purfleet.

It is an area for those with imagination.

The Gospel Oak To Barking Line

The Gospel Oak To Barking Line is to the west and is being extended to Barking Riverside, where tens of thousands of homes are being developed.

The Transport for London Plan for 2050, says this.

An extension of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line to Barking Riverside is currently being planned to open up development of a major new quarter with 11,500 new homes.

A potential further extension could involve crossing the river to Thamesmead and Abbey Wood, where there are major regeneration needs and major opportunities for new housing developments.

My view is that if you give Barking Riverside connections to the north, west and south, perhaps a connection to the east to Dagenham Dock station on c2c is needed as well.

The Docklands Light Railway

The original plan for the area envisaged extending the Docklands Light Railway to Dagenham Dock. Wikipedia says this.

It is unlikely to go ahead as there are plans to bring the London Overground Gospel Oak to Barking Line to Barking Riverside giving better links to Barking and East London and via Barking station to Central London. This will however cause the Docklands Light Railway to not head east and have connections to c2c rail services at Dagenham Dock, so this extension could still take place and the two services would have an interchange at Barking Riverside.

I do think that some transport planners look with disdain at the Docklands Light Railway, but generally the over a hundred million rides taken on the system every year, give another view.

With the emphasis on leisure and with green issues to the fore, I could see the system reaching the Nature Reserve at Rainham.

The Docklands Light Railway is East London’s good fairy and she has ways of surprising everybody.

The Poor Connectivity Of HS1

HS1 must be one of the worst designed railways in Europe.

Currently, HS2 is being designed and great care is being taken to ensure that there is good connectivity all along the route. These are a few examples.

  • Old Oak Common station will be a hub in North West London.
  • Tram routes will reach Birmingham Curzon Street station long before HS2 does.
  • Birmingham Interchange will be linked to Birmingham Airport
  • Trams have already reached the area of the Nottingham HS2 station at Totton.
  • HS2 will call at Crewe, which is a major railway hub.

On the other hand, two of HS1’s intermediate stations have very poor connectivity.

  • Stratford International only has a direct link to the Docklands Light Railway.
  • Ebbsfleet International has very poor direct links to classic lines.

Neither station has a direct connection to Crossrail.

HS1 seems to been designed with very limited objectives in mind, one of which was to win the Olympics for 2012.

Crossing The River

There is no doubt that there is a need for more capacity across the lower Thames and there are several plans for a Lower Thames Crossing.

Other plans have included a combined rail and road link between Medway and Canvey Island and the latest proposal has been London’s plan for a Gospel Oak to Barking Line Extension to Abbey Wood.

It is also worth noting, that the distance between Tilbury Riverside and Gravesend is probably about the same as the distance spanned by the Emirates Air-Line at Greenwich.

Also, could modern ferries provide a better and more reliable link?

The only plan being implemented that will help get people cross the Thames at the present time, is Crossrail. It will be interesting to see how Dartford Crossing traffic changes, when Crossrail opens.

I think Crossrail could be part of quite a proportion of Cross-River traffic.

  • It links with the twenty-four trains per hour North-South links of Thameslink and the East London Line.
  • It links with West London and Heathrow.
  • If it served Ebbsfleet International, that would become a valuable Park-and-Ride station.
  • It passes right through the heart of London, as opposed to HS1 and the classic lines from the South, which terminate slightly to the North and South respectively.
  • I think one of the limiting factors on people switching from car to Crossrail, may well be the availability of car parking at Crossrail stations and especially those like Abbey Wood and Shenfield.

It is a pity that HS1 was so badly designed, as if Stratford International and Ebbsfleet International stations, were both better connected, then the Highspeed services on the line would be a valuable cross-River link.

I wrote about the poor connectivity of Ebbsfleet Internation to classic lines in So Near And Yet So Far!

My personal preference for another connection would be to build a bridge between Barking Riverside and Thamesmead, to take the Gospel Oak to Barking Line over rather than under the Thames, if this was possible. I would use tram-trains on the railway, that if required did a walkabout around the estates as trams on both sides of the river. The bridge would also be open to cyclists and pedestrians.

Properly designed, the bridge could be a visitor attraction in its own right!

Will Floods And Europe Solve The Problem?

If Crossrail/Thameslink is one elephant in the room, then flood protection for London and Europe are the others!

This is a Google Map of the Thames Estuary from Tilbury and Gravesend in the West to Southend in the East.

Gravesend And Tilbury To Southend

Gravesend And Tilbury To Southend

As I write this piece, the North West of England is suffering the ravages of Hurricane Desmond. Weather seems to be getting more extreme and the North Sea hasn’t had a major disaster since the North Sea Flood of 1953. This is from Wikipedia.

A combination of a high spring tide and a severe European windstorm over the North Sea caused a storm tide; the combination of wind, high tide, and low pressure led to a water level of more than 5.6 metres (18.4 ft) above mean sea level in some locations. The flood and waves overwhelmed sea defences and caused extensive flooding. The Netherlands, a country with 20% of its territory below mean sea level and 50% less than 1 metre (3.3 ft) above sea level and which relies heavily on sea defences, was worst affected, recording 1,836 deaths and widespread property damage. Most of the casualties occurred in the southern province of Zeeland. In England, 307 people were killed in the counties of Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. Nineteen were killed in Scotland.

Desmond is very much a pussy-cat compared to what nature can and will throw at us.

In 1953, we had fewer casualties than the Dutch because our warnings were better and one would hope that because of universal television and better communications another North Sea Flood on the scale of 1953, would probably be less costly in lives lost.

The Dutch have determined that the sea shall not have them and have created impressive defences all along the coast call ed the Delta Works.

We have improved the defences along the Thames Estuary and London is now protected by the Thames Barrier.

In a section on the Future of the Thames Barrier in Wikipedia, this is said.

The barrier was originally designed to protect London against a very high flood level (with an estimated return period of one hundred years) up to the year 2030, after which the protection would decrease, whilst remaining within acceptable limits. At the time of its construction, the barrier was expected to be used 2–3 times per year. It is now being used 6–7 times per year.

It also says that the barrier would be replaced after 2070.

My cautious nature says that is a date that is too far in the future.

So why will Europe have such a large affect on the Thames Estuary?

Many predictions say that over the future, London will grow and become an even more powerful magnet for the people of Europe.

Europe itself will also become more prosperous, so we will see massive increase in both freight and road traffic across the channel.

The Channel Tunnel is unique amongst many major fixed cross-water links, in that it can be easily augmented by ferries, but I believe that people, vehicles and freight, will increasingly be on longer journeys on rail. Think about the effect of these developments.

  • The destinations served by direct train from St. Pancras will increase.
  • Cross-channel car traffic will increase.
  • The Dutch and the Germans have built th Betuweroute, which is high-capacity freight route.
  • Vehicle imports and exports are increasingly handled by special trains.
  • Liverpool is building a massive new container port. A lot of the freight could go by train to Europe.

I believe that a second fixed-link across the Channel will be built, which will in itself generate more trains to and from London and vehicular traffic to and from everywhere in the UK.

Improving the rail and road networks both suffer from the same problem – London.

  • Freight trains can get to and from Barking on HS1, but there is little spare capacity through London.
  • Passenger trains will increasingly be constrained by lack of capacity at St. Pancras, but using Ebbsfleet International and an extended Crossrail, would be a more than acceptable alternative for many travellers.
  • Road traffic will clog the Dartford Crossing and the Southern section of the M25.

The only solution is to create a new road and rail corridor to get around London.

As London will need a new flood barrier, probably we should start with an idea similar to Option C for a new Lower Thames Crossing.

A new road crossing connecting the M2 and M20 motorways in the south with the M25, which might be linked via a proposed new Thames flood barrier. The route from the north would pass close to South Ockendon, Orsett, Chadwell St Mary, West Tilbury, East Tilbury, across West Tilbury Marshes before it crossed the Thames just to the east of Gravesend and Thurrock. It would join the M2 in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and in the Special Landscape Area. This proposed link is also within the Kent Downs AONB and special landscape area. According to the DfT, this long route would have “considerable environmental impacts”.

Given enough time to generate a full plan, we can probably come up with a better route, perhaps further to the East.




December 5, 2015 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , , , | 4 Comments

Crossrail 2 Question Time

I was rather disappointed with the first two Crossrail 2 consultations, that I visited. The people from the project I had met, tended to be managers or in public relations people. I was starting to feel that I would need to take anther route to find out about Crossrail 2, so I could answer questions of those worroed that the project might change their lives, in a way they would not welcome.

Recently, I have been to two presentations by Transport for London.

Camden Town Station – This presentation was very professional and I was able to speak to the Project Manager, who explained what they were proposing, which I detailed in The Camden Town Upgrade Exhibition.

Hackney Central Station – This smaller presentation was also very professional, despite just being a series of architect’s visualisations on easels in a library. But they did have people there who understood the whys and wherefores of the project. My visit is detailed in A First Glimpse Of The Planned Hackney Central Station.

Late last week, I came across another presentation and as it had just opened for the day, I went in and asked if any of the engineers were present.

This time there were at least two.

The following sections describe the chat I had with one of the engineers. Some of the things I say here, have been suggested by the words we had on a subject.

My Blog

It turned out they had seen this blog and asked if they could use some of the pictures in their documentation, as up-to-date pictures are difficult to find.

The answer is of course yes, anyone can use my pictures, provided they tell me!

I take pictures for my own enjoyment, and if they help someone in their business, profession or personal life, then I’m pleased to help.

Four-Tracking Along The Lea Valley

The main West Anglia Main Line from Liverpool Street to Cambridge and Stansted Airport, via Tottenham Hale, Broxbourne and Bishops Stortford is generally a twin-track railway, but Network Rail have plans to add two extra tracks, which would be conventionally a pair of slow and a pair of fast lines.

I asked if the two new lines would be on the East of the current tracks.

The answer was yes, with a qualifier of tricky! I think you can say that again if you look at some of the stations like Brimsdown, which I talked about in Before Crossrail 2 – Brimsdown.

I think that something radical will end up being done up the Lea Valley.

My plan would of course be impossible as I’m not knowledgeable enough.

It would be something like this.

  • Create separate fast and slow railways, each of which would have two tracks.
  • Trains on the fast railway would only call at Tottenham Hale and Broxbourne, when they are in Crossrail 2 territory. It would mean that a passenger from say Cambridge to Ponders End, would have to change at Broxbourne. But they do that now!
  • The slow lines would be the Western pair of lines, not the East.

If the slow lines, which would be used by Crossrail 2, were on the west, this might simplify the junction, where the Crossrail 2 trains  enter the tunnel under London, as they don’t have to cross the fast lines.

If Crossrail 2 also incorporates the Hertford East branch, then having the slow lines on the West means that trains for the branch don’t have to cross the fast lines. It might be arranged, that past Broxbourne, the slow lanes go to Hertford East.

Broxbourne Station

Broxbourne station may end up being complicated, but then if the Hertford East branch is incorporated into Crossrail and four trains per hour (tph) go to Hertford East and eight tph terminate at Broxbourne, it can’t be anything else.

  • I would have a series of terminating bay platforms for Crossrail 2 and other services, with the two fast lines on either side.
  • The Hertford East trains would be on the Western side of the station, possibly with a single island platform.
  • Passengers would walk across on the level between the fast platforms and the terminating ones in between.
  • Passengers would only use lifts and escalators to exit the station and access the Hertford East lines.
  • There would probably have to be some way for the Down Fast line to cross the lines going into the bay platforms. Would a dive-under be possible?

Broxbourne has plenty of space as this Google Map of the station shows.

Broxbourne Station

Broxbourne Station

It sounds complicated, but many stations are a mix of terminating and through platforms. As the Google Map shows Broxbourne is a greenfield site with space, not a cramped inner-city one.

Terminating London Overground Services At Broxbourne

I would also provide enough space at Broxbourne for more bay platforms, so that London Overground services could be extended to the station to link up with the long distance services, that would not call at Cheshunt station.

This would not degrade any services, you’d just change at a different station, if say you were going from Stamford Hill to Cambridge.

Stratford And Lea Bridge Services

Services from Stratford station and the new Lea Bridge station are an added complication.

Transport for London needs to answer these questions.

  • Do they want to run Stansted Expresses from Stratford to the Airport from Stratford?
  • Do they want to lumber Crossrail 2 with a service of 4 tph from Stratford to Northumberland Park, which is supposed to be starting soon?
  • How do they get better services on the Chingford Branch Line?
  • How do they get more trains through Lea Bridge station?
  • How do they get extra Overground platforms at Stratford?

I believe a lot of problems can be solved by reopening the Hall Farm Curve and running four trains or more per hour from Stratford to Walthamstow and Chingford via Lea Bridge.

The problem still remains of how you get a decent service between Stratford and the stations from Tottenham Hale northward. At present they have a totally inadequate two trains an hour.

But as Stratford is such an important hub and after Crossrail opens will be even more so, there surely is a strong need for a service up the Lea Valley to Bishops Stortford and Stansted.

So could a 4 tph Stansted train go from Stratford stopping at all stations to Broxbourne, where it continued calling at all stations to Bishops Stortford and Stansted?

Probably yes! But I suspect there are better plans!

There’s even been suggestions of extending the Chingford branch to the airport, through Epping Forest.

Any Crossrail 2 plans must deal with the problems of Stratford services.

Four-Tracking Along The Lea Valley Should Be Done Soonest

With my Project Management hat on, I’ve felt for a long time, that the surface sections of Crossrail 2, should be upgraded to full step-free access before the central works on Crossrail 2 begin.

Four-tracking along the Lea Valley should also be done as early as possible, whether Crossrail 2 is built soon or in a hundred years.


My informant had some interesting things to say about tunnelling.

This will be simpler than Crossrail and hopefully, there will just be a single drive betweenTottenham Hale and Wimbledon.

They would also aim to take as much of the spoil as possible out through the tunnels. This obviously removes the contentious issue of large numbers of trucks in Central London.

When asked specifically about uphill excavation, my informant said they were looking at using something better and would like to do the tunnels first and take out all the spoil through the tunnels.

I was told that they preferred to run tunnels under existing rail corridors, as they did with the Channel Tunnel Rail Link under the North London Line. I think we both agreed that if the Palace Gates line were to be still in place, that the New Southgate branch of Crossrail 2 would be easier.

I was also told that some of the ground conditions in South London are very poor, but that there is a band of London clay to the West of the route. This partly explains the substitution of Balham for Tooting Broadway. But it would appear Balham may be challenging, although it is a station, where a passenger-friendly connection between Crossrail 2 and the Northern Line can be built.

Crossrail 2 At Dalston

My informant had some specific things to say about Crossrail 2 at Dalston.

Crossrail 2 will have to avoid the Channel Tunnel Rail Link at Dalston and at the moment, they could go over the line.

This would make the two station shafts at Dalston shallower, which would have all sorts of implications, both positive and negative. There would be less spoil to remove when building the shafts and as height is always expensive in building, it could lower the cost.

Politics And Economics

We were agreed that these would be the big drivers of the development of Crossrail 2.

Crossrail, Archaeology And Public Relations

Crossrail has used archaeology to good effect to publicise what they are doing.

Archaeology will not be an issue with Crossrail 2, but they must find something to fire the public’s imagination.

The first thing that should be done is sort out the surface sections that will be used for Crossrail 2. This would include.

  • Four-tracking the West Anglia Main Line
  • Making all stations on the surface sections step-free and Crossrail 2-ready.
  • Rebuilding stations like Broxbourne, Tottenham Hale and Wimbledon.
  • Sort out the relationship between trains up the Lea Valley, the London Overground and the stations at Stratford and Stansted Airport.
  • Sort out the various branches served from Wimbledon.
  • Increase services as best we can on the existing lines, that will be part of Crossrail 2.

If this could be done in the next few years, it would demonstrate that Crossrail 2 are serious about London.

I feel strongly that we can use Crossrail 2 as also an education project, perhaps specifically in the areas of engineering, architecture and how infrastructure projects benefit communities.

Crossrail was designed before the explosion in social media and Crossrail 2 should be taking advantage of it to enthuse children of all ages.

Crossrail 2 is London’s railway and there is a lot more it can do for the City, other than just people around.


I had a good and very fruitful discussion.

Crossrail 2 should make sure that informed people are available at all consultations.



November 22, 2015 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | | 2 Comments

Bat Bridges In Norfolk

The One Show on the BBC has just had a piece about how £300,000 was spent on special bat bridges over the A11 in Norfolk.

Now anybody with Suffolk connections will tell you that they are a bit funny up north, but surely not three hundred grand funny!

To bring the other East Anglian county into the piece, the BBC had also had an interview with a bat Professor from Cambridge University, who had found that the bats weren’t using their expensive highway.

For some years, I’ve always believed that bats are not stupid animals. After all, they can fly!

I was putting up offices on my stud, and in the middle of the cart shed we would be demolishing, the council planning officer thought he saw some bat droppings.

So I called in an expert, from Cambridge University! As one does!

The expert felt there might be the odd evidence of bats, but not to worry as bats often have as many as three roosts and swap between them for various reasons.

He told the council planning officer that the bats wouldn’t mind my new offices.

I do wonder if protesters use the possible existence of bats as a means to stop a development.


October 21, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments

Will The Fight Continue Over Potash On The York Moors?

This article on Grough is entitled Campaigners fight on as North York Moors potash mine formally approved.

As the mine could employ upwards of a couple of thousand people, have the campaigners sent personal letters to all the redundant steelworkers explaining how it is more important that they are unemployed?

How can people be so selfish?

October 21, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized, World | , , , | Leave a comment

The Kröller-Müller Museum

The Kröller-Müller Museum contains an art collection. It is set in The National Park de Hoge Veluwe, near Arnhem.

The gallery contains examples of many great painters and is surrounded by sculpture displayed in a wooded landscape.

October 9, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized, World | , , | Leave a comment

Why I’ll Be Voting For Zac For London Mayor!

Zac Goldsmith is standing for London Mayor next year, as is reported in this article on the BBC.

He has the same catchy type of name as the previous two London Borkens and he’s certainly of the independent breed that Borken had.

He certainly would not be a party hack doing their leader in Westminster’s bidding.

People will say he’s another rich Tory toff from Eton and Cambridge and use it as a term of abuse. At least he was expelled from Eton for smoking cannabis, so there’s no troubles on that score.

But how many Prime Ministers or Party Leaders in the last few years haven’t been to the top public schools?

I do have this feeling that if I knew him, we would agree on many policies.

I like to think, I’m scientifically green, which means that on many environmental issues, I’m totally in disagreement with the Green Party, as I take an independent line.  We could start with the Severn Barrage, fracking and onshore wind power!

Zac used to edit The Ecologist.

These are my views on some of the big issues of the election.


I feel very strongly as does Zac and Sadiq Khan, that housing is an important issue in this election, if not the most important one.

Landlord, Properties and Tenant Registers

I think there  should be a London-wide landlord and properties register, that should be available to Councils, letting agencies and prospective tenants. Obviously, the register would have to be properly managed, but if I was renting, I’d like to know who was the ultimate owner of my property.

I think that most landlords, knowing that their tenants, would know who they were, would ensure that they obeyed the law and kept the property to the agreed standards.

I also think that a lot of rogue landlords would either give up renting properties or mend their ways.

Wales has introduced  a scheme, so I suspect London wouldn’t have to start from scratch.

What has annoyed me about the rental market in recent years, has been the number of tenants, who used to rent my house from the previous owner, who left owing money to utility companies and others. One bailiff told me, he had seven judgements against one tenant.

If landlords have to be registered, surely the same should apply to tenants!

I’m sure that London could draw on the best practice from other major cities and countries in the world, to find a nice balance between landlords and tenants.


I very much object to people, be they UK-residents or overseas investors, buying property and leaving it empty, whilst the property goes up in value.

Houses and flats are for living in!

Surely we can find some taxation or other method, that means the highest proportion of housing is used to provide shelter.

Under-Occupied Houses

I’m probably in that category, as I have a three-bedroom house with a garage, that can’t be worth far off seven figures.

I think though if we had adequate housing stock at all levels, I might be persuaded to move.

It is probably wrong that those who live in houses like mine get a discount on Council Tax.

I doubt any politician will encourage those living in large houses to move into something more appropriate.

But I’ve believed for many years, that by getting Inheritance and other taxes right, that a lot of housin stock could be freed up for either rebuilding or refurbishment.

More Housing

I don’t believe that we’re being as creative as we might be, in building more housing, which must be part of the solution to London’s housing problems.

Railway Land And Stations

Politicians talk about using surplus land around the many railways of the capital. They are probably right, but how many of the current stations, sit on large plots, where no attempt has been made to use the space above.

My three nearest stations show the extremes.

  • Dalston Junction was rebuilt a few years ago to be a modern four platform station, with flats, a plaza and a bus interchange above the platforms.
  • Dalston Kingsland is a cramped station that was opened in the 1980s and has two platforms either side of the cutting, where the tracks pass. No-one would be sad if the station was rebuilt, where the station was larger and housing or some other useful building was built on top, so effectively putting the railway in a tunnel.
  • Highbury and Islington is a 1960s monstrosity created out of the mess that the Second World War left of an iconic station. At present the bridge outside the station is being revuilt and I hope they rebuild the station to one of which the whole area can be proud.

A few months ago, I met a property developer on the train. He was actively looking at station sites for residential developments, that would also include a rebuilt modern station. He said that flats over a station were easy to sell! Especially, as these days many properties in London are built without car parking.

Shopping Centres, Hospitals And Other Public Buildings

Often we build these on sites that would be ideal for housing.

Surely, the housing should have priority.

As I get older, I worry more about my health and visiting hospitals. I’m lucky here, in that the three nearest hospitals are easily accessed from my house by public transport.

But so many hospitals all over the country have poor access by public transport. Not all have access as good as Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre, where the tram stop is built into the hospital at first floor level.

If Islington needed a new hospital, which it doesn’t, why shouldn’t it be built in a tower over Highbury and Islington station? It would have the superb transport links, I believe a hospital needs.

Incidentally, I think hospitals should be in towers with good views, as that certainly made my stay in hospital in Hong Kong more enjoyable, as I could look out on the cityscape.

Planning Rules

The planning rules and the building regulations need a good sorting out.

Things that have annoyed me over the years have included.

  • The time it has taken to get planning permission for something quite simple.
  •  Building regulations being different in two parts of Suffolk.
  • Over-zealous council planning officers being more restrictive than wildlife and historic building experts.
  • People getting buildings passed by the council because of the right connections.
  • Some councils objecting to building methods, that are approved by other councils.

Matters might be eased if the same rules and regulations applied in all London boroughs.

As a simple example of that, a builder told me that the terrace houses he builds with a traditional appearance to blend in with existing Victorian houses, but a revolutionary construction method as they are partly built in a factory, are accepted by Hackney, but not all the other boroughs.

Air Pollution And Traffic Congestion

These linked issues will be a major issue in the Mayoral election, especially after the Jokeswagen scandal.

But I feel that all candidates will offer a vaguely similar set of policies.

I suspect that Zak will go for a very strong set of regulations, that will bring in the controversial Ultra Low Emissions Zone and possibly methods to reduce the number of vehicles entering the city centre.

This will bring a lot of protest from the haulage industry and other drivers, but many of the older vehicles that cross the city are a disgrace in other ways as well. I’d love to see a full analysis of all the vehicles and their owners involved in accidents and stopped by the authorities.

Buses, taxis, mini-cabs and delivery vehicles and cars registered in the city, must have a schedule to go further towards zero-emission, especially in the centre.

I would add the following.

  • The banning of all rail  locomotives like Class 66 locomotives from all rail lines inside the M25. This would probably be possible, once the Gospel Oak to Barking, the Dudding Hill and a few other lines are electrified.
  • Although not specifically connected to pollution, I would pedestrianise Oxford Street, once Crossrail opens.
  • Other schemes like this would mean that pedestrians could avoid the worst pollution.
  • Restriction of tourist buses in the centre.

It is going to be very tricky to get pollution and traffic congestion down and some of the measures that must be taken will be controversial and unpopular.

Buses In The Centre

I use buses in the centre a lot, but sometimes I think there are too many in places like in Oxford Street and around St.Paul’s, which add significantly to the congestion.

London’s bus system also tends to duplicate itself in the centre.

As an example, I have two bus routes within a hundred metres that go to Victoria through the centre.

There would be protests, but surely some bus routes shouldn’t go across the centre and should be cut back.

Once Crossrail opens, I think there should be a major review to see if the numbers of buses in the centre could be reduced.

Taxis And Mini-cabs In The Centre

I rarely use taxis and I only ever use two booked mini-cabs at Christmas.

Boris has tried to get powers for the Mayor, so that mini-cabs could be limited.

In some ways, this will happen, as if the roads get more congested, passengers who know the city well, will walk or use the Underground and Crossrail.

So taxis and mini-cabs will be restricted by the laws of supply and demand.

Deliveries In The Centre

This is a particular irritant that bugs me in one place, where every day about eleven a Tesco truck blocks the bus lane, whilst it delivers goods. Once it took my bus thirty minutes to pass.

I appreciate the problems of deliveries at night, but there are some shops and supermarkets in the city centre that do not have a proper delivery bay, so are constantly blocking the traffic.

Those that don’t have a reserved delivery bay should pay for the privilege to hold up traffic.

Intelligent Congestion Charging

This would be very controversial, but I believe it will be introduced some time in the near future, not in just London, but all over the UK.

Every vehicle that travels in the city, would need to be fitted with a device that records and transmits position. Journeys would then be charged automatically, according to the time and congestion.

It could even be a smart phone app, linked to a particular vehicle.

Money raised would be used to fund public transport projects like Crossrail 2.

The trouble is that any politician not against this type of device, wouldn’t win the election.

Crossrail 2

Crossrail and Thameslink will have a tremendous effects on London.

  • Many important and popular journeys will be much easier and quicker.
  • Traffic congestion in the centre should be eased.
  • The taxi and mini-cab drivers will see a lot of their lucrative trips to Heathrow disappear.
  • Increased pedestrianisation and more cycling and walking will happen between Marble Arch and Holborn.
  • Bus routes will be simplified to take account of new journey patterns.

I don’t think many realise the changes Crossrail and Thameslink will make in London.

But the biggest change will be an increased call from Londoners for the building of Crossrail 2.

So I would not vote for any politician, who was against Crossrail 2.

I doubt any of the Mayoral candidates, except joke ones, will be against the second Crossrail line.

Heathrow Expansion

Zac is against it, as are most other candidates and Boris.

  • I am not specifically against it, but feel that other developments will in the end will make major expansion of runway capacity in the South East unnecessary.
  • Crossrail and Thameslink will make London one massive transport interchange, with better links between all London airports and high speed rail.
  • Manchester and to a certain extent Birmingham airports will increasingly remove the need for passengers going to and from North of London, to travel to Heathrow and Gatwick.
  • As Cross-Channel rail services develop into more of Europe, travellers will rediscover the advantages of trains.

It will be interesting to see how air travel in the South East develops. But in the end, I feel that we’ll see a privately-funded offshore airport somewhere in the Thames Estuary, built in co-operation with the French, Belgians and the Dutch. Everybody in this part of the world has problems with airports.

New Stations, Transport Interchanges And Electrification

Life is so much easier, if you can get easily to a good transport interchange like Canning Town, Canada Water or Moorgate, where buses and the Underground meet.

We need more stations with good interchange to other modes of transport.

I know that Transport for London has a list of stations, they’d like to develop and these should not just become modern multi-mod  transport interchanges but housing and other developments in their own right.

We must apply solutions to London’s problems that improve more than one area.

London only has three major rail lines that cross the centre that are not electrified.

All should be electrified.

The Gospel Oak to Barking was a forgotten route for years, but extending it to Barking Riverside and electrification will improve its profile and generate traffic.

The Dudding Hill Line is an interesting line, as it is a mainly freight route that goes through some of the poorer and more troubled parts of the capital.

Chiltern is a relatively-undeveloped commuter route close to London and would undoubtedly benefit from electrification as this would increase speed and capacity.

I do wonder if these lines should not be physically electrified, but given electric trains using battery technology like the Aventra IPEMU.

These trains could run on the Gospel Oak to Barking and Dudding Hill Lines tomorrow, if the trains were available.

So why not spend the money on the stations and the trains now, and do the full electrification gradually in the next decade or so?

I think it is true to say, that most candidates support this type of transport policy.







October 4, 2015 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Ticketing Problem For Crossrail

Ipswich are playing at Reading tonight and as it’s an easy trip out from London, I bought a ticket in case I wanted to go.

I certainly won’t have a problem getting back, as there are fast trains to London after midnight.

But the match is on television and the weather looks to be pretty good, so I might just go and not waste my fifteen pound ticket.

As going to Reading in time for the match would mean a journey out restricted by the rush hour, I could go via any number of places like Windsor, Maidenhead or Slough to have a late lunch.

It got me thinking!

The Mayor has said, that when Crossrail opens, you’ll be able to use a Freedom Pass to Heathrow, just as you can now on the Piccadilly Line.

But how far will you be able to use a Freedom Pass on the branch to Reading?

The problem is complicated by the fact that there are three branches off the line between London and Reading; Henley, Marlow and Windsor.

To further complicate matters, direct peak-hour services operate between the Henley and Marlow branches and London.

Putting together snippets in the news and from Theresa May’s web site, led me to the conclusion which I talked about in this article, that all three branches will probably be served by new IPEMU trains (Class 387 or Aventra), as this would avoid the need for electrification.

So we’ll end up with a main line Crossrail service with a frequency of at least four trains per hour to Reading and shuttles and the occasional through trains from the branches.

The whole area will certainly end up with contactless ticketing using Oyster and bank cards, with perhaps a travel card or Ranger ticket thrown in.

But the real problem is organising the charging structure, as contactless will work well at collecting the fares, but how do you charge.

Crossrail will effectively link Windsor to Central London with a fast train and one change, so for tourists going to Windsor will be as easy as going to other important suburban venues like Wembley or the Olympic Park.

Get the ticketing right and the Thames Valley will get a lot of extra visitors.

To return to my earlier question, how far will my Freedom Pass get me in the West?

Crossrail’s journey calculator says that Bond Street to Shenfield, which will be the Freedom Pass limit in the East will take me 48 minutes.

Projected times from Bond Street for the West are as follows.

  • Maidenhead – 40 minutes
  • Twyford – 46 minutes
  • Reading – 52 minutes

I do wonder if TfL and Crossrail will adopt the same rule as they have for Shenfield, as Reading is projected to only take four minutes longer than Shenfield.

This rule would mean that you can travel to Reading, provided you use Crossrail.

I can see an awful lot of protests, if passenger to Reading, got a worse deal than those going to Shenfield.

Which leaves us with the problem of the branches.

  1. Will the branches follow London rules on ticketing and be cashless and contactless, but still allow through paper tickets?
  2. Will direct trains to London still be run in the peak hours?
  3. Will the branches be part of the Great Western franchise or Crossrail?
  4. Will Booking Offices be closed on the branches?

I suspect that however the branches are managed, passengers from London will consider them part of Crossrail and will want to use contactless ticketing all the way.

The most contentious issue would be if it was decided that there would be no direct trains between Marlow and Henley and London.

All of these problems will hopefully be sorted before Crossrail opens.


September 11, 2015 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment


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