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.
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 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.
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
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.
We like to have something simple to blame for our troubles!
I have just read this article in Rail Magazine entitled Carne opposes five-year funding cycle for big projects. This is an extract.
Network Rail Chief Executive Mark Carne told the Public Accounts Committee “there is no doubt at all in my view” that the Great Western Main Line electrification programme should have been managed in the same way as projects such as Crossrail and Thameslink.
“Personally, I think it [five-year funding cycles] is a really good way of funding ongoing operations, maintenance and renewals. But I am not sure it is a really good way of funding major investment projects,” he said.
We can look at various rail projects, that have been successfully completed without too much trouble, in the last few years.
The Borders Railway seems to have been completed on time and on budget.
The only problem so far seems to be crowded trains and difficulty in finding more carriages.
So what’s new? This is only another manifestation of New Railway Syndrome.
Chords, Curves and Flyovers
Network Rail have also successfully built a few short railway lines to make the rail network and trains, easier to manage. This is a selection.
- The Allington Chord removed a bottleneck on the East Coast Main Line.
- The Hitchin Flyover removed another bottleneck on the East Coast Main Line.
- The Ipswich Chord allowed better access for freight trains to Felixstowe Docks and removed a lot of truck journeys from the roads.
- The Todmorden Curve allowed trains from Burnley to reach Manchester.
The only one with a problem was the Todmorden Curve, where Northern Rail had trouble finding trains for the new service.
Great Northern and Great Eastern Joint Railway Upgrade
I talked about this upgrade in Project Managers Having Fun In The East.
This was no small project, as it involved resignalling, improving nearly a hundred miles of track and dealing with well over a hundred bridges and culverts.
It cost £330million and few people have heard of it.
But there doesn’t appear to have been any problems with the delivery of the project.
Rebuilding Birmingham New Street, Kings Cross, Manchester Victoria and Reading Stations
The rebuilding of these stations has not been trivial.
- The Birmingham New Stret rebuilding had its design and planning problems, but cost of around £500million
- The King’s Cross restoration cost £500million
- The Manchester Victroria renovation cost £55million.
- The Reading station redevelopment and some other works cost £850million
All were delivered on time, with the exception of Reading, which was delivered a year ahead of schedule.
You could add into this section, the substantial upgrades at Leeds, Newcastle and Peterborough.
Stafford Area Improvements Program
The Stafford Area Improvements Program is a £250million improvement to the West Coast Main Line.
It removes a bottleneck and allows extra trains on the line.
But few people have ever heard of it.
Summing Up Well-Managed Projects
So it would appear that Network Rail can manage some projects well and deliver them on time and on budget.
In my experience, they do seem particularly good at stations and always keep the trains running as much as possible.
If these projects have one thing in common, it is that they could all be well-defined before the project was started.
The Projects That Didn’t Go So Well
The following projects didn’t go as well as the previous ones.
Edinburgh to Glasgow Improvement Program
The Edinburgh to Glasgow Improvement Program is a £1billion program to upgrade and electrify the lines between the two largest Scottish cities.
It has had a rather chequered history and the original program has been reduced in scope.
Wikipedia says this in its entry about the project
It was reported that the project was delayed for up to three years due to the need to negotiate for the demolition of the west wing of the Millennium Hotel and works on Winchburgh Tunnel.
It has not been an easy project.
Great Western Main Line Upgrade
To say it has been the project that keeps on wanting more time and money would not be an understatement.
This article in Rail Magazine says that the project could be two years late and cost three times as much as original estimates.
I have no insight into what has gone wrong, but there are several factors that have conspired against the project.
- Most electrification in the UK has been done in a series of phases, but on this project, they went for a faster approach, using a special train, which hasn’t worked very well.
- There have been planning problems in places like Bath, Goring and Oxford.
- The scale of the project is very large, with over a hundred bridges and tunnels to be modified.
- Politicians have changed the project several times.
It has been an unmitigated disaster.
However, I do feel that the engineers have got out the fag packets and envelopes and that they will find a way of getting this railway running under electric power. Or at least partially!
Politics is the science of spin and illusion, whereas engineering is the science of the possible.
North Western Electrification
The electrification in the North West, should have been a simple project, as the country is flat and the engineers must know the busy lines between Blackpool, Bolton, Liverpool, Manchester, Preston and Wigan like the back of their hands. It’s also a join the dots exercise with the electrification, so this should just be connected to the main line electrification at Liverpool, Manchester, Preston and Wigan.
But the benign flat lands have bitten hard, just like they bit George Stephenson.
My generation grew up with boyhood stories of George Stephenson’s problems as he crossed Chat Moss and where did his twenty-first Century successors have trouble, whilst electrifying Liverpool to Manchester? Chat Moss!
I think Network Rail appreciated the problems before they started and made the North West Electrification, more of a series of smaller projecs, than one large one.
The project is now on course for a two year delay, but the project now looks to be more likely to be completed.
The Ordsall Chord is on the face of it, a simple project that should have been built years ago, to connect Manchester Victoria and Piccadilly stations and allow a large increase in number and quality of TransPennine services.
If anybody doubts the value of the Ordsall Chord, then read this article in the Manchester Evening News.
But sadly, the project has been delayed for many years, firstly by politicians and then by a veracious litigant.
I suspect that any Mayor of Manchester, would have built this important piece of railway many years ago.
Network Rail would probably say that the Thameslink upgrade is going well. Looking at the massive bridges and embankments, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.
I have added it to the list of failing projects, as there is no denying that they had their problems last Christmas, when they changed all of the routing. Network Rail received a £2million fine for their part in the chaos.
The Thameslink upgrade has been contentious and a long time coming, as it was originally approved in 2006.
I know there has been a major recession and effectively two changes of government since then, but the outcome when the project is delivered in 2018(Hopefully?), will be the same now, as was proposed a dozen years ago.
I think some major mistakes have been made.
- Network Rail were bullied by politicians to abandon their plan to terminate Wimbledon Loop services at Blackfriars, which would have taken pressure off the central tunnel.
- A protracted tendering process for mew trains, resulted in an interim fleet of Class 387 trains being delivered to fill in before the new Class 700 trains. Any sensible person would say, that Thameslink and Crossrail should have very similar trains.
- Before the major timetable change at Christmas 2014, the East London Line should have been running five-car trains and possibly more services, so make up for the reduced London Bridge services.
I would also have seen if by increasing other services, they could take the pressure off the overcrowded routes through London Bridge and on Thameslink.
In my view the project management of Thameslink has not been good. But then it is a London project managed nationally and responsible to Central Government. Crossrail on the other hand is a separate project, which is more under the control of Transport for London.
Summing Up The Bad Projects
These projects have various themes running through them.
- You could argue that the recession of 2008 and three changes of government have not done these projects any good.
- Public protest has caused delays and in the case of Thameslink unwelcome changes.
- Some of the projects don’t seem to have an independent structure that makes it easier to get things done and for the public to relate to the project. Thameslink for instance doesn’t have Crossrail’s openness.
- The time and budget constraints put on the projects by politicians have probably been a tad unrealistic.
It is my view, that the project management of these projects could have been a lot better.
I also feel, that Network Rail didn’t seem to have the strength to say No to politicians.
Is Mark Carne Right?
His first point is this.
There is no doubt at all in my view, that the Great Western Main Line electrification programme should have been managed in the same way as projects such as Crossrail and Thameslink
He is generally right on this, although I think Thameslink could learn from some of the actions of Crossrail, in the way they deal with passengers and public who are inconvenienced.
Thameslink is an information desert. If you tell people nothing and just give them hassle, you’ll reap your just rewards.
Mark Carne’s second point is this.
Personally, I think it [five-year funding cycles] is a really good way of funding ongoing operations, maintenance and renewals. But I am not sure it is a really good way of funding major investment projects.
In the 1960s and 1970s, it was a cardinal sin with large projects to mix them in with ongoing maintenance and general operation. Or it certainly was in ICI. One accountant told me that the separation , means you don’t get complicated lines of management and it controls costs better.
So it is my view that larger projects should be managed on an independent basis.
Network Rail Must Say No!
I think Network Rail can be accused of not fighting its corner against politicians and local vexatious litigants.
Hopefully Sir Peter Hendy’s Arrival at the top will help.
Projects Should Be More Like Crossrail
In some ways Crossrail is a project, that is broken in quite a few distinct smaller projects, which can be delivered in sequence.
Perhaps because of its size, it seems to have more sub-projects than say Thameslink or the Great Western Electrification.
But although some of the sub-projects are large on Crossrail, they do seem to be much smaller in scope than some of the sub-projects on the other projects.
If I look at some of the troubled projects, their structure and order is often more complicated than the much bigger Crossrail.
Both Thameslink and much of the electrification involve bring in new trains. Crossrail has the luxury of being able to introduce its new trains on the almost separate lines of the Shenfield Metro. So if the new Class 345 trains have some teething troubles, they will hopefully be very little collateral disruption to other routes.
Looking at this, I feel that the biggest problem is when Network Rail tries to manage large projects, especially when they are in a political or protester-rich environment.
They seem to manage better with smaller projects or one that are less politically important. But surely smaller projects are easier to give to a contractor to do the complete job.
The Crossrail structure of an independent project, seems to give a better result for large projects. In this independent structure, I suspect that the politicians and protesters still have influence, but this is direct to top management of the project, in hopefully a controlled manner.
Perhaps, all projects should be independent?
Years ago, when I worked for ICI, they used to like everyone working on a particularly project to be located closely together, if that was possible. They had found it got a better design, that was delivered faster and for less money. Communication between everybody on the project was also very good.
I think before I write this, I should define a few terms.
The Greater North East
By this area, I mean that area of England, that is North of the River Humber and is bordered in the West by those towns and cities that lie on or just to the West of the electrified East Coast Main Line. So they would be working Northwards up the line.
- Doncaster – On the ECML
- Sheffield – Including Meadowhall
- York – On the ECML
- Leeds – On the ECML
- Bradford – Electrified from Leeds
- Darlington – On the ECML
- Newcastle – On the ECML
It would also include those branches that reach to the West to places like Bishop Auckland, Carlisle, Halifax and Hexham.
IPEMU stands for Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit and is a normal train, that has on-board energy storage which is uses on lines that are not electrified to power the traction and other systems on the train.
To a passenger they would appear to be a normal four-car electric muliple unit. I described my ride in the prototype between Manningtree and Harwich in Is The Battery Electric Multiple Unit (BEMU) A Big Innovation In Train Design?
I was extremely sceptical until I rode the train and looked into the physics.
Bombardier are developing a new train called the Aventra, which will be wired so that it can be converted to an IPEMU, if operators need the capabilities.
An Aventra IPEMU have at least the following properties.
- At least a sixty mile range on the stored energy (Batteries or perhaps KERS?)
- Identical passenger experience to a standard train.
- The energy storage would be charged when the train was running on electrified lines.
- Regenerative braking would also be used to charge the energy storage.
- The energy storage could be used to move the trains around depots and sidings that were not electrified.
These trains sound almost too good to be true!
But as a Control Engineer by training, I have a feeling that the Ultimate Aventra IPEMU might be an impressive beast with a two hundred kilometre per hour top speed under wires, a range greater than sixty miles on energy storage and a very impressive electrical efficiency, which would make the train more affordable to operate.
I would also feel that the trains could use some form of mechanical energy storage like KERS in Formula One. Batteries are rather naff, but using something lifted from Formula One could be rather sexy and high-performance.
Suppose you were to build a series of IPEMU hubs, where the storage on IPEMU trains could be charged.
In several cases these hubs already exist, as they are stations with electrified platforms.
Some like Carlisle, Darlington and York would only need a couple of extra platforms to be electrified.
There would also possibly be other stations, where some form of charging would need to be provided, so that trains could be topped up with energy before returning to a main hub.
Stations in this category might include.
Sheffield will get fully electrified under the Midland Main Line electrification program anyway.
The big route that could be run by IPEMUs would be North TransPennine, as IPEMUs would be capable of bridging the gap between Leeds and Manchester.
Also given the right structure of IPEMU hubs, virtually every passenger service in the Greater North East could be run using IPEMUs.
Who needs conventional electrification?
Freight services do!
So eventually the main freight routes will need to be electrified. This will mean that the primary use for the energy storage in the IPEMUs would be to make the trains more efficient.
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.
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?
The gallery contains examples of many great painters and is surrounded by sculpture displayed in a wooded landscape.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
- The Gospel Oak to Barking Line, which is being extended and electrified.
- The Dudding Hill Line, which runs in a circular route across North West London.
- The Chiltern Line from Marylebone.
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.
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?
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.
- Will the branches follow London rules on ticketing and be cashless and contactless, but still allow through paper tickets?
- Will direct trains to London still be run in the peak hours?
- Will the branches be part of the Great Western franchise or Crossrail?
- 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.
Travel to some stations in the UK, that are also served by trams or light rail and transferring to the local transport is often an obstacle race or a long walk. This is a summary.
- Manchester Victoria is now a flat transfer, but at Piccadilly you dive into a less-than-obvious subway.
- In Birmingham, the tram doesn’t yet serve New Street and no plans exist for a proper interchange at Moor Street.
- In Blackpool it’s a long walk, although there are plans in the pipeline. Sometime!
- Edinburgh is a trek upstairs and a walk.
- Sheffield is not too bad, as it’s just a walk up from the bridge over the station.
- London isn’t good as how many main terminals have easy access to the Docklans Light Railway?
Nottingham used to be a difficult one, but now they’ve opened a new tram stop on top of the main station at right angles to the train lines. These pictures show the new stop.
Access at present is by climbing up steps from either the station lobby or the main line station platforms. But in the next few weeks it appears there will be an escalator from the main station.
To compliment the new tram stop, Nottingham station has also had a makeover.
It is certainly, a new interchange, built to the standards that a city like Nottingham deserves.
A few months ago, I saw a similar right-angles arrangement, at the main station in Krakow, except that te Poles used a tunnel.
From the experience of one day in Nottingham, the interchange appeared to be working well. And it was the first day.