The Anonymous Widower

Could Passenger Services Be Run On The Canonbury Curve?

The Canonbury Curve is described like this in the Wikipedia entry for Canonbury station.

To the west of the station is the Canonbury curve, a freight-only connection through the Canonbury tunnel to the East Coast Main Line at Finsbury Park.

The curve is an electrified single-track.

This picture shows where the curve joins and leaves the North London Line.

The Canonbury Curve To The East Coast Main Line

The Canonbury Curve To The East Coast Main Line

I don’t know how much traffic uses the line, but I think it is only a few freight trains.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the track layout of the Canonbury Curve.

The Canonbury Curve

The Canonbury Curve

Note that it only has a connection to the North London Line, which is the more Northerly of the two pairs of lines. The East London Line is the other pair of lines and only carries third-rail electric services to Dalston Junction and on to the South.

In order for trains to go between Finsbury Park and the East London Line, there would need to some changes to Canonbury West Junction.

This Google Map shows Canonbury West Junction in detail.

Canonbury West Junction

Canonbury West Junction

The elliptical-shaped tower is an evacuation and vent shaft for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

There does seem to be space between the lines and I suspect that it would be possible to modify Canonbury West Junction.

The line is also visible as it passes by Drayton Park station to the South of Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.

Drayton Park Station

Drayton Park Station

The line is the single track line to the right of the platform roof of the station. This image doesn’t show a true picture, as the line is at a higher level than the Northern City Line.

I think it is true to say, that there is quite a bit of space around Drayton Park station.

When the line gets to Finsbury Park station, the track seems to be extremely complicated, but I’m sure that it is possible to run a passenger train between Canonbury and Finsbury Park stations, as freight trains already make the journey.

A Second Thameslink Route Between Finsbury Park And East Croydon

I feel that a train service could be run between Finsbury Park and East Croydon stations via the Canonbury Curve and the East London Line.

It would require the appropriate political and commercial wills. Some track modifications would be needed.

In the next few sections, I will describe the various issues that will effect, whether such a service is created.

Objectives Of The Route

As a passenger from the East, I see the major objective is to link all those, who travel to and from London’s Eastern boroughs, like Bromley, Croydon, Greenwich, Hackney, Haringey, Lewisham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest, with a better North-South railway.

But Govia Thameslink Railway, London Overground and Sadiq Khan may see things differently.

The East London Line may terminate in a decent purpose-built terminal at Highbury and Islington station, with these connections.

  • North London Line to the West.
  • Northern City services to the North.
  • Victoria Line services to the West End and four major stations.
  • Victoria Line to Waltham Forest.

But the termini in the South mean there is often a second change to get where you actually want to go.

  • Many passengers want to go to East Croydon station rather than West Croydon station.
  • There is no direct link to Thameslink, with all the extra destinations that would bring.
  • Getting to London Bridge, Gatwick Airport, Kent and the South Coast is not easy.

I’m not the only one who is unhappy, as there has been a petition to the London Assembley to get Thameslink to call at Norwood Junction.

I think a lot of the problems were caused by the following.

  • The East London Line was designed after Thameslink.
  • Thameslink designers thought the East London Line was a short route from Whitechapel to New Cross and New Cross Gate.
  • Thameslink is a National Rail project, whereas the East London Line is promoted by Transport for London.

On the other hand, East London does particularly well with two branches of Crossrail, so the connection to the East London Line at Whitechapel, will truly be a Jewel In The East.

Extending the East London Line to Finsbury Park in the North would give the following improvements.

  • Links to the Piccadilly and Victoria Lines
  • Links to Great Northern services to Hertford North, Welwyn Garden City, Letchworth Garden City and Cambridge
  • Links to Thameslink services to Peterborough and Cambridge.

Connecting to East Croydon in the South would also be valuable.

  • Links to Outer London suburban services to places like Epsom, Caterham and Oxted.
  • Links to Thameslink services going to Gatwick Airport, Brighton and the South Coast.
  • Links to London Tramlink across South London.

This connectivity at the North and South termini will not only make it better for those living in East London, but visitors and commuters needing to go to the area will find their journey much improved.

Now is the time to properly link Thameslkink and the East London Line to the benefit of users of both systems!

It could be the third line in London’s Crossrail/Thameslink network.

Advantages For Myself

I wouldn’t be being totally honest, if I didn’t point out my personal advantages of a Finsbury Park to East Croydon service.

I live within walking distance of Dalston Junction station and I would get single-change access to places like Brighton, Cambridge, Gatwick Airport and Peterborough.

But then so would the hundreds of thousands of people, who or work live near stations between Canonbury and Norwood Junction on the East London Line.

Thameslink, The Northern City Line And The Canonbury Curve

Thameslink, the Northern City Line to Moorgate and the line through the Canonbury Curve all come together at Finsbury Park station.

There would be opportunities to create a cross- and same-platform interchange between all three services.

I do think that the  Northern City Line will because of its important link to Crossrail at Moorgate grow into a high-capacity link between Crossrail, the City of London and Canary Wharf at its Southern end and Finsbury Park, North London and Hertfordshire at its Northern end.

Added together Thameslink and the Moorgate trains could create a 12 tph service up the East Coast Main Line, as far as Welwyn Garden City.

My thoughts on this line are laid out in A North London Metro.

How Many Trains Would Be Needed To Run A Service Between Finsbury Park And East Croydon?

As things stand the current Class 717 trains, that have been ordered for the Northern City Line, couldn’t work the route, as the route is only able to accept five-car trains, but it could probably be run by the following.

Current timings on the various sections are.

  • Finsbury Park to Highbury and Islington – 4 minutes – Great Northern
  • Highbury and Islington to New Cross Gate – 26 minutes – London Overground
  • New Cross Gate to East Croydon – 22 minutes – Southern

So this would give a timing of 52 minutes, which could probably be beaten by a direct modern train, that could change current collection on the fly and took the Canonbury Curve short cut.

Any time around fifty minutes, would mean that a train could do the round trip in two hours and that eight trains being needed to run a 4 tph service.

The Design Of An Ideal Terminus

The branches of the East London Line at Clapham Junction, Crystal Palace, Dalston Junction, Highbury and Islington and New Cross end in their own dedicated bay platforms. At West Croydon, a reversing siding is used, as I wrote about in The Bay Platform And The Reversing Siding At West Croydon.

As rarely do any operational problems surface, I feel that a single platform or reversing siding would be sufficient for a route, that is not much longer than Highbury and Islington to West Croydon.

Passengers would also require.

  • Decent step-free interchange between services.
  • Lots of useful connecting trains and buses.
  • Shops, kiosks and cafes.
  • An attraction like a market, museum, shopping centre or an entertainment venue.

Perhaps even a place to sit in the sun, like the park at Crystal  Palace or Dalston Square at Dalston Junction.

Looking at this, what idiot thought about using the dreadfully dreary and totally useless West Croydon?

An interesting concept is that the last two or three stations are used as a joint terminus, to give passengers more choice of onward routes, either by foot or by train, tram or bus.

You have Cannon Street, which is the actual terminus, but all services will also stop at London Bridge, when Thameslink is complete.

Other pairs include.

  • Liverpool Street and Stratford
  • Charing Cross, Waterloo East and London Bridge
  • Edinburgh Waverley and Edinburgh Haymarket
  • Birmingham New Street and Birmingham International
  • Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Oxford Road.
  • Highbury and Islington and Dalston Junction

Some have been purposely designed that way, whilst others have just happened.

In the case of choosing the two termini for the Finsbury Park to East Croydon route, they must be within a time that allows the train operator to to use a sensible operating policy to run trains.

It looks like, that if the trip time is fifty minutes or less, that is ideal, as the round trip can be two hours. But even if it’s a few minutes longer, you just add another train into the fleet and work on a two hours fifteen minutes cycle say.

The Northern Terminus

In this example, I have used Finsbury Park station as a Northern Terminus, but I think that as long as Finsbury Park is served by the route, a station to the North could be used instead.

A few thoughts.

  • Using Drayton Park could mean an extra change for passengers.
  • Crossrail 2 could be coming to New Southgate and/or Alexandra Palace in the future
  • A terminus North of where the Hertford Loop Line joins the East Coast Main Line might be confusing and/or annoying for passengers.
  • There needs to be space for an elegant solution to the step-free change of train.

I think there are two main possibilities; Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace.

In some ways, Alexandra Palace would work better as there is more space.

In Could A Reversing Siding Be Built At Alexandra Palace?, I examined the possibility of building a reversing siding at Alexandra Palace station.

I came to the conclusion that it is feasible and also found out that one already exists at Bowes Park station.

So a train reversing at the Northern end of the new route would go through the following procedure.

  • The train from the South, would arrive at a down interchange platform in Finsbury Park, where all down Thameslink and local services call, probably with Main Line services on one platform face and Hertford Loop Line services on the other.
  • Reversing trains would probably use the Hertford Loop Line platform.
  • After discharging passengers, it would proceed to the down Hertford Loop Line platform 4 at Alexandra Palace.
  • Any passengers still left, would leave the station or catch another train.
  • The train would then proceed to the reversing siding between the two lines of the Hertford Loop Line.
  • The train would then start its return journey in the up Hertford Loop Line platform 1 or 2 at Alexandra Palace.
  • The train would then return to Finsbury Park.
  • It would call in the up interchange platform, before continuing on its way.

Effectively, the route would have a two station terminus with interchange to other trains at both Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace, with train reversing at the latter.

Note.

  • As a maximum of six tph will be using the Hertford Loop line, there is plenty of spare capacity to fit in another four trains.
  • Reversing sidings are always useful when there are problems like failed trains or blockades.
  • It could be used by Northern City services to Moorgate.
  • If it could take an eight-car Class 700 train, it might have uses for Thameslink.

It is one of those small lengths of railway, that if it were properly designed could have a lot more uses than is obvious.

I am also actually surprised that as the space is there between the tracks of the Hertford Loop Line, that it hasn’t been used for something productive before.

The Southern Terminus

Just as the Northern end of the route must serve Finsbury Park, the Southern end must serve East Croydon, as so many services call at the station.

  • Thameslink
  • Gatwick Express
  • Southern services all over the South.
  • Tramlink

Another possibility would be to perhaps have a dedicated bay platform at South Croydon station, with services calling at East Croydon before reversing in a dedicated bay platform or a reversing siding at South Croydon.

South Croydon station also has form as a past Southern terminus for the West London Line route to Milton Keynes Central.

This Google Map shows the South Croydon station and the area immediately to the South.

South Croydon Station

South Croydon Station

At a quick look, it would appear that fitting a bay platform into the Northern end of the station could be difficult.

But, there could be space in the tangle of lines South of the station to create a reversing siding.

There’s certainly more space than there is at East Croydon.

Perhaps, if the station was to be properly sorted as a Southern terminus for the East London Line, it could also become the terminus for an uprated service on the West London Line to the West Coast Main Line.

Drayton Park Station

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines through Drayton Park station.

Drayton Park Station

Drayton Park Station

The lines either side of the island platform are the two tracks of the Northern City Line to Moorgate.

The line on the right in the map, links Finsbury Park station to the Canonbury Curve through the Canonbury Tunnel. This line is at a higher level, as this picture taken looking South along the platform at Drayton Park station shows.

Drayton Park Station

Drayton Park Station

The line is behind the retaining wall at the left. It’s position is betrayed by the overhead wires visible in the picture.

If a platform was to be put on this connecting line at Drayton Park, it would not be simple.

But help could be at hand!

In the map of the tracks at the station, there is a disused track labelled Depot. There is quite a large area of land around the station and any housing built on the site, should surely incorporate a new station underneath, with provision for a platform on the connecting line.

It would be a disaster, if housing was built all over the Drayton Park station site, without leaving provision for a station on the Canonbury to Finsbury Park Line.

The Canonbury Curve

As I pointed out earlier, the Canonbury Curve would need modification to enable trains to get between Finsbury Park and Canonbury stations.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the Overground through Canonbury and the two Dalston stations.

North And East London Lines Through Canonbury And Dalston

North And East London Lines Through Canonbury And Dalston

The various East-West tracks through the area from North to South are.

  • The Eastbound North London Line to Stratford
  • The Westbound North London Line to Highbury and Islington and Richmond.
  • The Southbound East London Line to Dalston Junction and Croydon
  • The Northbound East London Line to Highbury and Islington

A Finsbury Park to Dalston Junction service would do something like the following.

  • Take the Canonbury Curve to the Eastbound North London Line.
  • Stop in Plstform 4 at Canonbury station.
  • Cross over to the Southbound East London Line using two new crossings.
  • Continue South after stopping in Platform 4 at Dalston Junction station.

A service going the other way would do something like the following.

  • Call in Platform 1 at Dalston Junction station.
  • Cross over to the Westbound North London Line using two new crossings. (One would probably be used both ways.)
  • Stop in Platform 3 at Canonbury station.
  • After leaving Canonbury station take the existing crossover to the Eastbund North London Line.
  • Take the Canonbury Curve to Finsbury Park station.

I don’t know whether my route would be possible, but I’m sure that an expert at Network Rail could come up with a workable and very safe solution.

At least there are factors that help.

  • The line has been rebuilt in the last few years, so it must be well-documented.
  • There are a lot of crossovers South of Dalston Junction station.
  • The signalling is capable of handling bi-directional running.

But the most important factor is that to the East of the former Mildmay Park station, there is space for more track, as it would sappear there was an island platform between the pairs of lines. It is actually shown on the map of the lines through Canonbury and Dalston, earlier in this section.

These are some pictures of the lines between the Canonbury Curve and Mildmay Park.

I was really surprised to see how much space there is between Dalston and Highbury and Islington and I don’t believe it would be an impossible task to create a route between Dalston Junction and Finsbury Park stations via the Canonbury Curve.

I think the biggest problem could be where to switch from the third-rail electrification of the East London Line to the overhead electrification of the North London Line and the Canonbury Curve.

One of the solutions would be to use trains with on-board energy storage and they would automatically deploy pantograph or pick-up shoe, once they were on the electrified sections.

Six-Car Trains On The East London Line

Over the years there have been mixed messages about whether six-car trains will ever run on the East London Line.

The problems of lengthening some of the platforms at stations like Shadwell, Wapping and Rotherhithe mean that the current five-car trains need to use selective door opening.

But as this is probably the only problem to running longer trains, I suspect that running six-car Class 378 trains through the Thames Tunnel, is still an option to increase capacity on the East London Line.

So if six-car Class 378 trains with selective door opening can run from Dalston Junction to Surrey Quays and several stations in the South, surely six-car Class 717 trains could do the same, if they had selective door opening fitted.

As both trains are walk-through trains, selective door opening is not a great inconvenience to passengers, as with comprehensive information on the train, the passengers move to doors that open.

I can’t see any reason, why with a few simple modifications, Great Northern’s Class 717 trains could not use the East London Line to connect North and South London.

Frequency Between Finsbury Park And East Croydon

London Overground’s services on the East London Line and some other lines is based on the rule of four.

If you provide at least four tph, then passengers will turn up and go.

So there must be at least four trains between Finsbury Park and Croydon in both directions in every hour.

The upper limit to the frequency would probably be determined by two main questions.

  • How many trains could negotiate through the Canonbury Curve and Canonbury station in an hour?
  • How many spare paths exist through the Thames Tunnel?

The question also has to be asked if four tph were going to East Croydon, do four tph still need to go to West Croydon?

I think all this will mean that the probable frequency will be four tph.

Alternative Routes

I have been parochial and have concentrated on the core service between Finsbury Park and East Croydon, which would be of the greatest benefits to those like me, who live on the current East London Line.

But if trains can work the route profitably, why does there have to be a limit of where they can go?

Possible termini in the North include all of the current ones used as termini by services into Moorgate.

  • Alexandra Palace
  • Gordon Hill
  • Hertford North
  • Letchworth Garden City
  • Welwyn Garden City

I have added Alexandra Palace, as it could have a reversing siding and could be invaluable in maintaining the stability of the service. It is also the last station on the route, that serves both Northern branches.

In the South, the possible termini include the following.

  • Caterham, which was a Thameslink possible and has now been discarded.
  • Gatwick Airport, because it likes to have its fingers in everything.
  • Purley, because Southern are using it as a station to split Caterham and Tattenham Corner services.
  • South Croydon, because it has form and is in a convenient location.
  • Tattenham Corner, which was a Thameslink possible and has now been discarded.

I calculated the core time between Finsbury Park and East Croydon using these current journeys.

  • Finsbury Park to Highbury and Islington – 4 minutes – Great Northern
  • Highbury and Islington to New Cross Gate – 26 minutes – London Overground
  • New Cross Gate to East Croydon – 22 minutes – Southern

This gives a time of 52 minutes, between Finsbury Park and East Croydon which until proven otherwise is a good base time.

It is also the current scheduled time for London Overground’s Highbury and Islington to West Croydon service.

The following should be borne in mind.

  • New trains could shave a twenty seconds or so from each of the nineteen stops.
  • Cutting the corner using the Canonbury Curve should save time.
  • Modern trains would be able to change voltage quicker.

I would think that a sub-fifty minute time between Finsbury Park and East Croydon is possible.

The times between Finsbury Park and my possible Northern termini are.

  • Alexandra Palace – 7 minutes
  • Gordon Hill – 21 minutes
  • Hertford North – 37 minutes
  • Letchworth Garden City – 62 minutes
  • Welwyn Garden City – 20 minutes

And those between East Croydon and possible Southern termini are.

  • Caterham – 25 minutes
  • Gatwick Airport – 15 minutes
  • Purley – 6-9 minutes
  • South Croydon – 3 minutes
  • Tattenham Corner – 33 minutes

When linked to passenger statistics and the capacity on the various routes, I suspect that some routes could be shown to be a lot better than others.

Conclusions

If the following projects can be successfully delivered.

  • A suitable Northern terminal platform or other arrangement.
  • A suitable Southern terminal platform or other arrangement.
  • An updated Canonbury Curve to connect the East London Line to Finsbury Park station.
  • The procurement of suitable dual-voltage trains.

I can see no reason why a train service from Finsbury Park to East Croydon couldn’t be successfully run via the Canonbury Curve.

It would give the following benefits.

  • Extra connectivity for those going to and from stations between Finsbury Park and East Croydon.
  • Better access to Canary Wharf, Dalston, Gatwick Airport and Shoreditch.
  • It would take some of the pressure off Moorgate services, if Crossrail loads them up.
  • Development of a quality Southern terminus, might enable a better service from East Croydon to Old Oak Common and the West Coast Main Line using the West London Line.

Perhaps though, the biggest benefit would be that more trains could be running on the East London Line, without needing extra platform capacity at the current termini.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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September 12, 2016 - Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , ,

11 Comments »

  1. It is always very interesting to read your ideas … I wonder what you think it would take to make the Northern City line to Hertford and Welwyn Garden City a full metro service … say 10 tph per branch, so that Ally Pally to Finsbury Park has 20 tph peak…

    I have an idea but wanted to know what you thought….

    Comment by boypathos | September 13, 2016 | Reply

    • Your question is so valid and remember, my father had a a printing business in Station Road in Wood Green, where I spent a lot of my childhood. So I will not give your question, a one line answer, but as I haven’t finished the post yet, I will write a section entitled What is The Ultimate Capacity Of The Rote?

      Comment by AnonW | September 13, 2016 | Reply

  2. thank you for replying … i very much enjoy reading your blog.

    One suggestion i do have for a metro-style service [though it borders on crayonista] is that knowing Moorgate can only cope with a maximum 10 tph, is to build a branch line that heads south-west after Essex Road, with a station at Mount Pleasant for interchange with circle et al, then Chancery Lane, a re-opened Aldwych then Waterloo … I would build this instead of having the CR2 branch line to New Southgate…

    Comment by boypathos | September 13, 2016 | Reply

    • What is going to improve things is that Moorgate will be a multi-level station with Circle/Metropolitan at the top and Northern at the bottom. The Northern City Line is in the middle and could even be at a similar level to Crossrail, So that could be a level interchange, which would be superb.

      The Central Line also joins the party at the other end of the Crossrail station.

      Comment by AnonW | September 13, 2016 | Reply

  3. […] This question led me to write Could Passenger Services Be Run On The Canonbury Curve? […]

    Pingback by How Will House Prices Be Affected By The New Trains In Cuffley? « The Anonymous Widower | September 15, 2016 | Reply

  4. […] In Could Passenger Services Be Run On The Canonbury Curve?, I talked how a Finsbury Park to East Croydon service could be a valuable part of London’s rail infrastructure. […]

    Pingback by Could A Reversing Siding Be Built At Alexandra Palace? « The Anonymous Widower | September 16, 2016 | Reply

  5. […] Could Passenger Services Be Run On The Canonbury Curve? […]

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  6. […] Could Passenger Services Be Run On The Canonbury Curve? […]

    Pingback by A Numerical Analysis Of Great Northern’s New Class 717 Trains « The Anonymous Widower | September 16, 2016 | Reply

  7. […] Could Passenger Services Be Run On The Canonbury Curve? […]

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  8. The NLR regularly ran services to High Barnet and Enfield Chase from Broad Street for City Commuters

    Comment by atlastrack | December 24, 2016 | Reply

    • Remember, I grew up in Cockfosters and I’ve heard all sorts of things about those lines, so that wouldn’t surprise me.

      Comment by AnonW | December 24, 2016 | Reply


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