The Anonymous Widower

TfL Seeks New Procurement Plan For Metropolitan Line Extension

This is the title of an article in Construction News.

With money tight because of several factors, including Brexit and the Mayor’s fare freeze, the article states that Transport for London is looking for ways to save money on the Metropolitan Line Extension or as it was formerly known, the Croxley Rail Link.

I looked at this project  recently in Is The Croxley Rail Link To Be Given Lower Priority?, and came to the following conclusion.

I believe that Watford will get a better train service, whether the Croxley Rail Link is built or not.

Politics will decide the priority of the Croxley Rail Link, with the left-leaning South Londoner Sadiq Khan on one side and right-leaning Bucks-raised Chris Grayling on the other. In some ways, Watford is a piggy-in-the-middle.

My feeling is that on a Londonwide  basis, that the Bakerloo Line Extension to Watford, solves or enables the solution of a lot of wider problems and the Croxley Rail Link is much more a local solution.

This leads me to the further conclusion, that the Croxley Rail Link should return to its roots and become a more Hertfordshire-centric project.

Objectives Of The Project

The objectives of the project could be something like.

  • Provide better links between Watford Junction across Watford to Rickmansworth and/or Amersham, serving the High Street, Watford Hospital and Vicarage Road Stadium.
  • Keep the project as simple as possible.
  • Build the link very much on existing infrastructure.

A subsidiary objective is that it should enable better links to London, for areas in Watford, where they need improvement.

There are various projects in the pipeline, that could substantially increase capacity to Watford.

Transport for London’s passenger figures will show which is the capacity increase most needed.

Issues And Questions

I will ask a few questions first.

What Are The Current Passenger Numbers At Metropolitan Line Stations?

These are 2015 figures.

For comparison, I’ll add these nearby Metropolitan Line stations.

And then there’s Watford High Street station on the Watford DC Line, which managed 1.15 million in 23014/15.

How will Passenger Numbers Change, If The Croxley Rail Link Is Built?

I’ve seen no projections!

Why Shut Watford Station?

There has been considerable protests about the shutting of Watford station. This is an extract from the station’s Wikipedia entry under Future.

The plan to close the station has been the subject of some local opposition, and campaigners have argued for the station to remain open with a reduced shuttle service operating on the branch. In 2012 the transport watchdog London TravelWatch compiled a report on the closure plans which concluded that inconvenience to passengers would be alleviated by the new stations being opened in the area, and that a small number of existing passengers would experience an increase in journey times of more than 15 minutes. It recommended that a shuttle train service should be trialled, and that in the event of closure a bus service should be provided from Cassiobury to one of the new stations to mitigate any inconvenience.

Consider.

  • Currently Watford station has a four trains per hour (tph) service to Baker Street station in the Off Peak.
  • It handles more trains in the Peak.
  • It is also a two-platform terminal station, so it could probably handle at least 5-6 tph, if they were needed.
  • Watford services use the four-track London to Aylesbury Line to get to and from London.
  • Watford station seems to attract similar levels of traffic to other stations in the area.

On the other hand, closing the station could release a valuable site for development.

At a rough look, there would have to be some very pressing reasons to close Watford station.

Will The Bakerloo Line Be Extended To Watford?

I’m asking this question first, as it does have an affect on both the Watford DC Line and the Croxley Rail Link.

There are some handy platforms at Watford Junction, but is it the best way to increase capacity between Queen’s Park station and Watford?

I think that the platform height issue of mixing deep-level Underground and Overground trains will become increasingly important.

  • The rebuilt centre section and the Southern extension of the Bakerloo Line will be substantially step free to modern standards.
  • Passengers in wheelchairs and buggy pushers will rightly expect easy roll-across access to the trains.
  • The Northern platforms could possibly be rebuilt, but they would probably be operationally complicated and would still need ramps to be used.

The most Northerly station on the Bakerloo Line, where full step-free access is possible is Queen’s Park station.

  • The station is a major terminus for Bakerloo Line trains, where 11 tph out of 20 tph in the Off Peak change direction.
  • There is step-across access between Bakerloo and Watford DC Line services at the station.
  • If Bakerloo Line frequencies were increased to say 25-30 tph, it would probably be easier if extra services were terminated at Queen’s Park.

So could we see the Bakerloo Line cut back to Queen’s Park and services North of the station handled to a greater extent by the London Overground?

  • The Watford DC Line service could go to at least the preferred 4 tph all day.
  • If more capacity is needed in the Peak , would it be better to run some of the new Class 710 trains as eight-car trains.
  • Bakerloo Line trains could still run on the line to access the depot at Stonebridge Park and to provide services for grumpy old die-hards, who won’t change at Queen’s Park.
  • Passengers needing step-free access would change to the Overground at Queen’s Park.

North of Stonebridge Park station, the line would be served exclusively by the new Class 710 trains.

  • One train type on a line must be more efficient.
  • Is a mix of four- and eight-car Class 710 trains better than the current five-car Class 378 trains?
  • As there are nine stops between Stonebridge Park and as the Class 710 trains are optimised for fast stops, would a reduction in journey time be possible?
  • Staff would only be dealing with one type of train.
  • Passengers would have a Turn-Up-And-Go 4 tph service.

It might also make it a lot easier to introduce other services like Barking, New Cross or Stratford to Watford, if such services were needed.

A Personal Note – I regularly change at Willesden Junction stations to go to places on the Watford DC Line. A direct train from Canonbury or one of the Dalston stations would be welcomed by myself and the many others who seem to change at Willesden Junction.

Because of these and other issues, I would be very surprised to see the Bakerloo Line extended to Watford.

A Simpler Proposal

I think it would be possible to design a simpler link with the following characteristics.

  • Watford station would remain open.
  • A four tph link would run all day between Watford Junction and Amersham stations.
  • Stops would be at Watford High Street, Vicarage Road, Cassiobridge, Croxley, Rickmansworth, Chorleywood and Chalfont & Latimer.

No-one would get a worse service than currently and the new stations of Cassiobridge and Vicarage Road, would make rail an alternative for many travellers.

The cross-Watford service would give access to these London services.

  • Chiltern at all stations between Croxley and Amersham.
  • London Midland at Watford Junction,
  • Metropolitan Line at Croxley, Rickmansworth and Amersham.
  • Virgin Trains at Watford Junction,
  • Watford DC Line at Watford High Street and Watford Junction

The Bakerloo Line at Watford Junction and Watford High Street, could possibly be added, if the line is extended. Which I doubt, it will be!

I will cover issues in the next few sections.

How Long Will A Journey Take From Amersham To Watford Junction?

Consider.

  • Amersham to Croxley takes about 30 minutes, but it does involve a change to a bus.
  • The Overground takes three minutes between Watford Junction and Watford High Street stations.
  • Chiltern Railways achieve a twelve minute time between Amersham and Rickmansworth.

I suspect that a modern train like one of London Overground’s Class 378 trains could do the journey in a few minutes under half-an-hour.

Why Four Trains Per Hour?

Four tph is becoming a standard, as it encourages Turn-Up-And-Go behaviour from travellers.

It also fits well with keeping the four tph service to Watford station, as this could give a same platform interchange at Croxley stastion.

What Class Of Train Could Be Used?

Four-car Class 378 trains or the new Class 710 trains would be ideal.

They could even use the redundant two-car Class 172 trains from the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

I would suspect that the length of the Metropolitan Line’s S Stock trains, might cause problems at Watford Junction station. The manufacture of these trains has also finished. So could a few more be ordered?

How Many Trains Would Be Needed?

If the trains could do an Out-and-Back journey in an hour, then four trains would be needed to provide a four tph service.

Will The Link Have Any Other Services?

I have seen to plans to use the line for any other passenger or freight services.

Will There Be Infrastructure Issues At Existing Stations?

As all of the trains, I’ve mentioned and the London Underground S Stock trains, share platforms all over North West London, the answer is probably no, with the exception of a few minor adjustments to signs and platforms.

Would The New Track Be Electrified?

The only part of the route that is not electrified is the about three miles of new track between  the Watford Branch and the Watford DC Line.

All current electrification is either third-rail or to the London Underground standard. and any future electrification would probably be to the London Underground standard, so that S Stock can work the route.

But if the route were to be worked using Class 172 trains, the new track could be built without electrification.

In addition, I believe that the Class 710 trains will have a limited onboard energy storage capability, which could enable the trains to bridge the cap in the  electrification between Watford High Street and Croxley stations.

How much would not electrifying the new track save?

Will The New Stations Have Two Platforms?

I believe that money can be saved by creating simple stations at Cassiobridge and Vicarage Road.

  • Only one platform, but probably an island platform with two faces like Watford High Street station.
  • No expensive footbridge if possible.
  • Only one lift.

Cassiobridge would be more complicated because of the viaduct connecting the line towards Croxley station.

This visualisation shows the viaduct and the location of Cassiobridge station.

croxley-rail-link-proposed-viaduct-connecting-the-existing-metropolitan-line-with-disused-croxley-green-branch-line

Cassiobridge station will be behind the trees towards the top-right of the image.

Would The New Track Be Single Or Double-Track?

There is space for double-track and the two ends of the route are already electrified double-track.

But surely the viaduct shown above would be much more affordable, if it were to be built for only one track!

Trains would need to pass at places East of Croxley station, but then if the line was double-track through and to the East of Cassiobridge station, trains could pass with impunity.

On the other hand, too much single-track is often regretted.

Croxley Station

Croxley station would be unchanged.

But in addition to the 4 tph between Baker Street and Watford, there would be 4 tph between Watford Junction and Amersham.

Platform 1 would handle.

  • Baker Street to Watford
  • Amersham to Watford Junction

Platform 2 would handle.

  • Watford to Baker Street
  • Watford Junction to Amersham

This would mean that if the trains alternated, the maximum wait for a connection would be about 7.5 minutes.

What I feel would be the two most common connections, would just involve a wait on the same platform.

I suspect that those, who timetable trains, would come up with a very passenger-friendly solution.

Watford Station

A property developer once told me, that the most profitable developments, are those where a railway station is involved.

The Platforms At Watford Station

The Platforms At Watford Station

So would the development of the extension involve a rebuild of Watford station to provide the following?

  • A modern future-proofed station, with all the capacity that might be needed in the next forty years or so.
  • Appropriate housing or commercial development on top of the new station.
  • Sensible amounts of parking for travellers.

With four tph to and from London in the basement, it would surely be a profitable development.

Watford Junction Station

Watford Junction station has four bay platforms 1-4, that handle the three tph service on the Watford DC Line.

At stations like Clapham Junction, Crystal Palace, Dalston Junction, Highbury and Islington and New Cross, single platforms handle four tph with ease for London Overground services.

This means that handling four tph to Amersham in addition to current services would not be difficult.

The only work, that I think should be done, is make sure that these platforms are long enough to take two of the future Class 710 trains working as an eight-car train.

There could even be two platforms left for Bakerloo Line services, if it were to be decided, that these services would go to Watford Junction.

Elton John Plays Vicarage Road Stadium

This or some football matches at Vicarage Road Stadium, would be the biggest test of the Link.

Note the following.

  • Some stations  like Watford High Street can already handle longer trains than the hundred metre long, five-car Class 378 trains they currently do.
  • Some stations like Croxley can handle the 133 metre long S Stock trains used on the Metropolitan Line.

So to future-proof the Link for massive one-off events would it be sensible to make the platforms long enough for eight-car trains or two Class 710 trains working as a pair?

Benefits

The benefits of this approach are as follows.

  • Watford station keeps its current service to London.
  • Watford gets a four tph link across the South of the town, serving the Shopping Centre, the Hospital and the Stadium.
  • Amersham to Croxley stations get a link to the West Coast Main Line.
  • It could be built as a single track line without electrification.
  • Trains to run the services could be more easily available.
  • Simple island platform-based stations could be built at Cassiobridge and Vicarage Road.

In addition, Chiltern Railways, London Midland, London Overground and Underground, all gain a feeder railway bringing travellers to their services to and from London.

Cost Savings

Note.

  1. Transport for London needs cost savings on this project.
  2. Redevelopment of Watford station as a station with oversite development could raise a lot of money.
  3. The Croxley Link could be built as a single-track link without electrification and run initially run using Class 172 trains.

I also feel, that building the line this way would deliver it earlier, thus improving cash-flow.

The simple link would need at the minimum.

  • A single- or double-track railway without electrification between Croxley and Watford High Street stations.
  • Two stations with island platforms at Cassiobridge and Vicarage Road
  • A viaduct to connect Cassiobridge station to the Watford Branch.

Four Class 172 trains would work the service, after being released by the arrival of Class 710 trains on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

If skates were worn, the link could probably open in 2020.

Conclusion

A simpler and more affordable design for the Metropolitan Line Extension is surely possibly.

 

January 5, 2017 - Posted by | Travel | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] I gave my view in TfL Seeks New Procurement Plan For Metropolitan Line Extension […]

    Pingback by Has Work Stopped On The Met Line Extension? « The Anonymous Widower | January 24, 2017 | Reply


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