The Anonymous Widower

C2E – Crossrail 1 1/2?

The title of this post is the same as that in this article in Rail Engineer.

It describes a proposal to extend the Abbey Wood Branch of Crossrail to Ebbsfleet International station along the North Kent Line.

The article starts with these two paragraphs.

With the main Crossrail project now mostly complete, and with tracks running right through the new tunnels, there has been much talk of Crossrail 2 as the next project, crossing under London from South West to North East and linking Wimbledon with the Leigh Valley.

Rather overlooked is a shorter-term proposal to extend the current Crossrail (or Elizabeth line as it will be called) from Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet in Kent.

The article talks about the advantages of an extension to Ebbsfleet International station.

This proposal would connect several major brownfield development sites with central London, London City and Heathrow airports, and the West, while also connecting Crossrail passengers with Eurostar and the continent

Specific figures and points include

  • Bexley has 1,100 acres of development space available.
  • 55,000 homes could be built.
  • Potential for high-value jobs.
  • Dartford, where there is a lot of demand, has six trains per hour  (tph) to London.

In addition the following additional services call or will call in the near future at Dartford.

  • Southeastern – Two tph running between Gillingham and London Charing Cross.
  • Southeastern – Two tph running between Gravesend and London Charing Cross.
  • Thameslink – Two tph running between Rainham and Luton.

This map from the article shows the route.

I think it is a good plan and I’ll give my reasons in the following sections.

Abbey Wood Is Not A Terminal Station

Was the reason Abbey Wood station was chosen as a terminus more to do with giving a rail connection to the public transport desert of Thamesmead and all its supposed Labour voters?

  • It’s not by any important tourist venue like the Thames.
  • There’s not even a Shopping Centre.
  • There’s little space for car parking.
  • Abbey Wood station is a very cramped site.

When compared to the three other termini, it is the least significant.

  • Shenfield is a small town with shops and a railway junction.
  • Reading is a thriving city and a major transport interchange.
  • Heathrow is Heathrow.

I also suspect that the track layout at Abbey Wood station has been designed to allow Crossrail trains to continue Eastwards on the North Kent Line.

Ebbsfleet International Would Be A Much Better Terminal Station

Ebbsfleet International station has a lot going for it, as a Crossrail terminal.

  • It is a station for Eurostar and the Continent.
  • Some continental services might terminate at Ebbsfleet in the future due to capacity limitations at St. Pancras.
  • It would connect Crossrail to the Highspeed commuter services to and from East Kent and East Sussex.
  • There’s plenty of space for platforms and depots.
  • There’s already masses of car parking.
  • The area may get a theme park.

There is also the interesting possibility, that it could be faster for many passengers from Central London to use Crossrail and Ebbsfleet, rather than a taxi and St. Pancras to get a train to Paris and Brussels.

I also believe that one of our World Class architects can come up with a proposal for a passenger-friendly station that combines the current Ebbfleet International station with Northfleet station on the North Kent Line.

The Route Would Require Little Major Engineering Works

The route to Ebbsfleet would be predominantly, if not completely, on the surface, along the double-track North Kent Line. Having just flown my helicopter along the route, there is a lot of apace on either side of the tracks for quite a proportion of the route.

A four-track route would probably be impossible, but I suspect that Network Rail could design an efficient route, that would handle the services on the route efficiently.

Trains Along The North Kent Line

Current frequencies of Off Peak through trains on the North Kent Line between Abbey Wood and Gravesend stations are as follows.

  • Abbey Wood – 8 tph
  • Belvedere – 8 tph
  • Erith – 6 tph
  • Slade Green – 6 tph
  • Dartford – 4 tph
  • Stone Crossing – 4 tph
  • Greenhithe – 4 tph
  • Gravesend – 2 tph

There will be additional services in the Peak and Thameslink will run an extra two tph from Rainham to Luton, within the next year or so.

The North Kent Line doesn’t seem to have the most extensive level of services.

The New Southeastern Franchise

The new South Eastern franchise will be awarded in August 2018 and is due to start by the end of the year.

The franchise will probably bring changes and add new trains to the fleet and lines like the North Kent Line.

I also suspect that all trains running on the North Kent Line will in a few years be modern trains capable of operating at 100 mph.

Modern Signalling Could Handle Twenty-Four Trains Per Hour On The North Kent Line

There is no doubt, that if Crossrail-style signalling were applied to the North Kent Line between Abbey Wood the Medway towns, capacity could be increased, if all trains on the line were modern 100 mph units.

I doubt that twenty-four tph would be needed, but I’m sure that enough capacity could be created on the route to handle all services; curent or proposed.

How Many Trains Would Crossrail Run Between Abbey Wood And Ebbsfleet International Stations?

Crossrail’s timetable plan shows  these frequencies at the various termini in the Peak.

  • Abbey Wood – 12 tph
  • Gidea Park – 4 tph
  • Heathrow Terminal 4 – 4 tph
  • Heathrow Terminal 5 – 2 tph
  • Liverpool Street – 4 tph
  • Maidenhead – 2 tph
  • Paddington – 12 tph
  • Reading – 4 tph
  • Shenfield – 12 tph

From these figures, it would appear that four tph to Ebbsfleet International would be reasonable starting point.

This would give the following frequencies along the line.

  • Abbey Wood – 14 tph
  • Belvedere – 14 tph
  • Erith – 12 tph
  • Slade Green – 12 tph
  • Dartford – 10 tph
  • Stone Crossing – 10 tph
  • Greenhithe – 10 tph
  • Gravesend – 4 tph

Note I have added in the 2 tph Thameslink trains from Rainham to Luton.

These frequencies are well within the limits of a double-track railway with a 100 mph operating speed and modern signalling.

The Original Plan Was To Extend To Gravesend

The route for Crossrail from Abbey Wood is safeguarded to Gravesend. Under Future Extensions in the Wikipedia entry for Crossrail, this is said.

The route to Gravesend has been safeguarded by the Department for Transport, although it was made clear that as at February 2008 there was no plan to extend Crossrail beyond the then-current scheme. The following stations are on the protected route extension to Gravesend: Belvedere, Erith, Slade Green, Dartford, Stone Crossing, Greenhithe for Bluewater, Swanscombe, Northfleet, and Gravesend.

A depot would be built at Hoo Junction to the East of Gravesend.

The extended service could always call at both stations.

  • Ebbsfleet International station connects to Eurostar and has space for masses of parking.
  • Gravesend connects to services to East Kent and is on the Thames.

Money and accountants would decide.


Extending four tph from Abbey Wood to a new terminus at Ebbsfleet International station, doesn’t appear to be the most difficult of undertakings.



December 19, 2017 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , ,

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