The Anonymous Widower

Was It Wrong To Cancel The Northern Heights Plan?

The Northern Heights Plan was a pre-Second World War project to extend the Northern Line  onto the steam-haled suburban lines of the London and North Eastern Railway.

This map from Wikipedia shows the Northern Heights routes North of Archway station.


  1. The branches would have been converted to electric operation.
  2. Terminals would be Alexandra Palace, Bushey Heath, Edgware and High Barnet.
  3. A new deep-level Highgate station would be created.

But the war broke out and the much-simplified layout, that we have today was opened during and after the war.

  • The extension to Bushey Heath didn’t fit in with post-war Green Belt plans, so was scrapped.
  • Traffic on the Alexandra Palace branch suffered badly through competition with the new electrified High Barnet branch, buses and cars.
  • Mill Hill East became the end of a single-track branch instead of a station on a double-track line between Finchley Central and Edgware.
  • Eventually the Alexandra Palace branch was turned into a Parkland Walk.

As a teenager cycling around the Barnet and Edgware area, you sometimes came across the remains of the network.

I particularly remember, the remains of a half-completed viaduct sitting by then A41 in Edgware.

Note the series of holes to the North East of the roundabout. These are the remains of the viaduct.

Green Lane at the bottom of the map, was the road where my Uncle Leslie and Auntie Gladys lived.

Intended Service Levels

Wikipedia has a section, which gives the Intended Service Levels.

The peak-hour service pattern was to be 21 trains an hour each way on the High Barnet branch north of Camden Town, 14 of them via the Charing Cross branch and seven via the Bank branch. 14 would have continued on beyond Finchley Central, seven each on the High Barnet and Edgware branches. An additional seven trains an hour would have served the High Barnet branch, but continued via Highgate High-Level and Finsbury Park to Moorgate, a slightly shorter route to the City. It does not seem to have been intended to run through trains to the ex-Northern City branch from Edgware via Finchley Central. Seven trains an hour would have served the Alexandra Palace branch, to/from Moorgate via Highgate High-Level. In addition to the 14 through trains described, the ex-Northern City branch would have had 14 four-car shuttle trains an hour.

As I read it, this surely means that the following services would have been run in the Peak.

  • Twenty-one trains per hour (tph) between Camden Town and Finchley Central, of which seven tph continued to each of Edgware and High Barnet, with presumably the other seven tph terminating at Finchley Central.
  • Of these twenty-one tph, fourteen would have used the Charing Cross Branch and seven would have used the Bank Branch.
  • Seven tph would have run from both Alexandra Palace and High Barnet via Highgate High-Level and Finsbury Park to Moorgate.
  • A fourteen tph shuttle on the Northern City Branch.
  • As it is not mentioned, should it be assumed, that an independent service with an appropriate frequency serves the Edgware Branch directly from Camden Town.

It looks to me that two aims of the service levels were to provide.

  • A 28 tph service from Moorgate to Finsbury Park.
  • A by-pass to the East of Camden Town.

It looks to have been a well-thought out plan.

My Recent Experiences

Over the last couple of months, I’ve had cause to visit the Northern Heights’ territory on a number of occasions.

Going to and from Central London, from areas like Barnet, Edgware and the Western parts of Enfield and Harringey has much improved since I lived in Cockfosters as a child.

  • Trains and Underground have a higher frequency.
  • Northern City services provided a  big improvement in the late 1970s.
  • Thameslink and Northern City will provide extra services in the next few years.
  • There appear to be more bus feeder services.
  • Modern ticketing is probably much more convenient and affordable.

Circular routes were the real problem, as I wrote about in The Cross Barnet And Enfield Express.

So would a full Northern Heights  Plan helped my journeys?

The Bushey Heath Branch

This Google Map shows where the Bushey Heath Branch would have run.


  1. Bushey Heath in the North West corner of the map.
  2. Centenial Park is on the site of the Aldenham Works, where the trains would have been stabled.
  3. Edgware station in the South East corner of the map.
  4. Stanmore station is also incorrectly shown with both rail and Underground logos.

The change of Green Belt policy probably did most to kill off the branch, but improvements in public transport and the growth of car ownership since the 1950s, have probably squashed any need for revival of the plan for the Bushey Heath Branch.

Finchley Central To Edgware Via Mill Hill East And Mill Hill (The Hale)

This short route was probably never completed, as after cancellation of the Bushey Heath Branch, it was an easy way to cut costs.

This map from shows the route.


  • The sidings at Edgware station.
  • The closeness of Mill Hill (The Hale) station to Mill Hill Broadway station.

It could prove a useful link between the two branches.

From the service levels given earlier, it would appear that this route would have been served with seven tph, which is better than the current train every 11-15 minutes.

I doubt that the connection will ever be completed, but various plans  involving property development arise from time to time.

The Alexandra Palace Branch

As with the Finchley Central to Edware route, much of this route is still visible on Google Maps.

But housing and other developments probably mean that reinstatement is impossible.

As with the previous link, I doubt it will ever be completed.

A Very Light Rail Alternative

Perhaps the only transport system that might work would be a very light rail system, such as is used between Stourbridge Junction and Stourbridge Town stations.




February 23, 2018 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , ,


  1. Hello, I did raise the subject of resurrecting the Northern Heights project between Highgate and Moorgate either by incorporating into London Overground or London underground. Boris Johnson Mayor at the time said he was interested but nothing seems to have happened.

    I investigated the route between Highgate and Alexandra Palace via Muswell Hill which is definitely needed but there are lot of houses, schools and a garden centre on the route. Cranley Gardens station wouldn’t be needed but there is a garden centre on the site, on the other side of the bridge of Muswell Hill Road is a housing estate and a school, this would be costly to fix via compulsory purchase orders and clearing the land, there are also a lot of trees before the tunnels on the woods side and the tunnels between Highgate and the woods on the other side are homes to bat’s and they are protected species.

    I would have loved the line from Edgware to Mill Hill East as there is definitely a need for this line and a station at Mill Hill The Hale. However this section has a few houses on and the site of Mill Hill the hale is Lyndhurst park and that part of the park is now a nature reserve. However, it is possible and has been proposed to extend the Mill Hill East line to Paiges Street. For now the entire cancelled route between Edgware, Mill Hill and Mill Hill East is covered by 2 regular TFL bus routes 221 and 240.

    So the only part easily possible and logical is the part between Highgate and Finsbury Park and then to Moorgate via the northern city line. So it could either be incorporated into the Great Northern service or London overground or even a tube line and who is to say that an extension of the line from Moorgate southwards isn’t possible.

    Forget Edgware to Bushey Heath, there is no need for this line whatsoever and I totally agree with the green belt legislation, there is nothing around there still and do hope it stays like that. Aldenham reservoir is a beauty spot! There is a regular TFL bus service 107 from Edgware to High Barnet calling at most of the places on that cancelled route and also serves Elstree and Borehamwood and Arkley, there is also a TFL school route 606 also following that route.

    The Borough of Hertsmere was going to be a London Borough but never happened, that’s why there is a few TFL buses around there and the area has an 020 area code.

    After coming across your blog, I’ve decided to resubmit this information and idea to the mayor’s office.

    After seeing the site of the disused station at Highgate they ought to tidy it up, all the overgrowth and foliage and trees routing through the land will cause havoc for the open Highgate Station underneath!

    Comment by Nick | August 2, 2020 | Reply

    • I congratulate you on your fantastic research. pay as you enter buses have ruined transport in Herts and London! now is our chance to get this line reopened! 4 you have to be a bit ruthless here. the the bus services you mention are a joke. and Edgware garage is the biggest joke of all!! as for buildings on the track, they are temporary jobs. the owners knew that the line would run again. all this came up with the Edinburgh to Carlisle line. the it reopened!!! 6 how about a campaign now!?!?

      Comment by Frank rootin | October 3, 2020 | Reply

  2. Also just to add. At the time there would have been insufficient 1938 tube stock to operate all of this additional Northern Line.

    The 1959 tube stock was actually for the Piccadilly line but ended up on other lines once the 1973 stock was enrolled onto the Piccadilly line for the Heathrow extension. By the late 80s the 1938 was very old and the 1959 stock replaced it, however, it still wasn’t enough for the Northern line we have today so again some 1972 stock was introduced and some withdrawn 62 stock from the Central Line joined the Northern line and by 1995 all of these trains were knackered and it was always breaking down giving the line the name the misery line.

    My point is, there was no money for additional stock and the stock that was bought was for more important projects like the Heathrow extension.

    Again all of this stock needs replacing on the Piccadilly line and Bakerloo line plus the Central line will eventually need new trains too.

    They simply can’t keep up and as wonderful all these projects are, it’s very expensive and nobody wants to pay for it and if we let a private company own and manage all of it they will charge a very high premium to use it.

    Comment by Nick | August 2, 2020 | Reply

  3. I got an interesting insight into the quality of London Underground stock, when I went to the Vivarail demonstration in Scotland.

    I had an in-depth conversation with one of Vivarail’s engineers and he was extremely impressed with the state of the D78 stock, they had acquired from London Underground.

    I would suspect, it has eased the conversion.

    The trains certainly look good close up.

    Comment by AnonW | August 2, 2020 | Reply

  4. there is a clear case for reopening the whole route. it is doubtful that there is a ‘green dividend from its 1954abandonment. as for buildings on the track. those people who built houses on the track they knew that the line might be needed on day. the no sympathy!!!

    Comment by Frank rootin | October 3, 2020 | Reply

  5. much good research here. the current situation at Highgate high level I’d a wasteful neglect. the the areas served have suffered from one man buses. the 134 for instance. only this helps our argument for a reopening feasibility survey

    Comment by Frank rootin | October 3, 2020 | Reply

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