The Anonymous Widower

Could The Abbey Wood Branch Of Crossrail Be Opened In Phases?

When the Victoria Line opened in 1968, it opened in phases.

  • Highbury & Islington and Walthamstow Central – September 1968
  • Highbury & Islington and Warren Street – December 1968
  • Warren Street and Victoria – March 1969

I wonder why parts of Crossrail, aren’t opening in a similar way?

Crossrail’s Original Plan

Stage 3 of the original plan, called for services to start between Abbey Wood and Paddington stations in December 2018.

This date has now slipped to Autumn 2019.

Reasons stated include.

  • Signalling issues.
  • Non-completion of the fit-out of stations.

I discuss the various issues as I see them in Thoughts On The Lateness Of Crossrail.

If you look at Stage 3, it is effectively running an independent new railway between Abbey Wood and Paddington stations with the following characteristics.

  • Turnback facilities designed to handle twelve trains per hour (tph) at both ends.
  • No sharing of tracks with other rail services.
  • Comprehensive intermediate stations at Woolwich, Custom House, Canary Wharf, Whitechapel, Liverpool Street, Farringdon, Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street.
  • One signalling system on the whole section.

It should also be noted, that on this section, trains can go straight through the important underground junction with the Shenfield branch at Stepney Green.

I would think, that the original plan was a sensible one. provided the following had been achieved.

  • Completion of all stations on the route.
  • A working signalling system.
  • Turnback of trains at Abbey Wood and Paddington stations.

Have all of these objectives been achieved?

Whitechapel Station

In Thoughts On The Lateness Of Crossrail, I showed several pictures, that indicated that Whitechapel station was by no means finished.

Perhaps this is the main reason, as Whitechapel is on both the two Eastern branches.

Other Stations

Are they any nearer to completion than Whitechapel?

I was surprised this Autumn, during Open House, that a couple of stations were not opened up for members of the public to walk around.

Below surface stations like Woolwich and Canary Wharf and possibly some others, which will have platform-edge doors, would surely be safe to give interested parties a tour.

There doesn’t even appear to be a recent video in the stations from a respected organisation like the BBC.

I must therefore assume that the stations are not going well.

Turnbacks And Crossovers

Looking at the detailed maps of the Victoria Line on, there are the following turnbacks and crossovers.

  • A double crossover at Walthamstow Central station, so that trains can go into either platform.
  • Links at Finsbury Park station to the Piccadilly Line. Could Walthamstow to Piccadilly Circus been a non-realised objective?
  • A simple crossover North of Highbury & Islington station.
  • A turnback at Kings Cross St. Pancras station, so that trains can be turned back to the South.
  • A simple crossover between Euston and Warren Street station.
  • A simple crossover North of Victoria station.
  • A turnback at Victoria station, so that trains can be turned back to the North.
  • A double crossover at Brixton station, so that trains can go into either platform.

Crossrail has the following between Abbey Wood and Paddington stations.

  • A double crossover at Abbey Wood station, so that trains can go into either platform.
  • Crossovers either side of Custom House station.
  • A simple crossover West of Whitechapel station.
  • A simple crossover between Farringdon and Tottenham Court Road stations.

Note that is no crossovers to the Eastern side of Paddington station.

Overall, Crossrail would appear to have a much simpler track layout.

Trains could probably be turned back at Custom House, Whitechapel, Farringdon or Tottenham Court Road stations.

But there is no complete turnback on the line in Central London, as there is no most of London’s Underground lines.

Turnback At Paddington

I wrote Are Crossrail’s Turnback Sidings At Westbourne Park Without Electrification? to try to answer the question in the title.

I decided they were electrified, but I also finished the post like this.

It looked to me, that there was still some work to do.

If Crossrail were to open in early December, then it looks that it could be impossible.

So were these works at Westbourne Park, the reason for the postponement?

It certainly seems that trains will not be able to turn back at Paddington at the frequency required to open the Central Tunnel.

But then they will have at  least a year to complete the Paddington turnback.

Turning Trains At Whitechapel

Trackwise, this is surely possible, as there is a cross-over to the West of the station.

There are reasons why this might not be done.

The station is reportedly, a long way from completion.

Would it be worthwhile opening to serve just Abbey Wood, Woolwich, Custon House, Canary Wharf and Whitechapel?

But it would create a link between East and South-East London.

The frequency would probably be low, but a train every ten minutes should be possible.

Surely, this could be used initially for driver training and train testing, but as soon as all stations on the route were completed and all staff trained and trains certified, I can’t see any reason, why the service couldn’t be opened to passengers.

Turning Trains At Tottenham Court Road Or Farringdon

The track layout at Tottenham Court Road has a crossover to the East of the station and I would expect that a limited number of trains could be turned at Tottenham Court Road.

Turning back at Farringdon using the same crossover may be a better possibility.

  • A service running every ten minutes could be possible.
  • It would connect Canary Wharf to Liverpool Street and Thameslink.

If necessary, Whitechapel station could be skipped, as the sub-surface lines should be able to cope.


I am led to the possibility, that there is a slight chance, that portions of Abbey Wood branch of Crossrail could be opened before the predicted dates of the pessimists.


December 30, 2018 - Posted by | Transport |

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