The Anonymous Widower

A Tunnel Under Brixton

In the June 2016 Edition of Modern Railways in an article entitled Turning South London Orange.

One of the proposals is to create a tunnel under Brixton to cut out the need for fast Sutheastern services to cross Thameslink services on the level at Herne Hill.

The map from, shows the current lines between Battersea and Herne Hill.

Battersea To Herne Hill

Battersea To Herne Hill

This crossing should surely have been sorted years ago, as it must be a severe bottleneck in the running of Thameslink services. It must be like having road-works controlled by traffic lights, where the M1 joins the M6. I wrote about the problems in Herne Hill Station.

Network Rail’s plan involved turning all Sutton Loop Line services at Blackfriars to ease the problem of getting the trains through the Thameslink tunnel efficiently, but politicians squashed that!

The Northern end of the tunnel would be in the Battersea railway lands North of Wandsworth Road station.

This Google Map shows the area.

North End Of Brixton Tunnel

North End Of Brixton Tunnel

The Southeastern lines come from Victoria and pass the Battersea Power station site on its Western side, before passing over the wide swath of lines going into Waterloo.

Fast services from Victoria to Kent would go straight into the tunnel, which would have its Northern portal somewhere between the power station and Wandsworth Road station.

Given there are proposals in the Centre for London report, for a new station at Battersea linked to the Northern Line Extension, it all seems to fit together fairly well.

A big winner could be the Battersea Bogs Home, as some of their space might be needed, but then organisations like that are much easier to deal with than irate home or business owners. I could see the charity ending up with some very good premises over the tunnel portal.

The Southern end of the tunnel would be between Herne Hill and West Dulwich stations.

This Google Map shows the area.

South End Of Brixton Tunnel

South End Of Brixton Tunnel

The Southern portal would be in the area, where the two railway lines cross to the North-West of the sports grounds.

It would seem with all the green space, that building the tunnel portal in the area would be easy.

But much of the land is owned by Dulwich College and they are not the most co-operative of neighbours according to various articles I’ve read.

So it would appear that the politics and public relations of a tunnel under Brixton could be much more difficult than the actual engineering.

The Centre for London report, doesn’t say much about the actual design of the tunnel, but it could be assumed that it would be a five-kilometre double-track tunnel, with or without low-level platforms beneath Herne Hill station. As none of the fast services currently stop at Herne Hill station, I would suspect that nothing more than provision for the platforms will be provided.

There will be various benefits of the tunnel.

  • Eliminating the need for Thameslink services to cross the fast Southeastern services, must give benefit to both operators with respect to the robustness of services.
  • Lengthening of platforms at Herne Hill will now be possible, which would allow longer trains on overcrowded services.
  • Fast services would be removed from the lines through Wandsworth Road and Clapham High Street stations, allowing expansion of services on a reconfigured South London Line.
  • Herne Hill station could get six ten-car trains per hour  into Victoria calling at Brixton, Wandsworth Road, Clapham High Street and the new Battersea stations for the Northern Line.

It also has to be asked, if the tunnel, which would increase capacity on the Sutton Loop Line, might help with the problems of building Crossrail 2 through Wimbledon.

The other question that has to be asked is how does this all fit in with Transport for London’s possible plans to create a loop on the Victoria Line to serve Herne Hill station, which I wrote about in Will The Victoria Line Go To Herne Hill?

I think this proposal could be an idea, that could improve rail services substantially in this part of South London.


May 27, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Herne Hill Station

I visited Herne Hill Station and took these pictures.

It is a bit of an odd station, in that although it is fully step-free and has a ticket office, it is a station without ticket gates.

It was also surprisingly short on information about buses, as due to a train being cancelled, I thought I might get a bus to Loughborough Junction station.

But there was no map!

This is a Google Map of the station

Herne Hill Station

Herne Hill Station

It clearly shows how the four lines through the station divide both North and South of the station, into two pairs of lines.

It is noteworthy that where the lines split in the North, the area is a Network Rail depot, so it would be ideal to create a shaft to a Victoria Line  tunnel.

I have seen or found nothing to definitely answer the question I posed in Will The Victoria Line Go To Herne Hil?

November 23, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

Will The Victoria Line Go To Herne Hill?

The Wikipedia entry for the Victoria Line has a section entitled Possible Future Projects. This is said.

For many years there have been proposals to extend the line one stop southwards from Brixton to Herne Hill. Herne Hill station would be on a large reversing loop with one platform. This would remove a critical capacity restriction by eliminating the need for trains to reverse at Brixton. The Mayor of London’s 2020 Vision, published in 2013, proposed extending the Victoria line “out beyond Brixton” by 2030.

Now that the dodgy crossover on the approach to Walthamstow Central station has been replaced, this extension to Herne Hill station must be higher up Transport for London’s list of priorities, as they try to squeeze more capacity out of London’s railways.

This metro map from, shows the lines around Herne Hill.

Victoria Line And Herne Hill

Victoria Line And Herne Hill

Note the blue lines of the Victoria Line going a short distance past the terminal platforms at Brixton tube station.

The plan calls for these stubs to be extended in a wide loop under Herne Hill station, where there would be a single platform beneath the current platforms.

I think that this was a project that should have some years ago, as it would surely have taken some of the pressure off Victoria tube station, during the current rebuilding.

In the London Transport Infrastructure Plan for 2050,  under New Links and/or stations for Strategic Interchange, there is a mention of Brixton High Level, which I wrote about in Could The Various Lines At Brixton Be Connected?. I finished with.

So it would appear that substantial improvement at Brixton could be achieved by creating a High Level station linking the various lines together and perhaps using an iconic lift tower to the ground.

Brixton needs an iconic creation to go with the vibrancy of the area, that doesn’t destroy everything. This could be the High Level station. Having seen the way that the walkway was threaded through at Hackney, I think there are at least one set of engineers and architects up to the challenge.

But building an iconic station at Brixton would cause a lot of disruption.

However, it could be argued and the passenger figures might show it, that another station at Herne Hill might help in giving passengers another way to get on the Victoria Line.

This section is taken from the Transport Infrastructure Plan.

Some examples of the types of schemes to address these issues are an upgrade of the London Overground network to provide 6 car trains and new stationson existing lines, eg at Camberwell, that can plug connectivity gaps and act as development nodes.

Look at the map of the Victoria Line and Herne Hill and you’ll see the orange line of the London Overground passing across and going over the top of Loughborough Junction station. Surely a four-poster station could be built to improve the connectivity. For a start, it would give Dalstonistas like me, good access to Thameslink.

South London often gets overlooked in the development of London’s railways, but done in the right sequence, I think these projects would be a welcome addition to London transport network.

  • Victoria Line Extension to Herne Hill
  • Brixton High Level Station, which would connect the Overground to lines out of Victoria.
  • Loughborough Junction High Level Station, which would connect the Overground to Thameslink.

I would start with the Victoria Line extension to Herne Hill. After all it would be a nice follow-on job to the Northern Line Extension to Battersea.

November 23, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , | 4 Comments

The Importance Of The Victoria Line

In an ideal world, Crossrail 2 would be a follow-on to Crossrail 1, but there is not enough money to do that.

So in the time before Crossrail 2 is built, we must make the most of other lines.

The Victoria Line is by some measures one of the most heavily used Underground lines in London and this summer a bottleneck is being removed at Walthamstow Central to increase the frequency of trains on the line.

After this wirk, the big constraint on frequency on the Victoria Line will be the reversing of trains at Brixton.  Under Future Projects for the Victoria Line, Wikipedia says this.

For many years there have been proposals to extend the line one stop southwards from Brixton to Herne Hill. Herne Hill station would be on a large reversing loop with one platform. This would remove a critical capacity restriction by eliminating the need for trains to reverse at Brixton. The Mayor of London’s 2020 Vision, published in 2013, proposed extending the Victoria line “out beyond Brixton” by 2030.

I would suspect this will be done in the near future, as it both increases Victoria Line capacity and gives the line a new station at Herne Hill, which has good interchange possibilities.

Although the Victoria Line is important to London, I do find it strange, that it has no interchange with Crossrail.

Hopefully, during the wait for Crossrail 2, improvements to the Victoria Line will soothe some of the problems.

August 4, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Herne Hill Station

The more I read about Herne Hill station, the more I’m fascinated with its problems. The Wikipedia entry starts with these two paragraphs.

The station building on Railton Road was opened in 1862 by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. Initial service was only to Victoria, but by 1869 services ran to the City of London, King’s Cross, Kingston via Wimbledon, and Kent, including express trains to Dover Harbour for continental Europe. The arrival of the railways transformed Herne Hill from a wealthy suburb with large residential estates into a densely populated urban area.

In 2011, Network Rail recommended terminating all northbound Thameslink trains from Herne Hill at Blackfriars from 2018, freeing up capacity on the Thameslink cross-London section for trains via London Bridge. The Department for Transport announced in January 2013 that services from Herne Hill would continue travelling across London after 2018.

The first paragraph illustrates one of the problems at Herne Hill. To my mind, the real problem is that we have Victoria towards the west of London acting as a terminal for trains from Kent and the Eastern part of Surrey, which then have to cross major North-South services like Thameslink and the London Bridge to Sussex services. It’s a crazy mess that has been well over a hundred years in the making, because successive rail management has sidestepped the problem.

Network Rail’s design for Thameslink was probably the best they could do in this pressure cooker, but it annoyed too many civil servants and politicians, so it couldn’t be allowed. I’ve seen this so often in major projects, where engineers, designers and other professionals have recommendd one course of action, but polticians have said you can’t do that, as my gardener will lose his allotment.

In Improving the East London Line about Herne Hill station, I said this.

It has problems, as it would appear a gallon is being squeezed into a gill pot! If you read this article in London Reconnections, you’ll see that it is not just a serious problem, but an almost impossible one.

To make matters worse, Network Rail’s proposed solutions have seemed to be hindered by the Dulwich Estate retaining significant planning powers, which only an Act of Parliament can resolve.

With all my scheduling experience,I can’t help feeling that Thameslink is going to be a disaster unless something is done to sort out the knitting in the Herne Hill area or the number of trains through the area, is matched to the capacity.

This extract from Wikipedia explains why capacity is low at Herne Hill.

The four tracks are served by two island platforms; northbound trains call at the western platform and southbound trains the eastern platform, providing cross-platform interchange between the two routes.

There are flat junctions at each end of the station: Herne Hill North Junction, where the lines to Loughborough Junction and Brixton diverge; and Herne Hill South Junction, where the lines to West Dulwich and Tulse Hill diverge. Thameslink and Southeastern services cross each other’s paths at the junctions, constraining capacity on both routes. The station also has a turnback siding on its eastern side, adjacent to Milkwood Road.

Imagine two roads crossing at an angle, where there were traffic signals letting through a few vehicles at a time. Slow isn’t it?

The only solution would be to have a flyover, but there are too many local objectors to this.

We could always dig the guys up who designed this mess and hang them. But although we might feel better, it wouldn’t help the problem.

So I just thought I had to go and look at this troubled station and pour my four-pennyworth of burning oil on the problem. I took these pictures.

The pictures show the station is in good condition with good disabled access. There are also four bakeries and lots of cafes and restaurants for those who jump train at Herne Hill because of the slow progress.




August 3, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment