The Anonymous Widower

Next Time I’ll Go By Train

I have just taken thirty minutes to get through aecurity at City Airport. Mainly because there is not enough staff!

Airports in general could also use much more artificial intelligence to speed the process.

A lot would be to apply simple rules to historic passenger flows to make certain there are enough staff.

September 10, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

London To Novara

I flew from between London City and Milan Linate airports and then it was a coach and train to Novara.

These are the various legs of my journey.

Home To London City Airport

I took the following route.

It took just fifty minutes.

It is my closest airport.

London City Airport to Milan Linate Airport

I flew with British Airways Cityflyer.

  • The Airport was busy and there were delays at security.
  • We left a few minutes late.
  • The plane was an Embraer 190 SR.
  • I had a default aisle seat, but the guy in the window seat didn’t come, so I had room to spread about.
  • Some got a free snack, but they had no gluten-free, so BA gave me an extra water from Thirsty Planet.

I took these pictures during the flight.

The flight was more expensive than easyJet or Ruanair, but more refined and not as expensive as British Airways from Heathrow.

It was a route, I’d use again.

Milan Linate Airport To Milan Centrale Station

This was a five euro transfer in a coach from the airport to Milan Centrale station.

As I’d bought the ticket for the bus from a guy by the baggage reclaim, it was a painless business.

Wikipedia says this about Milan Central station.

Milano Centrale has high speed connections to Turin in the west, Venice via Verona in the east and on the north-south mainline to Bologna, Rome, Naples and Salerno. The Simplon and Gotthard railway lines connect Milano Centrale to Bern and Geneva via Domodossola and Zürich via Chiasso in Switzerland.

The station is also an important stop on the Milan Metro.

Looking up on, it would appear that most major cities in Italy have an hourly direct service to and from Milan Central.

Many are high speed trains, like the French TGV, which are called Freciarossa.

My journey between aiirport and station took forty minutes.

Unless I need a specific train, I rarely buy a ticket until I get to the station in Italy.

You can either go straight on to your destination on the next train, or dump your luggage in the left luggage lockers and take a couple of stops on the Metro to the cathedral to have a quick look at Milan.

Milan Centrale Station To Novara Station

To get to Novara station, I used the hourly express commuter service, that goes to Turin.


  1. The hour’s journey took about an hour and cost me five and a half euros.
  2. My train ran to the timetable.
  3. Usually, you can board a train about fifteen minutes before it leaves.
  4. The Italians paint a lot of rails white. It keeps them cool!

I arrived in Novara about five hours after I took off from London City Airport, so the total journey time coul;d have been under seven hours.


May 29, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

New Jet Flies In To Boost City’s Hopes Of Take-Off

The title of this post is the same as that of a substantial article in the Business pages of The Times.

It describes the affects Bombardier’s CS100 airliner will have on London City Airport.

Flights have started by Swiss between London City and Zurich, but the intriguing prospect is that the aircraft is capable of flying direct from London City to places like Dubai, Moscow and New York.

The Crossrail station for London City Airport, I talked about in Action Stations On Crossrail Howler, will certainly be needed.


August 15, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Action Stations On Crossrail Howler

The title of this post, is the same as that on Robert Lea’s Business Commentary in The Times today.

This is the first paragraph.

Study the route map of the Elizabeth Line – Crossrail as currently s – and gaze in wonder at one of the biggest cock-ups in recent transport infrastructure history.

He then details how Old Oak Common station is not on the map, with its connection to HS2 and the London Overground.

But he does indicate, that as HS2 won’t arrive until 2026, that there is plenty of time to get it right.

He then says.

The real howler is the missing Crossrail station at London City airport.

He finds it amazing that despite Crossrail running under the London City airport, there is no station to connect the City of London and Canary Wharf for that matter to the airport that bears its name.

I tend to agree.

He then says this.

Word is, feasibility plans to retrofit a Crossrail station are afoot with perhaps a delay to operations on the Woolwich branch to accommodate it. You’d think City airport will get this through; the new mayor likes the airport, the airport is prepared to fund construction of the station and, oh yes, the new chairman of City airport is Sir Terry Morgan, chairman of Crossrail.

He predicts a happy ending.

In Crossrail In Docklands, I had a section about Silvertown station, which has been safeguarded in the Crossrail plans and construction.

This Google Map shows the London City Airport and the Southern exit of Crossrail’s Connaught Tunnel.


  1. The airport is just to the top of this map.
  2. Crossrail runs diagonally across the map, with the Docklands Light Railway crossing from East to West.
  3. Silvertown station will be somewhere on this section of Crossrail.
  4. In the South-Eastern corner of the map, there is a footbridge over Crossrail.

These pictures were taken of the bridge and the Crossrail tracks underneath.


  1. There certainly seems to be a fair amount of space to the side of the London-bound track.
  2. It might be a bit tight to build a platform on the Abbey Wood-bound track.
  3. The track is all slab-track.
  4. Building the station further towards Abbey Wood might be easier.

It shouldn’t be the most difficult construction job to build a station and link it to the London City Airport.

August 15, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | 1 Comment

London City Airport Gets Go Ahead For Expansion

Usually, when airports get permission to expand, there are lots of protests and negative copy.

Yesterday, the government gave the go-ahead for expansion of London City Airport.

This article in the Guardian, is generally supportive of the plan and only has one paragraph about protests. The comments from readers seem to be on tha approve side too.

So what will the £344 million, that the airport is spending bring?

  • A bigger terminal with more stands and better taxiways.
  • Bigger and more modern planes will be able to use the airport.
  • 1,600 new jobs.
  • Better bus, taxi and cycle routes.
  • More trains on the DLR.

One of the comments mentioned that the new Bombardier C-series aircraft will be able to fly into the airport. Looking at the specification for this aircraft, it would appear to be designed very much for London City Airport with a 4,350 km range out of the airport.

I shall be trying to use the airport, after my disastrous attempt to fly to Berlin, which resulted in British Airways cancelling the flight the day before at midnight, discouraged me.

July 28, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Crossrail In Docklands

This map from shows the route of Crossrail through Docklands.

Crossrail In Docklands

Crossrail In Docklands

Cossrail is shown in a blue-purple colour and it goes horizonrally across the map.

The Crossrail stations in the area are as follows from West to East.


Whitechapel station is off the map to the west.

I have included it, as it will be Crossrail’s Jewel In The East and the most important interchange for the line in East London.

  • It links both eastern branches of Crossrail to the Metropolitan and District Lines.
  • It provides an interchange to London’s important but sometimes forgotten East London Line.
  • An extended Whitechapel station would provide much better access to the East of the City of London.

But perhaps more importantly, Whitechapel is the reversal station for passengers travelling between one Eastern branch of Crossrail and the other.

Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf station is Lord Foster’s architectural set piece for the line, which is probably more about showing off, shopping and leisure, than transport.

I have my worries about this station, in that interchange between Crossrail and the Jubilee Line and the DLR, may turn out to be long walks interspersed with a couple of long escalators.

I also think that many passengers for Canary Wharf will prefer to come to the area on the light and airy Docklands Light Railway, rather than on a deep, dark line with no views. Cinderella always comes out on top, as that’s where she belongs.

But then this station wasn’t designed for the needs of normal passengers.

I think that when Trip Advisor and other sites, start to rate Crossrail that this station will not be liked, except by those who live and work in the area.

Custom House

Custom House station is being built primarily to serve the Excel Exhibition Centre and the surrounding area.

But it will also provide a valuable easy connection to the Docklands Light Railway, which is lacking at Canary Wharf


Silvertown station is not planned, but the site has been safeguarded, so that it can be built when required.

I think it will be built in the next few years.

  • It would link Crossrail to the London City Airport.
  • It would give London City Airport a direct connection to Heathrow and a one-change connection to Gatwick.
  • It would link Crossrail to the Southern branches of the DLR.
  • Hopefully connections would be better than at Canary Wharf.

But the building of this station, will be mainly driven by the developments to the south of the Royal Docks.

This is a Google Map of the area, which shows the North and South entrances to the Connaught Tunnel, which takes Crossrail under the Docks.

The Route Of The Connaught Tunnel

The Route Of The Connaught Tunnel

This second Google Map, shows the Southern entrance to the Tunnel in detail.

Silvertown Station Site

Silvertown Station Site

The proposed Silvertown station would be in this area. As to the precise location, I can’t find any information.


Woolwich station is to the east of Docklands on the South bank of the Thames.

It has been built solely to serve the new housing on the Royal Arsenal site and has very poor connectivity with other rail lines.

This is a Google Map of the area.

Woolwich Stations

Woolwich Stations

Note Woolwich Arsenal station and the co-located DLR connection to the South West of the map.

Woolwich station is somewhere underneath the blocks to the North.

There is certainly a need to create a decent walking route in the area.


Looking at these stations, it strikes me that although connectivity between Crossrail and other lines is there, it is not of the best at some stations.

Scoring them out of ten, I would give scores as follows.

  • Whitechapel – 10
  • Canary Wharf – 4
  • Custom House – 8
  • Silvertown – 7
  • Woolwich – 3

Obviously, when the line opens, good design may improve matters.

But I do feel that building Silvertown station would make the whole line a lot better.



March 18, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 6 Comments

Is A Rail War Starting To London’s Airports?

The following sections sum up the rail services to the various London airports.

London City Airport

London City Airport may only be small, but some people use it a lot. I never have, but that’s not for dint of trying. It’s just that if I include all the factors, by which I choose a flight, it hasn’t come out top yet!

London City Airport is only on the Docklands Light Railway, but when Crossrail is open and Bank station has been fully upgraded in 2021, it will be a relatively easy airport through which to travel.

Crossrail passes very close to the Airport and passive provision has been made for a Silvertown station that could be connected to the Airport. At present, the Docklands Light Railway provides enough capacity.


Eurostar is the cuckoo in the nest and should be included, as it will offer rail services to a couple of European Airports.

By the early 2020s, there will be new direct or single-change services to France, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland.

I also suspect that one of the first extensions of Crossrail will serve Ebbsfleet International station, so it will give a lot more passengers easy access to European services.

Gatwick Airport

This year the rail links to Gatwick Airport are getting a major upgrade.

And increasingly, as the next few years roll on, various developments will or could happen.

  • Thameslink and particularly London Bridge station will have greater capacity.
  • Thameslink will add many direct trains to new destinations like Cambridge, Stevenage and Peterborough.
  • Thameslink and other developments, will mean that nearly all stations East of the Midland Main Line, will have access to Gatwick Airport through with only a single change at a convenient interchange like Bedford, Cambridge, Farringdon, Finsbury Park, Luton, Peterborough or Stevenage.
  • The dreadful links to the Thameslink platforms at St. Pancras, from some other lines at Kings Cross and St. Pancras will be improved.
  • An IPEMU variant of the Class 387 Gatwick Express could easily reach Reading on an hourly-basis, to give single-change access between Gatwick Airport and Wales and the West.
  • The East Coastway and West Coastway routes could be extended to Ashford and Bournemouth respectively, improved with more and faster trains and a better interchange to Gatwick services at Brighton.

But I believe that what would transform train services to Gatwick, is when the whole of the area from Weymouth and Reading in the west to Ramsgate in the East becomes part of London’s Oyster and contactless bank card ticketing area.

Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport will have to wait until December 2019 before it gets any more capacity to Central London, in the shape of Crossrail.

Until then, it will have to make do with the current services.

  • The very crowded and slow Piccadilly Line.
  • The infrequent Heathrow Connect.
  • The overpriced and much unloved Heathrow Express.

But there are serious problems.

  • The rail lines into the airport are designed to maximise revenue for Heathrow, rather than the convenience of passengers.
  • Crossrail hasn’t been designed to serve Terminal 5 directly. How daft is that?
  • Links to the West are atrocious and rely on going into London and out again. Gatwick has better links to Reading!
  • As I wrote in Heathrow Express And Crossrail, Heathrow and TfL are still arguing about access for Crossrail into Heathrow.
  • Boris has indicated that Freedom Passes will be allowed on Crossrail to Heathrow.
  • Heathrow Express will be killed by Crossrail, if Heathrow allows it to serve the airport.
  • Gatwick, Luton and Stansted Airports will become part of London’s Oyster and contactless bank card ticketing area. Will Heathrow?
  • Improved rail links and services at Gatwick, Luton and Stansted Airports will make these airports more attractive for a lot of passengers than Heathrow.

On top of all this, Heathrow needs Crossrail to give the Airport connectivity to large parts of the South East, the West Coast Main Line and HS2.

I think all candidates for the next London Mayor, will be playing the anti-Heathrow card frequently and with immense relish.

In the end Heathrow will have to accept the following.

  • The closure of Heathrow Express.
  • Full access of Crossrail directly to all terminals, at an agreed price  with TfL.
  • Oyster and contactless bank card ticketing.
  • A rail link from the West, under probably Network Rail, Great Western and TfL control.

If they don’t like it, then I’m sure Gatwick, Luton and Stansted Airports will take up the slack.

Luton Airport

Luton Airport is in some ways the joker in the pack, but also it has plans to expand, as is reported in this article in the Daily Mail, entitled Luton Airport reveals plans for direct rail line that would cut train journey from central London to just 20 minutes.

In Will Bombardier Develop The Ultimate Airport Train, I discussed Luton Airport in detail and came to the conclusion that if Bombardier Class 387/2 trains as used on the Gatwick Express were fitted with an IPEMU capability, they could easily use terminal platforms without electrification in a tunnel under the Airport.

Whether they will or not, I don’t know, but there is scope for very affordable solutions to providing a fast rail link into Central London.

Luton Airport is closer than Gatwick is to Central London, so I would expect that Oyster and contactless bank card ticketing, would not be a problem.

Southend Airport

Southend Airport is the newest of London’s airports. I know it well from my days as a pilot and occasionally use it on trips to the Netherlands on easyJet.

Operationally for airlines, Southend Airport’s location, close to the Essex Coast is ideal, as it is away from other airports and pilots can get planes in to and out of the airport without too much delay. Also, flights coming in from the East have an uncluttered approach, over the sea and marshland. I once came in to the airport on a flight from  Schipol and was on the train from Southend Airport station to Central London, within an hour of boarding the flight in The Netherlands.

I can understand why the Roskill Commission recommended that London’s new airport should be built on Maplin Sands.

This airline-friendly location could drive growth at the airport, especially if the airport keeps its reputation for fast passenger handling.

The Airport talks about handling two million passengers by 2020 and I can’t feel that this is unreasonable.

What could help passenger growth is that there is plenty of scope for making rail trips to Southend Airport easier, especially for Southend’s typical traveller with just hand-baggage and perhaps a wheeled case.

At present Southend Airport and Southend Victoria have three services to and from Liverpool Street per hour, which stop at all stations between Shenfield and Southend Victoria and then just Stratford and Liverpool Street. This is a recent upgrade, as Wikipedia says one train stops at all stations.

Journey times are as follows.

  • Liverpool Street – 64 minutes – Just four minutes longer than Stansted.
  • Stratford – 57 minutes
  • Shenfield – 27 minutes

Capacity isn’t a problem as all stations can take eight-car trains.

The airport station is very close to the terminal and is fully step-free. Incoming passengers from the London direction, don’t even have to cross the railway to get to the terminal.

Crossrail and the new East Anglia franchise will certainly have effects, some of which have already happened.

  • Between Shenfield and London there will be at least eight high-capacity Crossrail trains per hour.
  • Will Crossrail run on a twenty-four hour basis?
  • Shenfield will have Oyster and contactless card ticketing. Will this go all the way to Southend Victoria?
  • Shenfield will be Freedom Pass territory.
  • Will Norwich-in-Ninety improvements mean that times between Shenfield and London are reduced?
  • Will more of the longer distance services to East Anglia, stop at Shenfield for interchange with Crossrail?

I suspect that the answer to the two last questions, will be yes. This improved connectivity and reduced journey time, would mean that a lot of places in East London, Essex and East Suffolk, would be just one change at Shenfield away from Southend Airport.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see some upmarket trains between Southend Victoria and Liverpool Street, with a four trains per hour frequency. Partly, this will be driven by the airport, but also by the competition for passengers between the two companies running services to Southend.

Stansted Airport

Stansted Airport is currently served by the adequate but slow Stansted Express.

Stansted Airport is owned and operated by the ambitious Manchester Airports Group and I can’t see them sitting idly by, whilst Gatwick and Luton expand into their market. After all, they have resources that other airports in the South East lack; space and spare capacity on the current runway.

The rail links need improvement and these will or could happen in the next few years.

  • The West Anglia Main Line will be developed and given four tracks between at least Broxbourne and Lea Bridge stations, with higher speed limits.
  • There will be a higher frequency for Stansted Express trains into Liverpool Street.
  • Stansted Express will serve Stratford several times an hour.
  • Stansted Airport station will gain a second tunnel and platform.
  • There will be an improved service between Stansted and Cambridge.
  • Stansted Airport will become part of London’s Oyster and contactless bank card ticketing area.

The service between Cambridge and Stansted is a truly inadequate, single train per hour to and from Birmingham via Peterborough and Leicester.

I believe that when the new East Anglian franchise is awarded, the route north from Stansted will see the greatest improvement. Note that Thameslink will have four trains per hour to Cambridge going through London of which two will go all the way to Gatwick Airport and Brighton.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see two half-hourly services added to the airport.

  • Stansted Airport to Peterborough via Cambridge, Cambridge North and Ely.
  • Stansted Airport to Norwich via Cambridge, Cambridge North and Ely.

Even if the current Birmingham service was cut back, this would still give four trains per hour between Stansted Airport and one of its most important catchment areas.

Note how Cambridge North station, which serves the North of the City and the Cambridge Science Park, will be given good rail links.

In Better East-West Train Services Across Suffolk, I wrote about a radical idea of Network Rail to create a much improved service between Peterborough and Ipswich, based on a rebuilt Newmarket station.

But who knows, what will actually happen? I don’t!

But whatever happens to the North of Stansted Airport, the rail links to the airport will be much improved by 2020 or so.

Road Improvements

Road improvements will not be numerous, but one new road will effect the use of airports.

If a new Lower Thames Crossing is built, it could make driving to Gatwick, Stansted and Southend Airports easier and some travellers will shun Heathrow.

On the other hand, if it wasn’t built, it might favour other airports.


All of London’s six airports, except probably London City will be seeing large investments in rail infrastructure, stations and trains in the near future.

Heathrow won’t like it, but I think the political consequences for the major parties of a new runway at Heathrow will make it unlikely that Heathrow gets another runway.

But given the rail infrastructure, I suspect that the other airports will take up the increased traffic for several years.

Gatwick, Luton and Stanstead will get very much improved services and I think Southend could become a Luton in the East.

As passengers will get increasingly savvy as to the routes they use, it will be very difficult to predict how the transport pattern to London’s Airports, will look say in 2025.

I’ll finish by listing some ideas I’ve read over the years.

There’ll be others and some might even be built.

January 9, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Doing The Outrun From London City Airport

Today, I’m off to Budapest at lunchtime on my trip away by air and back by train.

As I went across the cable-car yesterday by the City Airport, I wondered if I could start from there.  The only two interesting places are Stockholm and Faro.

All the others aren’t far enough away.



April 8, 2013 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

A Quick Way To London City Airport

London City Airport, in theory should be very easy to use, now that the Docklands Light Railway provides a direct link between Stratford station and the airport.

So today, because I escorted a friend with a heavy case from her offices behind Heals to the airport.

To get to the airport, you need to get on the Docklands Light Railway at some point and from that area on Tottenham Court Road, there are several ways.

  1. Take the Northern line from Goodge Street to Waterloo and then the Jubilee line to Canning Town for the DLR
  2. Walk to Centrepoint and take a 25 bus to Bank for the DLR.
  3. Walk to Tottenham Court Road station and get the Central line to Bank for the DLR.
  4. Walk to Warren Street station and get the Victoria line to Highbury and Islington, where you get the Overground to Stratford for the DLR.
  5. Get a 29 bus to Camden Road for the Overground to Stratfpord and the DLR.

The trouble with these routes are that they sre not particularly-friendly to someone who is mobility challenged. We weren’t that, bus we were wheeling a heavy case.

We thought the 29 route might be a good idea, but we just missed one.  So we took a 73 bus, aiming to use the Underground from disabled-friendly Kings Cross or get another bus to Highbury and Islington station for the Overground to Stratford.

It worked out quite well, as at Kings Cross, a 30 bus, got stuck behind the 73 and we were able to do a quick transfer. We were then able to get to Hghbury and Islington without having to dive into the Underground. We did have a slight problem with the pavements of Islington, but the Stannah got us safely to the Overground. It seems funny to use one of their products on public transport.

The Overground got us quickly to Stratford, where we took the lift into the subway.  My friend rushed into Easfield to the Marks by the station to get some sandwiches and a drink, whilst I sat on a seat in the subway with the dreaded case.

Unfortunately, we’d chosen the wrong lifts from the platform and had ended up in the wrong subway to get the DLR to the airport. But there were  lots of lifts.  Although, I did feel guilty using one small one, that was reserved for buggies and wheelchairs.

The new line is advertised as directly linking Stratford and London City Airport, but at various times of the day, you have to change at Canning Town.

We were of course travelling at one of those times of day without a direct train.

It was a few minutes wait, but the train got us quickly to Canning Town.

However, there is no information at the station on how to transfer and the signage actually points you back to the platform you have just arrived on.

At the minimum Canning Town station needs.

  1. A consolidated train departure board on each platform, telling you when the next few trains are leaving.  Dalston Junction and Highbury and Islington stations have them, so why not Canning Town?
  2. They do have an information booth, but it was unmanned.
  3. The signs to the platform you need could be much better.

It would be nice, if there could be more staff about, as there were lots of people wandering around aimlessly, looking for their trains.

The perfect solution would be for all four destinations of the DLR at the station to have separate platforms.

  1. Stratford and Stratford International.  This is the case.
  2. Bank and the City.  This is the case.
  3. Beckton. Trains can be upstairs or downstairs.
  4. City airport and Woolwich Arsenal.  Again upstairs and downstairs.

I wonder if the politicians, civil servants, accountants and engineers who designed the system, have ever used the DLR and completely misjudged where people would like to go. After all Stratford is a superb rail interchsnge now and gets passengers all over north east London and East Anglia very quickly and easily.

Also, could we please have a departure board for the airport at Canning Town, that tells the truth and is up-to-date.

Before you ask, m y friend got to the airport on time.

September 28, 2011 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The DLR Reaches Stratford International

Today the DLR was opened to Stratford International station. So I went for a ride and took a few pictures.

It is an impressive line.

One thing that it does is to create a step-free route from stations on the North London line to the London City Airport, with a single change at Stratford.

I also joked with one of the staff about tourists coming to Abbey Road station to see the crossing. Nothing surprises her!

August 31, 2011 Posted by | Travel, World | , , , , , , | 4 Comments