Does that make it a Bactrian station?
It’s certainly the sort of thing, that you’ll see in posh Islington and would never see in plebian Hackney.
This article in the Hackney Gazette is entitled Dalston Kingsland: Four in hospital after sparks and smoke cause stampede off train.
As the problem was sorted by the London Fire Brigade using a bucket of sand to extinguish a fire in the battery pack of a workman’s drill, it doesn’t appear to have been very serious.
The injuries seem to have been caused by panic, as passengers tried to get away fro the problem.
I know Dalston Kingsland station well and although the entrance, ticket hall and gateline has been updated, the stairs are not the best.
So did everybody try to get out of the station on these stairs and it was this that caused the injuries?
I think there are questions that have to be asked about the design of the station and its operating procedures.
If you look at the passenger numbers for 2015-16 on the North London Line, you get the following.
- Canonbury – 2.86million
- Dalston Kingsland – 5.93million
- Hackney Central – 5.98million
- Homerton – 4.65 million
- Hackney Wick – 2.10million
So the station has a fairly high usage.
At the moment, the Gospel Oak to Barking Line is closed, so is the station getting more passengers, who need to get across London?
It looks to me, that the incident could have been a lot worse.
Luckily it wasn’t, but I do believe that something must be done to improve the stairs at Dalston Kingland station.
These strikes have all the qualities of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object.
The latest headline on an article on the BBC is Southern rail strike enters second day as Acas talks start.
I doubt the talks will be very productive.
Here are my thoughts about various issues.
I have been running around in driver-only-operated (DOO) trains for quite a few decades now. Especially, as I have always travelled frequently on the London Underground.
Wikipedia has a comprehensive section on One Man Operation in London.
This is said about the Underground.
All trains on the London Underground are single-manned.Conversion to one-man operation began in 1984 and was completed in 2000.
In some ways though the Underground, is not full DOO, in that on nearly all stations, there are staff on the station, who assist the driver to safely dispatch the trains.
Assistance From Staff
The staff on the platform are also there to assist passengers, who need help. This page on the Transport for London web site describes the role of staff.
This is said under Assistance To And From Trains.
On the Tube, TfL Rail and Overground, station staff will also accompany you to the train and help you on board and, if needed, can arrange for you to be met at your destination. Anyone can use this service, but it is particularly used by blind and visually impaired passengers and people using boarding ramps onto trains.
If you would like to use this service, ask a member of staff when you arrive at the station.
That is very much turn-up-and-go for everybody!
So what happens on Southern?
This page on the Southern web site gives full details of what they offer.
This is said.
When should I ask for help?
If you want to book ‘help’ try to call us at least one day before you travel.
That is not acceptable.
So there’s one job for the redundant guards on Southern – They could help on the platform, as they do on the London Underground and Overground.
The Gospel Oak To Barking Line
London hasn’t been without trouble though, as this from Wikipedia shows.
TFL now operates 100% of its overground network as driver-only trains. The latest conversion was announced in July 2013 on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line. The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) challenged the move, claiming passenger safety would be compromised. Transport for London replied that at the time the East London Line, already one-man operated, has one door-related incident for every 7 million passengers, while the section of the network which currently uses conductors has one door-related incident for every 4 million passengers. On 16 August 2013, the RMT called a 48-hour strike over the August Bank holiday weekend. According to the RMT, the proposal set forth by Transport for London would imply Driver Only Operations on the whole of the London Overground network and make 130 guards redundant London Overground Rail Operations stated in response that they had given “the RMT assurances on employing conductors in alternative customer service roles and offering a generous voluntary redundancy package to those who want it.” According to RMT, the proposals to implement driver only operations are in response to the 12.5% reduction in Transport for London’s funding announced in Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review
I certainly don’t remember that strike. So it must have been really significant!
Overground And Underground
You should always remember that when the Overground started, every train had a second man, but gradually they have been moved to the platforms.
The Overground works a different system to the Underground on doors in that the driver enables the doors for opening and they are actually opened by the passengers individually. On the Underground, the driver just opens and closes all doors.
It will be interesting to see, what system the new Class 345 trains for Crossrail use.
It’s an Overground train in the outer reaches and an Underground train in the centre.
The Class 345 trains also appear to be very hi-tech with various innovative features.
Automatic Train Operation
On the London Underground, the Central, Northern, Jubilee, and Victoria lines run with ATO.
ATO was introduced on the London Underground’s Northern line in 2013 and will be introduced on the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, and Metropolitan lines by 2022. Although ATO will be used on Crossrail and Thameslink, it has not yet been implemented on UK mainline railways
Lines like the Victoria Line, Crossrail and Thameslink, will not be completely automatic, but the driver will be an intelligent monitor to what the train is doing. It could be compared to auto-land on an aircraft, where the plane is actually controlled, by the autopilot and the pilots monitor.
As a Control Engineer, I believe we’ll be seeing large increases in the use of ATO in the UK in the next few years. Many intensively used lines could probably handle more trains, with a controlling ATO system.
Will the Unions object to ATO?
They haven’t seemed to yet, as ATO generally seems to see an increase in the number of trains, which means more staff.
More Automation On Trains
This is happening, but then this is only following the lead of more automation in planes and road vehicles.
Crossrail trains will set a new standard in automation.
This is a snippet from the an article in the Derby Telegraph
Unlike today’s commuter trains, Aventra can shut down fully at night and can be “woken up” by remote control before the driver arrives for the first shift.
I described this to a driver for Northern and a big smile came over his face.
Perhaps more contentious is the autoreverse system fitted to Crossrail trains, that I wrote about and explained fully in Crossrail Trains Will Have Auto-Reverse.
The system will work at a Crossrail terminal like Paddington or Abbey Wood.
- The driver selects auto-reverse in the terminal platform.
- The train then drives itself into the reversing siding.
- The driver starts to walk back through the train towards the other cab.
- When the train reaches the end of the reversing siding, it reverses back into the return platform.
- By the time the driver has walked the length of the train and installed himself in the cab, the train will have arrived in the platform and will be ready to depart.
I suspect that there will be a high-level of safety systems, with the driver probably carrying a dead man’s handle, that connects to the train by radio.
It will be interesting to see how the Unions react to such a system.
- One of the reasons for the auto-reverse is that it is needed to get 30 trains per hour, through the tunnel.
- Drivers will avoid a 200 metre walk.
- No passengers will be on the train, when the driver is out of the cab.
But it will mean more staff being employed, to drive and service the extra trains and handle the extra passengers.
I am drawn to the conclusion, that lots of automation and driver aids are coming to the railways.
DOO is the first of many issues, where there will be a fight.
If the Unions don’t like it, they will reap the wrath of the passengers, train companies and most politicians.
I didn’t use it, as I was going the other way.
It looks to be a very good design.
- Like all the best designs, it is simple.
- It is double-ended.
- It’s a gentle slope to ascend to train level, with no steps to trip on.
- It’s got seats to prop yourself on.
- It’s got a rail to hang on to.
- Those with poor eye-sight wouldn’t miss it and trip over.
- I suspect any sensible local builder could build one of these, from a kit of parts and instructions on a page of A4.
It looks to me like it is one of those classic engineering designs, that was developed using copious amounts of real ale, with everything written down on the back of fag-packets and used envelopes.
After my musings on dual-height platforms for the Bakerloo Line Extension, in How Will They Build The Bakerloo Line Extension?, I think that a modified version could handle the problems at stations on the Northern reaches of the Bakerloo Line, where 1972 Stock and Class 378 trains, share a platform.
With no end in sight f the Southern dispute and Govia seeming incapable of managing their way out of a paper bag, surely the time has come to explore the possibility of making Gatwick Airport a terminus of the East London Line?
A service could stop at all stations to New Cross Gate, Anerley (for my friend Nick), Norwood Junction, East Croydon, South Croydon and Gatwick Airport.
I know I’m being selfish, but it would create a valuable route to the East of Thameslink.
Gatwick have ambitions to be a massive rail hub and are putting millions where their mouth is.
So why shouldn’t they become a terminus for a two trains per hour (tph) service from Highbury and Islington, that alternates with a two tph service to West Croydon?
- At present you can get to Gatwick from Highbury and Islington, with a single change at New Cross Gate.
- It takes 26 minutes to New Cross Gate and after a three minute wait, 44 minutes from New Cross Gate to Gatwick.
- So total time is 73 minutes.
By comparison getting to Heathrow by Piccadilly Line takes about 70 minutes, so it’s not that slow.
I started this post on holiday, as a bit of a light-hearted post, but it does strike me, that it would be feasible.
- It gives the whole of East London from Walthamstow to Croydon, through Hackney, Tower Hamlets, New Cross a direct route to Gatwick.
- There is no new infrastructure required.
- Highbury and Islington is a well-connected terminal.
- Whitechapel gives a good connection to Crossrail.
I think that although it wouldn’t be something that some companies would welcome, it is the sort of idea, that an innovative Gatwick could fund to steal business from Heathrow.
Platform Changes At London Bridge Station
In 2012, the platform layout at London Bridge was as follows.
- Platform 1 – From Cannon Street
- Platform 2 – To/From Cannon Street
- Platform 3 – To Cannon Street
- Platform 4 – From Charing Cross
- Platform 5 – From Charing Cross and Bedford
- Platform 6 -To Charing Cross and Bedford
- There was also a through line to Charing Cross without a platform.
I can’t remember much about those days, except that the platforms were very crowded.
When London Bridge station and the Thameslink Programme is completed, the new platform layout will give opportunities to create new services through London Bridge to both; Cannon Street and Charing Cross stations.
The platform layout at London Bridge station will be as follows.
- Platform 1 – From Cannon Street
- Platform 2 – To/From Cannon Street
- Platform 3 – To Cannon Street
- Platform 4 – From Thameslink
- Platform 5 – To Thameslink
- Platform 6 – From Charing Cross
- Platform 7 – From Charing Cross
- Platform 8 – To Charing Cross
- Platform 9 – To Charing Cross
So, six through platforms and seven lines have been replaced by nine through platforms. This is a 50% increase in platforms and a 28% increase in tracks. The Borough Market Viaduct was the major engineering in creating the extra two tracks across the South Bank.
Other factors help capacity in the area include.
- The Bermondsey dive-under sorts out all the lines South of London Bridge station and will present trains to the right platforms at London Bridge. |Spaghetti Junction is so 1960s!
- Effectively, there are now three parallel and probably separate railway systems virtually from Bermondsey through London Bridge station, that split after the station; a pair of lines for Cannon Street, another pair for Thameslink and two pairs for Charing Cross.
- There has been a lot of work on track and signalling.
- The Tanners Hill Fly-Down has been built to improve capacity between London Bridge and Lewisham, which must help Cannon Street and Charing Cross services.
- The design of London Bridge station with its wide through platforms and more escalators than a science-fiction fantasy, could mean that passengers are there in time for their trains.
- The electrification changeover for Thameslink has been streamlined.
- The Class 700 trains must be better at changing voltages in the Thameslink tunnel.
All of these factoras must have positive affects on the capacity of the system.
I also think that one of the major benefits of the new layout, is what happens if something goes wrong.
If say a train breaks down on Thameslink at Blackfriars, because it is a separate railway, this doesn’t affect Cannon Street and Charing Cross services in the way it did before the new layout. There would still be the problems of fixing the train and what to do with those following behind, but the new design of London Bridge station means that passengers can be handled safely in all the space.
I’d love to see Network Rail’s thinking for handling all problems, but the design of London Bridge and its tracks could be one of those designs, that in a hundred years, engineers will look at and copy.
I can’t believe that the new layout won’t allow more trains to go to and from Cannon Street and Charing Cross, just as it allows more trains to go through the core Thameslink tunnels.
Thameslink is going from something like fifteen trains per hour (tph) to 24 tph or an increase of 60%. So what sort of increase will we see into Charing Cross and Cannon Street?
Services To Charing Cross
In 2012, Charing Cross to London Bridge was handled on three tracks between the two stations and three platforms at London Bridge. Two of the platforms were shared with Thameslink running 15 tph through them.
These three tracks and platforms have been replaced with four tracks, each with its own platform at London Bridge and possibly Waterloo East stations.
The tracks must have been fitted with a higher-capacity signalling system and an efficient track layout.
I am surprised that the four lines to and from Charing Cross share a platform at London Bridge with the other line going the same way.
Surely, it could be better if the Thameslink and Charing Cross services shared an island platform, when they were going in the same direction.
This would give a same-platform interchange between Thameslink and Charing Cross services, which the 2012 layout had.
I suspect that sharing is not possible, as it would mean that services would have to cross other lines to get there and the track doesn’t and can’t allow it.
But if the current service level of fourteen tph to and from Charing Cross station, can be achieved with just two platforms at London Bridge station as they are in the half-completed station, then there must be potential to increase the number of services to and from Waterloo East and Charing Cross, by a worthwhile margin.
Compared to some places in the UK, Charing Cross station already has an intense level of services to stations in South East London and beyond.
These are some example of trains out of Charing Cross between eleven and twelve in the morning.
- Abbey Wood – 2 trains
- Ashford International – 2 trains
- Dartford – 6 trains
- Gravesend – 4 trains
- Greenhithe – 4 trains
- Hayes – 4 trains
- Lewisham – 7 trains
- Orpington – 6 trains
- Rochester – 2 trains
- Sevenoaks – 8 trains
- Tonbridge – 6 trains
- Woolwich Arsenal – 2 trains
If this is increased, I can’t see any complaints from passengers, especially as most trains appear to have ten-cars or more.
I do think though that there will be a need to improve capacity, onward connections and walking routes at Waterloo East and Charing Cross stations.
It’s just that all these passengers will need somewhere to go.
Services To Cannon Street
Cannon Street station will be getting the same number of lines in 2018, as it did in 2012.
So I doubt, that the service will be any less intense, than it was in 2012.
Currently, in the Off Peak, there is a sixteen tph service, to and from Cannon Street station, which compares well with the current fourteen to and from Charing Cross station.
There is also going to be improvement at Cannon Street station with respect to onward connections and walking routes.
- Bank tube station is getting two new entrances, which are closer to Cannon Street.
- The connection between Cannon Street station and the Central Line will be improved with a travelator running North-South between the two Northern Line tracks at Bank station.
- The connection between Cannon Street station and the Northern Line will be improved with triple escalators directly down from Cannon Street, perhaps a hundred metres from Cannon Street station.
- The link to the District and Circle Lines is already excellent and those lines will be improved and get higher frequencies in the next few years.
- The City of London has ambitions to pedestrianise a lot of the area around Bank station.
Cannon Street station will certainly become one of London’s better-connected terminal stations.
There are more observations in Improvements At Bank Station.
Interchange At London Bridge Station
Effectively, London Bridge station has four sets of services.
- Those that terminate in the station.
- Through services on Thameslink
- Through service to and from Charing Cross station.
- Through service to and from Cannon Street station.
I’ll leave out the Underground, as the entrance to that hasn’t been fully opened yet!
All the current sets of services have their own set of platforms.
Interchange between the various services is a matter of taking an escalator down from the platform on which you arrive and then take another escalator up to your departure platform.
At present, they seem to be using the rebuilt through platforms flexibly as follows.
- Platform 7 – From Charing Cross
- Platform 8 – To/From Charing Cross
- Platform 9 – To Charing Cross
As trains out from Charing Cross seem to pass through London Bridge on either platform 7 and 8, there does seem to be a degree of flexibility in the track. But then there are no Thameslink services needing to be accommodated.
I do wonder if at some time in the future, they will arrange the lines at London Bridge, so that there is some cross platform interchanges. But I suspect that given the complex layout of the tracks, changes will only be limited.
So passengers will continue to go down and up the escalators. But they don’t seem to be complaining!
The Southeastern Metro
This map shows Southeastern Metro services, which are close to the London termini and fall within the Oystercard area.
If nothing else the map shows why Transport for London want to get control of Southeastern Metro services and paint them orange, as it is a ready made network that compliments the current Underground and Overground services.
The network has five Central London termini and stations; Cannon Street, Charing Cross, London Bridge, Victoria and Waterloo East.
It also connects to the following other lines.
- Several Underground Lines including the Bakerloo, both branches of the Northern Line, the District Line and and the Circle Line.
- The Overground at Denmark Hill, New Cross and Peckham Rye
- The Docklands Light Railway at Greenwich, Lewisham and Woolwich Arsenal.
- Tramlink at Elmers End.
- Crossrail at Abbey Wood.
- Thameslink at Dartford, Greenwich, London Bridge and Orpington.
In addition, many of the stations have step-free access..
These are the services from a selection of stations close to London.
- Dartford has six tph to Charing Cross and two tph to Cannon Street and Victoria.
- Greenwich has six tph to Cannon Street.
- Hayes has two tph to Charing Cross and Cannon Street.
- Lewisham has eight tph to Cannon Street, 4 tph to Charing Cross and 2 tph to \Victoria.
- Orpington has four tph to each of Cannon Street, Charing Cross and Victoria
- Woolwich Arsenal has six tph to Cannon Street and 2 tph to Charing Cross.
So in some ways it’s an all-places-to-all-terminals Metro.
Transport for London must look at the Southeastern Metro and have all sorts of ideas about how they could use the network to the benefit of London.
These are some Off Peak service levels.
- Sixteen tph between London Bridge and Cannon Street.
- Fourteen tph between London Bridge and Charing Cross.
- Ten tph between New Cross and Cannon Street.
- Eight tph between Orpington and London Bridge.
- Eight tph between Dartford and London Bridge
- Twelve tph between Lewisham and London Bridge.
- Would more services be possible after Thameslink is completed between London Bridge and Charing Cross.
- Could more use be made of an interchange at New Cross to get passengers to Canada Water for Canary Wharf and Witechapel for Crossrail?
- Could better use be made of Orpington station?
- Could Lewisham be improved?
- Will Brockley Lane station be rebuilt and a connection to the East London Line created?
- How would the area be affected by an extended Crossrail to Gravesend?
- How would New Cross cope with more than four tph on the East London Line?
I think that TfL could have lots of fun!
For instance, with a bit of reorganisation of services, it might be possible to create a ten tph or upwards set of lines across South London.
As an example Lewisham to Charing Cross via New Cross, London Bridge, Waterloo East could easily be ten tph.
No new trains, track or signalling would be needed, but the bottleneck of London Bridge must probably be removed before it is possible. And the Thameslink Programme is doing that!
Effects On The Jubilee Line
I don’t have any figures on passengers, but the section of Jubilee Line from London Bridge, will get a high-capacity by-pass on the surface.
But if we assume the current 14 tph on the rail line and 2019 frequency of 36 tph on the Jubilee Line, these are the numbers of carriages going between London Bridge and Charing Cross/Waterloo.
Heavy rail – 14 tph x 12 cars = 168
Jubilee Line – 36 tph x 7 cars = 252
Incidentally, the seats per hour figures are 10206 for Class 377 trains and 8424 for the S Stock on the Jubilee Line.
So will passengers choose to travel on the surface, thus freeing up capacity on the Jubilee Line?
- Changing from say Thameslink after travelling up from Brighton to a Charing Cross service at London Bridge will be down and up two escalators and fully step-free.
- How many passengers will walk or take a bus to and from London Bridge to complete their journey?
- Some connections to the Underground at London Bridge require lots of walking.
- Going between London Bridge and Waterloo by a train rather than the Jubilee Line may well be a more pleasing experience.
- There are people like me, who prefer not to use a deep-level Underground Line, if there is an alternative.
Remember though that the the Charing Cross platforms at London Bridge are paired with 6/7 handling trains from Charing Cross and 8/9 trains the other way. Both pairs will share an island platform, escalators and a lift. So it may be quicker if you’re going to say Waterloo station, Trafalgar Square or Covent Garden to take a train.
Every so often, various plans are put forward as to what to do with the closed Jubilee Line platforms at Charing Cross. This is said about the platforms in Wikipedia.
As the Jubilee line platforms and track are still maintained by TfL for operation reasons, they can can also be used by film and television makers requiring a modern Underground station location. While still open they were used in the 1987 film The Fourth Protocol, and after closure in numerous productions, including different episodes of the television series Spooks.
I can envisage someone coming up with a plan, whereby these platforms are used as a second Southern terminus for the Jubilee Line. By 2019, it is intended that 36 tph will be running from North Greenwich to West Hampstead.
But there could be a problem, in that depending on what you read, there may not be enough trains for this increase in service.
But if, the uprated service between London Bridge and Charing Cross takes passengers from the Jubilee Line between London Bridge and Waterloo could the service be split into two?
- Most Jubilee Line trains would run as now and provide sufficient service between North Greenwich to West Hampstead.
- A small proportion of trains, perhaps 10 tph, would divert into the closed platforms at Charing Cross station.
It would give some advantages.
- There would be improved Underground connections at Charing Cross station.
- Trafalgar Square would gain another Underground Line.
- Charing Cross would have a two-stop link to Crossrail and the Central Line at Bond Street station.
Unlike most new station and interchange projects, the infrastructure is already there and maintained.
Consequences For Southern Crossrail
If everything works out with the Thameslink Programme and the rebuilding of London Bridge station, I can see no point to Southern Crossrail.
However, there idea of rebuilding Waterloo East station, is probably a good idea, to improve connectivity to the Underground and Waterloo station.
Waterloo East station could be handled a lot more passengers in the near future.
It looks to me, that Thameslink has been well-thought out and if the trains, track and signalling performs from London Bridge along the South Bank, as everybody hopes it should, we will see a world class Metro service across South-East London.
But I do feel that if the service along the South Bank is a quality one, then it will take passengers from the Jubilee Line and this line could be open for development.
The Canonbury Curve is described like this in the Wikipedia entry for Canonbury station.
To the west of the station is the Canonbury curve, a freight-only connection through the Canonbury tunnel to the East Coast Main Line at Finsbury Park.
The curve is an electrified single-track.
This picture shows where the curve joins and leaves the North London Line.
I don’t know how much traffic uses the line, but I think it is only a few freight trains.
This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the track layout of the Canonbury Curve.
Note that it only has a connection to the North London Line, which is the more Northerly of the two pairs of lines. The East London Line is the other pair of lines and only carries third-rail electric services to Dalston Junction and on to the South.
In order for trains to go between Finsbury Park and the East London Line, there would need to some changes to Canonbury West Junction.
This Google Map shows Canonbury West Junction in detail.
The elliptical-shaped tower is an evacuation and vent shaft for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.
There does seem to be space between the lines and I suspect that it would be possible to modify Canonbury West Junction.
The line is also visible as it passes by Drayton Park station to the South of Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.
The line is the single track line to the right of the platform roof of the station. This image doesn’t show a true picture, as the line is at a higher level than the Northern City Line.
I think it is true to say, that there is quite a bit of space around Drayton Park station.
When the line gets to Finsbury Park station, the track seems to be extremely complicated, but I’m sure that it is possible to run a passenger train between Canonbury and Finsbury Park stations, as freight trains already make the journey.
A Second Thameslink Route Between Finsbury Park And East Croydon
I feel that a train service could be run between Finsbury Park and East Croydon stations via the Canonbury Curve and the East London Line.
It would require the appropriate political and commercial wills. Some track modifications would be needed.
In the next few sections, I will describe the various issues that will effect, whether such a service is created.
Objectives Of The Route
As a passenger from the East, I see the major objective is to link all those, who travel to and from London’s Eastern boroughs, like Bromley, Croydon, Greenwich, Hackney, Haringey, Lewisham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest, with a better North-South railway.
But Govia Thameslink Railway, London Overground and Sadiq Khan may see things differently.
The East London Line may terminate in a decent purpose-built terminal at Highbury and Islington station, with these connections.
- North London Line to the West.
- Northern City services to the North.
- Victoria Line services to the West End and four major stations.
- Victoria Line to Waltham Forest.
But the termini in the South mean there is often a second change to get where you actually want to go.
- Many passengers want to go to East Croydon station rather than West Croydon station.
- There is no direct link to Thameslink, with all the extra destinations that would bring.
- Getting to London Bridge, Gatwick Airport, Kent and the South Coast is not easy.
I’m not the only one who is unhappy, as there has been a petition to the London Assembley to get Thameslink to call at Norwood Junction.
I think a lot of the problems were caused by the following.
- The East London Line was designed after Thameslink.
- Thameslink designers thought the East London Line was a short route from Whitechapel to New Cross and New Cross Gate.
- Thameslink is a National Rail project, whereas the East London Line is promoted by Transport for London.
On the other hand, East London does particularly well with two branches of Crossrail, so the connection to the East London Line at Whitechapel, will truly be a Jewel In The East.
Extending the East London Line to Finsbury Park in the North would give the following improvements.
- Links to the Piccadilly and Victoria Lines
- Links to Great Northern services to Hertford North, Welwyn Garden City, Letchworth Garden City and Cambridge
- Links to Thameslink services to Peterborough and Cambridge.
Connecting to East Croydon in the South would also be valuable.
- Links to Outer London suburban services to places like Epsom, Caterham and Oxted.
- Links to Thameslink services going to Gatwick Airport, Brighton and the South Coast.
- Links to London Tramlink across South London.
This connectivity at the North and South termini will not only make it better for those living in East London, but visitors and commuters needing to go to the area will find their journey much improved.
Now is the time to properly link Thameslkink and the East London Line to the benefit of users of both systems!
It could be the third line in London’s Crossrail/Thameslink network.
Advantages For Myself
I wouldn’t be being totally honest, if I didn’t point out my personal advantages of a Finsbury Park to East Croydon service.
I live within walking distance of Dalston Junction station and I would get single-change access to places like Brighton, Cambridge, Gatwick Airport and Peterborough.
But then so would the hundreds of thousands of people, who or work live near stations between Canonbury and Norwood Junction on the East London Line.
Thameslink, The Northern City Line And The Canonbury Curve
There would be opportunities to create a cross- and same-platform interchange between all three services.
I do think that the Northern City Line will because of its important link to Crossrail at Moorgate grow into a high-capacity link between Crossrail, the City of London and Canary Wharf at its Southern end and Finsbury Park, North London and Hertfordshire at its Northern end.
Added together Thameslink and the Moorgate trains could create a 12 tph service up the East Coast Main Line, as far as Welwyn Garden City.
My thoughts on this line are laid out in A North London Metro.
How Many Trains Would Be Needed To Run A Service Between Finsbury Park And East Croydon?
As things stand the current Class 717 trains, that have been ordered for the Northern City Line, couldn’t work the route, as the route is only able to accept five-car trains, but it could probably be run by the following.
- Five-car versions of the Class 717 trains.
- London Overground’s Class 378 trains
- Appropriate versions of the new Class 710 trains.
Current timings on the various sections are.
- Finsbury Park to Highbury and Islington – 4 minutes – Great Northern
- Highbury and Islington to New Cross Gate – 26 minutes – London Overground
- New Cross Gate to East Croydon – 22 minutes – Southern
So this would give a timing of 52 minutes, which could probably be beaten by a direct modern train, that could change current collection on the fly and took the Canonbury Curve short cut.
Any time around fifty minutes, would mean that a train could do the round trip in two hours and that eight trains being needed to run a 4 tph service.
The Design Of An Ideal Terminus
The branches of the East London Line at Clapham Junction, Crystal Palace, Dalston Junction, Highbury and Islington and New Cross end in their own dedicated bay platforms. At West Croydon, a reversing siding is used, as I wrote about in The Bay Platform And The Reversing Siding At West Croydon.
As rarely do any operational problems surface, I feel that a single platform or reversing siding would be sufficient for a route, that is not much longer than Highbury and Islington to West Croydon.
Passengers would also require.
- Decent step-free interchange between services.
- Lots of useful connecting trains and buses.
- Shops, kiosks and cafes.
- An attraction like a market, museum, shopping centre or an entertainment venue.
Perhaps even a place to sit in the sun, like the park at Crystal Palace or Dalston Square at Dalston Junction.
Looking at this, what idiot thought about using the dreadfully dreary and totally useless West Croydon?
An interesting concept is that the last two or three stations are used as a joint terminus, to give passengers more choice of onward routes, either by foot or by train, tram or bus.
You have Cannon Street, which is the actual terminus, but all services will also stop at London Bridge, when Thameslink is complete.
Other pairs include.
- Liverpool Street and Stratford
- Charing Cross, Waterloo East and London Bridge
- Edinburgh Waverley and Edinburgh Haymarket
- Birmingham New Street and Birmingham International
- Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Oxford Road.
- Highbury and Islington and Dalston Junction
Some have been purposely designed that way, whilst others have just happened.
In the case of choosing the two termini for the Finsbury Park to East Croydon route, they must be within a time that allows the train operator to to use a sensible operating policy to run trains.
It looks like, that if the trip time is fifty minutes or less, that is ideal, as the round trip can be two hours. But even if it’s a few minutes longer, you just add another train into the fleet and work on a two hours fifteen minutes cycle say.
The Northern Terminus
In this example, I have used Finsbury Park station as a Northern Terminus, but I think that as long as Finsbury Park is served by the route, a station to the North could be used instead.
A few thoughts.
- Using Drayton Park could mean an extra change for passengers.
- Crossrail 2 could be coming to New Southgate and/or Alexandra Palace in the future
- A terminus North of where the Hertford Loop Line joins the East Coast Main Line might be confusing and/or annoying for passengers.
- There needs to be space for an elegant solution to the step-free change of train.
I think there are two main possibilities; Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace.
In some ways, Alexandra Palace would work better as there is more space.
In Could A Reversing Siding Be Built At Alexandra Palace?, I examined the possibility of building a reversing siding at Alexandra Palace station.
I came to the conclusion that it is feasible and also found out that one already exists at Bowes Park station.
So a train reversing at the Northern end of the new route would go through the following procedure.
- The train from the South, would arrive at a down interchange platform in Finsbury Park, where all down Thameslink and local services call, probably with Main Line services on one platform face and Hertford Loop Line services on the other.
- Reversing trains would probably use the Hertford Loop Line platform.
- After discharging passengers, it would proceed to the down Hertford Loop Line platform 4 at Alexandra Palace.
- Any passengers still left, would leave the station or catch another train.
- The train would then proceed to the reversing siding between the two lines of the Hertford Loop Line.
- The train would then start its return journey in the up Hertford Loop Line platform 1 or 2 at Alexandra Palace.
- The train would then return to Finsbury Park.
- It would call in the up interchange platform, before continuing on its way.
Effectively, the route would have a two station terminus with interchange to other trains at both Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace, with train reversing at the latter.
- As a maximum of six tph will be using the Hertford Loop line, there is plenty of spare capacity to fit in another four trains.
- Reversing sidings are always useful when there are problems like failed trains or blockades.
- It could be used by Northern City services to Moorgate.
- If it could take an eight-car Class 700 train, it might have uses for Thameslink.
It is one of those small lengths of railway, that if it were properly designed could have a lot more uses than is obvious.
I am also actually surprised that as the space is there between the tracks of the Hertford Loop Line, that it hasn’t been used for something productive before.
The Southern Terminus
Just as the Northern end of the route must serve Finsbury Park, the Southern end must serve East Croydon, as so many services call at the station.
- Gatwick Express
- Southern services all over the South.
Another possibility would be to perhaps have a dedicated bay platform at South Croydon station, with services calling at East Croydon before reversing in a dedicated bay platform or a reversing siding at South Croydon.
This Google Map shows the South Croydon station and the area immediately to the South.
At a quick look, it would appear that fitting a bay platform into the Northern end of the station could be difficult.
But, there could be space in the tangle of lines South of the station to create a reversing siding.
There’s certainly more space than there is at East Croydon.
Perhaps, if the station was to be properly sorted as a Southern terminus for the East London Line, it could also become the terminus for an uprated service on the West London Line to the West Coast Main Line.
Drayton Park Station
This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines through Drayton Park station.
The lines either side of the island platform are the two tracks of the Northern City Line to Moorgate.
The line on the right in the map, links Finsbury Park station to the Canonbury Curve through the Canonbury Tunnel. This line is at a higher level, as this picture taken looking South along the platform at Drayton Park station shows.
The line is behind the retaining wall at the left. It’s position is betrayed by the overhead wires visible in the picture.
If a platform was to be put on this connecting line at Drayton Park, it would not be simple.
But help could be at hand!
In the map of the tracks at the station, there is a disused track labelled Depot. There is quite a large area of land around the station and any housing built on the site, should surely incorporate a new station underneath, with provision for a platform on the connecting line.
It would be a disaster, if housing was built all over the Drayton Park station site, without leaving provision for a station on the Canonbury to Finsbury Park Line.
The Canonbury Curve
As I pointed out earlier, the Canonbury Curve would need modification to enable trains to get between Finsbury Park and Canonbury stations.
This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the Overground through Canonbury and the two Dalston stations.
The various East-West tracks through the area from North to South are.
- The Eastbound North London Line to Stratford
- The Westbound North London Line to Highbury and Islington and Richmond.
- The Southbound East London Line to Dalston Junction and Croydon
- The Northbound East London Line to Highbury and Islington
A Finsbury Park to Dalston Junction service would do something like the following.
- Take the Canonbury Curve to the Eastbound North London Line.
- Stop in Plstform 4 at Canonbury station.
- Cross over to the Southbound East London Line using two new crossings.
- Continue South after stopping in Platform 4 at Dalston Junction station.
A service going the other way would do something like the following.
- Call in Platform 1 at Dalston Junction station.
- Cross over to the Westbound North London Line using two new crossings. (One would probably be used both ways.)
- Stop in Platform 3 at Canonbury station.
- After leaving Canonbury station take the existing crossover to the Eastbund North London Line.
- Take the Canonbury Curve to Finsbury Park station.
I don’t know whether my route would be possible, but I’m sure that an expert at Network Rail could come up with a workable and very safe solution.
At least there are factors that help.
- The line has been rebuilt in the last few years, so it must be well-documented.
- There are a lot of crossovers South of Dalston Junction station.
- The signalling is capable of handling bi-directional running.
But the most important factor is that to the East of the former Mildmay Park station, there is space for more track, as it would sappear there was an island platform between the pairs of lines. It is actually shown on the map of the lines through Canonbury and Dalston, earlier in this section.
These are some pictures of the lines between the Canonbury Curve and Mildmay Park.
I was really surprised to see how much space there is between Dalston and Highbury and Islington and I don’t believe it would be an impossible task to create a route between Dalston Junction and Finsbury Park stations via the Canonbury Curve.
I think the biggest problem could be where to switch from the third-rail electrification of the East London Line to the overhead electrification of the North London Line and the Canonbury Curve.
One of the solutions would be to use trains with on-board energy storage and they would automatically deploy pantograph or pick-up shoe, once they were on the electrified sections.
Six-Car Trains On The East London Line
Over the years there have been mixed messages about whether six-car trains will ever run on the East London Line.
The problems of lengthening some of the platforms at stations like Shadwell, Wapping and Rotherhithe mean that the current five-car trains need to use selective door opening.
But as this is probably the only problem to running longer trains, I suspect that running six-car Class 378 trains through the Thames Tunnel, is still an option to increase capacity on the East London Line.
So if six-car Class 378 trains with selective door opening can run from Dalston Junction to Surrey Quays and several stations in the South, surely six-car Class 717 trains could do the same, if they had selective door opening fitted.
As both trains are walk-through trains, selective door opening is not a great inconvenience to passengers, as with comprehensive information on the train, the passengers move to doors that open.
I can’t see any reason, why with a few simple modifications, Great Northern’s Class 717 trains could not use the East London Line to connect North and South London.
Frequency Between Finsbury Park And East Croydon
London Overground’s services on the East London Line and some other lines is based on the rule of four.
If you provide at least four tph, then passengers will turn up and go.
So there must be at least four trains between Finsbury Park and Croydon in both directions in every hour.
The upper limit to the frequency would probably be determined by two main questions.
- How many trains could negotiate through the Canonbury Curve and Canonbury station in an hour?
- How many spare paths exist through the Thames Tunnel?
The question also has to be asked if four tph were going to East Croydon, do four tph still need to go to West Croydon?
I think all this will mean that the probable frequency will be four tph.
I have been parochial and have concentrated on the core service between Finsbury Park and East Croydon, which would be of the greatest benefits to those like me, who live on the current East London Line.
But if trains can work the route profitably, why does there have to be a limit of where they can go?
Possible termini in the North include all of the current ones used as termini by services into Moorgate.
- Alexandra Palace
- Gordon Hill
- Hertford North
- Letchworth Garden City
- Welwyn Garden City
I have added Alexandra Palace, as it could have a reversing siding and could be invaluable in maintaining the stability of the service. It is also the last station on the route, that serves both Northern branches.
In the South, the possible termini include the following.
- Caterham, which was a Thameslink possible and has now been discarded.
- Gatwick Airport, because it likes to have its fingers in everything.
- Purley, because Southern are using it as a station to split Caterham and Tattenham Corner services.
- South Croydon, because it has form and is in a convenient location.
- Tattenham Corner, which was a Thameslink possible and has now been discarded.
I calculated the core time between Finsbury Park and East Croydon using these current journeys.
- Finsbury Park to Highbury and Islington – 4 minutes – Great Northern
- Highbury and Islington to New Cross Gate – 26 minutes – London Overground
- New Cross Gate to East Croydon – 22 minutes – Southern
This gives a time of 52 minutes, between Finsbury Park and East Croydon which until proven otherwise is a good base time.
It is also the current scheduled time for London Overground’s Highbury and Islington to West Croydon service.
The following should be borne in mind.
- New trains could shave a twenty seconds or so from each of the nineteen stops.
- Cutting the corner using the Canonbury Curve should save time.
- Modern trains would be able to change voltage quicker.
I would think that a sub-fifty minute time between Finsbury Park and East Croydon is possible.
The times between Finsbury Park and my possible Northern termini are.
- Alexandra Palace – 7 minutes
- Gordon Hill – 21 minutes
- Hertford North – 37 minutes
- Letchworth Garden City – 62 minutes
- Welwyn Garden City – 20 minutes
And those between East Croydon and possible Southern termini are.
- Caterham – 25 minutes
- Gatwick Airport – 15 minutes
- Purley – 6-9 minutes
- South Croydon – 3 minutes
- Tattenham Corner – 33 minutes
When linked to passenger statistics and the capacity on the various routes, I suspect that some routes could be shown to be a lot better than others.
If the following projects can be successfully delivered.
- A suitable Northern terminal platform or other arrangement.
- A suitable Southern terminal platform or other arrangement.
- An updated Canonbury Curve to connect the East London Line to Finsbury Park station.
- The procurement of suitable dual-voltage trains.
I can see no reason why a train service from Finsbury Park to East Croydon couldn’t be successfully run via the Canonbury Curve.
It would give the following benefits.
- Extra connectivity for those going to and from stations between Finsbury Park and East Croydon.
- Better access to Canary Wharf, Dalston, Gatwick Airport and Shoreditch.
- It would take some of the pressure off Moorgate services, if Crossrail loads them up.
- Development of a quality Southern terminus, might enable a better service from East Croydon to Old Oak Common and the West Coast Main Line using the West London Line.
Perhaps though, the biggest benefit would be that more trains could be running on the East London Line, without needing extra platform capacity at the current termini.