The Anonymous Widower

Thoughts On The Lateness Of Crossrail

This article on the BBC is entitled Crossrail Delay: New London Line Will Open In Autumn 2019.

This is the first paragraph.

London’s £15bn Crossrail project is to open nine months after its scheduled launch to allow more time for testing.

I spent most of my working life, writing software for the planning and costing of large projects and despite never having done any serious project management in anger, I have talked to many who have, both in the UK and around the world.

So what are my thoughts?

Crossrail Is A Highly-Complex Project

The project involves the following.

  • A 21 km double-track tunnel under London.
  • New Class 345 trains
  • Four different signalling systems.
  • Rebuilt stations at West Drayton, Hayes & Harlington, Southall, West Ealing, Ealing Broadway. Acton Main Line, Forest Gate, Manor Park, Ilford
  • Refurbished stations at Hanwell, Maryland, Seven Kings, Goodmayes, Chadwell Heath, Romford, Gidea Park, Harold Wood, Brentford and Shenfield.
  • Major interchanges with existing stations at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farrington, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel and Stratford.
  • New stations at Custom House, Canary Whar, Woolwich and Abbey Wood.

Some parts are easy, but a lot are very difficult.

A Shortage Of Specialist Workers

I believe that certain factors could be reducing the pool of workers available to Crossrail.

Less workers than needed would obviously slow the project.

Having to pay more than budgeted to attract or keep workers will also raise costs.

My thoughts on what is causing a possible shortage of specialist workers follow.

Crossrail-Related Development

If you own a site or a building, near to one of Crossrail’s stations, then your property will substantially increase in value, when the line opens.

Walk past any of the Crossrail stations in Central London and some further out and you will see towers sprouting around the station entrance like crows around a road-kill.

Developers know how to cash-in on the best thing that has happened to them since the Nazis flattened acres of Central London.

New sites are also being created over several Crossrail stations including Moorgate, Farringdon (2 sites), Tottenham Court Road (2 sites), Bond Street (2 sites) and Paddington.

But do all these extensive developments, mean that there are not enough sub-contractors, specialist suppliers, electricians, chippies, air-conditioning engineers, plumbers and other trades to do all the work available in London?

I also suspect a developer, building an office block to the world’s highest standard could pay better and faster, than a Crossrail supplier under pressure.

Underground Working

Working underground or in mining is dangerous.

In the 1960s, women were totally banned from working below the surface.

It must have been around 1970, when I met one of ICI’s archivists; Janet Gornall, who a few years previously had organised storage of their masses of historical documents, in the company salt mine at Winsford. The mine is still used for document storage, by a company called Deepstore.

Health & Safety found out that Janet would be supervising and indexing the storage underground, so that if any document was required, they could be easily retrieved. This caused them to give the scheme a big thumbs down.

Questions were even asked in the House of Commons, but nothing would change Health & Safety’s view

In the end a simple solution was found..

As the boxes came up from London they were piled up in a large building on the surface, in the position Janet wanted them underground.

The pile of boxes was then moved underground and stacked in exactly the same way.

Nowadays, anybody can work underground, but they must have training and be certified for such work.

Crossrail thought the number of certified underground workers might not be enough, so they set up the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy (TUCA) at Ilford. This article on the Crossrail web site is entitled  A Legacy To The Construction Industry.

Some points about TUCA.

  • It is now part of Transport for London.
  • It was funded by Crossrail and the Skills Funding Agency.
  • TUCA is Europe’s only specialist soft-ground tunnelling training facility.

I wrote about TUCA in Open House – TUCA, after a visit in 2012.

I was told on my visit, that the Swiss have a similar facility for rock tunnelling and that there were plans for both academies to work together.

Trainees from all over the world would get training in an exotic Swiss mountain and then go on to enjoy the wonders of Ilford.

But at least they’ll be safe workers for all types of tunnelling.

I do wonder if some of the Crossrail delays has been caused by a lack of properly trained underground workers, as now the tunnelling is completed, many have moved on to the next project.

Thames Tideway Scheme

The Thames Tideway Scheme is a £4billion scheme to build a massive sewer under the Thames to clean up the river.

Many Crossrail engineers, tunnellers and workers are now working on the new scheme.

Brexit

Stuttgart 21 is one of numerous mega-projects in Europe.

Many of the workers on Crossrail were originally from Europe and now with the uncertainties of Brexit, some must be moving nearer home,to work on these large European projects.

Well-Paid Jobs In Sunnier Climes

Don’t underestimate, the effect of the Beast From The East last winter.

Skilled personnel have always gone to places like the Middle East to earn a good crust.

With Crossrail under pressure, how many of these key workers have gone to these places for the money?

Conclusion

I wouldn’t be surprised to find that a shortage of specialist workers is blamed for the delays.

In the BBC article, there is this quote

We are working around the clock with our supply chain and Transport for London to complete and commission the Elizabeth line.

Fairly bland, but does the supply chain include specialist suppliers and workers, which are under severe pressure from other projects to perform various works?

It’s probably true that there is only a finite pool of these companies, tradesmen and workers and at least some of the best will have been lured away.

Station Problems

In this article in the Architects Journal, which is entitled Crossrail Delayed Until Autumn 2019, this is said.

Crossrail then revealed in February that it had overspent its budget for the year to 30 March 2018 by £190 million.

At the time TfL said works at Whitechapel station, designed by BDP, and Farringdon station, designed by AHR, were completed later than expected, and there were delays to work at Weston Williamson’s Woolwich station and John McAslan + Partners’ Bond Street station.

I’ll look at Whitechapel station as an example.

You don’t need to be an expert to figure out that Whitechapel station is running late.

Look at all the blue hoardings.

  • I know this only shows what is visible to the public.
  • The Crossrail platforms deep underground could be ready.
  • The main entrance to the station is still shrouded in plastic.
  • The escalators to get down to Crossrail, will be between the two District/Metropolitan Line platforms.

This Google Map shows the area of Whitechapel station.

Note how the site is hemmed in, by important buildings including a Sainsburys supermarket and Swanlea School.

See An Innovative Use Of The School Holidays, for an insight about how the builders of the station coped with the lack of space.

I also feel that Whitechapel is an incredibly complex station to build.

  • It is crossed by two important railways; the District/Metropolitan Line and the East London Line.
  • Innovative techniques from the coal mining industry had to be used to dig the escalator tunnel.
  • Whitechapel will be the station, where passengers change between the two Eastern branches.

I do wonder, whether a different design would have been easier to build.

For instance, could Sainsburys have been paid to shut their superstore and that site used to build the station?

But Crossrail has chosen a design and now they must build it.

The New Class 345 Trains

The new Class 345 trains for Crossrail are an almost totally new design called Aventra by Bombardier, that I believe has been specifically created to make the operation of Crossrail as efficient as possible.

The trains must have something about them, as since launch they have attracted five more substantial orders, from five different operators.

The introduction into service of the Class 345 trains,has been reasonably straightforward, but not without some issues.

But I do question, the launching of Aventra trains solely on a line as complex as Crossrail.

Would it have been easier to have built the Class 710 trains first and thoroughly debugged them on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

But then that electrification was late.

Four Types Of Signalling

Crossrail needs trains to have four different types of signalling.

I know that as Crossrail runs on other lines with these signalling and going to a single system like ETCS would need to the changing of signalling systems on much of the railways in the South-East and the trains that use them.

It appears that there are problems for the trains running into Heathrow and one of the reasons for the Crossrail delayed opening, is to allow more time to test the trains and the signalling.

From my experience of writing complex software systems, where my software needed to interface with two operating systems, I know that you can never put too much time into testing complex systems.

So where is the dedicated test track, where trains can simulate the signalling of Crossrail routes, day in and day out?

I believe that not enough time and money was allocated to test this complex system.

Crossrail has found out the hard way.

Europe Has A Lack Of Train Test Tracks

A lot of European nations are ordering new trains and the UK is probably ordering more than most.

Reading the railway stories on the Internet, there are lots of stories about trains being brought into service late. And not just in the UK, but in Germany and Italy for example.

Crossrail identified that there was a need for a training academy for underground workers.

Did anybody do the calculations to make sure, there was enough test tracks for all the trains being built in Europe?

However, it does look as though Wales is coming to rescue Europe’s train makers, as I describe in £100m Rail Test Complex Plans For Neath Valley.

I suspect Crossrail wish this test complex had been completed a couple of years ago.

A Shortage Of Resources

For successful completion of projects on time and on budget, there must be enough resources.

I believe that, when the lateness and overspend on Crossrail is analysed, shortage of resources will be blamed.

  • Shortage of people and suppliers, that has not been helped by other projects taking advantage of new opportunities offered by Crossrail.
  • Shortage of space for work-sites at stations.
  • Shortage of places to fully test trains and signalling.

I suspect that the last will be the most serious.

Hugo Rifkind On A Late Crossrail

In an excellent article in today’s copy of The Times entitled Leavers Have A Cheek Trying To Block HS2, Hugo Rifkind says this about Crossrail.

You think we’ll remember, 50 years from now. that Crossrail took six months longer than expected?

Rubbish. London will rest on it like a spine and boggle that we ever managed without.

I think Rifkind is right.

Will Hutton

Will Hutton has written this article in the Guardian, which is entitled Don’t Moan About Crossrail. Once Complete, It Will Be A Rare Triumph In Our Public Realm.

He says this.

Let’s sing a different tune. The railway line, more than 60 miles long, linking Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east – adding 10% to London’s commuter rail capacity – and set to carry around 200 million passengers a year, will be a fantastic achievement. Its 13-mile-long tunnels run more than 100ft under the capital’s streets, navigating everything from underground sewers to the deep foundations of skyscrapers with superb engineering aplomb. The longstanding reproach is that Britain can’t do grand projects. Crossrail, now christened the Elizabeth line, is proof that we can.

He then goes on to criticise the structure of the construction project, the salaries paid and the current Government.

But I suspect that in a few yeas time, Hutton, Rifkind and myself could have a quiet pint and say Crossrail got it right.

Current Developments That Will Help Bridge The Delay

It’s not as if, no new transport developments won’t happen in the time before Crossrail eventually opens in Autumn 2019.

Trains Providing More Capacity

These trains will be providing extra capacity.

  • New Class 717 trains will be running on the services to and from Moorgate station.
  • New Class 710 trains will be running on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.
  • New Class 710 trains will be running on the Lea Valley Lines to Cheshunt, Chingford and Enfield Town stations.
  • New Class 710 trains will be running on the Watford DC Line.
  • Cascaded Class 378 trains and new Class 710 trains will be running extra services on the original circular service of the London Overground.
  • More Class 345 trains will be providing all of Crossrail’s services to Heathrow and Shenfield.
  • New Class 720 trains or something similar or older, will be providing four trains per hour (tph) between Stratford and Meridian Water stations.

Note that before the end of 2019, nearly a hundred new trains will be delivered.

New And Rebuilt Stations

There will be some new or rebuilt stations.

  • Acton Main Line
  • Forest Gate
  • Gidea Park
  • Hayes & Harlington
  • Manor Park
  • Maryland
  • Meridian Water
  • Northumberland Park
  • Tottenham Hale
  • West Drayton
  • West Ealing
  • West Hampstead

This list may contain other stations.

Underground Improvements

There will also be Underground improvements.

  • The Central Line Improvements Programme will increase capacity and reliability on the Central Line.
  • The Metropolitan Line is being upgraded with new signalling.
  • Up to ten Underground stations may be made step-free before the end of 2019.

The improvements to the Central and Metropolitan Lines, through Central London will compensate for the delaying of Crossrail’s core tunnel.

A Few Questions

I have to ask questions.

Will The High Meads Loop Be Used?

This would provide an excellent interchange between the following services.

  • Local services to Hertford East and Bishops Stortford stations,  including the new STAR service, along the West Anglia Main Line.
  • Stansted Express and Cambridge services to and from Stratford.
  • Fast Greater Anglia services to Chelmsford, Colchester, Southend and further, along the Great Eastern Main Line.
  • Crossrail services between Liverpool Street and Shenfield.
  • Central Line services.

There is also only a short, but tortuous walk to the Jubilee Line for London Bridge and Waterloo stations and Central London.

Based on the experience of the Wirral Loop under Liverpool, which handles sixteen tph, I believe that the High Meads Loop could handle a substantial number of trains, that instead of using the crowded lines to Liverpool Street station, would use the new uncrowded route from Tottenham Hale to Stratford via Lea Bridge station.

Moving services to Stratford from Liverpool Street would also free up platforms at the major terminus, which could be used to provide extra services on the Great Eastern Main Line.

The extra capacity might also enable the lengthening of the Crossrail platforms at Liverpool Street to be extended, so they could take full-length Class 345 trains.

No new extra infrastructure would be required at Stratford, although in future, a platform to connect the loop to Stratford International station would be nice.

I will be very surprised if the High Meads Loop is not used creatively in the future.

Will Some New Pedestrian Tunnels At Stations Like Liverpool Street And Paddington Be Opened?

I use Moorgate and Liverpool Street stations regularly.

There are blue walls everywhere, behind which the Crossrail infrastructure is hiding.

I do hope Crossrail and Transport for London are looking at the possibilities of using completed infrastructure to create new walking routes in stations to ease congestion.

Conclusion

Crossrail was designed to be opened in four phases over two years.

I am drawn to the position, that because of various resource shortages and the testing of trains, perhaps the project could have been arranged as perhaps a series of smaller projects delivered over a longer period of time.

 

 

 

 

 

September 4, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

West Hampstead Station – 7th July 2018

The new bridge at the West Hampstead station is now in use and it looks like the new station will be completed by the end of the year.

As the last picture shows this could be one of those station developments, where a deck could have been built over the North London Line to increase the number of flats built in the development on the South side of the railway.

This Google Map shows West Hampstead station on the North London Line and West Hampstead tube station on the Jubilee and Metropolitan Lines, although the latter don’t stop.

Note the development stretches a long way to the West between the North London Line and Underground Lines.

There have been plans to create a West Hampstead Interchange on West End Lane.

As these envisaged moving the Overground station to the East side of West End Lane and the new station is being built on the West side, It would appear there’s been a rethink.

Perhaps the Underground station is to be moved to the West side of West End Lane and will have an entrance on the small square in front of the M & S Simply Food and alongside the new Overground station.

This Google Map shows an enlargement of the area.

The new station could have platforms on the following lines.

  • Jubilee Line
  • Metropolitan Line
  • Cjhiltern Railway

It would be a very worthwhile interchange. Especially, as passengers could do the following.

  • Walk across the square for the Overground for East London.
  • Walk perhaps another hundred metres to West Hampstead Thameslink station, which is also proposed as the terminus of the West London Orbital Railway.

There could also be a development on the top of the new station, which would hopefully contribute to the cost.

I have no idea, if anything will happen here, but Transport for London are looking to create new stations with over-site development. The Mayor also seems keen on the West London Orbital Railway, as it is based on under-used infrastructure and requires no new track or tunnels.

 

 

July 7, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is There Hope Yet For The Metropolitan Line Extension?

This article in the Watford Observer is entitled Hertfordshire County Council Tables Plans For Met Line Extension Project To Still Go ahead.

This is the start of the article.

Plans will be tabled for the Metropolitan Line Extension to go ahead despite last month’s shock rejection from the Mayor of London.

An emergency cross-party motion has been tabled for Hertfordshire County Council’s budget council on February 20 in a bid to show there is still political support for the project is still ongoing.

The motion has been agreed with the Conservative leader of the council, David Williams, and Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst.

The plug was pulled on the scheme last month despite additional government funding of almost £74m.

It looks to be more optimistic about this difficult project.

The article makes the point that TfL are paying for step-free access at Amersham and Rickmansworth, which outside the London area.

I can’t help feeling though that this project is all about politics and very little about seeing, if a more pragmatic solution can be found.

There are several rail projects that serve Watford that need to be taken together.

  • Crossrail up the West Coast Main Line.
  • New trains for the Watford DC Line.
  • The future of the Milton Keynes to East Croydon service.
  • What to do with the Northern end of the Bakerloo Line.
  • Improved Watford services by West Midlands Trains.
  • Possible Chiltern Railways access to Watford Junction along the Metropolitan Line Extension.

I suspect that if all projects are looked at together, a better solution can be found.

February 10, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Are Transport for London Planning For The Future In The West?

Over a dozen Underground stations in West London have been earmarked for upgrading to step-free access.

I listed them in West London Stations To Be Made Step-Free.

There are various common properties.

  • Boston Manor and Osterley stations are on the Heathrow branch of the Piccadilly Line, which when updated would make the branch  seventy percent step-free.
  • Hanger Lane and Northolt stations are on the West Ruislip branch of the Central Line, which when updated would make the branch seventy-one percent step-free.
  • Ickenham, Ruislip, Sudbury Hill and Park Royal are on the Uxbridge branch of the Piccadilly Line, which when updated would make the branch  sixty percent step-free.
  • Hanger Lane and Park Royal stations are a valid out-of-station interchange.
  • Sudbury Hill and Sudbury Hill Harrow are a valid out-of-station interchange.
  • Ickenham and West Ruislip are a valid out-of-station interchange.
  • Ealing Broadway and Old Oak Common are developing into major interchanges.

With Crossrail going through West London and due to be fully-open in a couple of years, transport in West London is certainly going to get better for all.

But other things will or possibly could happen.

New Trains On The Piccadilly Line

The Piccadilly Line is in some ways an odd one out of London Underground lines.

  • Only 28 % of the line’s stations have an interchange with other lines or National Rail compared with 94 % for the Victoria Line.
  • Only two of the major London terminals; Kings Cross and St. Pancras International, are served by the Piccadilly Line and very badly in truth!
  • The line has no interchange with Crossrail.
  • The line has a terminus at Heathrow.
  • The line runs extensively in West London on old District Line tracks, so there are a lot of stations in the area, where platform-to-train access is bad.

The trains are also some of the oldest on the London Underground.

Under Future Upgrades in the Wikipedia entry for the line, this is said.

The intention is for the new trains to eventually operate on the Bakerloo, Central, Piccadilly and Waterloo & City lines. On current plans, resignalling work on the Piccadilly line will begin in 2019 and new trains should be in service by 2022.

Wikipedia also says this about the trains.

  • The trains will be lightweight, low-energy and semi-articulated.
  • The trains will have a battery capability to take them to the next station in case of power failure.
  • The trains will have a low-floor. Will this be lower than current trains? Probably yes, as it would increase headroom.
  • The trains will have an 11 % higher capacity than the existing trains.
  • The trains could have air-conditioning.

I would add the following comments and pedictions.

  1. The trains will be designed for quicker exit and entry to the trains.
  2. The trains will shorten journey times.
  3. The trains will be wheelchair and buggy friendly.
  4. The batteries on the train will be used to handle regenerative braking.
  5. The trains will have air-conditioning, as passengers will demand it.
  6. A solution will be found, so that there is level platform-to-train access at all stations.

Point six will be difficult, but in my view this must be done to enable trains to spend as little time as possible, whilst calling at a station.

Perhaps trains will adjust their ride height as they approach a station, by adding and releasing air from the suspension.

If this level access can be achieved by a clever train design, the expense and disruption of rebuilding station platforms substantially, could be reduced.

Unfortunately, some Piccadilly Line platforms are also used by the larger S Stock trains, so any technological advantages must be made on the new Piccadilly Line trains.

Piccadilly Line To Ealing Broadway

Ealing Broadway station is being upgraded for Crossrail.

In the November 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, there is a Capital Connection supplement, which discusses London’s railways.

On Page 7 in a section about the sub-surface lines, this is said.

One possibility being discussed is that the Piccadilly should take over the District’s Ealing Broadway service. This would free up space on the South side of the inner-London circle for more City trains off the Wimbledon branch, one of the sub-surface network’s most-crowded routes.

On Page 15 in a section about the Mayor’s plans, this is said.

It is suggested Piccadilly Line services run to Ealing Broadway instead of the District Line, enabling increased frequencies on the latter’s Richmond and Wimbledon branches.

As the plan is mentioned twice, certainly the proposal is being thought about.

I discussed this in some detail in Is There Going To Be More Change At Ealing Broadway Station?

Distilling my thoughts from last year and what I’ve seen recently, I have the following thoughts, if the Piccadilly Line had a branch to Ealing Nroadway station.

  • The Piccadilly Line would have a two-platform step-free terminus, capable of handling twelve trains per hour (tph)
  • Increasing Piccadilly Line frequencies through the core, probably needs another high capacity terminal in the West.
  • The Piccadilly Line would have an interchange with Crossrail and Great Western Railway for Heathrow, Oxford and Reading.
  • In the later 2020s, when the Piccadilly and Central Lines are running the same new deep-level trains, Ealing Broadway would only handle one type of Underground train.
  • As Ealing Broadway, Ealing Common and Acton Town stations would only handle the new deep-level Underground trains, platform-to-train access problems could be solved by lowering the platforms.

The current Piccadilly Line service in the West is as follows.

  • Twelve tph to Heathrow
  • Six tph to Rayner Lane station, with three tph continuing to Uxbridge.
  • Three tph to Northfields

The new trains and signalling, must surely increase the core frequency from the current 21 tph to something approaching the 36 tph of the Victoria Line.

I suspect that twelve tph to Ealing Broadway would fit well, with both the needs of the Piccadilly Line and Crossrail’s frequency of twelve tph.

There are other problems to sort out, but Piccadilly Line trains to Ealing Broadway station could be an excellent plan.

Piccadilly Line To Heathrow

The Heathrow branch of the Piccadilly Line will be seventy percent step-free, after Boston Manor and Osterley stations are upgraded.

I think the time will come in the next few years to bite the bullet and do the following on the branch.

  • Make all street-to-platform fully step-free.
  • Lower the platforms to give level platform-to-train access to the new deep-level trains.

As this branch is Piccadilly Line-only, there should be few related problems.

Piccadilly Line To Rayners Lane and Uxbridge

The Uvbridge branch of the Piccadilly Line will be sixty percent step-free, after Ickenham, Ruislip, Sudbury Hill and Park Royal stations are upgraded.

As with the Heathrow branch, I think that the following should be done.

  • Make all street-to-platform fully step-free.
  • Lower the platforms to give level platform-to-train access tothe new deep-level trains.

The problem is between Rayners Lane and Uxbridge stations, where the branch is shared with the Metropolitan Line.

The following could be done.

  1. Put in extra tracks and platforms.
  2. Live with the  current platforms and step down into a Piccadilly Line train.
  3. All Piccadilly Line trains could terminate at Rayners Lane and from Rayners Lane to Uxbridge is served by Metropolitan Line only
  4. As the platforms are long and all trains are walk-through, clever platform design with Harrington Humps could be a solution.

Only option 4 would be an affordable solution, that might be acceptable to all stakeholders.

Central Line To Uxbridge

In the Wikipedia entry for the Central Line, this is said.

The Central crosses over the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines’ shared Uxbridge branch near West Ruislip depot, and a single track linking the two routes was laid in 1973. The London Borough of Hillingdon has lobbied TfL to divert some or all Central trains along this to Uxbridge, as West Ruislip station is located in a quiet suburb and Uxbridge is a much more densely populated regional centre. TfL has stated that the link will be impossible until the Metropolitan line’s signalling is upgraded in 2017.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines around Ruislip Depot.

Note.

  1. The Central Line is shown in red.
  2. The track used by the Piccadilly and Metropolitan Lines is the bluey colour.
  3. The Chiltern Main Line is shown in black.
  4. Ickenham and Ruislip stations will soon have some measure of step-free access.
  5. Ickenham and West Ruislip stations are a  valid out-of-station interchange, with a walk of 1.1 miles.

Would running Central Line trains to Uxbridge be feasible?

Uxbridge station has four platforms and currently has the following Off Peak services.

  • Metropolitan  – 8 tph to Aldgate
  • Piccadilly – 3 tph to Cockfosters

With these frequencies in the morning Peak.

  • Metropolitan  – 6 tph to Aldgate
  • Metropolitan  – 4 tph to Baker Street
  • Piccadilly – 6 tph to Cockfosters

West Ruislip has a 3 tph Off Peak service.

Uxbridge with four platforms can probably handle up to twenty-four tph with modern signalling, so there should be scope once the the new signalling is installed on the Metropolitan Line for changes to be made.

It may need new trains on both the Central and the Piccadilly Line, that can use the new signalling, before full advantage could be taken of running Central Line trains to Uxbridge.

But at some time in the future, it looks like the following would be possible on the West Ruislip branch of the Central Line.

  • 4 tph to West Ruislip
  • 4 tph to Uxbridge

That would be a very worthwhile service.

The Greenford Branch

The Greenford Branch is one of those lines in London and the South East, that have a low priority for the train operating companies.

Others include.

Twenty years ago, you would have included the North London and the Gospel Oak to Barking Lines. But look at those two now!

The Greenford Branch is typical of this sort of line.

  • Single platform at each end.
  • Two tph run by a single train.
  • Elderly trains.
  • No electrification
  • No Sunday service
  • More information.
  • Virtually no marketing.
  • Poor interchange at West Ealing station, although interchange at Greenford is excellent.

All of these lines could benefit from a common philosophy.

  • Four tph where possible, to encourage Turn-Up-And-Go.
  • A viable train use philosophy.
  • Modern electric trains that attract passengers.
  • Good interchange at the principal station or stations.

A plan for the Greenford Branch has yet to emerge.

However Crossrail will change everything.

  • Up to twelve tph could stop at West Ealing station.
  • West Ealing station will have full step-free access between the Greenford Branch, Crossrail and GWR services.
  • Passengers might use the line with heavy bags to get to and from Heathrow.
  • Management of West Ealing station may pass to Transport for London.

On a cold, wet day, passengers changing to the Greenford Branch will not want to wait half an hour for the next train to Greenford and the intermediate stations.

Increased passenger numbers and pressure for good service will require a four tph frequency on the Greenford branch.

  • This will require two trains.
  • Better customer service will be needed.

|As the two end stations could both be under Transport for London control, would it be sensible to pass management of the line to that organisation and run the line under the Overground banner?

But what trains could be used?

  • As the line is not electrified and platforms can only handle two- or possibly three-car trains, London Overground’s standard four-car Class 710 trains would not be suitable.
  • Class 172 trains could be used, but these are going to West Midlands Trains.
  • Passengers might accept a modernised British Rail era diesel like a Class 150 train.
  • There is also the Class 230 train, which West Midlands Trains will be using on the Marston Vale Line.
  • Could Bombardier create a three-car Aventra with on board energy storage, that would be charged at either or both ends?

My money would be on one of the last two options.

  • A standard electric train would require electrification of the branch.
  • There would be servicing problems with a small diesel fleet.
  • Class 230 trains have been designed for remote servicing, so three trains would work.
  • The diesel trains and the Class 230 train would require little if no infrastructure changes.
  • The branch is under three miles long, so a return trip is probably well within range of a battery train.
  • A three-car Aventra with on board energy storage would have many applications in the UK.
  • The Aventra with on board energy storage  would require little if no infrastructure changes, except for some extra overhead wires to create a charging point at West Ealing.

London Overground will probably go for a surprising, but cost-effective solution.

Onward From Greenford

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines at Greenford station.

There must surely be possibilities to extend the current passenger service to the West.

  • It would create a West Ealing to West Ruislip feeder service for Crossrail.
  • Greenford station would need extra platforms on the Acton-Northolt Line.
  • Train length would be less of a problem and four-car trains could probably be used.

It would fit well with restoring passenger services on the Acton-Northolt Line.

Old Oak Common To West Ruislip On The Acton-Northolt Line

Network Rail have plans to reinstate passenger services on the Acton-Northolt Line, so that Chiltern Railways can have an extra London terminal with a connection to Crossrail, High Speed 2 and the London Overground. Under Chiltern Main Line Connection, in the Wikipedia entry for Old Oak Common station, this is said.

Network Rail has proposed that the Chiltern Main Line should have a second terminal at Old Oak Common to increase capacity on the route as there is no room to expand the station at Marylebone. To do so, services would use the Acton–Northolt line (formerly the “New North Main Line”) and perhaps see Chiltern trains terminating here rather than Marylebone.

A summary report by Network Rail, which was released in 2017, forecast that a new London terminal will be needed by 2043 and proposed Old Oak Common for this role, with upgrading of the Acton-Northolt Line.

I doubt that I’ll see it, as I’ll be 96!

But it does seem a credible idea with questions to ask!

  • Will the route be double- or single-track?
  • Will there be express and/or Metro services?
  • How many interchanges will there be with the Central Line?
  • Will the route be used by Crossrail?
  • Will the route be electrified?

I do think that there will be some very serious thinking going on.

A few thoughts on what could define what might ensue.

High Wycombe Station

High Wycombe station is a three platform station, with a lot of space between the tracks, as this Google Map shows.

It would appear there is space for the station to be developed, as a terminus for more services from London.

The Chiltern Metro

According to Wikipedia, Chiltern Railways have ambition to create a Chiltern Metro. Wikipedia says this.

New Chiltern Metro Service that would operate 4+tph for Wembley Stadium, Sudbury & Harrow Road, Sudbury Hill Harrow, Northolt Park, South Ruislip and West Ruislip. This would require a reversing facility at West Ruislip, passing loops at Sudbury Hill Harrow, and a passing loop at Wembley Stadium (part of the old down fast line is in use as a central reversing siding, for stock movements and additionally for 8-car football shuttles to convey passengers to the stadium for events). This ‘Chiltern Metro’ service was not programmed into the last round of franchising agreements.

This sounds to be a good idea but it would need a dedicated platform at Marylebone and is there sufficient capacity on the Chiltern Main Line to accommodate the number of extra trains required to West Ruislip.

Crossrail

How Crossrail will affect London is totally unpredictable.

  • Currently, the system is planned to run 24 tph between Heathrow, Paddington and Reading in the West and Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the East.
  • Various sources show that Crossrail has been built for 30 tph.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised to see the route move to a Thameslink or East London Line model, where two or four tph run to other destinations outside the core.

Ebbsfleet, Gravesend and Milton Keynes have been mentioned for expansion, but what about Basingstoke, Beaulieu, High Wycombe, Oxford and Southend?

Electrification

Three factors will be the main drivers if the Acton-Northolt Line is electrified for Network Rail’s proposed passenger services to Old Oak Common.

  • Extension of Crossrail to High Wycombe would surely need the Acton-Northolt Line to be electrified and possibly double-tracked.
  • The next generation of multi-mode trains will operate on a mixture of electric, diesel, hydrogen and battery power.
  • The ambition of Chiltern Railways.

I think on balance, if the Acton-Northolt Line is reopened to passenger services, it will be electrified.

Space could be limited as this picture from Hangar Lane station shows.

But most problems should be possible to solve, by lowering track  and rebuilding some bridges.

North Acton Station

North Action station could be updated in the following ways.

  • Extra platforms for the Acton-Northolt Line.
  • A connection to the North London Line.
  • Over-site development.
  • More spacious station buildings.

Note also that North Acton station could be a calling point on the West London Orbital Railway.

On the other hand, Old Oak Common station might handle a lot of these connections, so I suspect that if North Acton station has a connection, it will be led by the needs of property developers.

Park Royal Station

Park Royal station could be rebuilt with Hanger Lane station as an interchange between the Central and Piccadilly Lines, with extra platforms for the Acton-Northolt Line.

Again, property development will decide what happens.

Hanger Lane Station

This Google Map shows the location of Hanger Lane station in the middle of the Hanger Lane Gyratory.

Note the following.

  • The Central Line train in the Westbound platform.
  • The double-track of the Acton-Northolt Line to the North of the Central Line station.
  • Inside the ring of roads, there would appear to be a large site, that could be suitable for redevelopment, as perhaps offices or housing.

These pictures show the site in the middle of the roads.

Note.

  1. To call the site a junk-yard would be a compliment.
  2. Hanger Lane station is going to be made step-free.
  3. A  tunnel for HS2 will pass underneath., following the route of the Acton-Northolt Line.
  4. There are HS2 notices about. Are HS2 going to use the dump for a ventilation shaft for a tunnel underneath?

It would not be the most difficult design project in the world to make provision for platforms on the Acton-Northolt Line, to future-proof the station for Crossrail or any Chiltern service to Old Oak Common.

This is the sort of development that I like!

Imagine the following.

  • A cluster of perhaps four very high residential and office towers, reaching above the pollution and noise of the traffic.
  • A ring of trees could also shield the development from the traffic.
  • The tracks of the Acton-Northolt Line could be slewed to take advantage of an island platform.
  • Trains running at least four tph to Old Oak Common.
  • Crossrail could continue across Central London.
  • Trains could run to West Ruislip or High Wycombe in the West.
  • London Underground running up to ten tph on the Central Line.
  • Developers will integrate the station, the development and the required local services.

The possibilities are dramatic.

In the next decade or so, as vehicles get less polluting, developments like this will become more common.

Perivale Station

Perivale station is Grade II Listed with some of the worst steps I’ve seen on the London Underground.

Extra platforms on the Acton-Northolt Line and a step-free station would be very difficult.

 

I doubt, there are many stations worse for step-free access in London!

Greenford Station

Greenford station is already step-free, but extra platforms on the Acton-Northolt Line, could be very difficult, due to the different track levels.

But Action-Northolt Line platforms with a step-free connection would give easy access to the Greenford Branch.

Northolt Station

Northolt station is being made step-free and could be extended with extra platforms on the Acton-Northolt Line.

The picture was taken from the Central Line platform and shows  the station building, which almost looks as if it was built to be extended to a platform on the Acton-Northolt Line, which is to the left of the electrified Central Line track.

South Ruislip Station

South Ruislip station already has platforms on both lines.

Ruislip Gardens Station

Ruislip Gardens station probably wouldn’t need a connection to the Chiltern Line.

West Ruislip Station

West Ruislip station already has platforms on both lines.

A Possible Heavy Rail Service Between Old Oak Common and West Ruislip

Consider.

  • Central Line trains take seventeen minutes between North Acton and West Ruislip with six intermediate stops.
  • So I think it likely that a modern train could travel from Old Oak Common to West Ruislip in about fifteen minutes, with perhaps stops at three or four stations like North Acton, Hanger Lane, Greenford, Northolt and South Ruislip.
  • The Acton-Northolt Line is a mixture of single and double track. with some space for a second track.
  • All stations except Old Oak Common could have step-free interchanges with the bCentral Line.

It could either be a service linked to Chiltern or Crossrail.

I can’t help feeling that eventually, this service will be part of Crossrail.

Conclusion

The railway changes that are happening will certainly allow a lot more development in West London.

 

 

 

 

January 31, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

West London Stations To Be Made Step-Free

Twelve stations in West London are to be made step-free on the London Underground.

These Crossrail stations in West London, will also become step-free.

This gives a total of twenty stations, that will become fully step-free in West London.

These pictures show the various London Underground stations. at the end of January 2018.

Boston Manor

No work has started yet!

Harrow-on-the-Hill

The station is unusual in that there are steep steps up to a bridge over the tracks, at both entrances to the station. Then there would need to be further lifts to the platforms.

Work has started.

Ickenham

No work has started yet! Will the current bridge be replaced?

North Ealing

No work has started yet!

Osterley

No work has started yet!

Park Royal

No work has started yet!

Ruislip

No work has started yet! Will the current bridge be replaced?

Sudbury Hill

No work has started yet!

Platform Height Problems

Boston Manor, North Ealing, Osterley, Park Royal and Sudbury Hill stations were all District Line stations moved to the Piccadilly Line.

This picture was taken at Osterley station.

Could we see trains running on the Piccadilly Line, where the suspension jacks the train up as required?

This may seem rather fantastical, but most modern trains run on airbags to give a smooth ride.

This picture shows the bogie under a Class 378 train.

Note the air-bag! Pump it up and the train rides higher.

This technique could be used to solve the problem of Piccadilly Line trains calling at platforms shared with Metropolitan Line trains.

Summary

They are much more of a mixed bunch than those I wrote about in Eastern Central Line Stations To Be Made Step-Free.

This probably due to the fact, that the Eastern stations were all build by the Great Eastern Railway at around the same time.

These West London stations were built at various times, with some being built in the 1930s.

  • Boston Manor was rebuilt in 1934 and is Grade II Listed
  • Hanger Lane was built in 1947.
  • Osterley was built in 1934 and is Grade II Listed.
  • Park Royal was built in 1932 and is Grade II Listed
  • Sudbury Hill was built in 1931 to a design of Charles Holden and is Grade II Listed.

Didn’t they have disabled people and prams in those days, just a few years before I was born?

Some of the precipitous steps in this group of station are very dangerous.

At least some of the other stations of this era like Bounds Green, Southgate and Word Green have escalators.

What Are Transport for London’s Plans?

Transport for London have stated that their aim is to eventually have all Underground stations with full step-free access.

If you look at maps of West London, stations for Underground and National Rail are not that numerous and it is rare to find step-free access, unless a satation has been built in the last couple of decades.

So perhaps, TfL are improving the balance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 23, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Walk Down The Finchley Road

Aleks2cv made this comment on my long post about the West London Orbital Railway, which was entitled New Railway Line For West London Proposed.

West London’s version of Goblin, an available resource with potential. All urban London so suitable for Overground 4 car metro service.
I would add extensions to your outline.

There is space at the former Midland Finchley Road station for a single terminating platform with existing street facade. Interchange with North London, Metropolitan, and Jubilee and coaches on Finchley Road such as Stansted AirLink.

It got me thinking.

This is only part of the comment and I’ll deal with the rest after Christmas, if I renmember.

This is a Google Map of the area along the Finchley Road, between Finchley Road and Frognal station in the North and Finchley Road station in the South.

It is one of those interchanges, you might do in a North to South direction, as you have gravity assistance.

This second map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the various rail lines.

Note, the following lines can be seen in both maps.

  1. The Midland Main Line through West Hampstead Thameslink station, which crosses Finchley Road between Finchley Road and Frognal and Finchley Road stations.
  2. The Metropolitan and Jubilee Lines going through West Hampstead and Finchley Road stations.
  3. The North London Line going through West Hampstead and Finchley Road and Frognal stations.

I took these pictures as I walked down Finchley Road.

My thoughts on various parts of the area.

Finchley Road And Frognal Station

The station is a very poor example.

  • There is no step-free access.
  • Station buildings are minimal.
  • There is a ruin next door.
  • There is a need for perhaps a light-controlled crossing outside the station, as the road is very busy.

Improvement wouldn’t be helped, by the fact that the station is at the end of Hampstead Heath tunnel.

This Google Map shows a close-up of the station.

The only solution is probably a full rebuilding with perhaps a block of housing or offices on the top of a modern station.

 

The Midland Main Line

This Google Map shows the Midland Main Line as it passes under Finchley Road, to the North of the O2 Centre.

Note.

  1. There is not much space between the railway and the service road for the O2 Centre.
  2. The large surface-level car park of the O2 Centre is visible.
  3. The two slow lines are the Northern pair of lines, with the two fast lines to the South.

At least there is space in the middle of the lines.

A Terminus For The West London Orbital Railway

Aleks2cv in his comment,  felt that the West London Orbital Railway can be extended to Finchley Road.

I think this could be very difficult, as the West London Orbital Railway will probably be a single track railway sneaking up the South side of the Midland Main Line.

  1. There is very little space.
  2. Passengers would still have to walk about a hundred metres to connect to the Underground.
  3. Connecting to the Overground would require a stiff walk up the hill.

This Google Map shows the limit of the freight line, that could possibly be turned into the West London Orbital Railway.

Note.

  1. The railway going East-West is the Midland Main Line.
  2. The diagonal railway is the North London Line through West Hampstead station.

In the shadows on the South side of the Midland Main Line, you can just see tyhe freight line, which connects to the Down Fast of the Midland Main Line to the East of the bridge.

It looks to me, that years ago, the land now occupied by the O2 Centre was some form of railway yard or factory premises.

Finchley Road Underground Station

Finchley Road Underground station is a station in need of a degree of refurbishment.

  • It is not step-free.
  • Pedestrian access to the O2 Centre is not good.

But it is a cross-platform interchange between the Jubilee and Metropolitan Lines.

This Google Map shows the station.

Note.

  1. The two Chiltern tracks to the South of the station.
  2. The closeness of the Western end of the station to the Car Park of the O2 Centre.
  3. There is space to the South of the Chiltern tracks.

I feel very much that this station could be developed sympathetically to be a very good station, that could be paid for by housing on the top.

The O2 Centre

I think the O2 Centre could be the key to Aleks2cv’s idea for the West London Orbital Railway.

  • The O2 Centre appears tired.
  • Public transport can take people easily to the shopping at Oxford Street or Brent Cross.
  • Surface car parking is so Twentieth Century.

As the O2 Centre is owned by British Land, who are one of the UK’s biggest property companies, I think that it is likely the site could be redeveloped.

Suppose the site was developed as follows.

  • It extended over and connected to the Western ends of the platforms at Finchley Road Underground station.
  • A two-platform terminal station for the West London Orbital Railway could probably be fitted in reasonably close to the Underground station.
  • A small bus station.

Over the top would be shops, offices, housing or whatever was desired.

Conclusion

I believe that something will be done to redevelop this site.

Whether it has the terminal for the West London Orbital Railway underneath, will only be made clear, when planning permissio is given.

 

 

 

 

 

December 20, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Can Between Rayners Lane And Uxbridge Stations Be Step-Free?

I took a Metropolitan Line train to Ucbridge station today and took these pictures, taken at stations between Rayners Lane and Uxbridge stations, where the line is shared between Metropolitan and Piccadilly Lines.

Note.

  1. Between platforms and Metropolitan Line trains access is generally good.
  2. Only Uxbridge and Hillingdon stations are fully step-free.
  3. There is no special provision for Piccadilly Line trains.

Making this section of line fully step-free is going to be difficult.

It may be very much step-free now for Metropolitan Line trains, but look at this picture of a Piccadilly Line train at Rayners  Lane station.

This certainly won’t meet the spirit if not the law of the the Persons of Reduced Mobility regulations.

The Platform Edge Door Issue

This article in London Reconnections is entitled Upgrading the Piccadilly: Calling Time on Mind the Gap?. It is an article that is well worth reading.

This is said about the platform train interface.

On modern transport networks once a system is designed to be UTO-capable then a mandatory requirement almost always now follows – the network or line in question should have platform-edge doors at all stations, including the above ground ones. Furthermore platform levels must be aligned with the floor level of the trains.

UTO means Unattended Train Operation.

I put London Reconnections on my list of trusted sites like The BBC, The Guardian, The Financial Times and several railway web sites, so I would rate this interpretation correct.

The new Piccadilly Line trains will certainly be built to be UTO-capable, as on past form, they will be built to last at least forty years. Could we guarantee that UTO won’t come in during their lifetime?

Note that  one of the regulations associated with trains being UTO-capable, is that platform and train floors must be aligned.

This is not only good for passengers, including those in wheelchairs and buggies, and those overloaded with shopping, but it’s also good for train companies, as dwell times at stations can generally be reduced and staff don’t have to deal with cumbersome wheelchair ramps.

But, I think that these regulations mean that it is very difficult for two types of train to share the same platform.

This principle was probably obvious to the engineer, who designed the platforms at Stratford station in the 1930s, where main line services are on one side and the Central Line is on the other.

The principle certainly seems to be involved in the design of the tram-train interchange platforms at Rotherham Central station.

Lower level extensions are being built at the Sheffield (far) ends of the platforms, so passengers changing, will just walk along the platform.

  • The longer high-level section will be able to handle the longest train likely to call, which will probably be about eight-cars.
  • The shorter low-level section will be able to handle the longest tram likely to call, which will probably be a forty metre Class 399 tram-train.

It’s a simple layout, but it would mean a very long platform, if it were to be used with sub-service and deep-level Underground trains sharing a platform.

Applying The Regulations Between Rayners Lane And Uxbridge Stations

I believe these regulations will mean that only three ways to meet the regulations are possible.

  • Separate tracks and platforms between Rayners Lane and Uxbridge stations.
  • Extremely long bi-level platforms.
  • Only one type of train serves the branch.

The first two options would probably be too expensive, but I believe that by good design and some clever reworking of the tracks at Rayners Lane station.

A Redesigned Rayners Lane Station

So could Rayners Lane station be redesigned to meet all the regulations and provide a much-improved passenger experience.

Step-Free Access

This picture shows the 1930s stairs at Rayners Lane station.

The station may be Grade II Listed, but this is not acceptable any more.

As is the platform-train interface shown in the first picture!

|Adding lifts and improving the stairs will be a major undertaking.

The Metropolitan Line Service

The Peak service is ten trains per hour (tph) in both directions, with a reduction to eight tph in the Off Peak.

Once the Four Lines Modernisation (4LM) is completed in 2023, these frequencies will be increased.

The journey between Aldgate and Uxbridge stations currently takes an hour.

This journey  time is awkward from the point of scheduling the trains. The new signalling will probably reduce this to such a time, that the train could do the journey, turnround and be ready to return within an hour.

This would mean a higher frequency of trains without adding to the fleet. Although, it will probably mean that more drivers will need to be trained, which is a lot more affordable and easier, than buying new trains.

I feel that 10 tph might even be possible with the existing fleet and the new signalling.

But the new signalling will probably allow more semi-fast trains to operate, which might mean an extremely customer-friendly 12 rph were possible all day.

The Piccadilly Line Service

The Peak service is twelve trains per hour (tph) in both directions, with a reduction to six tph in the Off Peak.

Half the trains reverse at Rayners Lane station.

The journey between Kings Cross St. Pncras and Uxbridge stations currently takes an nine minutes over the hour.

The Rayners Lane To Uxbridge Service

Adding the two services together gives a  Peak service of twenty-two trains per hour (tph) in both directions, with a reduction to eleven tph in the Off Peak.

Terminating The Piccadilly Line At Rayners Lane Station

There would be advantages to terminating all Piccadilly Line services at Rayners Lane station.

  • All Piccadilly Line trains would go through the same procedure at Rayners Lane station
  • The journey time would be reduced by fourteen minutes, which would ease train scheduling.
  • There would be no knock on effects, if either line had delays.
  • Signalling and train control at Rayners Lane would be simpler.

But it would need a major rebuilding of the tracks and platforms.

On the Victoria Line, thirty-six tph are handled on two platforms at Walthamstow Central and Brixton stations or eighteen tph on each platform.

So could a single platform at Rayners Lane station handle the Piccadilly Line service?

If it could, it could even be positioned between the two Metropolitan Lines, with an island platform on either side, giving cross-platform operation in both directions.

But because problems do occur, there would probably be two terminal platforms for the Piccadilly Line, as there are at the end of most Underground lines.

I think terminating Piccadilly Line services at Rayners Lane station could be made to work well and provide step-free access at all stations West of Rayners Lane station.

Terminating The Metropolitan Line At Rayners Lane Station

I don’t believe the problems of terminating the Metropolitan Line service at Rayners Lane would be any more difficult, than terminating the Piccadilly Line, but it might offer advantages, after  all the stations on the line had been rebuilt to accept the new UTO-capable Piccadilly Line trains.

  • This would open the possibility of running trains under UTO between Acton Town and Uxbridge stations.
  • Hillingdon Borough Council have been pushing for the Central Line to be diverted from West Ruislip to Uxbridge. This would become possible.
  • The frequency all the way from Acton Town to Uxbridge could easily be raised.

As with terminating Piccadilly Line services at Rayners Lane station, I think that terminating Metropolitan Line services could be used to provide step-free access at all stations West of Rayners Lane station.

Could A Piccadilly Line Service Be Run Between Uxbridge and Ealing Broadway Stations?

In Is There Going To Be More Change At Ealing Broadway Station?, I wrote about rumours of a possible plan to create a new terminus for the Piccadilly Line at Ealing Broadway station, using the route currently used by District Line trains from Ealing Common station.

I came to the following conclusion.

But overall, because it sorts out step-free access in the area, I think it is a good proposal.

I just wonder, if it would be possible for trains to run between Uxbridge and Ealing Broadway station.

This Google Map shows where the Piccadilly Line to Rayners Lane and Ucbridge and the District Line to Ealing Broadway divide , a short distance North of Ealing Common station.

I think that creating the missing side of the triangular junction would be possible, thus allowing a service to be created between Ealing Broadway and Uxbridge stations.

  • All stations would be made step-free and UTO-capable.
  • Twelve tph could be run between Uxbridge and Ealing Broadway in both directions.
  • Ten or welve tph would still be run between Uxbridge and Cockfosters.
  • Twelve tph on both routes would mean a train every two and a half minutes between North Ealing and Uxbridge stations.
  • The route would surely be ideal for running under UTO.
  • A large area of Ealing, Hillington and Harrow would get a frequent link to Crossrail at Ealing Broadway.
  • Extra stations could be added to the route to support development.

If the interchange at Rayners Lane were to be well designed, I doubt there would be any losers.

Could The Central Line Be Extended To Uxbridge?

In the Wikipedia entry for Uxbridge station, in the last sentence of a section called History, this is said.

The London Borough of Hillingdon announced in June 2011 that it would be lobbying Transport for London to have the Central line diverted from West Ruislip station to Uxbridge. Such a project would require a business case approved by TfL and the completion of signal upgrade work on the Metropolitan Line.

So would that be feasible?

Access To Uxbridge Station?

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines to Uxbridge and West Ruislip stations.

 

The lines in the map are as follows.

  • black – Chiltern Main Line
  • blue- Piccsdilly Line
  • mauve – Metropolitan Line
  • red – Central Line

The big red blob is the Central Line’s Ruislip Depot.

Uxbridge station is in the South-West corner.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows where all the lines cross at the North-West end of Ruislip Depot.

I suspect that an efficient connection can be made to allow the Central Line to go to Uxbridge instead of or as an alternative to West Ruislip station.

Note that at some point in the future, it is expected that both the Central and the Piccadilly Lines will use the same type of train. Will Ruislip depot be used for  some Piccadilly Line trains, given its location close to Uxbridge station and the good connection?

Uxbridge Station

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows Uxbridge station.

Note that Uxbridge station has three lines and four platforms.

  • It would surely be much easier to handle the service, if all the trains terminating at Uxbridge were the same type.
  • This would happen, if all Metropolitan Line trains terminated at Rayners Lane station.
  • Two platforms could easily handle twenty-four tph for the Piccadilly Line.
  • Two platforms could easily handle nine tph for the Central Line.

Uxbridge would become a very busy station.

Conclusion

There are a lot of possible improvements that can be done to the train service to Uxbridge.

 

 

October 31, 2017 Posted by | News | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Uxbridge Station

These pictures show Uxbridge station.

Note.

  1. The station was designed by Charles Holden and is Grade II Listed.
  2. It is in the centre of Uxbridge, which is where it should be!
  3. It is step-free.
  4. It’s got a beautiful station clock.

It is a station that has great potential for turning it into one of the London Underground’s best stations.

October 30, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Rayners Lane Station

These pictures show Raynes Lane station.

Note.

  1. The station, like many of the period, was designed by Charles Holden and is Grade II Listed.
  2. The Metropolitan and Piccadilly Lines divide to the East of the station.
  3. There is no step-free access.
  4. The pictures show the step-down into a Piccadilly Line train.

I don’t think it will be easy to convert this station to full step-free access for both Metropolitan and Piccadilly Line trains.

 

October 30, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

TfL Seeks New Procurement Plan For Metropolitan Line Extension

This is the title of an article in Construction News.

With money tight because of several factors, including Brexit and the Mayor’s fare freeze, the article states that Transport for London is looking for ways to save money on the Metropolitan Line Extension or as it was formerly known, the Croxley Rail Link.

I looked at this project  recently in Is The Croxley Rail Link To Be Given Lower Priority?, and came to the following conclusion.

I believe that Watford will get a better train service, whether the Croxley Rail Link is built or not.

Politics will decide the priority of the Croxley Rail Link, with the left-leaning South Londoner Sadiq Khan on one side and right-leaning Bucks-raised Chris Grayling on the other. In some ways, Watford is a piggy-in-the-middle.

My feeling is that on a Londonwide  basis, that the Bakerloo Line Extension to Watford, solves or enables the solution of a lot of wider problems and the Croxley Rail Link is much more a local solution.

This leads me to the further conclusion, that the Croxley Rail Link should return to its roots and become a more Hertfordshire-centric project.

Objectives Of The Project

The objectives of the project could be something like.

  • Provide better links between Watford Junction across Watford to Rickmansworth and/or Amersham, serving the High Street, Watford Hospital and Vicarage Road Stadium.
  • Keep the project as simple as possible.
  • Build the link very much on existing infrastructure.

A subsidiary objective is that it should enable better links to London, for areas in Watford, where they need improvement.

There are various projects in the pipeline, that could substantially increase capacity to Watford.

Transport for London’s passenger figures will show which is the capacity increase most needed.

Issues And Questions

I will ask a few questions first.

What Are The Current Passenger Numbers At Metropolitan Line Stations?

These are 2015 figures.

For comparison, I’ll add these nearby Metropolitan Line stations.

And then there’s Watford High Street station on the Watford DC Line, which managed 1.15 million in 23014/15.

How will Passenger Numbers Change, If The Croxley Rail Link Is Built?

I’ve seen no projections!

Why Shut Watford Station?

There has been considerable protests about the shutting of Watford station. This is an extract from the station’s Wikipedia entry under Future.

The plan to close the station has been the subject of some local opposition, and campaigners have argued for the station to remain open with a reduced shuttle service operating on the branch. In 2012 the transport watchdog London TravelWatch compiled a report on the closure plans which concluded that inconvenience to passengers would be alleviated by the new stations being opened in the area, and that a small number of existing passengers would experience an increase in journey times of more than 15 minutes. It recommended that a shuttle train service should be trialled, and that in the event of closure a bus service should be provided from Cassiobury to one of the new stations to mitigate any inconvenience.

Consider.

  • Currently Watford station has a four trains per hour (tph) service to Baker Street station in the Off Peak.
  • It handles more trains in the Peak.
  • It is also a two-platform terminal station, so it could probably handle at least 5-6 tph, if they were needed.
  • Watford services use the four-track London to Aylesbury Line to get to and from London.
  • Watford station seems to attract similar levels of traffic to other stations in the area.

On the other hand, closing the station could release a valuable site for development.

At a rough look, there would have to be some very pressing reasons to close Watford station.

Will The Bakerloo Line Be Extended To Watford?

I’m asking this question first, as it does have an affect on both the Watford DC Line and the Croxley Rail Link.

There are some handy platforms at Watford Junction, but is it the best way to increase capacity between Queen’s Park station and Watford?

I think that the platform height issue of mixing deep-level Underground and Overground trains will become increasingly important.

  • The rebuilt centre section and the Southern extension of the Bakerloo Line will be substantially step free to modern standards.
  • Passengers in wheelchairs and buggy pushers will rightly expect easy roll-across access to the trains.
  • The Northern platforms could possibly be rebuilt, but they would probably be operationally complicated and would still need ramps to be used.

The most Northerly station on the Bakerloo Line, where full step-free access is possible is Queen’s Park station.

  • The station is a major terminus for Bakerloo Line trains, where 11 tph out of 20 tph in the Off Peak change direction.
  • There is step-across access between Bakerloo and Watford DC Line services at the station.
  • If Bakerloo Line frequencies were increased to say 25-30 tph, it would probably be easier if extra services were terminated at Queen’s Park.

So could we see the Bakerloo Line cut back to Queen’s Park and services North of the station handled to a greater extent by the London Overground?

  • The Watford DC Line service could go to at least the preferred 4 tph all day.
  • If more capacity is needed in the Peak , would it be better to run some of the new Class 710 trains as eight-car trains.
  • Bakerloo Line trains could still run on the line to access the depot at Stonebridge Park and to provide services for grumpy old die-hards, who won’t change at Queen’s Park.
  • Passengers needing step-free access would change to the Overground at Queen’s Park.

North of Stonebridge Park station, the line would be served exclusively by the new Class 710 trains.

  • One train type on a line must be more efficient.
  • Is a mix of four- and eight-car Class 710 trains better than the current five-car Class 378 trains?
  • As there are nine stops between Stonebridge Park and as the Class 710 trains are optimised for fast stops, would a reduction in journey time be possible?
  • Staff would only be dealing with one type of train.
  • Passengers would have a Turn-Up-And-Go 4 tph service.

It might also make it a lot easier to introduce other services like Barking, New Cross or Stratford to Watford, if such services were needed.

A Personal Note – I regularly change at Willesden Junction stations to go to places on the Watford DC Line. A direct train from Canonbury or one of the Dalston stations would be welcomed by myself and the many others who seem to change at Willesden Junction.

Because of these and other issues, I would be very surprised to see the Bakerloo Line extended to Watford.

A Simpler Proposal

I think it would be possible to design a simpler link with the following characteristics.

  • Watford station would remain open.
  • A four tph link would run all day between Watford Junction and Amersham stations.
  • Stops would be at Watford High Street, Vicarage Road, Cassiobridge, Croxley, Rickmansworth, Chorleywood and Chalfont & Latimer.

No-one would get a worse service than currently and the new stations of Cassiobridge and Vicarage Road, would make rail an alternative for many travellers.

The cross-Watford service would give access to these London services.

  • Chiltern at all stations between Croxley and Amersham.
  • London Midland at Watford Junction,
  • Metropolitan Line at Croxley, Rickmansworth and Amersham.
  • Virgin Trains at Watford Junction,
  • Watford DC Line at Watford High Street and Watford Junction

The Bakerloo Line at Watford Junction and Watford High Street, could possibly be added, if the line is extended. Which I doubt, it will be!

I will cover issues in the next few sections.

How Long Will A Journey Take From Amersham To Watford Junction?

Consider.

  • Amersham to Croxley takes about 30 minutes, but it does involve a change to a bus.
  • The Overground takes three minutes between Watford Junction and Watford High Street stations.
  • Chiltern Railways achieve a twelve minute time between Amersham and Rickmansworth.

I suspect that a modern train like one of London Overground’s Class 378 trains could do the journey in a few minutes under half-an-hour.

Why Four Trains Per Hour?

Four tph is becoming a standard, as it encourages Turn-Up-And-Go behaviour from travellers.

It also fits well with keeping the four tph service to Watford station, as this could give a same platform interchange at Croxley stastion.

What Class Of Train Could Be Used?

Four-car Class 378 trains or the new Class 710 trains would be ideal.

They could even use the redundant two-car Class 172 trains from the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

I would suspect that the length of the Metropolitan Line’s S Stock trains, might cause problems at Watford Junction station. The manufacture of these trains has also finished. So could a few more be ordered?

How Many Trains Would Be Needed?

If the trains could do an Out-and-Back journey in an hour, then four trains would be needed to provide a four tph service.

Will The Link Have Any Other Services?

I have seen to plans to use the line for any other passenger or freight services.

Will There Be Infrastructure Issues At Existing Stations?

As all of the trains, I’ve mentioned and the London Underground S Stock trains, share platforms all over North West London, the answer is probably no, with the exception of a few minor adjustments to signs and platforms.

Would The New Track Be Electrified?

The only part of the route that is not electrified is the about three miles of new track between  the Watford Branch and the Watford DC Line.

All current electrification is either third-rail or to the London Underground standard. and any future electrification would probably be to the London Underground standard, so that S Stock can work the route.

But if the route were to be worked using Class 172 trains, the new track could be built without electrification.

In addition, I believe that the Class 710 trains will have a limited onboard energy storage capability, which could enable the trains to bridge the cap in the  electrification between Watford High Street and Croxley stations.

How much would not electrifying the new track save?

Will The New Stations Have Two Platforms?

I believe that money can be saved by creating simple stations at Cassiobridge and Vicarage Road.

  • Only one platform, but probably an island platform with two faces like Watford High Street station.
  • No expensive footbridge if possible.
  • Only one lift.

Cassiobridge would be more complicated because of the viaduct connecting the line towards Croxley station.

This visualisation shows the viaduct and the location of Cassiobridge station.

croxley-rail-link-proposed-viaduct-connecting-the-existing-metropolitan-line-with-disused-croxley-green-branch-line

Cassiobridge station will be behind the trees towards the top-right of the image.

Would The New Track Be Single Or Double-Track?

There is space for double-track and the two ends of the route are already electrified double-track.

But surely the viaduct shown above would be much more affordable, if it were to be built for only one track!

Trains would need to pass at places East of Croxley station, but then if the line was double-track through and to the East of Cassiobridge station, trains could pass with impunity.

On the other hand, too much single-track is often regretted.

Croxley Station

Croxley station would be unchanged.

But in addition to the 4 tph between Baker Street and Watford, there would be 4 tph between Watford Junction and Amersham.

Platform 1 would handle.

  • Baker Street to Watford
  • Amersham to Watford Junction

Platform 2 would handle.

  • Watford to Baker Street
  • Watford Junction to Amersham

This would mean that if the trains alternated, the maximum wait for a connection would be about 7.5 minutes.

What I feel would be the two most common connections, would just involve a wait on the same platform.

I suspect that those, who timetable trains, would come up with a very passenger-friendly solution.

Watford Station

A property developer once told me, that the most profitable developments, are those where a railway station is involved.

The Platforms At Watford Station

The Platforms At Watford Station

So would the development of the extension involve a rebuild of Watford station to provide the following?

  • A modern future-proofed station, with all the capacity that might be needed in the next forty years or so.
  • Appropriate housing or commercial development on top of the new station.
  • Sensible amounts of parking for travellers.

With four tph to and from London in the basement, it would surely be a profitable development.

Watford Junction Station

Watford Junction station has four bay platforms 1-4, that handle the three tph service on the Watford DC Line.

At stations like Clapham Junction, Crystal Palace, Dalston Junction, Highbury and Islington and New Cross, single platforms handle four tph with ease for London Overground services.

This means that handling four tph to Amersham in addition to current services would not be difficult.

The only work, that I think should be done, is make sure that these platforms are long enough to take two of the future Class 710 trains working as an eight-car train.

There could even be two platforms left for Bakerloo Line services, if it were to be decided, that these services would go to Watford Junction.

Elton John Plays Vicarage Road Stadium

This or some football matches at Vicarage Road Stadium, would be the biggest test of the Link.

Note the following.

  • Some stations  like Watford High Street can already handle longer trains than the hundred metre long, five-car Class 378 trains they currently do.
  • Some stations like Croxley can handle the 133 metre long S Stock trains used on the Metropolitan Line.

So to future-proof the Link for massive one-off events would it be sensible to make the platforms long enough for eight-car trains or two Class 710 trains working as a pair?

Benefits

The benefits of this approach are as follows.

  • Watford station keeps its current service to London.
  • Watford gets a four tph link across the South of the town, serving the Shopping Centre, the Hospital and the Stadium.
  • Amersham to Croxley stations get a link to the West Coast Main Line.
  • It could be built as a single track line without electrification.
  • Trains to run the services could be more easily available.
  • Simple island platform-based stations could be built at Cassiobridge and Vicarage Road.

In addition, Chiltern Railways, London Midland, London Overground and Underground, all gain a feeder railway bringing travellers to their services to and from London.

Cost Savings

Note.

  1. Transport for London needs cost savings on this project.
  2. Redevelopment of Watford station as a station with oversite development could raise a lot of money.
  3. The Croxley Link could be built as a single-track link without electrification and run initially run using Class 172 trains.

I also feel, that building the line this way would deliver it earlier, thus improving cash-flow.

The simple link would need at the minimum.

  • A single- or double-track railway without electrification between Croxley and Watford High Street stations.
  • Two stations with island platforms at Cassiobridge and Vicarage Road
  • A viaduct to connect Cassiobridge station to the Watford Branch.

Four Class 172 trains would work the service, after being released by the arrival of Class 710 trains on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

If skates were worn, the link could probably open in 2020.

Conclusion

A simpler and more affordable design for the Metropolitan Line Extension is surely possibly.

 

January 5, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment