Thursday, 24 March 2016

Crossrail 2 and Merton

Crossrail 2 continues to progress. The National Infrastructure Commission has backed it. And the chancellor has provided money for the next stage of planning. The next few months will be key for how Wimbledon and Merton will be impacted over the next 20 years.

Crossrail 2 and Merton

Crossrail 2 is coming to Merton and that potentially means big changes for Wimbledon, Raynes Park and Motspur Park. While it may be tempting to try and stop the scheme, the passage of the HS2 third reading yesterday in parliament indicates clearly how ineffective the "stop HS2" campaign has been. Given this, I argue that it would be wise for Merton residents concerned about Crossrail 2 to fight for improvements to the project, rather than trying to stop it altogether.

Sadly, the Crossrail 2 team only put forward one option at consultation. However there are four basic approaches which could be adopted at Wimbledon. This table summarises the impacts of each option:

Option Option 1:
Demolish to the south
Option 2:
Demolish to the north
Option 3:
Deep tunnel platforms
Option 4:
Fast line tunnel
Total amount of demolition in Wimbledon town centre Major Major Some None
Demolish Centre Court shopping centre Yes No No No
Rebuild entrance to Wimbledon station Yes Yes Yes Yes
Trams move up to street level, platform 10 destroyed Yes No No No
Tunnel portal site Gap Road Gap Road, or perhaps Waitrose Demolish 150 houses in Raynes Park, or needs two tunnel portals Wasteland at Berrylands & Weir Road industrial area
Turn-back & dive-under in Dundonald area Yes Yes No No
Widen from 4 to 6 tracks between Wimbledon and Raynes Park Yes Yes Partial No
Impact on Raynes Park station rebuild Major rebuild Major rebuild Major rebuild Smaller rebuild
Cost Baseline Assumed to be similar to basline £2bn+ more expensive In theory, should to be cheaper
Is it viable given what is currently known? Yes Yes No Yes

The four basic approaches to get Crossrail 2 through Wimbledon are:

Option 1: "Demolish to the south" - This is the current official plan, where Centre Court, the Prince of Wales and many other buildings are demolished to build new sub-surface platforms (just 10m underground).

Option 2: "Demolish to the north" - A similar approach to the current official plan, but demolishing the north side of the station instead (the taxi rank, HSBC, magistrate courts etc). Again the new platforms would be sub-surface (just 10m underground).

Option 3: "Deep tunnel platforms" - This would involve constructing two or four deep platforms (perhaps 30m underground), similar to Crossrail stations in central London. The Crossrail 2 team estimate this would cost £2bn more, and potentially involves demolition of 150 residential properties in Raynes Park. It would also require significant demolition in Wimbledon town centre for the lift and escalator shafts to the deep platforms. Since I have seen no evidence of a viable way to build this option without ridiculous residential demolition impacts, I've marked it as not viable in the table.

Option 4: "Fast line tunnel" - This involves a new tunnel from Berrylands to the Earlsfield area, taking the trains on the current fast lines. This frees up two tracks and two platforms at Wimbledon, providing the space for Crossrail 2 without major demolition. This is also known as the Swirl plan. (Note that a fast line tunnel for Merton is viable with whichever station is chosen for Wandsworth - Balham, Tooting or Earlsfield. Note also that the table describes a minimal fast line tunnel option where either all 30tph run through to the branches, or 10tph turn-back at Clapham Junction.)

A key point arising from the table is that option 2 is very similar to option 1. Both involve major demolition in the town centre, turn-backs, dive-under and widening to 6 tracks.

Wimbledon, London

As a little bit more detail, these bullet points outline the work involved for option 1 in Merton (the official plan). This is intended to help explain the rows in the table above:

  • Four new sub-surface platforms at Wimbledon station, created by demolishing much of the Centre Court shopping centre and many other buildings in the town centre
  • The loss of platform 10 from the existing Wimbledon station, permanently restricting the frequency of Thameslink services
  • Trams moving out of the station up to street level
  • A tunnel portal at the Gap Road worksite, where the main tunnel is dug from
  • A new road bridge between Queens Road and Alexandra Road
  • A turn-back facility at the Dundonald Road worksite, to allow trains to reverse
  • A dive-under at the Dundonald Road worksite, for Northbound trains to reach the new platforms
  • Two additional tracks between Wimbledon and Raynes Park (6 tracks instead of the current 4 tracks)
  • Major rebuild of Raynes Park station for cross-platform interchange and access for all, likely to involve land take north of the current station site

The construction period is likely to be around 10 years, plus subsequent work to redevelop the worksites. There are also likely to be many resulting lorry movements.


When the four options for Wimbledon town centre are evaluated side by side, it is clear that only a fast line tunnel will really improve the Crossrail 2 scheme for Merton. The key benefit is that it removes all town centre demolition apart from reconstructing the station itself. However the benefits go beyond that, avoiding the need to widen to six tracks between Wimbledon and Raynes Park, require no turn-backs or dive-under in the Dundonald area, and reducing the land take needed by the rebuild of Raynes Park station.

Hopefully the table above helps clarify why this blog is arguing that a fast line tunnel is the only option Merton residents should be arguing for (via your residents association and elected representatives).

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Crossrail 2 and the National Infrastructure Commission

The National Infrastructure Commission provides an independent high-level view of significant infrastructure projects. It is led by Lord Adonis and has recently published a report on transport in London.

Transport for a World City

The Commission published two reports on the same day. The first is the commission's opinion. The second is an independent report drawn up by consultants. This section examines the commission's report.

The commission report is relatively simple.

The Commission concludes that the strategic case for Crossrail 2 is well founded and recommends that it is taken forward. It is not a substitute for smaller scale improvements, but these alone will not be enough.

Later it adds:

The case for Crossrail 2 is that it will:
* Provide vital relief for the congested southern end of the Northern Line and for the Victoria Line through north-east and central London. These are forecast to see much of the highest levels of crowding anywhere on the Underground, after the opening of Crossrail 1.
* Provide an alternative route, via its connection to Crossrail 1, from southwest London to the City and Canary Wharf, reducing passenger numbers on the overcrowded Waterloo and City line and the eastern part of the Jubilee Line.
* Relieve capacity constraints on the critically over-crowded south-west London commuter lines coming into the capital through Wimbledon, Clapham Junction and Waterloo by providing an alternative route for inner suburban services via a new tunnel from Wimbledon into Central London.
* Reduce terminal congestion at the UK’s busiest station, Waterloo, as well as cutting crowding levels at Clapham Junction, Vauxhall and Wimbledon, all of which are forecast to face insuperable operational difficulties due to the volume of passengers at peak hours.
* Release capacity on the existing south-west network for longer distance services from Basingstoke, Woking, Guildford, Southampton and beyond.
* Provide four tracks on the West Anglia Mainline to enable faster services on the London-Stansted-Cambridge Corridor.
* Link with Euston/St Pancras, to provide onwards dispersal for those arriving into London from the north on HS2, which is planned to be completed to Manchester and Leeds in 2033.
* Stimulate new housing, jobs and development along the whole route. In particular the line will transform access to the Upper Lee Valley Opportunity Area – one of the largest in London.
* Establish a turn-up-and-go level of service at a range of underserved destinations allowing for regeneration around transport hubs in Hackney, Haringey, Enfield and Tottenham.
* Unlock 200,000 homes, provided the right planning framework is applied.

It is interesting to note that the first item is relief of the southern section of the Northern line (not the Victoria, Jubilee or Piccadilly). Regular readers known my scepticism of this claimed relief.

Finally, there is this key section:

The costs of Crossrail 2 are high and therefore every opportunity should be taken to improve its affordability.
* The updated case should include detailed options to reduce and phase the costs of the scheme. The most promising option identified to enhance affordability would be to delay the construction of the northwestern branch to New Southgate. This could reduce the costs of the initial scheme in the 2020s by around £4 billion. More work should also be done on the costs and benefits of individual central London stations.
* If construction of the north-western branch is delayed, this would also provide the opportunity to consider the case for an eastern branch from Hackney as an alternative.

On cost savings, the following possibilities are mentioned:

  • Dropping the Chelsea station
  • Balham, not Tooting
  • Work on the station design and approaches to Wimbledon
  • Wood Green, not Turnpike Lane and Alexandra Palace
  • Dropping or delaying the New Southgate branch

All in all, there is nothing particularly surprising about the commission's report. It says lots about finance, housing and growth. And on Crossrail 2 itself, it backs the official scheme almost in entirety, the main exception being the possible dropping of the New Southgate branch.

Review of the Case for Large Scale Transport Investment in London

The second report is from independent consultants. It is much more interesting in the ideas presented, however it cannot be seen as the commission's opinion. Nevertheless, it is worth summarising some of the key ideas mentioned in the report.

In the North, the second report also discusses dropping the New Southgate branch. (This may be where the commission got the idea.) However, dropping the branch is not discussed in isolation. Instead, the report proposes investigation into a "cost effective cross-London route" from Moorgate to Waterloo. The map shows the proposal in red, with the dropped Crossrail 2 branch to new Southgate in dashed blue.

The proposal is to take the existing National Rail services from Hatfield, Welwyn and Hertford to Moorgate through a new tunnel to Waterloo and beyond. Potentially this may need only two new underground stations - Cannon Street and Waterloo - although it is more realistic to also expect Moorgate may require a rebuild. Beyond Waterloo, the proposal is to take the line to the Battersea area, and beyond.

This is a sensible proposal, very similar to Swanlink. Construction would however probably require some lengthy closures of the line from Finsbury Park to Moorgate. It is likely to be relatively cheap, with minimal tunnelling and few new stations.

In zone 1, the second report enthuses about an extension of the DLR from Bank to Euston/Kings Cross, with closure of Tower Gateway. Such a scheme would be well used, but whether it is the best option is a different question.

In the east, there is discussion of a north-south line from Stratford to Lewisham via Canary Wharf. This is similar to the Sussex relief line proposal. There is little detail however - it is little more than a couple of sentences.

In the South, the second report outlines a whole range of thoughts under the heading "Potential refinements to Crossrail 2". The section begins by talking about cost savings, where it suggests surfacing the tunnel between Clapham Junction and Earlsfield, noting that this does not provide any Northern line relief. Again, it hints at removing Chelsea without being explicit. These two changes are shown here:

The next section discusses phasing, including the rather impractical suggestion of only building Victoria to Euston.

In another section, thoughts turn to changing the specification of Crossrail 2 to an automated metro with dedicated access to tracks. This would require there to be no services from the southern branches to Waterloo. Undoubtedly, this would simplify operation, and raise the potential of 40tph (perhaps of shorter trains). However, it seems that it would be tricky to get the segregation necessary.

The report then discusses increasing the scheme benefits. Here the report argues that Crossrail 2 leaves Earlsfield "stranded", and that a branch to Balham and Streatham would makes sense. This is essentially the argument I made in the Swirl-Max plan. In an ideal world, I remain convinced that Swirl-Max servces southern Wandsworth better than the official plan, with an expectation of more Northern and Victoria line relief. If money is tight, then Swirl remains the better option.

Finally, the report suggests a link from Motspur Park to New Malden, shown in red on the map above. This link, potentially funded separately from Crossrail 2, would allow through services from Epsom and Chessington to Kingston and Twickenham. This would effectively be orbital, rather than radial travel. This seems very sensible, and potentially allows the frequency on the Epsom and Chessington branches to reach a more sensible 8tph rather than the currently proposed 4tph.


It is easy to get carried away when reading the second report, as there are lots of potentially great ideas in there. However, it is only the report of consultants, not the report of the commission itself. And the commission's report is very bland, backing the existing plan almost in its entirety, Although it does look like the New Southgate branch is for the chop.

That said, it is great to see a tunnel south from Moorgate, and routing Crossrail 2 via Earlsfield with a branch to Streatham in a key document. While it may come to nothing, it is at least a marker for the future.

Finally, it is clear that residents in Merton looking to reduce the impact on Wimbledon and Raynes Park need to continue arguing for a "fast line tunnel", as it is still the only option that will make a significant difference. And residents in the London/Surrey borders should continue to argue for a routing via Earlsfield to avoid their services being slowed unnecessarily.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Orange South London

The think tank Centre for London published a report on rail in South London today (14th January 2016), entitled "Turning South London Orange". This is my thoughts on the report.

South London

The report outlines the problems facing rail in South London (specifically South Central, not South East or South West) and proposes some solutions. It tackles these in the context of London Overground, the "Orange" network of tube maps. As well as covering the transport side, the report adds background and numbers on the project growth and potential additional growth that could be unlocked by an investment. It recommends TfL (Transport for London) takes over the existing services within London (ie. conversion to London Overground), and it gives consideration to a new regional transport body covering London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex to balance the needs of London with those beyond.

The rest of the article will focus mainly on the proposed investment ideas. Firstly, there is a set of ideas that few would disagree with:

  • Enhanced signalling, with greater automation
  • Better trains, with wider doors, better braking and acceleration
  • More effective station stops, using staff and technology
  • More turnbacks, to provide for a high frequency service

Beyond the basics, three more specific investment ideas are discussed, starting on page 44.

A new South London Line

This proposal is to increase the frequency of the line from Victoria to Lewisham and provide more stations.

The current Overground service runs from Clapham Junction to Canada Water and beyond at 4tph (trains per hour). The report propose increasing this to 6tph, and adding an additional Victoria to Lewisham service, also at 6tph. To make this work, the report suggests additional platforms at Battersea (near the power station), Wandsworth Road, Clapham High Street, Clapham East, Brixton and Brockley.

Thameslink, Herne Hill, and a resolution for Brixton

This proposal is for a new tunnel running from the Wandsworth Road area to the Dulwich area. This would be a fast line tunnel, taking those services from Kent that run non-stop from Bromley South to Victoria.

By building a new fast line tunnel, the flat junctions at Herne Hill and Brixton are relieved. This would provide enough space for the proposed Victoria to Lewisham service, plus an enhanced local service from Victoria to Bromley South. In addition, the extra capacity would allow platforms to be built at Brixton, not on the high viaduct, but on the lower level one on the north side.

The report discusses the flat junction at Tulse Hill but does not propose anything specific. It does indirectly mention a flyover, which is likely to be necessary to enhance frequencies through there.

Streatham ‘Virtual Tube’

The concept here is to build a new tunnel from Streatham to Streatham Hill with a rebuilt four platform hub station at Streatham. This would allow services from Streatham Common to run via Streatham and Streatham Hill to Balham and Victoria. A flyover junction is discussed to ensure the service to Streatham Common would be reliable.

The report claims a frequency of a train every 2 to 3 minutes at Streatham with this investment. I suspect the report authors mean 12tph to Victoria (one every 5 minutes) and 12tph to Tulse Hill, split between London Bridge or Thameslink (one every 10 minutes to each).

My thoughts

These proposals are a good starting point for discussion.

The proposal for a fast line tunnel under Herne Hill and Brixton seems pretty sound to me. The goal is correct - to separate the long distance services from Kent to Victoria from the metro services. The current timetable from Bromley South to Victoria shows 9tph of fast services and 4tph of slow service.

A fast line tunnel would easily have capacity for the 9tph of fast services, leaving free space on the existing surface lines for additional slows services. However, the devil is in the detail. To work effectively, the fast line tunnel must start far enough south to free up the additional capacity. Otherwise, there will still be conflicts between Bromley South and West Dulwich. As such, it may be necessary to run the new tunnel as far south as Kent House, which is quite a lot further.

Another question with the plan is that 9tph is relatively low usage for an expensive new tunnel. Of course, with increasing demand, this 9tph might be increased once the new tunnel opened. But it seems unlikely that it would reach 20tph. As such, it is fair to look to see if anything else could use the tunnel, potentially increase the value of the investment.

One possibility would be a second southern portal somewhere north of Norwood Junction. This would allow some services from there to run non-stop to Victoria. This would be of most use to the services from Caterham and East Grinstead, which deserve fast services but are in danger of being crowded out. A tunnel providing 12tph non-stop from Bromley South to Victoria and 8tph non-stop from Norwood Junction could be a powerful combination.

The plans for platforms at Brixton make sense with the additional capacity of the tunnel. However, since the tunnel would remove all fast services, it would seem that the high level viaduct in Brixton would be unused under the proposed plan. This possibility offers another way to provide platforms at Brixton.

If the low level viaduct was reduced from 2 tracks to 1 track, an eastbound platform could be added on the viaduct in the space saved. Similarly, the high level viaduct could be reduced from 2 tracks to 1 track with the space saved used for the westbound platform. Together, this would provide a flyover junction at Brixton for the metro services of the three routes - Victoria to Lewisham, Clapham Junction to Canada Water and Victoria to Bromley South (via Herne Hill) - which would increase reliability.

The second major investment discussed is the Streatham 'virtual tube'.

A tunnel from Streatham to Streatham Hill has long been a sensible thing to consider. Access to Streatham is perhaps the key piece in South London's jigsaw, and tackling it a necessity of any scheme.

My problem with the concept outlined in the report is that it takes services from Streatham Common, via two additional stations, something guaranteed to extend journey times. A more likely, and cheaper plan, would be to serve Streatham and not Streatham Hill.

Regular readers will know that I am championing the Swirl-Max plan for Crossrail 2, which has a branch from Clapham Junction to Streatham via Balham. This includes a tunnelled curve from Balham to Streatham, very similar to that proposed in this report.

So, could the Swirl-Max tunnel be extended to serve more of South London? The answer is yes, but it relies on an additional tunnel from Clapham Junction to Central London, ie. Crossrail 3. This is because at least 20tph of Crossrail 2 are needed by Wimbledon, leaving just 10tph for Streatham. While 10tph is enough for Streatham alone, it is not a high enough frequency to cope with the demands of serving the broader South London area directly.

In brief, here is what would have to happen to convert the Streatham branch of Swirl-Max into Crossrail 3.

  1. Build a new tunnel from the start of the Streatham branch to Clapham Junction
  2. Build two new tunnelled platforms at Clapham Junction
  3. Build a new tunnel from Clapham Junction to somewhere in Central London, such as Blackfriars via Vauxhall and Charing Cross, or Baker Street via Victoria
  4. Build a new connection from the surface at Streatham Hill to the tunnel under Balham
  5. Run 10tph from Crossrail 3 to Crystal Palace, and 10tph to West Croydon via Selhurst, plus the original Swirl-Max 10tph to Wimbledon via Haydons Road.

As can be seen, the Swirl-Max Streatham branch can very effectively be the base building block of Crossrail 3. (And in an ideal world, points 1 and 2 would be done as part of Crossrail 2.)

Finally, I have to note the elephant in the room when looking at the Centre for London report.

The report proposes doubling the usage of South London's rail network. But this network ends at London Bridge and Victoria. Only the Thameslink line runs through Central London, and only a maximum of 8tph is available there. But how many of those new passengers will have a job right by the terminus station?

As such, it is my opinion that the plan in the report would dramatically increase the pressure on the tube in Central London, with only Crossrail 2 providing any relief. While the report seeks to explore options without tunnelling in zone 1, it seems to me that there is simply so much demand as to require an additional Crossrail.

Which brings us full circle to Swirl-Max and the building blocks it provides for Crossrail 3!


The new report into rail in South London makes a good contribution to the debate, particularly on the governance and growth sides. On the transport investments, there is no doubt that if built as proposed, they would be a step up for South London. However, I fear they would also create major overloading of the tube, particularly from Victoria. As such, I don't see how rail in South London can be considered without at least one eye on a future Crossrail, with the Swirl-Max plan plan for Crossrail 2 offering a great starting point.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Crossrail 2 consultation responses, 2015

This blog seeks to gather publicly available links to consultation responses to the Crossrail 2 consultation of late 2015. Because of the sheer scale of the scheme, this will focus on Merton & Wandsworth, with just a few others. Those links below are simply those I've been able to find. No political or opinion bias is intended. If a response is missing, please add a comment.




Other locations:

My response as an individual blogger was based on the Swirl-Max plan. I also argued for:

  • a second "destination" station in Central London, preferably linked to Green Park
  • passive provision for four platforms at Victoria (for Crossrail 3 or 4)
  • passive provision for four platforms at Clapham Junction (for Crossrail 3 or 4)
  • a station at Stoke Newington
  • Alexandra Palace and Turnpike Lane, not Wood Green

I hope this data will prove useful to someone! However, it is very incomplete as there must be responses from many other organizations. If you know of a response from an organization or politician, use the comments to tell us!

Monday, 30 November 2015

Crossrail 2 Swirl-Max - relieving the Northern Line

Crossrail 2 Swirl is a plan to take Crossrail 2 via Earlsfield, not Balham. The big issue with Swirl is that it does not directly relieve the Northern Line. This article provides a way to achieve that - "Swirl-Max".

How can Swirl be enhanced to relieve the Northern Line?

The Swirl plan deliberately takes Crossrail 2 away from the Northern Line. This is because any shared station (Balham or Tooting Broadway) on the main Crossrail 2 line allows passengers from places as diverse as Chessington, Kingston, Shepperton and Epsom to change onto the Northern Line, as well as for passengers to change from the Northern to Crossrail 2. My research suggests that the movement from Crossrail 2 to Northern will not be insignificant, and as such, it is far from clear that Crossrail 2 will make the Northern line less overcrowded. See my full analysis.

It is the case that simply by being built, Crossrail 2 will attract some journeys away from the Northern. This will notably be the case for residents around South Wimbledon. However, it is accepted that the Swirl plan alone would make little difference to Northern Line crowding.

Initially, it seemed that the best way to relieve the Northern Line would be to extend the Northern Line (West End Branch) from Battersea Power to Clapham South and/or Balham. However, the journey time analysis showed that such an approach would not achieve its goals, at least in part because the Northern Line Extension to Battersea Power does not interchange with the Victoria Line. As such, my view is that the best option is a branch of Crossrail 2 to relieve the Northern Line.

Swirl-Max - relieving the Northern Line

The Swirl-Max plan is an extension of the Swirl plan, proposing a branch of Crossrail 2 to relieve the Northern Line.

The branch would split from the main Crossrail 2 route south of Clapham Junction. It would then proceed to Balham, using a station alignment next to the existing station (the road between the station and Sainsburys). From there, it is proposed to take the branch on to Streatham.

Once the branch reaches Streatham, it makes sense to bring it to the surface to take over the existing line (coloured orange on the map) through Tooting (mainline) and Haydons Road to Wimbledon, where the branch would terminate. An additional station would be provided on the A24 near Tooting St.Georges hospital. The key benefit of doing this is that both Balham and Tooting on the Northern Line are relieved - it is no longer a choice of one or the other.

Note that all services from Chessington, Epsom, Kingston and Hampton Court would run via Earlsfield. The layout of the tracks at Wimbledon would make it impossible for those services to run via Streatham.

The branch would have 10tph (trains per hour), one every 6 minutes. While it may seem slightly low, this frequency does not turn out to be a problem for the branch. While relatively few people will change from the Northern Line to Crossrail 2 at Balham, my journey time analysis suggests that the numbers who would change with TfL's scheme are not as great as might be imagined. Thus, the key to relieving the Northern Line is attracting enough people to start their journey on Crossrail 2, rather than on the Northern. The Swirl-Max plan does this by providing four stations near the Northern Line - Balham, Tooting, St.Georges and Haydons Road. All four would provide competitive journey times to the West End, and considerably more comfort.


It is proposed that the 10tph currently proposed to terminate at Wimbledon would run via the Streatham branch. The key purpose of the 10tph TfL want to terminate at Wimbledon is to provide performance management for the core Central London section of Crossrail 2. As such, it is vital that the branch be able to perform the same role.

To ensure reliable performance, the branch would need to have two specific characteristics. Firstly, the branch must be completely isolated from Network Rail. Secondly, the branch must have overhead electrification (to avoid any problems due to changing from overhead to third rail power supply). When considering possible branches, these two characteristics were key.

The proposed branch is in tunnel from Clapham Junction to Streatham. South of Streatham, the branch would surface and completely take over the line from Streatham to Wimbledon, without sharing any track between Streatham and the junction for Tooting. The existing Thameslink services on that line would be diverted to run via Sutton to Wimbledon, effectively doubling the service between Sutton and Wimbledon.

The Tooting Broadway station saga has indicated that there is some tricky geology in the area. To mitigate this, it is proposed to build top-down station boxes at both Balham and Streatham. This should keep the stations within the band of London Clay.

At Wimbledon, it is proposed that platform 10 would be used for the Thameslink service from Sutton, and platform 9 for the Swirl-Max Crossrail 2 branch service via Streatham. Terminating 10tph in a single platform is not desirable, however it is feasible. It should be possible to provide an additional platform 11 in the area of the Queens Road car park to mitigate this. There is the potential to extend platform 10 south under the existing deck to provide more space. Furthermore, it is expected that an additional turn-back location would be provided somewhere along the branch. It is intended that at least a single track would be provided between platform 10 and the Weir Road depot for empty stock movements.

The proposed tunnel portal site is at, or near, Wandsworth Prison. While it is not yet certain that the prison will be closed, it must be considered at least possible. That site has reasonable road access via the A214, however it is assumed that most spoil would be sent down the main running tunnel to the New Malden portal. As such, tunnelling for the branch would begin later than that for the main line. If the prison does not close, the nearby car parks and nursery offer sufficient space for the worksite.

If the prison site does become available, it may be possible to move the "tunnel swap" location of the Swirl plan to the north of Earlsfield, near the prison. Doing so could save £300m by avoiding the need for a new sub-surface Earlsfield station.

While not essential, it is considered desirable to provide at least passive provision for four platforms at Clapham Junction. Doing so, could allow the branch to be separated from Crossrail 2 at some future point in time.

When deciding on the plan above, some other options were rejected. A one station branch to Balham or a two station branch to Balham and Streatham Hill would not attract enough traffic off the Northern Line. A route via Streatham Hill to Streatham would add to journey time and costs, plus be complicated to build (no easy way to create a tunnelled station at Streatham Hill. A branch with a tunnelled station at Tooting Broadway would run into the same geological problems that caused TfL to move to Balham.


The Swirl-Max plan has the same benefits as the Swirl plan, plus these additional benefits:

  • Northern Line relief at both Balham and Tooting
  • Ability to provide a station on the doorstep of St.Georges hospital
  • No risk of overloading the Northern Line with passengers from beyond Wimbledon
  • Significantly faster and more frequent service to Streatham
  • Doubles the Thameslink service between Streatham and Sutton, and Sutton and Wimbledon

See also the full journey time analysis. For example, Streatham to Tottenham Court Road on Oxford Street would take just 15 minutes, with a train every 6 minutes.

It is difficult to quantify the potential Northern Line relief. However, if the four stations Haydons Road, St.Georges, Tooting and Balham could capture 35% of the traffic from the Northern Line at Colliers Wood, Tooting Broadway and Balham then around 1 in 4 people would be removed from the Northern Line north of Balham.

In addition, Swirl-Max provides far greater Victoria Line relief than the TfL scheme. This occurs, because many people that currently take the bus from Streathan to Brixton would instead take Crossrail 2 at Streatham.

My calculations suggest that this plan does not require a shaft on Wandsworth Common. This is because the proposed route is more direct to Balham. As such, a shaft at the prison site would suffice between Clapham Junction and Balham.


The following is a rough cost estimate for the Swirl-Max plan:

  • Balham station - £300m
  • Streatham station - £300m
  • Additional tunnelling - £600m
  • Surface works to take over line via Haydons Road - £300m
  • Additional items / contingency - £500m

This comes to a total of £2bn. But it is important to remember that this is a high level estimate.

Potentially this means that the Swirl-Max plan is more expensive than TfL's current plan taking Crossrail 2 via Balham. However, it seems reasonable to suggest that Swirl-Max provides better transport benefits and greater reach for economic growth. A formal economic analysis would be needed to confirm this however.

While it is possible to end the branch at Streatham, it would seem that doing so misses the potential Northern Line relief from the Tooting and St.Georges stations. The additional cost to reach Wimbledon from Streatham should be easy to offset against the additional benefits.


The Swirl-Max plan for Crossrail 2 extends the Swirl plan, providing a branch from Clapham Junction to Balham, Streatham and Tooting. Instead of the question being "Balham or Tooting", it can be "Balham and Tooting, oh and Earlsfield and Streatham too!".

Feel free to comment to ask questions or support the plan.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Fewer trains at Earlsfield with Crossrail 2

Planning for Crossrail 2 is underway with a consultation currently open. The consultation invites feedback on "Proposed service patterns", yet most people in Earlsfield appear blissfully ignorant of what Crossrail 2 means to them. This article aims to make it clear.

Crossrail 2

The South West Main Line (SWML) from Waterloo through Earlsfield to Woking and beyond is one of the busiest railway lines in the country. It consists of 4 tracks all the way from Woking to Waterloo, with services from Earlsfield on the two slow lines.

Since the 4 tracks are no longer sufficient for demand, Transport for London and Network Rail are planning to add an additional 2 tracks between New Malden and Clapham Junction, as part of Crossrail 2. The following map shows the official plan:

The current services that serve Earlsfield today, from Kingston, Hampton Court, Chessington and Epsom will be diverted onto Crossrail 2 and run via Balham, not Earlsfield.

Given this, a key question arises - What services will stop at Earlsfield once Crossrail 2 opens? The answer to this question is not good news for Earlsfield.

Earlsfield is likely to have around 40% fewer trains once Crossrail 2 opens

Exact details are unclear, partly because they are not yet decided. However, the consultation documents and verbal conversations with Network Rail indicate that the following is the working hypothesis (tph = trains per hour):

  • Before Crossrail 2 opens - 18tph stop at Earlsfield
  • After Crossrail 2 opens - 10-12tph stop at Earlsfield (a cut of between 33% and 44%)

What this means in practice is that 6-8tph will run through the platforms at Earlsfield without stopping. These will be the current fast services from Surbiton, which will be moved off the fast lines to make space for more trains from beyond Woking.

Transport for London and Network Rail believe that although there would be fewer trains stopping at Earlsfield, those that did stop would have more space available. As such, they argue that this service cut is not a major problem.

Ultimately, it is up to the residents of Earlsfield to decide whether they want to fight for a better deal.

Crossrail 2 Swirl

This blog is promoting a change to Crossrail 2, the Swirl plan. Swirl proposes routing Crossrail 2 via Earlsfield instead of Balham.

Were Swirl to be adopted, the service at Earlsfield would potentially increase to 30tph, one train every two minutes. It would also see Earlsfield added to the tube map, which experience suggests is very positive for an area.

If you live in Earlsfield you may not realise that the potential exists to get your area a much better deal. The difference between 10tph and 30tph is stark, as is the potential to be on the tube map.

Have a read of the Swirl plan, and if you agree, please respond to the consultation mentioning "Crossrail 2 Swirl".

Update 2016-01-19: See also the Swirl-Max plan which services Earsfield, Balham, Streatham and Tooting providing much greater benefits to the area.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Crossrail 2 and Surbiton

Planning for Crossrail 2 is underway with a consultation currently open. The consultation invites feedback on the following topics:

  • Station locations, entrances and exits
  • Shaft locations for the tunnelled section of the scheme
  • The construction sites required to build and operate the tunnelled section of the scheme
  • Proposed service patterns

The last of these is of most relevance to Surbiton.

While this article is focussed on Surbiton, much of the logic applies to other stations - Esher, Hersham, Walton, Weybridge, Byfleet and West Byfleet.

Crossrail 2

The South West Main Line (SWML) from Waterloo through Surbiton to Woking and beyond is one of the busiest railway lines in the country. It consists of 4 tracks all the way from Woking to Waterloo, with 5 tracks available for services on the final Waterloo approach. The 4 tracks consist of two pairs - the slow lines and the fast lines. Unfortunately, 4 tracks are no longer sufficient for the demand.

For Network Rail, the key purpose of Crossrail 2 is to provide an additional 2 tracks from New Malden to London, creating a 6 track railway. Current plans have this as 6 tracks on the surface between New Malden and Wimbledon, where the additional 2 tracks descend into tunnel for the rest of the route to London.

For Transport for London (TfL), the key purpose of Crossrail 2 is different. They need the new line to relieve the underground network, specifically the Victoria Line and Northern Line. As such, Crossrail 2 is planned to route via Balham (on the Northern Line) and then on to Victoria, Tottenham Court Road and Euston. This means that Crossrail 2 is not currently planning to serve Earlsfield.

The current consultation is the first step in deciding which train services run once Crossrail 2 opens and there are 6 tracks available from New Malden.

Current peak services

Currently, Surbiton has the following peak services:

  • 07:01 - 29mins - from Hampton Court (all stations to Waterloo)
  • 07:08 - 16mins - from Woking (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 07:11 - 25mins - from Guildford via Claygate (fast to Wimbledon, then all stations to Waterloo)
  • 07:27 - 20mins - from Woking (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 07:31 - 31mins - from Hampton Court (all stations to Waterloo)
  • 07:38 - 16mins - from Woking (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 07:41 - 28mins - from Guildford via Claygate (New Malden, Wimbledon, then all stations to Waterloo)
  • 07:53 - 18mins - from Guildford via Claygate (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 07:57 - 20mins - from Woking (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 08:01 - 30mins - from Hampton Court (all stations to Waterloo)
  • 08:08 - 16mins - from West Byfleet (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 08:11 - 27mins - from Guildford via Claygate (New Malden, Wimbledon, then all stations to Waterloo)
  • 08:19 - 15mins - from Woking (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 08:25 - 19mins - from Woking (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 08:31 - 30mins - from Hampton Court (all stations to Waterloo)
  • 08:38 - 19mins - from Farnham (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 08:42 - 17mins - from Guildford via Claygate (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 08:48 - 16mins - from Woking (non-stop to Waterloo)
  • 08:57 - 25mins - from Guildford via Claygate (fast to Wimbledon, then all stations to Waterloo)

The lines in bold are the fast services, "Surbiton Express", which currently run non-stop from Surbiton to Waterloo.

In the authors opinion, the Surbiton Express trains are unlikely to survive after Crossrail 2.

Network Rail planners have a tough job. There are simply too few train paths available into Waterloo for the number of people wanting to travel. Unlike some other routes into London, practically every train in the peak is at the maximum length. In addition, ideas such as double decker trains, or even longer trains, are impractical. (Better signalling may be an option, however at present Network Rail has limited experience in running any line with more than 24 train paths an hour.)

Faced with increasing demand and fixed paths into London, Network Rail simply has to allocate trains as best it can. The most efficient way to do this is to use the two fast lines from Woking to Waterloo solely for trains running non-stop from Woking to Waterloo. The effect of that is that all trains to Surbiton would run on the slow lines, not the fast lines. As such, the Surbiton Express trains would almost certainly cease to exist in their present form.

As it turns out, removing the 5 Surbiton Express trains (per hour) probably yields more than 5 extra train paths from Woking to Waterloo. This is because there is no need to provide space in the timetable for lateness at the junction at Surbiton. This fact emphasises why the Surbiton Expresses are seen as poor use of the limited train paths.

While these changes could happen prior to Crossrail 2 opening, the new line offers the best chance to mitigate the loss of the Surbiton Expresses. This is because the existing slow services to Shepperton, Chessington, Hampton Court and Epsom move off the slow lines and onto the additional Crossrail 2 tracks. This leaves the existing slow lines free to handle traffic from Surbiton.

Peak services with Crossrail 2

The consultation leaflet for Crossrail 2 proposes the following services with Crossrail 2 (tph = trains per hour):

  • 4tph Surbiton to Crossrail 2 - from Hampton Court, all stations including Berrylands and New Malden
  • 8tph Surbiton to Waterloo - no information provided on stopping patterns

The key question for Surbiton is what will the stopping pattern be of the 8 peak trains to Waterloo? As it turns out, some clues are buried in other parts of the consultation:

  • 4tph New Malden to Waterloo - but these are services from Kingston, not Surbiton
  • 8tph Raynes Park to Waterloo - but these are services from Kingston and Epsom, not Surbiton

Thus, none of the trains from Surbiton to Waterloo are expected to stop at New Malden or Raynes Park. (The Crossrail 2 trains from Hampton Court via Surbiton will provide the connection to New Malden and Raynes Park.)

Verbal conversations at consultation events have indicated that the current plan is for 10-12tph to Waterloo from Wimbledon and the same at Earlsfield. Thus it can be seen that 8tph of the 10-12tph at Wimbledon and Earlsfield stop at Raynes Park, with only 2-4tph from Surbiton expected to stop at Wimbledon and Earlsfield. The simplest timetable for Surbition would therefore be:

  • 4tph Surbiton to Crossrail 2 - from Hampton Court, all stations including Berrylands and New Malden
  • 4tph Surbiton to Waterloo - stopping at Wimbledon, Earlsfield, Clapham Junction and Vauxhall
  • 4tph Surbiton to Waterloo - stopping at Clapham Junction and Vauxhall

It is important to emphasise that this is speculation by the author based on the available facts.

To drill down further, see these unofficial journey time estimates. To summarize, I'd estimate journey times of 23 to 26 minutes from Surbiton to Waterloo once Crossrail 2 opens, and 25 minutes from Surbiton to Victoria.

The reason for the relatively slow journey times is that all trains from Surbiton will be on the current slow lines. The slow lines need to serve Earlsfield and Vauxhall, and there is no possibility to overtake the stopping train in front, thus missing out stations saves relatively little time.

Additional data

Updated 2016-01-10.

These are some additional points that provide evidence for the impact on Surbiton.

1) The speed limit on the slow lines is less than that on the fast lines. This can be found in the Network Rail Sectional Appendix.

2) The slow lines run into the low numbered platforms at Waterloo. These can only take 8 car trains today, and are only planned to be extended to 10 car trains. As such, without an additional investment, services from Surbiton will be limited to 10 cars.

Alternate Crossrail 2 plan - Swirl

This blog is also promoting a change to Crossrail 2, the Swirl plan. Swirl proposes routing Crossrail 2 via Earlsfield instead of Balham.

If the Swirl plan happens, then journey times from Surbiton would have the potential to be 1 to 2 minutes shorter. This is because no train on the slow lines would be responsible for stopping at at Earlsfield, allowing trains to run slightly faster. Note however, that the Swirl plan would need widespread support from the public to be adopted.


The Surbiton Express trains are on borrowed time. They will probably end when Crossrail 2 starts, but they just might reduce in number before that.

Comments welcome, but make sure to respond to the official consultation.