diamond geezer

 Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Light at the end of the tunnel

At long last, after years of stalled planning below the streets of London, things are on the move Underground. Two long-long-awaited new projects have finally been given the go-ahead in the last week, after many years of nobody quite deciding to do anything about either of them. Both Crossrail and the East London Line extension should make a real difference to transport in the capital, eventually at least. And, as of midnight this morning, the tube network is now under the control of Ken Livingstone and his new management team. There'll be no visible changes overnight, but there's now the real promise of changes to come. Transport for London have just issued a new 27-page document outlining their plans for all 12 Underground lines, and dates for the upgrade of all 275 Underground stations. I'm delighted to see that my local station is due to be one of the first to be improved, but even that's two years off and might turn out to be nothing more than a new coat of paint. Fingers crossed.

Crossrail: There have been plans for a fast East-West rail link across London since 1989, but prohibitive tunnelling costs have always kept those plans on the drawing board, until yesterday. A fast-track service between Paddington and Liverpool Street is promised, extending outwards to link suburban routes to the west and east of the capital. Canary Wharf to Heathrow on one train is a definite winner, even if Romford to Richmond or Dartford to Aylesbury are rather more unlikely journeys. You can see the proposed routes here, here or maybe here. There's a much more detailed map of the central section here, which suggests that Crossrail will go nearly past my house just before it enters its new tunnel under London. But it's not all good news. The nearest station to me will be at least a mile away for a start, plus Crossrail may not even be finished by 2012 in time for a potential East London Olympics. And the rebuilding of Tottenham Court Road station will mean the closure of London's Astoria nightclub, home to... OK, so it's not all bad either then.

East London Line Extension: The East London Line is the runt of the Underground system, a mere 5 miles, 9 stations and 7½ minutes long. It links Shoreditch to Southwark through the historic Thames Tunnel, completed in 1843 and the first tunnel ever to be built under a navigable river. This engineering miracle marked the the beginning of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's construction career and is now to be the centrepiece of London's first 21st century tube line. To the south the line will continue to Clapham and Croydon, down into a swathe of London previously untouched by the Underground. To the north the line crosses old disused viaducts through Hackney to Highbury, bringing trains to trendy Hoxton for the first time since Broad Street station closed back in 1986. Extension plans here have been delayed because of objections to bulldozing the new line through the Bishopsgate Goodsyard, another example of early Victorian railway history, objections overturned only last week. The extended line may just be in operation by 200678, but the two stations at Wapping and Rotherhithe could then be forced to close because they'd cost too much to upgrade ready for the proposed increase in traffic. London's first semi-orbital tube line should finally become a reality by the end of the decade but, if you live beside the river, don't hold your breath.

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