diamond geezer

 Wednesday, March 30, 2011

At a board meeting today, TfL will be discussing their "Business Plan to 2014/15". This document sets out plans for the future across all forms of London transport, and also how they'll be paid for. On the positive side, TfL will be saving £7.6bn over the next three years whilst continuing to roll out a major programme of investment. That's quite some trick, to save over 20% of your budget whilst doing more, and will involve renegotiating deals, redefining priorities, stripping out deadwood and making the most of technology. On the negative side, this means fare rises consistently over and above inflation, job losses, the selling off of assets and the curtailment of new projects. In the current economic climate, maybe an efficiency programme plus upgrades is the best we can expect. Or maybe this is a short-sighted response, enforced by Mayoral priorities, which fails to capitalise on London's future growth.

I'll leave the debate to elsewhere. Because there's something much more interesting in today's 140-page Business Plan document. Yet another tube map.

Hell no, in fact two new tube maps. Hidden away on pages 82 and 83 are a map of TfL’s rail transport network at 2015 and then TfL’s rail transport network at 2019. It's the blueprint for how Boris sees London's rail network expanding over the next decade. And to be honest, with a few significant exceptions, it won't.

TfL’s rail transport network at 2015
So in four years time, what's new? Three things.
i) The DLR will be extended from Canning Town to Stratford International. And that's not news. In fact this line should be firmly part of the existing tube map by now, because it was originally scheduled to be operational last year. Testing's been going on for months, there are new staff trained up and ready to go, but still no public services have begun. Signalling difficulties, apparently, or maybe nicked copper wire, or maybe they're just saving money by not running services before Westfield opens. So this extension isn't really new, merely delayed.
ii) The Overground will gain another arm to Clapham Junction. This is on schedule for 2012, though not quite in time for the Olympics. Most of the line will be simply be reappropriated from Southern rail services, although there is a new kilometre or so of track south of Surrey Quays. Orbital services a-go-go.
iii) OMG, it's a cablecar! I bet you didn't expect to see this on a tube map. Here's Boris's aerial pipedream writ large, as a thin black line connecting the Greenwich Peninsula with the Royal Docks. TfL's Business Plan has little concrete to say, except that "the service will make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to cross the Thames in east London. Crossings will take around five minutes and the cable cars will carry about two million passengers per year." The map suggests that the cable car's southern station will be adjacent to North Greenwich station, which alas it won't. The map also shows that it's already very easy to travel between North Greenwich and Royal Victoria by train (six minutes via Jubilee line and DLR), so the new link's practically irrelevant. But cyclists will welcome a bike-friendly route across the Thames, because these are in desperately short supply at the moment. And hell, this shiny bauble's real future is as a tourist attraction, not a commuter highway. If the cable car ever appears on the tubemap proper, sometime after the Olympics have been and gone, consider it a nothing more than an advert for customers.

TfL’s rail transport network at 2019
So in four more years time, what's new? Only one thing. But it's a biggie.
i) Crossrail. It's that new purple line slicing through the capital from west to east, and making a bit of a mess of the tube map along the way. You can see it here meandering through the City, adding several more big blue accessibility blobs, and trying desperately to find a clear space between all the other lines and stations. The double station at Farringdon and Barbican has to be one of the ugliest features ever to appear on a tube map, notional or otherwise. Those chunky blue lines must be a new feature indicating step-free passage, as apparently befits a Crossrail station so long that there's one Circle line station at one end and another at the other. The double-headed Moorgate/Liverpool Street monster is perhaps even more confusing, and I can imagine tourists scratching their heads trying to work out what the hell their next Crossrail station is called and what it interchanges with. But let's not gripe too much. Crossrail has been on the drawing board so long that some feared it might never be completed. The completion date keeps slipping back, once 2012, more recently 2017, and now 2018 if we're lucky. Crossrail's taking considerably longer to build than the entire Olympic Park, such is its cost and complexity. And that'll be why it's the only new rail project planned for completion in the second half of this decade. Everything else has fallen by the wayside, sacrificed to ensure the survival of the one project deemed to have the greatest impact on transport in the capital.

TfL’s rail transport network at 2016 (published 2004)
So let's just check what's been lost. Back in 2004 TfL published a similar map showing what the rail network might look like by 2016. Seemed impossibly far away at the time, and the future looked glittering. Mayor Ken had an overflowing shopping basket of pet transport projects, and the map provides a snapshot of his pipedreams. Some were wholly aspirational, others entirely impractical, but others were costed, planned and scheduled before Boris and the recession pulled the plug. So I've scoured the map, thankfully saved from digital oblivion by London Reconnections, to remind us what extras the tube map of 2019 won't include. Here's what we've lost.

Proposed By Ken for 2016, won't be delivered by 2019
» Crossrail branch to Kingston (since switched to Maidenhead)
» Overground station at Surrey Canal Road (still unfunded)
» DLR extension to Dagenham Dock (a mistake cutting that, I think)
» Tramlink extensions (to Tooting, Sutton, Streatham, Purley and Crystal Palace)
» Croxley Rail Link (only running 50 years late)
» West London Transit (impractical tram to Uxbridge)
» Cross River Transit (from Camden to Brixton and Peckham)
» Greenwich Waterfront Transit (including new Thames Crossing)
» East London Transit (to Barkingside, Romford and Rainham)

Not proposed for 2016, will be delivered by Boris by 2019
» that cablecar


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