We've not yet got Crossrail, but how do you feel about Crossrail 2? TfL would very much like to know, so they've launched a consultation and it runs until the start of August. If built Crossrail 2 will connect southwest and northeast London, then perhaps connect further out into Surrey and Herts. A considerable amount of information has been published already, but if you don't have the time or inclination to dig through that, here's my Q&A.
This is new, isn't it?
Not at all. TfL have long had plans to build a NE/SW tube line, they've just never had the money. The idea of linking Chelseawith Hackney has been around since 1974, in recognition of these two places being two gaping holes in the tube network. The proposed line even had its own nickname, Chelney, but never (as yet) any trains.
How many options are there?
There are three options. The first is the Metro option (see map), which involves trains running between Alexandra Palace and Wimbledon. The second is the Regional option, which uses the previous option as a core, then extends onto National Rail lines at each end. And the third is not to build Crossrail 2 at all, which is the most likely outcome if the project fails to get sufficient funding.
How much will this cost?
The Metro option is due to cost £9bn, the same as the Olympics. The Regional option is more expensive, at £12bn, but for that you get a lot more miles. TfL have also taken into account "optimism bias", which is the tendency of all big public infrastructure projects to massively underestimate how much they're going to cost. In this case they reckon the actual total could easily be another 50% higher.
Tell me about the southern part of the core route
Crossrail 2 kicks off at Wimbledon, perhaps linking directly into the surrounding rail network to serve Twickenham, Surbiton and Epsom. The next stop would be Tooting Broadway, at last creating a south London link between the District and Northern lines. Then to Clapham Junction, which we're told is one of the most important links of all, offering SW London commuters a direct connection to the West End. Then continuing underground beneath the Thames to King's Road Chelsea, which would be a brand new station serving a brand new neighbourhood, and about time too.
Tell me about the central part of the core route
Victoria is one of the busiest stations on the Underground network, where Crossrail 2 would provide passengers with a vital alternative to the overstuffed Victoria line. The new line would cut diagonally through to Piccadilly Circus and then to Tottenham Court Road, journeys which aren't currently possible on one train. Tottenham Court Road would become the megahub where two Crossrails meet, an essential interchange which your grandchildren will use a lot. And then onward beneath Bloomsbury to Euston St Pancras.
Euston St Pancras?!?!?
Yes, don't look so surprised. I mean, technically King's Cross St Pancras doesn't exist either, but everyone's long got used to the tube station namechecking these two neighbouring rail termini. In this case Crossrail 2 needs to stop at Euston to serve High Speed 2 from Birmingham, while High Speed 1 is sort-of nextdoor at St Pancras so there'll be an exit there too. Might be a long walk, though.
Tell me about the northern part of the core route
From Euston St Pancras to Angel Crossrail 2 would be in parallel to the existing Northern line, but offering Islingtonites a direct link to the centre of town for the first time. Then to the Overground station at Dalston Junction, before the rest of Hackney is entirely bypassed by a really long gap on the way to Seven Sisters. Here Crossrail 2 funnels in traffic from the Victoria line, then on to Turnpike Lane to relieve the Piccadilly. And finally to Alexandra Palace, where hordes of passengers will be able to alight from National Rail commuter services and ride easily into central London.
How is the Regional route different to the Metro route?
The Regional route would extend at both ends to connect with the main rail network, with trains running through direct. At Wimbledon the link would be short and no new lines would be created. But to the north there'd be a fresh split beyond Angel, with an additional station in central Hackney before continuing on to Tottenham Hale. The run towards Cheshunt would be excellent news for those in the Lea Valley, and be the driver for considerable further growth. And expect one other key difference in the centre of town. In the Regional option there'd be no station at Piccadilly Circus, because apparently it'd be too close to Tottenham Court Road. It seems Crossrail 2 can have either Hackney Central or Piccadilly Circus but not both.
Any other differences between the Regional and Metro options?
Oh yes. And this one's really important. If TfL go with the Regional option, then the service would be run by 10-carriage Crossrail-style trains serving 250m-long platforms. But if they go with the Metro option, then the service would be run by 4-carriage DLR-style trains serving 120m-long platforms. In the latter case trains would be only half the size, but there could be as many as 40 trains an hour so the number of passengers per hour would still be high.
Hang on, "DLR-style" service?
That's right. You can forget TfL ever again building a tube line with train drivers. Instead expect cab-free trains with no member of staff up front staring out of the window. That's the union-free future.
Building Crossrail has been massively disruptive. Won't building Crossrail 2 be even worse?
Not necessarily. TfL have been long-term clever and protected the central portion of the route from development. Way back in 1991 they safeguarded the route that trains might take, ensuring that any new buildings along the way left sufficient room for Crossrail 2 to squeeze through. Plans were further strengthened in 2008, which should help to minimise any future disruption. Tottenham Court Road won't need to be dug up again, for example - the current major building works will ensure that the Crossrail station is also Crossrail-2-ready. Crossrail 2 is also the reason why Dalston Junction looks far too big for its current levels of traffic, someone's been planning ahead.
Has the entire route been safeguarded?
Er, no. The original safeguarded route anticipated Crossrail 2 taking over the southern end of the District line, but now that won't happen, it'll have its own tunnel. More importantly it anticipated Crossrail 2 taking over the northern end of the Central line from Leytonstone to Epping, but now that won't happen either. There aren't the development possibilities in Essex that there are in north London, so Crossrail 2 will be entirely fresh digging, not a landgrab from the existing network.
Why does the route wiggle about quite so much?
There are two ways to build a new railway. One is to serve a brand new area, and the other is to link together as many existing lines as possible. The Northern line extension to Battersea is an example of the former - it pushes afresh into Nine Elms and links to nothing. Crossrail 2 on the other hand will thread through umpteen existing services, creating numerous alternative routes for passengers and relieving overcrowding on parallel lines. Battersea nil, Crossrail 2.
Surely we don't need another railway already?
Oh yes we do. London's population is getting larger, faster, and people need to get around. The capital's population could be 20% higher by 2030, so either we build more railway capacity or our existing services will become wildly overcrowded.
Isn't it ironic?
50 years ago the Victoria line was built to relieve the Piccadilly line. Now a new service is urgently needed to relieve the Victoria line. While various parts of southeast London await their first tube line, it seems the NE-SW axis is about to get its third.
What's the timescale? Short-term: nothing. Medium-term: lots of planning. Long-term: lengthy disruption as building work gets underway. Very-very-long-term: a new railway through London. But don't expect it to be running until the early 2030s, that's 20 years hence. London transport doesn't move fast, so best get on and make a start.
So what's the big choice?
Does London get another rail line or another DLR line, that's basically the choice. Long Regional trains rushing across town, or shorter Metro trains shuttling fast through the middle. Take your pick. Join the consultation. Offer your thoughts. Or die waiting.