diamond geezer

 Monday, October 27, 2014

Amongst the bluer sky projects in the Mayor's London infrastructure plan 2050, published earlier the summer, this map appears.

It's a schematic for an outer orbital railway, nicknamed the R25 by those in the know, and might be created over the next three decades by joining up existing lines and building new. Before you get too excited, the map is accompanied by some of the most non-committal text ever published in a mayoral document, namely this...
"There may be a case for providing some new orbital rail based capacity for key links in Outer London. An option for doing this could involve an extension of Overground services in stages, creating some new links initially where most feasible and joining up existing routes over time. An indicative network is illustrated."
The southern curve on the map (via Bexleyheath and Norwood Junction) would require at least five new stretches of track to be built, some brief curves, others great long things carving across built-up areas, and is lightyears from reality. But not all of the route is pie in the sky, indeed the central link is already 100% possible by train, just rather a lot of trains at present. So I thought I'd attempt an orbit of the R25 via the central and northern arcs, in order to check how feasible the journey was already. The one obvious impossibility is the Overground extension from Barking under the Thames to Abbey Wood, the first part of which is currently under consultation and the second part as yet unspoken. So I chose to make my journey clockwise from Abbey Wood to Barking, that's nearly orbital, using only ordinary scheduled services. I travelled off-peak on a weekday, because that's proper normal. And I didn't plan ahead, I simply turned up and waited for the next train, walking between stations only where absolutely necessary. Here's a map to help you follow my route.

1) Abbey Wood → Lewisham
(0:00 → 0:18)
[timetabled 18 minutes, frequency every 30 minutes]

It's all change at Abbey Wood at the moment. Crossrail is on its way, eventually, so the place is a flurry with workmen doing preparatory work. The new footbridge is up, though not yet connected, with a few conspicuous bigwigs in suits standing around watching progress. It's hard to imagine many of the existing Abbey Wood populace needing a fast train to Canary Wharf, but the regular trains to Cannon Street are packed, once Ellie's stopped holding the door open and Karol has nipped on with his dog. I'm waiting for the less frequent Charing Cross train, which skips a few stations before diverting off via the two-minute tunnel down to Blackheath. Progress is slow, but eventually we roll into Lewisham. A down-and-under change of platforms is then required, although there are existing points which would allow a train to cross over onto the next line. And when the train arrives it's much shorter than the very long platform, not that Southeastern thought to announce this in advance, nor to warn anyone not to stand down the far end.
I wait 12 minutes. That's half an hour gone already.

2) Lewisham → Peckham Rye (0:30 → 0:40)
[timetabled 7 minutes, frequency every 30 minutes]

Our train to London Victoria veers off at Lewisham Vale Junction and crawls slowly through residential streets. Those who live in south London are well used to such snail-like progress, but it'd be nice if a new orbital railway fixed the speed issue once and for all. We don't stop at Brockley station for the simple reason that it's beneath us. Trains stopped up here until 1917, but there are no plans to create an Overground connection because that would cost money, and only so many pipedreams can be funded. Instead it's first stop Nunhead, second stop Peckham Rye, and all change again. This is a no-fun interchange because Peckham Rye is essentially two stations on parallel viaducts, hence very much not ideal for stepping across. It's also no-go for trains, there being no existing alignment from one side to the other, so creating a new orbital railway would cost aerial millions. And sheesh, the Next Train Indicators here are poor - one at one end tiny, the other at the other only announcing what's on the other pair of platforms.
I wait nine minutes. It should have been five.

3) Peckham Rye → Tulse Hill (0:49 → 0:54)
[timetabled 9 minutes, frequency every 15 minutes]

I'm now on Southern, on the West Croydon train, pootling through Dulwiches East and North but not West. For those reared on the tube map, South London's mesh of railway services is uncharacteristically involved and complex. Hence I'm not going far before I have to get off and change again. I plump for Tulse Hill over Streatham because I can see my train on the adjacent platform, indeed it should already have left because we're running late, but thankfully it is too. A subway dash is called for, nothing especially enjoyable, whereas it turns out I could have gone one more stop for a same-platform change.
I wait only three minutes. It could have been thirty.

4) Tulse Hill → Wimbledon (0:57 → 1:12)
[timetabled 16 minutes, frequency every 30 minutes]

I'm now an hour into my inner orbit, on the northern rim of the Sutton Loop. This is the Cinderella service of the Thameslink railway, touring the suburbs via a sequence of stations with relatively few passengers... so yes, there are plenty of spare seats. It's crucial to get on the right train to Sutton going the right way round else it's even longer to your destination, and the trains only run every half an hour anyway. We pass through unloved Tooting station and unknown Haydons Road on the way to key hub Wimbledon, where almost everyone gets off. Loop trains use only one platform, as do the trams nextdoor, so I'm not convinced it would be easy to squeeze in a boosted two-way service. And when's the next train to Richmond? It's not on the board, it's not on the timetable, neither are there any relevant electronic displays up on the walkway. Only once down on the right platform is the truth revealed... drat, a near half hour wait. The current disjoint R25 orbital is alas rubbish.
Scheduled wait 26 minutes. But we arrived late, so 'only' 23.

5) Wimbledon → Twickenham (1:35 → 2:04)
[timetabled 29 minutes, frequency every 30 minutes]

There are no railways across Richmond Park, which is of course good, but it does make this next rail journey a bit of a long one. I've switched from one loop train to another, this the Strawberry Hill circuit from Waterloo to Waterloo via almost Surrey. Wimbledon's only in zone 3, but four stations later we're in zone 6, making this an expensive ticket for a supposedly orbital railway. Arriving at Kingston means a scheduled two minute pause, then the ceremonial crossing of the Thames at London's most upstream railway bridge. If you look at City Hall's simplistic 2050 map it looks like trains will run direct from New Malden to Hounslow. Not in any real world they won't. There's no curve at Twickenham Junction to join Strawberry Hill to Whitton, neither any obvious way to add one. The tracks in run higher than the tracks out, and even if the height differential could be sorted there are dozens of houses in Marsh Farm Road that'd have to be knocked down. Instead the only realistic possibility is to continue into Twickenham, then reverse back up the other line to Hounslow. In my case, that means yet another change of trains.
I wait five minutes. And I'll tell you about the two hours back to east London tomorrow.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this month?
28 Jan – 23 Apr (10am-4.30pm)
Sussex Modernism
The sixth annual exhibition at Two Temple Place focuses on radical art/writing in Sussex, and is damned excellent.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Feb17  Jan17
Dec16 Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards