diamond geezer

 Friday, September 21, 2018

Five years ago, when TfL revived the idea of a Bakerloo line extension, residents of Camberwell dared to dream. One of the two options on the table was routed through their neck of the woods, bringing a potential rail connection to an area whose last station closed in 1916. Wheels grind slowly, so it took a couple of years for TfL to announce that their chosen route wasn't via Camberwell, it was down the Old Kent Road. Never mind, they said, we'll look into the feasibility of reinstating the station that closed 100 years previously, and deliver a business case in due course.
Camberwell remains not as well connected as it could be, so I've been off to visit a) places where old stations used to be b) the bit of Camberwell that's over a mile from any station c) places where new stations might be built.
Only this month has that business case finally seen the light of day, in a 110-page report which brought good and bad news. In good news, TfL investigated eight different solutions to ending Camberwell's railway isolation (including boosting services at Loughborough Junction, improving cycle links and resuscitating the Cross River Tram) and concluded that a new Thameslink station was indeed the optimal option. In good news, they noted there was a clear strategic case for the station at a local level, because it would stimulate development and increase connectivity. But in bad news, because of the economic environment we now live in, the project is dead.
"This report concludes that a reinstated National Rail station at Camberwell would deliver local benefits but in overall terms would not be a good use of public funds at this time."
Firstly, there wasn't enough scope for new housing near the new station (maybe 300 to 400 homes). Secondly, the station would cost too much to build (an estimated £36m for the barest-boned option). Thirdly, the funding gap would therefore be enormous ("with no obvious ways of closing it"). Fourthly, there'd be "disbenefits" for commuters on the Sevenoaks line (whose journeys would become two minutes longer). And fifthly, bringing all of that together, the all-important Benefit-Cost Ratio was actually negative (no better than -0.34:1). Even the defunct Metropolitan line extension had a better BCR than that.
"While the provision of the station would clearly improve connectivity to surrounding areas, and central London, the lack of development opportunities and negative impact on existing rail users currently outweigh the benefits to Camberwell. This would make any decision to proceed with this project on the current basis questionable in terms of the use of increasingly scarce public funds."
Camberwell has fallen foul of the mayoral necessity that major transport works are only justified if they unlock residential and/or commercial growth. The Northern line extension is driving the phenomenal uplift of Nine Elms and Battersea. The Overground's eastern extension is solely to bring tens of thousands of homes to Barking Riverside. The proposed Bakerloo line extension has its eye on various sites along the Old Kent Road. Camberwell alas already exists, so its residents are due nothing.

This map shows existing stations in the local area, marked in red, and the rail desert that exists between them. The two brown blobs are the proposed stations on the Bakerloo line extension, which will shrink that desert on the northern side. But that still leaves the blue circle without rail access, the dot in the middle being at least 20 minutes walk from any station. Ironically that blue dot is very close to the Thameslink railway line, but adding a station on the viaduct here would be prohibitively expensive, and hasn't even been considered. Meanwhile the yellow dot is the site of the proposed Camberwell station, so you can see how not-very-brilliantly located it actually was.

Bad luck Camberwell. Best hope they don't slash your buses.

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