diamond geezer

 Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Bakerloo line reached Elephant and Castle in 1906 and stopped. Numerous plans for an extension have been proposed but never taken forward, leaving southeast London underconnected through lack of vision and/or money. But Boris introduced fresh proposals in 2014, Sadiq updated them in 2017, and now a further consultation has been launched to seek views on stations, worksites and tunnel alignment. There are even serious proposals for a further extension beyond Lewisham, but no dates, indeed you might well be dead before the Bakerloo line ever gets to Hayes.

Let's follow the Bakernew along its prospective route...

Elephant and Castle

If you've used the Bakerloo line platforms at Elephant & Castle you'll know that the tunnels overrun at the end, so you might have assumed the new extension would continue beyond. Not so. Instead a completely new pair of Bakerloo line platforms will be built, on a totally different alignment, and the current platforms will no longer be used. Two reasons. Firstly the existing E&C station is a logistical mess with two entrances and inefficient passenger connections underground between the Bakerloo and Northern lines. Some step-free rationalisation would be a great idea. And secondly, it'll be cheaper.

At present the Bakerloo line runs from Lambeth North to Elephant & Castle on an indirect route via St George's Circus. These bends restrict maximum speeds and, more importantly, trains arrive at the terminus pointing the wrong way for the new extension. By digging a completely new tunnel underneath St George's Road trains will run straighter, hence faster, and arrive on an alignment that avoids the foundations of all the tall buildings hereabouts. A single station entrance could then be built amid the rebirth of whatever the Elephant & Castle shopping centre turns into, offering much smoother interchange, and the existing platforms could be kept open longer while work continues digging the new ones. TfL have not yet decided what to do with 1km of redundant tunnel and two mothballed platforms.

Old Kent Road 1

At the last consultation TfL weren't sure whether this first new station would be built under the big Tesco or next to it, and now they've confirmed the supermarket is a goner. Ultimately the station building will only fill the space closest to the Old Kent Road, but the entire block (including store and car park) needs to be adopted as a worksite to ensure tunnel boring machines can be despatched from here towards Lambeth North. Residents of the local area will therefore find themselves without their largest supermarket for a number of years, and there's no guarantee it'll return after all the works are finished.

The other big question is what this new station might be called. The public was asked to offer their suggestions during the last consultation and it seems these have been narrowed down to either Old Kent Road or Burgess Park. According to the consultation documents "stations on the Tube network have a history of naming based on the local park they serve," which might be a heavy nudge towards the latter.

Old Kent Road 2

The two names potentially shortlisted for station number 2 are Old Kent Road and Asylum. If the latter sounds wildly inappropriate it's because the chosen location is on the corner of Asylum Road, and the former Licensed Victuallers’ Benevolent Institution Asylum is the big Georgian building across the street. The site is currently occupied by the shell of a Toys R Us store and its car park, so is already pencilled in for redevelopment, and pushing ahead with this consultation is one way for TfL to try to ensure it remains vacant.

New Cross Gate

This station already exists as a National Rail/Overground hub, so the plan is to slot the Bakerloo line station nextdoor. Sainsbury's filling station, TK Maxx, Harveys and Dreams are directly in the way, but a much larger worksite is required which would swallow up the whole of the existing Sainsbury's and its car park. Another major supermarket bites the dust. New Cross Gate is also the preferred location for the Primary Tunnelling Works, the main location from which tunnel boring machines would be launched, and also where large amounts of spoil would be processed before being transported away by train.

TfL have identified two other potential sites for this large but crucial facility, one within the Hither Green railway sidings and the other combining Catford Hill Retail Park with part of Jubilee Grounds playing fields. Both are appalling alternatives, both for environmental reasons and because an extra two miles of tunnel would be required to reach them, so I suspect they've only been included to make New Cross Gate's destruction look better.


The last station on the Bakerloo line extension would be Lewisham, again shoehorned into land beside the existing station rather than burrowed underneath. The surface building would be on land behind Sports Direct and Matalan, neither of which would need to be demolished to build it. Instead TfL have got lucky because the existing site is their own property - it's currently the bus stand for several terminating routes, so all they have to do is work out where to park dozens of buses instead. Lewisham station would suddenly get a direct connection to the West End, and a graphic within the consultation documentation shows reduced journey times to almost all of central London (apart from London Bridge).

Wearside Road Council Fleet Depot

The new tunnels need to continue beyond Lewisham for operational reasons, so TfL intend to appropriate a triangular site in Ladywell for this purpose. It's currently a council works depot, hemmed in on two sides by railway viaducts and on the third by a river, leaving Lewisham council with the headache of where to move equipment and employees instead. After the construction phase the plan is to use the site to stable trains during everyday operations, with the main facility at basement level. The site's location is also perfect to safeguard the next stage of proceedings, should an extension to the extension ever get the go ahead.

Extension to Hayes and Beckenham Junction

It's five years since TfL last consulted on which way a Bakerloo line to Lewisham might go next. All sorts of possible extensions have been considered for strategic importance and feasibility, including pushing on to Canary Wharf, Slade Green or Bromley North. The strongest performer was the long-standing favourite of taking over the National Rail line to Hayes, with a short spur out to Beckenham Junction. The Hayes line is entirely self-contained, which'd make operations easier, and also requires an absolute minimum of extra tunnelling. Residents at the Bromley end might not be pleased at losing their direct connection to the City, but they would instead be getting greater capacity, step-free stations and a much more frequent service. Just not any time soon.

How much might this cost? Funding for the extension to Lewisham, based on the current designs, is estimated at between £5bn and £8bn. None of this money is yet on the table, but there are several development areas along the line so TfL are hopeful that government might help by coughing up.

When might this happen? Subject to funding, TfL hope to apply for a Transport and Works Act Order by 2023. No further dates are given within the consultation. However the project would need the permission of the Secretary of State to proceed, and they'd likely appoint an independent Inspector to conduct a public inquiry which could take months. Assuming that was successful the next stages would be to acquire the sites, then to complete enabling works, then to construct the tunnels and stations, then to prepare the infrastructure for operational use, then to integrate the new extension with the existing line and finally a testing phase to ensure safe operation. We all know from Crossrail that this could take a heck of a lot longer than expected. If Bakerloo line trains reach Lewisham by 2030 I'll be amazed, and reaching Hayes is even more pie in the sky than that.

Where can I read more? The consultation webpage is impressively detailed, with a comprehensive range of maps and documents to download should you be so inclined. The best overview is the 59 page Background report, or you could explore tunnelling or the Hayes extension in greater detail, or look at six pages of maps showing the precise route, or dip into a dozen simpler summary factsheets. If you prefer face-to-face, 11 public exhibitions are taking place with venues including Lewisham shopping centre this Saturday and Elephant and Castle shopping centre next. Just don't forget to respond to the consultation by 22nd December, otherwise the extension might not be to your liking even if you do live long enough to use it.

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