diamond geezer

 Thursday, February 14, 2013

BAKERLOO: South of the Elephant

It's 100 years since an extension of the Bakerloo line south of Elephant & Castle was first proposed. So how come we still haven't got one? Is there a genuine reason, or is southeast London simply tube-jinxed.

Take a look a map of the northern half of Southwark, and there's a whopping railway-sized hole at its heart. Such gaps aren't unknown further out, but this is Zone 2 for heaven's sake, and no other part of inner London suffers this fate. The Northern line skirts down the western edge, although not especially close. Thameslink trains run two miles between Elephant & Castle and Loughborough Junction without stopping, which is heartless. And trains departing London Bridge run for three miles non-stop, apart from a branchline halt at South Bermondsey which merits a mere four trains an hour.

The least accessible spot in this transport desert is somewhere on the northern edge of Burgess Park, near that lake you can see on the map. From here it's more than 20 minutes walk to Kennington, more than 20 minutes walk to Denmark Hill and more than 20 minutes walk to South Bermondsey. Again, in the outer suburbs this might not sound too bad, but for a densely packed inner London suburb this is appalling connectivity, and TfL know it. They calculate public transport accessibility on a six point PTAL scale, with 1 being rubbish and 6 being ace. Here's a map of PTAL contours, a little out of date, but you'll get the idea. Far flung Biggin Hill scores 1, while Trafalgar Square scores 6, even Bow where I live scores 6 too. But Burgess Park scores 2, maybe 1, depending on where precisely in the neighbourhood you are. You might fancy using TfL's Planning Information Database to calculate PTAL values in your neck of the woods.

It is perhaps no coincidence that the neighbourhoods in this transport black hole are among the poorest in London. The Aylesbury Estate, where Tony Blair launched his premiership, is closest to the epicentre, but no progress has been made here transport-wise in the last fifteen years. Plans were on the table for the Cross River Tram to run straight through the area on its way from Camden to Peckham, and that would have helped considerably, but Boris scrapped that for being too expensive. There had been musings that the Northern line could head this way from Kennington, but they've never been much more than a pipedream, and Boris extending the line to Battersea instead has killed that. So it's the Bakerloo or nothing. And alas, nothing looks most likely.

The Bakerloo line still has spare capacity, which is a rarity in rush hour London. To the south of Waterloo there's plenty of room northbound in the mornings and southbound in the evenings, and this could be put to much better use. Stand on the platforms at Elephant & Castle and the tunnels stretch off, brightly lit, in the direction where the extension ought to be. They're only a few hundred metres long, so an illusion, but it's easy to imagine trains rumbling onward to serve the Southwark hinterland.

A ridiculous number of Bakerloo line extensions have been proposed, without any of them actually coming to fruition...
1913: E&C → Camberwell Green → Dulwich → Sydenham Hill → Crystal Palace
1921: E&C → Camberwell Green → Dulwich → Sydenham Hill → Crystal Palace
1922: E&C → Loughborough Junction → Catford → Orpington
1928: E&C → Dulwich → Rushey Green
1931: E&C → Walworth → Camberwell
1947: E&C → Walworth → Camberwell

Those last two proposals were taken the most seriously of all. A third platform would have been added at Elephant & Castle, and the new route would have followed Walworth Road and Camberwell Road south. But no. A northern link from Baker Street to Finchley Road got the attention instead, then the war got in the way. Later it got so busy on the Watford and Stanmore branches that any southbound extension would have been impractical, and anyway cars were the future now so why bother. Later still the need for extra rolling stock bumped up the price too much, as did the cost of adding an extra subterranean platform. Always an excuse, never built.

It's only been in the last half a dozen or so years that a Bakerloo extension's again been taken slightly seriously again. In 2007 TfL's backroom team were asked to scope the possibilities, and came up with three possible options that might have proven workable.

a) E&C → Camberwell Green → Herne Hill → Tulse Hill → and all stations to Streatham Common and Beckenham Junction
That's a hurrah in Camberwell, where a Bakerloo link would be greeted as a revelation. But next stop Herne Hill isn't very adventurous - all this does is provide a second way to get from E&C to HH with very long gaps between the stations. Then we're onto existing National Rail lines, taking the indirect route round to Beckenham, including a last stretch doubling up with Tramlink. The Bakerloo would end up sharing tracks with other services at both its northern and southern ends, and journey times might get unreliable.

b) E&C → Burgess Park → Peckham Rye → Peckham Rye Common → Honor Oak Park → Catford Bridge → and all stations to Beckenham Junction and Hayes
No joy this time in Camberwell, but instead a direct hit on the transport black hole in Burgess Park. Just one station would be built in the big gap, however, before giving Peckham its first non-roundabout route to the West End. There'd follow another new station near the common, then an interchange with the Overground at Honor Oak Park. From Catford onwards the Bakerloo would emerge from underground and entirely take over the Hayes branch line - no sharing of tracks, an efficient solution.

c) E&C → Burgess Park → Old Kent Road → New Cross → Lewisham → and all stations to Beckenham Junction and Hayes
Another vote for Burgess Park, but then continuing east rather than south to bring a new station to the Old Kent Road. Rejoicing would ensue, and no mistake. Thence to New Cross, on the Cinderella branch of the Overground, and a non-stop link to Lewisham. All ten stations on the Hayes branch line would then be taken over, and the Bakerloo would become a proper cross-London line. [more, plus map, from London Reconnections]

The last of these three options got the closest to getting the nod, which alas wasn't very close at all. No proper plans have been made, and no funding is anywhere near being on the table. All three of these potential extensions are expensive combinations of tunnelling and repurposing, far beyond even the wildest dreams of Coalition austerity kickstart funding. It'd take Westfield opening a supermall in Walworth to see any action, because we don't fund rail for aspirational reasons any more, only hard economics. Sorry Southwark, your miserable connectivity looks set to endure for decades.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan20  Feb20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
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 me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream