diamond geezer

 Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I'm in the midst of circumnavigating the capital via a potential future orbital rail route - the R25 (caveat: this is a Mayoral/TfL pipedream, lightly pencilled in for the 2040s, and may never happen). I started two hours ago in Abbey Wood, following the central section via Lewisham and Wimbledon. I've just crossed the Thames at Kingston, a couple of stations before Hounslow, and am about to change trains in Twickenham to start the journey back east. [here's a map to follow]

6) Twickenham → Kew Bridge
(2:09 → 2:33)
[timetabled 24 minutes, frequency every 30 minutes]

Twickenham station is very obviously not Abbey Wood, as the class of passengers makes clear. A group of rugger chaps waits stereotypically by the footbridge, while a faux-shabby bohemian couple in felt hat and cloth cap are busy checking their iPhones nearby. The approaching service is another train from Waterloo to Waterloo, this time via the Hounslow loop, again running at frequencies that would make an Underground user wince. We set off back the way I came, then stick to the river along the line to Staines, then veer off again to Hounslow. And then we stop, which the driver explains is for a timetabled five minute pause, and time slowly passes. An American woman boards and asks "Is this train for Mortlake?", which we eventually deduce requires the loop going the other way, and she nips off just before the doors close. If the London infrastructure plan 2050 gets its way, this quiet pair of platforms will be one terminus of a new NW orbital route. You'll find it listed on the last page of Appendix 2, namely "Hounslow - Brentford - Old Oak - Neasden - Brent Cross @4tph", and this must be the intended route on the map at the top of the page. Hounslow to Brentford is easy enough, but the next curve is only used by freight trains at present, hence I can't ride it in 2014. Off at Kew Bridge it is, and then a walk.

It's a non-trivial walk too, because I have to get to the Overground. I could have done this by staying on train 5 until Richmond, but then I wouldn't have been through Hounslow, and the map is very definite about Hounslow. The walking route is intermittently signed, and requires a crossing of the Chiswick Roundabout, which is rarely a treat on foot. I'm heading for Gunnersbury, which may hold the title of the Underground's ugliest station, and is so well disguised as an office block that you might never notice it from outside. My fast walk takes 14 minutes, which is longer than two of the train journeys I've taken thus far, but I then get to wait for 7 minutes so I could have dawdled.

7) Gunnersbury → Gospel Oak
(2:54 → 3:33)
[timetabled 26 minutes, frequency every 10/20 minutes]

You might think the rest of my journey round to Barking is going to be pretty dull, because it's basically one existing Overground train followed by another. And you'd be right. But there is an intriguing catch, which is that the 2050 Overground isn't go to go this way. I'm riding from Acton to West Hampstead the only way I can, but City Hall's crayonistas have a different route in mind to open up a couple of the Mayor's favourite development areas - Old Oak Common and Brent Cross. Old Oak is currently a vast area of railway sidings and industrial estate, but would be worth a lot more as flats, so flats it is. A key driver of potential redevelopment is HS2 which'll probably stop here before zooming off to Birmingham, and maybe interchange with Crossrail, except there's no money for that yet. More to the point Utopian planners see Old Oak as the centre of a spiders web of Overground routes, some old, some new, which pretty much makes all the flats unaffordable before anyone moves in. Precisely where an Old Oak Common Overground station might go is currently open to consultation. Options including the dramatic relocation of one or other of the lines adding minutes onto existing journeys, or leaving things where they are and expecting passengers to use a lengthy travelator to change trains. Whatever's decided will probably be the option that leaves the most room for extra flats, but that's how these projects get funded these days, so best grin and bear it.
7a) Hounslow → Brent Cross (due mid-2040s?)
Imagine a railway line running roughly parallel to the North Circular from Acton to Cricklewood, how useful would that be? Well imagine no more, because it already exists and is currently used by freight. It's the Dudding Hill line, a Victorian leftover from 1868 and which last saw passenger traffic in 1902. For two years it was even part of the Circle line, or more correctly a 'Super Outer Circle' from Earl's Court round to St Pancras. The Midland Railway couldn't make money out of the route, but things might be very different two centuries later. An Overground takeover would probably include a station at Harlesden (for the Bakerloo) and another at Neasden (for the Jubilee), then a run through the foot of Gladstone Park to the Thameslink line. The Brent Cross Cricklewood redevelopment at the end of the line could be worth billions, should it ever happen, but Barnet council's been saying that for years and as yet there's no sign. And as yet no Overground train.

7b) Brent Cross → Barking (due mid-2040s?)
And then another far-fetched rail idea takes over. What if, it goes, what if someone finally gets around to electrifying the Overground line from Gospel Oak to Barking? And then what if Brent Cross turns out to be a really important redevelopment area and needs more trains? TfL could extend the GOBlin line at its western end via the existing Carlton Road Junction and run trains all the way through to Brent Cross. Trains would no longer stop at Gospel Oak, they'd be diverted just before that, but interchange with the existing Overground would still be perfectly possible at West Hampstead. You may never live to see it happen, but some rail planners are looking at the bigger picture, and things may finally link up one day.
8) Gospel Oak → Barking (3:37 → 4:01)
[timetabled 26 minutes, frequency every 15 minutes]

Meanwhile, back in reality, I'm changing orange trains at Gospel Oak. It's a very simple change, in a clockwise direction at least, and the grand switcheroo takes no more than four minutes. Indeed this arc round the north of inner London is by far the fastest section of my orbital journey, thanks to TfL investment, infrastructure upgrades and a mayoral franchise grab in 2006. Hence I rattle through northeast London with a minimum of fuss, and a seat, which turns out to be very useful when the train gets packed out round Walthamstow. And when Barking comes around I've been on the go for one minute over four hours, my almost-circumnavigation complete.

So yes, essentially the R25 already mostly exists, it's just slow and inconvenient with a lot of waiting around. Completing the circle with a tunnel at Thamesmead would be hugely expensive, and there are of course dozens of other potential transport projects competing for austerity-limited funding. But just ten years ago the entire Overground concept was merely blink in a planner's eye, and now look at it. Imagine the transformation some joined-up thinking, and another thirty years, could create.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20
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