diamond geezer

 Tuesday, July 09, 2024

20 years ago this week TfL published a map of what their transport network might look like in 2016.
(technically it was 20 years ago last week, but the actual anniversary was election day and we were all otherwise occupied)

They hoped it might look like this.

The map has obviously disappeared from the TfL website because two decades is a digital lifetime. Thankfully London Reconnections wrote about it in 2011 and uploaded a large jpg which, thanks to blogspot longevity, still exists. Also way back in 2004 the Wayback Machine captured and stored the original pdf, which I only found because I blogged about the map at the time and my post included the correct link. Hurrah for planned non-obsolescence. [jpg] [pdf]

The original press release also still exists, 2004 being the earliest year TfL's archive keeps. I can reproduce it here in full because back in 2004 press releases were generally straight-forward statements of fact rather than pumped full of verbose backslapping brand froth.
Mayor of London Ken Livingstone today revealed his map of how London's transport system could look in 2016. The new map includes all the major transport projects planned for the next ten years including Crossrail, the East London Line Extension, Thameslink 2000 and DLR extensions.

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said: "Improved transport infrastructure is vital for London to maintain the international competitiveness upon which our prosperity depends. This map shows how London's transport system will look in 2016 if we make the essential investments in the city's transport infrastructure. These investments are necessary to sustain London's growth and prosperity and will enhance the economic growth prospects and productivity of the entire United Kingdom. This map represents the future of London's transport system. It shows what we need to do to ensure our city's future success."
2004 was a completely different world - lots of projects in the pot, potential money from government and all partially spurred on by London being one of the candidate cities for the 2012 Olympics. But which of the potential projects made it into transport reality and which fell by the wayside (or were comprehensively binned by a subsequent Mayor)? How much of this future 2016 actually happened, and how much of it happened late?

East London Line
The Overground was already being planned in 2004, the former East London tube line closing in 2006 so it could be transformed and extended north and south. This section, which is about to be dubbed the Windrush line, opened through the Thames Tunnel in 2010 with the connection to Clapham Junction added in 2012. It's interesting to see that the original intention at the northern end was for trains to terminate one stop further on at Caledonian Road & Barnsbury, not Highbury & Islington. The other anomaly is the perennially-deferred station at Surrey Canal Road whose funding somehow remains in limbo to this day.

Metropolitan Line
The map includes the long lost Metropolitan line extension to Watford Junction, including the original intermediate station names of Ascot Road and Watford West. Planners took it terribly seriously for years and Boris later waved a magic wand regarding funding, but Sadiq silently scuppered it almost as soon as he came to power. Our first 2016 map failure.

Piccadilly Line
This is the extension to Heathrow Terminal 5 which opened successfully in 2008. By July 2004 the British Airports Association had already agreed to fund it so it was always going to happen.

This arrived a lot lot later than 2016 but was already on the drawing board in July 2004 (and finally got government funding a fortnight after this map was published). The route across central London was already set with stations in all the now-familiar locations, plus an understanding that it'd branch east to Shenfield and Abbey Wood. Out west however the termini were Heathrow and Kingston (the latter via Richmond and an intriguing interchange at Turnham Green), with Maidenhead/Reading added later. Stations at Acton Main Line, West Ealing, Hanwell and Southall were not proposed at this time, ditto Maryland out east, ditto Woolwich (a very last minute addition). The other big difference between then and now is that the line was due to extend past Abbey Wood to Dartford and Ebbsfleet - still an aspiration but a not a very likely one.

Thameslink already existed in 2004, indeed trains had been crossing the City since 1988. What this map was referencing was Thameslink 2000 and the (massively-delayed) connection between Finsbury Park and King's Cross Thameslink which finally linked up in 2018. Additional tentacles to Horsham, Orpington, Sevenoaks and Rainham were not envisaged at this time.

Croydon Tramlink ❌❌❌
Croydon's trams were only four years old at this point and there was vast optimism regarding potential extensions. The map shows three of these including a wildly aspirational Streatham-Purley link which never properly advanced. Elsewhere a short branch to Crystal Palace was progressing nicely until 2008 when Boris abruptly pulled the plug, and a slimmed-down connection to Sutton was vaguely on the drawing board until the pandemic scuppered it.

Docklands Light Railway ✅✅❌
Three extensions were shown and two were built well before 2016. A new branch to Woolwich Arsenal opened in 2009 and to Stratford International in 2011. The extension that never came to pass was to Dagenham Dock, since reimagined as a shorter cross-river connection to Thamesmead. The Overground got to Barking Riverside instead in 2022. Closer scrutiny of the map shows the presence of a still-unachieved DLR halt at Thames Wharf and no extra station at Langdon Park (opened 2007).

West London Transit/Cross River Transit ❌❌
Ken Livingstone was a big fan of trams and had two new projects on the go. West London Transit was the most advanced, except local people kicked up such a stink about laying tram tracks along the Uxbridge Road that the only politically sensible action was to ditch it. Today Superloop route SL8 has to suffice. Cross River Transit would have linked Camden Town to Peckham and Brixton via Waterloo Bridge, a considerable imposition on roads in central London but also an opportunity to plug a tube/rail void beyond Elephant & Castle. Boris killed that off six months after taking office, as he did with the next two...

East London Transit/Greenwich Waterfront Transit ❌❌
These weren't trams, they were "segregated high-quality bus schemes", but Boris extinguished both anyway. ELT was subsequently trimmed to a couple of routes between Barking and Barking Riverside (with branded vehicles and bus shelters), rather than the intended web of routes to Barkingside, Rainham, Romford and beyond. GWT has only come back on the radar recently as a possible new Superloop route linking Greenwich to Thamesmead. Boris also binned the Thames Gateway Bridge which would have linked the Transits across the Thames (although completion of the alternative Silvertown Tunnel is now only a year away).

(you can discover more about all these projects as they stood mid-2000s on an archived version of Dave Arquati's much lamented website alwaystouchout.com)

Also on the 2004 map...
✅ Silverlink (which became the core of the first tranche of the Overground in 2007)
✅ Eurostar switching to St Pancras (but also shown at Stratford International which never happened)

We don't often step back and take stock of forward-looking snapshots taken many years ago. How much was delivered, how much proved impractical and how much was dropped... and what does that teach us about future plans?

The 2016 map may not have happened in full but a goodly proportion of it eventually did, delivering better transport links for all. This feels especially relevant as a new government takes control and pledges to focus on growth rather than NIMBY complaints. Sometimes you really have to focus on the long game, however expensive and/or unpopular delivering it might be, because 20 years later all that really matters is what got built.

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