A number of railway upgrades have been proposed which could see a new DLR track, a link on the Northern Line from Finchley to Edgware, and a new tunnel under central London.

The proposals come from London TravelWatch, the statutory body you never think to contact when you have a complaint.

What they have done is side-step shiny big projects and propose a number of smaller enhancements that could have significant local benefits.

Of course, none of them have any financing, this is more of a wish-list, but one which might be dragged out whenever someone wants to redevelop some land near affected areas, and then asked to cough up the necessary cash.

The intention is to suggest modest enhancements to railway stations, some reusing of old railway infrastructure, or in some cases, large scale works to tie together currently disconnected services.

Northern line extension

Most notable of the proposals could see part of the long abandoned Northern Heights project resurrected — with the Northern line extended from its short terminus at Mill Hill East all the way to Edgware.

That would create a link between the two separate branches of the Northern line, a very useful east-west link in North London where none exists, and likely, an interchange with the Thameslink at Mill Hill.

The difficulty is whether funding could be secured for such a line. Although most of the route still exists, as a walking trail, some parts are cut off by housing and developments which would probably need to be bought out.

Although part of the route passes by open parkland, turning that into the flats needed to fund the development will generate considerable opposition.

DLR extension

There used to be a railway between Bow Church and Hackney, but that closed in the 1940s, and the track’s built over when the A12 was constructed.

Without saying how, London Travel Watch suggests this line could be restored, offering a valuable link along an area lacking much in the way of rail links.

It would be just about possible to run the railway above the A12, but construction would face formidable challenges.

A new tunnel under the city

This is not a quick fix, but also due to the length, the cost not outrageous for the potential benefits.

The Great Northern line which currently terminates at Moorgate could be extended in a tunnel down to link up with London Bridge — the aim being to create a new “crossrail” with trains able to run direct along the Great Northern and Southern Tulse Hill routes.

An interconnection could be added at Bank.

The downside is that there is no hope of developers suddenly discovering an empty plot of land along the route to cover any of the cost, so it would have to be entirely funded by TfL and the City of London.

Crossrail to Uxbridge

An old railway line running from Uxbridge to West Drayton closed in the 1960s, but its restoration could see some Crossrail trains running to Uxbridge.

As the report notes, two Elizabeth Line trains an hour are scheduled to terminate at West Drayton, but if the old track was restored, they could run up to Uxbridge instead.

Unfortunately, about half the former railway track has been built upon since then, making it a legal nightmare, not to mention expensive to buy back all the land.

Station upgrades

A number of proposals, of which the more interesting include.

West Hampstead

There is a cluster of separate stations at West Hampstead, and the area could gain a fourth station, if new platforms were added next to the existing Jubilee line to allow Chiltern line trains to stop there as well.

That would create a sizeable hub covering Jubilee, Thameslink, London Overground and Chiltern lines.

Covent Garden/Aldwych

Noting the real congestion problem at Covent Garden, a probably unlikely suggestion is to tunnel along to the existing Aldwych tube station and turn it into a second exit.

The difficulty being that’s a heck of a long walk, even with a travolator involved.

A link from City Thameslink to St Pauls

Two stations that above ground are some distance from each other, but are actually moderately close below ground.

Pedestrian tunnels from the far end of St Paul’s would offer a modest walk to the Thameslink station, creating a direct interchange between the two. For regular users it would probably shave around 10 minutes off the walk between the two, but also putting an interchange on the tube map makes a world of difference to how people perceive how to get around London.

Embankment Station

At the moment to get from Charing Cross mainline to Embankment tube station means leaving via the Strand and walking down to the tube station,. However, there are existing emergency exits at the far end of Charing Cross, almost on top of Embankment.

An upgrade of those exits into public use could reduce congestion at the existing Charing Cross ticket barriers, and on Villiers Street.

A new station at Maiden Lane

Not a new idea, as plans have been talked about for some time, but there could be a new London Overground station just behind Kings Cross, roughly half way between Camden Town and Caledonian Road.

Actually, not new, as there used to be a station on the site, and it closed down nearly 100 years ago.

In the modern “let the developers pay for it” model of development, they are a bit late though, as the area has just been redeveloped.

Brockley

As any who lives nearby will know, at Brockley in South London, there are two lines crossing at right angles at the current station, but platforms only serve the north-south set of tracks.

A new set of platform – essentially reopening the closed Brockley Lane station, but as one new larger interchange would give fresh links to Lewisham and Clapham Junction.

And finally…

The report supports the long held ambition of the Epping Ongar heritage railway to extend its line back to Epping. At the moment, there’s a gap of around 100 yards that needs to be completed, and if a new platform could be added there, then a direct connection from tube train to steam train would once more be possible.

The full report can be downloaded from here.

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21 comments
  1. John B says:

    “At the moment to get from Charing Cross mainline to Embankment tube station means leaving via the Strand and walking down to the tube station,”

    You are forgetting the Villers St side exit, and I’m sure there was a high level walkway at track level leading to the bridge, though I’ve not used it for some time

    • Ian Visits says:

      I’m not forgetting that small staircase, but it’s still the “strand end” of Charing Cross station.

  2. Roger Iain Mason says:

    Absolutely unbelievable that we are ‘re-visiting the idea of a railway between Mill Hill East and Edgware after all these years.

    • Stelondon says:

      I am also staggered. Much of the old line has been built on and I can hear the moans from residents already!, I guess tunnelling is an option but not cheap.

  3. Jamie Stallwood says:

    A valid out-of-station interchange from Euston Square to Warren Street would do me nicely. Pretty much all the suggestions put forward by LTW are either ridiculous, impossible or both!

  4. David Rolph says:

    How about extending the northern line down to Epsom and then to Leatherhead, which it should have been sent, but the powers that be Southern rail put a stop to that. Like the idea of resurrecting the Northern heights plan.

  5. GT says:

    I hate to say it, but “London Travel Watch” need to read “London Reconnections”
    Why (some of) these proposals cannot be done:
    N Line – maybe – property?
    DLR extension – yes – how? Forget it.
    New Tunnel – total FAIL err … the new Crossrail tunnels & station are in the way (!)
    Uxbridge will have to remain a long way away, time-wise.

    “Practical” is not a word I’d use for any of these, except possibly the W Hampstead conversions – which is gradually happening, anyway.

  6. Joel says:

    The key to developing the Underground and its associated (ie different brand names, it’s still urban rail in London) is to improve interchanges which is relatively cheap but not absolutely.

    As a former Underground station capacity planner, my hobby horse was a link between Euston Square and Warren Street. It could have been partly-funded by a dual level subway between the two – public access on the top level with shops, and ‘behind the gates’ at the lower level, possibly with some sponsored advertising. Wouldn’t be cheap but would help pedestrian traffic at a major complex junction.

    We tried for a direct link between Euston Square and Euston but BT scuppered that by wanting an obscene amount of money to move some telecoms cables.

    But interchanges beat extensions by a long way on cost-benefit, or used to…

  7. Stelondon says:

    The Great Northern line needs improvements to its existing links. Takes forever on the Hertford loop to get to London. No express trains just a few faster trains during peak hours.

  8. John White says:

    I’m sure the Mill hill East to Edgware line is doable. With a stop at Mill Hill Broadway it would transform the area. If we can build a tunnel across the whole of London east to west then this, even if it was cut and cover along large sections would enable the green bits to remain. The main problem is the huge numbers in the area who would rather die in their cars than use public transport.

    Being able to switch ones commute from Thameslink to Northern line an vice versa would really help with the regular train/tube reliability problems. I beleive it is what a network is all about – being able to reroute if a problem turns up?!

  9. andyp1972 says:

    All of these proposals are pie-in-the-sky. TfL’s budget is being cut. Alot of the routes have been built on with residential property which would cost prohibitive amounts of compensation to compulsorily purchase.Reopening Aldwych and extending the tunnel to Charing Cross as per the original Fleet line might be another option, not considered in this list. Article makes nice reading but that’s as far as these plans will go I would say

  10. Alfie1014 says:

    I agree it seems to be a poorly thrown together wish list of schemes most of which will never see the light of day. Not a report to greatly enhance LTW reputation. Many seem to have no real transport rationale but are simply ways to join up bits of the network without any real understanding of if there’s any demand for them. They’d struggle if money was no option but in these straightened times have little or no chance of implementation.

  11. Bio bop says:

    Linking St Paul’s and City Thameslink seems like a nifty idea.

    Are there any obvious reasons why it can’t work?

  12. Jimbo says:

    When LTW do some proper financial analysis of the costs and benefits, the report may be worth reading. Until then, this is just crayonista’s having a play.

  13. Graham says:

    London Reconnections has a word for these people.

    (although the Brockley one is fairly sensible and did appear in a TfL document recently. Even a stopped clock etc)

  14. Steven Taylor says:

    Re Bow Church to Hackney. Although often quoted, the A102 was NOT constructed on the Victoria Park-Old Ford-Bow trackbed. I have an OS map to prove it, and in fact, there were a very expensive bridge constructed over the erstwhile Motorway at Victoria Park, to enable the railway to still exist.. not closing until the early 80s. However, the line has been built over at Old Ford, so, personally, I cannot see this as being a runner.

  15. John Ryan says:

    New Tunnel under the City to extend the Great Northern line from Moorgate to London Bridge.

    There may not be a new plot of land available for development but funding could well come from an agreed share of fares for a specified time.

  16. Al says:

    On the subject of a proposed link between City Thameslink and St Pauls, what are the limitations of building a new Central line station at City Thameslink itself (and located south of the former Snow Hill station)?

    In terms of distance between a Central line stop at City Thameslink relative to St Pauls, would estimate it being roughly a similar distance between Chancery Lane and Holborn or other close stations such as Monument and Cannon Street.

    That is not to say the walk from the Central to Thameslink at City Thameslink would be short by any means, perhaps the distance between the Central to the Northern line at Bank would be a more apt comparison.

    • ianvisits says:

      It would cost hundreds of millions to build a new station, which could only be justified if someone else picked up the bill — but also each extra station slows down trains, which reduces overall capacity on the line, which is to be avoided where possible.

    • Al says:

      Can see the rationale for why a new Central line station at City Thameslink cannot currently be justified.

      So costs notwithstanding, such a proposal like the unconfirmed plans for an interchange at Shoreditch High Street would have been dependent on past (e.g. Victoria, pre-Crossrail Kings / Chelney, etc) and future rail proposals being built whose benefits would have helped reduced capacity on the Central line to begin with?

      It has been claimed Crossrail has the potential of reducing capacity on the Central line (which could benefit plans at Shoreditch High Street) as well as being a general wonder-cure for many other railway issues, though nobody has yet coherently explained how it is the indeed the case. Since there will still be many commuters from further afield getting on at Epping due to the generous Fare Zones, while the road between Ilford and Gants Hill is basically one big traffic bottleneck whether one uses a bus or a car.

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