A report looking at transport upgrades across the southeast of England suggests that extending the Elizabeth line into Kent would cost around £3.2 billion. The report, by Transport for the South East (TfSE) also supports the proposal and looks at how it could be funded.

The Crossrail to Ebbsfleet (C2E) Partnership was set up in 2016 to promote an extension of the Elizabeth line from Abbey Wood where it currently terminates out towards Ebbsfleet.

There have been a number of consultations about the scheme, and the councils along the route have decided to push for a scheme that would see 12 Elizabeth line trains per hour to Abbey Wood as now exists, then extended past there to offer 8 trains per hour to Northfleet, and 4 trains per hour extending to Gravesend.

If implemented, then the additional Elizabeth line trains would be sharing the existing North Kent line tracks with the Southeastern and Thameslink services.

Proposed service (c) Abbeywood2Ebbsfleet consultation

An outline business case for the extension exists, funded by £4.8million in government support to investigate its viability. TfSE’s report is looking at a likely cost of the extension as ranging between £2.6 – £3.2 billion, if it is delivered between 2023 and 2028. That’s roughly double the original estimate of £1.5 billion, but the cost rose as more studies were carried out into the engineering challenges of the project.

As ever though, funding is the core issue.

The report suggests that a portion of the funding could come from existing central government schemes, such as those which pay for transport upgrades to unlock additional housing developments.

There’s the expectation that local developer funding and local contributions would be included — such as capturing some of the uplift in existing property prices in areas where transport upgrades are carried out.

The report also suggests that London taxpayers may pick up some of the cost, although the Mayor of London has previously ruled out funding the Kent upgrade, and at the moment, neither the GLA nor TfL are in a position of being able to fund something as expensive as this anyway.

The details of how to extend the Elizabeth line are part of a wider consultation by TfSE covering the whole of the southeast of England.

With a total capital cost of £45 billion over 27 years – about £1.5bn a year – they expect the investment to deliver an additional £4.1 billion a year for the economy by 2050. To put the £45 billion investment into context, Network Rail will be spending £48 billion over five years (2019-2024) on its existing network, and spends roughly the same every five years at the moment.

The plans would see around 80% of the investment spent on enhancing existing railways and roads, with the rest on building new infrastructure.

The report expects that if the full package were delivered, then there would be an additional 500,000 rail trips per day, 1.6 million bus/mass transit journeys per day, and take 4 million cars off the road each day across the southeast of England.

Although there’s always going to be people saying that transport investment isn’t needed anymore, because of working from home, ignoring that many people can’t work from home, the report also looks at how investment can improve rail freight by using capacity created by fewer passenger trains. There’s also a lot of focus on improving regional connections so that people don’t need to make long journeys because shorter direct routes don’t exist or are unreliable.

The full consultation is here.

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25 comments
  1. Dan Coleman says:

    Am I missing something?
    How on Earth can an extension over existing lines with very little new construction end up costing £3.2 billion?

    • ianVisits says:

      More trains, upgraded junctions, new overhead power cables, more signalling, more platforms at stations, upgrades of local infrastructure around stations to cope with extra people, etc.

    • Graham Ashby says:

      The new line will be built beside existing line on a new formation which is wide for part of the way. Dartford station is a bottle neck and would need remodelling and a number of new bridges,
      The cost is not helped by greedy land owners who fleece the constructors
      It will benefit the dartford area and hopefully regenerate the area

  2. Michael G says:

    If it’s using existing lines then what is the point? Just so people don’t have to change at Abbey Wood?

  3. Aled says:

    Hmm, I admit I share Dan’s cynicism.

    For sure, I recognise that there are benefits, but I cannot see why the existing trains cannot just be used on the existing lines.

    It is only 12 miles from Gravesend to Abbey Wood. That is £250 million per mile (!!!).

    I always liked the idea of getting rid of the tracks and running electric busses along a dedicated road. You can scale, there are virtually no real signalling challenges, a bus costs £250k vs £10m + for a decent modern train.

    • ChrisC says:

      Elizabeth line trains would run the new route but you still need more trains in order to maintain the existing timetable intervals.

      I remember a figure that if the Lodon City Airport station was ever built that an extra train set would be needed in order to maintain the 5 minute interval time.

    • Paul says:

      Buses carry far fewer people and are slower and less energy efficient. Tearing up electrified rail infrastructure along a busy corridor in order to run buses makes no sense.

  4. Brett says:

    Thank you for the article, very interesting. I would love to see the breakdown of the costings. Is it the salaries, the materials, consultants or what that causes these projects to have such high prices? It becomes a barrier to development where it is needed.

  5. MilesT says:

    Although single seat travel is the ideal, they could unlock a fair amount of value at low cost by coordinating the schedules at Abbey Wood (or another station up the line) to allow interchange to more or less existing services on the proposed route. Sadly at Abbey Wood there isn’t the capability of same platform interchange although it would be step free between the NR platform and the Elizbeth line platform (unclear if any of the preceeding stations would enable same platform change)

  6. Adam says:

    If the service between Dartford and Abbey Wood were better there would be less of an issue. As it stands Thameslink are one every 30 mins (if you’re lucky and there are enough train crew!) And southeastern seem sporadic.

    Given the amount of development happening due to Ebbsfleet “Garden” (LOL) City, I would think this a worthwhile investment.

    • James Miller says:

      If the Lizzie line were extended to Hoo, it would unlock housing development on the Isle of Grain.

      4 tph would be ideal.

      There could also be a couple of sidings on the Isle of Grain.

      Turning back at Hoo station, would also make Gravesend more of a through station, which would be easier to manage.

  7. Gordon says:

    The route is currently served by both Southeastern and Thameslink services. I’m guessing that the additional capacity is to handle expected rush hour passenger overload with the opening of the Elizabeth Line. It will be interesting to see if the problem that the extension seeks to solve actually appears.

    The £3.2bn looks a lot when compared with the proposed DLR extension to Thamesmead and the Thames Tramlink (KenEx) between Grays/Ebbsfleet both costed at £800m and both including cross river tunnels. Granted that they are light rail so should be less expensive but even so £3.2bn?

  8. Paul says:

    I agree with others that £3.2bn seems an extraordinary amount of money for a 12m surface railway along an existing corridor,
    For additional context the Northern line extension to Battersea, about 3 miles entirely underground with two new underground stations, came in at around £1bn.

    • Aled says:

      Indeed…in the countryside you could build roughly 30,000 homes for £3bn. That’s a moderate sized town.

      But what you would actually get is, a few dozens trains, some expensive signalling, staggeringly expensive stations that would likely be “net zero” and suitably expensive. Endless management consultants fee. You’ll need environmental tick boxes and £1bn of environmental projects. You’ll need to re-route a tonne of power and fibre optic cables (this will be pricey). You will need to bribe the council with “engagement projects” etc.

      Think about how expensive it would be to tarmac a 13 mile stretch of road with two lanes along it’s length. Buy 26 electric busses. It’s only 13 miles, that’s a bus for every half mile. If you already have the track that’s a pretty cheap demolition and tarmac job. Hell, you don’t even really need two lanes if you have passing lanes every 1/2 mile.

      You could probably achieve a 15-minute electric bus service capable of 50mph for less than £200m.

      Having trains involved multiplies the construction, consultant and staff fees by 15x.

    • Paul says:

      @Aled – I get it, you’re a bus fanatic – but no-one is going to acquire land and demolish homes to build a slow, low capacity busway. Especially not alongside a perfectly good railway. Sorry.

  9. Roger ROWLEY says:

    If the powers that be could join together some of the existing underground lines together like the Victoria line extended to join onto the central line at Woodford and other lines too would this not make it somewhat easier to get around London on the tube network

    • ianVisits says:

      Probably – but that requires London to fund those upgrades.

      This extension into Kent will not be funded by London, so it’s not relevant to internal London travel.

    • Craig Thomson says:

      Extending the Victoria Line to Woodford risks overloading the Victoria Line at it’s North/East end, potentially making it impossible for passengers to board further down the line.

    • Al says:

      Could the theoretical risks of extending the Victoria to Woodford or South Woodford be somewhat mitigated by reinstating Hall Farm Curve?

      Thereby allowing for Chingford Overground services to be linked to Stratford and possibly further on the NLL (instead of amounting to a Stratford loop), through Highbury & Islington (interchanging with the Victoria) onto the Watford DC Overground at Primrose Hill or to Richmond if not at minimum either at Queens Park or Willesden Junction?

      Have seen significantly more people using the Hainault by Newbury Park than on services to Loughton / Epping at Leytonstone, so while not completing downplaying the risks cannot see things changing that significantly with the addition of a Victoria stop at Woodford or South Woodford beyond slightly more usage of the 4-car Hainault to Woodford services (that would itself help ease at times severe overcrowding on Hainault by Newbury Park services).

  10. James Miller says:

    It would need modern digital signalling, but this could probably handle 24 tph.

    With Modern Railways reporting an extension to Hoo for Southeastern services to be very likely, surely it would be best to combine both schemes and extend the Elizabeth Line to Hoo. 4 tph would be more than enough and would level-up one of the South-East’s most run down areas.

  11. James E Brown says:

    Ugh, is this more than £3.2b worth?

    You guys got in common whatever all says.
    But there’s one is this: Why Crossrail Avantra 345 Trains does NOT ‘Contact Shoe’ on 3rd rail of Southern 3rd Rail railways, which any include Southeastern and Thameslink, they have.
    Then why not put add on implementing Crossrail ‘Dual Voltage’ trains, to put it on a traction to figure it out and carry out the works at the same time where the section brings, just like BR class 313s, 319s, 700s as Thameslink, 378s + 710s on London Overground, and 717s on Northern City line as Greater Northern rail services.
    Maybe should depended considerate for best whenever fractions would help nevertheless.

    For now; what do you guys think for changes for around and beyond at Dartford, and Kent destinations from Abbey Wood?

    • Paul says:

      As with all modern trains, adding a 3rd rail contract shoe to class 345s would cost some money, but is relatively straightforward. And there’s no reason anyone would include such a thing unless/until it was needed….

  12. David Winter says:

    I too am staggered at the price tag. As I see it, multi-mode rolling stock is perfectly suitable for the modern railway. So no need for 25kV beyond Abbey Wood.

    We do need to note the platform edge door pitch of Crossrail (the railway): 7.5m. That does mean new rolling stock rather than utilising existing dual-voltage kit. But the same rolling stock can then be applied across many “metro” style routes as electrification extends. Battery capability would be a bonus.

    Beyond that, the question must be asked, to what extent can this be a staged implementation, to create early deliverables?

  13. Andrew Inglis says:

    I think improving rail links into North Kent makes sense because London’s population may increase by 2,000,000 in the next two decades so encouraging housebuilding along extensions of the Elizabeth Line seems logical . Extensions into North Kent will also develop the area .Many people are already commuting from North Kent into London .

  14. JP says:

    As a comparator, Old Oak Common station(s) is costed at £1.3bn at the moment. Although it will have fourteen platforms, six of which are underground.

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