The Bakerloo line extension is likely to face a lengthy delay due to the ongoing financial problems at TfL, according to their latest financial forecasts.
In a proposed submission to the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, TfL has outlined its main funding requirements over the next few years — mostly how much it has to spend on maintenance and keeping the network running.
It’s also outlined the areas that it prioritises for upgrade spending — and the Bakerloo line extension is not on the list.
TfL’s budget proposal said that it is “being realistic about what is affordable over the next decade”, and two projects, Crossrail 2 and the Bakerloo line extension are likely to have to be delayed until later. TfL says they are still needed, but “given current affordability constraints, our immediate priority for these is safeguarding” — that is ensuring that any new developments and buildings that go up along the route don’t interfere with the planned tunnels and stations.
There are still proposed upgrades for the Bakerloo line, specifically signalling and the now very old fleet of trains, which at 48 years old are not nearing the end of their lives, but pretty much past it, even with recent refurbishments.
If funding is approved, then the new trains would start appearing in the late 2020s, along with a fleet of replacement Central line trains — but at a cost of £1-2 billion. TfL appears to be taking the approach that with limited funding it is better to spend money on keeping the existing Bakerloo line running, and not on trying to extend it – yet.
A TfL spokesperson said: “The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on our network and finances. We are seeking to work with the Government on a new longer-term sustainable funding model, which is needed for transport in London beyond the period covered by our Revised Budget. We will be reviewing our investment programme as part of this work and it is crucial for London’s recovery that we can maintain our existing assets and continue to operate frequent, reliable services.”
One topic which has gained extra prominence though is a little-noticed upgrade for the Jubilee line — with an entirely new fleet costing nearly £2 billion. That would increase capacity on exceptionally busy Jubilee line by around 25 per cent, and that helps reduce overcrowding on the platforms at Waterloo, London Bridge and Canary Wharf in the mornings.
The current Jubilee line fleet isn’t that old, but is compatible with the Northern line fleet — they are almost identical — and the plan would use the ex-Jubilee line trains to increase capacity on the Northern line.
To make the most use of the ex-Jubilee line trains on the Northern line would however require one of the longest planned changes to be actioned — splitting the Northern line at Camden into two separate lines. That would allow the Northern line to go from roughly 24 trains per hour to 30+ trains per hour on each branch.
Although this would not happen until mid-to-late 2020s, it needs agreements within the current Parliamentary term, hence being included in the government submission.
The other plan which looked like it might be dropped, but is being pushed forward is for a DLR extension across the Thames from Beckton to Thamesmead. This ties in with a large housing development in the area for some 15,500 homes and is seen as essential for the houses to be built.
There is currently no funding for the DLR extension, which has been costed at around £800 million, for a 5 trains-per-hour service. Supporting the proposal is that the government already has a scheme that supports transport upgrades where they unlock housing developments — and the DLR extension is almost entirely about supporting the new housing in Thamesmead.
Reading the submission, TfL appears to have limited itself to big upgrades where big housing developments are possible. And as much as people in South-East London want and need the Bakerloo line extension, the housing uplift is far smaller than that offered by the DLR extension.
It is a pragmatic response to a situation where it’s unlikely that funding for both would be possible.
For the combined Jubilee-Northern upgrade, that looks like a large increase in capacity for a relatively modest cost and the improvement over three lines (Jubilee and two Northern lines) spreads the benefit over a much wider part of London.
The political problem for the government is how to spend many billions on essential upgrades for London’s overcrowded transport without the inevitable howls of protest from people living outside London.