A petition has been started calling for a disused railway linking Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace which is now a nature walk to be reopened as a railway.

The railway line opened in 1867 as part of the Edgware, Highgate and London Railway, which built the railway from Edgware to Finsbury Park, linking up with the existing Great Northern Railway (GNR) into King’s Cross.

A branch line from Highgate station to Alexandra Palace opened in May 1873 to capitalise on the expected popularity of the pleasure park. However, the Palace burnt down just two weeks after it opened. Although rebuilt and reopened two years later, it never really lived up to commercial expectations and the railway likewise never carried the number of passengers they had expected.

The expansion of the tram network and later the motor car didn’t help the railway, and the line eventually closed to passengers in July 1954, and freight ceased in 1964.

It opened as the Parkland Walk, a nature reserve and footpath in 1984.

Now a petition is calling for the railway to be reopened.

The difficulty with the petition is that while it would undeniably improve rail transport in the area, there’s no explanation in the petition as to whether it’s cost-effective to provide. Nothing there about even the most basic consideration about where the funding would come from at a time when any railway project tends to need a lot of third-party contributions, nor the running costs or the expected level of passenger traffic to be expected.

But the main question though is whether the railway is even needed.

Transport for London (TfL) has a nifty PTAL map that plots access to public transport in London, from worst to best, and in general, most of the route of the old railway is around the middle zone in terms of quality of access to public transport.

TfL PTAL map with disused railway route overlay in black (PTAL red/yellow/green is good and dark blues are are bad)

Not perfect, but the area is modestly densely populated and already well served by buses. The patches of poor transport tends to be where the numerous woods and parks are, so you wouldn’t expect a bus route through the middle of those anyway.

To spend a small fortune rebuilding the railway when the benefits in terms of improving public transport access would be fairly modest and very localised into a small area would be a hard ask at the best of times.

To try to do so today would be exceptionally difficult to justify.

The petition is here.

The local Friends of the Parkland Walk are, unsurprisingly, unimpressed with the idea of putting a railway through their nature reserve.


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  1. Me says:

    Hard agree I’m afraid– probably the most cost effective solution would be to switch to electric bus for W7 and make the whole route double yellow parking the entire length. If there were any money this could be better spent on a tram if they wanted hard infrastructure but as Edinburgh demonstrates trams are complicated in their own way.

  2. DAN LEVY says:

    Actually, I walked along some of the nature reserve the other day and it really is an oasis of tranquility in a busy part of London. However, I think any money spent on railways anywhere is a nail in the coffin of cars and lorries.

    Had Beeching not been so short-sighted in the 60s maybe we would never have needed that monstrosity called the M25.

    Ditto, the failed extension of Northern Line past Edgware might have stopped the current brouhaha about redeveloping the town centre and filling it with lots of poor quality housing. We need to spread out a bit and that extension to Bushey Heath might have achieved that.

  3. Scur says:

    On top of the other arguments against this, wouldn’t it just limit the capacity on the other lines north of Finsbury Park?

    • Brian Butterworth says:

      I think the idea would be to add it to the Great Northern routes out of Moorgate. It would be a new destination added Palmers Green and New Southgate branches.

      There’s no that many trains and you could just use “stepping back” at Moorgate to deal with the two-platforms issue there.

    • A Trainspotter From Berkshire says:

      I would say it would be a good line if they chose to run it at four trains per hour in each direction running from moorgate and using spare 717s since there is not to many diagrams of them also you would fit the line with ETCS from the start and also you could probably get away with single line working through the heigate tunnels however a tramway would be better suited to the area.

  4. Andrew Moss says:

    We need more railways around this area . Railways don’t make money but make journies easier

    In doing this also look at reopening the line between Edgware and Mill Hill .
    Then from Mill Hill East
    Join up to the Northern Line
    Current journey time edgware to Finchley Central by car 1/2 an hour
    By tube 3/4 an hour
    By fast rail link 15 minutes

    • Chris B says:

      Edgware to Mill Hill East is impossible. You’ve got houses pretty much on the old alignment from Edgware to Page Street.

  5. Mike Jones says:

    GN Thameslink have added an Alexander Palace stop to many of their services, due to the Palace, a rigorous hike from the station.

  6. Dan Coleman says:

    A nice idea. One that I can’t see happening in my lifetime.

    These days most transport projects are dependent on funding from private sources, typically in the form of new build housing/commercial/retail hybrid development.

    Two issues with that for this old line. 1) There is very little land around the route appropriate for development 2) It happens to run through some of the more wealthy areas of North London, I can’t see residents being supportive of the standard 10-20 story blocks that usually sit alongside modern transport projects.

    I would welcome investment in paving the route properly as a high-quality cycle route with accessible access, but a train? I think that died in 1964.

    Fascinated to see if a business case will actually materialise.

  7. Maurice Reed says:

    I seriously doubt this would be cost effective and should be dropped like a hot brick.

  8. Chris says:

    This petition so far only has 10 signatures in the constituency of Hornsey and Wood Green: https://petitionmap.unboxedconsulting.com/?petition=639163

    There was a similar petition about this on change.org in 2020 and it only generated 22 signatures: https://www.change.org/p/uk-parliament-reopen-the-finsbury-park-edgware-railway

    I don’t think this is a serious campaign.

  9. R says:

    More people benefit from using Parkland Walk for its greenspace than people attending events at Ally Pally.

  10. Julian Walker says:

    There was a campaign to open a DLR-style “Muswell Hill Metro” along the course of the line during the 1990s. The Friends of the Parkland Walk saw that one off too.

  11. Jon says:

    Am I missing something here which I’m surprised hasn’t been mentioned in the article? There is already a frequent rail service running between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace that takes 4 to 7 minutes depending on the stops.

    • Mihály Dudás says:

      Exactly! Thank you!

    • Keith says:

      The Alexandra Palace railway station still in use is the ‘low-level’ station, which then requires a walk of approximately 13 minutes. The petition is talking about reopening the line which went to the former ‘high-level’ station, which is in the palace grounds and is now a community centre https://www.cufos.org.uk/.

      Amongst the problems with this idea is that I believe there are now bats in the tunnels at Highgate. I guess at a push you might just get a single track tram / guided busway along the former line to still allow pedestrians, but I certainly can’t see trains returning.

    • Liz Brereton says:

      I was going to say the same thing. If theres already a train service just make it more frequent and keep the parkland as a nice walking area.

  12. Adam Edwards says:

    One expensive way to do this would be a loop in the Piccadilly line to turn trains round just north of Finsbury Park. So a single track line with a single platform station at Muswell Hill. The loop would need to run anti clockwise to balance the T4 loop. Trains which terminate at Arnos Grove would do the loop instead.

    Having said all that, in Levelling up England there won’t be any money for it. The 7.57 million people on the NHS waiting list will have to come first.

  13. Mihály Dudás says:

    What’s wrong with people? There IS a Great Northern line train from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace (via Haringey and Hornsey)

    And Parkland Walk is an amazing hidden gem in an urban jungle, I find it really relaxing every time I walk or cycle there.

    • MilesT says:

      Agreed–although some localised peoplemover solution up the hill from the station to Alexendra Palace would be nice.

      The challenge with improving this for cycling is it would also attract ner-do-wells on electric scooters and ebikes, and the length is not easily patrollable to prevent ASB.

  14. Greyscale says:

    I’m not sure how exactly this is meant to work as the area where Cranley Gardens station was/would be has a school and new flats coming soon which would need to be demolished/not built. Same with the site of Muswell Hill Station, there is now a school there. The station building for the old Alexandra Palace station still exists however.

  15. Simon Currey says:

    Surely as a cycle lane is more useful. It has more capacity. I am finding point to point cycling is faster than the tube. It certainly healthier. I am 68 and use a folding bike when visiting London. From a co2 point of view building a railway doesn’t make sense. Especially as research shows a lot of London is going to be sea soon.

  16. LP says:

    Just catch the bus. Stop ruining Londons green spaces. I can’t see this happening due to the density of nature in the area. It’d be a real shame. It’s a pedestrian highway. And it should stay that way.

  17. Paul Redgrave says:

    I would gladly sign a petition to get the tunnel under Highgate Wood open for cyclists and walkers connecting the route of the old railway.

  18. Wendy says:

    Nobody with any sense wants this – there are plenty of transport options including a train from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace. It would destroy some of our most beautiful green spaces and cost a fortune. All because a few moaners don’t want to get on a bus. Had similar recently with a cyclist demanding the road over ally pally is permanently closed – never mind the people who rely on the w3 bus to get around.

  19. C.Turnbull says:

    I would be surprised if this is feasible. Old structures will need replacing or repairing. And under new Biodiversity Net Gain laws commencing in November (the Environment Act) they’d need to reprovide all lost habitat plus 10pc. Track bed habitats and the older and irreplaceable veteran trees along the embankments would need compensating for within the same borough – where most of the land has something on it already. This is just how it is now.

  20. Phik says:

    Congrats to this site/post for getting pushed to my phone by Google’s algorithm. Although like most commenters, and the writer themselves, I’m driven to comment purely because this is ridiculous. The Parkland Walk is the nicest thing in that area of London for exercise/walking and connects up a range of green spaces. There should be more paths like it. Not fewer.

  21. Caroline says:

    Oh not again !!! How many times has this fairy tale idea been resurrected.

  22. David Winter says:

    The ONLY reason for reinstating the Northern Heights route would be to relieve pressure on the Northern Line. To do this, the route must be Edgeware via Mill Hill Bwy, Mill Hill East and the Finchleys … then Finsbury Park, Moorgate and perhaps an extension south to create a fully accessible, three road terminal closer to Bank.

    Ally Pally would ONLY be relevant if it was a major interchange and park’n’ride site. Otherwise, the Park Walk is a better use of the easement.

    Some smart thinking will be needed to accommodate the bats. But I’m confident it’s not insurmountable abd can be done sensitively.

  23. Michael Wright says:

    Urban green space is more needed than ever. The Parkland Walk is an asset that London should be proud. More people use it now than when it was a railway – which I am old enough to remember. Now it is a tree lined nature reserve and forms part of a long distance footpath and long may it remain so.

  24. Mr Carmichael says:

    Unfortunately most of the old route of the abandoned London Transport era 1935 – 1940 New Works Programme Northern Line extension from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace, known as the Northern Heights Route, aka the current Parkland Walk, is now one of the four or a mix of the below categories:
    1. A designated protected space, the Highgate Tunnels are now occupied by a rare form of bat, ( the creature ), https://www.hamhigh.co.uk/lifestyle/21350374.a-sleeping-vale-sanctuary-abandoned-highgate-station-now-home-bats/
    Update: It is not known if Highgate Upper Station will feature on the London Transport Museum tours after a recent fire that saw considerable damage done to the area.
    2. Abandoned in situ, Highgate Upper Station and various viaducts, Muswell Hill viaduct and Stroud Green station viaduct, which are now part of the Parkland Walk.
    3. No longer in existence and the site has been built over, Cranley Gardens Station, site belongs to Haringey Council who still want to keep the site and also Muswell Hill Station, site belongs to Muswell Hill Primary School and they also still want to keep the site, Alexandra Palace Station / route of old railway by Alexandra Palace, this got built on by British Rail who built some research laboratories, ( nationalised rail organisation builds on old railway route, ironic ), these laboratories still exist to this day, current owner unknown.
    4. Extremely hard to replicate without significant cost and intense site preparatory work, there was also a lot of other significant supporting infrastructure such as signal boxes, large ones at Drayton Park and Highgate Park Junction, both demolished a long time ago, significant earthworks, various bridges and tunnels that brought various different levels of railways together to manage the differences in gradients that the Extension had to manage, this area of North London is know for its hills, a problem is that there is very little in terms of information available nowadays as to what infrastructure was actually built, and even if it does still exist, what the current condition of any remaining infrastructure is currently in.
    I would like to wish anybody or groups attempting to rebuild or replicate the 1935 – 1940 Northern Heights extension all the very best in their efforts.

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