Havering council is working on a local transport plan which could include a monorail service linking various parts of the borough.

Speaking at the Thames Estuary Development Conference, the Chief Executive of Havering Council, Andrew Blake-Herbert said that the borough is looking at improving local transport options, and a monorail is one of the options being considered.

Like most boroughs around the edges of London, the public and main road transport links through Havering are of the spoke design, flowing into the centre of the city, and out of the suburbs. There’s little however in sideways public transport options. A short London Overground link runs between Romford and Upminster, but buses aside, that’s pretty much it.

That makes local journeys harder, hampering local development and economic growth while forcing public transport users into lengthy journeys into central London and back out again.

Which is one of the reasons why he said that Havering also has the highest level of car ownership in London.

The council has therefore been looking for a public transport alternative that will tie the borough together along the North-South routes, and one of the options could be a monorail.

There have been various suggestions of a tram or monorail for Havering for some years to improve the north-south connections. In 2006, a monorail was mooted as being a way to address the transportation problem., although some councillors thought the cost may be prohibitive.

In December 2007, it was suggested that Barking Riverside could have an ULTra monorail link (similar to the Heathrow Aiport pods), although that’s getting the London Overground instead now.

More recently, the Havering Local Plan 2016-2031 called for improvements in the north-south axis, although it only mentioned light rail, tram or guided bus schemes, not a monorail.

A report setting out high level route options for a north/south tram link has been commissioned, and further discussions are due to be held with TfL following completion of initial feasibility study.

At the Thames Estuary Development conference, Andrew Blake-Herbert confirmed that the council is working on a plan for either a “tram or monorail bringing together that connectivity opening up the 3rd largest London borough with regeneration opportunities”

It wouldn’t be the first time a monorail has been considered for London though, as there was a serious attempt in 1967 to replace central London buses with an elevated monorail service.

Although Havering’s own monorail has been discussed a number of times, it’s more likely that a tram or guided bus route would get the go ahead.

While a monorail is “sexy”, and that in itself can be a substantial help in regenerating an area, as the driverless DLR undoubtedly helped to define the Docklands area and make the area appealing to live and work in, the higher costs involved makes it less likely to be approved.

A tram service would be much more viable, and offer many of the benefits of the monorail, without the risks and higher costs.

A report from 2018 suggested that a light-rail or tram service could take over the short London Overground link between Romford and Upminster, with spurs northwards towards Collier Row and Harold Hill, and another spur heading southwards to Rainham and the planned Beam Park development.

A project like this could be built in stages, and would be of a similar design to the Croydon tram service which used a mix of railway lines and roads to connect various parts of South London.

If built, it would tie currently disconnected parts of one of London’s largest boroughs together, and as with Croydon’s trams, put the area firmly on the tube map as well.

A tram is more likely than a monorail, as it ticks the realistically affordable transport box, even if almost everyone would love a monorail, regardless of how expensive it would be to deliver.

Elsewhere, there is a monorail in London, owned by the National Grid, and the remains of Britain’s experimental monorail can be found in Peterborough.

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17 comments on “Could East London be about to get a monorail?
  1. GT says:

    Except in very special circumstances … ( Wuppertal ) …
    Monorails do not work, certainly for mass passenger transit.
    There seems to be something about monorails that rots the brains of officialdom, probably becaue they are NOT trains or trams, which do work?

  2. Al says:

    Surprised a Central Line extension is mentioned given its unlikelihood, along with wondering how they’d get the route to Collier Row from presumably Newbury Park (leading to more questions such as the prospect of an indirect Underground replacement of the Romford-Upminster Overground route that stops at Hornchurch Town Centre instead of Emerson Park).

    Would have thought an expansion of the DLR being a better approach for Havering, given it would link up the area to the wider DLR network whether via Barking Riverside or from Thamesmead? Would have also investigated establishing a link between Upminster and Rainham via Corbets Tey.

  3. Garry Bartlett says:

    Not one part of this mono rail is going through east London.. hovering os an Essex borough… it has an IG postcode… comes under Essex county council… Greater London does not exist… Please stop associating my home with Essex…

    • ianvisits says:

      I didn’t associate the “London Borough of Havering” (it’s official name) with Essex, so not sure what you’re complaining about.

    • Andy says:

      Havering, Garry, is in East London, not Essex. Been that way since 1965. Postcodes (such as your IG or RM examples) don’t dictate Country boundaries. Perhaps you should move?

    • Simon Kendler says:

      It does not come under Essex County Council, it is the LONDON borough of Havering and has been for over half a century. Regional elections are for GLA members, that’s the Greater London Authority, electing Assembly Members under the Mayor of London who you can also vote for, what with being in London. My old postcode still has Middlesex in it. Do you hear people complain about not recognising Middlesex?? You’re in London. Get. Over. It.

  4. Rog Laker says:

    What’s the question to which a monorail is supposedly the best answer? Where’s the evidence-base to point to the problem to which a monorail is, apparently, the solution? Who put Havering’s Chief Executive up to this flight of fancy?
    Far from being futuristic, this sort of approach to transport planning – let’s just fixate on a new toy to be our magic wand saviour – reflects a bygone era for which the last rites have still to be administered in some areas!

  5. Jon Warburton says:

    I hear these things are awfully loud!

    • Luke O'Sullivan says:

      It glides as softly as a cloud!

    • Andy says:

      Is there a chance the track could bend?

    • Peter versus Pan says:

      The Wuppertal “Schwebebahn” (“Hover Railway”) is a creaking monstrosity that has blighted the city for a century, but Safege-style systems (judging by the drawing, the system considered for the West End generations ago) have acceptable sound levels, while at low to medium speeds maglev (shown in the final picture, thus presumably the system under consideration) is almost inaudible.

  6. David Winter says:

    The first big issue with a monorail is emegency exit for disabled folk in an emergency. Better off building a light rail system or a guided transit system with short elevated sections where required.

  7. Andy McDougall says:

    Amen to all the comments above stressing the pointlessness of the whole monorail fixation: an expensive and inefficient transport mode with little to recommend it except in very special circumstances. A few minutes’ study of the history of the one in Sydney might be helpful

  8. Mike M says:

    “an ULTra monorail link (similar to the Heathrow Airport pods)” – but ULTra isn’t a monorail. It’s a rail-less guided trackway with rubber tyres running on a concrete road surface, as noted in the link.

  9. MilesT says:

    The safest usual answer to the question “Is a monorail a useful transit solution” is “No”.

    If you follow citylab website, their standard view is similar “no” is often the default answer for street running trams or urban light rail with dedicated trackways within existing road alignments (i.e. between dual carriageways) with at-grade crossings, at least in an US context. (And potentially electric trolleybuses too).

    Instead, improve buses first (equipment, frequency/hours of service, bus lanes, shelters, real time information/apps, maybe guided busways) until you get to a ridership level where it makes sense to have a proper metro that can step change capacity and slash journey times.

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