Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Direct Canary Wharf trains to relieve London Bridge?

Canary Wharf's offices may be smart, but unless you happen to live on the Jubilee Line it's a bugger to get to. I've heard stories of people not wanting to get on to the northbound East London Line (ELL) at Surrey Quays because the train is too full - it becomes bearable at Canada Water where the ELL meets the Jubilee Line.

So I wondered what is in store for the commuter to Canary Wharf with under construction and planned upgrades, particularly with plans for the area to expand. Well, a few things, but I believe there is a gap.
  • Crossrail will give 12 trains per hour (tph) to Canary Wharf from Paddington in the West and Abbey Wood in the East by 2018.
  • Expansion of East London Line from four to five coaches - probably 2013/2014.
  • Possible Jubilee Line capacity improvements.
But the last two only mean that you are more likely to get a seat. The first one helps a lot of people, but not everyone. Let me give a few illustrations:
  1. Paddington to Canary Wharf. Current journey from Hammersmith and City plaftorm, change Baker Street for Jubilee. New journey direct. Current time 28 minutes, new time 16 minutes.
  2. High Barnet to Canary Wharf. Current journey via Northern Line Bank branch, change at London Bridge for Jubilee. New journey via Northern Line Charing Cross Branch, change at Tottenham Court Road. Current time 57 minutes, new time 52 minutes.
  3. Abbey Wood to Canary Wharf. Current journey National Rail, change London Bridge for Jubilee Line. New journey direct. Current time 39 minutes, new time 11 minutes.
But how about most places south of the river? They will see no benefit (other than less crowded Jubilee trains) as they will to a large extent use the Jubilee line, mainly from Waterloo and London Bridge. I say to a large extent as the ELL is increasingly patronised: it will need to go to 5-car trains in the next couple of years as it is full because people use it as an 'easier' way to get to Canary Wharf via Canada Water, avoiding the pinch points at London Bridge and Victoria. This can only get worse as the ELL expands to Clapham Junction next year.

There is an option here though, which I've not seen explored before. Thameslink and Southern passengers from East Croydon and places to the south to Canary Wharf go to New Cross Gate, then either change for the ELL (if the train stops) or more likely continue to London Bridge to head for the Jubilee. The Southern trains all terminate at London Bridge. It looks possible from satellite pictures to quadruple the line from New Cross Gate as far as Canada Water. From there, it's about 1.5km to Canary Wharf in a tunnel under the Thames parallel to the Jubilee Line. So we could have direct trains from the south terminating at Canary Wharf.

This would be an incredibly expensive option to avoid one change and crowded ELL trains. But it's actually far more than that. The Thameslink Programme only does so much to deal with the capacity issues at London Bridge: drastic (and potentially unpopular) options such as extending the Bakerloo line to Hayes have been mooted largely to regain capacity at London Bridge. East Croydon is full. When schemes such as BML2 (http://www.bml2.co.uk) come along to bypass Croydon and largely use old railway trackded to New Cross, the reason for rejection is that London Bridge is full (as is Liverpool Street, where BML2 itself suggests its terminus might be). Something needs to be done long term about traffic into London Bridge, and this idea gives the added advantage of making Canary Wharf a new London Terminus.


    1. Ian, I am also surprised that this route option has not been considered. This is a major strategic gap in London's orbital rail network, which will become more pronounced as Docklands traffic grows.

      I feel there is a need for a new north-south route to Docklands that can siphon off traffic from the SWML via the South London Line and the Brighton Line. Yes the alignment from Silwood Jn through Surrey Quays is 4-track, so the ELL and Docklands routes can split at Surrey Quays rather than Canada Water. It will be much easier creating a new interchange at Surrey Quays to relieve Canada Water, although the station would probably have to be relocated southwards where the alignment can be widened for the additional platforms.

      The route north could go to Canary Wharf, but if it proves too difficult to create platforms here alongside the Jubilee then the route could serve the new development at Wood Wharf just to the east. There may also be value in extending the route to take over the DLR route to Stratford, dropping into a short tunnel at Bow Church to the north side of the GEML and then into the Lea Valley platforms at Stratford, and from there north to the Anglia mainline or the Chingford branch.

      Ideally the route would also be graded to allow it to be a diversionary freight route.

      cheers :)

    2. Thanks for this Lemmo. I hadn't thought about freight, but it's a good idea provided that it's only used as a contingency. A route to the GEML would be ideal and would remove the need to change at Stratford, but I wanted something to suggest when the five car ELL trains are so full approaching Canada Water that an affordable solution is imperative.