Monday, 11 January 2010

Real prospects for London rail in 2010

True, London's rail and tube commuters endure overcrowded trains but, as the photo of a train on the Indian sub-continent reminds us, there's often someone - somewhere - worse off than ourselves.

However, fingers crossed, London's rail and tube network ought to show signs of becoming less congested and overcrowded during 2010. The £1 billion East London Line extension, a new railway connecting north east and south east London, should start running from June. Big winners ought to be Croydon folk who'll be able to commute to Canary Wharf, the Docklands and to Stratford after a quick change at Canada Water onto the Jubilee Line. 

The ELL's 12 trains per hour will, it's hoped, reduce overcrowding on south London sections of the Northern and Victoria lines. The ELL fleet will eventually consist of 33 new air-conditioned, walk-through Class 378 Electrostars, each train holding 494 passengers. Hackney residents, who don't possess a tube station, will be connected to the rest of London thanks to new ELL stations at Dalston Junction, Haggerston, Hoxton (below) and Shoreditch High Street. The ELL will be run by private operating companies but managed as a strictly controlled concession by Transport for London's most recent addition, London Overground. So, if the ELL starts to go pear-shaped, quake with anger and quarrel with Boris Johnson, our beloved Mayor and TfL's boss.

Frequent Docklands Light Railway users will begin to notice three-car trains on some of their services towards the end of this month. Steadily, more 3-car trains will be introduced on the Bank-Woolwich branch during February. Three-car running on the Beckton branch is planned for 2011. 

The DLR's £211 million new Stratford International-Canning Town extension is due to start operating from mid-2010. Built on the old North London Line route the two-track extension will link High Speed 1 domestic passengers to the Central, Jubilee and North London lines and to the DLR at Stratford Regional Station. The extension includes four new stations at Star Lane, Abbey Road, Stratford High Street and the Stratford International terminus. No doubt this will spawn a popular pub quiz question: which parts of London have three or more railway stations with the place name included? (Put on your thinking cap and post your answers via a comment at the end of this blog).

The DLR upgrade and extension promise to add 50% capacity to the driver-less network before the 2012 Olympics. By the time of the Games' opening ceremony, the DLR is expected to carry 100 million passengers per year, up from its current annual 70m. To this end, the Olympic Delivery Authority is funding £78 million towards capacity enhancing projects, including co-funding 22 of the 55 new cars. 

New trains and new signalling also ought to reduce chronic peak-time overcrowding on the Victoria Line, the world's first automatic railway that now carries over 630,000 passengers per day. 

However, that's where the hunky dory chunk of the 2010 London rail story ends. High Speed rail, Crossrail, Thameslink, the Jubilee, Northern and North London Line upgrades, fare rises and strike action all point to real rail pain being endured in 2010 before real rail gains are enjoyed. That'll be the theme for the next railway posting from this blog.

Don't forget to have a go at that question and post your answer as a comment: which places in London have at least three railway stations (tube and/or rail) that include the place name? See if you can win the mystery prize. I can hear your minds!

Lower Photo: Artist's impression of new 
East London Line station at Hoxton (c) Transport for London

Thanks also to the artist Ruma Nowaz for pointing out the train photo (Courtesy AP)

Paul Coleman, London, January 2010

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