This post originally appeared as a comment by J M Gold on our recent Cross River Tram piece. It’s rather good and I felt it deserved a bit more attention than that so I’ve reprinted it here with minor alterations (to the links in it) – hopefully the author won’t mind! My own comments are in the “addendum” at the end.

Powers were obtained for the Bakerloo line extension to Camberwell in the 1930s. It is said that when the siding tunnels south of Elephant & Castle were reconstructed as part of the programme to lengthen trains from 6 to 7 cars, there were re-positioned on the Camberwell alignment. However no other work was carried out.

After World War II the project was revived, and the extension appeared on Underground maps. One of which can be found here, said to be from 1949.

Also, the order for 1949 rolling stock – built to augment the 1938 stock fleet – included sufficient cars to provide extra trains for the Camberwell extension.

The sign below (reprinted from here and copyright Alan Lawrence) lists Camberwell. It is clearly in the lower circulating area at one of the tunnel stations north of Paddington, i.e. Warwick Avenue, Maida Vale or Kilburn Park. I quite frequently used the latter and don’t recall seeing this sign – at least not in its photographed state with the masking degraded.

Above the sign is a fluorescent light fitting of the type installed in the 1960s or 1970s, so this gives a clue to the date of the photograph.


With the exception of some sidings beneath Walworth Road and some test tunnelling, no real subsurface work has ever taken place on the Extension. Above ground, a location for the the surface station was apparently selected, before the War intervened.

The image of the announcement board above is, I suspect, from Warwick Avenue – most likely installed when the plan for the extension was briefly revived in the 70s (this time including the possibility of extending further beyond Camberwell to Peckham Rye) but sadly nothing came of it.

The possibility of a Camberwell Extension experienced a brief moment of ressurgence during the later days of Ken Livingstone’s reign as London Mayor in 2006. Livingstone promised a tube to Camberwell “within 20 years” and TfL wanted the extension considered as part of London’s long-term transport plans, but the project has slipped back into obscurity since then.

Now, the chances of seeing Bakerloo Line trains at Camberwell seem less than ever before. Although the area is sorely in need of better transport links, the cost of the Extension would likely prove prohibitive.

Extending the line out further to Lewisham might make a business case for the Extension stronger. This would enable interchanges with National Rail, the DLR and potentially the Croydon Tramlink via Elmers End, but even the benefits of this would be unlikely to outweigh the significant costs building the Extension would require, particularly in the current economic environment.

These days, failed by both the Brown and the Blue (a Victoria line extension is similarly unlikely), those looking to see better tube services in and around the Peckham area may well be better off thinking Black thoughts – with the planned permanent split in the Northern Line moving full steam ahead, the possibility of a southern extension from Kennington is once again being mooted.

Whether this manifests into something more solid, or becomes another phantom project forever giving hope to South London residents, remains to be seen.

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There are 23 comments on this article
  1. Pedantic of Purley says:

    One has to ask the question “what can be achieved by extending the Bakerloo line to Camberwell that can’t be achieved by re-opening Camberwell station on the (now) Thameslink route ?”. And then ask if the former would justify the greatly increased cost.

    As Mike Horne makes clear in his excellent book “The Bakerloo Line – an illustrated history”, the orginal case for extension had very little to do with serving Camberwell and much more to do with building a three platform terminus that could significantly increase line capacity. Remember in those days the Bakerloo had two branches north of Baker Street. That problem was solved by phase one of the Jubilee line.

    So I would consider an extension to Camberwell to be a romantic solution to a non-existant problem.

  2. John Bull says:

    So I would consider an extension to Camberwell to be a romantic solution to a non-existant problem.

    Good god man! Keep your voice down!

    If the Mayor hears that he’ll put it in his next manifesto…

  3. John Bull says:

    back it in his next manifesto”

    (sorry, I’m a bit slow today)

  4. Si Hollett says:

    Camberwell might be skipped, because of the Thameslink station. I think they are still planning the extension – the plan is Hayes via Lewisham, though Bromley North would make more sense.

    Peckham is the current ‘phase 1’ aim, with Lewisham as ‘phase 2’, with taking over the Hayes line as part of that. However the good people of Hayes won’t want a more circuitous route to London, with shorter, less comfortable, trains and no direct link to the city. The Lewisham bottleneck can be solved by a short tunnel (which can be extended to a Crossrail) from the Main Fasts to the Hayes/Main Slow link, with platforms at Lewisham.

  5. Marc M says:

    Surely there is a case for an extension to Camberwell due to the spare capacity at the south of the line (something not true of the victoria or nothern). Camberwell is a poorly served area of London for public transport and there must be a significant surpressed demand for a bakerloo service south of Elephant and Castle. The regeneration benefits for the area coupled with the increased connectivity to jobs in west end IMO make this a desirable plan. In light of the impending cancellation of the cross river tram it would be nice to see TFL do more than talk about this project and carry out a feasability study for this project.

  6. someone says:

    “So I would consider an extension to Camberwell to be a romantic solution to a non-existant problem.”

    Out of interest, are you saying that on the basis of an history book and a map, or as a transport user in that part of London?

  7. Nancy says:

    marc m: I would say that a split and upgraded Northern Line would also have a lot of spare capacity on the southern end.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Both the Northern (Charing Cross branch) and Bakerloo lines have spare capacity to enable a southward extension. The Bakerloo line would be better for a Camberwell – Peckham – Lewisham – Hayes / Beckenham Junction route because it is pointing in the right direction. Transferring the Hayes services to the Bakerloo line will enable the frequency to be increased and will reduce congestion on the London Bridge / Charing Cross lines.

  9. mr_jrt says:

    I would suggest that a Bakerloo station would be the preferable option over the Thameslink station option. Thameslink is a much longer distance service, and the only central London stops IMHO should be major interchanges.

    By virtue of being tube lines, the Bakerloo and Northern CX Branch both have far better potential to serve new markets that could never be served by above-ground rail.

  10. Pedantic of Purley says:

    In answer to anonymous I am answering the question partly as a transport user in that part of London. And I did know the area well. My first job after leaving school was as a conductor on a number 12 bus.

    Even if the area needs transport improvements I would query the need for this expensive solution.

    Now if you were to talk about Peckham then, as others have pointed out, then there may be a case. But why go to Peckham via Camberwell when you can go direct ?

    And Mr Thant was fond of pointing out the futility of schemes proposed because they can be done (e.g. there is spare capacity) as opposed to ones that are recognised as being cost-effective in solving a real problem.

  11. Max Roberts says:

    Pedantic of Purly isn’t being pedantic enough. Surely, the Walworth Road and Peckham Road are amongst the most densely bussed roads in London. If we are looking for worthwhile Underground extensions, this is a good way to prioritise things (of course the A23 corridor Brixton/Brixton Hill/Streatham Hill/Streatham might be more densely bussed, in which case do that one first).

    I am assuming that an 8 Coach Underground train is a better use of resources than the X (6?) buses that it is equivalent to. If not, then maybe we should be thinking about mass bustitution in London, converting rail and Underground routes into bus routes.

    While Pedantic was conducting the 12 (scheduled every 2.5 minutes from Peckham to Oxford Circus, the most frequent rush hour schedule in London when I was using it daily from 1978 to 1985, only the 253 matched it) he might have noticed that the other buses clogging up Peckham Road and/or Walworth Road were mostly serving the West End (36 Victoria, 12 Oxford Circus, 176 Oxford Circus, 171 Kingsway, 68 Kingsway). There are City routes too, but most of the major bus routes go west. A Thameslink station at Camberwell (inconveniently sited) would have awful interchanges to get to the West End. That is the problem with Thameslink, it’s primarily a City/Kings Cross/Airport service. Important destinations, but not necessarily for people at Walworth Road/Peckham Road.

    A lot has to depend on ground conditions in South London, but its not all gravel, as many South Londoners nervously eyeing their Edwardian houses for signs of subsidence will testify. With reasonable ground conditions, Tube construction in the suburbs will be considerably cheaper than Central London:

    Cheaper land prices
    Fewer tall buildings with deep foundations
    Fewer services to divert

    Too many people are assuming that any tube project in London will be full of such feats of engineering as underpinning St Stephen’s Tower, or building vast Underground Citadels (does anyone claim that the modest station at Brixton was inadequate)? That’s what put up the prices per km for the JLE. There was an element of recklessness too. Per km, Line 14 in Paris was half the price of London, and in Madrid the price per km is typically 1/10th the JLE.

  12. Pedantic of Purley says:

    If I see an objective study into the matter which takes into account origin and destination surveys I may well change my mind but until then I will continue to believe that a Bakerloo line tube station at Camberwell is the wrong solution.

    I find it surprising Max of all people falls into the following trap: Lots of passengers between B and C. Therefore we need a better service between B and C. Add the totals. Enough for a train/tram/whatever. Therefore that is the solution. In fact either most people travelling between A and D and just happening to be going through B and C but are only interested in the fastest overall route. Then it turns out many people would still use the bus because the train or underground doesn’t suit them (e.g. their destination was actually East Street market and they are returning with heavy shopping).

    It is Peckham that is the transport black spot that really needs addressing and the Cross River Tram certainly won’t happen soon. Camberwell is not en route to Peckham if extending the Bakerloo line – it is a significant diversion.

    I do wonder if it was only because of the aborted scheme 70 years ago that extending to Camberwell keeps getting suggested. Would anyone starting from scratch really think it is a good idea ?

  13. Max Roberts says:

    If I have fallen into a trap maybe you could expand on why in this particular case my reasoning is incorrect. Perhaps some specific examples of such faulty reasoning applied in the past to disastrous effect would strengthen your case.

    The standard of reasoning looks no worse than your ‘if Camberwell needs a station a Thameslink station will be the perfect solution’ argument. If people wanted to get to parts of London served by Thameslink, there would be a lot more buses going that way. As a conductor on the 12, you knew exactly where passengers were going. Where? You also knew how many passengers were getting on 12 buses and how many were waiting for a different route to somewhere else. How many?

    Granted, for people going from Peckham to Victoria, they are unlikely to get onto a Bakerloo Line train and then change to a bus to get to Victoria, but that option is not where most buses go. Therefore, that direction is not where the demand is. Unless there is something very screwy about the bus routes on offer.

    The reason whay a Camberwell Extension has been proposed is that the area is a major transport interchange, a reasonably substantial shoping area, and lots of people live there (take a look at a 1:25,000 OS map, which shows housing density quite well). It also helps that the Bakerloo Line is pointing towards there, and the alternative direct route to Peckham would miss out on this.

    Really, if there was no case for an Underground extension to Camberwell and then Peckham, and majority demand in the area was for City destinations, the most frequent bus route in London would have been the 63, not the 12.

  14. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Max and I are clearly not going to agree. I can understand his arguments entirely but I regard original and destination surveys to be a much more reliable guide to where the real demand is. That is why I would be prepared to modify my views in the light of evidence.

    There is always a danger of seeing things from one perspective and extrapolating. Of course I may be guilty of this myself.

    One thing that did stick out in my mind though from when I was on route 12 was that a number of times in the evening rush hour we filled up at Oxford Circus, ran full (non-stop) to Elephant and Castle where people started alighting and we lost further passengers down the Walworth Road yet to me it seemed that they would have been much better off getting the Bakerloo line from Oxford Circus. People don’t always want what or behave as you expect.

  15. someone says:

    Peckham Rye is a well served station, and no matter what time of the day I am going through either location, the congestion in Camberwell is always far worse. And given a bus into the west end is never going to be a faster route into the city than a tube line, before even counting rush hour traffic.

    As for Camberwell being “a significant diversion”, that claim beggars belief.

    Elephant (Bakerloo Station Entrance) to Peckham (Aylesham Centre) direct is 1.805 miles.
    Same via Camberwell Green is 2.044 miles.

    (Locations chosen for reference purposes only)

    For the sake of alignment call it an extra mile, hardly significant and in return for which you get to serve a major population centre that is heavily congested.

  16. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Clearly there are those that disagree with me. But if Camberwell is so important why wasn’t Cross River Transit planned to go there either on the way to Peckham (as it is apparently not out of the way) or with a dedicated branch ?

    I think I know the answer I am going to get. Because it will be instead served by the Bakerloo extension to Camberwell !

  17. Pickle says:

    as to using the Hayes line, from my brief research (SL RUS, etc), it would appear the line may have issues around the very busy Lewisham junctions and of course platform capacity and junctions around London Bridge, Charing Cross and Cannon Street.

    Critically, in the line’s favour is that it is currently served by 5 car (20m) class 376, often in pairs, with platform long enough already (a legacy of the early 1990’s Networker programme) for 12 car trains (that the SL RUS wants/is going to introduce).

    Of course frequency is an issue, but like extending the Bakerloo back out to Watford Junction where do the passengers at the outer ex termites like the Hayes line want to go? Surely funnelling them into a tube line will lead them to interchange at already congested Z1 stations ….

  18. someone says:

    The CRT is/was a big component in the redevelopment of the Aylesbury Estate, which was at least part of the reason for it going through Walworth rather than Camberwell.

    How important that was, and what the other reasons were, I do not know. But it would be interesting to find out if anyone else does?

    I would imagine that road capacity and congestion would have been a factor, though. Something which would not apply to the routing of a tube line.

  19. Lee from Blackheath says:

    Don’t give up hope just yet! In the Mayor’s new “Way to Go!” document – seen as a precursor to a full release of his new transport strategy next year – the Mayor moots the idea of reinstating plans for new tunnels to extend the tube into South London – doesn’t explicitly mention the Bakerloo line, but this together with the Northern CHX branch would be the most likely candidates. My guess is next year we will hear of plans to extend to Camberwell, Peckham and Lewisham for sure, with potential for Beckenham, Bromley or Hayes as well. Quite a timely story! Lee

  20. Tripleseis says:

    If the CX Branch is indeed extended this will increase the passenger numbers on the northern line even more because you’re picking up more people from other areas wanting to head to the West End. Then surely this increases the need for the CRT even more to ease pressure off the central section.

  21. Will Mann says:

    Interesting post and comments.

    The one thing I did wonder was what impact the Elephant & Castle regeneration may have on the proposed Bakerloo extension. Then we get into the possibility of private investment, which could bump a scheme right up the pecking order…

  22. Nick Catford says:

    The illuminated sign showing Camberwell was at Maida Vale station and was taken in the 1980s/1990s. I was with Alan when he took the photo. He had seen it while travelling through the station and we returned a few days later to get a picture before it was painted over. Having taken the picture we heard an announcement “will the people taking pictures on the platform please report immediately to the station supervisor”. We jumped on the first train! I would be interested to know where you found the picture. It was on my ‘Underground Archaeology’ web site in the 1990s but that web site was very short lived as I felt my time was better spent working on the Subterranea Britannica web site. There might be more about it on Underground Archaeology if it is archived anywhere. Wayback Machine finds it (sort of) but very few links work. It was

    Nick Catford

  23. Southern Heights says:

    And it has now completely gone….

    Oh the joys of old articles! For what it’s worth: Bakerloo to Bromley North via Peckham, New Cross Gate, Lewisham and Grove Park…

    Camberwell? Well maybe at Albany Road… You can Build the station in Burgess Park….

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