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.