Dan Coombs, writing in the “Uxbridge Gazette” reports the aspirations of Hillingdon Council to extend the Central Line from West Ruislip to join the Metropolitan Line to Uxbridge between Ruislip and Ickenham.
HILLINGDON Council is to lobby TfL to have the Central underground line extended from West Ruislip to Uxbridge.
The reasoning behind the plans is that having the line will cut traffic on the A40 and the Uxbridge Road, both serving ‘a key transport corridor’ to Ealing.
Uxbridge is currently served by two underground lines, the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines, and it would be logistically simple to extend the Central line track to link from its terminal in West Ruislip into Ickenham station.
For the plan to become possible, Hillingdon Council must convince TfL there is a business case, and fear it could take 10 years to come to fruition.
Councillor Douglas Mills, cabinet member for improvements, partnerships and community safety (Con), said: “We are realistic, it is not going to be done overnight, but we have already held a couple of meetings with TfL about it. We feel that compared to other metropolitan town centres in London, such as Kingston, Uxbridge could be better served by the tube. TfL feel at the moment the business case is weak, and it is up to us to build it up.
“As the landscape of Uxbridge changes, as homes on RAF Uxbridge are built, this will change, and the need will grow. There is a strong argument that it will reduce traffic on the Uxbridge Road and the A40. This is if you look at where the Central line serves, places in Ealing, and reducing traffic is a long term objective of ours.”
The Central Line serves West Ruislip, Ruislip Gardens, South Ruislip, Northolt, Greenford, Perivale, Hanger Lane, Ealing Broadway, North Acton, and West Acton, White City, and Shepherds Bush, before extending into central and east London.
“In terms of land, there is no HS2 like problem of it going through back gardens or houses, but it is a bit more complicated than simply putting in a set of new points at West Ruislip.”
TfL has told the council the whole project will only become viable, once upgrades to the signalling system on the Metropolitan Line is complete, which the Gazette has previously revealed could take up to 2017.
Councillor Mills added: “The current Central Line trains will not work on the existing track and with the signalling system the Met line uses, so that will have to be finished first. But we feel within 10 years we can make it happen. First a more pressing issue is the re-introduction of a north to south borough bus route, which TfL pulled the plug on last year.”
The project was stopped mid-consultation last year because of financial pressures, but the council feel now is the right time to reignite the project, for a service the east-west centred transport in Hillingdon vitally needs.
MP John Randall, Uxbridge and South Ruislip representative (Con), said: “This has been raised before, and I support the idea, I think it would be of fantastic benefit to Uxbridge, and could bring more employment to the town.”
At first sight this seems quite straightforward but, as Hillingdon Council and TfL get into these ideas, complexities seem sure to arise.
Ruislip Depot lies to the south west of the Central Line’s West Ruislip branch and the Great Western and Great Central 1903 Joint Line from Old Oak Common and Neasden to High Wycombe. It is bordered to the North West by the Metropolitan line’s Harrow on the Hill to Uxbridge branch. The depot was built as part of the western extension of the Central line from North Acton. In 1936, as part of the New Works Programme, Parliamentary authority had been granted for the two additional tracks from North Acton to West Ruislip. In 1937, further powers were obtained to extend from West Ruislip to Denham although, like the Northern line extension beyond Edgware, these were subsequently allowed to lapse.
Construction began and the depot was virtually complete by July 1940. At that date the Ministry of Transport decided to suspend the both the eastern and western extensions of the Central pending the end of hostilities. The facility did not, however, stand idle as it was taken over by the Birmingham Small Arms Company – BSA (later famed for their motor bikes) for the manufacture of anti-aircraft guns. It was returned to London Transport in 1945 and in 1948 the line to West Ruislip was opened.
The Metropolitan line from Harrow on the Hill to Uxbridge had opened on the 4th July 1904. The section of line from South Harrow to Rayners Lane had been used as a test track for the Metropolitan’s first electric trains. Services to and from Baker Street were introduced. The Metropolitan Railway Country Estates Ltd, the creators of “Metroland” vigorously promoted new development alongside the branch, Early traffic and property development results were, however, disappointing such that in 1908 through trains to Baker Street were removed leaving the line served by a shuttle service. In 1903 a connection at Rayners Lane was made by the Metropolitan’s rival and inner city collaborator, the Metropolitan District Railway, as part of its extension from North Ealing but (no doubt discouraged by the limited traffic prospects) no District trains ran beyond South Harrow until 1910. Piccadilly Line trains subsequently took over from the District running through to Uxbridge from Rayners Lane on the 23rd October 1933.
As the Ordnance Survey Map shows, there is already an existing connection between the Central Line and the Metropolitan line’s Uxbridge Branch. The City end entry to West Ruislip depot diverges just to the north of Ruislip Gardens Station and the link route runs along the south westerly side of the depot. Somewhat surprisingly this link was not put until 1973 and is only used by permanent way vehicles.
As can been seen from the picture below, taken by a police helicopter, of the London end of Ruislip Depot, the connecting single track link from the Central Line depot runs to the rear of the roads 64 – 70 occupied by the high visibility livered battery electric permanent way locomotives.
It may well be possible to adapt the alignment to allow Central Line trains to take a short cut through the depot. This would not be the first instance of passengers riding through a depot, as northbound Bakerloo passengers nip through the north shed at Queens Park on their way to join the L&NWR New Line at the far end of the shed. Sidings exist alongside the Ruislip chord for most of the route through the depot allowing a double track connection to be built, but at the Metropolitan end only a reversing siding leading to a facing crossover towards Ruislip’s Metropolitan station is in place
Difficulties that might be encountered include questions of capacity at Charles Holden’s three platform station at Uxbridge particularly at peak times. There is also the issue of compatibility between rolling stock signalling and control systems or the Metropolitan, Piccadilly and Central lines. This in turn hinges on the state of technological maturity of various elements on each line – rolling stock renewal and signalling renewal are intimately connected and hence have to be aligned. Even the same type of rolling stock may not be compatible – for example, it is not possible to run the Waterloo and City stock which is not fitted with Automatic Train Operation ATO on the Central Line which is.
Eventually it will all come down to the business case, during which the scheme and alternatives could be considered. If it is decided that improving access to Uxbridge and A40 corridor residents to the Central Line is the overall name of the game then perhaps it might be time to dust off an earlier scheme for a new joint Piccadilly/Central line station at Park Royal – but that is another story…