And now for something completely different. Well, almost. The recent RUS defines the Windsor lines as ‘routes via Putney’. To put it another way these are South West Trains routes that originate at Waterloo and turn right after Clapham Junction (as opposed to turning left and going via Wimbledon). Before launching into the issues we need a bit of background understanding. So lets talk about level crossings.

To those building railways in Victorian times, level crossings were wonderful. They saved masses on construction costs and required little more than someone to shut a wooden gate to keep out the pedestrians and horses whilst a train went past. Nearly two centuries later, however, in many cases it is clear what a burden these early cost-saving decisions have become.

It is sometimes difficult for those on lines with few level crossings to realise how critical an issue they can be. This author is primarily a Southern user, for example, and – unless our commentors know otherwise – Southern has none in Greater London and, apart from a couple of them on the Caterham branch, none north of Three Bridges. By way of contrast, the Windsor lines of South West trains can sometimes seems to have an innumerable quantity of them.

[There is apparently one at Mitcham Eastfields that is traversed by Southern – thanks to Simon for that. — JB]

In modern times, level crossings are disliked by the railways for three main reasons:

1) They are expensive to equip, maintain and operate.
2) They are a potential source of accidents. Indeed in recent years they have been a major cause passenger fatalities. They are a particular headache because the reducing the risk is largely outside the control of the industry.
3) On high speed lines they limit the permitted line speed.

Obviously the third reason doesn’t concern us in London and its environs.

One reason not mentioned above was that they limit capacity on the route. This is because generally railways have always had a priority over roads and thus for the railway industry at least this has not been a problem – or rather it hasn’t tended to be a problem until recently. In theory, if the train service was intensive enough to justify it, the railways could quite legitimately leave the barriers down for hours at a time. As it is, as the railways get busier the barriers tend to be down for more minutes in the hour.

Until recently this was mostly regarded as just tough on the motorist. His journey would be delayed for a few minutes that was all. However as the roads get busier, we get into the situation more often where the capacity of the road is reduced to less than the current demand – i.e. the queues would not clear between trains. At this point level crossings start becoming a serious political issue making arguments about the length of the pedestrian phase in London’s traffic lights seem like pleasant light-hearted banter.

In the context of the Windsor Lines, therefore, it becomes important to touch on a scheme called Heathrow Airtrack. We have written on the subject of Airtrack before, and parts of it are highly relevant – even if the scheme never goes ahead.

Airtrack is a plan to provide rail services to Heathrow from the south using a proposed rail link from Staines to the heart of Terminal 5. The platforms at Heathrow were built during the construction of Terminal 5, but the tunnel leading up to it does not yet exist. The original idea was that it would provide a direct rail service from places like Guildford and Reading to Heathrow. During the planning phase, however, it was realised that if the international platforms were to become available at Waterloo and they could find two train paths an hour into Waterloo, then the service would be both more attractive to passengers and give a much better benefit-cost ratio. Network Rail were initially sceptical that these paths could be found, but they were paid to do a full investigation to see what was possible and to their surprise they found that, with nothing more than a recast of the timetable, the two paths could be brought into existence. This was almost like manna from heaven – two extra train paths at no cost other than reorganising the timetable.

It was almost inevitable that, once capacity issues were identifed, making use of these additional train paths would be proposed in the recent RUS. It didn’t matter whether the trains terminated at Heathrow, Reading or elsewhere. Here was a easy solution to a problem.

The only problem here is that Airtrack has aroused considerable opposition, mainly due to the many level crossings affected. In some cases the barriers will be down for 40 minutes in each hour.

The local councils involved are often in a difficult situation. They don’t want more tailbacks. The have to be seen to be supporting local people (the areas affected tend to err towards car-ownership) and yet a lot of these routes are also rat runs – locations where a nice new bridge or tunnel would potentially encourage more traffic, even if it were technically possible and affordable.

In addition to this, the issue is often also one of perception. If the level crossing wasn’t inhibiting the flow, then the traffic throughput wouldn’t increase by much anyway since the capacity would simply be restricted by something else further along the route such as a critical roundabout. One suspects that all Airtrack has really done is bought these local issues to a head, but it is Airtrack that is seen by the local residents as the monster that needs to be slayed.

It was hoped in the early stages that Network Rail could provide some technical innovation to enable the barriers to remain open for slightly longer – enough to compensate for the extra trains. However this has turned out not to be possible. To complicate matters further, some of the critical level crossings are in the constituency of Runymede and Weybridge whose MP, Philip Hammond, just happens to be the Secretary of State for Transport. He has already declared that without a solution to the level crossing issue there will be no Airtrack.

The RUS assumes a lot of things about the Windsor lines. It presumes that 10-car trains will be implemented (which by the way will mean each time they traverse a level crossing the barriers will be down for a few seconds longer). It also presumes that Waterloo international terminal will be used for domestic trains (although this is a fairly safe assumption, because to leave it empty or not use it for railway purposes when the trains are overcrowded would be politically unacceptable). It believes there is still a slight shortfall of capacity which can be resolved by these two extra paths.

It has also identified that if platform 1 at Queenstown Road is reopened and various track layout changes are made there, then it can squeeze in a further train path per hour. If there is high growth the RUS suggests that extending the Windsor line trains to 12 carriages should be looked at, but it notes that only 10 car trains could run to any future service to Terminal 5 due to the length of the platforms which cannot be extended.

So as it stands, there appear to be three possible scenarios:

A) Somehow the level crossing issues are resolved and Airtrack gets built. This provides two trains an hour from Waterloo to Terminal 5 which both increases capacity into Waterloo and provide a service from the south-west London suburbs, including Clapham Junction with a decent service to the heart of Heathrow. This also brings in the other Airtrack services to Reading and Guildford.

B) Two, possibly three, new services an hour are introduced between Waterloo (former international platforms) and a destination beyond Staines as recommended by the RUS. Once this has been implemented, the additional Airtrack paths have effectively been introduced by stealth and it is relatively easy to argue the case for the new railway between Staines and Heathrow providing the money is forthcoming.

C) An attempt is made to add the new services, but this causes a political storm fuelled by accusations of “Airtrack by stealth” (whether true or not) and the new services are not introduced. It is possible that to save face the government opts for extending train lengths to 12 carriages as a way to avoid unpopularity with one side or the other.

Whether Airtrack gets built or not, it seems to have stirred a hornet’s nest. With regards to level crossings, it has certainly brought the issue of car vs train to a head, and hard decisions are going to have to be made. We live in interesting times.

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There are 98 comments on this article
  1. KG says:

    With petrol at £2.00 a litre by Christmas we may see the level crossing problem just go away.

  2. stephenc says:

    How might a tunnel help? What about one from just east of Barnes to just west of Richmond, with no stations (about 2.5 miles). Once the non-stop tunnel was open, you close the line above ground for a year or so while you dig the existing route down into the ground removing three (3!) level crossings.

    This would separate the local traffic from the longer distance stuff, making much better use of the four tracks from Barnes in. The stopping trains from Richmond could be increased to a near-tube frequency, and perhaps diverted to Crossrail 2 after Clapham Junction. Lots of paths are created on the longer distance services, plus a speed-up no doubt.

    While this doesn't solve the Staines-Egham problem directly, by freeing up paths it may be able to bunch trains more effectively, indirectly solving it.

    So, should the RUS have considered this 2.5 mile tunnel?

  3. JulianRudd says:

    This is a very real issue in the Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames.. between Barnes and Richmond stations, there are only 4 road crossings as it is, and 3 of these are level crossings. As it is there can be complete grid-lock in the peak hours, so the prospect of the crossings being down for even longer doesn't bear thinking about!

    Ironically Richmond would probably be a major beneficiary of such a scheme, and I imagine it would be very popular, but there is no question that the impact on the crossings would generate huge resistance…. Does Network Rail have much of a track record of removing level crossings? Tunnelling might be an option in one spot…

  4. Anonymous says:

    Pedantically, it is still only the draft 2nd generation London and South East RUS.

    It is not 'The RUS', it's an RUS…

  5. Cobarn says:

    I would have thought that the idea of a railway cutting the area off would only help and encourage the feeling of a rural village that the people who live there so want to create!

  6. stephenc says:

    Just wanted to correct the tunnel proposal. Its from just east of Barnes to just EAST of Richmond!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Can't they just dig the line between Barnes and Richmond down 3m (diverting trains via Kew in the mean time) so they can replace all the level crossings with bridges (plus some new ones) or cover them over entirely? If they have the money for the rest of airtrack, that short stretch shouldn't be too much of a strain?

  8. Anonymous says:

    A 3m trench? You need about 4m to allow for the train's wheels as well as the body, plus about another metre for the thickness of the bridge deck. So make that 5m…

  9. Anonymous says:

    In Munich they've managed to bury the S8 route (one of two routes out to the airport) through the centres of many of the towns it passes through on the way. It took a while though. But then that's Germany and they can do these things.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Give local buses the ability to overtake the tailback of cars waiting at the lights, so the bus that is always first through. This would tip the balance of some away from car use to buses, and reduce the tailbacks.

    Furthermore, a few cycle-only bridges might tempt others out of cars onto bikes.

  11. Anonymous says:

    May be a silly question but can the roads be turned into bridges or tunnels while leaving the railway intact?

  12. Al says:

    "May be a silly question but can the roads be turned into bridges or tunnels while leaving the railway intact?"

    Take a look for yourself- from Barnes to Richmond are the following crossings (apologies if I get the names wrong)
    White Hart Lane
    Sheen Lane
    Manor Road
    In short: bridges would be very, very difficult.

    Don't forget that any structures over the railway are likely to have be built as if it were a W10 loading gauge, overhead electrified line. Despite it being a passenger only 3rd rail route.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Staines and Egham are just as bad. What is extra irritating for everbody currently is that you can be stuck at a barrier as a train goes by and it stays down for over 5/10 minutes while another one comes from the other direction.

    The line cuts off large residential areas from their town centres and the main roads towards the motorway.

    There are no other routes and bridges are out of the question due to the scale of house demolition.

    If we were in the land of infinite funds, then a new tunneled railway would be ideal.

  14. Lofty says:

    To pick up on a few points mentioned.
    Between Barnes & Richmond there are 4 crossings & 1 bridge.
    The full service could net be diverted via Kew. Apart from leaving 6 stations un-served (including mine) there is not the capacity. There are 4 tracks to Barnes, this becomes 2 x 2 track branches at Barnes.

    Lowering the rails would be difficult due the proximity of housing to the railway. The retaining walls would have to slope, and have some thickness to them.

    Buses could not get to the front of the queue, the roads are too narrow,

    Bridges or tunnels could not be built, not enough space.

    Possible options include:
    Removing just one of the crossings with a bridge, lowering the rails by 2.5m & building a bridge 2.5m high.
    Routing the new service via Kew, rather than Richmond. There are 3 crossings on that route, but they are much further apart

  15. Matt says:

    I used to cycle over one of two of these crossings every day (the one next to Mortlake station, or else the next one to the East, near Barnes).

    It was never a problem for me. The cyclists all go to the front, there were often 5 by the time the train went past. Usually there were only one or two trains, so a 1-2 minute delay.

    The record was seven trains without the barriers raising. Fortunately I was on my way home.

    It does cause congestion, but at least half the "cars" were 4x4s. If people choose to drive that kind of vehicle in London I couldn't care less how long their journey takes.

  16. john b says:

    "If people choose to drive that kind of vehicle in London I couldn't care less how long their journey takes"

    I'd extend that from "a 4×4" to "any private car". Close the level crossings to road traffic completely and tell the lazy sods to get the train instead.

  17. timbeau says:

    Actually four level crossing and two bridges between Barnes and Richmond. One of the bridges is the South Circular Road – looking at the layout there, it seems even this was once a level crossing.

    Giving buses priority would be difficult as most of the roads are not wide enough for a bus lane. And would achieve nothing as TfL has more sense than to try and operate a bus route across any of these crossings*.

    (Bus routes do use the bridges immediately east of Barnes and west of Richmond stations, but none of the crossings in between).

    As for tunnelling, there would be a problem at the Richmond end as the line would have to climb even more sharply than it already does to cross the river.

    An opportunity was missed at Manor Road when the gasworks closed (where Sainsburys now is). The line could have been diverted to the north, parallel to the District Line and then swing back across the gasworks site, so as to cross the road further north, near where the District Line passes underneath the road.

    * on checking, I find this is not quite true. The 969 mobility bus service uses the crossing by Mortlake station. This runs one return trip, on Tuesdays and Fridays only.

  18. greg tingey says:

    In spite of the expense, house-demolitions and bridges are, in fact, the cheapest options.
    But, who will face up to this uncomfortable truth?
    There is another LC where there are problems, near London, apart from those close to Staines – Wokingham …..

    As for the gratuitous comment about "4×4"'s it just shows how ignorant and STUPID some people are.
    I have a "4×4" – a proper Land-Rover. I try not to drive it in London at all, if I can help it – it's for out-of-town trips where the railways don't go, and for hauling loads, without having to hire a van.
    And, of course, I will NEVER need to buy another car, ever.
    DO NOT tar all 4×4's with the same brush, please.
    Oh, and in December, I was able to drive it up hills in Essex, where I couldn't even keep my footing.
    So there.

  19. greg tingey says:

    Second thoughts.
    Why not build NEW bridges, SOMEWHERE ELSE?
    After all, it was possible to afford to build bridges/tunnels all the way between Leyton and Loughton, for the conversion of the GER branch to Epping to the Central line, back in the cash-strapped 30's as part of the "New Works" programme……

    Oh, and "John B"
    Erm – and suppose those people are going in their cars to where there is no convenient public transport?
    I use trains when I can, and cycle when I can, but there are times one NEEDS a car ….

  20. Daddysgadgets says:

    In Japan many urban railways, operating at higher frequencies than the 'Windsor Lines' have had this problem resolved by putting the railway on stilts. In some cases this has been done whilst still operating the original railway underneath. Where there has been no space to expand sideways the conflict between stopping services and fast ones has been overcome by double-decking the line. This has also been done to provide more capacity at stations, Kamata station on the Keikyu Railways being a recent example.

    Despite the difference in culture, outlook and planning rules a solution to a major problem has been found.

  21. Anonymous says:

    1 Please be specific about which RUS you are referring to.

    2 Network Rail has a policy of eliminating level crossings, where possible. They are seen as a dangerous weak point for rail. The number have gradually been reduced on the main inter-city lines. The London suburbs are much more tricky, though probably present greater risks.


  22. The Perfect Trough says:

    Are there any level crossings on the Hounslow route?

    It's slower and misses Richmond, but might be worth pathing some trains that way (maybe the Windsors?)

    I've always thought that if Airtrack services actually stopped at Egham, the locals might be appeased somewhat.

    Richard Hammond seems determined to derail it (mind the pun) though so I don't see it happening. Shame really, as rail to Heathrow should absolutely be encouraged as much as possible.

    Perhaps someone should look at funding the western junction from the Heathrow line towards Slough instead then. Once the GWML is wired, a huge amount of service possibilities arise – especially with bi-mode or Voyagers with an extra Pantograph car…

  23. Pedantic of Purley says:

    The reason that they dropped the proposal for Airtrack to stop at Egham is primarily due to the issue of blocking junctions on the re-instated railway triangle if the trains get extended to 12-carriages. You solve one problem and potentially create another!

  24. Drew says:

    It's not just a case of the level crossings within London on the Hounslow loop / Richmond stretch.

    Outside of London, Egham is a prime example. There are 4 level crossings within a (roughly) 2.5km stretch. It completely severs the town in half as there are no bridges. Telling people to "catch the train" instead or some other similar statement don't get the importance of this. If Airtrack were to go ahead, the level crossings would be down somewhere in the region of 45 mins per hour if I remember correctly. If you want to get your kids to school from one side of town to the other, then tough luck.

    Wokingham (where I used to live) is another example. There is only one level crossing in the middle of town, but it is slap bang on the primary (and only route into Wokingham from the south due to the one-way system – in place due to narrow roads) access from Finchampstead. The area is a hive of traffic at the best of times, and most lorries and buses have to use the level crossing because the bridges aren't high enough for them to go under the car-friendly bridge route. I can remember sitting on the bus at the level crossing for 15-20 minutes sometimes because the barriers never came up.

    Out here on the fringe of London, but outside, trains rarely go where you need them to – unless you are going into London. Don't get me wrong, I'm 100% in favour of Airtrack – it would make my trip to Heathrow a hell of a lot easier, but the level crossings are a real problem. Most towns with level crossings don't have the ability to put road bridges/tunnels in because there are properties either side of the railway with driveways onto the road which would be cut off due to the need for a ramp to get up and over the railway. As far as I see, the only feasible option is altering the railway so it's either on struts/a viaduct as suggested so it goes over the roads, or under them in a deep cutting. Either way, you then have the expense of redoing the stations higher up or lower down.

    And without the Airtrack routes to Reading and Guildford (which pass through Egham, and Wokingham as well for the Reading route) the value for money for the Airtrack scheme evaporates. 🙁

  25. jamesup says:

    The japanese raise the line option sounds sensible, as does an express tunnel for non-stopping services.

    Also, if you did shut it, dig a trench and put in a prefab rail tunnel in sections built off site, you'd open up a good amount of land in a very desirable area – perfect for some high rise housing to fund the scheme!

    Could a toll be introduced to reduce demand for the crossings? 😉

  26. Windsorian says:

    Beside the problem of 15 level crossings, the full Airtrack proposal is now costed at £750M.

    Instead of the endless delays and expensive gold plating, one option is to get BAA to proceed with the extension of HEx from T5 to Staines without further delay.

    This would involve to construction of 2.5 miles (4km) of new line across the virtually unpopulated Stanwell & Staines Moors; the new line is planned to run alongside the M25 transport corridor.

    At present 4 HEx tph terminate at T5; they have a maintenance depot at Old Oak Common; all 4tph could be extended to a rebuilt Staines station.

    The other 3 Airtrack routes, Waterloo/T5, Guildford/T5 and Reading/T5 may then be considered as part of the next SWT franchise.

  27. timbeau says:

    My A to Z shows three level crossings on the Hounslow route, at Vine Road (just west of Barnes station), Grove Park Terrace (Chiswick), and Wood Lane (Isleworth). Two of these have several alternative bridges nearby – the third (Vine Road) is less than fifty yards from one of the crossings on the Richmond line.
    In the days when there were fast and slow services as far as Ascot the fast trains routinely ran non-stop Clapham Junction to Staines, using the Hounslow line. But diverting trains that way means they cannot serve the major centre of Richmond, with its LU and LO connections. Reloacting Gunnersbury and Kew Bridge stations to Strand on the Green to provide an interchange would be a bit expensive.

    Apart from Eastfields, I can't find any level crossing on Southern's or South Eastern's territories within the area of my A to Z, except for those on the Wimbledon/West Croydon line (this edition pre-dates Tramlink!)

    Feltham (also on Airtrack) is interesting: it is the only example I know of a level crossing on a one way street.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Southern trains do have a level crossing north of Three Bridges – it's on the Milton Keynes service that runs up the West London Line, by North Pole Junction. It's only used by lorries taking scrap metal to the vast Willesden Jcn industrial estate, but oddly these lorries seem to enjoy priority over the trains. Every MK service judders through Willesden at about 5mph, then stops to wait for the level crossing, then stops again to switch power mode. (This route has great potential as an "second Thameslink" but seem neglected – would lve to read an article about this line)

  29. KG says:

    Anonymous said…25 March 2011 16:48
    In the early 80s I lived beside the West London Line and was unusual in knowing it existed. There was no sensible service on it.

    I have a 1987 national timetable that devotes a very sparse single page (table 149) to the line. There are a handful of trains from Bromley South, East Croydon or Clapham Junction to Olympia or Watford Junction. 13 one way and 15 the other way on a weekday, seven each way on a Saturday and 3 each way on a Sunday. BR was just not trying.

  30. Mike C says:

    South Eastern has at least one level crossing, between Charlton and Woolwich Dockyard on the North Kent Line, just around the corner from the hallowed turf of The Valley! It's not a particularly busy road though

  31. timbeau says:


    I worked next to the WLL in the late eighties, and I don't think services were that frequent. There were a handful of cross country services (four or five each way) from Manchester to Brighton or Dover which called at Watford Jt, Olympia, and then either Clapham Junction and East Croydon or Bromley South. (it is the withdrawal of the latter which required the infamous ealing-wandsworth Road "parliamemtary" bus service). On top of this was the "Kenny Belle" Olympia/Clapham Junction peak hour shuttle, two each way a day.

  32. Ex Action Town says:

    Having lived next to the northern end of the Hounslow loop (itself the northernmost branch of the Windsor lines) and one of its few level crossings (Grove Park – which also has a pedestrian footbridge) I can confirm popular support for tunneling ALL these lines.

    Recent scary reports from Britons living in Tokyo were obviously not from residents of this part of Chiswick (itself infamous for 'wavy' pavements and continuously rebuilt High Road – which is due to the poorly culverted rivers flowing beneath all the BBC folk – e.g. Stamford Brook).

    This is one of the few places where South London and its trains go north of the Thames.

    As teenagers living on the third floor backing onto the railway, the 'nuclear' trains caused books to fly from their shelves and glasses sitting too near heavy objects on tables to smash, leaving their precious contents in puddles inexorably contaminated by shards of glass. It was very scary and expensive.

    Parts of the Richmond loop were (unusually) bought from a turnpike (rather than a canal), so roads like Worple Way (North and South) in Mortlake although seemingly typically 2up-2down Victorian terraces face a railway rather than a road. It looks bizarre.

    This is the reason for the atypically large amounts of level-crossings on this line. The solution has to be tunelling – a historical and developing British expertise and (relatively) cheap.

  33. David Cantrell says:

    Telling "the lazy sods" to get the train instead really would be very stupid. The poster is obviously not aware that railways and roads which meet at a level crossing generally do so at roughly 90 degrees, and so the train is going in the wrong direction for the journey.

    I do, however, have no sympathy whatsoever for those taking their children to school by car. While there may not be many road bridges, there *are* footbridges and pedestrian underpasses, and I am sure that the last thirty years of evolution since I walked to school have not managed to produce children without legs.

  34. Drew says:


    Out here in the "sticks" (ie. just outside the M25 in prime Airtrack area) schools are often not within walking distance. And school buses are often *highly* expensive.

    Which usually leads to the school run for parents…

  35. Anonymous says:

    Surely the answer is to forget about Waterloo as a central London destination and to extend "Super-Crossrail" from T5 to both Guildford via Woking and Reading via Wokingham. That way you get connectivity to the southwest (i.e. "Airtrack") and avoid clogging up the level crossings in Barnes etc. Or are we unable to think outside and across the Greater London boundary?

  36. yorksranter says:

    The thing about Egham is that it's like a ringworld. You can move along the ring – towards London or towards Reading – very easily. But if you need to move around it, northwards or southwards, gravity is working against you unless you drive (in which case you normally have to use the M25 at some point).

  37. SIMON says:

    Ive never understood why the barriers need to be down for SO long before a train passes.

    I frequently use the Grove Road crossing in Chiswick and the 2 on Bollo Lane, and despite the fact they are all fully barriered (i.e. you couldn't drive over them even if you wanted too) they still close a full 2 or 3 minutes before a train goes by. Why? Surely we have the technology to have level crossing barriers come down just before a train passes and make those barriers more secure somehow? This would be BY FAR the cheapest solution.

  38. Dave B says:

    I suspect the reason why level crossings seem to come down minutes before a train passes is to do with the fixed block signalling system used on most railways.

    The barriers must be programmed to come down when the train is a certain number of blocks away. I suspect this number of blocks is determined by the maximum line speed, not the actual train speed. So barriers will be down for a longer period of time before a Kingston or Hounslow loop train than before a Windsor or Reading train.

    Also, this number of blocks must be an integer, so if the number of blocks determined by the line speed is 2, but the crossing is 0.9blocks from the preceeding signal, then the barriers must come down when the train is 2.9 blocks away. If the train were approaching at half of the maximum line speed, then it would probably be quite safe to bring the barriers down when the train is one block away.

    Can someone who knows more about signalling than I do confirm whether my hunch is correct, and also whether there is a way round this problem without going to moving block signalling? How do they do it in countries like the Netherlands where there are a lot of level crossings on intensively worked lines?

  39. timbeau says:

    These crossings are not automatic, but are operated by the signalman and interlocked with the signals. The signal(s) protecting the crossing cannot be cleared unless the line is clear, i.e the gates are down.
    Signal spacing is arranged such that the fastest train can stop in the distance between two consecutive signals (three if we are in four-aspect territory) This means, in "three aspect" territory, that for an approaching train not to get a yellow aspect, the gates must be down before the train approaches the signal preceding the one actually protecting the crossing.

    There is a particular issue where there is a station right next to the level crossing – not uncommon as stations need to be accessible by road! Mortlake and North Sheen are examples).
    It is usual for there to be a signal at the end of the platform. In some cases, particularly where some trains do not call at the station, the safety overlap beyond that signal extends beyond the level crossing, in which case the crossing has to be clear before the train can pass the preceding signal. This of course means that the gates have to be down before a train can approach the station and, if it is a stopping train, will remain down throughout the time it is standing at the station.
    Some stations have the platforms staggered so that the level crossing is on the approach to both platforms, which reduces this problem. (Mitcham Eastfields is an example)

    At crossings where the "traffic moment" (arithemtical product of rail and road traffic) is low enough, automatic barriers are permitted: these are triggered by an approaching train, at a point somewhat later than that at which the train could stop: it is entirely the responsibility of the road traffic to clear the crossing in time. There is no way any crossing in London would meet the criteria for automatic crossings, they are all operated and monitored remotely from the signalbox controlling the area.

  40. Anonymous says:

    May I suggest another possible outcome?
    D: Airtrack is built, with all trains initially terminating at Staines. These are run as extensions to Connect / HEx / Crossrail. Staines station is rebuilt as an interchange station. Through services are added later.

    The priority is to provide the link to Staines. The level crossing issue, neither easy politically nor cheap technically to solve, needs to be separated from the main priority of establishing the link to the airport.

    Eventually, solutions will be found to the level crossing issues. Perhaps the sheer numbers of local people using the services will overwhelm the voices against. The more people using the AirTrack service, the more valuable technical solutions, such as tunnelling, become.

    Finally, I question the value added of the through service to Waterloo. The AirTrack website claims a 43 minute average service time to Waterloo. TfL’s Journey Planner gives a current best time, admittedly via Heathrow Express, of 38 minutes. Of course, some passengers changing at Clapham Junction might be deterred by a second change at Staines.

  41. Windsorian says:

    @ Anon 31.3.11 10.37

    I think you are repeating my own suggestion 25.3.11 that 4tph HEx should be extended from T5 to a re-built Staines station asap. This could be privately funded by BAA; costed at approx. £100M it is within the BAA contribution proposed for the Airtrack project.

    Because of winter train delays resulting from 3rd rail electrification, it would make sense if the T5 / Staines extension was OHLE.

    All other parts of Airtrack require substantial public investment; surely these should be considered as part of the SWT franchise when it comes up for renewal? I have in the back of my mind the DB Evergreen projects 1,2 & 3.

    When thinking about Airtrack, I have always had in the back of my mind the possibility of extending the T5, Woking, Guildford Airtrack line to Gatwick providing a semi-fast direct link between these two airports.

  42. Anonymous says:

    There's another level crossing used by Southern trains and north of Three Bridges at Ashtead, within the M25 but not in Greater London. Victoria to Dorking trains cross this one and the Mitchan one.

  43. MiaM says:

    How about a resignalling (ERTMS?) where you can set train paths with different speed limits, and let the signalling system use the different max speeds to congrol the level crossings automatically?

    I don't know that much about the AWS (or what it's called) that's used in UK but other ATC/ATP systems (for example in Sweden) have features like telling the train the current line speed and also the distance to the next speed change (downwards) or stop. The train computer knows how the brakes perform, and does an automatic calculation of what maximum speed is acceptable at every moment. If the driver is too close to the absolute max a warning signal sounds, and if the absolute maximum is reached then the train does an automatic emergency break.

    If theese features were part of a two-way communicating signalling system then the train could tell the signalling system exactly when level crossings need to be protected.

    I know that the best solution is to get rid of the level crossings, but IMHO a better signalling system with better ATP/ATC could also improve other things, for example mixing freight and passenger trains on the same route could work better as passenger trains with good brake performance could run closer to each other while freight trains could run at a decent speed if there is enough clearance in front of them.

  44. MiaM says:

    another thing:

    How about connecting the two Windsor branches and change them to a Staines-Paddington service? AFAIK that would give good travel times for all stations on the Windsor riverside branch and it would free up some capacity on the line to Waterloo

  45. Stephen C says:

    Finally got the chance to write up what would be needed to solve the 4 level crossings between Barnes and Richmond properly – . Its not a small scheme, but its not a small problem. The end result of the intervention would be the ability to run a full metro service on both the Hounslow and Richmond routes, with faster services to places beyond Twickenham.

  46. gant75 says:

    It’s definitely cheaper to build road bridges than it is to tunnel a whole railway line, even if you have to pay compensation to the houses which have to be demolished to make way for said bridge, even in Richmond.

    Nor I don’t agree/sympathise with people who suggest the railways should be tunnelled simply because of the noise or vibratations they cause! I would like to think that you noticed the trains before you decided to move in. Tough luck if you ornaments rattle and fall on the floor. Surely with 8 tph or whatever, everything would be broken and that would be the end of it!

    I have commuted on this Windsor line all my life and it is truly dire. Especially on weekends when there is half the cars/coaches/carriages calling at all the stops.

  47. Greg Tingey says:

    Probably the wrong thread for this, but I feel I must pose the question.

    Travelling across Germany last week, I was struck by the number of “LC’s” (level crossings) around.
    Are there comparative figures readily available for incidents, preferably “moderated” for per-1000 kilometres or per-number of train journeys ( or similar) for incidents at LC’s in the UK / France / Germany / Netherlands etc?

    NR are well-known for their desire to remove as many LC’s as possible – there’s quite a few in the London area, anyway … what are the comparatives for other systems?
    And, are Brit drivers/pedestrians more prone to kill themselves through stupidity than elsewhere, or not?

  48. @Greg

    Please write out abbreviations as it is not clear what you are referencing. I took it to mean Lower Catholics. I could be wrong. Besides we don’t do religion on LR.

    [This is quite a common abbreviation in rail-related circles (and Ordnance Survey map users) in the UK, but obviously Mike is right to point out that to other readers it is unclear. I have added the translation (in parentheses) to Greg’s message where he first uses the term – would anyone else using any abbreviation of this type kindly do something similar on its first mention – or, what may be simpler, just use the word(s). We will not discuss the issue of how one writes the plural of such a term, either – attempts to discuss this will be cut without notice.

    (And I have never heard of Lower Catholics, but please would no-one bother to update me on them either). Malcolm]

  49. Sad Fat Dad says:

    Greg, there is data: this is a little out of date but the relative performance still holds

    More recently, in the ORR safety report last year there was a brief comparison.

    You won’t be surprised to see that the UK has the safest level crossings in Europe, albeit it does still have rather a lot of them.

    However, I suspect there is a different cultural attitude in most of the rest of Europe to Level crossing accidents, with more responsibility placed on the road users.

  50. Southern Heights (Light Railway) says:

    @SFD: I don’t think that’s the reason…. The U.K. has “no win, no fee” ambulance chasers……

  51. Southern Heights (Light Railway) says:

    @LBM: Level Crossings….

  52. Greg Tingey says:

    Thank you very much for those links
    Most illuminating
    Actually, I am surprised that the UK comes out so low, given the utterly idiot things both drivers & pedestrians do on LC’s, of all sorts.
    A n other figure leapt out at me:
    The increasing number of suicides – no wonder NR & the “Samaritans” are conducting a campaign ….
    [An interesting observation, perhaps, but one which must definitely not be followed up here. Malcolm]

  53. Timbeau says:

    There may be a cultural thing here. From time immemorial Britons have been used to being completely fenced off from the railways- thanks to early legislation. So we have not been used to looking out for them as we are for road traffic, for instance. This included level crossings, which until the 1960s were all gated.
    On the continent, where they are not fenced off, and insubstantial lifting barriers the only thing stopping incursions on to the track, the locals are more used to living alongside them and having to look out for trains.

  54. Si says:

    “From time immemorial” 12th century railways? 😉

    I’m surprised that the 60s had ungated level crossings introduced – that strikes me as very late and despite the amount of disdain there was for the railways at that point, safety concerns would surely matter by then as you can’t have trains taking out cars*. And presumably this ignores things like Weymouth, etc where railway and road share(d) the same area.

    *though that didn’t stop them building one on the Owestry bypass in the late 80s/early 90s, but then it’s been nearly 30 years and a train has yet to cross it.

  55. @SHLR, Greg

    My point about abbreviations wasn’t clear, my apologies. I did figure out that LC meant level crossing, but the general reader won’t.

    So except for those abbreviations and acronyms in general use and understood by the general public, like TfL, LU, DC, we very much prefer if commentators spell out the phrase, abbreviation or acronym, so that anyone can understand it, not just those of us with special interest in transport and rail.

    Also remember some of us regulars have knowledge in some, but not all areas of transport, so avoiding short forms helps us too.

    We want LR to be accessible to all, not just transport professionals and enthusiasts.


  56. timbeau says:

    By gates I meant as opposed to lifting barriers.

    Tramways like Weymouth required very low speeds, and driving on sight, (and, I seem to recall at Weymouth at least, a man with a flag!) .

    Even the very queitest of country roads would have gated crossings, albeit some were user-operated rather than having a resident keeper.

  57. David Cook says:

    The report into the 1967 accident at Hixon level crossing in Staffordshire contains a lengthy account of the introduction of automatic and remotely controlled crossings
    into the UK. The shortage of individuals willing to work as crossing keepers is given as one reason for the change from manned and gated crossings.

    The report is available on the railway archive website at

  58. John U.K. says:

    @David Cook – 6 September 2016 at 09:28
    The shortage of individuals willing to work as crossing keepers is given as one reason for the change from manned and gated crossings.

    Is that report-speak for
    “A shortage of money to pay crossing-keepers and the potential realisation of assets in sale of crossing-keepers’ cottages.”?

  59. Nameless says:

    Elsie who?

  60. David Cook says:

    @ John U. K. 6th September at 1124

    The cost of paying the wages of crossing keepers is another reason that is quoted in the report.

    According to the British Railways Board’s evidence to the inquiry, the shortage of crossing keepers, which became appparent early in the 1950’s, eased after the Beeching closures began because redundant crossing keepers wanted work.

    Going slightly off topic, the report of the inquiry doesn’t seem to be written in ‘report speak’: the prose style is refreshingly direct and unambiguous. I didn’t read anything about realisation of assets.

    The accident at Hixon was in January 1968, and not 1967.

  61. Anomnibus says:


    It may be hard to believe today, but in the Good Old Days(TM) the old “elevated” subways in New York City, Chicago, etc. that we see in black and white films only had full signalling at junctions. Trains were otherwise operated by line-of-sight on the straight bits. I suspect it helped that they were fully segregated from the roads though.

    Re. Railways & level crossings abroad…

    As far as most people are concerned – and this definitely includes media coverage – if you’re so stupid that you can ignore multiple warning signs, flashing red lights, a ringing bell / siren / beeper *and* the hooting of the rather large and rumbly oncoming train’s horn, (regardless of whether there’s a barrier or not), the gene pool is improved by the removal of your DNA. The British media are in the minority in this regard. If memory serves, only the actual “High Speed” bits of the French TGV network are fully fenced, as are the equivalent sections of Germany’s ICE network.


    One other point worth noting is that, in many countries, new railways were still being built well into the 1930s. The reason for this is simple: the automobile came a lot later to these countries and the railways remained competitive (and cheaper) for much longer than in the UK. In some areas, they still are.

    In Italy, unmade roads were still common well into the 1950s and early ’60s, while the UK was tarmacking roads before WW1. Furthermore, thanks to Thomas Telford’s efforts, the British already had a very good trunk road network before a single motorway was built. (France’s “Route Nationale” network is one of the few other examples I can think of, but even that isn’t quite as comprehensive.)

    That’s why Italians were riding Piaggo’s noddy little Vespa and Ape vehicles while the British were buying Minis.

    My local railway is the “Roma Nord”, one of the two commuter routes between Viterbo and Rome, an as-the-crow-flies distance of just 70 km., though the difficult geography means the railway turns that into 102 km.

    That 102 km includes 250 level crossings. That’s not a typo.

  62. Malcolm says:

    I know that it’s usually meant in a jocular way, but I suggest that commenters remember that, whether it is suicide or carelessness, whenever someone is hurt or killed on a level crossing (or in fact anywhere else) there are always many more people who suffer in addition to the “victim”. Victims own loved ones, bystanders, train drivers, those who have to clear up, the list is quite long. (And could also be extended further to those whose journey is delayed, or who have to pay for extra precautions). So airily referring to the risk as being only borne by “the driver” is rather misleading.

    In addition, when there is a car-driver-caused level crossing accident, it is rarely because the driver “hasn’t noticed” the warnings or the notices. Much more typically, the driver is aware that they should not cross, but expects to “get away with it” because they judge, or guess, that there will be a safety margin and they think they can avoid being delayed by squeezing into the said margin. Experience may well “prove them right”, in the sense that, of people who cross when warning lights are flashing (etc), most do in fact “get away with it”. I (probably like most drivers) have never witnessed a crossing accident, but I have seen many instances of drivers chancing it.

  63. Sad Fat Dad says:

    Unfortunately, most incidents involving injury or worse at level crossings are not at those with flashing lights or sirens (we call them warblers). Most are at footpath or private farm crossings, where the protection is a gate, some signs, and sometimes a telephone if vehicles are expected to cross.

    Also, unfortunately, most incidents do not involve people who are knowingly ‘chancing it’, but those who – apparently – do not know how to use the crossing correctly, or in some cases, do not even realise they are approaching or using a level crossing.

    You then enter the realms of discussion around whose responsibility it is to make all reasonable efforts that crossing users know what (and where) a crossing is and how to use it. In this country, those arguments have been played out in Criminal Courts several times over the past decade, and ‘the railway’ hasn’t come out of it particularly well.

  64. Malcolm says:

    SFD: I rather think you have the knowledge to back up your direct contradiction of my claim about the proportion of incidents caused by “chancing it”. I must admit that this was pure speculation on my part – and apparently wrong.

    Of course (regardless of proportions) I still think it is worth working towards educating these chancers, in addition to whatever is to be done about the people you mention (ignorant or inobservant). But clearly the biggest share of money and effort should go where it is, apparently, most needed.

  65. Sad Fat Dad says:

    Malcolm – I don’t have figures to back up my claim, but it is based on my experience of a decade being involved in level crossings in various roles. I quite agree about educating chancers. Of course there are a lot of incidents of people who ‘chance it’, with automatic half barriered crossings being particularly prone to such abuse. And some of these do lead to collisions; although that doesn’t stop some of the chancers try to claim ignorance when up before the beak.

    The difficulty is that the chancers are quite difficult to educate, except through enforcement, and even then it is similar to trying to enforce some other traffic laws. For example see how many people use their phone whilst driving, or commercial drivers not wearing seat belts. It is also quite difficult to identify (and thus get the message through to) the ‘ignorant or inobservant’ as, they can spend years or decades using crossings apparently normally. Tragically, they only need to be ‘ignorant or inobservant’ the one time.

  66. 100andthirty says:

    Malcolm, SFD….it’s also instructive to read the RAIB reports of level crossing accidents. It’s a lot more complex than than putting things down to carelessness or even recklessness. Even attempts to improve safety can backfire is it leads to the barriers being down for much longer than before*. Also the modern phenomenon of a significant proportion of the population becoming partly deaf (not really – but unaware of ambient sound because of earphones playing music), has been cited as a factor in more than one case.

    * A bit like long times between green traffic lights lead to more people jumping single amber.

  67. Greg Tingey says:

    SFD + CXX
    For (literally) terminal stupidity try this one
    Said Johnsons crossing is now replaced by very expensive footbridge.

    However, I liked this phrase inside said report:
    27/06/2000 – Up direction – Near miss – Near miss with pedestrian. Driver stopped
    and walked back to check person out. Person
    informed of the error of their ways.

    ( ! )

  68. timbeau says:

    “Unfortunately, most incidents involving injury or worse at level crossings are not at those with flashing lights or sirens (we call them warblers). Most are at footpath or private farm crossings, where the protection is a gate, some signs, and sometimes a telephone if vehicles are expected to cross”

    That is because there are so many such minor crossings. The number of incidents at any one crossing will be tiny because of the small number of people using them. The cost of full protection would be prohibitive, so the choice is between an unprotected crossing or no crossing at all.

    Unfortunately in some cases the powers-that-be impose a solution against the interests of the local population. (See Mexico Inn at Long Rock – closed on the strength of one death in its 160 year history).

    See also Lincoln, where a huge project has just been completed (at the council’s expense) to allow closure of a level crossing on a road that has a history going back at least to the Romans and probably longer – reducing the number of roads crossing the railway from north to south within city limits to just two. (There were four before the work started)

  69. Old Buccaneer says:

    Here’s a video of level crossing abuse on the Windsor line, dragging the discussion back from Lincoln & Bishop’s Stortford:

    I find the “closed to road traffic for 45 mins in an hour” claim a bit unlikely, myself. Living locally, I would avoid Vine Road as it has two crossings rather than one, & there are nearby over bridges and a pedestrian/cycle underpass on the Hounslow loop.

    The article illustrates well the current state of public opinion, which I won’t comment on because I can’t remain polite.

  70. Anomnibus says:


    I appreciate your points regarding attitudes to victims and the complexities of user experience design. My point re. the media reporting of such incidents is that they’re treated very matter-of-factly, rarely going any further than the local paper. You don’t get the additional hand-wringing descriptions of distraught family and friends because that’s taken as a given in most cultures. (I find the British press’ insistence on asking victims’ friends and relatives stupid questions like “How do you feel?” particularly ghoulish and tasteless. It also reflects very poorly on the reporter’s observational skills.)

    My local railway’s unusually large number of level crossings (most are unprotected, and the quality of the signage on my local line is shockingly poor even by Italian standards) unsurprisingly sees a number of crossing-related incidents each year. However, that high frequency of crossings also means the trains rarely manage to get above 40 km / hr., so deaths are extremely rare. In fact, the biggest problem with the line is its dilapidation and poor maintenance: derailments happen with surprising frequency now.

    (The high number of crossings is due primarily to the railway’s history: it was converted from a metre-gauge tram that used to run on-street for most of its length. The new railway was simply built right alongside the same roads, so it’s very much an unusual case. Most Italian railways are substantially saner in design.)

    The overhead power wires do make even minor single-track lines such as this one very visible even from a distance. Italy’s rail network was almost entirely electrified in the early 20th century, mainly because the country has no major sources of coal or oil of its own and electricity is easier to import and distribute. The network 90%(-ish) electrified, while the UK is, if memory serves, closer to 40%, so Italians know to associate those very visible overhead wires and masts with trains. You most definitely know there’s a level crossing on the road ahead, whether it’s a country lane or an urban street. Trams also have a similar visibility advantage.

    Returning to the original topic: the SWML is electrified using the 3rd-rail system, which is no more visible than the running rails themselves, so it’s easier to understand the need for very visible barriers as well as the son et lumiére show needed at the level crossings. Not only are the trains also quieter and very frequent, but the urban sprawl they’re travelling through means even the train’s horn can be difficult to hear on a busy day. (By contrast, the trains on my local line can be heard screeching from well over 2-3 km away, but most of the line is rural.)

    I would not be surprised if this visibility plays a part in some level crossing accidents in the UK on lines that have little visible infrastructure above ground level.

  71. timbeau says:

    @Old Bucaneer
    “I find the “closed to road traffic for 45 mins in an hour” claim a bit unlikely, myself. ”

    I don’t. The busier of the two lines crossing Vine Road carries an off peak service of eight trains an hour each way, and twelve in the peaks. Assuming the gates are down for two minutes for each train, and with no duplication, that’s 36 minutes per hour off peak and 48 in the peak that the gates would be closed. The actual claim in the article (that the crossing was closed for 45 minutes continuously) is a bit more far-fetched.

    (In practice the gates may be down for longer than two minutes at a time, as a second train may be coming, but such duplication actually reduces the total down time. You may also have to wait longer than two minutes if the traffic queue doesn’t clear before the gates fall again.)

    On the day in question, I understand trains were being reversed at the adjacent station at Barnes and this may have resulted in longer waits as trains would have been moving more slowly and therefore taking longer to clear the crossings.

    Motor traffic has the option of the A219 Rocks Lane, which is carried over the railway at the other end of the station, but it’s a bit of a trek on foot.

  72. timbeau says:

    “I would not be surprised if this visibility plays a part in some level crossing accidents in the UK on lines that have little visible infrastructure above ground level.”

    Possibly true for the highly publicised incidents involving vehicles, but most level crossing incidents involve pedestrians, who are much closer to the track (and further from any overhead cabling), and must surely be fully aware that they are crossing a railway line.

  73. Anomnibus says:


    I was indeed thinking of drivers rather than pedestrians.

    I await news of the first Pokémon Go addict to be hit by a train while trying to collect a virtual toy with a cynical sense of inevitability.

  74. ngh says:

    Re Timbeau,

    The reversing moves in Barnes can require the one of Vine LCs to be down to allow a route to be set so quite plausible. A 500m diversion via footpaths on the Common and Rocks lane is far quicker than that wait…

  75. Malcolm says:

    ngh: but of course those who wait do not know (initially) how long they will have to wait for. Almost anyone who can manage the diversion would choose it if they knew that the wait was going to be 45 minutes (or even 20), but for all a bystander (unless unusually well-informed about train movements) knows, there may be only a minute or two to wait.

  76. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Anomnibus – I think you may be unaware of media coverage of crossing incidents in the UK. They’re not just covered by local papers. A reasonable proportion hit local television news and national news. The incident a number of years ago on the Bishops Stortford line has been referred to multiple times on BBC London News either in direct context or as a corollary to something similar elsewhere. Network Rail have also run a series of adverts on TV, in cinemas and via social media to try to deal with the types of incidents SFD directly referenced. Whether we like it or not there is now something of a culture of “it’s always “authority’s fault” in that someone bigger and richer and more powerful than an individual is to blame. That’s not me moaning or wanting the return of decades past – it’s just where we are today. As SFD has said Network Rail has found itself on the wrong end of a number of issues related to level crossing regardless of any alleged or actual idiocy on the part of individuals.

    IIRC level crossings are now the highest risk event that NR are now trying to manage. That’s ahead of death and injury to passengers, their workforce, platform / train interface, infrastructure collapse etc etc. I believe that is quite a change in a relatively short time period and may well be the result of improved safety in other areas resulting in a shifting in the rankings as much as it is anything to do with a worsening trend at level crossings. As we keep being painfully reminded the UK is not like the rest of Europe!

  77. timbeau says:

    “Network Rail has found itself on the wrong end of a number of issues related to level crossing regardless of any alleged or actual idiocy on the part of individuals. ”

    The analogy with crossing a road is often presented (how much care would you exercise when crossing the road?) but the public are much more used to this. There are three key differences – and these apply whether you are on foot, or in a motor vehicle entering or crossing another road:
    – Trains go much faster than cars: faster even than a 70mph dual carriageway, and few people cross those on foot. As a driver, negotiating one of the few remaining junctions which involve crossing a gap in the central reservation of a 70mph dual carriageway can be a heart-in-the-mouth experience.
    – When crossing a busy road you have to actively look for a gap in the traffic, but trains are infrequent – even on the busiest lines, nineteen times out of twenty you can cross a railway without even seeing a train, let alone being hit by one.
    – Trains can’t take any effective avoiding action – such as changing lane or making any significant change in speed.

  78. Old Buccaneer says:

    The Vine Road crossings were in the “top 20” most abused crossings in UK in 2010 (source: Richmond & Twickenham Times). A quirk of geography is that Vine Rd & Rocks Lane are the only ways for cars to get off the Barnes peninsula going South. The “moment” (train movements ×road movements) would be quite high but the costs of mitigation would also be quite high, so it’s probably hard to get a positive BCR. I note that the new footbridge at Bishop’s Stortford was quoted at pounds 0.9mn in the RAIB (accident investigators’) report so 2.5mn for two in Vine Rd feels roughly right. You’d need to spend more to appease the cycling lobby, but there’s some surplus-looking railway land, containing a redundant signal box and a very-much-live electricity feeder station.

    A road bridge looks harder; Vine Rd is bordered by common land & a few houses that look expensive even by SW London standards; the locals quickly get “up in arms” about encroachment to the common and are articulate & organised.

  79. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Old Buccaneer – your final sentence therefore leaves the locals with an issue doesn’t it? If you won’t allow any improvement works to take place because a blade of grass might be lost then learn to live with the ensuing delays and congestion and stop moaning. I detest “cake and eat it” syndrome. “wah wah moan moan do something” “here’s our plan for improvement” “hate it, go away, you’re doing not that” “we’re sorry but that’s the only viable and affordable plan” “wah wah etc etc”.

  80. ngh says:

    Re OB,

    What about Queens Ride (i.e. the Marc Bolan Bridge) and White Heart Lane as other alternatives to the South which I have both used in the last fortnight. (Never used Vine Rd though).

    Re OB and WW,

    Road tunnel would be better option for Vine and would keep the locals happier.

  81. Malcolm says:

    WW: nice try, but in reality there is no such thing as “the locals” with a single view. In a case like this, there will be some locals who are very keen on the improvement, and some who are vehemently opposed. Yes, it will not be possible to please everyone, but this is not a case of “cake and eat it” syndrome, as there is no individual who wants to do both.

    Rather than a cake it is more like a big packet of biscuits, which can either be kept, sealed, for a long time, or opened, but if opened they must all be eaten or they will go soft. Nobody can have a biscuit unless we all get one.

  82. Walthamstow Writer says:

    Equally nice try Malcolm but OB defined the locals as those who object and who are vocal and organised. We all know that such groups get their way because they have connections to politicians and those in power. However they will be equally adept at complaining about the prevailing circumstances such as congestion and pollution but conveniently forget that their own objections prevent a solution. I’ve been “on the end” of such issues tasked with sorting them out and, being polite, it’s a pain in the posterior because nothing is ever right, done quickly enough etc etc and there is absolutely no recognition of efforts being made, the fact the real world can be difficult / involved / complex and that their expectations are wholly unrealistic and all of that is before you get to whether there’s any money to actually do anything or anyone willing / able to release some money. Perhaps I’m just jaundiced in my opinions but I’ve very little time for such ungrateful and demanding people.

    I’ll desist from biscuit and cake analogies because I’ll just get hungry and want to EAT THEM ALL. COOOKIES. 😉 🙂 Goes in search of the biscuit cupboard ….

  83. Malcolm says:

    WW: Well OK. If we are talking about an organised group, then the phenomenon you describe could well happen, and it is clearly your experience that in some cases, maybe many, it does. And if/when the people in question are as unpleasant, demanding and so forth as you describe, then they are clearly at fault.

    But splits in local opinion can surely also happen at other times, where those whose house (or favourite park) is going to be overshadowed by a thumping great ramp are on one side, and those just round the corner, whose daily commute or school run is throttled by evershut crossing gates, are on the other. In such a situation, some outside body just has to take a decision. And quite possibly members of both the losing and the winning side can be as unpleasant/ungrateful as you describe.

  84. timbeau says:

    White Hart Lane also has a level crossing, as does the next crossing of the railway at Mortlake station. Moreover, both of these these involve detours to the west. If you want to go south, having crossed the railway you then have to go back east to the Red Rover Junction (the A306, continuation of Rocks Lane), or circumnavigate Richmond Park.
    If you deviate to the east, Queens Ride will also take you back to the Red Rover, so involves a dog leg. West Putney has been made deliberately impenetrable to deter rat running, so there is no other way south until you reach Putney High Street (the A219 – I was mistaken in identifying Rocks Lane as having that number in my earlier comment).

    Now, the good folk of Barnes cannot really complain about their isolation as the railway has been there at least 100 years longer than most of its inhabitants (it opened in 1846) indeed some would say it is what gives Barnes its distinctive village character. But they may object to an increase in the train services making them even more isolated – especially given the recurrent troubles at Hammersmith Bridge – the only way off the Barnes peninsula to the north.
    (They are similarly vociferous about proposed expansion of Heathrow – although most residents must have moved in since 1946, and will have known it was under the flight path, that doesn’t mean they want any more planes flying overhead than they already have!)

  85. Old Buccaneer says:

    All since 1941 yesterday: fair points. I was thinking of the “Barnes peninsula” as bounded by the junction of Lower Richmond Rd & Queens’ Ride to the east & Barnes Bridge station to the West, so not including White Hart Lane. Timbeau @ 0048 has it roughly right on the Putney side, but beware the sleeping policemen on the little road parallel to Rocks Lane! A little further east, Erpingham/Dryburgh can also work, but beware the time-limited “No Entry” signs – a great money spinner for Wandsworth Borough Council, allegedly.

    I like the idea of a tunnel at Vine Rd but would note that it’s fairly low lying & proximate to the Beverly Brook, so I guess the water table’s fairly high. Not insuperable.

    I wasn’t seeking to be unnecessarily beastly about the denizens of Barnes, just seeking to give a generic ‘here be dragons’ warning. Suitably equipped & prepared, one can defeat dragons; & it seems WW has been, understandably, scarred by successful campaigns.

    On Heathrow, the local MPs are Ms Greening the Secretary of State for Education (Putney) & Mr Goldsmith, erstwhile Green & runner-up in the recent Mayoral election (Richmond Park).

    Lastly, I reckon it’s more of a problem in peak hours for obvious reasons, so there probably ought to be a limit on what one’s prepared to spend in mitigation.

  86. Sad Fat Dad says:

    Malcolm, WW, re having your cake / cookies and eating it:

    One is reminded of the scene in Gavin and Stacey where Gav’s mother is trying to organise a local protest against a new phone mast, but gets cross that she can’t make calls because she has no signal…

  87. ngh says:

    I had the Erpingham/Dryburgh reinstated rat run (barrier padlocked out of the way) in mind for Queens Ride /Mill Hill.

    The lights at Castlenau /Lonsdale and Castlenau / Rocks / Church etc are biased in favour of Barnes Village residents so White Heart Lane LC can make sense going North over Hammersmith.

    Hammersmith Bridge is going to get properly* sorted for the first time in it history imminently (final survey done in May this year) so expect lots of aggrieved and isolated Barnes Residents as it is being done by H&F council.

    *Properly = not like for like replacement the deck of railway sleeper dimensioned (but longer) timbers and coated plywood road surface but suspension chains repaired and steel decked with an increased 18t limit which is going to make it much more popular especially with the width restrictors and associated bus bypass traffic lights and barriers going.

  88. Anomnibus says:

    Couldn’t the railway be raised, rather than dropped into a more expensive tunnel? You could drill the piles in alongside the operating railway over a number of late evening / weekend possessions, and even cast the new viaduct deck on top while still running the trains. And not having to dig under existing roads means no worries about having to relocate services.

    With a suitably designed viaduct, the old track bed could be repurposed as a cycling and walking route, so two bangs for the buck.

    Granted, there are some property owners that won’t appreciate a long concrete viaduct looming over their gardens, but in situations like this, it’s impossible to please everyone. “The needs of the many”, etc. And, of course, there’d no longer be the endless bleeping refrains from the level crossings, so that’s a plus.

    Time it all to coincide with a major redevelopment or regeneration project and you could even get a new station or two in the bargain.


    If a tunnel is the only option acceptable to locals, do the above, but use temporary structures for the viaduct (and no stations; it’s just there to allow services to continue to operate during the work, serving a similar purpose to the steel ‘umbrella’ used to build the ticket office at Oxford Circus). This gets you access to the track bed, where you can dig down and build your tunnel.

    You could pile and build the concrete side walls first, plant the temporary viaduct supports on top, build the viaduct, then dig down between those new walls to complete the new tunnel, drop in the tracks, divert the trains from the viaduct, and dismantle the latter and take its components to the next job.

    (Of course, one could just convert it all to light rail instead. This takes over the “slow” services, with a new tunnel and a handful of stations serving only the major centres providing the heavy rail (“fast” / “semi-fast”) services, but I’ll leave that to the chap over there with the Crayolas.)

  89. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ OB – not “scarred”. Perhaps the term is “suitably educated about human nature”? Obviously my character comes into play too – my tolerance for poor behaviour from those who do / should know better is not very high. Anyway enough about me. 😉

  90. Herned says:

    Re Vine Road, couldn’t a much simpler solution be to widen Station Road and improve the junction with Rocks Lane, and send all the traffic that way? It’s only 300m further round that way. A footbridge could then be put in place of the crossing. And you could even remove Vine Road north of the railway, so there was no net loss of green space

  91. ap says:

    If you are using maps to comment on the Vine Road crossings you may not be aware that for the past few years the Red Rover junction has been no right turn (except for buses) from Rocks Lane into the westbound Upper Richmond Road.

    Ironically that has only encouraged use of the humped Common Road. Now the Council is proposing blocking that off all together.

    Importantly if the level crossings were to be closed there would be no vehicle access to the council owned Vine Road recreation ground between the two railway tracks.

  92. John U.K. says:

    @ ap – 8 September 2016 at 14:02
    If you are using maps to comment on the Vine Road crossings you may not be aware that for the past few years the Red Rover junction has been no right turn (except for buses) from Rocks Lane into the westbound Upper Richmond Road.
    Ironically that has only encouraged use of the humped Common Road. Now the Council is proposing blocking that off all together.

    AFAIK it is still possible to reach the westbound U.R.Rd. by turning left, then right and right again around the triangular island.

  93. timbeau says:

    Not only possible, but signposted (East Sheen),-0.2433047,3a,15y,176.75h,90.91t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sPdTRYmfzk9wsVO3S7nsEtA!2e0!5s20150701T000000!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1

    Vehicle access could be arranged to the other end of the recreation ground if it were that important. The biggest opponents to closure of any level crossing would be the people living on other nearby roads that cross the railway. Conversely, they would also be the biggest supporters of replacing such a crossing with a bridge.

  94. John U.K. says:

    It really needs signposting before the road splits into three lanes, as all to easy to commit intuitively to the r-h lane before noticing the sign.

  95. Old Buccaneer says:

    @WW I’m sympathetic. & have a similarly low threshold. “But enough about me”.😉

  96. Fandroid says:

    If the common at Barnes is legally registered common land then if any of it would be needed to create a bridge or tunnel the land taken must be replaced by an equivalent piece of land. And ‘equivalent’ doesn’t mean just the same square area but must be local and of equivalent quality too. The surviving commons in and around London are only there because of hard-fought battles in the past against property developers. The collective memory goes way beyond ‘the locals’ and ‘a few blades of grass’.

  97. Greg Tingey says:

    Shades of the Department of Roads (*cough*) vs The Corporation over the building of the M25 through Epping Forest …..

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