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The link across London would provide through trains, cut-out inconvenient interchanges between train and underground or taxi, and thus save valuable time. It would help commuters from the outer suburbs of London and Inter-City travellers alike. It would make a journey from Peterborough to Portsmouth or Watford to Woking as straightforward as the London Underground already makes a ride from Barnet to Balham.

We are publishing this during difficult economic times for the country. But it is essential to maintain the impetus of forward thinking as part of [our] strategy for changing our services to meet new demands.

- Peter Parker, British Railways Board Chairman.

As many regular readers will already know, Crossrail is not a new idea. Indeed, the first mention of the name “Crossrail” appears in the 1974 London Rail Study Report. Since then many schemes of varying style and substance have been attached to the name, ultimately culminating in the version we are now seeing built.

One of the more fascinating possibilities never to arise appeared in 1980 (with a prospective target opening of 1991), when the British Railways Board published a discussion paper on the scheme for public consumption. The scheme was costed at £330m +/- 30% (in 1979 prices) and was seen as a relatively economical way of getting a North – South through option.

After disregarding an orbital option (but recognising the future value of the West London Line to freight), the scheme focused on linking the existing infrastructure north and south of London, possibly via a deepbore tunnel beneath the centre of the capital. Overall the basic objective was the same – to create a route that would allow existing Rolling Stock to be used to link the differing British Rail areas and run a variety of through or reduced-change services.

Three routes were looked at in order to achieve this. The first of these was to make use of the then-unused route between Blackfriars – Kings Cross (which would later reopen after the Moorgate electrification) but this was determined to be too expensive an option, and one not necessarily practical due to the difficulty of finding appropriate routes into Blackfriars.

The second and third options thus focused on more direct means of moving railway traffic north to south – a deep bore tunnel. Both these options suggested starting at Clapham Junction and then heading down beneath the river to a deep level station at Victoria. From there, however, the two options diverged. One looked at heading west to Paddington, while the other suggested heading up to Euston, where connections with the various mainlines in the Euston/Kings Cross area could be made.

Ultimately, it was the final of these options that was considered the optimal one and a feasability study was conducted. Starting from Clapham Junction, the line would head underground at Battersea Wharf. There would be a deep-level station at Victoria with four platforms which would need to be “capable of taking the longest tnter-city trains.” A matching four platform, deep level station would be built at Euston and the scheme also included provision for a travelator connection between Euston and Kings Cross. At both Euston and Victoria, the connections with the existing stations would be behind the barriers to facilitate interchanging with other services. Interestingly (and a sign of just how much communication has changed in the last thirty years), there would be provision at the new Euston low-level station for parcel handling.

North of Euston, tunnels would connect to the Euston main line, Kings Cross main line and Midland main line, whilst upgrading the existing line between Acton and Willesden would enable connections through there as well.

In terms of services, it was anticipated that the route would provide a wide variety of options for possible connecting services from the likes of Leicester, Leeds, York, Birmingham and Manchester with Southampton, Brighton, Dover and the Medway Towns. The diagram below gives an idea as to to the various connections envisioned.

In rolling stock terms, British Rail anticipated that most of the new connections could be serviced by existing or planned InterCity stock. The ill-fated InterCity APT, British Rail’s troublesome attempt at a tilting train was considered a possibility for services on the route.

An artist’s impression of the APT at East Croydon

Ultimately, the 1980 scheme is an interesting look at what might have been. Whilst a very different scheme from that which we now call Crossrail today, it was seen as needing to meet objectives not massively dissimilar. Indeed many of the external factors British Rail thought the scheme might need to interface with also look familiar – a then-prospective Channel Tunnel link gains a mention, with this Cross-London scheme seen as potentially opening up options for a Channel Tunnel connection to arrive into London at Victoria. The need for the scheme to potentially connect through to Heathrow Airport is also mentioned. British Rail also suggested that this scheme might relieve future congestion on the Underground, something that is very much an objective of Crossrail today.

Overall then, whilst the vision of Crossrail presented here is very different from that which we will see in times to come, it does nicely highlight that deep down often our basic transport needs don’t really change much at all.

You can read more about the 1980 proposal in the scanned pdf here.

Enormous thanks to Max Roberts for digging out the public brochure for this scheme and for scanning it in so that it’d be available to us.

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There are 35 comments on this article
  1. Paul says:

    Aside from through journey opportunities, a key objective of these schemes (later realised through Thameslink) was to free up precious terminal capacity on the surface.

    Such a pity that the Crossrail under construction today is, as planned, going to roundly fail to do either.

  2. John Bull says:

    Aside from through journey opportunities, a key objective of these schemes (later realised through Thameslink) was to free up precious terminal capacity on the surface.

    The electrification implications a route like this would have had are also interesting when you think about it.

  3. mr_jrt says:

    Great article. A number of points spring to mind, first up is that I would have preferred a new bore for Thameslink, leaving the widened lines for SSL use. The line speed would also probably have been far higher than the crawl that Thameslink currently manages.

    Also, I'd think that Euston to Waterloo would be more useful given the proximity of Waterloo to the central area. Interestingly, the maps don't show Marylebone – I'd have paired this up to Victoria, though there is some merit in the notion of a link to Paddington as well, given the capacity issues at Marylebone.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Paul @ 2311

    Surely the Crossrail that's being built does free up terminal capacity, albeit on the slow lines – at both Liverpool St and Paddington? Once that's done the track layouts and platforms can be altered to provide more capacity on fast/main line services if necessary.

  5. darryl says:

    Interestingly, the maps don't show Marylebone

    - wasn't Marylebone slated for closure at that time?

    At what stage was the thinking for a Channel Tunnel at that time? Obviously it came between the 70s scheme and Eurotunnel, but this doesn't look like it would have held up to any proper international traffic. (A bit like HS2…)

  6. Max Roberts says:

    Anonymous, that is the problem with the current Crossrail. Long distance trains traditionally have a longer layover than short distance trains, and at Liverpool Street, it is the long distance lines (23 tph peak last time I looked) that are at capacity and using up precious terminal space, not the slow lines (14 tph peak). Then at Paddington, with turnarounds there, Crossrail actually creates terminal deadtime facing Paddington terminators from the West

    With GWR electrification, we need to consider the possibility that Southend to Oxford, Ipswich to Bristol, and Maidstone to Milton Keynes might be better uses for this asset, just like Thameslink is becoming primarily a mid-distance line, and BR envisaged their tunnel as being for Inter-City traffic.

  7. T33 says:

    Max – Thameslink's problems are because it is a long distance route. In central London it is trying to be a Metro train and then it is an outer suburban train and eventually it is a long distance train.

    I wonder if some of the delays on the ordering of stock is trying to satisfy all these provisions in a single unit (Obviously a good portion of delay is DaFT and money)

    Crossrail is a metro train from one end to the other and thus benefits from being clearly defined.

    Victoria to Paddington and Marylebone would be interesting but I agree with Mr JRT that Waterloo to Euston would be good especially as they are so close and could call at TCR in the middle for connection to Crossrail.

  8. greg tingey says:

    No mention of the 1945-7 proposals for an (Finchley Road) -Marylebone – New Cross/Gate tunnel then?
    With connections at the "top" possibly to the GW and the Midland lines as well ….
    As mentioned in (I think) Klapper?

  9. Pedantic of Purley says:

    The comments so far underline the classic dilemma. Run the long distance services as through services and you don't maximise capacity through the very expensive underground tunnels and stations because the carriages will not have enough doors and the people will have too much luggage. Leave the long distance services terminating at the end of the line and each train typically occupies the platform for 30 to 45 minutes.

    Looking at it differently though, a metro style service rerouted through tunnels can free off an awful lot of terminal slots which are individually unlikely to have less than ten minutes platform occupation.

    Personally I would argue that the raison d'être for a London terminal is to support long distance services e.g. St Pancras International. The only reason we terminate commuter trains at city terminals in this day and age is because the tunnels weren't built for us by our forefathers. No-one is going to propose a new rail terminal for commuter services in a city today. On the other hand we do have proposals at London and Birmingham for new or enhanced stations for long distance services in the form of HS2.

  10. Max Roberts says:

    Thameslink is spending a lot of money resolving its problems to increase middle distance services, so presumably they are keen to expand them.

    I recommend that people who think that long distance services need terminals should travel more in Europe, apart from Paris (which is a pain, and has the same problems as London). I can travel from Kings Cross to Prague without changing terminals ever. Brussels has a superb cross-city tunnel meaning that just about everywhere in Belgium can be reached by everwhere else with at most one change of train.

    The terminus problem in London means that for real people (rather than enthusiasts) train isn't an option if the Underground is required. Suggesting a trip to Oxford by train to anyone in Southend, and people would think you were mad. Meanwhile, the M25 expands and expands and expands. Crossrail is a very expensive way of giving people in Gidea Park a one-seat ride to Southall, but expanding it to encompass middle distance rather than short distance routes and it would transform mobility and options in the whole of the Southeast.

    Think about it this way, with Crossrail used for mid-distance services, if there was a way of using Crossrail to provide a through Stansted to Heathrow service, then business users in the City could have a one seat ride to every major airport (and quite a few minor ones) in the South East, all from the same station, Farringdon. With one change of trains, most people in the South East could get to all the major airports.

  11. timbeau says:

    Of course a budget version of the Blackfriars/Kings Cross link was built, (although omitting the Waterloo detour), as Thameslink. The favoured scheme bears a very close resemblance to an express version of Crossrail 2 aka Chelney aka "jam tomorrow". However I can't see that having stops only at Victoria and "Euston low level" would work – given that this would feed even more people into some already-crowded tube stations.

  12. Rational Plan says:

    I agree with Pedantic, thank God this scheme was not built. What a waste of a tunnel. You can see this was an Idea from a company with a fixed idea about what it's priorites were for. Mainly that Intercity was the most important.

    It also shows a railway with loads of spare capacity. Sure it suggests services all over the country, but where would they start? Brighton? Eastbourne? Maidstone. I'm not sure where a regular intercit service could start from South of the River as there are no large cities in the South East, other than London.

    These services could not stop at every town to London, as they would in effect become the express services for these towns.

    At least Thameslink is balanced North and South of the River.

    Plus as there is no Stations right in the centre people would still need to use the Tube.

    It looks like to me, more an exercise in releasing platform capacity, to allow closure of a Central London Terminal. Either Marleybone or St Pancras fit the bill.

  13. Anonymous says:

    @Max Roberts

    The problem is, how many tunnels would you need to serve suburban and middle distance services? Fact is, Oxford to Southend is not going to be a popular journey, so you benefit a tiny number of people whilst neglecting those in need.

    The RER works because it sticks, by-and-large, within the official Paris region, thus offering a regional metro and leaving terminals for intercity services. Starting adding to those and you get more problems despite solving others.

    Crossrail's problem is that both Eastern branches could do with 24 trains each, yet they're getting half that. Ideally, it needed quad-tracking in the centre and another branch in the west, probably going SW.

    Brussels is in the middle of the country, between the other major cities in the South and North, unlike London, where there is nothing West or South. Cities on the South Coast (SW of London) needing access to places north would be better off skipping London altogether

    Paris and London have multiple terminals partly because they're so much bigger than other European cities. They have 10+ million people in their metro areas (there is 16 million + in London and the HC alone, about the same as the Netherlands and way more than all of Belgium). No where else comes close so can afford to have one or two central terminals, so any connecting tunnel becomes that much easier (because you only need one). en

  14. stephenc says:

    There is no doubt that the Crossrail we are getting is a bit naff. Being metro only does make sense, but both Stratford and Canary Wharf do need 24tph. Four tracking the same route through the centre seems unwise though – a different route with a cross-platform interchange is the right solution.

    What is criminal is that the core stations (LiverpoolSt/Farringdon/TCR/BondSt/Padd) are all built in such a way to make building cross platform interchanges (ie. 2 more platforms) in the future very difficult. The cost of building the box or lift shafts to handle 4 platforms now would be a marginal cost compared to going back and fixing it later.

    Interestingly, for the Canary Wharf branch, I would like to see it connected to the high speed line, so the Kent Javelins have somewhere useful to go (train door loading times are of course a difficulty to be worked on).

    This 1980 scheme is effectively Crossrail 2, which in my book should be focussed on Clapham Junc not Chelsea, with a station at Battersea power station on the way.

    Oh, and those crazy planners are intending to build more terminus stations. HS2 has a terminus at both London and Birmingham – the Birmingham one being flat out mad, as it prevents any meaningful access to the service from other parts of the West Midlands conurbaton (the terminus isn't even at New St, so good news for taxi drivers).

  15. Jeremy says:

    Stephenc: The new station for HS2 in Birmingham is intended to be a little further on from Moor Street station. This is a matter of a couple of hundred yards' walk. from New Street. Getting the new services into New Street would be prohibitively expensive.

    In London, the terminus is due to be Euston. Which is sensible, although I will mourn the loss of the Bree Louise and its incomparable selection of ales.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Oh, come on. A Gidea Park – Southall direct journey opportunity is a silly example. I'm looking forward to the possibility of West Ealing – Tottenham Court Road without changing.

  17. Anonymous says:

    @stephenc

    True, quad-tracking between Whitechapel and Farringdon is enough (so that both CW and Stratford have direct interchange with Thameslink) After that I favour the Stratford branch heading to waterloo, connecting with one other station between (maybe Temple just so it interchanges with the District line there. A second hall in Aldwych could be constructed as well) . Gives a SW-NE crossrail. CW needs the links to Heathrow and the west end more probably.

  18. Lazarus says:

    I remember there was a lot of excitement about this when I was a BR Engineering Management Trainee in Derby at the time. I'm not sure even then we thought it would actually happen, though.

    One shouldn't knock Peter Parker for this sort of kite flying. His single bore "mouse-hole" idea for the channel tunnel led directly to what we have today.

    Apropos of nothing I passed Chris Green on West End Lane today. He was standing on the road bridge looking quizically at the works on West Hampstead Thameslink. I wonder what a vertically integrated BR under him might have achieved?

  19. mr_jrt says:

    For those suggesting that Shenfield needs 24tph, I agree. And I have a solution for you that doesn't involve quad tracking the core.

    Build a chord tunnel from west of Pudding Mill portals to west of the Isle of Dogs station. you will have 12tph from Whitechapel to Stratford and 12tph from Whitechapel to Isle of Dogs, but you'll also have 12tph from Stratford to Isle of Dogs – direct.

    You can adjust this somewhat as required, perhaps 16tph Whitechapel to Shenfield, 8tph Whitechapel to Isle of Dogs, and 8tph Stratford to Isle of Dogs.

    This chord would also give a very interesting opportunity – WAML trains heading down to Abbey Wood via Canary Wharf.

  20. mr_jrt says:

    …and the amount of relief this chord would afford the Jubilee Line would be immense, perhaps enabling an extension up the Lea Valley.

  21. Groupie says:

    Interesting article and comments. As has been mooted elsewhere, I'd use the high demand on crossrail's eastern branches as a starting point for crossrail 2:

    Hack off the Shenfield branch, run it from Liverpool St to Victoria then somehow onto the District's Wimbledon branch (another route which seems capable of swallowing an endless number of tph). Then I'd extend Crossrail from Abbey Wood to medway.

    With those incremental changes the two lines would then run from Medway-Thames Valley and Shenfield-Wimbledon.

  22. Drew says:

    I never realised Spiderman became BR boss.

  23. Ben says:

    "No-one is going to propose a new rail terminal for commuter services in a city today."

    Of course not – that would be bonkers. Though that's exactly what the Long Island Railroad is doing with its East Side Acess project..

  24. Anonymous says:

    "Hack off the Shenfield branch, run it from Liverpool St to Victoria then somehow onto the District's Wimbledon branch (another route which seems capable of swallowing an endless number of tph)."

    That's such a waste. You need to get the South London NR trains onto any crossrail, freeing up terminal platforms and giving better journeys for those south of the river. For me, I'd use the slow service on the SWML, so that means Clapham Junc. is key. This gives a SW-NE connection (which doesn't currently exists I believe), and thus direct access from Surrey to Essex. The Southern and SE services go to Euston, give a NW-SE/S service.

  25. Pedantic of Purley says:

    In response to Ben:

    The East Side Access project
    arguably does not involve a new terminal in the city. East Side station is to be built below Grand Central station and be fully integrated into it.

    Maybe I should have said "nobody is going to propose a new surface-level terminal …

  26. Anonymous says:

    If there is going to be a new NR tunnel through central London, lets not waste one side of it by just trying to increase frequency on Crossrail which will have loads of capacity. To the North Crossrail 2 needs to take at least one of the Lea Valley Lines with it (Chingford or Seven Sisters, or one of the double tracks via Tottenham Hale towards Stanstead and Hertford East. To the south it shoudl take the slow lines to Woking (either via Clapham or Wimbledon) or take over all the lines toward Staines and beyond.

  27. MiaM says:

    Is there really any hard evidence supporting what anon said 6 April 13:35 regarding that London and Paris have mani termini stations because they are the biggest cities (in Europe)?

    I don't think that size is relevant here.

    There are loads of examples of cities that have or historically have had a bunch of termini stations, mainly capitals. There are also even more examples of cities that mostly have through stations.

    Take Berlin for example ("only" having 3.5 million people). In the beginning Berlin had a few termini stations without any interconnection at all. In 1877 a ring were built that connected the lines, and then in 1882 a high level east-west "crossrail" were buildt. In 1936-1939 a north-south tunnel were buildt and only a few years ago another nort-south tunnel were built.

    Today the centre of Berlin is crossed by a four track east-west connection with two tracks for S-Bahn, a RER-style service, and two track for regional and intercity services, one north-south two-track tunnel for S-Bahn services and one four-track norh-south tunnel for regional and intercity services. (Also there is a bunch of underground lines).

    Compare that to Paris or London…

    Today only a few services terminate without atleast going through the city. (The few services that don't go to the city centre is a few local services with only a few TPH or even only one TPH).

    Berlin does partially share the asymetry that London has regarding how many and how big cities is located in each direction, for example there are only a few smaller cities north of Berlin.

    I don't see any good reason for London (or Paris) to not have through services on all but a few minor services.

  28. john b says:

    I don't see any good reason for London (or Paris) to not have through services on all but a few minor services.

    If border security rules were less stupid, then I'd agree. But the only thing worth running high-speed trains in long-distance configurations (from the ECML, WCML and GWML) south or east of London for is mainland Europe, and you can't run a normal service to mainland Europe because we daftly aren't in Schengen.

  29. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Well put Miam. But surely Berlin is a very different case from London/Paris ? Germany is very much a multi-hub country in both transport and administrative terms so traffic doesn't gravitate to the capital like it does in England or France. Berlin is also on the main route across the continent and wasn't known as "the crossroads of Europe" for nothing.

    Berlin also, uniquely because of its post World War II history, had a lot of underdeveloped space close to the city centre and a political need to be seen to be providing good transport links in all directions.

    As a result of all the above a lot of people don't start or complete their journey in Berlin but want to change trains or travel through without alighting. This is not nearly so often the case in London or Paris where I would argue that the majority of people want to arrived relaxed at a street-level spacious terminus with good facilities.

    My tuppence-worth anyway.

  30. Paul says:

    Interesting comments.

    Unsurprisingly there seems to be a lot of London-centric rail enthusiast types on here. I am one of those too, but I'm also capable of understanding that for people outside the capital who want to travel to somewhere else outside the capital the rail network tends to be a bit useless. Particularly if they have families and/or luggage.

    The future of the rail network in the UK will depend on it's usefulness, not just to people travelling to/from London or somewhere along the way that's randomly convenient, but in connecting all cities, at least of 100,000 people or more, through one or two simple changes. Otherwise vast chunks of the voting population watch public money being thrown at rail services that they perceive as being utterly useless to them.

    Peter Parker and the 1980s BR understood this only too well – it's just a pity for the rest of the network that Crossrail was completely Londonised. One wonders what the point of the mainline sized tunnels really is now – would a tube line not have sufficed for the current scheme and also been vastly cheaper?

  31. solar penguin says:

    @Paul

    Tube-sized tunnels don't even suffice for the current tube. Why repeat the mistakes of the past by building even more of them?

  32. Anonymous says:

    Is there not already a tube sized tunnel running roughly along the lines of cross rail? Called the central line ….. (which is rammed all day)

  33. RBKC says:

    Kensington and Chelsea Council would be prepared to underwrite the cost of building a Crossrail station at Kensal…you can read more about the case here…

    http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/crossrail

  34. Euloroo says:

    I think Ken’s having flashbacks to the GLC! I understand he was touting a Euston – Waterloo “Crossrail 3″ at the hustings last night!

  35. Anonymous says:

    Heathwick Express at £5b? Surely a Paddington-Victoria route would cost nothing like that and provide a much more utilitarian service? I suspect 2 more platforms would be needed under Eastbourne Terrace for which provision has probably not been made so it is too late? This demonstrates that the concept of ‘Integrated Infrastructure Planning’ is merely a tool to improve rather than step-change our forward planning?

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