In a look around King’s Cross we saw the remarkable transformation that is going on in this area. We are not the only ones to have observed this. Evan Davis, the BBC broadcaster, used the area as an example of one of the economic forces that is changing London. We now take one step back and looking at why we bother providing transport connections and why good public transport is vital for the economy – a topic that is arguably well overdue looking at on London Reconnections.

Mind The Gap

In early March 2014 Davis presented two programmes explaining why, despite a recession, London appeared to be booming whilst the rest of the country experienced an economic downturn. Much of this he explained by conventional agglomeration theory which basically states that the more people can interact the more economies benefit – as people work to their common advantage. The interaction in agglomeration theory is largely brought about by good transport links and he wittily entitled his programme “Mind The Gap” – John Bull would have been proud of that title.

Agglomeration – it is as old as the hills

The theory of people clustering together for common economic benefit is nothing new and of course, in practice, the implementation is centuries old. It can be argued that London has been unintentionally built on agglomeration economics ever since the Romans founded a small compact settlement on the slightly higher land of Ludgate Hill and Cornhill. It can also be argued that the creation of Lloyd’s coffee house provided what may be the earliest ever example of coming together for the purposes of networking and that this was the true start of London’s world dominance due to agglomeration.

And Agglomeration relies on transport

Transport is an important part of a city’s fabric. If the people who potentially create the wealth of the city cannot communicate with their peers then much of this potential is lost – and whatever is said about the internet society there are always times when people want to meet up in person. It is also the case that by having good transport more people are effectively linked together. So anyone who needs specialists in other areas to help them create wealth wants as large a people pool as possible to draw upon in order to find the most appropriate match for their needs.

Transport must be scaleable

Taking agglomeration theory at simplistic face value, it would appear that all you have to do is build a lot of roads linking as many people as possible and wealth will result. Instead of having to bother to provide public transport one could achieve the desired result by having good roads and giving everyone the opportunity to drive to work in their comfortable cars.

Clearly there are obvious weaknesses in the above argument. Having arrived at their destination people then have to park somewhere and that means large car parks which prevents the high density clustering. Of course many successful companies do have the majority of employees coming to work by car. That can work fine but generally these firms cannot benefit from clustering. These standalone companies tend to fall into certain relatively standalone economic groups e.g. manufacturers.

But transport (and the city) must be more than that

If clustering is good, at least from an economic point of view, and size is everything then it is clear that London’s rivals are not Birmingham or Manchester but places like Tokyo, New York and Paris. It is also obvious that there has to be more than this, otherwise Cairo and Mexico City would be super rich. And whilst Singapore City and Hong Kong are both prosperous within their own region they never really get considered as true “World Cities” – whatever that may mean.

The neglected ingredient

There have been many television programmes before on the theme of agglomeration, but in his two-part series Evan Davis concentrated on a crucial, but generally never stated, part of agglomeration theory. The perhaps obvious (but oft neglected) idea that cities work best when people want to live in them. To put it another way, improving people’s quality of life has an economic value.

The obvious reason to improve qualify of life is that most people work better when happy and relaxed and with much of the mundane aspects of work taken over by technology one wants people to be in a creative mood. A stress-free journey to work and a welcoming environment would help create that.

This was not the reason that Evan Davis dwelt on. His argument was that you generate wealth in a high-tech society when you bring the best people together. To do this you have to attract people to work in London as opposed to Paris, Berlin, New York or a host of other places. This, particularly for family men and women, can be more important than salary or even job opportunities. Developing this theme he emphasised how institutions that don’t make an obvious financial contribution to the economy – museums, the Royal Opera House and art galleries – could actually be playing a crucial role in the success of London. In the same way, but not mentioned, one could think of other things such as a the planned 24 hour weekend tube as a contributor.

So, according to Evan Davis, the reason London is so successful is that people want to come to London and that companies or other institutions can locate their brightest and best people in London to work together. From that it follows that within London you will have clusters where these people will work. What is going to make that cluster a success is good public transport and a desirable local area. The good public transport links don’t stop at the commuting area for the city involved. They need to be national and even international.

Back to King’s Cross

It is not hard to see why the area around King’s Cross and St Pancras is now looking like a very attractive area indeed. It also starts to become obvious why the Chancellor of the Exchequer is anxious to spend much more money redeveloping Euston. And this in turn shows a potential weakness of transport planning. HS2 Ltd probably sees the Euston issue as one of providing sufficient capacity for the trains terminating at Euston and being able to disperse passengers to where they want to go. But transport is only ever a means to an end. It serves no purpose on its own. Obviously one comes to different conclusions as to how or whether HS2, and Euston in particular, should be developed depending on what you are trying to achieve.

The lesson seems to be that if you want to attract the brightest and best people to London it helps if you have clean welcoming stations that people want to visit. And, despite it being next to impossible to measure the economic benefit, it is really important to design stations, above and below ground, to be as pleasant as possible. It is also important that pedestrians can get about and are not in conflict with busy traffic. So if you can’t make the transport infrastructure attractive and pleasant to use then you have already lost the battle for the cream of the talent before the people that matter have even arrived at their destination.

King’s Cross and St Pancras are, arguably, currently the two best stations in London for being welcoming and lifting the spirits. Better still they are next to each other. The management of St Pancras in particular are crucially aware of the importance of this and go to great trouble to make the place somewhere where people want to visit. Yes, it is all about retail to some extent, but it has to have something to distinguish it from the multitude of retail outlets in stations. That is why there is an obsession at St Pancras with maintaining high standards and introducing variety such as various permanent and temporary works of art to the station.

St Pancras v Gare du Nord

One only has make comparisons between he various Eurostar termini and the surrounding areas to see the importance this can have. Comparisons between St Pancras and Gare du Nord have been made many times – such as this BBC website magazine article. It is difficult to find any criteria where Gare du Nord comes out better.

What appears to be the case is that the station sets the tone for the area. Make the station welcoming and accessible and business will want to locate nearby – or even inside. Conversely if the station is run down then this becomes a precursor for the area becoming run down.

A plan or a free-for-all?

A common theme in the comments at London Reconnections is a bemoaning of our ability to plan in Britain. We had the Great Fire of London but couldn’t take advantage of the situation to sweep away the narrow streets and build wide straight boulevards. In total contrast Baron Haussmann practically rebuilt Paris. Whilst we struggle to rebuild a London terminus, in Berlin they have a new principal station on various levels well served on its through tracks by domestic and international trains and additionally further underground lines below.

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.
John Lennon

No battleplan survives contact with the enemy.
Popular soldiers’ aphorism

London is a muddle that works.
Professor Roy Porter, social historian

The trouble is that you can plan so far but you can’t make people come. You also cannot predict what companies will ultimately be attracted to a new development. Evan Davis argues that you can put the basic infrastructure in place but in the end you can’t control exactly they way things will turn out.

We will look at the institution and the company that Evan Davis focused on – both in their own way would have probably been thought of as very unlikely candidates for wanting to move to King’s Cross but that is what is happening.

Are research centres in a city’s DNA?

Crick Institute West Side Resized

The west side of the Francis Crick Institute in Ossulston St. It would seem sensible that an entrance to the building would be located here. With the British Library so close nearby one wonders if this is worthy of being served by a bus route and whether there are opportunities for redevelopment centred around this entrance. Note the British Library in the background. There will be an east-west publicly accessible walking route between the two buildings.

On the northern half of the former St Pancras goods yard site a huge building is being constructed. One end is opposite the western entrance to St Pancras (by the Thameslink station) and it continues at least a third of the way to Euston. One would expect this to eventually be occupied by one or more huge multi-national corporations. In fact in 2015 the building is going to be the Francis Crick Institute for inter-disciplinary medical research. Now research centres are not the sort of thing one traditionally builds at one of the most attractive and accessible sites in one of the worlds most important cities. These and similar establishments, whether commercial or not, are institutes that are generally located far away from London or are at least banished to the suburbs.

Cutting edge research is something that is more and more regarded as a collaboration of the the best people in a particular field. Sir Paul Nurse and others go further and emphasise the need for inter-disciplinary skills. If you want to develop new biological products it is no good just assembling the best biologists you can attract and leaving them to do their own research. The way things have changed can be seen in the fact that single winners of Nobel prizes for science are becoming a rarity. So modern theory is that you want to attract the best people and you want to attract lots of people and put them all together. It follows from this that you want to locate them in a city that people will want to work in and also either live in it or be able to commute to. When that is the criteria then one can see why St Pancras is so attractive.

Crick Institute North Side Resized

The north side of the Crick Institute looking east towards St Pancras along Brill place (an extension of Phoenix Road). According to this page on the Crick website: “The building was set back to … encourage pedestrians to walk from St Pancras to Euston”. Note the proximity of local housing.

(Almost) all rails lead to King’s Cross and St Pancras

The catchment area for commuting to King’s Cross is absolutely enormous. HS1 means that much of Kent is accessible and this could possibly extend one day to parts of Sussex. Sussex will be very accessible in any case thanks to Thameslink. Crossrail and a simple change will mean many other journeys will be realistically possible from the east and west and of course there are numerous lines heading north as well as the multitude of Underground lines. On top of that there will soon be good rail links not only to France and Belgium but also to the Netherlands and possibly Germany. One does not seriously expect much regular international commuting, but it does make it easier for exchanges with other European Institutes.

For those travelling from further afield King’s Cross has a good connection direct to Gatwick Airport. Of course it will also have links to Heathrow via Crossrail or alternatively using Heathrow Express from Paddington and even the option of a long slow journey by the Piccadilly Line – but at least the latter does not involve a change of train. Even City Airport can be reached without too much difficulty.

The Cambridge Connection

At the same time one must not forget that King’s Cross is well located to make the Cambridge Science Park relatively accessible – the park is currently served by two guided bus routes which also serve Cambridge station and it is planned that it would have its own station by 2016. Not only does this link encourage interaction it also provides an alternative place of employment – another important aspect of agglomeration theory as people don’t want to be tied down to one employer. So a scientist living at Hitchin or Royston can easily get to King’s Cross whilst being aware of the multiple alternative research and employment opportunities at Cambridge, either in an academic or commercial world. As Evan Davis pointed out, this tendency of specialist interests to cluster is being replicated in Cambridge where the commercial drugs company AstraZeneca is proposing to relocate nearby (and Pfizer has stated that this would be unaffected by any proposed takeover – now considered unlikely to happen).

And Oxford too

In order to maintain some level of balance one must also point out that, although Oxford will not be quite so convenient as Cambridge for travel to and from King’s Cross, by 2016 there will be a choice of routes to Oxford. Not only will there be a frequent electric service to Oxford from Paddington, there will also be a service from Marylebone. Oxford does at least have the advantage that the station is far closer to the city centre and the university than Cambridge.

King’s Cross? – Google IT

King's Boulevard Looking North Resized

King’s Boulevard looking north. The Google HQ will occupy all of the site to the east of King’s Boulevard right up to Goods Way although some of the ground floor frontage will be given over to retail use.

The other significant organisation that plans to move to King’s Cross is Google, who propose to locate their European headquarters right next to the station. What is especially significant about Google is that they are the type of company that places great emphasis on making the workplace a pleasant and stimulating environment whilst at the same time giving their staff facilities to relax. Evan Davis claimed that a further attraction for them is that the Central St Martins University of the Arts is nearby and they will be near the designers with the ideas that will provide the artistic input for some of the Google products. Again this would appear to be contrary to traditional agglomeration theory which emphasises the importance of having access to financial, legal and business institutions.

Google location

Map of the area. It doesn’t make it clear that Google effectively occupies all of the site east of King’s Boulevard. Note that the new underground entrance is marked.

Not mentioned by Evan Davis, but also relevant, is the importance of language. Professional people (especially young professional people) worldwide can generally speak English well and would feel comfortable moving to London. Conversely for a European Headquarters, London might not be at the heart of Europe but an employer can be fairly confident in London of attracting staff who are proficient in both English and a specific foreign language and also have the relevant skills for the job in question.

Google HQ (original)

Artist’s impression of the original (now abandoned) plan for Google European HQ as seen from Granary Square. The plans were withdrawn because Google wants something more ambitious.

It seems that Google really are determined to make the most of their location and the latest news is that they have almost literally gone back to drawing board. They now plan to build something that is even more ambitious than the one originally planned. Their new £1bn, million square feet office is not now expected to be ready before 2017.

Site of Google Resized

The site for Google HQ. The board depicting the film “Mona Lisa” is making much of the scenes filmed in the locality. In fact very little of the film was shot around here although many of the scenes depicted would be associated with an area similar to how King’s Cross was at the time of the picture.

Two tales that can be replicated

Although the two examples cited by Evan Davis are significant they will not make that much difference on their own. In both cases though they will attract others who will want to be around them. They don’t have to be next door – just easily accessible. Silicon Roundabout, just two stops away on the Northern Line from Google, will be conveniently accessible whilst offering much lower rents. So any company in a related field will probably want good accessibility to King’s Cross and Old Street station which may mean locating in London, or at least the South East.

The additional business that the Francis Crick Institute and Google will attract will not make much difference to the success of London but these are just two examples in just one location within London. With the possible exception of media, which seems to have successfully clustered in the Salford and Manchester area, there seem to be no serious rivals to London within Britain. Davis argues that Britain as a country is exceptional because, unusually, we don’t have a second city with at least half the population of the largest one. It would seem to him that a tendency for businesses and other institutions to move to London is thus an almost inevitable trend.

Transport Matters

If Evan Davis is to be believed, transport – not just its functionality but its aesthetic contribution to the urban environment – really matters. It is certainly the case that he seems incapable of presenting a TV programme on economics without referring to Crossrail at some point. Talking of which, one of the many ways in which Crossrail sees its responsibility beyond that of building a railway line is their commitment to the urban realm. We have already seen at Paddington the entrance to the rebuilt Hammersmith & City Line station being enhanced. Those who believe that quality matters will be looking to see this in future schemes including the London terminus of HS2.

The unsung heroine who made Crossrail happen?

We have perhaps paid too much attention to Evan Davis. He is just one of many economists and he in reality is an economic historian. He describes what has happened and gives his view on the economic factors that caused this to happen. We could look to other economists – after all London isn’t exactly short of them – but we will concentrate on one who, just perhaps, really ought to be better known. Bridget Rosewell has had a decade of experience advising the GLA. It is her approach to looking at the potential impact of Crossrail that some believe made the crucial difference between the treasury wanting to avoid spending on it to one where the treasury could see that in the long term it would generate far more tax revenue than it would cost due to the creation of wealth that would follow. Putting it bluntly, some believe that, if it wasn’t for Bridget Rosewell, Crossrail would never have been built.

If one were to listen to Bridget Rosewell, and one can on various topics such as HS2 or London reinventing itself, one can see that she comes up with very similar ideas to Evan. This is probably as good as it can get with economists. The well-known joke is that if you ask six economists an opinion on an aspect of economics you will get seven different answers.

London Sucks

A man with a clock knows the time.
A man with two clocks is not so sure.
Chinese proverb, allegedly. Very appropriate in the context of King’s Cross and St Pancras – and economists.

Inevitably once you have two economists there will be areas where they see differently. It is outside London that the gulf appears between Evan and Bridget. Evan argues, as he puts it, London sucks. Basically he sees London as a large black hole that will inevitably drag more and more people into it at the expense of the regions. He is a bit vague on what is the best strategy for the regions, but he would appear to be arguing that by acknowledging London’s supremacy in many areas they are free to specialise in others – such as manufacturing, order fulfillment, call centres, back office functions and a host other activities. It would appear though that good access to London would be essential for these places to fulfill their subordinate role.

Evan Davis also points out that London is a large city full of wealthy consumers. Another reason, he argues, why businesses cannot ignore the importance of London.

Bridget Rosewell is much more upbeat on the prospects for other major cities and is convinced that they have future of their own. This would appear to be as regional hubs. Interestingly she sees HS2 as being an important means of providing growth for cities such as Leeds and Manchester. So for her it is very much an attitude of “everybody wins” or at least “every major city wins”.

Transport won’t cure Cancer

In the 1960s Beeching era public transport was almost seen as something to be pitied. For many the perception was that public transport was a drain on public resources and development was primarily about reducing the burden, as it was seen, that public transport has on the public purse. Thanks to Bridget Rosewell and many others, Britain as last seems to have partially grasped the fact that good public transport is a precursor and major ingredient for economic success – and the Kings Cross area now stands tall as an example of this happening in the real world. Transport won’t cure cancer but maybe by helping bring the best scientists together in the Crick Institute it may play an indirect part in doing so, one of many unexpected ways in which London’s transport networks can have an impact on the economy.

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There are 331 comments on this article
  1. Andrew says:

    A quick note on Cambridge: the upcoming Cambridge Science Park station in the north-east of Cambridge will serve the Science Park directly, rather than require the (slightly convoluted) switch to a bus at the main station.

    My understanding is that there will be through trains from KX – it’s on the Ely/King’s Lynn line, and about half the commuter services run north of Cambridge.

    However, AstraZeneca will be (touch wood!) moving to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, which is on the other side of the city – about 30 minutes walk south from the main station.

    [Thanks for that. I have slightly reworded the relevant paragraphs and have also included the links provided. PoP]

  2. Reynolds 953 says:

    A thought provoking article.

    However when you say “people want to come to London”, I would say *some* people want to come to London; others want to leave it.

    According to this article ( there is a net internal migration out of London. London’s population is rising as a result of international migration and the birth rate (which is a consequence of the relatively young age, compared to other areas of the country)

    And while it is possible to talk about London as a whole, there are different trends in different areas. What happens to Hackney hipsters when they get older and have kids? How many stay put and swap their fixie for a bakfiet bike? How many move to the ‘burbs and a 4×4 replaces the bike? And if they move, are they replaced by international property investors and expenses paid ex-pats looking for an area with a bit (but not too much…) edge?

  3. lmm says:

    Odd that you’d mention Gatwick, Heathrow and LCY but seem to have forgotten the airport that’s fastest to reach from King’s Cross – London Luton.

  4. Malcolm says:

    Thank you for a very thought-provoking article. It helps to remind us of some important stuff. We may all share a general interest in transport, and in London, but we need to remember why London needs, wants and deserves the best transport arrangements possible.

    On a detail point, it may be slightly unfair to report the results of a beauty contest between the Kings Cross area and the Gare du Nord area without also pointing out a possible reason for this. St Pancras is the “Gateway to Paris” (among other things), whereas Gare du Nord is “Gateway to London” (among other things).

  5. Chris H says:

    Thanks for another good article.

    The inter-relationships between transport and development (agglomeration in particular) are very interesting and quite complex. To what extent is transport designed to meet existing needs; and to what extent does it drive future development? Most large projects are being asked to do both. King’s Cross / St Pancras seems to be driving development.

    A notable agglomeration of transport firms (sort of!) is Formula 1 teams, the vast majority of which are located within 50 miles of Heathrow and/or Silverstone.

    The quality of life issue is also very important. It’s easy on a sunny May weekend to see London as the best city in the world, but it’s the comparison of schools, housing, pollution, cost of living, “culture”, and general ambience that will probably attract people and/or firms to one city rather than another. London does very well in most of these, with traffic jams probably its chief drawback.

  6. Anonymous says:

    @Reynolds 953: You could argue that Hackney hipsters swapping their fixies for prams is precisely the reason why house prices are doubling, sending people who would a few years ago have been exactly in the average age bracket for the borough, out further afield (or, god forbid, south).

  7. Bryan says:

    Very interesting and thought provoking article. It’s good to see public transport recognised as one of the key factors in quality of life.

    By the way, John Lennon may well have said ‘Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans’ but it’s certainly not original. It was first used in the Readers Digest.

  8. Greg Tingey says:

    but places like Tokyo, New York and Paris. And, in Europe, Berlin & possibly Moskva – they are the other real biggies.
    For many the perception was that public transport was a drain on public resources and development was primarily about reducing the burden, as it was seen, that public transport has on the public purse. There are some who still do – the very (very) senior Treasury wonk (forgotten his name AGAIN _ getting old!) who said: “Crossrail was built over my dead body, I am determined that HS2 will not suffer the same fate” _ & who is still “in post” IIRC.
    Why is it that some people seem incapable of “getting it”?

  9. Reynolds 953 says:

    @Chris H In most “quality of life” indices for cities I’ve seen, London doesn’t feature in the top 10 although I would argue that a number of cities that do (like Bern, or Ottawa…) are more like big towns than proper cities! Individuals will have their own preferences compared to the weightings assigned by the people who compile these indices, so your mileage may vary…

  10. Greg Tingey says:

    Meanwhile, Over at the Daily Torygraph, a collection of [snip PoP] are discussing this very question.
    Oh dear.

  11. Ed says:

    Reynolds 953 – You raise a very good point, and one often overlooked, when talking about London as a whole when there are different trends in different areas. I’m always extremely weary as describing anything in London in the absolute – London is this or London is that. It varies massively depending on where you are.

    Of course that applies anywhere but London is different as it is so vast. When getting from one side to another can take 3 hours, as it recently did for me, then areas should be looked at individually. What’s going on 2-3 hours away is not too relevant for many in one area. For example many areas past zone 3 in SE London have declined a lot in the past 20 years, just as inner London has recovered its post war decline. Local employment, housing, cultural venues and public spaces are all far worse on the whole. There are exceptions but on the whole things are worse.

    As for those quality of life surveys – to me they always seem to tally with what middle aged or older want – the cities seem to tally with a quiet life.

  12. Ed says:

    Greg Tingey – whoever that treasury wonk is who wants to block major transport projects should also be looking at why central London housing density is so low relative to other major cities, and what can be done to increase it for all, not just those in the top 5% of salaries.

    We can do so much better to build high quality , high density housing in zones 1-3. And do it much quicker. Allow public borrowing and building and penalise landbanking developers not building for years on end (see Greenwich Peninsula, Canary Wharf etc where many 1000s of homes have had planning permission for a decade or longer). Encourage pension funds and other institutional investors to build big like in the States and EU. Moves are afoot on this at last but more can be done.

    Of course that needs to happen in addition to major infrastructure projects as demand will grow from outside zone 3 as well. At present the UK is doing the minimum on both, and that treasury man and who he represents are a big part of that.

  13. Graham Feakins says:

    Perhaps relevant is a Radio 4 programme today on “Willies” – Work In London, Live In Edinburgh – the tale of commuters between Edinburgh and King’s Cross. Programme on BBC iPlayer for 7 days:

    Radio 4 describes the programme thus: “As a result of the decline of the financial sector in Edinburgh (the latest Global Financial Sectors rating saw the city fall 17 points to number 54) Scotland has seen the growth of a new breed of super commuter who go under the acronym WILLIES because they Work in London, Live in Edinburgh. With their kids in local private schools and houses in the city, they fly or train up and down at the ends of the week from jobs in London.

    Alan Cochrane, the Scottish editor of the Daily Telegraph gave the breed their cheeky nickname. Here he speaks to the WILLIES about their work and lifestyle choice.

  14. Fandroid says:

    There are other reasons than transport for the Crick Institute being where it is, but still very relevant to ‘agglomeration’. It is very close to University College London, which has an extremely high reputation in medical research and is the hub of a collaborative group of teaching hospitals known together as UCL Partners. Then there is also the Wellcome Institute between the two.

    AstraZeneca’s proposed research centre on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (which includes Addenbrookes Hospital) has very good public transport connections now, in the form of the southern leg of the busway. That has transformed travel between the railway station and Addenbrookes.

    Oxford by comparison is poorly connected. The Oxford Biomedical Research Centre is based around John Radcliffe and Churchill hospitals several miles east of the city centre and the railway station is itself a good 1/2 mile out on the west side of the city. There is no easy route between the two (even by taxi). The dreaming spires are fairly accessible, but the medical researchers are not! The express buses from Heathrow and London present serious alternatives to rail for those heading for the hospitals (I have done it).

    Last thought. Although Berlin Hbf is a brand new gleaming (grey steel and glass) station with multi level wonders, it is not a magnetic attraction like St Pancras and Kings Cross. It resembles a not especially attractive modern airport terminal. It fails, where Köln and (even better) Leipzig Hbfs succeed. It’s almost shocking to see that the retail offer at Berlin Hbf includes Cafe Ritazza and Upper Crust!

  15. Anton says:

    @ Greg (19:11) – what was wrong with the Torygraph article? (I’m a graun reader, by the way). The article is pretty lefty, pro-transport, social housing and has a go at drivers and TfL who are being slow to implement cycling policy (yes, it takes time and Andrew Gilligan wants to get it right, not make knee-jerk changes).

  16. Reynolds 953 says:

    @Anton – you should read the comments below the article… I suspect Greg’s comment was directed at these people rather than the article itself 😉

  17. Graham H says:

    First, thank you for an interesting and timely article which reminds us of what sometimes seems an invisible area “behind the stations”.

    Second, Fandroid is right to remind us of the multiple medical research institutions clustered within very easy reach. This has long been identified as a major growth topic for the future. The interesting point is that whereas previous growth areas such as financial services have created major back office activity to the benefit of places such as Leeds, Dublin and Edinburgh, it’s difficult to see what the analogous activities will be in the future – possibly drug manufacture, but that is not a high volume sector in the same way.

    I do agree with Ed that we are now on the cusp of the decline in the interwar stock of semis. On recent evidence that will lead to redevelopment as, probably, expensive flats, providing the density that is lacking in outer London, with profound consequences for the transport infrastructure. I would place a large bet that Kenton and Bromley will look radically different in 20 years’ time.

    BTW I strongly support the article’s remarks about Bridget Rosewell; I have worked with her on a number of projects over the last 20 years and she has been a powerful advocate of London, infrastructure investment, and the public transport network especially.

  18. Melvyn says:

    Having spent most of my life not far from Kings Cross I know how much it has changed in the last 50 years from back streets that were as depicted in Mona Lisa dark , dingy and of course full of steam and smoke from steam trains. In fact during the war my mother cleaned trains like The Flying Scotsman behind Kings Cross Station.

    And since then when St Pancras was for the bulldozer and trains were seen as soon becoming history we have gone to St Pancras International and a new Kings Cross concourse that is a world away from its green predecessor just demolished !

    While the hidden areas behind Kings Cross are now be reopened and the development is not just about demolition and rebuilding as many former buildings are finding new uses and one can even see old arches which were once no doubt used for coal drops !
    (A visit is well worth it with an information centre available to find about the past and future of the area.).

    As for Transport links well these have seen massive improvement and plans for Crossrail 2 will like this area into further parts of London if main line option is chosen linking Eaśt Anglian routes to South West Trains is chosen with interchange with Crossrail 1 at TCR .

    As for Euston Station and HS2 the recent decisions to axe the planned HS1-2 link and suggestion to totally rebuild Euston are the right decisions and a visit to London Bridge Station shows how a station can still operate while undergoing a total rebuild !

    Its worth remembering that the rebuild of St Pancras saw the main station rebuild for HS1, new platforms for MML, new South Eastern Platforms upstairs and downstairs the new Thameslink station box and a total upgrade of one of Londons largest tube stations !

    At Euston much of the building the new HS2 station can take place separate from the operational station .

    As for this upgrade and that at Old Street Silicon roundabout this will no doubt lead to an increase in travel between these points and could lead to route 214 being double decked and maybe route 10 extended to Finsbury Square an extension that would recreate the old 73 route at the Angel, Islington from Hammersmith !.

    I was there recently and could see the new tube entrance is nearing completion and in a way provides additional access to the station which is not seen enough when areas near stations are developed.

    I still think London needs the Cross River Tram which could have been in place by now . While extension of the DLR from Bank to Euston via Holborn has been suggested as a way of improving links to Euston and if done would provide a direct link to Canary Wharf .

    Final point as a Londoner – London is but a series of villages but you need to have been born there to know the village boundaries ….

  19. @Al__S says:

    Regarding Cambridge:
    Microsoft have a new research centre, situated at the station- clearly located because of the connectivity.
    There’s been a lot of calls (from sensible people) to get a third station for Cambridge, to be situated by the Addenbrookes biomedical campus. Not sure if the land is reserved for it, but I think (based purely on going under it a lot!) the Addenbrookes Road bridge (new road access from the M11) has been built such that it could accommodate either a second pair of lines or two lines plus platforms. There would of course be potential pathing issues with having trains stop on this busy section of line.

  20. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Reynolds 953 – it seems Greg is involved in a one man campaign of disagreeing with virtually everyone commenting on the Telegraph article.

    I do find myself broadly agreeing with the article. I am as bemused as the author about tourists plodding round Shoreditch on weekends as I can remember when it really wasn’t worth plodding round but did have character. Now it is indeed being taken over by the corporates and the characterful nature of the place is withering as people can’t afford to remain. I think the same will happen with the Old St area – again somewhere that was none too glamorous a decade or so ago. I worked in the area for a while and it was pretty dire – nigh on impossible to get a sandwich at lunchtime. That’s all changed but there are already reports that development plans and land price increases will make it unsustainable for the high tech new starts that are currently clustered there. They’ll have to go somewhere else and I doubt it will be Kings Cross unless Google are going to give them space for nothing.

    And just to touch on Kings Cross. Yes it’s all very shiny and eventually we got a new tube ticket hall and some corridors and a nice NR ticket hall but it’s all about 20 years too late. None of the tube platforms have been widened and even the new tube corridors are creaking at the seams so what on earth happens to the place when the Railway Lands are fully redeveloped and occupied? Will people be able to move in the tube station? Has anything been safeguarded in all the development space to allow for even more expansion of Kings Cross tube and the respective NR stations? I don’t disagree with the thrust of PoP’s article but if no one has planned (and safeguarded) for more expansion at Kings Cross (and elsewhere) then we will be back in the same old sorry state we were in 15-20 years ago. Yes we may have clean stations and snazzy shops but who cares if the station is so full of people you can’t reach the shops or see the floor?

  21. Ian Sergeant says:

    Oxford does at least have the advantage that the station is far closer to the city centre and the university than Cambridge.

    It didn’t feel like it when carrying a heavy suitcase from Queen’s to the station and back. Both Oxford and Cambridge Universities planned their railway stations to be sufficiently far away from the colleges to discourage their students from leaving the cities without it being an effort. And granted, King’s to the station is 1.3 miles, Queen’s to the station is 0.9 miles. Though, as I said, it felt further.

  22. The Other Paul says:

    You’re absolutely right. London has a size and diversity that defies generalisation, apart from perhaps one critical factor: Whatever you’re looking for, you can find it in London, but it might come at a price that you can’t afford.

    So as much as it’s economics that pulls people into the city, it’s also economics that pushes them out.

  23. Greg Tingey says:

    Anton & Reynolds
    Entirely so
    [Snip. Not in the spirit of London Reconnections. PoP]
    all I’ve tried to do is show it up.

    Graham H
    The decline in areas like Ruislip & just on the inside of Uxbridge is paplable – those places are going into a steep downward trend. socially & in terms of repairs, etc.

    London is but a series of villages but you need to have been born there to know the village boundaries …. Ah, so, someone else has cracked it.
    Your next question for 10:
    Which (Nobel Prize for literature) writer referred to London as: “The Little Village” ??
    He was so right (As he all-to-often & unfashionably was!)

  24. Anonymous says:

    I think you are overstating the relationship of Google and ‘tech’.

    Google’s main aim for their new campus isn’t engineering – it is selling advertising.

    Google has very few engineering positions in London. I think people need to realise that Google’s PPC advertising makes them as large as Sky, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

  25. Ian J says:

    Great article and I agree with the implicit criticism of the often-heard claim that “Britain is bad at planning”. Arguably the current boom at King’s Cross is the result of some very astute long-term thinking, going back to the 1970s decision to locate the British Library there (compare it with France’s contemporaneous national library mired in the middle of nowhere by the Seine). The late 1980s plans for the railway lands were much more Canary Wharf-like with big boxy office buildings, so the early 1990s recession might have been a blessing in disguise in forcing a rethink and making it possible for the likes of St Martin’s College to relocate (and the old St Martin’s building is now eye-wateringly expensive apartments).

    It’s worth thinking about how exceptional it is that the area is experiencing this kind of development: historically big railway stations have tended to blight their surroundings – how many big European city stations are surrounded by red light districts and drug dealers?

    @Graham F: Without wanting to open a whole can of worms, if Scotland becomes independent then it is likely a fair chunk of its finance industry will head south to avoid being in separate country to its main customer base – so the WILLIES might be ahead of their time.

    @Fandroid: I agree, and Berlin Hbf is not helped by its location, which is ideal in terms of railway geography but is a bit of an urban wasteland with poor local transport links. Maybe in 20 years’ time the area will have improved, but having mainly government buildings in the area, rather than the likes of Google and academic institutions, will hamper its attractiveness compared to the King’s Cross area.

  26. Robert Butlin says:

    Moving on from Ian J’s comment that large railway stations have tended to blight their areas one might argue that the current position of the King’s Cross area is an exception, both historically for London and globally. Which begs the question – why?

    I tend to think that there actually is some pretty good planning going on in London, particularly with regard to the urban environment because it is being done with pedestrians in mind. Look at the South Bank, look at Trafalgar Square, even something like the Great Court at the British Museum. It also helps that at King’s Cross some pretty drastic law enforcement action has cleared much of the sleaziness from the area.

    The other unasked questin is why Gare du Nord, which has great connections, has not created a pole in Paris in connection with Gare de L’Est and become a dynamic part of Paris. That it hasn’t suggests transport is not all.

  27. Fandroid says:

    I surmise that one reason that big stations used to blight their surroundings was due to the huge area of land they took up with all their attendant goods yards, carriage sidings and sheds. That land take would have destroyed much local connectivity leaving communities isolated from each other. Additionally, in the era of steam they would also have been smoky, smelly and noisy. Kings Cross/St Pancras must have been the absolute worst example in the country. That’s why we are discussing the redevelopment. After the steam age, the old railway lands would generally have areas of dereliction. Unlike goods yards at provincial stations, there was no potential for railway related parking. It took a massive rise in London’s economy for that land and its transport links to become attractive for development (plus the planning restrictions on greenfield development).

    To back my theory, two major German stations that still have dingy surroundings, Munich and Frankfurt, also still have large areas of lines and sidings on their approaches. By contrast, Köln’s sidings don’t start to spread out on the western side until Hansaring station on the edge of the Altstadt.

  28. Greg Tingey says:

    Ian J
    Correction – alteration in bold
    if Scotland becomes independent then it is likely a fair chunk all of its finance industry will head south

    Closing all of the inner goods station areas may have been at least a partial mistake, in terms of onwards goods-distribution by road.

  29. glbotu says:

    As someone who lives in Cambridge, I can say that the Cambridge Science Park station couldn’t come soon enough. I feel that saying that the Science Park being served by a busway from the station is somewhat misleading. The busway goes from Trumpington to the station and from St Ives to the busway, but in between, you’re on Cambridge’s road network (which is mostly atrocious). In traffic it can take a good hour to get to the Science Park by bus from the station.

  30. Alan Griffiths says:

    “Even City Airport can be reached without too much difficulty” with one change at Stratford International. But you can’t use an Oystercard on HS1.

  31. Alan Griffiths says:

    Melvyn @ 19 May 2014 at 22:20

    “axe the planned HS1-2 link and suggestion to totally rebuild Euston are the right decisions”

    The link as proposed [part on the surface in Camden Town a single-track tunnel all the way from Old Oak Common] was intrusive, inefficient and expensive. A shorter twin-tunnel link would be much less disruptive, higher capacity and might even cost less. But it would probably involve building a junction under Regents Park, like the Crossrail junction at Stepney Green.

    Passengers from Dunkerque and Lille for stations south of Paris do not get off at the Gare du Nord and trudge around Paris finding another train from another station. People who say there’s no demand for through trains are suffering from a failure of vision.

  32. Graham H says:

    @Alan Griffiths – failure of vision maybe, but there is no evidence for any large scale demand nor for rail being able to compete successfully on time and price. Just possibly, the Brum-Paris market could be contested by rail. For everything else, rail with the link is slower, even allowing for airport-centre access times. A severe case of “Build it, and there’s no one out there wanting to use it”.

  33. JM says:

    @Greg Tingey

    Is your Treasury wonk Sir Nicholas Mcpherson?

    This article sums up pretty much why I read on here. Will try and contribute a little more when I get a chance.

  34. Belsize Parker says:

    I’m with Alan G on a (proper) through HS1/HS2 link. Why does anyone imagine that the trains on it have to be aiming for la belle France and points beyond? What’s wrong with running Brum-Ebsfleet, or Ashford-Manchester? ‘No demand’, says Graham H…when we’ve no real way of knowing how OOC and Stratford are going to develop as destinations in their own right? Could this be the same ‘absence of demand’ that kept what is now the Thameslink route closed to passengers for the best part of 60 years (and supported nothing more than a steam-hauled peak-hour Kenny Belle on the WLL)? By that logic, nobody in his right mind would be planning to link the GN to the LB&SC (i.e. delivering Cambridge-Gatwick connectivity). Build it and they will come!

  35. Graham H says:

    @JM – he does indeed mean McPherson, notorious for his unbidden views on XR, XR2, HS2 etc etc.

  36. Graham H says:

    @Belsize parker – Now, just for a moment, let’s think carefully about what you are saying. Brum- Ebbsfleet links what is effectively a commuter car park and shopping centre, Brum-Ashford links Brum to a town of around 100, 000, Now think of the other comparable places comparable distances away that Brum is not linked to – Swindon, Blackpool, Chelmsford for example – no one would advocate spending £1bn to link Brum to those places. Ashford is a relatively small place with few attractions and Ebbsfleet is even less obvious as a destination. There are perfectly respectable methods of predicting the traffic between o/d pairs with known characteristics and those methods – which were not available to us even 20 years ago – make it clear that a link just for the Ashford traffic would be a very large white elephant indeed. The cost of servicing the capex for the link is going to be around £200-£300m pa – that’s equal to a quarter of the revenue on a typical intercity franchise; I simply cannot believe that Brum – Ashford would generate that sort of revenue.

    The rail industry has been cursed with too many visions -Stratford non-International, for example; the cheapo vision for the DLR corridor – we all have our unfavourites. The only time that tired doxology of “Build it and it will come” works is if there is large scale suppressed demand – something rarely seen outside urban areas.

  37. straphan says:

    Thanks for a great article first of all – this is precisely why I come here to read and write on a regular basis.

    Regarding ‘Shoreditchification’, the issue of hipsters moving out of town, and the interaction of different groups of people made possible by transport, I remember once looking at a 2001 Census map of disposable income (i.e. income left over after tax) for London and the surrounding area. Essentially, there was a cross of very poor people stretching roughly N-S from Enfield via Tottenham, Hackney, Stockwell, Brixton, Streatham to Croydon; and W-E from Drayton via Southall, Acton to Bow, Barking, Ilford and Romford, as well as through Woolwich, Plumstead to Erith South of the Thames. The outer corners were marked as very rich – Edgware to Harrow and Uxbridge in NW, Wimbledon to Richmond and Kingston in SW, Coulsdon, Bromley and Orpington in SE, and Woodford-Hainault in the NE. Everything around London was marked ‘middle income’, whereas Central London was peppered with bits of high and low income – reflecting the mix of multi-millionaires and students, that form most of the population there.

    This only reinforced my perception that house prices in London price out the middle class, which relies on railways to get to work in London. The inhabitants would appear to be a mix of relatively rich homeowners and relatively poor renters/council house inhabitants, with anyone with an income in between the two having to buy outside of London.

    Given therefore that any city should have a mix of jobs with different levels of remuneration in order for its economy to function well, then commuting capacity will indeed be at a premium in order for London’s economy to grow. Since house prices have increased by 18% in the last year in the capital, that pressure will grow even more – unless you find companies who are willing to fund that sort of salary increase…

    One other point: London-specific rail studies tend to have much higher values for Wider Economic Benefits placed on them. I think Crossrail’s WEBs value was about 50% of the journey time benefits – compare that with studies for elsewhere in the UK, where the value is about 10-20% (HS2 was around 16% or so?). I think this reflects the fact, that (a) salaries are higher in London; and (b) in London there is no viable alternative to public transport – unlike elsewhere in the UK.

  38. Anonymous says:

    It shows just how biased the government is that they are willing to waste billions on needless regeneration of already-excellent facilities when the rest of the country is starved of investment and in most cases left with dilapidated concrete structures

  39. Southern Heights says:

    @Anonymous 14:35: You haven’t been to St. Pancras or King’s Cross before they were redeveloped have you?

    “Excellent” is not a word that would have occurred to me in the context of either back in the nineties…

    I would also like to point out: York, Newcastle and Bristol stations don’t exactly come across as dilapidated concrete structures. The last time I was in Leicester (2012) the station was undergoing some refurbishment.

    So please keep some perspective, remember almost 1 in 8 people in the UK live in London…

  40. Graham H says:

    @southern heights – well said (except that the”London” that is so hated and envied is in fact about a quarter of the population). You might also have added that the canon of provincial stations that have had, or are about to have, major investment is a very long one – eg Manchester, Brum, Sheffield, Leeds, Derby – and that the bulk, probably the overwhelming bulk, of rail subsidy goes simply to keep the regional services running whereas the London-oriented services are almost out of subsidy. Moreover, even if the modal split in favour of rail in Greater Manchester, or W Yorks, for example, could be trebled or quadrupled, it would still be a trivial proportion of travel to work, and tiny in comparison with London. A classic case, if you wanted a further one, of “Build it and no one wants to use it”.

    One might add that there is very little evidence to support the proposition that added transport investment necessarily leads to greater economic growth – as the HS2 promoters are finding now, and as the motorway planners found in the sixties. Indeed, there is some implication that better transport links simply enable people to travel more easily from the less favoured areas to the more attractive ones, taking their business with them.

  41. straphan says:

    @Graham H: Sorry to disagree, but of course the rail network up North is going to need more subsidy if:

    (a) all the London-based civil servants are prepared to fund on many lines is a Pacer (or two) per hour;
    (b) There are heaps of signal boxes about that need to be staffed;
    (c) Due to cuts and savings the signalling headways up North are about half that of those down South
    (d) The routes rely on conductors selling tickets, but the trains are so full the conductors cannot move around the train in the peaks;
    (e) Investment is made into shiny new stations and electricity pylons rather than the rolling stock required to run services with an adequate capacity and quality (Todmorden Curve being a case in point) or facilities to provide for DOO operations (something practiced on most lines around London).

  42. Long Branch Mike (Long Barrier Manipulation) says:


    I’ve seen 100s of millions of pounds spent on Manchester station refurbs (Mcr Victoria is underway – Mcr Piccadilly is fabulous), plus Northern Hub underway, Metrolink doubled in size and still expanding.

    Certainly more can and should be done, but the North is not bereft of major rail investment. IMO a zonal fare system in Manchester would greatly increase mobility and transit use, and I believe some progress is being made on this.

  43. straphan says:

    @LBM: And as those millions are spent on Manchester and Leeds stations:

    – The DfT can’t even commit to keeping 9 paltry DMUs up North despite Transpennine Express being required to increase their service levels shortly;
    – The Todmorden Curve was opened in May with the DfT not being able to secure enough funds to operate a service across it.
    – The Chat Moss Route (Liverpool Lime St – Newton-le-Willows – Manchester) will be electrified in December 2014. There will only be two or three EMUs available to run on it, and contrary to previous plans these will not even have been refurbished prior to being put into service.

    You could spit-shine every major station up North, but what is the point if there is no rolling stock to run a decent level of service into those stations? These three issues I mentioned cost pennies in comparison to what is being spent on Crossrail, and are just as badly needed. And yet they are not delivered.

  44. Graham H says:

    @straphan – you know as well as I do what the cost structure of the industry is and it is the cost of the infrastructure that weighs heaviest in the balance – in the case of Northern rail it is at least 40% of the cost of running the service. Rolling stock – and I do agree that the pacers are **** – is relatively a small part of the story and as far as I can see the only reason they have not been replaced is down to the prejudices of one or two nameable officials in DfT (who don’t actually have any previous London connexions…). As to extra rolling stock to increase capacity, so low are the ex-Regional Railways/PTE fares that adding more passengers via additional capacity would probably increase the loss – why not set fire to the banknotes instead? Basically, investing in the north is chucking good money after bad.

    BTW I seem to recall that there have been a number of re-signalling schemes in the north in recent decades, so i don’t buy the lack of investment there either.

  45. Malcolm says:

    … that adding more passengers via additional capacity would probably increase the loss – why not set fire to the banknotes instead?

    Perhaps because burning banknotes do not get people where they are going in decreased discomfort? The primary function of trains is to move people round, not to “make a profit”. It might be helpful if we commentators from the south could occasionally show a bit of solidarity with people in the rest of Britain.

    Of course the issue of what to do about transport in the north and its need for subsidy must be addressed. But any proposed answers should embody recognition that there are real people involved and real need.

  46. Long Branch Mike (Long Barrier Manchester) says:


    You have valid points.

    However I fear we are getting off track from this thread, and indeed from la raison d’être of London Reconnexions itself, in straying so far from the Capital.

    I posit that we have addressed Anonymous`s post of 20 May 2014 at 14:35, so now we can return to the regularly scheduled programme.

  47. Graham H says:

    @Malcolm – Just to try LBM’s patience a little longer, there are two ways of justifying any public investment: either a financial one or an economic one. Clearly, investment in the north can’t wash its face financially, and no one has yet explained the economic case for doing so. Pleas for solidarity or for investment on moral grounds play directly into slush fund and corrupt politics. Let’s hear only what the rationally evaluated case may be (whether for investment in the north or the south). As with many crayonista schemes, for example, the public is often worse off with certain investments than if they had never been made in the first place because they consume capex and opex which might have been spent on better schemes elsewhere – hence my remarks about monetary ignition…

  48. Alan Griffiths says:

    Graham H 20 May 2014 at 11:48

    “@Alan Griffiths – failure of vision maybe”

    I’m aware that you and I are unlikely to agree on such subjects.

    I have Saturday morning photos of lots of Kent passengers disembarking at Stratford International.

    Somewhere, possibly not available in English, there will be French calculations of TGV passengers wanting to pass thorough Paris without getting off and real French journey figures from the trains that have been running for years.

    It’s a long time since I first heard the “no demand for through trains” argument put on behalf of Eurostar in a hotel in Scarborough (early 1998) and I still ain’t impressed.

    A man from Birmingham described his recent journey:
    1) New Street to Euston
    2) Waterloo to Lille Europa on Brussels train
    3) wait on same platform for a few minutes
    4) Lille Europa to Lyon

  49. Alan Griffiths says:

    Graham H @ 20 May 2014 at 15:42

    ” even if the modal split in favour of rail in Greater Manchester, or W Yorks, for example, could be trebled or quadrupled, it would still be a trivial proportion of travel to work, and tiny in comparison with London. A classic case, if you wanted a further one, of “Build it and no one wants to use it”. ”

    I think if you went to the railway station of, say, Bolton at peak hour and made those points, you should expect a very bad reaction.

    Many suburban and Transpennine Express trains are very busy; they are most of the passenger miles in the north. And as for the Hope Valley paytrain…

  50. Malcolm says:

    More than two ways. If people in Leeds were dying in the street for lack of hospital facilities, then I submit there would definitely be a non-financial, non-economic case to be made to build hospitals. If it was cinemas that were lacking, however, then I’d go along with your argument.

    I see more trains for local services in the north as somewhere midway on the spectrum. A good argument against providing them out of solidarity can certainly be made, but, to me at least, it is far from clear cut.

  51. Malcolm says:

    I don’t think anyone is seriously arguing that there is no demand for through travel between the channel tunnel and north-of-London. What is often said (and I happen to believe it) is that the demand for these facilities is too low and too diffuse at any given time to justify through trains.

    It’s a simple hub and spoke principle, with London being the hub. Even if the HS1-2 connection was zero cost, it would only be used by a token daily train. The rest of the through passengers would leave Manchester/Wherever at a time of their choosing, get a frequent train to London, and another frequent train to Paris/Brussels.

    Right now a through train could technically be run between Birmingham and Paris (or wherever), we don’t have to wait for HS2, but it’s not going to happen. Nor will it happen when we do have HS2.

  52. timbeau says:

    @Ian Sargeant

    It’s impossible to generalise about the distance of Oxbridge colleges from the respective stations – Nuffield (0.4 miles) or Wolfson (1.9 miles from both the main station and the ;proposed Parkway)? Homerton (0.8 mile) or Churchill (3 miles)?

  53. timbeau says:

    “of course the rail network up North is going to need more subsidy if:

    (a) all the London-based civil servants are prepared to fund on many lines is a Pacer (or two) per hour”
    I don’t understand – are you saying that improving the service would mean less subsidy would be necessary?

    “(c) Due to cuts and savings the signalling headways up North are about half that of those down South” surely cuts will lead to longer headways? But again, why would these cuts result in more subsidy being required?

    Unless you are suggesting that improving the service would attract enough extra custom to more than pay for those improvements?

  54. Alan says:

    I claim no professional expertise but I can’t accept that investment in the provinces simply ‘won’t wash its face’.

    The right investments get well used and add economic value whether that is at KXSP or 200 miles away. If not every last project can be said to have done that, and I can think of a couple that haven’t, I would attribute their failure to the lack of strong local decision making, weaker local media scrutiny and meddling from remote central government that probably adds little value to the decision making process. If we get these investments right we could re-invigorate plenty of provincial centres just as we are seeing in London with KX, Stratford etc. and probably at a fraction of the cost.

  55. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Timbeau – I think there are a number of factors in play. Urban rail networks outside the South East tend to be under PTE / ITA control. These are nearly all controlled by Labour politicians who will tend to favour keeping fares lowish (where they control them). All of these areas have deregulated bus services which the politicians don’t control and fares are probably more expensive than trains in some cases. Therefore there has been a transfer to rail. Worse people who have poor bus services will drive thereby worsening road congestion meaning those who were driving but who have a rail option may well use that too. Therefore there has probably been a steady if slow move from bus to rail and from car to rail on some rail routes over the last 25-30 years. Given the historically low fares and reluctance to increase them then you have the worst of all worlds – low revenue, overcrowding, no political appetite to increase fares meaning no case for investment as Graham H says.

    London and SE has had a very large revenue base for years which has grown and grown and which has seen government push for higher and higher fares to generate premium payments to fund the subsidy elsewhere in the country! I do understand Straphan’s frustration with a shoddy rolling stock policy / lack of strategy but we’ve been here for 20 years with no sign of sanity regardless of who is in charge of the DfT. Even the sainted Lord Adonis “bottled it” over DMU replacement / fleet expansion although the possibility of more rail electrification muddied things somewhat.

    The problem overall is that there is no strategic direction for the rail network – things are just nudged left or right depending on what happens with each franchise award which then creates issues that have to be mopped up somewhere else. The nonsenses with the franchising process have not helped either. It seems we may get the Thameslink / Southern franchise announcement on Friday of this week so that’ll create a load more issues for some poor sap to deal with on some other franchise. There is a fundamental financing mismatch across the rail network and until that is resolved we will carry with the current polarisation. Unfortunately I can’t see the politicians being able to sort that one out if they can manage to “mis-time” the renationalisation of Network Rail meaning NR has had to be given a £550m bridging loan to get it from April to July by when the parliamentary process should have allowed the DfT to get the budget to fund NR directly (based on info from Roger Ford). Of course this does get us to a very interesting proposition as to what will be funded as part of Control Period 6 given the Network Rail “credit card” doesn’t really exist anymore. Goodbye nice upgrades to stations anywhere in the country!

  56. 0775John says:

    Graham H 19.08 20th May
    “Clearly, investment in the north can’t wash its face financially, and no one has yet explained the economic case for doing so. Pleas for solidarity or for investment on moral grounds play directly into slush fund and corrupt politics. Let’s hear only what the rationally evaluated case may be”
    Not quite sure what you are actually saying here. Is it your view that investment can/should never be made on moral grounds? Do you see equality a moral issue? If not why invest in disabled access at stations or public buildings? This investment does not “wash its face” surely?
    I would have thought that improving transport in the regions so that it reached the standard of certain parts of London was a sign of a mature state that valued all its citizens as equally entitled to the benefits of economic success and not just those in the orbit of London… Are not the provincial teachers educating future London workers deserving of a comfortable and quick ride to work to carry on their time-honoured role of providing future employees to be swallowed by that great maw!

  57. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ 0775 John – Graham H will, I am sure, correct me but I think he may well be doing his best impression of HM Treasury and DfT officials. He’s clearly been at the sharp end of debate and discussion about all sorts of investment proposals and there are “dark arts” involved. IIRC he has given us some insight into those dark arts as deployed by BR to fend off nonsenses and insanity in the past. Nonetheless he is also saying things as they are in respect of revenue, cost and subsidy. When you’re on an austerity “bent” in public spending then you aren’t going to throw money away on more subsidy. It’s a minor miracle that we have some decent investment in electrification which is spread around the country. I would also say that politicians tend to be full of blandishments for those who want to listen but don’t have a great track record when it comes to action. Therefore they will always say the North “deserves” good transport and then it does precisely nothing about it unless there is a real political risk (hence why Metrolink funding was rescued within months of Mr Darling saying no dosh for trams).

    I have written my fair share of investment papers for transport projects and I have never mentioned a moral case for my projects and I wouldn’t have been allowed to do so. If we look at something like accessibility then that investment is essentially driven by a political decision about equality and is, in some instances, mandated by legislation. Politicians will (rightly) be criticised for taking a stance and then not providing funding which is why accessibility at railway stations is funded separately. Over time knowledge about usage of such facilities and customer preferences about them will increase which will allow a more coherent and evidence based view of investment appraisal to be reached. Clearly it is not just people in wheelchairs who find lifts, level platforms and small gaps between trains and platform edges convenient. To the extent that an “easier to use” transport systems attracts ridership then you may well start to identify revenue benefits which would accrue for future schemes. I don’t think anyone is really arguing that investment in the North or Wales or South West or wherever is not a good thing. The problem we have is that the demand and revenue in London and the South East is of a different scale which massively tilts the investment case and the funding. That theme has been revisited many, many times on LR and will continue to be.

  58. Anonymous.2 says:

    @Graham H“Moreover, even if the modal split in favour of rail in Greater Manchester, or W Yorks, for example, could be trebled or quadrupled, it would still be a trivial proportion of travel to work, and tiny in comparison with London. A classic case, if you wanted a further one, of “Build it and no one wants to use it”
    In Greater Manchester and W. Yorks rail ridership continues to grow despite DfT previous predictions of no growth on awarding Northerns franchise and in peak hours the current stock is overwhelmed. Methinks more a case of “We won’t build it so you can’t use it.”
    According to Evan Davis in part 2 of Mind the Gap the Liverpool-Hull corridor and spurs to Preston and Sheffield include 6 million population within 1hr journey time of Hebden Bridge (I assume that timing is not by rail.) The current rail offering is so poor in comparison to the road network that for anyone with car access it is a no brainer. I am not at all convinced that clapped out 319s running at 90mph max are going to tempt many off the M62. Perhaps utilization of cascaded HSTs on the proposed Lpool Newcastle route might be a step in the right direction!

  59. Greg Tingey says:

    WW & others
    I hear, regarding provincial rail journeys, from one who has to endure them, that f’rinstance, the morning Eastbound trains Crewe – Derby have very silly loadings, comparable with the London peaks.
    As Anonymous 2 has also pointed out, I see.
    At the very least, more & NEW rolling stock required.

    [Quotes removed around word. Overdoing this just irritates me and I am removing them because I can. PoP]

  60. Alan Griffiths says:

    Anonymous.2 @ 21 May 2014 at 03:04

    If you’re in Hebden Bridge, train service is good and Manchester Victoria is closer than Leeds. Driving anywhere is a pain.

    As for Liverpool/ Newcastle, I suggest 15 or 20 minutes perusing the new Transpennine North timetable.

    Its interesting, notably in its anticipation of electrification, still 4 years away.

  61. Boriswatch says:

    “It also helps that at King’s Cross some pretty drastic law enforcement action has cleared much of the sleaziness from the area.”

    Some of King’s Cross is still pretty run down, notably to the east and south east. Since this is where the roads make the environment unpleasant and don’t encourage lingering, we may have found the reason why stations are often associated with seediness – the road traffic that serves them. Not for nothing was practically the first verb you’d associate with the old KX ‘kerb-crawling’ (well, it was for me).

    The comment that the King’s Cross/St. Pancras developments benefit hugely from being practically car-free is astute and correct here, along with the mix of academic and business uses.

    On which note, TfL’s loony orbital road tunnel plan is essentially a developer-led attempt to raise the value of land fronting onto the current IRR by removing traffic – developers have realised that accessibility by car is not worth the cost in putting off the kind of high-value tenants who are much more likely to value high public transport accessibility.

    The question as to what the point of the (tolled) road tunnels for the sole use of people who aren’t going to work in these places are when you also need to provide a couple of more Crossrails for those that are is a good one.

  62. straphan says:

    I think I need to restate my grievances again in light of the points made here:

    The way the railway works is that there is a significant cost associated with the construction of infrastructure, and a smaller but also significant cost associated with its maintenance. There is also a cost associated with operating trains, but as Graham H pointed out – it is not as huge.

    What has happened over the years is that – with the decline of industry (managed in no small part from London!), there has been less and less demand on the rail network – both for freight and for passenger journeys. As a result, measures were taken to reduce the cost of infrastructure upkeep by reducing capacity (= simpler signalling system to maintain), reduce the cost of running trains (= Pacers), and reduce fares to attract more passenger patronage.

    Nowadays, heavy industry has mostly disappeared, and the few jobs offering ‘decent’ pay are in the larger urban areas such as York, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool. These urban centres have also managed to attract a little bit of agglomeration themselves, thereby increasing commuting demand – the historically low fares helped this happen.

    However, little has been done to date regarding the supply of rail services. In some places, it is the infrastructure savings of yesteryear that cannot provide more capacity for more services – some of these have or are being addressed in recent years. The biggest problem, however, is the lack of supply of rail services.

    In 2003 and 2004 respectively, the Wales & Borders and Northern franchises (trading as Arriva Trains Wales and Northern Rail) were let by the Department for Transport on a ‘no-growth basis’ – Wales for 15 years, Northern for 9 (since extended to 2016). By ‘no-growth’ the DfT assumed there will be no growth in passenger numbers over the duration of the franchise, and there will be no provision made for providing additional capacity over and above the capacity provided in 2003/4.

    Now compare and contrast this with what has happened in London and the South East. Try to remember what the railway looked like around 2003 (Connex South Central, the last slam-door stock, etc.) and what it looks like now (over 500 Electrostar and Desiro units in service, never mind HS1). The DfT even didn’t mind raising fares in Kent quite substantially where it felt these were too low.

    If we now look at what has happened to the demand for rail services over this time, then between 2002/3 and 2011/12 the number of passenger journeys in London & SE has grown by 46%, and passenger-km by 34% (ORR data). For all Regional franchises this is 56% and 62% respectively. Yet the DfT assumed that two of the biggest Regional franchises would not grow at all during this time. Only now is there some limited investment in the infrastructure and plans are being made with regard to capacity enhancements. But if you moan on about how Thameslink and Crossrail is only about ‘catching up’ with demand in London, then – please – spare a thought for commuters in Manchester and Leeds…

    Now, we can argue to death about business cases for investment in the rail network, and so on. But I would love to hear from Graham H and others as to how rational it is to – on one hand plan for significant growth in passenger numbers in London & South East (and pretty much everywhere else!); and on the other hand assume zero growth in Wales and the North of England for a decade! This to my mind is nothing to do with business cases, but it is a failure of planning and a purely political decision.

    The legacy of savings and low fares has now led to a railway that is underutilised in many places (due to lack of rolling stock available) or that does not have enough capacity to handle current demand (due to savings on signalling etc.). Investment in both of these will bring in more passengers – but Graham H claims they simply will not pay enough.

    Examples show that this does not have to be this way. In Kent, the DfT raised fares by RPI+3% because they thought they were too low. People moaned, but growth continued. They introduced a super-expensive HS1 commuter service. People still use it (albeit more would if it didn’t cost 20% more than the conventional service and went to somewhere Kent commuters actually want it to go to…). On the Leeds North Western services, the PTE – after long negotiations – defied the RPI+1% fare increase rule to fund new rolling stock. Which is now bursting at the seams. It therefore appears that fare increases can be used to fund new rolling stock – but it’s a political decision of the DfT not to do this.

    Also, let us not forget how fares are collected in the North and in Wales. Due to savings, there are hardly any ticket barriers anywhere (Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Victoria do not have any!), and the train guard is tasked with opening the doors at every station, checking whether nobody has stolen the platform since he was last there, releasing the rest of the doors, closing them, giving the driver authority to depart. Oh and selling/checking tickets in between. How much revenue goes uncollected because of this? Is this not an area where investment would be worthwhile and improve the business case? Is the DfT making it happen?

    Right – I shall shut up now lest I get banned by the powers that be for going too far off-topic.

  63. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Right – I shall shut up now lest I get banned by the powers that be for going too far off-topic.

    On the contrary. Keep going. Comparing London and its commuter catchment area to the rest of the country is fine. If your comments were solely about Leeds or wherever that would be different.

    Possibly one of the critical factors it how to invest in London without upsetting the rest of the country and it is an issue that has to be faced. I personally would argue we need to prevent London needlessly getting too large and if there are functions that can be done just as well in Leeds, Salford, Manchester, Birmingham, Brighton, Reading, Swindon, maybe Paris even, or wherever then lets encourage that.

    It does seem, however, that successful cities in Britain outside London cannot totally stand on their own and they benefit from good, fast and preferably frequent links with London. And then there is no point in getting to Leeds centre if your client’s or supplier’s factory in the suburbs is inaccessible due to traffic and lack of rail alternatives so we do have to care about public transport elsewhere.

    Possibly a much better place for comparison is Cardiff with the area around Cardiff Bay being their equivalent of King’s Cross. The only rational place for investment is Cardiff centre and Cardiff Bay if one believes in agglomeration. The Valleys have never recovered from the decline of coal and the bond between people is often too strong to move away. So, according to some economists, the only rational thing to do is develop Cardiff and the Bay area and provide good links from The Valleys. Due to the nature of the terrain, routes are limited and developing the railways should be part of any package. But as Graham H points out, fares are too cheap (but they must be cheap not to put people off) and also in pure financial terms one could probably do better investing elsewhere in Britain (e.g. Crossrail).

    Of course what actually happened in The Valleys is that they tried to encourage industry there. It didn’t work although to the south there is a bit of an extended M4 corridor effect with Sony having a successful factory in Bridgend. So the valleys are have empty factories and high unemployment despite all the UK and EU money thrown in that direction.

    The above in Wales is, I would argue, in total contrast to London. We don’t try to fight economic forces but create the environment and ambiance, sometime more by chance than planning, for people and employers to want to be here. That is the winning formula and from that everything else follows.

  64. Graham H says:

    @various Alans and 0775 John – I’m not sorry to have stirred up a hornet’s nest. There are some important issues here, some of which lurk below the crayonista saga. Where to begin? Let me put two propositions to you:

    1. There is no such thing as a right to transport (how could it possibly be defined in terms of time, price and – relevantly to the rolling stock debate – quality? I mean, I’d like a first class train instantly from my front door to Jermyn Street at any time of day, but I’m not going to get it…)
    2. Even if such a right existed, all the money in the world wouldn’t pay for its delivery.

    If you accept these fairly self evident points, the next question is how should the available money for transport investment be allocated. You can do it according to the number of decibels generated by Angry of Bolton but that opens the broad and straight path to political corruption, waste of money and pork barrel politics, not to mention that crayonista dream of extending the District to Southend airport. Or you can approach the question rationally – rationality is the public’s – and the civil service’s – main defence against politicians. There are two – and only – two ways of distributing funds rationally: either in terms of s business case, or in terms of some socio-economic case. In the first of these, it is cash, and only cash that is relevant; if it won’t pay for itself, then it won’t work financially. Very few railway investment cases work financially. So one falls back on the socio-economic one. (Note, I am NOT saying that the present guidance on socio-economic appraisal is the best, merely that the principle of the thing is right). But making that work requires one to put numbers to things.

    Moral arguments, besides being controversial, cannot be quantified, nor are they as absolute as seems to be being assumed here. It is only 175 years ago that morally, the Master of Jesus College Cambridge was prepared to argue that building the station on Parkers Piece was “As displeasing to the Master and Fellows of Jesus College as it is to Almighty God” – for him an absolute moral imperative; travel to Dubai and find that the need for women’s only coaches is an “absolute” moral right. And so on.

    Nor is the equity argument relevant – we do not (and cannot afford) to give everyone the right to tertiary education, free residential homes, immediate access to a nearby hospital, or courses of life-saving but expensive drugs, for example. Why should transport be any different?

    Back on planet Earth, the rolling stock issue is particularly germane. Setting aside the monumental cock-up perpetrated on us all by the DfT in terms of “rolling stock strategy”, it is worth recalling just why the bulk of the existing non-IC fleets have come into existence. The Pacer fleet is there because it was the cheapest way of saving the provincial network from closure (and depended on an appraisal trick which pleased Ministers and my Permanent Secretary but not one senior civil servant), the replacements for the slam door stock were justified on safety grounds not financial or socio-economic grounds, and the forthcoming PRMTIS deadline will force the clearance of yet more stock which might otherwise have gone on for many years. You will notice that the words “quality, equity, north, south, economic, financial” don’t appear in any of this. Without these absolute drop-dead requirements, we would only now be wondering whether it was cheaper to see off the last of the slammers and the HST fleet would be facing another refurb and 20 more years. Think how long it actually took to replace the A stock…

    Finally, I entirely accept that there has been growth in the provincial rail market, but the fact is that 10% growth on a lowish single figure modal share merely means that rail moves up from 3-4 % to 3.5-4% – not a significant or relevant platform for justifying major investment. The same increase in an area where rail has a 30-40% market share produces the sort of numbers that can easily justify spend.

    I’ll get my coat now…

  65. JM says:

    This may go very off topic

    I think the agglomeration effect is as much social/cultural as economic. The effect the arts have had on cities like Nashville for example.

    I think Brighton is a good example of this. The effect of a large gay/artistic scene in turn makes them more attractive places for many non gay/artistic people to live and work for cultural reasons. As with arguments made for Shoreditch (which for all the snobbishness towards it is actually fine) this second tier are generally the kind of consumers most sought by advertisers (young, forward thinking, non saving, childfree, more disposable income) so inevitably big business ends up jarring up against more bohemian sub cultures (Tesco in Stokes Croft, Bristol is a good example). Lot of liberal writers/journalists choose to live in Islington/Camden when moving to London. I do worry the effect on wider culture if London/New York/San Francisco and other cities effectively prices out its creative class.

    Graham H

    On HS2, the problem with the evidence presented on high speed having an effect of benefitting capitals at expense of regions is it works on the same assumptions that HSR is the single biggest factor. I support the scheme but would never argue it alone will transform the economy of the north. By the same token, the oft quoted analysis by Henry Overman which states HSR has not had a transformational effect in some areas it operates is consequently reported as HSR having a damaging effect – not the same thing. It presumes they are being built for the same reason. It presumes no nuance in social or economic factors between the regions of UK and France. If an agglomerated hub already exists, why would a firm wait for HSR before relocating?

    Have stated previously I think a HS1/2 link might be better if part of a wider freight/local link to HS2/WCML/GWML in the Old Oak area. If you’re going to spend the money, better to build something that can take all through freight off NLL/GOBLIN. The frequency of each type of service intl/local freight would surely not be so high as to prevent mixed running.

    Would also argue an issue facing transport need and demand in the north is some of low density housing in its major cities. Those Backs to backs that were not replaced with awful tower blocks after slum clearnces instead got new homes with driveways and gardens having an effect on the amount of property eventually built. The Everton Valley in Liverpool is a good example. Not only the effect on transport but on local services. Old parades and high streets were destroyed and not replaced. So there is an over reliance on the car to access local services further than the average Londoner may have to travel.

    I would maintain you could build a significant amount of the housing the UK needs on existing brownfield in 9/10 cities in the north/Midlands. Ultimately what creates agglomeration is these northern hubs will a combination of good governance, more homes, high skills, access to culture and good infrastructure. I don’t agree they are basket cases – look at the productvity the North used to generate. The R&D and manufacture of graphene for example is something Manchester is in a position to capitalise on that London cannot. Renewable energy on the east Coast.

    Consequently there seems to be a very non committal stance from Govt figures on all of Londons future wishlists bridges, railways and homes.

  66. Southern Heights says:

    @Straphan: Can I be impish and suggest that sky high fares are the primary cause of ticket barriers?

    Look to the continent and note an absence of ticket barriers…

  67. straphan says:

    @Southern Heights: The issue of ticket barriers was covered elsewhere. This issue is as much cultural as it is about revenue collection.

    I would also take issue with your statement about the absence of ticket barriers on the Continent. A large number of Dutch railway stations are now gated, as are the Metro systems in all of France, Spain and Italy. The one place you will not find barriers on rail-based public transport stations is Germany. There, the fact that there is no single ticket format across the country, and yet some tickets have to be accepted almost nationwide on all public transport modes (e.g. BahnCard 100, Schoenes Wochenende Ticket) is a key – ekhm – barrier to barriers.

    @Graham H: You will notice I stayed well away from the ‘moral’ argument for rail services – having spent the first few years of my life in a communist country, and the next ten or so in a post-communist country I happen to have a very good understanding of what happens to a country’s economy and psyche if politicians agree to provide everything with a subsidy or free of charge. In a way, subsidy is part of the reason why the rail networks in the regions are indeed such a basket case. The trouble is, nobody in London (I will insist on calling Government by where it is located here) is either bothered or willing to come up with a sensible solution, and they are not too keen on letting someone local decide. To me it is really frustrating…

  68. Castlebar (Peoples’ Popular Front for Fulwell Chord Liberation) says:

    Perhaps not exclusively relevant to the topic, but definitely relevant to the thread drift, I have copied and posted below a snip from a Daily Telegraph article originally published on 22/03/13 > >

    For Beeching himself, the cuts outlined in 1963 were just the beginning. In 1965, he produced a second report, “The Development of Major Railway Trunk Routes”, outlining a future railway network of just 7,500 miles. The East Coast main line was to be closed north of Newcastle – no more stirring views of the North Sea from the windows of the Flying Scotsman – along with pretty much every other line in Scotland and Wales.

    While it was true that the least profitable railways had been closing long before Beeching – 1,300 miles went between the two world wars – and that Victorian speculation in railways had created all too many lines competing detrimentally with one another, the oh-so-rational Doctor had clearly gone too far.

    Initially, Harold Wilson’s Labour government, elected in October 1964, had taken up Beeching’s axe with considerable zeal; it began to lower it when the proposed closure of the Mid-Wales line threatened electoral defeat in several marginal constituencies: railways almost always had a political as well as an economic rationale.

    Beeching returned to ICI in 1965. Three years later, Barbara Castle’s Transport Act put an end to major cuts. Essential loss-making lines would be subsidised. Closures, however, continued until 1974 when the “oil crisis” placed a question mark over the ever-increasing number of cars. Even then, a rabidly anti-railway lobby that had emerged in the Fifties continued to bark. In 1983, Sir David Serpell, a civil servant who had worked for Beeching, wrote a report for Mrs Thatcher recommending an end to railways west of Bristol among other disingenuous cuts.

    Serpell was merely a fellow traveller of arch anti-railway buffs, and especially Brigadier Thomas Lloyd, deputy engineer-in-chief at the War Office, who wrote a report in 1955 recommending that Britain’s railways should be converted to roads. The Brigadier founded the messianic Railway Conversion League, rousing his congregation with the book Twilight of the Railways – What Roads They’ll Make in 1957.

    A quarter of a century later, disciples of the Brigadier, among them the high-profile town planner Sir Peter Hall, produced a similar document for the Right-wing Centre for Policy Studies, while only two years ago Lord Wolfson, a Tory peer and chief executive of Next, called for a new motorway linking Oxford and Cambridge, as campaigners were encouraging government to reopen the Oxford to Cambridge railway – the “Brain Line” – axed in 1967.

    Today, Britain’s railways are in greater demand than at any time since the 1920s. The pressure is on to rebuild lines Beeching’s axe severed (all, of course, with the connivance of politicians) as well as to improve existing routes while investing in brand new high-speed railways.

    < < on the whole, a very balanced article. No more of the "Only one train a day to Leeds" nonsense from a Tory Gov't minister (GH might be able to remember which one), and now it seems to be a case of "Lets try and find some money for cases where the damage (we did) isn't irreparable. Especially with important elections coming. We must promise the Earth, even when never deliverable. Anyway, we can forget it all after the election"

    There seems to be a case of this already, with alleged promises re Exeter – Plymouth avoiding Dawlish, no longer being actual promises

  69. Graham H says:

    @Castlebar – with the benefit of hindsight (always an invaluable guide), it’s clear that Beeching was asked the wrong question: not “How much of the rail network is profitable?” but “Why do we pay subsidy?”. This was a product of the belief that persisted well into the ’80s that (a) there was some profitable core railway and (b) subsidy was wicked. [In the mind of one specific senior colleague and friend of Serpell*, these axioms lasted until he was finally forced to retire long after the due date in 1989].

    The 1983 Minister was probably Howell – pronounced “hole”. We had so many…

    *generally known as the Serpent amongst those of us who had to work with him.

  70. Castlebar (Peoples’ Popular Front for Fulwell Chord Liberation) says:

    @ GH

    Thank you

    My addled memory told me that it was Keith Joseph, and I remember the quote but not the original source of it. You worked at the dizzy heights, and my own dealings were more at gutter level.

  71. 0775John says:

    Graham H above and others too
    I realise that I am perhaps, no definitely, not going to convince an experienced and sensible audience that there should be a moral perspective on the spending of taxpayers money. Unusually it seems, in this worldview morals seem to be for the politicians (presumably as they are wholly subjective and open to “flexibility”) and economics for the civil service. (I was a civil servant for 39 years but in a tax gathering department not a spending one so I had to contend with those moaning at me about being over-taxed whilst they were earning 5 times the average wage and having “no incentive” to create more wealth – for themselves, of course!)

    “There is no right to transport” – maybe not, neither is there a right to healthcare or education, but at stages in this country’s history it was decided that there should be an attempt to regard the citizens as having such a ‘right’ by enshrining in law provision or setting up a state system to provide these things. Indeed by nationalising the provision of these there was an overt acknowledgement that it was morally good, as with accessibility now.

    Once the state has made that leap (whether one agrees or not) it is no wonder that certain populations, wherever in the country they may be, get hot under the collar if their local area seems to suffer in certain services and others don’t – and London is certainly not always the benefitting area. Certainly post code lotteries exist in healthcare and rail route lotteries likewise.

    It is probably unwise to even tiptoe into the area of Scottish politics but suffice to say that the view north of the border in many minds is that Westminster is too remote to really understand Scotland’s feelings and problems and so independence is a regrettable, but probably positive, choice. Get shafted by who you voted for to sit in Edinburgh is preferable than by someone in Westminster. But regional English or Welsh voters have no independence in prospect and could well become fed up of being London’s back-office and food store.

    In the cold war the UK was referred to by some as a US aircraft carrier and maybe the regions feel a bit like London’s domestic staff living below stairs – working hard to support those at the high table, cared for – but feeling a little unappreciated most of the time.

  72. Graham H says:

    @0775John _ you have missed my point – “morality” gives politicians every excuse to behave badly and corruptly and is at the same time intensely personal in its judgement. I do not, and nor should you, expect everyone to agree with your definition of “morality”.

    On the narrow question of a right to transport, we really mustn’t give in to the mob. Free trains one day, free clothing the next. Logic is the best defence against stupidity.

    On the topic, it is worth recording that we did a number of studies in DTp about transferring the local rail network to the county councils and PTEs – “the local option” as it was called. The trouble was and is that because equity applies in the way local authorities are financed*, taking the exisitng rail subsidy and spreading it around the local authorities “equitably” produced nothing but anomalies. As you probably know, the distribution of grant to local authorities is done by formula reflecting various factors such as population, sheep, etc. The trouble with railways is that some authorities had virtually nothing by way of local rail (eg Suffolk) but others had a great deal (eg Surrey) and there was no formula to be found which wouldn’t have lead to widespread closures in Lincolnshire and Lancashire but champagne cruises for councillors in Somerset. So we abandoned the effort. If you were to give everyone a right to access the railway system, either you’d have build a lot more railways or the good burghers of Somerset and Suffolk would feel very hard done by.

    *Just to still the envious clamour from the good inhabitants of (apparently) Bolton, who are to be patronised and defined by their lack of intellectual rigour, the formulae for distributing grant to local authorities is subject to a special feature – the London discount multipliers – which are designed to prevent London getting that share of grant to which the formulae would entitle it. Fair?

  73. straphan says:

    @Graham H: And yet in – say – Germany, where local railways are financed by regional authorities rather than the federal government, local trains carry a large number of people in relative comfort and with a sensible level of subsidy. In the UK, decision-makers based at 33 Horseferry Road on the one hand have no issue with predicting no growth on local lines in a third of England and all of Wales, whereas they specifically decide to mess up GatEx just because they can’t get a seat going into Victoria in the morning.

    The trouble is that there are no local or regional authorities in England that are of the size that would support strategic planning of regional rail networks.

  74. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Castlebar (whatever the cause is this time) and others,

    An excellent Daily Telegraph quote although inevitably I take a slight issue with the point about Beeching. His report hinted at the need to appraise railways differently but no-one took up the hint. He simply stated that it wasn’t up to the railways to subsidise social benefit – especially when they couldn’t make a profit anyway.

    If the line between Oxford and Cambridge was still open then, with today’s understanding about how life works, I don’t think anyone would dream of closing it regardless of any loss it would have made because of the need for academic collaboration. One can argue about whether Oxford and Cambridge would openly collaborate on anything but the fact is that it does happen and people do move between one and the other – Sir Andrew Wiles is a classic example of someone who flits between the two (his wikipedia entry mentions Cambridge twelve times and Oxford ten). Having a direct railway line between Oxford and Cambridge would be a classic case of an unquantifiable benefit that nevertheless some economists believe would be of major benefit helping give Britain the edge over many other countries.

    The problem with all the post-Beeching arguments about keeping railways is that they seemed to lack any sound logical basis for keeping them or indeed a rational way of deciding which railway lines should be saved and which ones lost. That is why I think that the work of Bridget Rosewell and others is so vital at identifying what the benefits are of railways and public transport generally. Only when you can see the full benefit and not just the farebox revenue can you discuss how to use them most effectively.

    For those who worry about being off-topic, I don’t think any of this is off-topic and it is heartening to see it discussed. It is all incredibly relevant to London as the mechanism by which we decide to build or enhance railways, and in particular why we build railways in London, needs to be discussed and tested for railways in London and elsewhere.

  75. straphan says:

    Just to get away (a bit) from the North-South argument: this may be a naive question that confirms all of Graham H’s prejudices about the intellectual capabilities of transport consultants, but here goes:

    Governments the world over agree to subsidise road construction in order to provide mobility to people. Certain smart transport planners proved quite a while ago, that building roads is not the right answer to easing traffic congestion, because spare capacity will inevitably fill up. My question therefore is: why does the same argument not apply to railways? Disregarding the obvious examples (e.g. building a motorway or railway line through a desert that doesn’t connect anything), if with roads we are clearly saying ‘build it and they will come’, why does the same principle not apply to railways?

  76. Castlebar (Peoples’ Popular Front for Ruislip L.U. Chord Liberation) says:

    @ GH “Hindsight is the most accurate form of vision”

    @PoP Thank you. The whole of that 2013 Telegraph article, from which I took the extract, is well worth a read. Its title is .”It looks like Dr Beeching was too hasty after all”. I think that the public’s access to the internet will ensure much more scrutiny of any future decisions imposed by those without local knowledge. I think the days have almost passed where London based politicos can parachute somebody with no local knowledge into a safe seat. Communication in the 60’s by post/telephone was slow/expensive. Now, with the internet, it is cheap and can be viral. This has to be beneficial to public transport interest groups and to the detriment of those would be road builders.

  77. Graham H says:

    @straphan – couldn’t agree more about the need for powerful regional authorities – probably the long term answer to London’s overweight, but politicians are terrified of it, for reasons unexplained.

    To pick up your point about congestion on the railways: absolutely. In the ’90s, I commissioned some work from George Yarrow about the factors driving NSE’s commuting volumes. Inevitably, the first order factor was CLE, but the second – and a long way ahead of pricing and road congestion, was the volume of service offered. Most embarrassing, so I put the report in a very deep cupboard that got lost when we moved out of 1 Eversholt Street although mysteriously, a copy seemed to accompany me round from job to job ever afterwards..

  78. straphan says:

    @Graham H: Then, since the volume of capacity offered affects demand on railways as well as roads, then surely offering more capacity up North will give you more demand, particularly since existing demand is as constrained by capacity in Manchester or Leeds as it is in London. The only variable in the equation you would need to fix to make this happen (other than remove decision-making away from Horseferry Road and the likes of Chief Mapmaker et al) is raise the fares (gradually) to actually pay for said investments.

    Either that or – methinks – the M60, M62 and bits of the M1 are long overdue for some widening schemes…

  79. JM says:

    @Graham H & Straphan

    Could lack of regional policy be down to lack of change in the regions. When haven’t most regional cities been controlled by one party. Local democracy may appear weak if in effect, you magnify a one party fiefdom. One reason I believe somewhere like Yorkshire might work as a punchy regional authority. Marginal enough for people to engage with it. You could arguably do the same to parts of Cheshire and the Ribble valley and Gtr Manchester.

    Also, is it correct that the greatest city modal share for rail outside London is Glasgow? I’m thinking back to some old figures now (SRA days I think). It surely has the second largest track capacity too, at least relatively.

  80. 0775John says:

    Graham H 13.46
    “ have missed my point – “morality” gives politicians every excuse to behave badly and corruptly and is at the same time intensely personal in its judgement. I do not, and nor should you, expect everyone to agree with your definition of “morality”.
    On the narrow question of a right to transport, we really mustn’t give in to the mob. Free trains one day, free clothing the next. Logic is the best defence against stupidity”.

    I don’t want you to think that I feel my version of what is “moral” is any better or worse than anyone else’s version (well, perhaps I do believe it to be better than some in the past who have shown themselves to have very dodgy morals) but it amuses me (almost) that you seem to feel that since there are no moral absolutes then economic/financial measures can happily give the best answer. The vast majority of the population know what “moral” is in terms of actions and hold that behaviour higher in esteem than that different animal – fairness.

    Re Bolton – Since “Fair” and “moral” are not synonyms it would be bizarre to compare London with any place one tenth its size in any formula – just as it would be in including it in the calculation of the average house price increase in the UK. Its presence simply masks the true information upon which to make judgements.

    Re logic – I would refer you to Niels Bohr – “No, no, you’re not thinking; you’re just being logical.”

  81. straphan says:

    @JM: This is getting a tad off-topic, but…

    First of all, regardless of who you vote for and what your views on the economy are, I think we can all agree that large-scale pit closures and de-industrialisation in the North happened on the Tories’ watch. You can hardly therefore blame the good people of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Merseyside for not liking them much.

    Secondly, I think the one thing that unites people the most in political terms is a grievance. Politicians are good at highlighting a grievance and trying to spin a situation as unfair against a group of people due to some form of bias of those in power against them. People quickly pick up on feelings of injustice and quickly develop warm feelings for such politicians. Proving to them that their feelings are unfounded is darn difficult, since the answer to what is just is much like an arse – each of us has one’s own…

    I think those two reasons could go far towards explaining why one party has dominated the North politically. As long as they are not given a chance to prove themselves they can pick at that grievance, keep making promises, and win elections. This is a pattern repeated throughout the UK in response to the centralisation of power in London. Labour has followed this pattern in the North, SNP in Scotland, and UKIP looks to gain a lot in England this year and next.

    The trouble is, while most of us can probably agree that devolution of public transport powers within England is a good idea, the causes of the other parties are a bit more ambiguous…

  82. Graham H says:

    @0775John – you still don’t get it, I fear. One more try and then I’ll not bother any more. When you are trying to ration something, you need to measure it. I have never heard of any way of measuring morality. Have you? [Eg this man/thing/activity is 82.7% good… or he/it deserves 59% goodness? }

  83. JM says:


    I don’t blame them at all but by the same token you probably can’t blame Govts of the day who make policy decisions based on how people in Watford/Romford/Shipley or other marginals vote as opposed to say Bootle or Salford (or the Chilterns for that matter looking at HS2) if the former holds the balance of power. And given the public rejection of AV and the rejection of regional Mayors in many places, there is probably a belief in Westminster that the public do not care enough about the issue. The reality of course, is probably much different and a symptom of a general malaise toward the political system.

    For what its worth I’m very pro regional assemblies. I think some regional boundaries may have to be redrawn or merged to make many of them work though.

  84. straphan says:

    @JM: I, too, think that the rejection of elected mayors has more to do with the limited power those mayors would have had than with people’s belief that Westminster knows best. I also know that revising local authority boundaries isn’t easy. But I think that people appear to feel better and more in control if political decisions are made closer to them – particularly when it comes to transport. And especially given the grievances of the North (or indeed anyone north of Watford) towards London I think devolution can’t do much harm… Particularly it can’t do much more harm to the railways than centralised government has.

  85. Long Branch Mike (Induced Rail Demand) says:


    You’ve once again flummoxed me and the interweb – what are :



  86. Malcolm says:

    Straphan asks why “build it and they will come” applies differently as between roads and railways.

    I don’t think it does. The whole reason “build it and they will come” causes controversy is when it is used out of context. It needs a quantifier. Most mathematical claims are preceded by a quantifier. Either in an inverted A, meaning “for all values of”, or an inverted E, meaning “there exist values of”.

    The claim “for all X: build X and they will come” is obviously false; the desert you mention is a counterexample, and there are many more. But the claim “there exists at least one project X: build X and they (users of X) will come” is true, as it only needs one unexpectedly successful project to prove it.

  87. Malcolm says:

    One rather obvious problem with devolving transport to regions is that transport is not always within regions, it is also between regions.

  88. Alan Griffiths says:

    The point about Bolton (a large town which I’ve passed through but never been to) is that in the northwest it is a cause celebre for lack of capacity on the trains to Manchester. Lots could be done around the bigger cities (PTE areas) if stock were available for longer trains, but they aren’t.
    It is as near to a fact as the future can feature, that
    1) NW triangle electrification
    2) Northern Hub
    3) Transpennine North electrification
    will all be finished and running through trains before London’s Crossrail.
    So far, the impact on Bolton is that the hourly trains from Manchester Airport to Edinburgh and Glasgow have been diverted to some small town called Wigan (I have been there, once).

  89. Graham H says:

    @LBM – Central London Employment (probably an outdated statistical concept these days given the Wharf, and now KX); Persons of Restricted Mobility Travel Integration Standards (or something similar)

  90. Long Branch Mike (Long Weekend Television) says:

    @Graham H

    Many thanks as always. At this rate you deserve a co-writer credit on the LR Transport Lexicon/Glossary/Compendium/BabelFish Train Universal (Gauge) Translator…

  91. 0775John says:

    Graham H above. Yes, I should give up if I were you too!

    I do actually “get it” but I resent greatly the need for me to “get it” since I dislike the idea that everything has a value except a morality – irrespective of whose version of morality we are talking about.

    Matter closed as far as I am concerned….

  92. Alan says:

    @GH 12:11, no difficulty for me with your points about transport rights (lack of) and the need for a robust financial or socio-economic justification for investment, nor for your objection to lazy pork-barrel based investments – my personal bugbear is the number of white elephant bus stations my home town PTE has spent money on down the years, which I attribute to a lack of ability to do anything useful in the face of a dysfunctional local bus free market and the complex, long term nature of rail improvement schemes.

    However as @Straphan notes in more general terms, there seems to be underutilisation of rail in that city and others I know. I suspect that, as with the case of the London Overground here, development of existing rail, perhaps as cheaper light rail where possible, would not only be able to achieve a greater modal shift in those cities than the half a percent you suggest, but more importantly allow their centres to gain the agglomeration and network effects we have been writing about here, to energise the local economies and finally present themselves as centres that could take some of the pressure off an overcrowded and overheating capital.

    Why isn’t this done? A failure to identify and champion through building a case for the opportunities that I believe exist. Failure, I suspect, of local leadership, too weak structurally and too parochial in small boroughs rather than county or regional authories that would attract higher profile leadership. Add to this failure to connect with a remote central government that cannot so readily see the opportunities or devote the attention to the issues that it would with comparable projects and opportunities in its native South East. I see from later comments that others share similar thoughts. I dare say the descendents of Sir Humphrey are happy that way.

    Bottom line, I’m a proud Northerner but have now lived most of my adult life in London, observing its economic power and resilience compared with other cities and wondering why other cities can’t emulate some of it. Aside from the obvious scale, the transport infrastructure and the lifestyle it permits London and its residents is the obvious answer.

    ps. @GH again and almost certainly well off topic – Pacers – I salute your role, whatever it was, in delivering these much maligned provincial workhorses that I used extensively in my adolescence and early adulthood. For sure, you wouldn’t want to travel more than an hour or so on one, but with low bus style seating giving a spacious feeling, big windows affording panoramic view and the gentle nodding donky bounce adding a slight sense of jollity to the experience, they were perfect for an unhurried trip on a provincial branch. No doubt some lines owe their survival to them. If only they had been available a couple of decades earlier, how many more might they have saved?

  93. timbeau says:

    East West rail – how much would it really facilitate academic collaboration?
    It takes 2h33 via KX and Padd – probably less when Thameslink 2000-and-counting and Crossrail are complete. East-West just from Oxford to Bedford is expected to take an hour, so I’d be surprised if Ox-Cam would be much quicker than via London, and certainly less frequent.

  94. Graham Feakins says:

    Meanwhile, as a simple passenger frequently visiting clients out of London far north of Watford by train, my clients were more than happy to collect me from the railhead or to pay for me to get a taxi to their factories. Sometimes, if I could, I took a connecting train to reach e.g. Bolton or Middlesbrough. Normally, I didn’t consider much of that discussed above bar the thought that we had better ‘suburban’ trains in London.

    However, there was an international conference I helped to arrange in Harrogate, with everyone travelling 1st Class by train from King’s Cross to York and onwards to Harrogate with their luggage from their hotels in London. Imagine my horror trying to explain to a mass of rather well-to-do folk with accompanying wives from Japan, the USA and Europe just what sort of bus on rails they crammed on board and were expected to continue between York and Harrogate! That’s the only bit of the journey I hadn’t tested beforehand.

    That’s precisely when I realised that ‘something needed to be done’ about the railways beyond London, or at least the buckets running on the rails which I had hitherto not witnessed.

    The “low bus style seating giving a spacious feeling, big windows affording panoramic view and the gentle nodding donky bounce adding a slight sense of jollity to the experience” described by Alan above it was most certainly not that day! I might have shown a slight sense of jollity because of nervous tension and the disgraceful environment onto which the delegates had been crammed from their comfortable 1st Class environment on Inter-City but there was certainly none displayed by them. Notable, perhaps, that not a single one of the 300+ delegates who took the trains to arrive at Harrogate by train departed for King’s Cross by the same means, all booking taxis back to York. Perhaps sensible, since those few who returned on the Sunday rather than the Monday had to have a replacement bus anyway…. I have rarely been so embarrassed by our railways.

  95. Long Branch Mike (Induced Rail Demand) says:


    The advantages of the direct OxBridge East-West Brain Line appear to be largely second order (that is, not primarily a savings in travel time):
    – convenience of a one seat trip (vs three)
    – hopefully less cost
    – independence from London mainline rail and Tube congestion and disruption
    – ability to add and modify service independent of London and major rail services, including times of service and scheduling
    – taking passenger traffic away from busy London terminii and the Tube

  96. Chris says:

    @Anonymous.2 “I am not at all convinced that clapped out 319s running at 90mph max are going to tempt many off the M62. Perhaps utilization of cascaded HSTs on the proposed Lpool Newcastle route might be a step in the right direction!”

    The 319s are only being proposed for local Northern services, which refurbished should provide a noticeable improvement over the existing Sprinter fleet. TransPennine will get new units, most likely either 387s or a new fleet. Quite why you think HSTs would be a step in the right direction is beyond me when the line will be electrified, need rolling stock with good acceleration at lower speeds and a door layout that minimises dwell times through Manchester.

  97. Chris says:

    @Alan Griffiths
    “The link as proposed [part on the surface in Camden Town a single-track tunnel all the way from Old Oak Common] was intrusive, inefficient and expensive. A shorter twin-tunnel link would be much less disruptive, higher capacity and might even cost less.”

    There have been a number of studies undertaken into the link, and the firm conclusion was that a fully tunnelled link is dramatically more expensive and completely unviable – that’s why they persisted with the NLL option!

  98. Rational Plan says:

    I also think that currently that East West rail is more about improving connections between rapidly growing regional towns. The current first phase will help with links between the M40 towns and Oxford to Milton Keynes.

    Though upon reading an article in Rail I got the impression that more investment might be forthcoming towards Phase 1, to allow even more national services to run on it. I think they might be looking at more cross country services than initially thought of.

  99. Ian J says:

    @PoP: One can argue about whether Oxford and Cambridge would openly collaborate on anything but the fact is that it does happen

    It’s no coincidence that the wartime code-breakers (and computer pioneers) were located at Bletchley Park, equally accessible by train from Oxford, Cambridge, and London.

    70 years later, and the government puts out a document saying “The triangle of London – Cambridge – Oxford is the kernel in the UK of cutting edge high tech industry developments… This prospectus articulates the Government’s commitment to a national tech community, linked by a modern and growing rail network” – though oddly not mentioning King’s Cross in its list of upgraded stations, Google notwithstanding.

    I’m not sure what project this reference to Stratford is referring to: “As soon as 2017, we aim to deliver new infrastructure which will facilitate the introduction of direct connections with Cambridge and the proposed Science Park station”.

  100. Rational Plan says:

    I nearly always develop a bee in my bonnet about lazy use of newly defined words often of political nature. The current one dejour is ‘Landbanking’ It is somehow current to blame the evil house builders for the lack of house building. The current dubious evidence of this is the practice of ‘landbanking’. The initial term meant just the difference between the number of houses under construction and the amount of plots with outline permission. This figure was then used to justify the beating around the head of the industry. Of course many people now seem to use it against anyone who owns land that they are immediately developing. It’s laziness much the same way people often describe all forms of greenfield development as greenbelt development.

    The difference of course is due to highly restrictive planning environment that house builders operate in.

    This is not the States where someone can roll up to a rural county and buy 500 acre plot by a main road and start laying out streets and all the local government will ask is if fit’s in with the local planning code. Finding large scale plots of land to build upon in the UK is a decades long dance. There are two ways to find such sites.

    The most popular way is to get your piece of land you own to be designated as a future housing site in the revised local plan.
    Once a decade or so local authorities publish a local plan. The most popular strategy in most areas is to designate a few of larger towns in the area as a ‘growth node’ and try and freeze in apsic all smaller settlments. Then they look at the average number of household formation and get some consultant to come up with some figure for the future. This will produce xthousand of new homes over a 15 year to 30 year period.
    The projected future rate of house building is of course intensively political.

    Then landowners around these towns will pitch in with their ideas of which fields can be easily developed for little 500 hundred house estates, and these will be assessed on accessibility to good roads, railways station and ‘environmentally sensitive (read political) areas. At this stage a huge bunfight emerges as everyone turns into a nimby and all proposals are fought over. It can take many years for agreement to be reached and it is the principal reason many local plans are out of date.

    If a landowner is lucky his site has been chosen, though it may be designated for development for 15 years in the future or as emergency alternative if other sites can’t be brought forward.

    At this stage the landowners are often your pension companies that have been leasing the agricultural land to farmers, waiting for the chance to turn in a crop of houses. Some of these property plays may last many decades and can take a subtle reading of politically acceptable development trends in each county.

    The other alternative is to look at opportunity sites, these can vary in size from redundant petrol stations to old hospitals. Guess what? these are also intensely politcal.

    Then you need to fight for outline permission, where negotiations take place over how much subsidized housing, new roads, cultural facilities or school they can extract from the developer. This can take many years in some cases. Though in more pro development areas a local authority will have drawn up a development brief for the site, and the more economical literates get pretty much implemented as developer knows what is wanted from the start.

    Of course at the outline stage there will be a second round campaigns against such developments often roping in local MP’s to sign petitions (and they all do, no mater how pro development they say they are).

    In such environment it is entirely rational for developers to build up a large pipeline of supply to ensure they have a steady stream of work, they also don’t want to flood a particular areas with too much stock that it depresses prices (if for no other reason that high prices are needed to pay for all section 106 agreements). Then of course their is the effect of the most severe property and financial crash since the second world war. It also does produce a lag in construction, it’s only this year that is getting easier to finance spec building again.

    I read recently in the Economist that planning restrictions in the UK add on average 25% to the cost of housing (God knows what this level is in the South East).

    Now the CPRE has decried the recent relaxation in planning controls, saying it will concrete over the countryside. We shall see. If it did it would lead to lead a lot of companies shedding the amount of land they would need to hold and allow the growth of lots of small developers who could afford to compete with the big boys. Though since the deregulation of plans were watered down I will not be surprised if the more nimby counties manage to thwart much of the intended effect.

    I know this was a bit of a ramble, But we have the current housing market we deserve. Most evert tightening restrictions on house building have come about from local political pressure.

    The same forces are at work prevent densification of inner London. They’ll soon run out of old council estates and 30’s trading estates to redevelop. All those nice little Victorian terraces, on the main roads, could really be knocked down for new Mansion Blocks!

  101. Castlebar (Peoples’ Popular Front for Ruislip L.U. Chord Liberation) says:

    @ Rational Plan

    I’m sorry that you don’t like the word/s “Landbanking”, but irrespective of your displeasure, the expression has existed for some years now, so is not “new”, although recent. It seems to cover to distinct things:>

    1) Scams concerning parcels of land (often worthless, being contaminated or unsuitable for building in some other way) that are sold in microplots to the unsuspecting public.


    2) Large areas of land that have been and still are being purchased by builders (often then being leased back to the original owners for farming), in the hope of “change of use”, making capital/development gains etc.

    This latter definition is relevant to LR because of the locations of these assets. Existing railways (and occasionally possible new build) are very important as to where this landbanking is happening. It is FAR more prevalent than most peole realise. Whereas, post the Beeching era, old railway property was targeted by builders, now, the building consortia WANT a railway nearby to potentially increase the value of their investment.

    A friend of over 30 years standing who is the F.D. of a nationally quoted firm of housebuilders has told me where several rival companies have landbanked around Billingshurst (this seems to have ‘paid off’), and along the South Coast, (Angmering, Ford etc), but he has never told me where his own company is doing the same thing. But he is also one of the people who has told me about Frome, and now Devizes. This IS relevant to recent threads on Crossrail, and long distance rail services into London. It is also relevant to a few recent threads on LR which have mentioned “brown envelopes” changing hands. (My suspicious nature for some inexplicable reason directs me to the Bourne End – Wycombe area).

    The word “landbanking” was first mentioned to me by my F.D. friend about 20 years ago, and is common parlance in the construction industry. It should not be confused with definition “1” above.

  102. Graham H says:

    @Alan – just to add a couple of points on the Pacer issue:

    – although the investment proposal assumed the standard 30 year life for the rolling stock, the Board’s engineers assumed privately that half that span would be lucky: the Pacers were after all, just a bus body stuck on a wagon frame with a lorry engine underneath (even if they evolved slightly in later batches), and none of those components usually had a long life, apart from the frames. For my purposes at the time, that didn’t trouble me when I signed off the case – it tided us over a very difficult period for regional services and I hoped that – as turned out to be the case – by the time the Pacers were due for early replacement, the RCL politicians would have quit the scene. It was unfortunate but unforeseeable that that early date coincided with the turmoil of the early days of franchising. I have been more than horrified to find that even so, the Pacers have been made to soldier on well past their scrap date.

    – to some extent, the PTEs had only themselves to blame. At the time when the Pacers were dumped on them, none of them was giving much priority to services provided by BR; Manchester were still mired in the endless (and counterproductive) debate about Picc-Vic. Merseyside were quietly finishing off Link and Loop and some infill, S Yorks were obsessed with cheap fares (and had a very poor modal split for rail anyway), T&W had their Metro, and W Yorks either believed that heavy rail was a matter that BR would sort out and pay for or liked buses anyway. Privatisation and the introduction of MRG was a wakeup call but by then it was too late. For the non-PTE operators, the Rothschild formula combined with the absence of any “market-ready” DMUs meant that there was little incentive to do anything about the Pacer fleet. Anyway, the bus bandits didn’t care at all about customer comfort and if they had been asked (which they weren’t), they would probably have been puzzled – after all, a Pacer was just like their very own Leyland Nationals…

  103. Slugabed says:

    Castlebar 08:44 22/05 et al
    Once again apologies for any thread drift, but Simon Jenkins wrote one of the sanest essays I have read about the insanity that is the UK property market:
    Incidentally,it has always seemed to me,pace Jenkins’ analysis, somewhat absurd to expect that housebuilders would build so many homes that the price would come down….why should they?….much more profitable to a) restrict supply, as this MIGHT keep prices higher longer whilst the actual COSTS of building are relatively static and, consequently, b) make oodles of cash by buying and selling “potential development sites” to one another and those with cash on their hands, under the benign gaze of the local planning authority (who get their boxes ticked in the process)…

  104. Rational Plan says:

    @ Castlebar, I was just decrying the spread of the term to cover all forms of land speculation and is often used interchangeably. It is also the moral tone used against such practices as if it’s the dastardly builders in a conspiracy against the public. When there are very good reasons for them holding large supply.

    Owning land without planning permission is can no way be considered detrimental to supply, all they own is agricultural land. If they can get it designated residential then they get the windfall, but until then it’s a long term bet. For example I think Legal & General own 1,000 of acres near Micheldever station, and keep promoting it as a site for a new town. But each time so far the locals have seen them off. But logic dictates to have all that empty land next to the M3 and the mainline railway means at some point someone will give way let them build 50,000 new houses.

    If it was not such a multi year battle to get any large scale housing built in this country then supply lines would not need be so long and more people could buy small plots of land for small schemes in any village or town, rather than designated super estates on the ring road of larger towns. Greater supply and competition would lead to lower prices.

    Land speculation is an important part of a functioning market. It is not always a one way bet as is evidenced by the number of people who go bankrupt each time a property bubble bursts.

  105. straphan says:

    @Rational Plan: I, for one, deplore it. As a person who grew up in a country with ‘proper’ winters (-10 each year for prolonged periods of time) and knows what a ‘proper’ house looks like, I do not want to spend an obscene amount of money a crummy, mould-infested shoebox with sash windows and door frames that are a good 1 degree off-level. I’d much rather buy a plot of land, take three months off work and build something to a layout that I want, using materials and technologies that will ensure mould doesn’t creep in, and to a level of quality that is controlled by me personally, rather than some foreman that doesn’t give a toss.

    In Continental Europe, this would be the norm. In the UK, landbanking and the vagaries of the planning process have rendered this nigh-on impossible (even though building your own house is on average 10% cheaper than buying one). Elsewhere local authorities provide the utilities first, provide planning permission easily to people wanting to build their own, and then expect to recoup the investment through the taxes that the new inhabitants will pay. Over here, you yourself have accurately described what an utter mess the planning process actually is. Pretty much all available land is now sitting in the pockets of some investment funds, who will inevitably face stiff opposition from people, who do not want 1000 or 5000 new neighbours (and their cars) in a year, and from local authorities who can’t cope with such jumps in population, even with all the goodwill and Section 106 or whatever other payments in the world.

    If the land that sits in these landbanks was to be built on and occupied gradually, this would put the housing market in a far happier place than it is currently. Sadly, I am slowly resigning to the fact that if I want to live here for the long term, I will probably do so in some mouldy shoebox. Unless UKIP doesn’t choose to kick me out in a few years that is…

  106. Rational Plan says:


    Those land banks only own really large pieces of land, there are plenty of small fields and odd corners of land that dismissed in the local plan process as not being big enough for a couple of hundred new homes. Councils prefer these plots to come in big lumps which the developer can do in phases over 5 to 10 years depending on the local property market.

    They don’t mind small sites that can be found within urban areas but try an build 5 new houses on the edge of a village and you would think you’d proposed a nuclear fission plant.

    While it makes sense that local plans talk of concentrating housing in the largest settlements, where the most jobs are, it also means all those smaller settlements are being frozen in size and vast areas of the countryside become in effect executive estates with some nice landscaping (farms) between them.

    As for self build we shall see if new proposed rules on the right to self build in your local authority ever actually amounts to anything. I can see planning authorities finding ways to thwart that.

    Councils are nearly always looking at ways to impose new restrictions, not ease them.
    As an anecdote, my brother law is a big mover in promoting energy efficiency and alternative energy in housing and in particular public housing.
    He was in fact recently awarded and MBE for it, which of course caused a huge amount of resentment at the higher levels of the housing association management and I’m sure it was one of the reasons for his subsequent redundancy, that and the massive fraud he discovered was going on within the construction and repairs section.

    Anyway I remember him telling me that while on one hand the local council wanted to be seen as a ‘green leader’ at the same time some within the planning department wanted to require all householders who wanted to put up solar panels to apply for planning permission. So far that has been beaten back, but who knows for how long.

  107. Anonymous says:


    What’s wrong with sash windows? You’ve got me anxious now.

  108. Castlebar (Peoples’ Popular Front for Ruislip L.U. Chord Liberation) says:

    @ Rational Plan

    Yes, Micheldever. There’s a new Basingstoke-in-waiting. 1,000 acres? About right I think

    But note how the builders now want the railways to be in situ

    50 years ago they couldn’t wait to build over them.

    The subsequent result is the farce at Southwater and the like, where the population has increased ten fold since the railway was built over, and the locals have to drive to try and park to catch a train at Horsham (not easy), or Christs Hospital (for a “not joined up” train service)

  109. straphan says:

    @Rational Plan: Whilst my view of the housing market is a little different, it is also not as informed as yours. Thanks for the insight…

    @Anonymous: Sash windows are about the worst thing you can imagine when it comes to insulation.

  110. Fandroid says:

    According to the local press, the Micheldever station development has been regularly thrown at the planners since 1990. I know that it gets resurrected and then rejected so often as to be mega-yawn topic here. It’s not just potentially a rail commuter target (2 tph peaks, 1 tph offpeak) but is surrounded by trunk roads and motorways, so looked a good bet back then.

    Although it’s not really an agglomeration topic, it would be good to have some analysis of the London house price issue and its potential impact on transport demand. The normal service sector that serves London itself must be suffering from something of a crisis as staff find themselves squeezed between being too wealthy for social housing (of which there is not enough anyway) but not wealthy enough to afford London prices. The Standard is currently doing a rail line by rail line analysis of average house prices. Yesterday’s showed that Wembley Park was the cheapest on the Metropolitan Line at about 312k. Worth following. However, unless Mr Carney unleashes doom and despondency by whacking up interest rates, London is going to find that more and more of its essential workers will be in a position where they can’t afford to live there and can’t afford to commute. The big London hospitals already find that medical staff stay just as long as they need to get a good entry on their CV and then scarper to places with a less challenging housing/travel balance.

  111. straphan says:

    @Fandroid: This is something I alluded to in my first post for this topic: to live in London you must:
    – be fabulously rich (or have rich parents!) and buy your own property outright;
    – be poor enough to qualify for social housing; or
    – be relatively young, rent, and save till you’ve got enough to buy something in Commuterland.

    As for hospital staff and the like, I though there is something like the essential worker scheme, which gives huge discounts on house purchases. Do these people you mention not qualify?

  112. Greg Tingey says:

    One word:
    Haverhill – what a transport disaster. Comparable to Skelmersdale even.
    As for a “Basingstoke in waiting – ARRRGGGH! – where did I put that spare 8kt nuke?

    You forgot one other option
    Already got here before it went loopy, pricewise!
    Though that can also have drawbacks – like not being presently able to afford the (structural) repair bills (!)

  113. Long Branch Mike (Long Weekend Television) says:


    “essential worker scheme”

    This was in place about 6 years ago, and we looked into it for Mrs LBM’s sister who was a public health worker in London. The only thing she could hope to afford, not having the rich parents (or in-laws) was a lease-hold on a very small flat. The discount wasn’t all that much, and even with what we could scrounge ourselves to help her, it didn’t quite make financial sense. Perhaps we should’ve gone for it, given market rise in real estate since then… However she was laid off, with the rest of the entire government funded public health layer when austerity hit about 5 years ago. I have no doubt such short term thinking, like that of railway investment, will come back to haunt the country in 15-20 years.

  114. David S says:

    As ever – we fall into a Pacers in’North and the South – forgetting the role that rail in London (always strong) has continued to develop and grow the city. I recall a meeting with the DB some years ago when they affirmed that sprucing up termini in cities removed some social problems and sparked off general inner city revitalisation. Who has seen Christian F and the film on Berlin Zoo station in the 1970’s as an example of what was , and is now no longer so visible. Kings Cross was a truly awful crack and heroin (and worse) environment even 15 years ago. We have come a long way., when it was not m anyone’s interest to walk the short step from KX Thameslink to St Pancras after about 1800 on a Winters evening.

  115. Anonymous says:

    Let’s look at this another way.

    If you think you’ve a right to live in zones 1/2 you may well find you won’t be able to afford it.

    However, 5 minutes work will tell you that there are eminently affordable properties in zones 3/4-and close to rail stations!

    For example, Edmonton, flats for £125,000. Challenging area? Sure. But look at the probable transport improvements coming through in the next few years.

    Remember when it was said Brixton and Hackney would never change!

    So those who say London is unaffordable need to raise their sights and colonise affordable zones!

  116. Alan Griffiths says:

    Rational Plan
    22 May 2014 at 14:07

    ” some within the planning department wanted to require all householders who wanted to put up solar panels to apply for planning permission.”

    You don’t need planning permission for solar panels, unless the building is listed or within a Conservation Area

  117. Walthamstow Writer says:

    One small comment about the “provide the service / capacity and people will turn up” discussion. Not rail but buses this time. I have compiled a big spreadsheet that takes the recently released TfL patronage data for all TfL bus routes for the last 13 years. I’ve tracked through how patronage rises or falls for every route and then tried to identify what sits behind the biggest changes. I do not claim to have rock solid evidence as what has caused changes but if you map things like the use of larger vehicles, increased frequencies, longer service hours and route extensions then you will see considerable increases in patronage following such changes. Some of this can lead to years of sustained growth on particular corridors.

    Two examples from the 2013/14 data, both in Havering. TfL extended the 498 to Queens Hospital and increased frequencies each day of the week. Similarly the rather convoluted 499 route had improved frequencies and was diverted via Queens Hospital. These changes resulted in a 36% increase in pass jnys for the 498 and 25% for the 499. Now the actual number of journeys, as opposed to percentages, are not huge given the lowish base of usage these routes have but it shows that people do respond to improved service quality. For rail we do have the Overground experience and we have the prospect of TfL taking on West Anglia in 2015 to watch and analyse.

  118. Greg Tingey says:

    and we have the prospect of TfL taking on West Anglia in 2015 to watch and analyse.
    Virtually no significant change – ridership will continue to increase slowly, only.
    No room for more trains on those services.
    LST _ Edmonton Green is 1/4 hourly, splitting to half that to Enfield Town & Chesunt, Chingford is also 1/4 hourly.
    You can’t realistically go 12-car (Might just manage 10, if someone builds some extra 2-car units ( falls about laughing ) and squeezes in some platform-extensions, though Chingford carriage-sidings neatly take 8 or 9 x 4-car sets at present & extension would be prohibitively expensive for the return [ I would guess BCR of about 0.25? ]
    And, of course, fewer seats in the rush-hours – so intelligent. The current 315’s take 320 (ish) seated per unit – & in the rush, yes every seat IS taken & still you can get 800+ emerging at LST from these services at ~08.30, even after the crush unloadings at 7 Sisters & WHC.
    Err …

  119. straphan says:

    An interesting piece of analysis on the cost of commuting and house prices can be found in this month’s Modern Railways – the conclusion is that living outside of London and commuting is considerably cheaper than living in London. There is also an interesting soundbite about differences in the cost of season tickets from places located at a similar distance from London.

  120. @Greg,

    You have to take into account that even the busiest of lines is not busy 24 hours a day. So you will still see an increase with an improvement in service/ambiance etc even if you perceive the trains as always full. There is also spare capacity in the against the flow direction.

    Sometimes I have thought that actually sections of the tube even in central London are not that busy and then witnesssed the heavy loading of trains in the other direction or, alternatively, thought that this line is heavily overloaded but then realise it is practically empty going the other way – the Waterloo & City being a classic case of this.

    So lines that are supposedly already full can, in fact, and will in future accommodate a lot more people.

  121. Long Branch Mike (Induced Rail Demand) says:


    “Virtually no significant change – ridership will continue to increase slowly, only.”

    To add to PoP’s points, the Overground branding effect and the lines’ appearance on the Tube map will greatly increase ridership IMO, probably off peak in the main.

  122. Malcolm says:

    WW says “…if you map things like the use of larger vehicles, increased frequencies, longer service hours and route extensions then you will see considerable increases in patronage following such changes”

    Interesting results. But of course it is still subject to the old “correlation is not causation” chestnut. As I’m sure you realise, with your use of “following” rather than “as a result of”. It is also possible that the larger vehicles etc are put on the routes in response, either to overloading, or to some third-party factor like new housing, new shops or whatever. Aliter, “build it where it’s needed, and they will come”.

  123. Rational Plan says:

    @ Alan Griffiths.

    I know, the point was that people in the planning department wanted to push for it to be made a condition to apply for permission before putting panels up. Planning law and practice are different across the country. In some areas it is easy to get extensions built in others it’s a long drawn out process.

  124. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – you have leapt on what happens in the peaks. I don’t expect much change in the peaks for reasons very well rehearsed on this blog and not worth repeating. I do expect there to be considerable improvements off peak and that is where the growth will come from. There is plenty of capacity to play with and potentially a load of demand if TfL can get the frequencies right. Better marketing and awareness of the services and station and train ambience improvements will help (as LBM has said).

    @ Malcolm – fair comments about causation. I can’t prove what happened on the bus routes and am merely postulating a possible link. In some cases there are other factors in play like increased population, changes to economic activity, hospitals etc. Clearly running more buses to Stratford City is not why more people ride them – it is because there are loads of shops there *plus* you’re linking into lots of other transport services there (one reason why I use the 97 bus more than I used to do – it’s more convenient).

  125. straphan says:

    @WW: We’ve discussed the surge in patronage following the takeover of London Overground from Silverlink (NatEx-owned if I remember correctly), and I think the conclusion was that the main reason for the surge was the acceptance of Oyster PAYG – which then made this largely urban railway far more useful for many more people…

  126. Graham H says:

    @Malcolm/WW – it’s probably useful to disentangle the various things that er going on here – suppressed demand, tapping in to new markets and an elasticity to frequency. This last is, in my experience usually underestimated, certainly by the PDFH. The problem – as with so many PDFH metrics – is that it appears to be a straight line relationship because it has been studied for such small ranges of change. In practice, I suspect it’s some sort of function but to apply it to specific circumstances one has to know where one is on the curve (and the shape of the curve) in the first place.

  127. Long Branch Mike (Acronymonia) says:

    PDFC The Passenger Demand Forecasting Council consists of all of the Train Operating Companies, Network Rail, Department for Transport, Transport Scotland, the Office of Rail Regulation, Transport for London, and the Passenger Transport Executives Group. It commissions research into demand forecasting issues relevant to the rail industry, and publishes the Passenger Demand Forecasting Handbook (PDFH).

    PDFH The Passenger Demand Forecasting Handbook, widely used in the UK railway industry, summarises over twenty years of research on rail demand forecasting, and provides guidance on aspects such as the effects of service quality, fares and external factors on rail demand.

    Junior Under-Secretary of the Acronyms and Abbreviation Portfolio

  128. Greg Tingey says:

    The Enfield/Chingford services remain 1/4 hourly throughout the day – with a few extras shoehorned in for Chesunt during the rush.
    You ARE NOT GOING TO GET ANY EXTRA off-peak trains, anyway.
    TfL have already admitted this & their proposed stock-order fits with that assumption.
    So – why are you going to get extra ridership, then?

    Disagree – everyone around here knows there’s a train every 15 minutes – & uses them. Big transfers @ 7 Sisters / Tottie Hale & W’stow Cent already, too!

    I do expect there to be considerable improvements off peak Really? Come on, then ,& be specific. What improvements in the off peak? Service frequency? Forget it!
    More seats? The exact opposite in fact.
    There is plenty of capacity to play with
    NOT between Clapton Jn & LST, there isn’t, nor S of Edmonton Green in the rush.
    You MIGHT get 1/4-hourly to both Enfield Tn & Cheshunt in the off-peak, provided there’s track-capacity inside Bethnal Green Jn & provided the remaining Greater Anglia services from N of Cheshunt don’t increase – except that they will.
    So no go to that, as well.
    Sorry, but no banana, anywhere, for anyone – just some shiny new trains @ existing frequencies but with fewer, longitudinal seats & possibly an end to direct season-tickets as well …..

  129. @Greg,

    You will get extra ridership because the off-peak trains are not currently full. I suspect that they are also currently shorter than peak-hour trains though I do not know that.

  130. Anonymous says:

    You will get extra ridership if stations are well lit, clean, and staffed.

    In my 35 years in London the Enfield line has always carried an air of menace, and many people I know “who could handle themselves” refused to use it.

    It has improved somewhat in recent years and it is to be hoped TFL will make security a top priority.

  131. Long Branch Mike (Acronymonia) says:

    @PoP, Greg

    Significantly more off-peak ridership if TfL gets the ink out and adds the Thameslink and Moorgate/Northern City lines onto the Tube Map.

    Hopefully TfL & Govia people are reading LR…

  132. Fandroid says:

    Dear Mr Acronymonia. Reading your PDFC definition I had a distinct feeling that I was back listening to an episode of The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.

  133. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – please stop the “Mr Angry I am Right, you’re all Wrong” routine. It’s very very boring. We are entitled to our opinions and you do *not* override anyone else’s views.

    Let’s look at what is likely to happen – no change in the peaks for well rehearsed reasons. Off peak I expect Cheshunt and Enfield to increase to x15 on each service giving x7.5 south of Edmonton Green, may go to x20 / x10 as an interim step. The new train fleet certainly does allow for that – it just gets worked a bit harder than today. That will pull people off the very busy parallel bus services. Fares north of SS and Walthamstow Central will fall as they move on to the TfL farescale. This makes them better value on PAYG and you lose the Zone 1 surcharge that currently applies. Lower fares into Zone 1 will be attractive to people.

    Stations will be enhanced and tidied up and staffed. They are also likely to have a rather greater street presence than they currently do through the application of TfL’s identity. The incorporation of the service on the tube map will inevitably raise awareness as it has done for the existing Overground services although there was a legacy of growth under Silverlink’s poor management of the routes.

    I understand why you get cross about seats but does the seat layout on the 378s cause any great disincentive to people using the Overground routes? Not that I can see. Do people prefer to have space to actually get on trains even if they have to stand for shortish journeys – I think the evidence is certainly yes. Do people like having space for buggies, wheelchairs and cycles? – yes. You can’t in all seriousness claim the 315s or 317/321s offer reasonable facilities for those user groups?

  134. Chris says:

    Even without major changes to service patterns, getting the West Anglia stations onto the tube map and associated with the high quality Overground brand should significantly improve both awareness and attractiveness – the effect on peak commuter traffic may not be greatly significant, but off-peak travel should see major growth.

  135. Long Branch Mike (Junior Under-Secretary of the Acronyms and Abbreviation Portfolio ie Intern) says:


    Thank you. I aim for something more than a pedantic (no offence PoP!) repetition of dry facts

  136. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Walthamstow Writer, Greg Tingey

    I hate to get involved in such discussions but, exceptionally, I will point out Greg has a history of only seeing things from his perspective. It is often along the lines of “it is worse for me therefore it must be worse”. And any change which makes his personal journey longer in his view has to be a bad thing – never mind the bigger picture.

    I will heartily agree with Walthamstow Writer that one can come to a different conclusion even if presented with same agreed facts and it should not be a case of one person telling or implying others are wrong. This website is not about proving that we are right and others are wrong other than about unarguable facts, it is more about presenting your argument and allowing people with a contrary point of view to put forward their thoughts. If you are going to tell them you think they are wrong then explain why. And we don’t live in the world of mathematics here, you can’t just quote a single counterexample and consider the other person’s case disproved.

    I might well get more finger-twitchy near the “Trash It” button if we get long lists of short comments just telling everyone else they are wrong.

  137. Long Branch Mike (Junior Under-Secretary of the Acronyms and Abbreviations Portfolio ie Intern) says:


    “getting the West Anglia stations onto the tube map and associated with the high quality Overground brand should significantly improve both awareness and attractiveness”

    I daresay the Northern City interchange at Highbury & Islington (which I shall refrain from mashing into a portmanteau name, as if it hasn’t been done after a century, it probably never will) is a case for including this TSGN line onto the Tube map – to simply and speed journeys. Similarly for highlighting this line’s interchange with the Northern at Old Street.

  138. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Graham H – I understand the stance Greg takes and that’s fine *up to a point*. We all have a stance – I’m personally in favour of a TfL takeover of all of West Anglia inner suburban services including via T Hale but obviously my personal wish list hasn’t been delivered by TfL and the DfT. I just don’t need to be treated as if I am a blithering idiot who has not been paying attention to the last umpteen hundred posts on a given topic. To misquote Otto (Kevin Kline) from a Fish called Wanda “Don’t call me stupid” (directly or indirectly).

    We will see in due course how things go – I am happy to wait and I may either be delighted or bitterly disappointed in how things turn out. I am pleased we are getting some much needed substantive investment and probably some localised management attention. I would hope that would be recognised as a good thing but it seems even those hopes may be dashed.

  139. Long Branch Mike (Junior Under-Secretary of the Acronyms and Abbreviations Portfolio ie Intern) says:


    I believe you may have got your wires crossed in referring to a post by @Graham H in your post on 23 May 2014 at 22:53.

  140. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @LBM – indeed and sorry to GH / PoP. Must pay more attention.

  141. Greg Tingey says:

    Oh dear.

    There is a train every 15 minutes, off peak they are usually 4 cars, they are not full, of course.

    You will get extra ridership if stations are well lit, clean, and staffed. Like Walthamnstow Central, Higham’s Park, Chingford & Clapton, you mean?
    Agree re some of the Enfield line stations (Bruce Grove) but Abellio have made a significant difference for the better, already.

    Off peak I expect Cheshunt and Enfield to increase to x15 on each service giving x7.5 south of Edmonton Green, may go to x20 / x10 as an interim step. The new train fleet certainly does allow for that – it just gets worked a bit harder than today. Agree with that, but don’t think ridership will increase by that much, actually. Except N of Edmonton Green – there I expect there will be a significant pick-up, with a better frequency OK?
    Fares – disagree profoundly, for reasons discussed previously – I won’t re-open that can, today, thank you!
    “Clean & tidy” – see my comment above?

    Everybody already knows those services are there – they are quite well-used, as I can personally testify, from frequent observation of pax numbers.
    [ Also PoP – “personal observation of pax numbers” should be clear enough?
    The services are already well-used, which is why – excepting N of Edmonton Green – there probably won’t be much change … ]

    Agree wholeheartedly
    Why (Oh why oh why?) isn’t this line & W Hampstead (midland) – Elephant NOT on the tube map, since oysters/passes are accepted?
    We’ve mentioned this ridiculous anomaly so many times…..

    No – I don’t think I have claimed you are a blithering idiot.
    My stance is based on: “It ain’t broke, why are you trying to fix it?”
    Mind you if this was back in the bad old days of WAnglia, I would wholeheartedly agree with you!
    NS/Abellio have made a big difference – let’s acknowledge their efforts.

  142. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – sorry to prolong this but your style of writing conveys a certain “tone” to those who read it. It certainly does to me. Some of the time I feel like I am being spoken down to and it is that which makes me feel as if I am being called an idiot. I may be many things but an idiot is not one of them. I agree you have not directly called me one but your tone makes me feel I am being “patted on the head” and asked “have you got it now?”. I got your views about West Anglia and TfL a very long time ago but I just don’t agree with you on some of it.

    To take one point – you have seemingly not read what I wrote about fares. You’ve interpreted what I said to refer to season tickets because you are cross about a potential (and not yet confirmed) change. I understand that concern and your anger. However I referred very carefully to the TfL PAYG fare scale being applied to stations north of W’Stow and Seven Sisters which will reduce fares on the line *and* reduce through fares into Zone 1 as they’ll be priced as TfL journeys not as TfL / NR through fares. Making travel into Zone 1 cheaper should have some positive effect on patronage.

    You also say “everybody” knows about the West Anglia services. I really don’t think “everybody” does. The long standing arguments on this blog about what qualifies as an adequate rail map for London should tell you that even amongst knowledgeable and informed people that there is vast disagreement. Many people’s view of London is framed by the Tube Map and therefore people are not necessarily aware that there is a further mesh of main line railways that could get them to places. That’s why certain people have steam coming of their ears whenever the dreaded map debate resumes (no resumption here *please*). I will readily admit that I am not that knowledgeable about South London’s rail network and I am far more likely to use a bus to get about – largely for reasons of frequency – except on a key route like East Croydon – Victoria where I know there are fast trains and they run frequently. Even in North London I rarely use the West Anglia services on the Enfield / Cheshunt corridor but will use the bus because there’s a bus every 2-3 minutes compared with a train every 15. I do use the Chingford line at times as it is very quick if I happen to be in the City and need to get home. However I’m not averse to sitting on a 48 bus to Walthamstow as I don’t have Zone 1 on my Oyster and object to paying a big extension rail fare to travel a few hundred yards to the zone 1/2 boundary just outside Liverpool St!! It’s a pain that Bethnal Green NR station is so awkwardly located and not readily served by buses. I doubt I am alone in my approach to what service I opt to use or why. Not everyone has your very extensive railway knowledge nor your more benign approach to railway travel rather than buses. You seem to be content to wait for a train rather than opt for a more frequent but slower bus. I take a different view on that particular aspect of journey planning. However I would not go so far as to declare that you are wrong or I am right – we just differ and that’s what I prefer to see in people’s comments and responses; the right to differ and see alternative views, experience and approaches.

  143. Chris says:

    @Greg Everybody already knows those services are there – they are quite well-used, as I can personally testify, from frequent observation of pax numbers.

    It’s safe to assume that not even ‘everybody’ in the local area will know about the line and the specific stations and interchanges, let alone everybody else given how many people rely on the tube map for navigating the city – ‘Overgroundification’ will change that as it already has elsewhere.

  144. Greg Tingey says:

    Overground made a huge difference on the NLL – given Silverplonk’s lamentable management of the service that was no surprise – except, perhaps to DafT (?)
    Ditto for GOBLIN & their enterprising work through the Thames Tunnel.
    However, Chingford, in particular is a different case, with (certainly now) a pretty punctual service, which is usually reliable – the same applying across-the=board for all of the Abellio services, actually – definitely one of the better TOC’s
    Having worked, fairly frequently on counting loadings on many of these services, I don’t expect much extra increase (excepting N of Edmonton Grn) for reasons already given.
    I’m surprised at your pro-bus stance, except, I suppose for reasons of cheapness, since they are usually so SLOW – even before I got my geriatric’s pass, I would use rail as the preferred mode for most reasonable journeys (IF necessary, adding bus for the last mile … always excepting back in the 60’s, whilst still at at school, using a Red Rover ticket to get around the steam-sheds of the day!

  145. The Future's Bright, The Future's Orange says:

    The one line that hasn’t seen big increases in use under London Overground is the radial route (higher fares, captive market with few people to attract from roads) to Watford.

  146. Greg Tingey says:

    Of course Euston-Watford is also still a train every 20 minutes, not 15, which must mitigate against extra loadings.
    At Privatisation, the Chingford line was 15 mins during weekdays, 20 mins on Sats & 1/2-hourly on Sundays, IIRC. The gradual changeover to every 15 minutes, clockface outside the rush-hours, all 7 days has seen a big increase in use.
    Which is also why I’m not expecting a big jump when it goes “Orange” because those improvements have already been made….

  147. Graham Feakins says:

    @WW – In support, you may be dismayed to learn that I am certainly not one of Greg’s “everybody”. If asked, I expect I would receive no marks at all for knowing where West Anglia serves, even having fought through Greg’s almost impenetrable script. I certainly know my South London routes and all the tube network and now the Overground (before the latter I admit more than a smidgeon of the NLL).

    And as Chris suggests, there’s the nub, who has it spot on. We lost the South London Line (SLL) services to Overground but on a different route at each end. The SLL served directly Victoria and London Bridge daily until nearly midnight but was not very crowded and only latterly supported 2tph with 2-car services. Then the Overground came but serving Clapham Junction at one end and the East London Line at the other. Who would use that, we all thought but the bulk of the old route suddenly appeared on the TfL maps (apologies WW) and it shot to stardom. I wonder whether many users realise they can still change off the Overground onto trains serving Victoria and London Bridge. Perhaps a few now (but it’s a slow learning process) as Peckham Rye seems to have become quite an interchange station on the London Bridge side of the route. Of course at Peckham & Denmark Hill, there are also trains for Blackfriars/City Thameslink northwards, and Dartford via Lewisham, Bromley and Sevenoaks etc.. I wonder how many at e.g. Clapham Junction use the Overground for such connections or know of them.

    P.S. We have also been here before with Greg’s slow buses. As I said before, my South London buses normally tend to be anything but slow and can certainly beat waiting for a 2tph train service such as Denmark Hill to the Elephant & Castle times over.

  148. Greg Tingey says:

    Well, if you’ve just missed a 1/2 hourly train & a slow bus come along 2 minutes later, it’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?
    PLEASE note my various previous comments … where I note that a passenger-increase has NOT happened on Euston-Watford line (no frequency increase) and has already happened on the Chingford line, because there has been a frequency increase.
    Ditto S of Edmonton Green.
    Painting it orange is irrelevant: – what’s the actual service provision?

  149. Steven Taylor says:

    @Graham Feakins

    You raise interesting points in your post. I have Glover`s Ian Allan book on the Overground where there was concern about how many people would use the extensions; the rest is history.

    My take is that we are all creatures of habit, to a degree. I often travel from Clapham Junction to the Metropolitan Archives near Farringdon. Off peak, I changed my route by getting the Overground to Denmark Hill then FCC to Farringdon, which takes a little more time than via Waterloo, but a more pleasant journey overall.

    And my friend, who visits her sister near Hoxton was really pleased and surprised when I informed her she could get a direct train from Clapham Junction to Hoxton, where the station is somewhat hidden.

    I used to use the old South London line for several years from Queens Road Peckham to Battersea Park, and although not dramatic, I found the trains slowly getting busier over time. Making the stations look more cared for helps. In the late 80s, I used Clapham High Street on occasions when there was only an hourly rush service. The station had a scary feel even in full sunshine!!

  150. @Greg,

    I think we get the points made. It is just we have come to a different conclusion. Re-reading your comment probably isn’t going to get us to change our opinion.

    @Graham Feakins, Steven Taylor.

    So taking your point a step further one wonders how much more latent demand there is on the East London Line and inner South London Lines. If it were looked at as a whole could more capacity could be make available for additional services and would it be used? I suspect it could and I suspect it would.

    We have those two platforms at Battersea that are now terminal platforms. One is unused and the other normally only sees a couple of unadvertised trains a day. Using those may not be the answer but is a possibility and the area is being redeveloped a lot.

    Just as an example of one possible scenario, why are we not thinking long term in terms of 24tph through the East London core sections? One possibility is trains at the southern end to New Cross (8tph), West Croydon (4), Crystal Palace (4), Clapham Junction (4), Battersea Park (4).

    I know there would be problems terminating 24tph at the northern end. I also accept 8tph to New Cross would appear to be a massive over-provision but it is needed to keep the service balanced over three three main arms. The current problem with the New Cross service is that it is a paltry every 15 minutes which I think is worse that in the latter days of London Underground. This is not sufficient to persuade people to change at New Cross to avoid London Bridge whereas every 7½ minutes might. But then again we are back to the issue – if a decent service was provided would people use it? I suspect yes.

  151. Slugabed says:

    PoP 10:18 25/05
    I think it is fair to say there is enormous latent (suppressed) demand on the inner SLL….this (as well as the costly but achievable engineering) was given as the main reason for *NOT* providing a station at Brixton.
    Were this built,it would tranform connectivity in South London,to the benefit of all,but the SLL,with its dinky little trains,might well seize up,it was feared….

  152. Castlebar (Peoples’ Popular Front for Ruislip L.U. Chord Liberation) says:

    It’s “same old”, “same old”, isn’t it.

    We always find it easier not to do things.

    “Suppressed demand?” Sorry to repeat the 1970’s nonsense about not re-opening the WLL “because it closed due to lack of demand and that’s what would happen again if we re-opened it, so we never will”. I bet there are many examples of this, within and without London, some of which I have mentioned before and I suspect most people can think of their own examples.

    Is a “joined-up, rational strategic plan” for the area south of a line between the Severn and The Wash, with ALL possible route options (without opening any boxes of crayons) on the table, too much to ever hope for??

  153. D-Notice says:


    I know there would be problems terminating 24tph at the northern end..

    How about some to Dalston Junction & some to Highbury as know, with others carrying on to Willesden Junction via Primrose Hill? Or would this be too much for WJ?

  154. Steven Taylor says:


    I fully concur with your comments re a future LO Brixton station. But the station – assuming built for 8 cars – would surely be served by South Eastern trains as well, running say, Victoria to Bromley South via the Catford Loop and Stewarts Lane.

    At 61 years old, I have a non-scientific `gut-feel` I will live long enough to see this happen.

    Going off at a tangent – hopefully allowed at my age – various improvements are still be done at Clapham Junction. Currently Platform 17 is being extended to 8 cars plus a new exit to the subway. The St John`s ticket hall is being improved. And I hear that an additional entrance/exit at Grant Road direct to the footbridge is in the offing.

    It just needs a positive `can-do` attitude from the movers and shakers, plus somehow getting the money.

  155. Greg Tingey says:

    24tph terminators on N ends of ELL line
    Breaks down to 6tph turn-around per single track bay, doesn’t it?
    In other words, a train has to arrive, decant, refill & depart in about 8 minutes, to allow for incoming / outgoing traffic, crossing-over, etc.
    Walthamstow Central Vic-line turns around about 20 tph with a single platform-pair, i.e. 10 tph per track bay.
    So – it’s easily do-able, provided the will & the operating discipline are up to it.

  156. Alan Griffiths says:

    Castlebar 21 May 2014 at 12:53

    “the high-profile town planner Sir Peter Hall”

    He’s pretending to be a Town Planner, actually he’s a Professor of Geography

    “motorway linking Oxford and Cambridge” according to me that would be the M30, M25 & M11. Where’s the volume of traffic to justify constructing a more direct route?

  157. Paying Guest says:

    @ Alan Griffiths – where does the M30 run?

  158. RichardB says:

    @ PoP “I know there would be problems terminating 24tph at the northern end..”

    One thought occurs to me if there is capacity at Stratford in theory some portion of the proposed 24 tph (perhaps 4 tph?) could go east at Dalston Junction to Stratford. I recall that space for a single track connection to the NLL going east was retained but track would need to be installed to reinstate the connection.

  159. lmm says:

    @straphan don’t the cause and effect for the north-south difference run the other way around? DfT et al were able to fund service improvements in Kent because they were able to put up fares there. But in the North local authorities don’t want fare increases, therefore DfT is unwilling to increase service provision (when that will mean increasing subsidy).

  160. AA (Another Alan) says:

    Re PoP 25/05, 10.18
    Only one of the platforms at Battersea Park can be used to terminate SLL trains within the current track layout – there is just a trailing crossover on the SLL. Battersea Park is not suitable for terminating a regular service on the Overground SLL. Travelling from Victoria and changing at B/Pk onto the SLL is OK – just a cross platform interchange. But in the opposite direction there are two stairways to negotiate, and the northbound platform towards Victoria isn’t very wide, and the stairway is particularly narrow – only just wide enough for one person to pass another. So imagine the congestion likely to be caused by a trainload of passengers transferring from the SLL Overground to a Southern service to Victoria.

    An alternative destination at the west end of the SLL for another regular SLL service in addition to Clapham Junction could be Kensington Olympia – provided a bay platform could be reinstated for turn back. This would provide a time saving on through WLL / SLL journeys compared to changing at Clapham Junction. The original terminal bays on the east side at Olympia have now been built over.

  161. Alan says:

    More Overground trains on the ELLX would be hugely welcome – overcrowding on the southbound platform at Canada Water is worsening by the week (I can vouch for this first hand) and having only a train every 15 minutes on that branch is a major cause of this (and on the New Cross branch, though I suspect to a lesser extent as Canary Wharf commuters are more likely to use the DLR to Lewisham). Battersea Park seems like the only real place they can terminate. It will also give more connections to a developing area and won’t open up the problems of them going through to Victoria.

  162. Graham H says:

    @AA- and how are the SLL trains to access the WLL?

  163. Stationless says:

    Would extra SLL trains have to go through the Thames Tunnel? Could they not use a re-opened third platform at Surrey Quays?

  164. @AA,

    I am only suggesting Battersea Park as one possibility. Don’t get too hung up on what is there currently. For one thing the station is due to be redeveloped – but I can’t find any details. Crossovers can be reinstated.

    Of course all this is irrelevant unless there is the political will to find the money to increase services on the East London Line. It would also need it to be shown that is is possible to timetable the improved service once into Network Rail territory.

    Another practical consideration is that the East London Line has been recently resignalled for a maximum of 18tph under normal circumstances. So it would probably have to be expensively resignalled with ERTMS-compatible ATO – at least north of Surrey Quays. One would hope that after 2018 Thameslink will show there is a working example of this to copy. If the line is to go to 6-car it would need new rolling stock which would probably be an ideal time to switch to ATO.

    If one tried to improve the service to New Cross then there is also the problem of the single track section leading to the station. One possible solution could be a second London Overground platform at New Cross. I think there is space.


    I went to Surrey Quays a few days ago and I don’t think a third platform is any longer possible – if it ever was. I also don’t see what it would achieve. People tend to want to travel at least as far as Canada Water.

  165. Graham Feakins says:

    @Graham H – I think AA has in mind to use the same tracks from Wandsworth Road towards Clapham Junction as the present Overground but diverging at Pouparts Junction onto the WLL, using the same route as the present freight services to/from Kensington to/from Southeastern/Overground tracks. Map here:

    Until the 2012 change in timetable, a Southern service used to do just that (as a Parliamentary). Needless to say, IanVisits has done it!

  166. Graham Feakins says:

    P.S. You will note from that IanVisits page that the Parliamentary service then reversed at Kensington to take up a normal Southern service back to Clapham Junction and presumably Croydon.

    In fact, I suggest that Southern still runs that service as such because the timings of an ecs working fit. The afternoon ecs (these days with a Class 377 unit) runs out of Streatham Hill depot, passing Tulse Hill, then Herne Hill at c. 16.00, Brixton and Wandsworth Road and on to Kensington Olympia. It just doesn’t stop and take on any passenger(s) at Wandsworth Road any more.

  167. Greg Tingey says:

    Link (Which may or may not work)
    Shoehorning an extra platform in at New Cross might be a bit tight, to say the least!

    NOT Pouparts’ Jn – Longhedge Jn.
    Pouparts is the (now single-lead) original route on the ex-LBSC lines that goes “straight on” down, & then up to the Grosvenor Bridge.
    Try the RJD picture instead?

  168. Graham H says:

    @GT – Longhedge – you beat me to it! My original post was the victim of my concision (the penalty for using a tablet with a touch keyboard…). Now I am at a proper keyboard that will cope with my gouty hands: there is very little point in providing a SLL-WLL service that avoids Clapham J. It would provide new direct links from the SLL to the stations on the WLL at, for example, Imperial Wharf and KO, but that is all and it comes at the price of removing connexions from those trains at CJ. It’s difficult to believe that there is a vast SLL traffic for those intermediate WLL stations and that CJ with its connexions is not greatly more attractive. Of course, an SLL/WLL service via CJ is possible but as we all know, only in theory.

  169. Chris says:

    @Greg Tingey PLEASE note my various previous comments … where I note that a passenger-increase has NOT happened on Euston-Watford line (no frequency increase) and has already happened on the Chingford line, because there has been a frequency increase.

    A line which shares so many of it’s principal stations with the Bakerloo is never going to be a great example of how being on the tube map and associated with a TfL brand drives up awareness and demand – West Anglia has far more potential, especially off-peak.

  170. Alan Griffiths says:

    Paying Guest @ 25 May 2014 at 17:45

    “@ Alan Griffiths – where does the M30 run?”

    After careful consideration, I think I runs from one of my typing errors to another.

  171. Mark Townend says:

    Running frequent regular passenger trains between Longhedge and Latchmere No 1 Junctions would prevent this connection being used for regulating and synchronising cross London freights with respect to other traffic north and south. Not having the short term holding facility here could further complicate planning such cross London paths, and the need for the trains to keep moving whether on time or not, rather than wait for the next slot, could then create further delay across the network.

  172. Greg Tingey says:

    West Anglia has far more potential, especially off-peak.
    For reasons already given several times.
    The trains are usually already 1/4 hourly, they are clean they are reliable … Abellio have already done all “the necessary” & the growth has mostly already happened.
    Exceptions have largely been noted on this discussion thread.
    For the umpteenth time, just painting it orange is not the answer – it is the actual service-provision that matters!

  173. tog says:

    That’ll be Abellio Greater Anglia which came joint-bottom in the most recent Which passenger satisfaction survey.

    Since Greater Anglia took over I can only say I’ve seen minor improvements at my local station (Stoke Newington) – finishing off platform resurfacing (unavoidable, given it was already dug up at the start of their tenure) and some additional information screens (not actually visible from much of the platform, though not a problem restricted to Greater Anglia by any stretch). The trains themselves I can best describe as grubby – I don’t know if Abellio have given up on the routes they’re losing but the 315s feel particularly unloved (even more so than usual).

    Even without frequency improvements (though I expect to see at least some, even if only increasing Sunday services to the same level as Saturdays) I’m fully-expecting the increased profile to bring an increase in usage. Visitors outside the area tend to glaze over when you suggest a non-tube-map rail service (I admit I’m the same when it comes to south or west London), and even many locals regard it as mainly a commuter line.

  174. Greg Tingey says:

    Visitors outside the area tend to glaze over when you suggest a non-tube-map rail service
    What’s wrong with these people?
    It takes oyster, the service is there, is it populated with monsters, or something?
    Reminds me of about 6 years back when I had to vigorously persuade a visitor to London that a Travelcard really DID work for everything inside the GLA boundary ….

  175. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ TOG – two interesting remarks you’ve made there. First the perception of “oh help not on the tube map, can’t cope” from potential visitors. The second being that the West Anglia line is a “commuter route only” – even for local people. It’s not as if there isn’t vast movement on the A10 corridor but it’s done largely on the bus, not rail. Still not to worry – orange paint, orange branding and orange lines on the tube map won’t make any difference. 😉

  176. Anonymous says:

    @Greg Tingey:

    Have you seen TfL’s “Everything including the kitchen sink” network maps? They’d scare even a veteran cartographer juiceless.

    London is (a) vast, and (b) very complicated. It lacks what designers would refer to as an easily “legible” layout for newcomers and tourists: It’s a massive maze of roads and railways that seems to follow little rhyme or reason. There is no single centre point; instead, it has a long, winding central strip roughly paralleling the Thames to its north.

    The TfL transit map even has a glorified guided bus nailed onto the map in the Croydon area, which sticks out like a sore thumb. Clearly, even TfL themselves aren’t entirely sure how to present their own transit networks consistently.

    London is a seething, sprawling, neurotic mass of chaotic, often-incompatible cultures, societies, and infrastructure. Building a coherent, cohesive transport network on top of all that is an impossible job. So the most pressing task isn’t to slap on ever more sticking plasters onto an increasingly chaotic system, but to decide first of all what kind of London you want. What is its core identity? How should London present itself to the world?

    Saying the city has character isn’t enough—the Krays had plenty of character too.

    London’s main problem is that it lacks any real focus. There is no master plan. No long term goal. No aim. It’s a “Bump-and-Go” toy of a city, and its planning—such as it is—reflects this.

  177. Ian J says:

    @anonymous 21:05

    This map is hardly scarier or more complex than any given page of the A-Z. Nor does Tramlink look out of place on it.

    London’s main problem is that it lacks any real focus.

    Some would say that is London’s main strength, and the reason it has thrived for two thousand years while more focused one-note cities have come and gone. To quote a perceptive critic on the Abercrombie plan:

    perhaps the main reason for the failure of the grand plan was that it viewed London as a problem that needed a solution. Where grand visions for London fall down is in their view of a city as something ‘manageable’, that it is some sort of machine that can be controlled by an overseer, with a predictable cause and effect from any changes. Somehow order can be imposed if only the vision is big enough and the action drastic enough… London, like all cities, is more of an organism, a thing that grows and develops to adapt to change and, as such, much less mechanistic and more unpredictable than visionaries permit.

    I see it as a sign of hope that today’s planners seem better at allowing for the unpredictability of the future and the need for adaptation to changing circumstances. King’s Cross today is nothing like how it was planned to be even 25 years ago, but it is none the worse for that.

  178. Castlebar (Peoples’ Popular Front for Ruislip L.U. Chord Liberation) says:

    @ Anonymous

    So the alternative, producing maps with bits left off, is preferable?

    Please explain how that can be more helpful

  179. Anonymous says:

    “Some would say that is London’s main strength, and the reason it has thrived for two thousand years while more focused one-note cities have come and gone.”

    Sorry, I don’t buy the “London is special” argument, and never have. Quoting someone’s unsupported opinion doesn’t help your case. There are any number of much older cities than London, including Rome itself, all of which have much more ‘legible’ plans and layouts.

    And that’s before we look at cities like Beijing (3000 years), or Athens (3400 years).

    Consider, too, that the Great Fire of 1666 effectively destroyed most of London’s historic fabric. What we see today—a scant handful of ancient Roman ruins and a heavily modified medieval fortress aside—is well under 400 years old. Most of it isn’t even 200 years old: the Regency period saw a lot of demolition and new roads, while the railways placed their own stamp on the core with their hideous ring of termini that still hasn’t been properly sorted out.

    So, no, I’m with Abercrombie on this one. We’ll have to agree to disagree.

  180. Castlebar (Peoples’ Popular Front for Ruislip L.U. Chord Liberation) says:

    @ Anonymous

    I do not understand your answer

    The “hideous ring of termini” is what we have

    It perhaps makes thorough and comprehensive maps even more of a necessity, not less, and I really do not think Beijing nor Athens needed railway maps 2000 years ago. But they do now.

  181. Anonymous says:


    TfL already arbitrarily omit useful information from the city’s transport maps.

    How many of Southeastern and Southern’s urban metro services do you see on the Tube map, despite these networks all providing the same kinds of services? Why isn’t the Hayes branch shown? It’s entirely within the M25 and is very clearly an urban metro service.

    Most TfL maps barely even acknowledge most of south London’s existence: if it’s not a TfL-operated service, it’s not going to appear on most of the maps you see nailed to the walls of their stations. Only their “Tube and Rail” map covers the Southeastern and Southern services, but even that fails to show actual routes: it just shows the network, with no hints as to which services call where.

    So, no, TfL don’t include all the information they should be. Hardly surprising: they make more money by pushing on their own-brand services. London deserves better.

  182. Castlebar ( Fulwell Chord U. K. Liberation Union) says:

    Yes, London deserves better

    But omitting regular services from a map (the main purpose of which is to help people), cannot be “better”

  183. Anonymous says:


    My point is that London’s transport maps are needlessly complicated precisely because a number of serious flaws in the original transit network’s design—and I use that word in its loosest possible sense—have never been properly addressed with any level of confidence.

    The Abercrombie Plan would have solved many of these problems, simplifying the network and reducing, if not entirely eliminating, its additional burden of acting as a bunch of sticking plasters for a series of terrible planning blunders, while still providing a useful mass transit service.

    Paris started building multiple RER lines way back in the 1960s, and have closed two of their termini, as well as consolidating other parts of their rail network. All this despite Paris being a “lesser” city! Such lines reduce the need to decant commuters at termini some distance from their ultimate destinations, forcing them to spend even more precious time and money on further travel on a separate network.

    This despite the fact that the District and Metropolitan Railways—in their earlier incarnations—actually provided such cross-London services prior to their electrification. So London had multiple RER lines for decades during the Victorian era, before the French had even come up with the term. London threw that away and is now paying the price. Not just in simple transit network terms, but also in the complexity of said network.

    That complexity is driven as much by the funding, politics and planning blunders of the past and present as by the exigencies of London’s actual transit needs. It’s why the current proposal for CR2 has strange kinks in it, because every MP and his pet pony wants it to serve their constituency. Never mind that a better solution might be to build multiple new lines: only one line is being built at a time, and said MPs won’t be around long enough to see a second line being built, so they won’t get to take any credit.

    Similar political buggering about resulted in the Jubilee extension skipping back and forth across the Thames like a dodgy bit of embroidery, before ending up doing a U-turn and terminating in Stratford. It was supposed to go to Lewisham. The upshot of which is that the Underground now has yet another abandoned station, only this one was closed after barely 30 years of life. (Still, it lasted longer than King William Street.)

    London’s transit network maps reflect the political interference, chronic short-termism, lack of focus and poor planning in the city. London deserves better than this.

  184. Castlebar ( Fulwell Chord U. K. Liberation Union) says:

    @ Anonymous. I agree, but you have to start with where we are today and not what we would have preferred to have been built. If it’s there, it needs to go on the map.

    The Fulwell chord gets only minimal services, but would find an increased demand if it was on a map as being an option. If they can run some peak services on it, they ought to be able to run some off peak. The Clapham Junction – Olympia – WLL farce is an example of what I mean.

    I agree, there has been too much messing around for neither obvious reason, nor benefit to travellers. The professionals hate the possibility (= likelihood) of being proved wrong.

    [Slightly modified for language. PoP]

  185. Fandroid says:

    In this modern interconnected world, maps of London’s rail networks can be reinvented by just about anyone with a computer and some graphics software. In fact I’m surprised that we haven’t seen a lot more attempts to produce really useful interactive maps and apps that cover the range from tourist to enthusiast. And there’s no need to stop at rail. Buses could be fitted in too. And I don’t mean those numerous artistic attempts to fiddle with the aesthetic look and shape of the Tube map. I mean really useful cartographics- based guides for the travelling person.

  186. tog says:

    Returning to my earlier “visitors wary of non-tube-map routes” comment, I think there are some valid reasons for this – fears of infrequent/irregular services (particularly at weekends), unpredictable stopping patterns, unstaffed (= unsafe) stations, last trains at 9pm etc. Not all of these apply to all routes by any means but there’s bound to be an element of “once bitten” to people’s experiences. At least ticketing is now less of an issue with the roll-out of Oyster to much of the inner rail network, although I’d understand people still being wary given the dragging-of-feet by some TOCs (not to mention the Extension Permit debacle).

    Given these potential complications I think it’s perfectly understandable that TfL don’t show non-TfL lines on the tube map – they’d likely be left fielding queries and complaints from passengers about lines for which they have neither responsibility or control. Also the Weekend Engineering Works email would probably become indigestibly large.

  187. Castlebar ( Fulwell Chord U. K. Liberation Union) says:

    @ tog

    I really don’t think “infrequent/irregular services (particularly at weekends), unpredictable stopping patterns” should be an issue

    Network South East dealt with this very well, clearly and easily 35 or so years ago by having different shaped and solid/white station symbols (with easily understood explanations). Actually, these made the maps even more helpful.

  188. CdBrux says:

    All this discussion about what should and shouldn’t be on a map to make it readable vs showing everything is surely not the future? Have an app, or allow the likes of Google access to timetable data, and encourage the user – either local or tourist – to enter in where they are (with a good smartphone it will actually know!) and where they want to get to and let it tell you. No need for a map at all!!
    For those, like me, without this technology then equip the staff at stations (or make available on a fixed machine) with suitable devices so they can help you. Ideally a ‘suitable device’ could print instructions for you to keep, but I suspect that would be hugely more expensive vs buying an off the shelf solution.

  189. Graham H says:

    @CDBrux – the trouble with this sort of app – as with satnavs and journey planners – is that humans often know better than the app’s programmers. The point is being able to see the whole trip and the alternatives. As for those of us who don’t rely on apps to get about, having staff at stations who do, assumes that you know which station to go to in the first place – it’s the old Irish joke again…

  190. CdBrux says:

    GH: that seems a bit defeatest to me! People often *think* they know better and they are of course free to do as they wish! A poorly constructed journey planner is of course not helpful, but a good one is far better in my experience. I almost always use Google maps journey planner when working out how to get from A to B (address to address, not one metro station / bus stop to another) here in Brussels and it works well. Indeed it must have decent info from the local equivalent of TfL (STIB) it often knows about planned service interruptions / diversions. It is indeed far more user friendly than the STIB website!

    I would suspect most people know either what address or road they want to go to (for a restaurant, bar, office etc…) or the tube stop they have been told to go to. Indeed if they only know they want to go to Joe Bloggs PLC in Barnet then google is pretty good at finding the location too! If they do then I think using such a system will work well, if they don’t then pretty much any system won’t work and frankly they don’t really deserve much help!

  191. Castlebar ( Fulwell Chord U. K. Liberation Union) says:

    @ CdBrux

    So somebody has their phone stolen, (not an uncommon occurrence), and is denied access to a map because he should have looked after it better?

  192. RichardB says:

    @ Cd Brux I have no objection to the use of journey planners but your advocacy of them comes close to assuming that no other method should be available . I have to say I think that such an outcome would be a mistake. It is clear that the web design team at TfL fell into the same trap when on the redesigned website they ensured that all the bus spider maps were withdrawn as they also assumed that the TfL journey planner was all that was required and they were somewhat taken aback at the reaction which led to the reinstatement of the maps.

    Maps serve a number of purposes the first being to provide a contextual picture of the services available in one image. Where they exist in hard copy form they also advertise the presence of TfL’s service and because they are non electronic they compensate for when the technology fails. Maps also form part of the essential brand furniture for the transport provider at the stations and bus stops.

    Your assumption is also predicated that every user must have a smart phone or tablet which is not the case even if the majority of citizens possess one. There was a recent debate on this site about the use of apps for bus services which in theory could mean you could withdraw all information from bus stops. Essentially all you would need is a pole with a label and a telephone number. Arguably you would not need shelters either as the journey planer should enable just in time travel thereby negating the need to shelter from the elements.

    I use the TfL journey planner on occasions and I acknowledge it is good but for most of my journeys I use maps as I find it easier to assimilate information and in some ways it is more rewarding.

    I have a great respect and regard for new technology but I am also aware that human beings require a variety of solutions to ensure an optimal outcome. Journey planners whilst excellent represent a very IT driven way of assessing need. The assumption is you have a question and the system provides the optimal answer but sometimes we need to browse and identify alternatives. Images in the form of maps meet this need very well. I do not see why we cannot have both and indeed think we should

  193. answer=42 says:

    Ah, but CD-Brux has no alternative. To use the (TfL equivalent) STIB-MIVB website, one must know the parish of one’s destination. The paper A-Z of Brussels was hand-drawn by a sadist with writer’s cramp and to travel by foot or by car without guidance through the Bruxellois labyrinth is to invite cynicism, madness and despair. If Dante had visited (he did not), he would have required the services of a satnav or Google’s three monkeys.

  194. Southern Heights says:

    @RichardB: Completely agree, both are useful….

    And my, haven’t we gone a long way off topic! 😉

  195. Fandroid says:

    The existence of one form of information should not exclude the retention of the other. I still cannot understand why the multitude of transport geeks with IT skills cannot use the data available to produce the sort of APP or online map that everyone here seems to asking for, ie ones that include the frequent NR services, especially where they link closely in with the Underground and Overground.

    These apps are being produced in great numbers for tracking trains and buses. So we know the interest is out there.

    TfL should most definitely not get rid of the maps and information at bus stops and Tube stations. There is always going to be a significant minority (a massive actual number within London) that won’t have access to the online alternatives.

    I’m just wondering why the imaginative souls that we know exist haven’t really had a go at useful alternatives to the standard (and much criticised on here) maps that TfL and ATOC produce.

    @Castlebar. As for people having their smartphones stolen, I suspect an even greater number forget/lose their reading specs.

  196. Castlebar ( Fulwell Chord U. K. Liberation Union) says:

    I agree we should have both/all.

    We should not stop producing maps because “somebody” feels they are “too complicated” to use. That is actually very patronising. Similarly, we should not stop producing maps because “somebody” feels they ‘look too cluttered’. It really smacks of “We know what is best for you”.

    @ Fandroid, Of course, “We should not produce maps because you might have left your reading glasses at home”

    I seem to get the impression that people are not at all smarter than those leaving school 50+ years ago when most junior school children could read a bus or train timetable. That doesn’t seem to be the case now, even amongst those with a degree in some “……ology” or other. It’s common sense that is lacking now.

  197. Greg Tingey says:

    My post has vanished AGAIN

    Casttlebar … again I agree wholeheartedly.
    Indeed, anon seemed (way back when) to be simultaneously complaining that the map didn’t show everything & that it was too cluttered.
    As for “Appc.vs.Maps” it’s partly a matter of what you are used to & to training.

  198. My post has vanished AGAIN

    No it hasn’t. It is just been reassigned to the trash bin. It is still there.

    Your posts didn’t get past the “be respectful to people” filter.

  199. Long Branch Mike (Jr Under-Secretary &c) says:


    Non-TfL lines can be shown as white lines, as was used for Thameslink when it was on the Tube map, as well as the Silverlink Metro.

    I heartily agree with Castlebar that it’s necessary to show all Central London rail services on the Tube map, for greater network mobility and resilience. The Tube map is a simplified representation of the actual complex network, so overly simplifying it by not showing key parts of the entire Oysterized network is irresponsible.

    Maps are much better than Journey Planners for planning multiple trips, suggesting alternate routings, etc.

  200. CdBrux says:

    Maybe I should clarify a bit better, I am not suggesting removing maps for those who wish to use them. I do suggest that a good technology based solution will always be more comprehensive than a map can ever be (and a bad technology solution worse than a decent map) as it can be tailored to your individual journey from some obscure place (29 Accacia Ave, whereevertown) you wouldn’t mention on a general use map to some other obscure place (23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam).

    I also proposed to have access to the technology solution available in stations, either via staff handheld sets, or wall mounted, or a combination for those, like myself, without the relevant hand held technology. Personally I would like the journey planner to overlay my journey onto an electronic map as it would help me visualise it better.

    In short technology should be complimentary to the maps, and my prompt to mention this was the longish discussion about what a map should show and what it should leave out to strike the balance between enough information and readability. I believe Technology could resolve that by acting at a more individual level in a way a map could not as witnessed by the debate above. I think enabling the technological solution for those that have it will enhance the experience of using public transport, mean it becomes more joined up, at least in getting the info on how to get to xxx, and via minimal cost to the transport operators as the likes of Google (other companies exist!) will want to have a good journey planner available and already have much of the other info to make it work.

    I suppose there is a link to the original article when you consider one of the main companies looking to base themselves in KX!!

  201. Castlebar ( Fulwell Chord U. K. Liberation Unit) says:

    @ LBM (etc)

    A good map will show that Hanger Lane is a 10 minute walk from Park Royal, whereas an “app” might tell you, coming from South Ruislip, to change at North Acton, Ealing Broadway and Ealing Common, ditto Queensway/Bayswater etc

    I was at Charing Cross station once, and in front of me in the queue were some French tourists buying tickets for “Embankment”

    GOOD signage is often better than many electronic devices. When I lived north of Worthing once, a friend’s new megawhizz in-car electronic device told him that the most direct motor route to get to me from Salisbury was via the M3, M25 & M23.

  202. CdBrux says:

    LBM: “Maps are much better than Journey Planners for planning multiple trips, suggesting alternate routings, etc.”

    Maybe now in some places, but they absolutely should not be and it must be the aim of the transport auhorities and operators to make sure it isn’t (by improving journey planners, not making maps worse!).

    A journey planner can suggest alternatives, indeed the one I generally use for car journeys does as in a way it does for public transport journeys as well.
    In the case of maps alternatives can be clear, but you probably need a bit of knowledge to know where links are good, frequency of service, speed (stopping vs express) etc… so you’ll need a map and a timetable to consult together.

    I am travelling from London to Taunton in a few months by train. How should I best determine how to get there:
    a) get a map of the rail network, see after following some lines around I need to start at Paddington, find a timetable for FGW (whom I know operate that route somehow), page through that and find a train(s). Time taken – quite a lot of minutes
    b) go to NR journey planner, enter “London all stations to Taunton”, the date and approx time I want and within a couple of secs be presented with a list of trains, times, where I may need to change and indeed prices.

  203. Castlebar ( Fulwell Chord U. K. Liberation Unit) says:

    @ CdBrux

    Isn’t a National Express coach cheaper?

  204. CdBrux says:

    Castlebar (something that suggests they may not like London Underground??):
    “A good map will show that Hanger Lane is a 10 minute walk from Park Royal, whereas an “app” might tell you, coming from South Ruislip, to change at North Acton, Ealing Broadway and Ealing Common, ditto Queensway/Bayswater etc”

    And a good “app” will tell you to walk! What you have done is to backup my point about good use of technology vs bad use of technology 🙂

  205. CdBrux says:

    quite probably! I prefer rail (and hadn’t thought about the coach!!). Maybe if I had used (been able to use) a universal journey planner vs the NR one I may have considered the coach as well! Indeed I would be more likely to discover the coach option using a journey planner not provided by a transport related body than any other means as had I used maps and timetables I would still have limited myself to the rail option only.

    Now I need to go and pick up the wine I bought at a tasting last night as it was too much to carry home via tram and bus!

  206. Long Branch Mike (Junior Under-Secretary of the Acronyms and Abbreviations Portfolio ie Intern) says:


    Fair point about the usefulness of Journey Planners. I often use both a) and b) when planning a trip to parts unknown.

    Getting back to the map issue, certainly a map app may exist, or relatively easy to create, that would give the user a bit of both approaches, showing the map of all options twixt the origin & destination, regardless of what network (Tube, bus, suburban rail, intercity rail &c), as well as the detailed times, changes, and costs linked to each route. Obvs some map scaling will be necessary in many cases.

  207. CdBrux says:

    LBM: “Getting back to the map issue, certainly a map app may exist, or relatively easy to create, that would give the user a bit of both approaches, showing the map of all options twixt the origin & destination, regardless of what network (Tube, bus, suburban rail, intercity rail &c), as well as the detailed times, changes, and costs linked to each route.”

    I fully agree, in my mind this is essentially a journey planner!

  208. Chris H says:

    I think these apps you’re asking for already exist

    One is called

    On the national/international front there is also

    And Google Maps just gets better and better.

  209. Walthamstow Writer says:

    As LR always ends up gravitating back to the maps vs technology argument perhaps we need a couple of advocates to draft a couple of articles so that all the combatants can purge themselves of all of their views and opinions? It might then allow the vigour and enthusiasm from commenters to be concentrated in one place. Oh well, one can but dream!

    I suspect there is no clear answer to the debate as we all come with different experiences, skills and levels of engagement with technology. I just tried to take CDBrux’s enthusiasm at face value to place a trip I may make next month from one bit of London to another. I used the TfL journey planner and I fell at the first hurdle as it didn’t recognise the destination address. I therefore had to use something else to find an address that the JP found palatable. It then routed me via Zone 1 because the “not via Z1” option is not yet functional. Now I have a decent enough knowledge of the transport network so had already looked at some options using a paper bus map. Even going back and playing with the mode options in JP didn’t work entirely properly (IMO, of course). I suspect I’ll be sticking with my own option rather than using what the JP told me! Part of this is because JP is not clever enough to cover all the options / constraints I set myself in doing this journey as cheaply as possible without any extension fares on the rail network. Clearly this would be a mightly complex thing to programme into a journey planner but logic would suggest that many people do balance / trade off time, cost, ticket options, preferred modes and number of changes in their journey decisions. While the JP can do many of these things it can’t do all of them (yet).

  210. Long Branch Mike (Junior Under-Secretary of the Acronyms and Abbreviations Portfolio ie Intern) says:


    I thought the series of comments this day concluded to somewhat unanimity that a combination of maps & tech was best, as each has strengths & benefits the other doesn’t. It is clear that neither is going away, and that tech may eventually be able to combine the best of both approaches. (I haven’t played with or Rome2Rio yet… perchance the latter is a driving video game?:) ).

    Regarding what should be on the Tube map will be never resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, and we have discussed this many times in many threads, so having another thread to rehash the opinions may be best left to another online forum if I may humbly suggest.

  211. Graham Feakins says:

    A surprising number of visitors to London walk around with folded map of one sort or another in hand, so these should still be produced, whatever app might be available.

    The best I used was the free-issue London Connections map – Rail and Underground services on one side and, on the other side – Rail Services Around London & the South East.

    Of course, individual guides also have their use, e.g. the one I have published by Tramlink with CAMRA – A Guide to the Real Ale Pubs in South London accessible by TRAMS.

  212. ChrisMitch says:

    Mobile apps are useless for tourists, as they will all be charged the extortionate data roaming charges…

    As an occasional tourist in foreign cities myself, I find maps much more useful than journey planners – a map can help you plan an interesting sight-seeing route, whereas a journey planner requires you to know your waypoints before you start.

  213. Fandroid says:

    Funnily enough the TfL journey planner shows alternative travel modes in just about every combination and includes walking where appropriate. If you dig very slightly into the detail, there are maps (provided courtesy of messrs Google) which clearly show, in true geographical wiggliness, the actual route recommended. None of this Beckian straight line rubbish for the modern TfL!

    Next up will be a satnav for the metropolitan visitor on foot. ‘Climb ten steps and turn right. Pass through the ticket gate with the green arrow lit up and turn left. Walk ahead twenty seven paces etc etc ‘ The self-navigating locals may have to dodge these zombie-like creatures as they walk along with a glazed look in their eyes. But we’ve all been doing this ever since Mr Sony invented the portable tape player, so that’s not a problem.

  214. James Bunting says:

    [email protected]

    The TfL Journey Planner still has a long way to go before it can really offer alternative travel modes. The maps, when used to indicate a walking route, carefully put the directional line over the top of the street names, so you can’t read them.

    It doesn’t understand the difference between National Rail, on which an Oyster Card can be used, and Heathrow Express, on which it can’t. For those who start journeys south of the river rail is often the only realistic option for a journey to the other side of London. If this happens to be a journey to Heathrow it is impossible to exclude Heathrow Express but include National Rail.

    Having offered a selection between the almost unique British difference of coach and bus it immediately drops that within the itineraries by referring to Express Bus and includes suggestions such as using the Oxford Tube to go from Victoria to Notting Hill Gate or National Express to get from Heathrow Central Bus Station to Terminal 5, again with no warnings about cost. I could go on with much more, but I think I have made the point. Some things, such as the absence of a warning about the Heathrow Express and Oyster, are actually retrograde. They were their in the old system.

    The fact that a journey is technically possible seems to crowd out any concept of reality. All of the above shortcomings and more were pointed out whilst the system was in beta test, with the TfL blog making noises about how grateful the designers were but very little seems to have happened.

  215. Ian J says:

    @stimarco at 07:45 and 08:32: I am not sure how Rome or Athens are any more legible in layout than London (Rome’s public transport network is particularly arbitrary and confusing). And yes, it is an opinion that I quoted, because I felt it expressed my opinion more eloquently than I could myself, but there is a wealth of writing on this subject going back decades (Jane Jacobs and Lewis Mumford, for example).

    You cite Paris’ construction of an RER (which has now ground to a halt) and the (rather slow and infrequent) web of Victorian ultra-local rail services as examples of through routing of trains through the centre, but seem to have forgotten that London did the same thing in the first half of the twentieth century with the Underground network – the underground takeover of the Northern Heights is a great example of this. And it would be crazy if the 1970s plans for the Fleet Line went ahead in the 1990s and the Jubilee Line just ignored the biggest office development in Europe just because the long term plan said it should go to Lewisham.

  216. Graham H says:

    @Ian J – so it was stimarco after all? He has little understanding of urban history if so. London emphatically didn’t have an RER with the District and Met c1870. Who would have used it? Indeed, the London of 1870 barely reached zone 2 and had only one serious focus of traffic – the City. Rail commuting of any sort didn’t appear on a significant scale until the 1880s; the Met and the District served open country peppered with small market towns for many years. There was absolutely no need to provide regional commuting services until the 1960s at the earliest: the tube + the Southern network + longer trunk bus routes (don’t forget that until c1965, nearly 1/3 of all commuters entering central London came on buses) did it all. One of the key differences between London and Paris at that time was, in fact, the modal split: Paris didn’t then and doesn’t now have any trunk bus routes and the Metro stopped very precisely at the city walls. In to that gap, stepped the RER.

  217. Castlebar (Fulwell Chord U. K. Liberation Unit) says:

    @ GH interesting.

    What do you mean by “There was absolutely no need to provide regional commuting services until the 1960s at the earliest:………..”??

    By “regional commuting services” do you mean “to/from (London)” until the 1960s, or, IN any other regions?

    I think you are broadly correct. But my understanding is that in the 1950s, there was ONE 50 mile regular commute going on. Perhaps it set a precedent. It was to/from Brighton and I understand there were a significant number, some of whom used the Pullman service. Was this accepted as being the first long distance commute into London? I clearly remember being told whilst staying on my uncle’s farm near Betchworth in the early 1950s that nobody in the village worked in London, “but up that ‘ill over there” (the top of Epsom Downs), “that’s where all the bank managers live and they have to go to London every day!”. In the early 1950s, London seemed a very long way away, and I was sure then that it was the setting for the “William” books. Now the M25 runs near where the farm once was.

  218. Anonymous says:

    I’m posting as “Anonymous” for a reason. I’d appreciate it if you respected my choice.

    The Fleet Line was being planned at the same time as Crossrail. Have you forgotten just how late that project is? They were releasing pretty brochures about it way back in the 1980s!

    Given that Crossrail could easily have been sent via the Docklands regeneration area instead—and will, in fact go there—I fail to understand why sending a different line to another destination is such a silly idea. Especially as the result is a Tube line that comes down from the north-west of London, wobbles around the Thames a bit, then dives back north again. (On what planet is that “serving” south London?)

    How is a London Borough like Lewisham supposed to make any long-term plans if such infrastructure projects can be so easily snatched out of their grasp on a whim? Is it any wonder that Battersea Power Station was left to rot for so long, and has only gained any traction lately thanks to the developers themselves paying towards the new Northern Line extension?

    It would have been no big deal to send the Bakerloo up to Stratford instead if having a Tube line serve Canary Wharf was still considered a requirement later after Crossrail had opened.

    That it took a further 30 years or so for Crossrail to actually happen is part of the reason why London is so difficult to navigate if you’re a newcomer to the city: plans are never adhered to. Instead, we get new “visions” full of empty hand-waving and whale-song every few years to give the impression that, yes, there really is someone sitting in a cupboard with a copy of Adobe Illustrator and the words “Planner” on the door.

    London has well-known areas like the West End, The City, Docklands, etc. No TfL map actually mentions any of these. Instead, visitors are supposed to remember individual places, often with confusing names: Oxford Street (not in Oxford), Charing Cross Road (nowhere near Charing), Bank (what kind of bank? HSBC? A river bank?), Canary Wharf, etc.

    In fact, Docklands is arguably more often referred to as “Canary Wharf” by most people now, despite that being only a tiny part of the area.

    And it’s not just tourists either: businesspeople also need to be able to get to their destinations. Despite its long history, at no point does the phrase “The Square Mile” appear anywhere on any TfL map. Similarly, the “Docklands” area is only recognisable as such because the DLR network is centred around it, but a tourist could certainly be forgiven for thinking that the “Docklands” area also encompasses Lewisham, Deptford, Greenwich and Woolwich.

    Contrast with Rome’s metro map. Even if you’re not familiar with the Italian habit of omitting the “Via” / “Piazza” prefixes from station names, it’s not that difficult to work out where stuff is. If you’re looking for the Colosseum, the station named “Colosseo” is a bit of a hint.

    Of note is the choice to show a stylised version of the GRA—Rome’s equivalent of London’s M25—as a simple circle. The stations beyond which metro tickets are no longer valid are also clearly marked.

    Also of note is that many of the lines you see on there are not, in fact, owned or operated by ATAC, which is Rome’s equivalent of TfL. All the lines labelled as “FL[number]” are operated by the state railway operator. If the Romans can do it, why can’t TfL show services on Network Rail metals on their own maps? There isn’t a single urban metro service missing from that map: they’re all there. <a href=""Ditto for Milan. Again: note how they include lines (“S[number]”) that are not operated by MetroMilano.

    I’m not going to pretend that Rome doesn’t have its own problems, but my point is that they’re still not so stupid as to deliberately omit entire chunks of their urban metro networks from their transit maps. Yet TfL do just that. As do some other TOCs.

    This just isn’t good enough. Transit maps are a key part of any major city’s user interface and they’re as important to get right as any other UI.

  219. Castlebar (Fulwell Chord U. K. Liberation Unit) says:

    I am not “Anonymous”, but Anonymous has repeated my own views about “the planner”

    On a recent posting I suggested that a large regional area (perhaps south of a line stretching from Lincoln to Swansea), be handed to a proper transport authority capable of looking at ‘the entire picture’ and looking at ALL possible options, especially those using existing infrastructure to its maximum advantage.

    At the moment, we’re just getting a hotch-potch of “schemes” with out evidence of any joined-up thinking or any joined-up planning

  220. Pedantic of Purley says:


    You can post as stimarco, Anonymous, our Italian correspondent or anything you like. It really makes no difference as your style of writing, subject content and length of post pretty much gives it away. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to work it out.

    The point is that it is easier to refer to your earlier comment(s) as by stimarco even if you post as Anonymous (of which there are many). Appreciated if you respect our choice in doing this.

  221. Graham H says:

    @castlebar – even in the late ’70s, the split within rail commuting to central London was something like 2/3 from within the GLC area and only 1/3 from outside (ie regional commuting constituted perhaps something like 15% of all commuting by whatever mode).There has certainly been long distance commuting for many decades (famously, one individual used to commute to London from Brighton by stagecoach before the LBSC opened, although it’s not recorded whether he did so daily!) but not in the volumes we see now. A quick riffle through pre-1970 timetables shows how infrequent many peak services were; for example, Brighton in 1938 had just five fast trains to town in the morning peak and about the same number of stoppers.

    Even in my own village, not 40 miles from Waterloo, commuting was something new in 1981 when we moved here, and in Guildford, older people still spoke then with a Surrey accent, as did many of my rural neighbours.

    @anonymous – it’s difficult not to agree that operators are encouraged to work in silos whether for maps or any other published material. I still gag at the local bus operators who have the contract for evening services when the day time commercial operations have ceased, who merrily publish a timetable for the route as if it operates solely between 2100 and midnight.

  222. Greg Tingey says:

    Apps vs Maps
    I’m a firm believer/user of maps – apps are very difficult to view on the move & are dependant on the software-writers accuracy, which in the case of Google Maps (See Diamond Geezer for extended ridicule) I wouldn’t trust further than a good spit.
    [ Chris H … don’t actually believe you – see HERE for a classic example. Oh dearie me! ]
    Other apps, such as the train-timetable/running ones, are another proposition.

    Err … a Map is a technology-based solution, actually.
    The technology is called: “surveying”
    And any “app” will also have that basis in there, somewhere, as well, won’t it?

    WW & James Bunting
    TfL’s “JP” still screws you over wrt “Paddington” especially if approaching from the East … doesn’t seem to recognise the Bishops Bridge platforms, or something.
    Said “new” TfL misdirected-journey Planner …
    Still has no tube timetables or first/last trains AFAIK
    Which is a disgrace.

    Thanks (again) to G Fiennes & his team, commuting from Clacton (70.75 mi) & Colchester (51.75 mi) & Ipswich (68.75 mi) & even Norwich (115 mi) was well underway before 1960

    Again, What “planning”?
    Echoing Graham H, your grip on history is tenuous, it seems. Before the LPTB & “New Works” there was no planning at all, that one would notice.
    Also, if circumstances change, should one stick to the original wonderful magnificent “plan”, or should one be pragmatic & change your options?
    Provided, of course, that once you have let the contracts, you then you must stick to the (revised) plan.
    You also conveniently ignore the immense political pressure by road-fanatics & the treasury (& we-know-who inside that organisation) to make sure that Crossrail never got built.
    Where I do agree with you is this bit: but my point is that they’re still not so stupid as to deliberately omit entire chunks of their urban metro networks from their transit maps. Except I don’t think it’s stupidity.
    I think it’s arrogance, because TfL are perfect & make no mistakes, ever – according to them, anyway.

  223. Castlebar (Fulwell Chord U. K. Liberation Unit) says:

    @ Greg

    Yes, it should never be overlooked just how obsessed, fanatical and vicious the road lobby was until very recently, (along with their near cousins, the “developers”), and they received much overt and covert “funding” from construction companies.

    It seems that we are quite lucky to still have any rail service into Marylebone for example, because they very nearly ‘won’.

  224. Reynolds 953 says:

    @ ChrisMitch It isn’t essential for an app to have data access to be useful and indeed many travel apps advertise they can be used “offline” to highlight the user won’t be subject to roaming charges.

    I’ve been in New York a few times recently and have found useful apps for the subway and street maps, neither of which need a data connection (which isn’t available on the subway in any case)

    All the locals are staring intently into their smart phones anyway, while carrying a guide book definitely marks me out as a tourist!

  225. Reynolds 953 says:

    Just to add… the selectivity of TfL’s map is hardly unique. I’ve just taken a look at some NY subway maps and they don’t even show New Jersey, let alone recognise the existence of train stations there less than a mile from Manhattan.

  226. Fandroid says:

    That Diamond Geezer extract from Google maps proves that I live in Town Centre. It’s also very interesting to see that Headington, Tilehurst and Leigh on Sea are Google proxies for Oxford, Reading and Southend. That all reminds me of the BBC South weather forecast map which every day shows a different random selection of villages and towns as a guide to where the next rainstorm is headed.

    In my enthusiasm for the TfL journey planner perhaps I am not sufficiently critical. I just find that it gives me a reasonable selection of alternatives plus maps that can be zoomed in on to individual street level. Perhaps an ‘Oyster/Travelcard valid’ option is a big choice omission, but the instances of exceptions to this are quite rare. You either have to be travelling to/from Heathrow’s rail stations or travelling on SE Hi-speed between St Pancras and Stratford-in-the-Hole.

    I have not yet met a journey planner that tells you a walking route to anywhere! While it is a reasonable expectation, I don’t think TfL should be picked on for not being ahead of the rest of the world. They do/did however provide cycle route planners. I used one several years ago to get from Waterloo to Euston.

    For more general regional/national route planning (door to door even) Transport Direct can be used. Traveline is usable too, although it used to be horribly stuck when trying to provide routes across its own arbitrarily chosen regional boundaries*. Both seem baffled by place names and need lots of help to find start and finish points.

    *The bonkers instance I know is that the Isle of Wight is in Traveline SE England, whereas every place that it has a ferry connection to (ie bits of Hampshire) has decided for weird semi-political reasons that they are in SW England!

  227. JA says:

    If anybody wants to see a truly cack-handed attempt at integrating maps and an app in the field of journey planning then I’d suggest taking a look at the recent changes to the routeing guide on the ATOC website. The maps there consist of clunky diagrammatic drop down overlays on google maps and the routeing guide now comes with the proviso that any route ‘should’ be validated using the National Rail Enquiries website. It’s astonishing that it forms part of the legal contract, under the NrCOC, between a TOC and a passenger when they buy a ticket.

  228. Graham Feakins says:

    @Greg – “Said “new” TfL misdirected-journey Planner … Still has no tube timetables or first/last trains AFAIK”

    There are timetables, from this page:

    The Met. Line has more than just first and last, e.g. Metropolitan/Chiltern:

  229. Greg Tingey says:

    Thanks for that info … wasn’t there the last time I looked (some time back)
    Will they soon have all the tt’s back, do you think?
    It is to be hoped so!

  230. @Greg Tingey,

    All the timetables are sort of back – just not in the form you would like. I am a bit amused that for Waterloo & City I select my starting station as Bank and it then wants to know my destination station.

    One thing that is so much better than before is that the working timetables are published. Not sure what has happened about the latest Metropolitan timetable though. Also a bit puzzled how pages 24 and 25 of the latest Piccadilly Line working Timetable got printed the wrong way round (page numbering still sequential) and no one noticed.

  231. Ian J says:

    @The Artist Formerly Known As Stimarco:
    I’m not quite sure what your point is on maps. The map I linked to (which is the default rail or tube map on the TfL website) is produced by TfL and shows all the metro rail services in Greater London, the exact equivalent of the Rome map you linked to.

    Compare and contrast New York (as already mentioned) and Tokyo, London’s two most obvious peers in network size.

    And the Rome map (which is the seventh on the list of maps on their website) doesn’t show the Centro Storico, the Vatican, etc just as the London map doesn’t mark the City, West End etc. A tourist looking at that map would think that the best way from the Colosseum to St Peter’s was via Piramida to San Pietro regional station (rather than just getting a bus). And it arbitrarily includes the interurban Giardinetti tram but excludes the city trams, presumably because they are operated by a different organisation.

    Similarly, I am not sure what point you are making on Crossrail. As you say, the version of Crossrail planned at the same time as the Fleet Line did not go to Docklands. So if plans had been stuck to, Docklands would have no public transport and still be an urban wasteland. I do appreciate that as a former resident of Kent, your personal journeys may have been easier if Lewisham had got a tube line.

    Incidentally U-shaped transport lines like the Jubilee are very common in transport networks because the shape maximises intersections with other lines – it is no coincidence that the Jubilee is the only line that interchanges with every other tube line. The Washington DC metro is one of the very few complete metro systems to have been built according to a single largely unchanged plan, and it has a U-shaped line, for example.

    @Fandroid: I have not yet met a journey planner that tells you a walking route to anywhere

    Ask Google Maps for public transport directions and it will tell you to walk if it is quicker: for example

    In the long run I think that organisations like TfL and Transport Direct will find themselves more in the position of suppliers of data (including realtime data) to other companies (Google, Apple, a plethora of small start-ups) who will compete to provide the most useful and user-friendly ways of processing and communicating that data.

    @JA: It’s astonishing that it forms part of the legal contract, under the NrCOC, between a TOC and a passenger when they buy a ticket

    I think there’s a legal principle that ambiguities in contracts should be interpreted to the detriment of the person that drew up the contract. A lawyer with an evil sense of humour could probably run rings round the Routeing Guide.

  232. James Bunting says:

    @Ian J

    Tokyo has U-shaped lines, loops and circles as well. There is no single transport authority for Tokyo, and no definitive map. As far as rail is concerned this is probably the best interpretation of the network, but only exists in virtual form. It would otherwise need a rather large sheet of paper.

  233. Greg Tingey says:

    I put first “time table” then “underground timetable” into TfL’s search-box.
    First/last tubes don’t show up, nor do direct tt’s – so they are well-hidden!
    The WTT’s did show up, so I may try using them, but they are long-winded … I & most people here will be able to read a wtt, but there are times when a simp-le public tt is an easier option.
    Why (Oh why oh why?) Can’t they simply do what they did before & publish the standard tt’s?
    Or would that be too simple?

    This topic is becoming tired & repetitive, I know, but wtf?
    What is wrong with making tt’s easy to find, or first/last tubes?
    Or is it that the app/computer geeks believe that their way is perfect & everyone must adapt?
    And, of course, (another tired complaint) why do TfL point-blank refuse to admit error?

  234. Fandroid says:

    Google does have a ‘walking only’ option (click on the little person). I was sceptical about its walking routes, but I tested it with a route where the shortest route on foot is via Russell Square gardens. It happily passed that test despite the caveat on the site about not necessarily including footpaths. So, I’m a convert! The real issue in London is that street name signs are often absent just when you need them, so you end up having to stare closely at a map anyway and count side streets.

    The point Ian J makes about organisations like TfL just providing the data in future, for others to turn into user-friendly interpretations, is exactly the point I was trying to make earlier. Why hasn’t someone come up with a map that shows the NR metro services as well as the Tube (and by metro, I don’t mean 2tph – which excludes a lot of those on the London’s Rail and Tube map!). I guess the answer is in the comments above. The brains are all concentrating on journey planner apps with maps as an accompaniment.

    As for the ATOC Routeing Guide, I often try to squeeze the most economical combination of tickets out of it for long-distance multi-stop journeys. The big problem with verifying routes on the NRE Journey Planner is that it only offers one ‘via’ choice.

  235. @Greg Tingey,

    I too like the published timetable.

    And, of course, (another tired complaint) why do TfL point-blank refuse to admit error?

    Because, as I keep saying, there is a difference between a mistake and a decision that is not to everyone’s liking. Just because you (and I) don’t like a decision it doesn’t mean everyone thinks that way and that the decision is necessarily wrong.

  236. Castlebar (Fulwell Chord U. K. Liberation Unit) says:

    “And, of course, (another tired complaint) why do TfL point-blank refuse to admit error?”

    “Because, as I keep saying, there is a difference between a mistake and a decision that is not to everyone’s liking. Just because you (and I) don’t like a decision it doesn’t mean everyone thinks that way and that the decision is necessarily wrong.”

    !! We could soon be talking “chord opportunities here !!
    (In search of the lost chord)

  237. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg / PoP – prompted by the exchange of posts I went back to the TfL website and found that timetables have now returned. There are some glitches and inconsistencies though. The way to find them is to go to the home page and use the drop down arrow against “more” in the title bar.

    From there you can see “Timetables” in the menu that appears. Select that and a list of modes appears. Under Tube, DLR and Overground you’re taken to the line or for Overground a page with links to pdfs. Buses gives you a matrix of route numbers to select from.

    You’re typically asked to select a start stop for bus or a start and end for Tube. The info at stop level for buses gives you time bands, some of which show the exact time a bus is due and others give a headway. This repeats the nonsense from the stop specific panels. Worse you can click on an arrow at the right hand side of the times which brings up the journey time *but* it only ever shows the off peak average time. Surely TfL have all the underlying schedule info so the times of each bus and its run time could be shown? It’s just a mass of data after all!

    For the tube, once you’ve selected start and end point, the times of the first trains on M-F appear. You can use drop down menus to bring up different days of the week and hourly time bands. The precise time of *every* tube is then show and each has a precise station by station journey time if you click the right hand arrow. As the system is designed for smartphone / tablets you may need to scroll down the departure time list to bring up more trains within the hourly time band you’ve selected. I could certainly see the exact 3 minute peak headway for Blackhorse Road on the Victoria Line. The drop down time band menu also has “first trains” and “last trains” options which should calm down Greg a little bit. Yes it’s all a bit fiddly because of the navigation structure but the info is there (largely). I just really dislike the inconsistent practice between buses where departure times and journey times are traditionally far more important than for tubes where there is now excrutiating detail! Consistency please TfL!!!!!!

    DLR times are also a bit odd – if you select Stratford to Lewisham it only brings up the times for the direct M-F AM peak times. It doesn’t show later departures and tell you to change at Canary Wharf! Oh dear.

    And changing tack a tiny bit and going back to the woes or otherwise of maps and transport planning then I fell across an excellent report on the Jubilee Line Extension while looking for something else. The Report gives a history of the planning and construction including funding and completion milestones. Looks like an excellent read over its 114 pages.

  238. Rational Plan says:

    Maps which highlight train frequencies have been tried before, but you soon realise it gets complicated very quickly.

    The current map shows stations that get 2tph and shows others for special services. The map fulfills its main function showing that, yes you can catch a train to that location and which major interchanges and terminal station it links to (depending on map).

    But the problem comes from that most of London’s stations are served by a variety of different services with different calling patterns. This means that major stations may have 6 to 12 trains an hour to London, yet the next one on the line may only have 2 tph.

    That already means that you can’t draw a simple thick line listing all the stations with at least 4 or 6 tph. You will start to have a different symbol for the less frequent stations and you are already adding complexity to your map.

    Then there is the problem of the of fine mesh of overlapping services. You may have 6tph to Waterloo but only 2 of those also stop at Whitton and 4 at Putney, how do you represent that?

    Well both of these problems have been covered by either having every route represented as a separate line with frequencies represented as number of stops per hour at each station. I used to remember staring lost in fascinated rumination at those maps stuck to the vestibules of the old Waterloo trains. They were useful in helping you understand how the entire SW London network linked together and where the best places to change trains were is you wanted to link together two infrequently served stations.

    The only problem was the Maps were huge and that only covered one quadrant of London.

    Another consideration to consider is that number of trains per hour don’t mean much if they are not all evenly spread throughout the clock face and all services are equally useful. For example Staines has 6tph off peak to Waterloo, you’d think that meant an almost Metro level of service. Not really though. With the mixture of different calling patterns, it means the express train (from Reading) has to go first then the Windsor train followed by the Hounslow Loop train. Then a long gap before it repeats again.

    The Hounslow service is considerably slower than the others, so no one going to London gets on that one, in effect you have two services within 10 minutes of each other followed by a 20 minute gap. It’s practically a half hourly service.

    I can remember many such cases across London. Many people at the busier station just want to use the fast trains to London and time the journeys just so. These stations have in effect far less trains an hour to London in the commuters mind, than the timetable shows.

  239. Kit Green says:

    Rational Plan
    “number of trains per hour don’t mean much”

    Since moving south I find that my local station has two trains an hour to Southampton Central. They leave at xx:30 and xx:31.

  240. The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Orange says:

    @Ian J

    A better example of a U-shaped line than the Jubilee, whose complete set of interchanges by the way is now only unique if you count the Dangleway, is the Piccadilly, Harrow and Wood Green being neighbouring metropolitan centres in the London Plan. My retired mother vowed never to do the journey again in one sitting after travelling between the two.

  241. Greg Tingey says:

    BUT if you do the SENSIBLE thing – I did & put “timetable” into the search function
    How good is that?
    Thanks for the tip, however.
    I now find (as you say) that it isn’t actually a timetable … it shows three or four trains.
    Why can’t they get it right?

    [ I note your comment that is obviously “designed” for a phone screen … and the rest of us can obviously get stuffed, I suppose? ]

  242. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – given the stats for how people access the TfL website it was inevitable there would be a move to a more “mobile / smartphone / tablet” friendly design. Also given the push for more “real time” info it’s inevitable people will access info on the move with a mobile device. It’s clear TfL won’t be providing two formats / screen designs so we just have to lump it if using a desktop or laptop. To be fair the old site was dire to use on a smartphone – trying to use the old Single Fare Finder was enough to try anyone’s patience beyond breaking point.

    If you click “first trains” or “last trains” then yes only 3-4 trains are shown. Clicking any other time band (use the drop down menus at the top of the screen) shows every train departure in that time band. Clicking the arrow at the right hand end shows the arrival times at all subsequent stops for that train. To be fair that is a far, far greater level of detail than we have ever had for tube services. Sometimes the train list may show only 3-4 trains (depends how you navigate through the pages) but there is usually a “show more trains” button lower down the screen.

  243. Anomnibus says:

    @Pedantic of Purley:

    I’m not trying to ‘hide’. I’ve just decided to retire my old handle and pick one for each site I’m a regular on. It makes certain aspects of my life easier for me.

    Do you make a regular habit of referring to people by nicknames they have explicitly asked you not to use?

    Curious minds and all that.

  244. Anomnibus says:

    @Ian J and others:

    Rome has “Colosseo” station, “Cipro – Musei Vaticani” and “Ottaviano – San Pietro”. You don’t have to be fluent in Italian to work out what those refer to, though the last one might throw a few who have never looked up “Vatican City” on Google at any point in their lives.


    The “Giardinetti” tram will become Metro line C. It’s been under construction for a few years now and recycles great lumps of the Giardinetti narrow-gauge tram’s right of way. That’s why it’s shown on the urban metro maps. (It has dual-gauge track at the moment as the trams are still running during the construction process.)

    In fact, Beck-style network maps are noticeable by their absence on Rome’s network. You do get them, but they’re not as in your face as they are in London. What you do tend to see are large maps of Rome, with geographically accurate metro lines shown on it. That’s the one you see most people looking at.

    At ticket office / mezzanine level, you also get a similar map highlighting the local area around the station too. London does at least that part right, though not (if memory serves) at all its stations.

    So it’s actually a piece of cake to work out (a) where you are, and (b) how to get to where you want to go. Because they don’t try and pretend that the metro is its own little world, independent of the city itself.

    I don’t think that would work for London as any map showing the whole city at any useful level of detail would be massive. However, the rise of touch-screen displays suggests that something could be provided that travellers could use to get their bearings.

    Nobody seems to struggle with Google Maps, and that’s fundamentally just a great big scrollable geographical map.

  245. Paul says:

    Kit Green @ 1227 on the 30th

    …must probably be referring to St Denys? I’m sure that translates to a frequency of about 60 tph for a very short period each hour!

    Back in the days of the Southampton Tunnel track lowering, the off-peak service from Portsmouth terminated at St Denys, and the Salisbury service was re-timed as the connection into Central.

    A few of us were caught out when making the connection on the first day around 0930, when the Salisbury train sped off into the distance at its normal time, 3 mins earlier than the displays were showing. St Denys would have been a sad place to wait if it hadn’t been easy enough to catch the next train to Parkway and return…

  246. Kit Green says:

    Paul 1 June 2014 at 20:14

    Especially as The Junction and The Dolphin would not be open at that time.

    As for The South Western….. (although I do hear that it has improved).

  247. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Anomnibus – I’ve only been to Rome once but I hardly used the rail network other than from the airport. I had to rely on buses or shank’s pony. I’ve not even used Rome’s Metro system as it didn’t go anywhere I wanted to visit. I can accept you prefer what they do to what is done in London but that’s surely as far as you can stretch things. We all have our preferences as to how we think things should look but I wouldn’t presume to replace the London Tube Map given its very wide use. One of the important things in London is that there is a coherence between maps and wayfinding on the tube network which is important and pretty longstanding meaning knowledge of certain colours and line name can be enough for some people to get about. Others need more help and the design provides that.

    As for Google Maps – well I positively hate the new design and have reverted to the old one. However there are all sorts of glitches with their maps depending on the zoom level, the integration with Streetview and other things. It is a good resource to have at your finger tips but it’s a long way from perfect. I’m not really a fan of TfL using Google Maps to help illustrate where their bus routes go. The concept of overlaying a bus route on a street map is good but the execution is not brilliant.

    I don’t think there is an answer to the needs of enthusiasts who each seem to want their own transport map that fits their own personal prejudices / demands.

  248. Ian J says:

    @Anomnibus (formerly stimarco): I still don’t understand what you want from a transport map of London. A Beck-style map that includes all forms of rail? (but not trams except trams that might one day become what you consider a “proper” form of transport?) It already exists (except the trams bit) and has done for years (it’s where the name of the predecessor to this blog comes from). A geographically accurate map? ATOC produce one for central London, and the area bus maps show rail services too.

    On the issue of timetables: one point that might be worth making is that there is a difference between headway operation and timetabled operation and timetables are less useful for the former.

  249. Chris H says:

    @ Anomnibus

    I have only been to Rome once, and that only to travel from the central Termini station to the airport. I have to say I didn’t recognise your praises of the transit network, either in service provision, mapping or marketing. I wanted to take a cheaper option than the Airport Express, so headed down into the metro station beneath the mainline station. There was some construction work going on with hoardings everywhere. There were no network maps available, no signs indicating what services operated, and no information about which lines went where. Instead I had to stump up €14 for the expensive train.

    (In case you think I am a typical “Englishman abroad” I have had no problems negotiating the transit systems of Moscow, Bangkok, Tokyo, Casablanca etc. etc.).

    Compare that to the experience arriving at (say) London Paddington, where there are numerous Underground maps available within the station concourse, clear signing to the different lines, staff who can give helpful information – and the Heathrow Express platforms as the expensive but quick alternative.

    In conclusion: I think we do mapping and marketing pretty well in London.

  250. Anomnibus says:

    @Chris H:

    That was a major upgrade of the two metro stations and interchanges—akin to the work currently going on in London around Tottenham Court Road station. The main work was to add new lifts and escalators while also digging some new connecting tunnels to reduce the congestion at the station.

    Adding new lifts and escalators while keeping all services running is difficult enough even under ideal conditions, but there are dozens of metres of archaeology in that area, and they are legally required to protect all of it. Work sites in Rome can therefore be extremely constrained, which limits the options for passengers in projects like these.

    Rome has even had to abandon planned stations and reroute lines because they’ve uncovered major finds that couldn’t easily be relocated without losing context. Archeology always wins there. It’s why it takes so damned long to build anything at all below ground level.

    (Incidentally, the airport can also be reached by the stopping service that runs every 15 min. or so via Ostiense and Tiburtina. It’s a lot cheaper too. The down-side is that it goes through Rome, so doesn’t call at Termini.)

  251. JA says:

    At risk of being wildly back on topic I came across these a few days ago. This map of the area from 1874 has been posted before on London Reconnections, but it’s interesting enough to bear repeating here;

    I had not realised there was a northern counterpart to the Necropolis station at Waterloo. On a similar theme there are a number of interesting aerial photographs of the Kings Cross/St Pancras area, amongst others, in this gallery:

    I hope these are of interest, having never seen it first hand I find the extent of the railway activity in the area astonishing.

  252. For more details on the Necropolis service from King’s Cross see IanVisits here.

  253. Fandroid says:

    JA. That 1874 map shows an extraordinary number of houses crammed in between Kings Cross and St Pancras. One thing we fail to remember is the huge number of dwellings that have been cleared away (due to one cause or another) from sites in central London. Another instance is north of Waterloo, where the 1914 map shows loads of houses/shops lining York Road and Waterloo Road and other streets between.

  254. Graham H says:

    @PoP/JA – Many thanks indeed for the ref to the GN necropolis service! One wonders whether it had its own dedicated stock as the Waterloo to Brookwood operation did.

  255. Greg Tingey says:

    Article in “London Railway Record” some time ago on the KX NEcropolis services … I’ll try to dig it out if I can find it…..

  256. Mike says:

    There was an article about the GN Necropolis stations in London Railway Record (always a good read) a year or two ago.

  257. RayK says:

    Graham H 20 May at 11:48
    ‘there is no evidence for any large scale demand’

    The channel tunnel moves 20 million plus passengers a year split ~ 50/50 between Euroshuttle pedestrians and shuttle passengers. If for the sake of discussion we take half these passengers as originating around or south of London, that leaves us with 10 million people who will either travel through or bypass London. The shuttle passengers will in all likelyhood have used the M25 to circumvent London. There is no rail equivalent of the M25 to enable rail passengers to avoid London. Would it be worthwhile to provide some means of doing so? Would it be worthwhile to relieve London and the M25 of 5 million people per year each? 5 million is not a great figure standing alone. Would the removal of this traffic be enough to make life even slightly better in and around London? Would the figures remain as they are now once London is no longer the obstacle it is today? Surely it makes sense to keep as much traffic as possible out of London, whatever form it takes.

  258. Graham H says:

    @Rayk – even earlier than the post you referred to, another correspondent kindly produced the forecast figures for those who might use the HS1 and HS2 link – it was in the very low millions annually. The cost of constructing the link is roughly £1bn, which would create capital servicing costs of around £200-300m pa, plus some operating costs. If the useage were 10m pa, as you suggest that would be a straight £30 a head to any fare; if useage were as forecast, then it would be double or treble that – a major discouragement to rail travel. Anything more large scale by way of a rail bypass a la Parisienne would generate costs in excess of £10bn even if a routeing could be found.

    The timing issues remain crucial, however. With the HS1/HS2 link, centre to centre timings for Brum Paris are hardly going to slip below 3 1/2 hours – still slower than air travel; the only advantage rail can offer is shorter checkin times*. For Manchester- Paris, rail is no competitor at all. So I don’t buy the argument that there is a big untapped market and certainly not that there is an unmet demand which could conceivably finance the construction of any link.

    *Why is it that I have an uneasy feeling that someone somewhere in the Ministry of Homeland Security has plans to narrow this differential – and not by reducing air checkin times, either…?

  259. Milton Clevedon says:

    @GH, @RK

    RayK, I was the party hinted at by Graham H who offered various estimates for usage of HS2-HS1.

    Several links below, the first two have the most stats.

    (JB/PoP, in passing, is there a way of having some ‘easy to find’ index of comments on the site – probably not, but it does take an age to look up previous entries that one vaguely remembers!)

    The underlying problems, for HS2-HS1 as a basic scheme, are four-fold:-

    * long generally uncompetitive journey times between ‘NoL’ (North of London) or ‘WoL’ and even nearby large-scale European conurbations, compared to plane

    * the unattractive offer just in terms of frequency, of trying to make an entire through train profitable (try finding 550-600-plus passengers all at once, on a commercial basis including marketing risks) vs 150-200 seat planes

    * allocated infrastructure charges, inefficient train utilisation, extra en-route UKBA fun and games, and so on. Set GH’s £30 per head (just for the HS2-HS1 link, not for the entire journey) and all other rail-based costs against an all-in one-stop low-fare jet (even with aviation tax on top), and the pricing becomes a further millstone

    * even at low frequency, the potential impact on capacity and route efficiency of occasional trains being overlaid on existing or forecast future domestic passenger and freight flows, if there were a low-cost (aka cheapskate) scheme as seen with the first version of HS2-HS1, which caused unacceptable impacts to TfL and Network Rail over the North London Line!

    The corner might just be turned by the 2050s, on the case for frequency greater than one or two trains per day on each main pairing of origins and destinations (and even some those might not ‘fly’ at all until the 2030s or 2040s), but that all depends on future Eurozone population growth and economic growth – neither looking terribly positive at present.

    Plus, will England, Wales or Scotland, or the UK as a whole, stay in the EU or walk away, questions to which answers will eventually emerge and which will also influence government’s (or do I mean governments’ !) willingness to ante up for a further international rail link – other than a superbly high quality pavement connection between Euston and StP.

    HS2 Ltd had been primarily thinking of aggregating international passengers via an Old Oak continental railhead, possibly with such trains starting from the HS2 Phase 2 Heathrow terminus adjoining Terminal 5. Those thoughts are now back in the ‘difficult to plan’ crayonista zone.

    Indeed, who is now betting on a Heathrow Phase 2 spur happening in reality, given the intended limited service frequency, its own high costs, and Sir David Higgins’ terse ‘HS2 Plus’ comments about (in relation to HS2-HS1) loss of HS2 main corridor capacity for anything other than the primary flows to and from Euston terminus?

    If you review a link in principle in a different way – a domestic link relieving a number of cross-London flows – with London 2050 pressures, Home Counties motorway congestion, a bulked-out Crossrail 1 etc – then a possible case starts to emerge for a new L+HC main line link offering marginal space for the occasional through international train – but certainly not with the international tail wagging the domestic dog. Newham Council and I think Centro allude to this in their HS2 petitions. See recent, separate commentary link here to those petitions:

  260. (JB/PoP, in passing, is there a way of having some ‘easy to find’ index of comments on the site – probably not, but it does take an age to look up previous entries that one vaguely remembers!)

    Well sort of yes – if you have moderator rights and only want to do a crude search. Even then you don’t seem to be able to restrict to a particular contributor or dates from and to. It is a frustrating weakness for us as well. Sorry.

  261. Castlebar (Fulwell Chord U. K. Liberation Unit) says:

    @ RayK, GH etc

    Somewhere, some time ago, I saw the results of a university project (I think it was a UK university), where the end result was a graph showing the exact relationship between distance/travelling time vs air/road/rail as choice of transportation, As GH says, “For Manchester- Paris, rail is no competitor at all.” I agree with this as it reaffirms my understanding of that university study. Under 200 miles, and rail won every time, but after that, for every 20 (or was it 25?) miles radius on the “point to point journey”, the ratio changed towards being in favour of air travel to the extent that a Manchester – Paris rail service would be unviable, and anything beyond Manchester, even Liverpool, just a few extra miles, would be a complete ‘White elephant’.

    Obviously changes to check-in arrangements and border controls will need to be factored in and make some difference to the outcome, but I suspect it would only be a marginal difference.

    If anyone remembers the study I am referring to, I for one would like to see it again.

  262. Greg Tingey says:

    In which case, why is Newcastle – London, primarily a “rail” corridor?
    Or is it still that is an internal rail service & air requires fake security & check-in?
    Or is it history, dating back to the Newcastle Silver-Steam Bullet of 1935?

  263. timbeau says:

    “There is no rail equivalent of the M25 to enable rail passengers to avoid London.”
    The M25 acts as a maens of collecting together all the continent-bound motorists from all directions beyond London and funnelling them down the M20 towards the tunnel. cars come in small lumps. This system will not work for trains which come in much bigger lumps, with no one direction providing a trainfull at any reasonable frequency. St Pancras International is the concentrator for the rail passengers.

  264. Graham Feakins says:

    @MC & Co – “(JB/PoP, in passing, is there a way of having some ‘easy to find’ index of comments on the site – probably not, but it does take an age to look up previous entries that one vaguely remembers!)”

    I have used Google, searching for my own comments, by typing: “London Reconnections Graham Feakins” and perhaps limiting by date.

  265. answer=42 says:

    I don’t doubt that your memory is correct but the study must have indeed been some time ago. The thinking now is that high-speed rail is competitive for a rail journey time of between three and four hours. Not only has rail become faster but total air journey times have become longer, due mostly to longer check-in times and air/runway congestion. Modern aeroplanes are actually very slightly slower than their predecessors but this is not material to the journey time.

    This is why London-Amsterdam by Eurostar is viable, despite a planned rail journey time of around four hours and a flight time of around 60-90 minutes. Manchester-Paris via HS2 would be competitive on journey times; the real question (as has been addressed by others) is the size of the market and the justification for expensive infrastructure.


    The problem in general is how to avoid London being a barrier to North-South and East-West rail journeys. International journeys form a small proportion of these journeys. As has been pointed out, there exists a large number of origin-destination pairs, most of which do not have sufficient traffic to justify regular direct services.

    The question therefore becomes, how to provide interchange? Thameslink and Crossrail 1 might help. The Paris solution does not seem to be optimal for London. Boris Johnston commissioned a high-level study into the feasibility of a ‘rail bagel,’ which I would guess was some sort of rail M25. We have heard nothing since. Anyone want to do an FoI to find out what happened?

    I think the way forward is to do a study of origin/destination pairs by London rail terminal, including international destinations. I think the outcome would be a mixture of limited new infrastructure, some inter-regional trains (think OOC -Ebbsfleet) and, most importantly, an ease of interchange / information strategy for through travellers.

  266. Castlebar (Fulwell Chord U. K. Liberation Unit) says:

    @ Greg 18:56

    I do not know the answer re Newcastle, but that is why I would like to see that study again. There are exceptions to every rule, but there are also “factors”.

    “Factors” included;

    a) established/historic travel patterns
    b) price
    c) frequency
    d) location of airport in relation to city centre
    e) public transport (particularly rail access) to either/both airports
    f) actual travel objective if not in city centre
    g) percentage of regular/occasional business travel
    h) any ‘cross water’ element (such as Severn estuary, or Inverness – Wick)
    and more.

    It was very detailed, and I would love to try and locate it, Yes, it was a few years ago.

    Newcastle station is extremely well located in the city centre whereas the airport was only connected to the metro system in recent years

  267. Anomnibus says:

    “* long generally uncompetitive journey times between ‘NoL’ (North of London) or ‘WoL’ and even nearby large-scale European conurbations, compared to plane”

    One thing these studies always seem to miss out is that trains can make additional stops on the way. Air travel tends to be point-to-point for journeys like this.

    Another issue is that trains can be split, so you don’t need to send an entire “train full” of passengers the entire distance either. Even with daytime HSR services using conventional TGV-type stock, we’re likely to see pairs of 200 metre trains coupled together for many services. Why not have one of those come from one station—e.g. Leeds—and another from Manchester, and joining at, say, Birmingham International or Old Oak Common?

    Remember: no airline offers a skip-stop service, which is why they have to use those smaller planes for short-haul flights. But rail can make multiple stops on the way. The example above would collect passengers from Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and / or London. And that’s before you’ve even crossed London.

    This is also why I’ve advocated proper European-style sleeper services: something only a new railway like HS2 can offer as the older British network’s loading gauge is, for the most part, too small to allow the use of such stock. Without those bigger coaches, the business case doesn’t add up. But if you could run these as far north as Scotland—always assuming HS2’s future aspirations are achieved—then sleeper services could well be an important source of revenue. Who wants to arrive at their destination at three in the morning? If you’re travelling late, then it makes sense to take advantage of the human need for sleep.

    Our continental cousins split and join loco-hauled trains on long-distance routes as a matter of routine, so this isn’t the stretch some may think it to be.

    And the populations of western Europe are ageing: retired people want to see the scenery. They don’t care if it takes a little longer to get there. Just ask Chiltern Trains.

  268. Graham H says:

    @Anomnibus – of course, you can split trains and have intermediate stops but the problem remains: even filling half a train is the equivalent of a couple of short haul aircraft – and remember every additional stop will cost you about 12 minutes, so adding, say, Crewe and MK stops to a Manchester-Paris will cost you 24 minutes and wipe out the advantage for rail more or less completely. [And we all know that it wouldn’t be just those two intermediate stops, don’t we? – the rats would get at it faster than you could say “HS2” and we have intermediate stops at Leigh*, Crewe, Rugby, MK, LHR, OOC etc etc…)

    More generally, whilst what answer=42 says about a rail bypass is right in theory, unless it is engineered for high speed running throughout, the loss in time will be very large. In NSE days, we studied the scope for a Heathrow-Gatwick through service via the WLL; that could certainly be done in about 50-55 minutes if the paths could be found – a big “if” – but to get right round to HS1 (at Ashford perhaps) would take at least another hour, more probably 90 minutes, even assuming that we demolished Redhill to enable through running.

    Not absolutely sure where Leigh is, except that it used to be a destination on the long dead SLT and that its local MP is demanding an HS2 station there. Let’s revive some Guy trolleybuses for him.

  269. Castlebar (Fulwell Chord U. K. Liberation Unit) says:

    @ Anominibus (You sound like cloud formation)

    Agree. Absolutely

    A couple of other points I seem to recall

    (b[a]) Price is more of a factor if you are paying for your own journey. It is far less relevant if your employer, particularly a ‘State Body’ is paying for it. (Chiltern are building up a very loyal ‘grey’ market)

    (c[a]) Not only the frequency of your chosen transport mode, but also the frequency of the alternative/competing transport mode.

  270. Castlebar (Fulwell Chord U. K. Liberation Unit) says:

    @ GH

    There is a ‘Leigh’ near Brockham. Somehow, I doubt………………..
    …..but I know of no others

  271. answer=42 says:

    @Graham H
    I am not advocating a rail bypass. If it is hi-speed, it will cost too much. If it is not hi-speed, it will take too long. The Paris solution worked because there just happened to be a little-used/unused railway right of way in the right place.

    I just want to know what the numbers were in the ‘rail bagel’ study. I’m assuming that they were either really bad or else simply bad plus nothing in it politically for Johnston. Either way, public money was spent and the results should be in the public domain.

    Starting with the infrastructure or with ideas of how to run inter-regional trains gives the wrong mind-set. We should start with looking at demand and see what turns up. it might be a bit unexpected.

  272. James Bunting says:

    @GH and Castlebar

    The Leigh referred to is in Greater Manchester. The railway arrived there in 1864 and left again 105 years later in 1969. There is a proposal for TfGM to build a busway, with counter proposals for a railway instead.

    It lies just north of the East Lancs road, is 7.5 miles south east of Wigan, and has a population of 43,000. Given that it has not had a rail connection for 45 years but is very close to a major rail junction it would not seem a particularly pressing case, but doubtless provides a good soundbite for the MP.

  273. Greg Tingey says:

    The line through Leigh was one of those closed, so as to save money, otherwise the sacred M-way would have to have an expensive bridge over the railway, oh the waste!
    Going W from Manchester, it diverged @ Eccles – Worsely – Tyldesley (Jn) – northern line ran thru’ Hindley Green to Wigan LNW or sW through Leigh, to join the very old Bolton & Leigh Railway (contemoraneous with the Liverpool & Manchester & rejoined the L&M @ Kenyon Jn.
    And, yes, I have done all three routes, courtesy of both the regular passenger service via Tyldesly & special trains & a brake-van trip that started from Bolton ….

  274. RayK says:

    @James Bunting
    The guided busway between Leigh and along the old rail alignment to the East Lanc’s Road is currently under construction. whence by dedicated bus lanes Manchester. The whole area is criss-crossed by once rail line alignments some of which are now roads. The East Lanc’s Road, aka A580, Was built in the early 30’s complete with bridges over rail lines which were wide enough to cater for later widening of the road. I don’t know if this can be put down to foresight or to giving the many unemployed of the time more to do. Perhaps both.

  275. Fandroid says:

    Newcastle is a surprisingly busy airport. A taxi driver told me that a lot of people from southern Scotland use it in preference to Edinburgh. However, the year-round timetable suggests that there are up to 8 flights per day to London (Heathrow and Gatwick). Methinks that puts it on the borderline in the competition between air and rail. My experience suggests that the Metro being extended there was of little consequence (except perhaps for employees). By far the greatest number of airport users arrive by road. Newcastle, like most northern cities, has a pretty good major road infrastructure.

    Newcastle Central station, in contrast, always seems a fairly relaxed place, especially if you compare it with Leeds.

  276. RayK says:

    Hm. Feels like I lit the blue touch paper and forgot to retire. You put forward a lot of good stuff. I particularly liked timbeau’s concise explanation of cars and trains as Smaller and bigger lumps and that St Pancras International is the concentrator.
    There seems to be something missing though. Perhaps I should approach this in this way.
    RE Graham H
    “the only advantage rail can offer is shorter checkin times”
    This may once have been true. It still seems true when I take the stance that all that matters to me is my time and my money. It seems to me that many of the sources used were constructed before carbon footprint became a matter to be taken cognizance of. It is something that is becoming of greater significance and yet which is difficult to put a value one. This very difficulty makes it hard to handle, and easier to ignore. It seems to me that it will become more urgent and easier to see the need to deal with it as time goes by. Is it being sidelined as being too difficult, or is it too slippery a factor to handle with any confidence and to incorporate into our equations? Or is it something else?

  277. Anomnibus says:

    @Graham H:

    “the only advantage rail can offer is shorter check-in times”

    I disagree.

    Rail also lets you take a lot more luggage with you as well, with none of that “Carry-on luggage must fit within this arbitrarily tiny space” stuff either. And, of course, unlike Thiefrow’s infamous baggage handlers, your luggage is a lot less likely to end up at the wrong destination, or damaged, or both.

    Secondly, rail offers a demonstrably healthier travel environment. And I’m not talking about carbon footprints and similar political con tricks, but better air quality. Ever since smoking was banned on flights, airlines have taken the opportunity to reduce the filtering and oxygen levels to reduce costs, the upshot of which is that the air quality in the cabin has measurably worsened.

    Thirdly, you get a decent view. And decent leg-room. And no need to wear seat belts… hell, sometimes the seats even line up with the (much larger) windows!

    Fourthly, turbulence is rarely an issue on a train, unless you chose the curry option.

    Fifthly, when the train arrives at its destination, you aren’t then faced with an endless slog down some of the longest corridors ever built, just to get out of the damned station. (If you also have to pick up hold luggage from the carousel, it can take over 40 minutes just to get from the aircraft to the airport entrance!)

    And finally: it’s a lot harder to hijack a train and force its driver to take it to Tehran instead.


    The User Experience for air travel is dire, and it’s only getting worse. All the glamour and mystique of air travel has been sucked out of it. What’s left are glorified tubular buses with wings operated by an airline industry that has reached the heady heights of British Rail circa 1975. Some airlines will even try and sell you bad copies of BR’s famous sliced tea and curly sandwiches.

  278. Walthamstow Writer says:

    If we look at why Newcastle – London is a strong market the here are my “guesses” as someone who originates from said northern City.

    The East Coast line has always had a bit of a “premier” feel to it with named trains and speed records. Some of that has tarnished in recent years. Nonetheless the service is very long standing so people know it exists.

    There has long been a good frequency of trains – every 30 mins every day of the week with peak extras. There has also been a good mix of fast and semi fast services giving people a choice of service and speed. Again people know the trains run frequently but I doubt they know the frequency of National Express and Megabus coach services in the same way.

    There has been a long history of competing coach services from Newcastle – London which has given some competitive spur to the railway too. As a poor student I used the coaches a lot and even worked for one of the competitors. British Rail was pretty adept at tailoring its pricing to ensure it didn’t lose market share. I expect the subsequent TOCs have continued the practice but it’s a long time since I used the route as it’s unaffordable unless you can book months in advance which I won’t do.

    There is a long standing flow of Geordies working down south M-F and coming home for the weekend. This gives a good revenue base for Friday evening and Sunday traffic. Also don’t forget things like the Army garrison at Catterick – a lot of squaddie travel on the line. In more recent years Newcastle has earned a somewhat unfortunate reputation as a “party Toon” so the weekend traffic has no doubt intensified as people from all over travel to drink themselves silly for the weekend [1].

    I can’t prove any of the above but it has never entered my head that I should fly from Newcastle to London. Part of that was down to having extremely convenient links to Newcastle Central and Kings Cross compared to the travel time to the Airport (and, ugh, Heathrow or Gatwick at the southern end). It was simply not competitive timewise for me. I doubt I was alone in making that assessment even though new roads have bypassed Newcastle to the west giving faster access to the Airport.

    [1] see various episodes of Sky’s East Coast television series.

  279. Milton Clevedon says:

    Agree about the growing importance of carbon footprint, but how can that be factored into the business case that has to be made for any project? With present processes, it will be a matter of governments’ interventions through (1) pricing and (2) project support.

    On (1), taxation of alternative modes already exists though on a rather haphazard basis subject to political judgments – eg, holding back the fuel duty escalator for petrol and diesel sales, not charging Vehicle Excise Duty via the pumps, not levying aviation tax per planeload instead of per destination. However rail fares in the UK are also not taxed at point of sale (they are in some countries).

    On (2), project appraisal rules could be made more friendly to low carbon modes, alongside greater support for capital projects achieving a low carbon outcome. The latest version of Webtag (the transport modelling appraisal tool supported by DfT) uses some greater values for carbon reduction, though more could be done. It is also the UK government which itself is pump-priming the HS2 project, proceeding with it despite some opposition, and will end up funding the route. That is already a major commitment.

    Overall, a ‘cross-London’ or ‘bypass-London’ link still needs to make a decent case that secures all-round support and political priority, which it has failed to do. So at present it is the project’s shortcomings which need to be addressed.

  280. Anomnibus says:

    @Milton Clevedon:

    The ideal solution for an HS1-HS2 link is to have CR2 build an additional pair of suitable station platforms at their proposed Euston-St. Pancras station for such a link. The rest of the tunnelling could then be built later if desired, with new tunnels linking Stratford International with Old Oak Common via the new station.

    The argument that only a handful of through services would use it falls apart when you consider the potential for through Class 395 (“Javelin”) services from HS1 to points west. Instead of terminating at St. Pancras as they do at present, these services could run right through to places like Heathrow, Slough, or even up the link to the WCML.

    You could even run some Wales and West of England services right through to Ashford or Canterbury once the electrification scheme is completed.

    So the HS1-HS2 link becomes an “Express CR1” of sorts. Given that CR1 is widely expected to be at capacity not long after opening, I contend that this would help buy that line some breathing space too.

    Honestly, I can’t think of any reason not to do this. Add on a pair of bypass tunnels around the Euston-St. Pancras station if you don’t want the expense of installing additional security facilities for through International services if desired. And even those could be built as part of CR2 enabling works, given that they’ll already have some TBMs handy.

  281. Anomnibus says:

    Also, given that Thameslink won’t be able to take any more services once the upgrade is done, the freed capacity on the terminating HS1 Domestic platforms could then be used to support more services via the MML after some tweaks to the junctions.

    With some additional junction works, it might even be viable to park some services from the ECML there too.

  282. Milton Clevedon says:

    Such Javelin-style London & Home Counties through running is exactly what I had in mind as the rudiments of a new cross-London main line link, in my post of 3rd June at 14:11 (see last paragraph). It will take something on the scale of that to get the benefits up and the costs down, to be able to justify infrastructure capacity for the marginal additional slots likely to be needed for through international trains.

  283. Castlebar (Fulwell Chord U. K. Liberation Unit) says:

    @ Anonminibus & Milton

    Yes. Agreed. Exactly

    But on a contemporaneous thread there is an argument to stop “through” services on the Wimbledon loop because it is stated nearly that nearly 80% of passengers don’t go through Wimbledon, but disembark or ‘alight’ there.

    The same thing would surely happen with this cross main line link, very few Heathrow passengers would board at Ashford or Canterbury. The key to through services is one terminal serving polarised destinations, with little dwell and no turnaround time clogging a central London rail hub. If there is an 85-90% ‘turnover’ of passengers there, so be it, and it is not a reason “why not” to do it. A great advantage of Crossrail type operations where all the stock is at the end of the line, rather than clogging central London termini

  284. James Bunting says:

    @ Anomnibus at 2247

    I would suggest a sixth (but equally important) reason, especially for those who need to work. There is a much greater block of creative time. Time spent in departure lounges, getting to gates and boarding, with the same process the other end, is unproductive, as is that between the seat belt sign going off after take-off and coming on again before landing. Those on a train can can make productive use of all of the time they are on board.

  285. timbeau says:

    @James Bunting

    or even get a few hours uninterrupted sleep.

    (Unless, like me last Friday, you discover the train is to be routed over a line you’ve never done before, and stay up until the wee small hours to see it!)

  286. Southern Heights says:

    @ Anonminibus

    Also, given that Thameslink won’t be able to take any more services once the upgrade is done, the freed capacity on the terminating HS1 Domestic platforms could then be used to support more services via the MML after some tweaks to the junctions.

    Creating yet more flat junctions where the MML needs to cross the Eurostar tracks…

    Whilst this is at a terminus, it remains a bad idea. At the moment the MML and HS1 are completely independent. Tracks signalling everything. Doing what you suggest takes that away.

    Of course, once electrification of the MML is complete some of the shorter haul MML services could be terminated somewhere south of London (e.g. a purpose built terminus station in the South Terminal car park of Gatwick airport). That would be handy too if the second runway is built and the new terminal sits just to the south of the current runway.

  287. Anomnibus says:

    @Southern Heights:

    “Creating yet more flat junctions where the MML needs to cross the Eurostar tracks…”

    Give me some credit for thinking this through! Where did I say that flat junctions would be needed?

    Given that it’s now clear that Plan A for linking HS1 to HS2 via the NLL is no longer happening, and my suggestion would reduce—if not entirely remove—HS1 Domestics from St. Pancras, there’s a plenty of scope for remodelling the junctions outside St. Pancras to suit the changed requirements.

    There’s currently a full-fat triangular junction outside the terminus, a big chunk of which will no longer serve any purpose:

    The big, double-track junction between the NLL and the HS1 tunnel portal is never going to see any through services to HS2 via the North London Line, so that can go. (There’s only one track on it, but it’s clearly built for two.)

    The NLL–St. Pancras chord is also unlikely to see much, if any, use.

    If the HS1 Domestics are removed entirely from the terminating platforms at St. Pancras, then you can gain a lot of space for junction remodelling by replacing the complex burrowing junction just west of the HS1 tunnel portal with a much simple twin-track, Eurostar-only connection. This release acres of space for the ECML to get into those ex-HS1 Domestic platforms, while also simplifying the work for the MML too.

    Exactly what shape the station throat would take on therefore depends on what service pattern(s) The Powers That Be want it to deal with in future, but there’s absolutely no reason to use flat junctions here.

  288. Malcolm says:

    Well, anomnibus, you didn’t actually say there would be a flat junction. But in spite of all your description, it’s hard to figure out how else the lines from the currently-HS1 platforms, and the lines from the currently-Eurostar platforms, at exactly the same level at the north end of the platforms (currently) could cross each other at all. If they can, it would be by some very twisty slopey tangly bits, given that they need to go in such awkwardly opposite directions.

    Sure, joining HS2 and HS1, if done at all, will need ingenuity. Hiding the cost in some otherwise unrequired linking of domestic services is a nice trick if you can get away with it. But I rather doubt it myself.

  289. Anomnibus says:


    I suggest you try visiting the site in person. I have done so and I can assure you that there is space.

    A fair chunk of that tangled mess of flyovers and dive-unders was built to allow services to enter the Eurostar and HS1 platforms via the North London Line. That is no longer happening. So all the infrastructure built for that purpose can be removed. For the sake of clarity, here’s an image showing the junction as it is today (more or less; the junction itself is accurate, but the area around it is a bit out of date).

    The red lines show redundant infrastructure now that the HS1-HS2 link via the NLL isn’t happening. That’s one whopping great two-track viaduct (albeit with only one track in place), and a second viaduct running down to the current MML platforms. Removing those will clear a lot of space already for new structures.

    Now, consider what happens if we remove all HS1 Domestic services from St. Pancras entirely: now you only need a simple, two-track viaduct up to the tunnel mouth from the Eurostar platforms, flying over everything else, removing more clutter and freeing up even more space for new grade-separated junctions.

    For reference, take a look at the new flyover built for the London Overground services at New Cross Gate. The ramp is surprisingly short thanks to modern electric trains being able to cope with seriously steep gradients. (Also, as at St. Pancras, trains aren’t moving at speed here, so curves can be quite tight.)

    Not a walk in the park by any means: you’d need to phase the work very carefully to avoid major disruption to services, which adds to the expense, so it’s going to cost serious money, but there’s a comparable project under way already: the rebuild of Reading station. What I’m suggesting wouldn’t require any major surgery at St. Pancras International itself, so I’d guesstimate a cost of around £400 million or so.

    Building this, plus a cross-platform “HS-Link” interchange station with the already planned Euston-St. Pancras double-ended CR2 station, would get you a hell of a lot more bang for your buck than just building CR2 alone. Essentially, you get a third “High Speed Crossrail” for a fraction of the price of either of the Crossrail projects.

    Not that there’s any rush. HS2 is still a long way from construction, let alone completion.

  290. Ian J says:

    re: Leigh: I think the promoters of the HS2 station are making a mistake in emphasising the “Leigh-ness” of the proposal and an expensive loop off the Liverpool-Manchester line. Locating the station a bit further south where HS2 crosses the Liverpool-Manchester railway and calling it “Lancashire Parkway” would make it a much more plausible proposal.

  291. Castlebar (Fulwell Chord U. K. Liberation Unit) says:

    @ Ian J


    I think even the most enthusiastic Crossrail extendadors know that Devizes is out of reach of their realisable ambitions.

    But “Devizes PARKWAY” still seems to be on their local agenda, even if it isn’t on anyone else’s

  292. Ian J says:

    It’s nice to see the implied compliment the lobby group pay to TfL by calling themselves “Transport for Leigh”. See also the government organizations Transport for Manchester, Transport for New South Wales, Transport for Canberra… It’s a bit like when most European railways named their express services “InterCity”. On the other hand, “Parkway” has stayed a uniquely British term I think.

  293. TLC says:

    Shame it isn’t ‘Transportation for Leigh’, though you’d only need a station briefly then.

  294. Graham H says:

    You go away for a few days and Reason flies out of the window; to recap:

    – the wish for a cross/round London high speed link would not save sufficient time to make anything more than Brum-Paris attractive in terms of journey time (and that only marginally, at best).
    – even if that were so, there would have to be enough people willing to pay for the trip to make it worth while.
    – lots of us like train travel for all the reasons stated by various posters above, but if there are insufficient of us, or we are not willing to pay enough for all the creature comforts and advantages of rail travel, then it doesn’t matter whether there are 2 or 52m of us, alas; all the evidence is that there is no evidence at all that there is a financially viable market for rail travel to the continent from beyond London. The business case doesn’t exist and simply wishing it did won’t find the necessary cash.
    – Ashford and Canterbury together amount to the equivalent of about half to 2/3 of a typical London borough. Of course, there are some people there who will want to go to Brum or Manchester, but but but, even if the entire population of these gaffs turned up once a week to go North, the extra fares they would generate would hardly pay for a very small amount of rolling stock. Now, if, of course, you were to stop that high speed link at every London borough en route, not to mention Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Maidstone, Lamberhurst etc etc, you might be able to pay for a few more trains. Infrastructure? Not in this version of the space time continuum…
    – it was certainly Leigh (Lancs) that I understood to be the object of the local Mp’s attention – used to have a trolley every 8 1/2 minutes (!) to Bolton, usually worked by those preternaturally ugly rebuilt Guy BTXs. Now there’s a demand – Leigh- Lamberhurst, hmm.

    @Anonmnibus – the Italian railway system is so wonderful, that the Swiss, French, Austrians , and Slovenes seem to be scrapping through trains as fast as they can…

  295. Castlebar (Fulwell Chord U. K. Liberation Unit) says:

    @ GH

    “- the wish for a cross/round London high speed link would not save sufficient time to make anything more than Brum-Paris attractive in terms of journey time (and that only marginally, at best).”

    But the French have proven that a “Shakespeare’s Disneyworld” (or ditto “Parkway”) neither far from Birmingham nor Stratford-atte-Avon might be………………..

    My medication time, I see.

  296. Graham H says:

    @Castlebar – are there a lot of Parisians desperate to go to visit the Shakespeareland Experience? Surely, no Frenchman would travel any distance at all to seek out Racine’s/Corneille’s rival? [BTW, in the other direction, I recommend the Parc Asterix, where Obelix’ favourite wild boar turns up as rather good sausages; who needs McDonalds?]

  297. straphan says:

    There are already very plausible and concrete plans for a cross-country link avoiding London. The line in question is called East-West Rail, and will provide the opportunity to significantly speed up journeys from places between Bournemouth and Oxford to places between Derby and Newcastle, by avoiding the ‘dog-leg’ that Cross Country currently has to take to get into Birmingham.

    Oh, sorry… Irrelevant to this thread, you say? Oops…

  298. Graham H says:

    @straphan – indeed – great advocate of E-W… but you’re not advocating that Felixstowe- Rotterdam tunnel so urgently and morally needed to enable Northerners to travel to the Continent without going to London, are you? No. thought not!

  299. straphan says:

    @Graham H: Indeed. Much as I will advocate improvements of intercity and commuter services North of the Watford Gap, I think people have unrealistic expectations of the need for train services from north of London to south of Dover.

    Besides, if you look at opinion polls, there are plenty of people from North of the Watford Gap who would prefer to blast the Channel Tunnel to smithereens rather than run more trains full of those horrible immigrants through it…

  300. Milton Clevedon says:

    Returning to the site must have been an ‘orrible shock! (spoke in Surrey borders vernacular). Only London & the Home Counties, for internal travel, could in any way begin to justify an E-W Thameslink 2 or 3 or something like that, with added London 2050 volumes of garden city commuters. International from North of London? Suspect a different border first with through trains (Scotland) – even if we look as short as 2029 for that culmination.

    Now, let me see, when are the UK General Elections – ah, 2015, 2020, 2025 (sadly still no new northern high speed line by then) – and then 2030, and so on, 2030 being when high speed Phase 2 is now aimed for, according to the Higgins tablets handed down in March from Mount HS2. I have that sudden ‘go-round-the-corner’ to Ladbroke’s feeling, maybe 2035 is worth a punt…

  301. Graham H says:

    @MC – I’d not thought of the northbound international traffic, but you’re right, the plans don’t allow for that. 2035 – is that before or after we re-apply to join the EU on the grounds that we need their aid to third world countries? [Last time I go away to learn to drive a Horsfield car… actually, quite straightforward but a bit rough over the crossovers].

  302. Anomnibus says:

    @Graham H:

    “the wish for a cross/round London high speed link would not save sufficient time to make anything more than Brum-Paris attractive in terms of journey time (and that only marginally, at best).”

    If you’d bothered to read my post, you’ll find I was suggesting a link aimed primarily at the HS1 Domestic services. Why bother terminating them at St. Pancras when you could terminate them at OOC, Heathrow or points (north-)west instead and offer far better interchange opportunities? Turning such high-frequency commuter services around at a terminus in London is an inefficient use of the rolling stock as you end up with very unbalanced loadings.

    That you’d be able to run the occasional through continental service over the link as well is merely icing on the cake, but it is not the primary goal.

    Also, it’s going to be rather difficult for any town or city in Kent to increase its population if your attitude prevails. How is Kent’s economy supposed to improve if you don’t provide it with the infrastructure it needs to grow?

    If the DLR has taught us anything, it’s that you need to lay down the tracks and stations before you start building the houses and offices.


    Contrary to what you—and others—may think, I actually don’t believe HS2 will happen. And I will continue not to do so until I’ve seen the now-traditional Discovery Channel promo-documentary on the project. I’ve heard “Jam tomorrow!” far too often now; I’ll believe it when I see it, and not one picosecond before. So, no, I really don’t believe any of my suggestions will come to pass.

    I think it far more likely that the UK will see an increase in brownouts and blackouts, then panic over its “sudden” and “unforeseen” lack of a decent electricity supply thanks to closing all those old power stations while failing utterly to build enough replacement capacity.

    And that will make new High Speed railways and rolling rail electrification projects look a hell of a lot less sensible in the short-term. And “short-term” is all the UK’s political classes can do.

  303. Graham Feakins says:

    @Graham H – I’ve often driven that “Horsfield car” as a (now lapsed) qualified driver. It’s quite an experience to compare that with driving e.g. a modern tramcar. (Best to give a clue as to what we are talking about but your experience may go some way to explain the eternal question I am asked as to why ‘we’ generally got rid of the first generation trams in this country.)

  304. MikeP says:

    Lots of talk here (as ever) about failure to plan infrastructure for the future.

    Yet if the past teaches us anything, it’s that predictions for the future are generally far from what happens. Particularly if based on extrapolations from current trends (London population, I’m looking at you).

    Case in point here – all that (apparently now redundant) linkage between HS1 and the NLL. Must confess, I thought that was built for freight rather than a putative HS2 link. Either way, the predicted demand hasn’t materialised, and we find ourselves talking about demolishing it. To enable meeting another predicted demand.

    I’m coming to the view that the way the DLR “happened” might well be the sensible approach. Tough luck, cratonistas.

  305. RayK says:

    Re MikeP
    “I’m coming to the view that the way the DLR “happened” might well be the sensible approach. ”
    Well perhaps not ‘THE’ way. I makes sense to move from total prediction toward a ‘make it happen’ approach but where about in the middle we will find the optimum approach I don’t know. Perhaps that would be project dependant.

  306. Graham H says:

    @Anomnibus – -sorry if I misunderstood your point there; I think my suspicion that the domestic traffic from Kent northwards wouldn’t justify any significant construction, remains – even if Ashford became twice or even five times the size, it would still be a small settlement by comparison with any of the others (apart, as always, from Leigh, Lancs) for which a high speed connexion is justifiable.

    @RayK/MikeP – the DLR is surely a poor guide to the way to do things. “Everyone” knew at the time it was planned (and for each successive upgrade) that it would be inadequate. If it had not been for Nick Ridley’s obssessions, a very different structure would have been built at the outset. A better example might be Paris, where long term plans are laid, delivered, and seem to get it right – it can be done. The major risk is of political intervention perverting the planners’ plans – as with the Fleet Line and as will be the case with HS2.

  307. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Graham H – The major risk is of political intervention perverting the planners’ plans – as with the Fleet Line and as will be the case with HS2.

    Round of applause for this oh so true statement. And the only people who can fix that are us the voters and most voters don’t give a damn about transport issues other than the cost of filling their car’s fuel tank. Therefore the politicians will continue to fiddle and faff and get most things wrong.

  308. Greg Tingey says:

    Provided that the extra rider: “Outside London” is added to your statement, I think?
    In London, & to some extent the other large cities ( Manchester, Brum, Glasgow) the general population are concerned with transport issues, if only to get to/from work.

    Look at the ridiculous spat over rail transport/services to/from inner Kent f’rinstance ……

  309. Alan Griffiths says:

    straphan @ 6 June 2014 at 17:24

    “the opportunity to significantly speed up journeys from places between Bournemouth and Oxford to places between Derby and Newcastle”

    could be delivered by chords allowing south-bound HS2 trains to access the existing line towards Oxford, just south of Bicester and take over the CrossCountry services to the south coast.

  310. Malcolm says:

    One of many suggestions for /extra/ things to try to make the southern part of HS2 do. It cannot be done, I reckon, because by the time it is built it will be carrying the maximum number of maximally filled trains to/from London. Branches, especially branches requiring shorter trains than the 400m HS2 norm, would eat into that capacity, to an extent which cannot be afforded.

    (Message sent from a train, courtesy of ScotRail free wifi. Maybe normal for some, but a first for me!)

  311. Milton Clevedon says:

    (Can you also receive on your train? Your message is being read and replied to on a modified 158 unit!)
    The best intermediate point for any additional HS2 branches or links to/from the classic network will be around Birmingham Interchange. You could join the NW/NE bifurcations with southern links onto CrossCountry there. It wouldn’t achieve maximum journey time savings, but causes operationally least grief for HS2 line capacity planning at that location.

  312. StephenC says:

    @Alan Griffiths / Malcolm,
    The Banbury connection is very sensible but does require a chunk of 4 tracking to be of real use. However, what could be done very easily is a connection from just South of Birmingham Interchange to the existing line into Coventry. HS2 around Birmingham Interchange is planned as 4 track, not 2, so the capacity issue is more moot.

    Such a link would allow the cross country Leeds/Manchester to Banbury/Oxford/Swindon/Reading and beyond (via Coventry). With an extra connection in the East Midlands it could also allow a service from Lincoln to Coventry stopping at Nottingham and Birmingham Interchange, providing much better access for Nottingham to Birmingham and London than a shuttle to Toton.

    (Having just travelled on the TGV from Avignon, one noticeable thing was the many connections to the classic lines and the variety of occasional through services they enable. Unfortunately HS2 is the engineer’s perfect railway and they don’t like complications like junctions…)

  313. lmm says:

    The French don’t have loading gauge differences to contend with. The Javelins do run on and off the “classic” lines down south, but under wires I suspect it’s a different story.

  314. Malcolm says:

    (I could have seen the reply on my Scotrail train,but Edinburgh intervened. Then I discovered that East Coast wanted to charge me for wifi. As a taxpayer I approve in principle, but not when it affects me in practice).

    There are many reasons why HS2 designers do not want branches and other complications. Including budgets and public perception. The loading gauge is not a deal-breaker; some trains will be classic-compatible, to serve (initially) Manchester etc, and ultimately Preston, Glasgow etc. But best use is made of the infrastructure by captive big trains. There will be spare capacity north of Birmingham, so bright ideas about serving e.g. Oxford and Bristol are still just about possible. But since extra tracks would need to be built for these, there would not seem to be any reason to put them alongside the planned two tracks to Bicester, and plenty of reasons to put them elswhere. And of course every reason to keep them out of the current extremely-capped HS2 budget.

  315. Mark Townend says:

    @lmm, 9 June 2014 at 09:50

    That’s what classic compatibles are for, and they’re going to have to build a lot of them for phase 1 through services to Manchester, Glasgow etc.

  316. Mark Townend says:

    Whilst extra points on the main trunk are highly undesirable, the slower city branches and certain parts of the NE branch might accommodate additional junctions, without affecting capacity. There are opportunities to thread in junctions at a number of places classic lines intersect or run parallel on these sections. For instance the proposed tunnel at Castle Bromwich on the Birmingham approach could enable a grade separated junction giving access to New Street, with one of the junction tracks weaving across the top of the portal. Bristol trains from the NE could could regain their traditional Cross Country route here and London services to Wolverhampton and Stafford might run that way.

  317. Castlebar (Fulwell Chord U. K. Liberation Unit) says:

    Malcolm is spot on with his comment

    This is SO politically sensitive, that the budget tail is now wagging the common sense dog

  318. Fandroid says:

    Although the French provide many connections and intermediate stations on their high speed lines, I thought that one of their top railway guys came over here and told a high-speed conference that the French regretted that policy!

    There is a balance issue. Although there would be a high demand for high-speed services from say London to Oxford, there would be nothing like that for Oxford to Birmingham (or Manchester), so significant capacity on the London-Birmingham leg would have been sacrificed for a marginal time gain for the Oxford market.

  319. straphan says:

    The French provide lots of connections off HSLs (and lots of HSLs) because of politics. The conventional long-distance services in France are so bad (particularly in terms of frequency) that by now everyone wants a TGV in their town. Or else.

    In the UK such an approach would certainly improve HS2’s image, however, you would still need conventional rail lines with wires and plenty of demand.

    The connection from HS2 into Oxford and Reading most likely won’t work, because the capacity on HS2 South of Birmingham is pretty much spoken for. The only way it will work is if you don’t build the Heathrow spur – then the 2tph to Heathrow can be given up in favour of 2tph CrossCountry. Trouble is – you would then need to either build dual-voltage trains (very expensive) or install OHLE South of Basingstoke (even more expensive). However, seeing as where the thinking of the Davies Commission is going, I expect Heathrow expansion to be given the go-ahead along with the HS2 Heathrow branch.

    I do think, however, that HS2 should have more connections to the conventional network than it has planned at present. Birmingham is one obvious choice (plus electrification of Birmingham – Bristol).

  320. Mark Townend says:

    @Fandroid, 9 June 2014 at 14:55

    I think the French regret a number of their ‘beetfield’ stations some of which are or have been very poorly connected to other local transportation.

    Platforms at intermediate HS2 stations would need to be on loops which are lengthy and expensive, so junctions would be required for these as well as branches to classic destinations. On the very high speed trunk from London to Crewe, any additional junctions, whether for intermediate stations or branches would tend to further limit capacity because trains have to slow down from their normal cruising speed (350km+) to around 200kmh to take the fastest available turnouts, and that affects following non-stop traffic, unless all trains were to stop at the intermediate stations which is clearly not practical or desirable. There is also a problem of business abstraction from other commuter services nearby. An Aylesbury HS2 Parkway for example could seriously damage the viability of parallel Chiltern operations.

  321. Graham H says:

    @Mark T – the French design their connexions off their LGV’s to be operated at full line speed – precisely the issue on which I challenged their timetabling staff during the discussions on the financing of the LGV Atlantique (which would otherwise have been set undeliverable headways). The effect of that is, of course, to transfer any loss of capacity to the connecting lines.

  322. Mark Townend says:

    @Graham H

    I can’t find any reference online to junctions anywhere beating 200kph for the turnout route, although the straight routes need not be so limited. I can recall Andrew McNaughton bemoaning that low figure a year or two back. Perhaps the French technique is to time all trains through the junctions at the turnout speed and accept the hit on end to end journey time for the straight-on trains, effectively adding a slug of pathing time – That favours grouping junctions into widely spaced major intersections however, just like HS2 Birmingham interchange and city branch delta complex, combined with the NE branch junction nearby.

  323. Malcolm says:

    I too have seen conflicting claims about turnouts on high-speed lines. Either that they can be designed for full line speed, or that they cannot; both claims made by people who ought to know. I would be interested to know who is right.

  324. Graham H says:

    @MT/Malcolm – I can only report what I was told by those who are paid to know and who make it their daily professional business – it’s always possible that they lied, of course, but since the discussion went on to consider the issues involved in moving the very long blades of points that was required, it had a certain plausibility. BTW, SNCF timetablers were clear, the capacity loss through acceleration/deacceleration was taken on the connecting tracks otherwise they would have been unable to deliver the line capacity/headway permitted by the signalling. [The fact that there is nothing on line doesn’t signify – there’s much of a technical nature that the French railways are unwilling to put into the public domain].

  325. Mark Townend says:

    Aha! – I’ve found a reference of sorts:


    “the junction on the LGV Atlantique at Courtalain where the line to Le Mans diverges from the line to Tours, are both fully grade-separated junctions equipped with special high-speed switches (points in British terminology) which permit the normal linespeed of 300 km/h (186 mph) along the direction of the mainline, and a diverging speed of 220 km/h (137 mph).”

    This tallies with the French wikipedia article here:

    “Bifurcation de Courtalain : 220 km/h”

  326. Graham H says:

    @MT – well, as between wiki and those who would have been sued by my client du jour for giving us duff info, I have distinct preference.

  327. Malcolm says:

    And what about a bilaterally symmetric turnout, where neither route is completely straight? That would seem to require equal elevation at the frog, which might get over a possible problem with a straight-and-diverging setup. But what do I know?

    Generally I find wikipedia a lot better than uninformed guesses, but sometimes falling short of expert knowledge. (I fear I am falling into platitude mode here).

  328. Mark Townend says:


    ISTR such a thing being termed a ‘split lead’ with a straight un-canted approach then contra flexure curve and cant transitions occuring through the length of the turnout, with the common crossing or frog being raised relative to both diverging stock rails. I don’t think these points can be any faster though, the limiting factors still being the length of the switch rails and the complexity and reliability implications of drive machinery and detection arrangements. Formerly 90MPH turnouts at Heathrow Airport Jn on the GWML were replaced by 75MPH examples for reliability reasons, as they entail fewer drive mechanisms and limit switches. An advantage of such a split lead ‘Wye’ at higher speed junctions might be avoidance of moving frog components, as the crossing angle can be increased so flange gaps are not excessive.

  329. Milton Clevedon says:

    “That would seem to require equal elevation at the frog”
    But surely that’s the point (ahem) of the French LGV design?

  330. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Absolutely excellent photo of King’s Cross from Unravelled here.

  331. Malcolm says:

    The conclusions I draw from the points discussion are:

    In France they can be at full line speed, but for some reason this is not widely publicised on line.

    In Britain they cannot, because British practices and standards are not prepared to go to the expense and trouble of designing and producing the elaborate mechanisms which would move the very long switch rails.

    A further difficulty to which I found reference is the delivery of very long switches to site. They have to come as a kit of parts, to be welded together on site, because of the maximum size bit which can be loaded (even at 45 degrees) on a railway wagon. Too many parts and minds start boggling.

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