Last weekend presented a rare opportunity to actually get inside Marc Brunel’s Thames Tunnel. A temporary closure to facilitate works elsewhere on the East London Line allowed TfL to open it up to a limited number of visitors in order to help the Brunel Museum raise funds for some construction work.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, LR were there – and thus below are a selection of photos showing the current state of the Tunnel.

You can find out more about the Tunnel and its construction here.


To facilitate railway access, the tunnel was extended slightly at the Rotherhithe end. This is that extension (looking towards Rotherhithe station).


The entrance at Rotherhithe, with pumping machinery between the tracks.


A closer view of the pumping equipment.


Looking into the tunnel itself from the Rotherhithe end. The first few arches are not restored, in order to preserve as much of the original tunnel lining as possible.


Looking through one of the un-restored arches.


A closer view of an arch (and brace).


The old tunnel wall.


A better view of the un-restored arches.


A close up of the brickwork.


Where the old and new tunnel walls meet. The newer section has been lined in such a way as to match the original style, a very nice touch.


One of the new arches that form the majority of the tunnel length. These would originally have held stalls during the tunnel’s years as a shopping arcade.


Looking down the tunnel


Another view down the tunnel


A third view down the tunnel


One of the distance markers to be found within the tunnel


More tunnel signage


Looking out from the tunnel towards Wapping station


The tunnel entrance at Wapping, where the lack of the railway tunnel extension means a better view of the tunnel opening.


Now part of the Brunel Museum, the original shaft at Rotherhithe through which work on the tunnel was carried out. Note the roof, added in WW2 to minimise the risk of bomb damage.


A closer (and more colourful) view of the shaft walls. The location of the original spiral stairs is easy to make out.

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There are 126 comments on this article
  1. DidcotPunter says:

    Fascinating pictures! Thank you for posting. The article was great too.

  2. Graham H says:

    A great service for all of us who couldn’t make it! A lovely treat – thank you.

  3. Chris says:

    The photo “More tunnel signage” looks like a gradient indicator, 1 in 67 and 1 in 175. So is there a dip in the middle of the tunnel? Presumably the centre ends up as a kind of water drainage sump for the system to take it away?

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

    “One of the new arches that form the majority of the tunnel length. These would originally have held stalls during the tunnel’s years as a shopping arcade.”

    Is this where “Tie Rack” started out and London Rail Termini/Airports got the idea that it is more profitable putting shops than ticket windows or information points, (or maps) in stations from?

    “One of the distance markers to be found within the tunnel”

    Surely, that is not a distance marker, but an “mid-point” indicator between stations indicating which is the nearest platform in the event of any emergency??

  5. Jim Cobb says:

    Great pictures of what must have been a fascinating little walk.

    How do people find out about these sorts of events ? Is it matter of being in the know, or are they published somewhere ?

  6. Milton Clevedon says:

    Fascinating pictures, and thank you so much for sharing them. Several thoughts occur.

    The simple arch form for each individual tunnel entrance reminds me of the South Devon single track tunnel entrances (when those existed) between Exeter and Newton Abbot. Those were IKB’s work rather than Marc’s but perhaps they hint at a common heritage?

    Also, the pictures provokes thoughts about how any platform extensions might be undertaken (with considerable difficulty and cost) in the medium to long term eventuality of needing 6- or 8-car ELL trains as demand continues to grow. The stations at Rotherhithe and Wapping were only re-opened with the rest of the line after considerable efforts to persuade the safety authorities of their evacuation capabilities with 4-car trains. That is unlikely to be considered acceptable when much longer trains are involved, and there are also SDO and potential delay issues which grow with each extra car.

    In the case of Wapping, there’s only one way to go – north – but it’s on a gradient that would need derogation approval, or much more complex tunnel alterations from Shadwell to achieve a shallower gradient approaching Wapping. Might Rotherhithe extend in both directions – virtually only a few cars then to reach Canada Water – or does Canada Water extend north and there’s then a Parisian-style extended walk from the Rotherhithe entrance at platform level (is it Gambetta where platforms were shifted and the original ones became walkways?), to become in effect a double-ended Canada Water?

  7. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Jim Cobb – I went on the original walk a few years ago. I found out via Twitter but if you’re not on there then the “Ian Visits” website is full of info about upcoming events and he’s very focused on transport stuff. He does a weekly round up and a newsletter which you can subscribe to. Ian is also on the TfL “guest list” (as are certain LR people) for certain press events and previews so he sometimes gets to see behind the scenes that us mere mortals do not.

    The tunnel walk is very interesting and I’m pleased I did it before the ELL reopened. I doubt a suitable opportunity for a repeat walk will arise any time soon as this chance only arose because of the way engineering works coincided in several places meaning no ELL service was feasible.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I was one of the TfL staff leading the tours along the tunnel. I wonder if you were in one of my groups. I did have a couple of particularly interested and knowledgeable gentlemen!

  9. Jim Cobb says:

    @WW – Thanks for the info. I had seen some of IanVisits blog posts, but not really looked at his site. Definitely one to read.

  10. Latecomer says:

    @ Chris
    Although those who walked it will be able to tell you better there’s not a pronounced dip as such as the 1:175 will seem like level compared to the falling 1:65. These gradient signs are common across the network. Nearer Wapping the gradient is about 1:34 just as it emerges from the tunnel with a requirement for trains to stop on a fairly steep gradient in the station itself on the ‘up’. Emerging from the tunnel here onto the narrow curved platform it’s not uncommon to see people step back a few paces as even though they are safely behind the yellow line it must seem as if the train is coming straight at them! I only wish people would have that reaction at Canada Water where large numbers of people stand perilously close on the down platform.

    The 1:34 gradient is not far off that found on the ELL flyover as it falls past the depot having gone over the London Bridge lines. The steepest gradient on the ELL (and probably not far off the steepest in the country as far as I’m aware) is the climb out of Whitechapel up to Shoreditch High Street which I believe is 1:30.

  11. EL.L. South says:

    Wonderful photos. Does anyone know of photos of the tunnel in use as a shopping arcade? It’s quite difficult to imagine what kind of shopping experience that would have been!

    I’ve always thought that stations at Rotherhithe, Canada Water and Surrey Keys was over provision given how close they are to each other. Given that passengers at Canada Water and Rotherhithe can wave at each other now , they might be able to hold a conversation if there were platform extensions in future.

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

    It’s where “Nosebag Rack” and “Waistcoats ‘R Us” started their business empires

  13. Graham Feakins says:

    @EL.L. South – This short BBC clip gives a glimpse of one possible picture. The gradient and dip discussed by others is clear to see.

  14. Matt says:

    Great pictures, thank you. It’s hard to get an idea of the tunnel height though. Should there ever be a push to convert the 3rd rail sections of the Overground to OHLE, would it fit?

  15. Latecomer says:

    @ EL.L. South
    Surrey Quays is pretty busy as both a station that serves local commuters and as a key interchange. Even more so since the line to Clapham Junction was opened. Without it Canada Water would be a nightmare with people alighting onto an already crowded platform just to change services.

    I don’t ever see Rotherhithe being extended. The cost wouldn’t be justified. At quieter times it’s not uncommon for train doors to remain closed as not a single person gets on or off. Even during the peak it has significantly fewer passengers than any other station in my experience. Whilst I’m not advocating it, if there was ever a case for closure of any ELL station this would be the one in my book.

  16. Milton Clevedon says:

    ORR stats even if understating actual station usage in London do at least point to relative usage. In 2012-13, Rotherhithe had over a million passengers a year (1,048,310 allegedly), which is more than 133 other main line stations in Greater London, including high profile stations such as Stratford International and the entire Bromley North branch. Since Rotherhithe saw 1.3 million passengers yearly when part of the Underground in 2006 and 2007, one suspects the true figure now, with more trains serving more destinations and interchanges and a growing local population, will be 1½-2 million yearly.

    Similarly Wapping is (2012-13) allegedly now 1.27 million passengers, but was 1.5-1.6 million in 2006 and 2007 with the Underground. That station is probably now handling 2 million passengers or more.

    So it’s more a question of how one invests wisely at the point that platform extensions become unavoidable. Is there a shorter SDO train option for the Dalston-New Cross shuttle, that serves Wapping and Rotherhithe, or how else do those stations continue to be served? This topic may need to be grasped during the 2020s, at the rate that Overground passenger volumes are expanding.

  17. @Milton Clevedon,

    What you say is sensible and relevant but you can take that argument too far.

    Watford (Met) is much busier than Chesham yet the former will close within the next three years. The relevant factor is what other services are nearby, the level of hardship caused by closure and the benefits of closing (financial or to other passengers in the form of reduced journey time). So the Bromley North and Chesham branches have some justification for staying open because there is no alternative, they don’t inconvenience anyone and closure would cause severe hardship to some people.

    In the context of the East London Line this means that, whilst Wapping and Rotherhithe are roughly equally as busy, closing the former would cause more hardship than closing the latter.

    The issue with Rotherhithe is not simply how much it is used but how convenient the alternative is. The frustrating thing about Rotherhithe is, despite being close to Canada Water as the crow flies, it is around 600 metres away by the shortest walking route. If there were a direct route it would probably be about half this – less if Canada Water were double ended – and keeping the station open would be far harder to justify.

    So the obvious question to ask is: could better access be provided from the vicinity of Rotherhithe station? There does seem to be some potential for this but getting from one side of the Rotherhithe tunnel approach to the other side does complicate things.

    Probably, ultimately, the only way of finding a true answer as to how important Rotherhithe station is would be to actually survey those who used it and establish how much they would be inconvenienced by its closure.

    I suspect there are some reasons for using Rotherhithe station that don’t really justify its retention. There must be a few people who visit it simply to look at the Thames Tunnel (on topic!). There are probably also locals who use it either just to avoid busy Canada Water or to increase their chances of getting a seat.

    A further factor to consider is future housing density. Whilst high-density housing seems to be springing up around Canada Water it is still currently relatively low around Rotherhithe. If that were to change then TfL might actually be grateful for Rotherhithe for taking some of the pressure off Canada Water. And, although I caution against this, a look at one of the well known providers of aerial photography suggests that there are no buildings directly overhead that would cause complications if Rotherhithe station were to be extended southwards.

    Finally, even though the argument may be financially and rationally sound in future, the idea of closing a Zone 2 London Overground station, other than as part of an overall plan to improve the service locally, would probably be politically unacceptable and no future mayor would sanction it.

  18. Latecomer says:

    @Milton Clevedon
    I certainly wouldn’t want to put forward an argument for station closure based on my perceptions as a driver about station usage and I’m certainly not advocating station closure, in fact I’m all for as many people as possible being able to access public transport on foot. I do however suspect that a proportion of those who used to use Rotherhithe as an underground station may well now be using Canada Water because it is more convenient for them to use the Jubilee Line. Given the explosion in passenger numbers on the ELL perhaps the relatively limited use of Rotherhithe is indicative of the fact that perhaps Canada Water is meeting the local populations needs? Obviously if I lived local to Rotherhithe I would wish it to remain open.

    I’m not sure that I fully understand what you mean by “shorter SDO train option for the Dalston-New Cross shuttle”? New Cross services will all be 5 car (the signal is being moved at New Cross to accommodate this and those services when they turn at Dalston then serve West Croydon. I do think the New Cross branch (aside from serving Goldsmiths College and the local community as well as providing connections to South Eastern services) does provide a decent ‘pixie-buster’ service (as we call it) – Passengers in Excess of Capacity. Although not on the cards for now I do envisage that service eventually extending through to Dartford in years to come.

    @PoP I have seen occasional groups of young people alight at Rotherhithe so they may well be visiting the Brunel museum, although I’ve often seen such groups quite late at night so I’m not sure whether there’s a youth hostel or something similar in the area. I accept Milton Clevedon’s argument about the need for the service to serve a growing population and I’m sure that the population of Rotherhithe will increase. I do however wonder whether a more direct walking route to Canada Water would address this problem? As far as I can tell from Google maps and street view, there is a pedestrian/cycle way pretty close to the station that crosses above the Rotherhithe approach and connects Brunel Road to Albion Street. The problem seems to be the lack of a direct walking route between Clack Street and the new (unnamed?) roads that serve Canada Water. I reckon this walk could be reduced to something like 300 metres or so which is probably akin to something like the walk between Bank and Monument? I guess it might depend to what extent it might be be possible to bring an entrance to Canada Water closer to the north? Additionally town planners seem to be getting better at creating green bridges between communities once segregated by busy highways and Rotherhithe could be ripe for such an idea.

    Whether closure would have a positive or a negative effect on the running of the service I’m not sure. Aside from the dwell time at Canada Water one of the reasons why services are slow from Silwood Junction through to Canada Water in the rush is because there is no signal in between Canada Water and Rotherhithe so service have to crawl in to Canada Water on a red whilst waiting for the preceding service to depart Rotherhithe. Fortunately because Rotherhithe is not busy those trains move on reasonably quickly but there is certainly a knock on effect. Now if Rotherhithe closed and just a signal remained I could imagine this area being less of a bottle neck. Conversely, aside from any loss of service to those who find Canada Water too far a walk (I would guess that people with reduced mobility would use Canada Water anyway as there is no lift access to the platforms at Rotherhithe), Canada Water would become slightly busier.

    I apologise if some of this has gone off topic, although much of this has come form addressing the logistical problems associated with extending platforms due to the constraints of the Thames Tunnel. I still can’t envisage Rotherhithe being extended towards Canada Water as I think SDO will suffice here. They are squeezing 9 doors into Canada Water with some structural alterations (therefore one door will not open on the new 5 car trains), so if there were to be any major extension works I would suggest that money is best ploughed into Canada Water. Any grander schemes involving platform extensions in tunnels would require significant closures over extended periods of time which would but huge strain on alternative modes of transport. I think it will be interesting to see what impact Crossrail has on passenger flows at both Canada Water and Whitechapel and also on usage of the ELL as a whole.

  19. Southern Heights says:

    @Latecomer: There is indeed a Youth Hostel just along the road, by what used to be Spice Island (now the Old Salt Quay).

    When I lived in Rotherhithe there was a very good reason for using that station instead of Canada Water: Personal security… There is very little traffic on all those little streets and I was mugged at knifepoint in broad daylight… Salter Road with its constant traffic is a much safer option.

    Even in the LU-ELL days, with 6(?) tph maximum, the number of people making the one stop hop from Canada Water to Rotherhithe was quite a few…

  20. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Thank you very much for your insight from an insider. We have discussed Rotherhithe before but not with the benefit of someone explaining the problems from the front of the cab. As Milton Clivedon says, the issue is probably more urgent than it was thought to be a few years ago.

    Yes, there is a Youth Hostel in the vicinity. It isn’t called Rotherhithe though. It is “London Thameside”. It is stretching credulity a bit to even call it Thameside. That’s marketing for you. Its about 700m from Rotherhithe and 1 kilometre from Canada Water. Again most of the extra distance to Canada Water is explained by the lack of a direct walking route.

    I think, maybe, Milton Clevedon was envisaging a shuttle service of shorter trains between New Cross and Dalston Junction serving Rotherhithe and Wapping whilst longer trains did not. I can see problems with this if not all trains stop at all stations.

    I had not appreciated the problem of signal spacing though and maybe one day ATO will be used enabling very short block sections.

    I take on board you comments about closing the line for platform lengthening but one has to take into account that the problem of Wapping won’t go away. If one has to have some closures for Wapping anyway then it should be possible to synchronise the work so as not to entail additional closures.

  21. Milton Clevedon says:

    @PoP, @Latecomer
    Thanks for a useful continuing discussion. To respond to Latecomer about why any discussion at all on SDO, that’s because I don’t see 5-cars satisfying growing passenger volumes for very long. The extra, 7th cars on Jubilee Line trains were full within 10 weeks…! Also, I chose 2006-07 as LUL passenger volume comparisons because the JLE had been open already for those 6-7 years since 1999, so that hopefully any change in local access patterns to Canada Water station would have occurred already.

    So then you head towards 6- or 8-cars, and towards safety egress issues at Rotherhithe and Wapping plus any related operational dwell time/signalling matters. To address further pressures along the ELL corridor and on Southern and elsewhere, I could quite easily envisage the need for minimum 8-car trains by the 2030s.

    A Dalston-New X shuttle might be an SDO stop-gap for Wapping and Rotherhithe for some years, but eventually the nettle of platform extensions is going to have to be grasped. It might also sound ludicrous but worth a moment’s consideration, to question hypothetically whether even longer Overground trains, 10-12 cars, could be needed if the London 2050 planning points that way on population density.

    Although expensive and difficult locally, the benefits could be considerable at a network scale. For example, Connex had hoped to run a “Thameslink 2” type of service through the Thames Tunnel – eg GN to Gatwick – if the reopened line had been fully integrated with main line operations. So a wider scope of destinations might be viable, along with higher frequency on a Thameslink ATO basis.

    Overall (and to get closer to the topic), we aren’t going to see too many other railways built downstream of Tower Bridge, so shouldn’t we consider how to make the maximum use of those that we have, such as the Thames Tunnel?! 5-car x ca. 800 passengers per train x 18 tph in each direction = 28,800 two-way per hour. 8-cars per train moves you to 46,000 per hour, and 10-cars to over 57,000. This is Crossrail volume territory. Somewhere along that graph I suspect a number of stations would become the capacity constraint, not the trains.

  22. Latecomer says:

    You’re welcome PoP.
    Just to add that Wapping is going to take 9 doors on the up but will be limited to just the 4 carriages (8 doors) under the current work programme. Aside from Whitechapel, Rotherhithe is the only other station which can only take 4 carriages. Until Crossrail station works are complete I think it will be Whitechapel that causes additional dwell time over the next couple of years. On the up at Rotherhithe a good 75% of the train has normally emptied at Canada Water so anyone remaining in the area where doors have been isolated will easily be able to walk forward to a carriage where the doors can be enabled. Again I would suggest that unless there is major investment to enable at least 6 cars+ at other stations I don’t see a cost benefit in extending Rotherhithe. Even the benefit of convenience would be marginal because as time goes by all but the few occasional or new travellers (who may not listen to or understand on-train announcements about doors which will remain closed) will be become familiar with where they need to be positioned or alternatively take the time to walk through as the train is en route to Rotherhithe.

    @ Southern Heights
    Thank you and PoP for your clarification over the presence of a youth hostel in the vicinity, even though it seems a little way away from the station. I’m sorry too to learn about your awful experience in the area. Personal safety is something which should be taken into account regarding station closures and again I wouldn’t agree with any such move unless there has been some genuinely transformational work on safe and secure pedestrian routes. I think such concerns are better considered now, but I think there are constraints around some of the existing housing blocks in the area. Greater safety often comes with more people living in an area and commuting to and from that area using well used transport services until late into the evening. There may still be issues for people walking from some other parts of Rotherhithe to or from the station itself though I guess?

  23. Latecomer says:

    @ Milton Clevedon
    Thank you for clarifying. I think in common with almost every other underground or overground line in London the issue of capacity will arise. I just think that there are tremendous logistical constraints affecting the core tunnel sections (including the Thames Tunnel) and if stations even could be extended to 8 cars+ then some stations would have to close. Unless they could bore a brand new tunnel between Whitechapel and Canada Water with decently sized station boxes and adequate surface egress points I just can’t see it. It would be brilliant as a lot of the work could continue whilst the existing ELL is kept running, but that is Crossrail territory we’re talking.

    As said previously, the New Cross services will all be 5 cars and will call at all stations (they would be slowed by preceding all-stoppers anyway) and the 5 cars are required for the runs down to West Croydon. I believe there are plans to run an extra two trains per hour up from Crystal Palace and then we are close to capacity without ATO on the core and bearing in mind potential pathing constraints on other branches of the line. If services did at some point run up from Dartford via New Cross and the short section of single line between Rolt Street and New Cross was made two track this could permit a couple more trains from that direction?

  24. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Just in case you weren’t aware, or weren’t aware it was public knowledge, during the August blockade of London Bridge there will be no trains on London Overground to New Cross on weekdays. Reading further down it is clear that weekdays in this context means Mondays-Fridays or in reality Tuesday-Friday.

    The link also states “An enhanced London Overground service will operate between Crystal Palace and Canada Water.” Does that literally mean Canada Water or in reality Dalston Junction? And how enhanced? 2tph? 4tph?

    So the first sign of additional trains to Crystal Palace is about to happen soon even if it is only on a temporary basis.

  25. Latecomer says:

    Yes P0P I had heard about this and I must say I’m not looking forward to that period! Morning rush drivers are going to have a pretty hard time. I do hope they have a couple of people on each platform otherwise we’ll be hard pressed to get interlock after Sydenham. Good luck to all passengers from Forest Hill onwards!

    I don’t know for sure but I would have thought that services would run all the way up to Dalston (at least the equivalent services from Crystal Palace that replace the New Cross ones). If they do turn any at CW I can’t see them doing it on the up platform in the mornings. They would more than likely take us over onto the down where we wouldn’t be blocking up services. Nevertheless regardless as to whether the driver walks through the train or along the platform with the shear flow of passengers turning around would likely take at least 4-5 minutes which would certainly delay services on the down by a minute or two. I would have thought we will work to capacity at Dalston and perhaps only turn one or two an hour at CW if at all.

    Drivers will be working pretty hard, I dare say with reduced turnaround times and extremely full trains. A few 5 cars would have been nice for this period!

  26. Latecomer says:

    I meant to add that we should be able to run at least an enhanced 4 tph on the Crystal Palace service by using platform 3 at Palace and hopefully having free run on the London Bridge slow with the absence of Southern Services.

  27. straphan says:

    Thanks for the lovely pictures. I might add a few points based on my 5 years’ experience of living in the area.

    The issue with Rotherhithe and Surrey Quays is a bit similar to the issue with the bus network in London – no matter how close the distance between stations in Inner London there will always be plenty of demand for them. The trouble is it that each rail station slows down the service and increases the cost of operating it much more than each bus stop…

    As people here have rightly pointed out, Rotherhithe is very close to Canada Water in a straight line, but on the surface it’s a 490m walk (or so Google Earth tells me) via Swan Road and then round the back of the new housing estate (sorry, apartments!). A more direct route could be via Renforth Street (ca. 400m), but the bus station does not open up towards the west at all.

    Overall, I think closing Rotherhithe station would not be unduly painful to the residents of the SE16 postcode, as most of the Rotherhithe area is well within 600m walking distance to Canada Water anyway. A walking route along the tracks would mean drilling a new tunnel and retaining the station building at Rotherhithe along with staff and two escalators. Hardly a saving worth making. But the real problem is station capacity at Canada Water.

    The key pinch-point at Canada Water is the low number of escalators. The key problem is the pair from the Northbound Overground to the Jubilee Line, but the two escalators from the ticket hall down to the Southbound Overground and the Jubilee Line are pretty busy as well. This means the Jubilee Line is pretty packed in both the Eastbound and Westbound directions in the morning peak and, at 30tph and maximum length already, there isn’t much extra capacity you could squeeze out of it.

    Next, add to that the extra housing being built in the area. The new apartments around the station have just been completed, a further large development is being built around Plough Way (1km to the south but well within the catchment of Canada Water and Surrey Quays), another one is being built near Russia Dock Woodland, and the printing works that prints a mix of your daily Metro and the Daily Heil (sorry, Mail) will also be razed to the ground soon and you’ll get no prizes for guessing what will be built in its place… And we’re not talking terraced houses either – these will be quite densely packed four-storey blocks of mainly 1 and 2-bedroom flats. These future inhabitants of the SE16 postcode will no doubt commute mainly to Canary Wharf and the Green Park/Oxford Street area.

    And to top it off, the Overground will soon become 5-car, allowing more of the good folk of South London to change at Canada Water for the Jubilee Line. There is even some talk of 2tph extra from Crystal Palace in the peaks…

    In light of these developments, I suggest that whatever helps prevent Canada Water from suffering severe overcrowding in the next few years is a good thing. Rotherhithe station is therefore a good thing – as is Surrey Quays.

  28. Pedantic of Purley says:


    There is even some talk of 2tph extra from Crystal Palace in the peaks…

    I have heard that too. Unlike earlier talk of two extra trains, the talk is now of 2 tph being diverted from New Cross to Crystal Palace in peak hours. As I understand it, the requirement is because during a critical phase of the Thameslink Programme there will be a two track constraint on the main line into London Bridge near the planned Bermondsey diveunder. So two all-stations trains per hour to London Bridge in the peak have to be cut. As a damage limitation exercise the proposal is to divert the LO New Cross trains to take these paths which are now free.

    There are obvious issues. You are replacing an eight (or possibly ten) car train with a five car one. The train won’t be going to the same destination. The Jubilee Line is pretty full so going to London Bridge and beyond by changing at Canada Water could be problematic. Finally, the journey time from Surrey Quays to Crystal Palace is 20 minutes as opposed to 5 minutes so that is one extra train required.

    Another problem with the proposal is that if the London Overground New Cross trains are only every half hour in the peak period then users changing onto and from South Eastern trains may choose to go via London Bridge and the Jubilee line instead thus exacerbating the situation.

    Overall it is probably a good idea but not without its downside.

  29. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Straphan – and down the road you have the Convoys Wharf development which Boris has, I believe, signed off. That will generate several hundred extra arrivals by bus at Canada Water in the peak hour (I looked at the transport assessment the other day). We also have the long delayed development at Surrey Canal that will also generate more rail and bus passengers when extra transport capacity is added into the area. That again will place more and more pressure on Canada Water at platform level. If you were able to jump into a Tardis you would want to radically redesign Canada Water given the benefit of 30 years hindsight. It will be interesting to see what TfL can come up with to bolster capacity in the station. And if we can avoid the usual “planners are useless” type remarks by way of reply that would be great!

  30. straphan says:

    @PoP: Thanks for the insight. Even if the 2 extra tph to Crystal Palace was a diversion rather than genuinely new trains, then they will still generate many extra passengers at Canada Water – New Cross trains are currently less than half-full in the peaks, whereas Crystal Palace ones are – as far as I understand – the most overcrowded.

    @WW: Canada Water does not need very much improvement to cope – it is a pretty spacious and well-designed station. It would really only need two extra escalators (one each between each Overground platform and the Jubilee Line, operated in the direction of peak flow) to cope with whatever the East London Line throws at it in the future. I think it is the Jubilee Line itself that will first reach saturation. Crossrail will provide some limited relief between the West End and Canary Wharf/Custom House, but the bulk of the Eastbound punters on the Jubilee in the am peak come from Waterloo and London Bridge. And as we all know, both are set for capacity upgrades, which means pumping more people onto the Jubilee Line. And as I said before, with 7-car trains @ 30tph already, there isn’t much more you can do to it…

  31. John U.K. says:

    re: Rotherhithe – Wapping

    I wonder how many people, particularly those with Freedom and other passes, travel just between these two stations? It was a great inconvenience when the ELL was closed, with a very long alternative ‘bus service. Of course, when the line is closed, as last weekend, one could walk though the rail tunnel 🙂
    And as Ian Visits has shown, no-one would walk through the road tunnel 🙁

  32. Sydney of Sidenham says:

    The original East London Line Extension (ELLX) train service specification had 2 tph PIXC trains between Crystal Palace (CP) and London Bridge (LB). This is shown in the Peak Flow diagram in the South London RUS current at that time. TfL paid for an extra platform (P3) to be reinstated at CP during the original ELLX works to allow for this, without disturbing their services which normally terminate in Platform 5. Platform 3 also provided additional capacity in the event that the West Croydon service was unable to travel beyond Sydenham. The 4 tph could be reversed in CP P3 instead. I wonder how many times P3 has been used for that purpose?

    As the maximum ELL core is 18 tph (assumed correct from previous postings on LR) there appears to be no reason why these 2 tph cannot be diverted to Dalston Junction (DJ) without affecting the New Cross (NC) service. A possible reaction could be that 18 tph on the core section is the absolute maximum and may lead to delays in peak hours, particularly if trains present themselves late at junctions between the various routes due to off-ELL delays and if dwell times are extended at stations due to severe overcrowding. So the NC services are reduced to minimise this risk and maintain the existing 16 tph.

    A likely outcome of reducing NC terminators to from 4 to 2 tph is that passengers who travel from NC to the Jubilee Line at Canada Water (CW) give up and travel by the more direct route to London Bridge (LB) – at least while the Cannon Street services are stopping there. This is the worst case for NR, who would probably wish for as many passengers as possible to avoid LB. However LB National Rail is not TfL’s problem…

    In my opinion, TfL seriously missed an opportunity by not constructing the ELL platforms for at least 6 cars (8 would have been even better!) when the ELL was closed for Jubilee Line works at CW in the mid-1990s. The ELL extension design was being developed concurrently, so it was a significant lack of vision. Said with the benefit of hindsight… I may take the opportunity to comment on the ultimate ELL extension scenario later, when I have sharpened my orange crayon…

    On a related topic…

    I was fortunate to visit the Thames Tunnel works during the 1990s when the original Brunel Tunnel was being sprayed with concrete in order to strengthen it. These works were being done in conjunction with ELL platform construction at Canada Water, which required the ELL tunnel to be broken out over the required platform length, plus a bit. Not something that’s very easy to do with trains running, so a whole line closure of several months (9?) was planned…

    In the event, English Heritage (EH) used the opportunity to halt the Thames Tunnel strengthening works in their tracks, due to concerns over smothering Brunel’s original tunnel structure in concrete. Disobeying EH when Listed buildings are concerned is a definite ‘Go to Jail’ card for the individual responsible, and no-one at TfL seemed to fancy a spell in jail. I seem to remember the tunnel being Listed very close to of the start of the construction blockade, in order to provide EH with a legal sanction for stopping the works.

    In context you have to consider that apart from glimpses of this unique structure through train windows, illuminated by carriage lighting for those not engrossed in a Metro or Standard, paper the only other people able to marvel at the Wonder were the regular maintenance staff, who probably couldn’t wait to end their shifts due to the wet and therefore unpleasant nature of the tunnel. Was the requirement to conserve ‘heritage’ in this context justified when public safety was potentially at risk? It would seem on occasions that ‘eritage can over-ride ‘elf ‘n’ safety. Can that be right?

    In the event a compromise was reached. London Underground (LU) would have their sprayed concrete lined tunnel under the Thames and EH retained a few original bays between the start of the tunnel and Thames wall at the Rotherhithe end. What this cost the tax payer is anyone’s guess.

    In my opinion, if TfL missed an opportunity by not providing minimum ELL platform lengths for 6 cars at CW, Brunel missed an even more significant opportunity by not increasing the depth of his tunnel by another 5 yards. It would have made so much difference! In fairness, techniques in Brunel’s day for determining ground conditions under the Thames were not as advanced as that available today. And digging out another 5m at the shafts at either end would have been more effort too.

    My understanding of the Thames Tunnel construction is that the cover, ie the distance between the bottom of the river and the outer (top) face of brickwork forming the tunnel structure is so minimal that it’s a wonder that the tunnel construction was completed at all. The level bottom of the river is difficult to quantify due to variations in the depth of soft mud and sediment. Being weak structurally, it is especially vulnerable to undermining from below, which what can happen if you excavate a tunnel at too shallow a depth. This is what Brunel did and as everyone knows, the Thames decided to join him in the tunnel, flooding the workings and killing a number of miners in the process. Brunel was lucky to escape with his life.

    I believe the tunnel took some 18 (?) years to construct, which must be one of the slowest rates of excavation ever. This was the first tunnel constructed under a tidal river, and so a learning curve. But the sinking of another 5 yards of so of shaft depth could have made so much of a difference and significantly reduced the construction time. Of course, Brunel might have dug deeper and found worse ground conditions at a greater depth (I’m not sure where strong London clay runs into weaker and more gravelly Woolwich and Reading beds in the Rotherhithe area to comment adequately on this). So he might have made the right decision all along in difficult circumstances.

    Back to the mid-1990s

    During the site visit, the contractor’s representative commented that due to the close proximity of the bottom of the river, ships passing above could be heard. This is quite scary. But when the ship in question is dragging its anchor too… From memory, I don’t think the contractors staff stayed at their posts for very long on that occasion!

    Eventually, after an extended blockade of over a year, everything was resolved. The additional blockade time requirement was in the order of 6 months, from vague memory. LU had their strengthened tunnel, EH had their original sections outside the Thames limits and a brand new concreted track form using Pandrol Viper baseplates and 113A lb/yd flat bottom rail was installed. This was a rather revolutionary trackform for LUL at that time.

    But due to LU’s vision, a structure gauge was maintained that permitted national rail sized trains to pass through the tunnel (either Class 319 Thameslink or Class 465 Networker stock was used to determine the kinematic gauge (train profile) for the trains) which was more generous that that required for the LUL ‘A’ Stock, which operated the ELL in those days. Without this foresight it would have been impossible to operate the current Class 378 trains through the tunnel and the ELLX in its current form would probably not have happened. I don’t think anyone would have the stomach to either remove the concrete lining, or lower the track to improve tunnel clearances, given the conditions in the Thames tunnel.

    So why was the Thames Tunnel being strengthened? The answer is quite fascinating, but that’s for another time…


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

    @ S S

    Very interesting

    Thank you

  34. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Latecomer 29 May 2014 10:18, Milton Clevedon

    Although not on the cards for now I do envisage that service [London Overground to New Cross] eventually extending through to Dartford in years to come.

    I was going to explain why that wouldn’t be practical but looking at it in detail in a post-Thameslink light I am not so sure. It would fit in with Milton Clevedon’s idea of using the Thames Tunnel more like a second Thameslink.

    The classic argument against this is that there is no capacity on the South East tracks. Indeed I argued this myself in this article. At the time Network Rail were confident that they could maintain 25tph (or at least 24tph) to Cannon St in the height of the morning peak (as reported in this article). It now seems that there is now some doubt about this and we may be down to 22tph to Cannon St after all in a post Thameslink world as was the original intention.

    We also know that all trains from Greenwich will go to Cannon St from January 2015. In the busiest hour of the morning peak there are nine of these trains – three of which currently go to Charing Cross. So from December 2018 or earlier we will have 22tph to Cannon Street, nine of which do not join the main line until North Kent Junction which is between New Cross and London Bridge on the main line to Cannon Street.

    It therefore follows that there will be a mere 15tph using the two tracks between New Cross and Lewisham (or more strictly St Johns Junction). So there really ought to be capacity for another 4tph along there without too much difficulty. Of course you have the currently unsolvable problem of capacity at Lewisham but ERMTS signalling may improve this in the distant future. Alternatively, since this is an additional service, it is not unreasonable to omit a stop at Lewisham if it is too hard to provide. You then continue to a suitable destination such as Dartford via Hither Green or the terminating platforms at Orpington. The Bromley North branch would be nice but is on the wrong side of the fast lines.

    It would be a challenge joining the East London Line to the South East lines. Doable but awkward would be extending the line to the current ELL platform under the A2 and joining the down Cannon St on the other side of the road. Joining the up line would also be awkward but may be possible with some shifting of track and utilising the space where New Cross depot used to be for a rising track joining one of the up lines.

    I know the London Overground team looked into extending beyond New Cross when they thought that TfL would be able to take over South Eastern metro service. They thought it was possible. When I suggested there was no capacity available on the main line the reply was “that is what Network Rail told us when we proposed linking London Overground with Network Rail tracks at New Cross Gate”.

    Whether all this would be worth doing for 4tph of 5 or 6 car trains is another matter. And if Network Rail do find a way to get more capacity into Cannon Street it would be easy to argue a better case for additional (or reinstated) trains to Cannon St to use the critical New Cross – St Johns section of track for 12-car trains to Cannon St rather than 5 or 6 car trains to Dalston Junction.

  35. Steven Taylor says:


    Re Wapping SDO. I read earlier LO literature that only 8 doors would open on the Down at Wapping apropos 9 doors on the up.

    However, the LO `Improving Capacity on trains` large print document (April 2014) has been altered to `the last set of doors will not open at Whitechapel, Wapping, Rotherhithe and Canada Water`, so I am not sure now what will happen at Wapping.

  36. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ SoS – interesting post which prompts a couple of comments based on rather vague memories. It was of course LT and not TfL back then but you are right that it was a case of “off to jail” for breaching Heritage requirements. LU already had bad form on this and a very blunt memo, signed by three LU directors, was sent to clients, project managers and operational managers informing them of the legal obligations and penalties in relation to preservation of heritage features and not instructing last minute changes to works – especially on site when it was not unknown for cable routes and things to be changed at the whim of the station manager. Having had some interraction with conservation officers and English Heritage in relation to ticket gate installations the advice stuck in my mind (forever, seemingly!).

    I think the EH listing happenened about 2 days before the blockade started and caused great consternation at 55 Broadway. I think the delays and need to reach agreement with EH extended the blockade by well over a year which meant Capital Citybus’s orange liveried double deckers plied their trade for far longer than expected. I recall rumours that LU even considered not reopening the line given the scale of problems and extra costs they faced but, of course, you can argue who caused the problems in the first place. Thankfully we got a good result at the end of it all.

    I think it is definitely the case that things are far better managed and controlled these days and there is a much greater understanding of the consequences of getting this stuff wrong. It doesn’t, of course, mean that there is “sweetness and light” between those who seek to protect the purity of LU’s design heritage and sponsors / project managers who just want the work done as fast as possible at the lowest cost! I think that tension will always exist. I expect a new explosion of “internal tension” will arise given the ascendency of “commercial opportunities” again and the need to bring in private money. Plastering adverts and branding on the LU network always causes raised blood pressure for some.

  37. Slugabed says:

    PoP 09:21 31/05
    The ELL was,pre-1966,linked to the SE lines by a burrowing junction.As far as I know,the route of “Up” connection is still unobstructed and a – perhaps modified – version could be put in with comparatively little effort.

  38. Pedantic of Purley says:


    There was indeed a spur off what is now the Charing Cross Up fast pre-1966. This would be usable as it has not been built on. It is however completely useless because it connects to the fast track and that means:

    a) it connects to a line which really is full up.

    b) there is no sensible way to provide a platform at New Cross.

    c) Even if you could somehow put a platform on it to serve it then it would not be convenient. The alternative would have very neat cross platform interchange with an island platform for the two up lines and another island platform for the two down lines.

  39. timbeau says:

    “The steepest gradient on the ELL (and probably not far off the steepest in the country as far as I’m aware) is the climb out of Whitechapel up to Shoreditch High Street which I believe is 1:30.”

    City Thameslink to Blackfriars is 1:29, I understand

  40. Latecomer says:

    @ SoS
    Thank you for you very informative post. I look forward to learning more about why the Thames Tunnel was being strengthened. That reminds me that I’m not sure that anyone has so far answered one of my original questions as to whether any kind of surveying takes place to monitor the integrity of the riverbed above the tunnel? Perhaps I have a slightly morbid interest as I spend more time than most sitting, albeit mostly moving, under the Thames! With reference to the use of Crystal Palace P3. It is quite regularly used if there is disruption South of Sydenham. I have been contacted by the signaller as late as Sydenham and diverted there when I was running a West Croydon service. P3 is additionally used on occasion if a train needs to come out of service that has not been required to return immediately to depot. The spare unit will be taken down either immediately following or preceding the faulty unit and the service can be maintained without any delay on most occasions. 4 units are currently stabled at CP at night, two of those on P3. It was certainly worthwhile bringing that platform into use.

    @ PoP
    Re possible New Cross extensions. Again that’s very interesting stuff. I’m afraid I’ve reached the limit of my knowledge and expertise on what remains possible in relation to this. From Google Earth I can see how a connection might be made in the ‘up’ from the South Eastern tracks on to the New Cross close to where the New Cross dives under the South Eastern lines and where Milton Court Road follows the curvature of the New Cross line from a north westerly orientation to a more westerly one. Regardless, the knock back of TfL’s affections towards the metro South Eastern’s halts any progess on this for a while to come.

    @ Steven Taylor
    With work being done at so many stations I will have to check again but I was pretty sure that some platform work has already taken place to permit 9 doors on the up at Wapping. I will confirm at some point.

    Just as an addendum to my musings about Rotherhithe, my highly non-scientific observations over the past day or two in part confirmed my earlier thoughts. At peak rush I have driven a few trains between the hours of 5-6.30pm and on both up and down platforms only 2 or 3 people have been waiting to board. At most 6. That is a strikingly low number during rush hour and perhaps regular passengers may want to make their own observations? Any station closure of Rotherhithe would I believe have such little impact at Canada Water at peak rush hour as to be barely noticeable. What I did observe was that Rotherhithe actually tends to get busier later in the evening when larger groups of people alight together, perhaps suggesting that Rotherhithe is used more on a social basis than for commuting? Again, I do want to stress that I am not advocating station closure. There will undoubtedly be many people who use it on a regular basis, although as it is not a friendly station for anyone with impaired mobility, compared to Canada Water which has lifts and step free surface to train access, I still wonder who would be seriously inconvenienced if it were to be removed ‘for the greater good’ as it were? By the greater good I mean freeing up the flow of trains through that section. I am playing devil’s advocate but if environmental improvements could make the areas above ground safer would this go some way towards making this more palatable? Saying that I do have to return to the point that if it feels unsafe for people to walk between Rotherhithe and Canada Water, surely there must be that same feeling for many walking from Rotherhithe back to their homes unless they are fortunate enough to live just off one of the main thoroughfares? Anyway, my limited observations may be a blip and I will pay more attention to passenger flows at Rotherhithe at different times of day, and in fact over the weekend where I suspect I may observe increased use.

  41. Steven Taylor says:


    Re steepest gradient on ELL – There is also a 1:30 gradient from Silwood Junction to Old Kent Road – incline up to Surrey Canal Road.

  42. Anonymous says:


    New Cross station used to have just four tracks passing under the A2. The A2 bridge was widened here—and the station buildings re-sited alongside the down platforms—in the early ’70s as part of the London Bridge rebuild. A fifth track was also added to the formation at this time. (There’s a link somewhere to a BTP film of the 1970s “Operation London Bridge” works that includes footage of this work, as well as the construction of the nearby Tanners Hill Flydown.)

    Prior to the rebuild, the lines here were arranged similarly to those through New Cross Gate; the new flyover north of that station serves much the same purpose as the present dive-under does at New Cross.

    Given the limitations of the old Thames Tunnel route, I think the future of the New Cross stub may lie in adding a new connection with the Old Kent Road tracks, so that services could run from New Cross to Clapham Junction, avoiding the problematic Thames Tunnel stations entirely. This also makes New Cross itself a more useful interchange as, at present, it only provides a link with Surrey Quays, where you have to cross the tracks via the footbridge to head back out across South London.

    Another option might be to restore Surrey Quays’ third platform—it seems to have had one at some point, though I’m struggling to find anything online about it.

    New Cross services would use the centre platform, providing cross-platform interchange with the ‘down’ services heading out across south London from Rotherhithe. This may well be cheaper than a full-on junction and provides a ‘quick win’ solution. It might seem a minor tweak, but eliminating the footbridge from the user experience could make a big difference to patronage.

    (Note, too, that adding a third track and platform also makes it viable to have services terminate there. A Surrey Quays-Clapham Junction service would not use the Thames Tunnel itself, so 8-coach trains would be no problem at all.)

  43. Slugabed says:

    PoP 12:29 31/05
    I’d hesitate to use the phrase “completely useless”….”subject to different and,perhaps decisively more difficult problems than your suggestion”…would be more accurate….to be Pedantic (of Holloway)

  44. Fandroid says:

    @SoS. In the 1970s I was supervising the construction of a water supply tunnel under the Thames at Staines. I know that our geotechnical engineer ensured that we had a massive amount of cover between us and the river bed. (I think he literally doubled the number he first calculated). However, even then we could clearly hear boats passing over our heads, and they would have been the fairly modestly powered mini gin-palaces that cruise on the non-tidal Thames.

    The contractor’s representative who worried about the sounds above him in Brunel’s Thames Tunnel had probably never previously experienced the extraordinary way that sound can be transmitted through water and London Clay. It may have been valid to worry about the lack of cover, but the sound of passing boats would not have been a very accurate measure of risk.

  45. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Latecomer – re your “morbid fear” I think you can rest easy. Given tunnel breach and flooding is an obvious risk with potentially very expensive / fatal consequences you can be assured that a range of checks and measures will be done regularly to ensure the risk remains well understood and that preventative / mitigation measures in place. TfL has a decent risk management system and the infrastructure engineers will be very alert to issues with tunnels and water.

  46. Sydney of Sidenham (a relatively well informed source...) says:

    Thank you to those who provided favourable comments.

    @ WW 31 May @ 10:47

    Your cronology is about right I think. It takes a while for some of these events to be dragged out of my distant memory…

    I think one of the reasons why the management of heritage and for that matter, other stakeholder issues, have been improved is due the the number of projects currently in the pipeline. This helps develop the experience, both on the railway and stakeholder sides of the equation to deal with these matters. Railway project managers are definately tasked with managing stakeholder interfaces, so the associated risks of not doing so are clearly understood. The more oiled the system, the better it functions!

    @ POP

    Whilst the number of trains to both Charing Cross and Cannon Street may be reduced, the important factor is the overall capacity. By completing the infrastructure works to enable 12-car trains, additional capacity that longer trains generates may cancel the effects of an reduction in trains per hour. From daily experience Cannon Street could do with a reduction in the number of trains, balanced by running more at maximum length, to reduce delays in the morning peak today, let alone during the London Bridge works.

    One solution might be to run each service at 30 minute intervals rather than the current 20 (am) 22 minute (pm) in the peak flow direction. For example if each of 3 tph Hayes – Charing Cross am peak services is run with 8 cars of Class 465s, then running 2 tph of 12 car 465s would reduce the number of tph without affecting overall capacity, as 24 cars would be run in both cases.

    Of course where this falls down is where 10 car Class 376 trains are used, which is the maximum length and cannot be strengthened to 12 cars by adding a 2-car Class 466 to the consist. What was originally a benefit in building Class 376 trains as 5 car, with two sets forming the maximum metro length of 10 cars as now been blown by extending station capacity to 12 cars, as it is impossible to use this capacity when Class 376s operate. Unintended consequences!

    But you could run the Class 465s on the route not stopping at London Bridge and Class 376s on the other. Some creativity required here to balance train lengths, tph, individual route demands and the overall availablity of stock. There is potential with some clever planning to avoid a complete disaster!

    Considering the money that has been spent over the years increasing SE London metro platforms to firstly 10 and now 12 cars, it is somewhat disappointing that the effected spend is detracted from every time a train less than the maximum length is operated.

    @ Latecomer

    Thank you for your comments on Crystal Palace. Glad platform 3 is seeing some use, as it looked a bit forgotten at one point.

    I’m not aware of how the condition of the river bed on top of the various Thames tunnels is assessed and therfore managed, so any comments would be my speculation, even if backed up with some engineering knowledge. Safe to say that the condition of tunnels, at least form the inside, is monitored with regular planned inspections and risks are well understood. Rest assured, you won’t experience the Thames joining you in the tunnel anytime soon!

    I will attempt to recall, and put together some words to outline assessment and construction works that were undertaken by LUL to improve the intergrity of their Thames tunnels in the mid 1990s.

    @ Fandroid

    I have a story regarding construction of another utility tunnel under the Thames in the mid 1990s. Perhaps better told over a beer, than in print!


  47. Milton Clevedon says:

    @ SoS
    31 May 2014 at 23:40
    I had understood that the strengthening of the Thames Tunnel, and the Bakerloo, Northern, etc where crossing the Thames, was to do with the ‘Top Twenty’ report on greatest risks affecting Underground safety, from all possible causes.

  48. timbeau says:

    Would it be possible to reform the 376s either by adding an extra car to make 6-car sets, building some 2car sets, or taking a trailer out of each 5 car set and putting two of them with new driving cars? As new Electrostars are being built (class 387), and extra cars have recently been added to the 378s, it should be possible to create a uniform train of 3x4car 376s.
    Another possibility might be to transfer one car from each 5-car 376 to a 3-car 375/3, making them both 4-car. (Although I understand some 3-car sets are required as 11cars are the max allowed on the Hastings route)

  49. @Timbeau,

    To butt in and answer.

    Any Electrostar based train unit can have a maximum of 5 carriages. Apparently it was designed to be configured between 2 and 5 carriages. I don’t know of any case of 2 carriage units. I don’t know why this maximum number is the case but Bombardier has been emphatic in the past that there is no chance of 6 car units.

    The Hastings line can take 12 car trains. I believe that there is one service each day that is 12 cars long. The restriction is not the number of carriages but the power that can be drawn. For practical purposes normally this maximises as 10 cars but I could well believe slightly more energy-efficient stock, possibly with the limitation of not being able to run the heating or air conditioning south of Tunbridge Wells, could manage 11 cars.

    There have been various proposals to beef up the power supply south of Tunbridge Wells but they have always foundered because of a lack of benefit for the cost. If technology improves as expected and traction loses are reduced then it may well be possible in future to have a regular service of modern 12 car trains to Hastings via Tunbridge Wells.

    For the service that is 12 cars, I believe that this is only possible because a thorough investigation of the timetable established there would be no other trains in the area that would cause the maximum overall current permitted to be drawn to be breached. I would imagine there are special operating rules to ensure that this remains so even if the train is delayed.

  50. Mark Townend says:

    @Pedantic of Purley, 1 June 2014 at 14:16

    There’s an opportunity to upgrade a power supply at renewal. That’s why 25kV conversion is worth considering as a much more capable supply can be provided at a reasonable price, although clearly dual voltage trains have to be arranged.

  51. ngh says:

    Re Fandroid and SoS

    The Port of London Authority regularly resurvey the river bed (they have several survey vessels of their own.)

    The PLA charts are republished every 8 years en mass but the surveys are much more frequent and the maps are updated in the interim if there is a material change.

    The Thames Tunnel is on chart 319

    The deepest part of of the river above the tunnel is 4.5m below the datum low tide height.

    It also look like the rotherhite tunnel has had some extra material added to the river bed for protection at some point? looking at the chart.

  52. Sydney of Sidenham (a relatively well informed source...) says:

    @ NGH

    Thank you for the clarification. I had assumed that some sort of river bed assessment would be done, but wasn’t sure under whose domain: NR / TfL / LUL (as appropriate, Port of London Authority or either the Environment Agency. During my time doing Structural Assessment at LUL, I was never aware of LUL doing riverbed monitoring or even contracting it out to specialists, so my punt was it falling to the PoLA.

    Bridge pier examination for water scour is a related activity, being done in the water and that is undertaken directly (or on behalf of) the railway infrastructure owner.

    @ MC

    That is my understanding, although I vaguely remember that a principal concern was ‘what happens if a terrorist bomb goes off in a tube tunnel. There are other risks too, two to mind being a ship dragging its anchor, or something heavy (ie. laden barges carrying containers) sinking directly on top of a tunnel, perhaps after a collision with another vessel.

    I think the question to be answered was ‘what would happen if a one metre square aperture was created in the crown (top section) of a tunnel’. The result on certain lines was ‘quite interesting’ (think what it would be like for a spider in the waste pipe of a domestic bath). The risk of a breach was probably quite low, but the consequences if it did happen could not be ignored, so…

    This prompted works to strengthen the Bakerloo and Northern line tunnels south of Embankment station, as well as the ELL Thames tunnel. I don’t recall what, if anything was done to the Northern Line City branch between London Bridge – Bank. The requirement for works, the engineering solution and the method of construction depended largely on the tunnel’s depth.

    There are, of course, disused former LT tunnels under the Thames, such as the City and South London Line next to the Northern City branch and the Charing Cross Loop on the Northern line. This provided south – north reversal from Strand (now Charing Cross) station, via a loop which extended under the Thames, picking up one of the existing Charing Cross (now Embankment) NL platforms on the way. Just like the Kennington Loop does today.

    Theoretically, if there are any not-fully-sealed connections between these former lines and the today’s open lines, then they should have been assessed as well. No point strengthening say the Northern City branch if a breach in the nearby C&SLR line can enable water to flood in from an opening…

    One point requiring further clarification in my original post:

    The LUL / English Heritage stand-off was resolved by LUL undertaking to maintain the in-tunnel brick lining features following encasement of the original brickwork in concrete.

    I understand the original solution was to fix a mesh steel reinforcement to follow the shape of the brick lining and then to spray with a cementitious compound such as gunite. This would significantly, if not completely obliterate the original features and many of the cross-passages between the two tunnel bores may have disappeared as well to simplify the works. The rationale was that no-one would see the features as they were in a tunnel. Little did LUL realise at the time, it would become an occasional tourist attraction in its own right…

    The agreed engineering solution required LUL to produce formwork with internal moulds that replicated the features to a high degree of accuracy as shown in the photo that depicts the space for a stall in the connecting cross-passage between the two tunnels. Note the elaborate column in the centre of the cross passage. Of course this would have increased the complexity of construction and the cost of the work considerably, as well as extending the programme. Not a good day for the UK taxpayer!

    LUL also agreed to leave the section of tunnel south of the Thames bank at Rotherhithe in its original condition, as can also be seen in the photos. It looks like this extended to not even cleaning and perhaps repointing the original brickwork. The brickwork in the concrete extension was cleaned, with loose material being removed. I have a small piece in my shed!

  53. Latecomer says:

    Thank you ngh and SoS. Being suitably reassured I can now cancel the dinghy hire and quick set concrete I had on order!

  54. Ian J says:

    @SoS: Given how heavily the area was bombed in the Second World War, I could imagine that unexploded bombs in the riverbed might also have been a concern for the Thames Tunnel – I believe that is why the rebuilt Hungerford Bridge project was redesigned so as to not need any piles to be driven in the riverbed in proximity to the tube tunnels. Really it was amazingly fortunate that the only Thames tube tunnel to be breached by bombs in the war was the disused loop at Embankment.

    I think that the disused City and South London tunnel was plugged with concrete at the London Bridge end around the time of the Jubilee Line works – I recall hearing a horrifyingly short estimate for how long it would take London Bridge tube station to fill with water if the C&SL tunnel was breached.

  55. Fandroid says:

    For those interested, LR covered the Tube flood risk topic fairly recently here

  56. Milton Clevedon says:

    It is worth noting that a German bomb did explode in the Thames close to but outside the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, which caused the cast-iron lining to compress inwards locally and remain largely watertight (just as an egg although brittle material as Humpty Dumpty found out, is nevertheless strong if stresses can be mitigated in all directions).

    The repair adopted was to build an additional internal lining for a short distance, and leave the original damaged segments as they were. The repaired section is still visible as you walk through, it’s the narrower section near the Isle of Dogs end. While an internally-caused rupture within a cast-iron lining might still result in the same watertight outcome, that would be less certain with high forces. I don’t know about the outcome with a concrete push-fit design using a final ‘locking wedge’ into the clay (assuming it’s clay, of course).

    A brick-built design like the Thames Tunnel could be more vulnerable structurally. Certainly LT contemplated, as a consequence of the English Heritage intervention, to abandon use of the Thames Tunnel for ever and just drop the floodgates. No cross-river ELL, or southern extension or inner Orbital across South London, then. We are fortunate that a positive decision to reinforce, at greater design cost to satisfy EH, was taken instead. Link here to story, see pages 9-10:

  57. timbeau says:

    “the Charing Cross Loop on the Northern line…..provided south – north reversal from Strand (now Charing Cross) station, via a loop which extended under the Thames, picking up one of the existing Charing Cross (now Embankment) NL platforms on the way”
    To clarify the chronology, this was the original 1914 terminal loop of the line, with a single platform at Charing Cross. The southbound tunnel of the 1926 extension to Kennington cut through this loop, with a new platform, whilst the northbound tunnel picked up the loop just south of the existing platform – this explains the sharp curvature of what is now the northbound platform there. The abandoned section of the loop under the river was sealed off, which was fortunate as it was breached by a WW2 bomb.

  58. Latecomer says:

    @ Steven Taylor
    I can confirm that some new wall cladding has been installed at the north end of the up platform at Wapping and a small section of wall painted. There is no alteration to the platform itself but it is fairly clear to me that these minor works are to enable trains to stop right at the end of the platform (which they don’t at present), thus enabling 9 door operation on the up. It is not possible to extend the down platform or squeeze any more room out of it.

    The works on the up platform are far less obvious than at many other stations so they would have gone unnoticed to all but the most careful observer passing through.

  59. Greg Tingey says:

    I find the mere idea that (parts of) LUL were seriously considering permanently closing the Thames Tunnel totally insane. But, of course, that was then, when one had to fight desperately for tuppence, for any public, especially rail-based transport of any sort.
    I note the mention of a certain Jonathon Roberts in the planning/lobbying processes, as well!
    The other overwhelming impression is that the engineering & rail operations were almost incidental … the sheer volume of to-&-fro “politicking” is depressing … I wonder just how much money ( & time, of course = money ) was wasted by the politicians’ party-&-ideological manoeuvrings.

  60. Steven Taylor says:

    Many thanks for clarifying what is happening to Wapping station- appreciated.

  61. MikeP says:

    Fantastic to see the history of the ELL redevelopment in the document you’ve referenced, and linking to our discussions over major project PR, this is very telling:

    “After the first week of evidence in November 2000, the Inquiry Inspector terminated the proceedings, as there were no more objectors and many depositions of support”

    I bet the Inspector couldn’t believe it – and the reason ?? “The … team had worked …. to ensure a high level of local consultation…”

  62. Anomnibus says:

    @Greg Tingey:

    “I find the mere idea that (parts of) LUL were seriously considering permanently closing the Thames Tunnel totally insane.”

    I disagree. TfL wasn’t created to run heritage railway operations for tourists.

    I’d argue that it would have indeed been better to just close the tunnel to rail traffic and perhaps convert it into a combined pedestrian tunnel and museum / art gallery / whatever.

    TfL could then have diverted services through a new tunnel constructed nearby, using modern techniques, with decent stations at each end. So we’d no longer be discussing issues like SDO and trains limited to a maximum of 5 cars on an already congested route.

  63. Greg Tingey says:

    Anomnibus / stimarco
    I take it that your post is an exercise in sarcastic irony, deliberately aimed at getting my goat?
    TfL wasn’t created to run heritage railway operations for tourists.
    No, they were not – they were & are charged with running as efficient & people-shifting a service as they can.
    Permanently closing a very useful cross-river link is the exact opposite of that duty.
    As for your other suggestion:
    TfL could then have diverted services through a new tunnel constructed nearby, using modern techniques, with decent stations at each end.
    Costing HOW MUCH? And how likely would that scenario be, even now, never mind 10-15 years ago?
    [snip PoP]

  64. Milton Clevedon says:

    No it would just have been shut for ever (Ok, that’s a long time in politics). And would you have wanted to be the engineer who dared to reopen it just a centimetre or so, or drill a wee hole to check, in case something nasty had happened in the meantime?!

    The cost of a new parallel railway would have been 10-20 times the cost of an EH-approved rebuild, with NO budget, so it was an agreed rebuild or nothing at all… So what we have, turns out to be the only solution that offered a continuing railway.

  65. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – there is actually no harm in considering the unpalatable option like full closure. In rare instances it might be the right thing to do. The rest of the time it will simply reinforce the arguments for retention by highlighting all of the downsides and also allowing people to show that a proper assessment of a range of options has been conducted and reviewed. If approving bodies are doing their job properly then they should ask difficult questions and ensure full governance and assessment of how public funds are spent. There are examples of this with recent requests from the TfL Board for reviews of certain issues about the bus network. TfL also forces any papers going forward for approval to go through a challenge and review process by people in a range of disciplines to avoid “ducking and diving” project approvals.

    I was not involved in the ELL issues but I (and many others) worked for David Bailey (then Development Director) and I have a vague memory of seeing how “angry” (ahem!) he was at being landed in such a pickle with English Heritage.

  66. Greg Tingey says:

    I fully agree – now.
    But, in the past, the temporary “cost” of keeping a line open, rather than, in at least two instances I know of, of building one M-way bridge, rather than close the line & build a solid embankment was used as a convenient excuse to close the line.
    To everyone’s regret, a few years later, of course.
    This is the sort of thing that anomnibus/stimarco was/is suggesting.
    Not a rational course of action, especially given the eccentricities of politicians & road lobby groups.

  67. Anomnibus says:

    @Greg Tingey:

    The entire LO project is struggling to cope just a few years after opening thanks to the decision to stick with the Great Bore.

    If the decision had been made to divert trains through new-build infrastructure instead, not only would we not be discussing SDO and 4/5-car trains on an overcrowded urban metro today, but we’d probably be hearing about a decision to buy additional rolling stock to extend trains to 8 or even 10 cars.

    Nor would there be any issues regarding extending Rotherhithe, Wapping, etc. and their Listed status as neither would be on the diverted line to begin with.

    Now, you could argue that the costs of building a new Thames Tunnel would be substantial—I don’t disagree—but I’ve seen the costs of building new tunnels in countries like Italy, Switzerland, Austria, etc. and none of them pay the shockingly usurious prices the British do.

    That cost issue is, therefore, a political problem, not a technical or engineering one. If the UK were able to get the same value for money as their continental counterparts, many “problems” in the UK would no longer be as intractable as they’re made out to be.

    I’ll also repeat a point you appear to have missed: the existing tunnel can be repurposed. The UK is at least good at that sort of thing, with Tate Modern being the most obvious example. A gallery space, a Brunel Museum, or perhaps an extension of the Transport Museum, including the odd bit of rolling stock, would all be good fits for the site. It’d give the area a useful tourist attraction, which also doubles as a much more interesting and educational foot tunnel than the claustrophobic little pipe at Greenwich, boosting the local economy and improving cross-river connectivity for the locals too.

    So this is very much a “win-win” option and not a proposal to just plug the thing up at each end with concrete and abandon it to the vicissitudes of nature.

  68. @Anomnibus,

    Well that’s all fine and dandy in the abstract discussion of an ideal world with perfect knowledge as to what would happen in future.

    Meanwhile back to planet reality in the mid 1980s focused on the Rotherhithe area.

    I was there in the mid 1980’s before the tunnel refurbishment. Do not confuse the initial tunnel refurbishment (the one that caused the argument over listed status) with the second refurbishment done around a decade later to convert the line for London Overground use.

    I am not saying the East London Line was lightly used at all times but on Monday evenings I used to leave my office (in the only business site at Surrey Quays that had actually been redeveloped) for a night up in town. Between Rotherhithe and Wapping I used to regularly change from my office clothes to my casual clothes on the train. I could do this because I would nearly always be the only person in the carriage and it would not have surprised me if I was the only passenger on the train. The idea of extending the East London Line northwards from Shoreditch was not even being talked about and the wonder was that Whitechapel – Shoreditch had not already been closed.

    Against that background the idea of building a tunnel next to a tunnel that was perfectly functional and new underground stations to replace existing stations that were perfectly adequate for the traffic on offer and any foreseeable traffic in the future would have been totally and utterly bonkers and quite rightly ridiculed. No-one could have predicted the subsequent effect of the Jubilee Line which wasn’t anywhere near the top of the planning pile – Crossrail was – and in any case wasn’t planned to serve Canary Wharf at that time.

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


    So the LO ELL and connecting LO routes being a run-away passenger, regeneration, and redevelopment success is a failure in your eyes then.

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


    Mine is a rhetorical reply, I don’t really want a response.

  71. EL.L South says:

    @All above and particularly Latecomer and MC re: Rotherhithe
    What you’ve said chimes with my own experience. That Rotherhithe is relatively under used compared to CW and SQ. Certainly in rush hour I there are very few commuters who get on or off the ELL at Rotherhithe – its a welcome relief in one sense because its the first time the doors open and no one else gets on!

    It used to be that the biggest load of commuters would leave the train at CW and after that it was relatively quiet. More recently I find that there are almost as many people getting on at CW now as there are leaving.

    I would say that Wapping is certainly busier in the rush hour than Rotherhithe – neither are ever especially busy at night, but again going on perception only, I would think that Wapping would be ahead.

    I too wouldn’t actively advocate closure of any public transport access in Zone 2 London. But I do find my self wondering if starting from scratch you might think that the benefit of minimising the Journey time between CW, Shadwell and Whitechapel, outweighed the benefit of having a station at Rotherhithe. TFL has CW to Whitechapel taking 7 minutes, if you didn’t stop at Rotherhithe you would be taking a big % out of that journey time.

  72. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ PoP – love the personal anecdote about ELL evening travel. I suspect undressing and changing still goes on but no one gives a damn about people getting ready on the train for a night out in Shoreditch or Dalston 😉 It is precisely that sort of virtually non existent evening travel in the 1980s that has now vanished from much of the tube – trains are busy all the time and in a way no one would have imagined in the late 70s or 80s. As you’ve explained in other articles this partly explains the ever expanding level of service provision and the inexorable rise in patronage.

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


    …or turned back into a foot tunnel that is more pleasant to walk through than Rotherhithe.

  74. Anomnibus says:

    @Long Branch Mike:

    My point was also a little rhetorical too: the limitations of the existing infrastructure were already well known—the ELL under its LU guise was always a glorified 4-car shuttle service.

    However, the moment someone started asking questions like, “What if we joined it up with the North London Line, Croydon and Clapham Junction?” you don’t get to play the “We didn’t see it coming!” excuse.

    South London (and Kent, but that’s another rant) is screaming for better transport infrastructure. The region is cursed with terrible infrastructure and has seen only the occasional token investment. LO barely scratches the surface.

    Anyone who had spent any time living there could have told the GLA that four coaches would be nowhere near enough. Seriously, I don’t understand why anyone would come up with this tired excuse. Was Whitechapel a late addition to the LO service? Am I imagining its proximity to the City? No? Then what the hell were TfL expecting from a frequent service via New Cross Gate or Peckham Rye to the very doorstep of the City?

    The LO is another Thameslink: a short-term sticking plaster over a yawning chasm in London’s transit provision. Negligible long-term planning. No holistic vision. (Sigh.)

    @The Future’s Bright…

    Actually, I said it could serve as both. It’s more than wide enough and also conveniently divided in two right down the middle.

    The ideal would be for the gallery / museum elements to be paid for entirely through sponsorship (e.g. “The Google Gallery”), so pedestrians walking through the tunnel wouldn’t have to pay at the point of use. The stations at each end could have gift shops, restaurants, etc. to help cover some of the costs.

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


    The link to the East London Line Group (ELLG) progress document that Milton Clevedon posted 2 June 2014 at 08:40, if you haven’t already read it, gives a detailed description of all of the hurdles that the ELLG faced, as well as the fortunate events (London 2012 Olympics) that helped propel the LO outer circle lines to fruition.

    Unfortunately politicians and bureaucrats often need to see concrete results (no pun intended!) before committing 100s of millions of pounds to schemes. As WW pointed out, the ELL stand alone line pre-LO was not that busy at all, and outer (non-central area) orbital extensions had not yet been demonstrated as very popular world-wide.

    Nor have suburb to suburb lines in Anglo countries. I can think of LA’s Metrolink commuter rail suburb to suburb line, a similar LRT line in Ottawa Canada as isolated examples, have been successful, but neither has been a runaway success. I admit that I was very skeptical of both of these, but both they are still in operation going strong. I cannot speak to Continental or Eurasian suburb to suburb rail line examples, but I am sure there are many success stories there.

    Since LO’s runaway success, Parisian transport planners have investigated and visited LO in view of planning their own such suburb to suburb rail lines to alleviate their poor orbital links. Their peri-orbital tram lines are a success to date.

    Working in government, I see every week the risk averse mindset of ministers and managers. It’s human nature.

    However for the Thames Tunnel pre-LO, there was absolutely no business case for a very costly new parallel tunnel. LO’s demonstrated, to everyone’s surprise, the value, need, and success of suburb to suburb rail lines, in a suppressed demand environment.

    Waiting for ideal conditions to build large scale transport lines in advance of need, no matter how much foresight planners have, will now very rarely happen. Enormous costs (not to poke a discussion of British engineering costs), public doubts of politicians and mega-projects, tax use awareness, and limited funds available see to that.

  76. Anomnibus says:

    @Long Branch Mike:

    I appreciate all your points. There’s a reason I moved out of the UK, and most of those were on the list.

    For all Italy’s problems, actually getting stuff done isn’t one of them, it’s archeology and its effects on funding that tend to slow things down, not a lack of desire to build them in the first place.

    And they really *do* plan for the long-term: Rome’s Line B is the oldest urban metro in Italy, but they already knew back then in the mid-1950s that there would be a Line A as well, even though it took about 30 years to build most of it. In fact, most of Rome’s current urban rail transit today was already on a master plan dating back to the 1960s. The new Line C (under construction) mostly adheres to that same plan.

    My beef with the LO is that I did predict it would be rammed very quickly. And if I could see the problem coming a mile away, I’m astonished that TfL are seriously claiming they didn’t.

    Why? Because the LO originally opened with just the West Croydon, New Cross and Crystal Palace branches, none of which are orbital routes: they’re radial! The orbital section to Clapham Junction opened last, remember? And by then, the trains were already rammed.

    They all bring passengers right into Whitechapel and Shoreditch, which are right on the edge of the City. Compared to London Bridge, it can be much more convenient for many commuters. Especially given the fact that the much-delayed Thameslink upgrade project’s effects on that terminus have been well known for many years now.

    So, sorry, nope, I don’t buy it. Unless every single member of the board at TfL lives north of the river, I simply cannot believe that excuse. This sorry state of affairs has absolutely nothing to do with the “orbital” aspect and everything to do with opening up a new, parallel “Thameslink East” on the cheap. People who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and all that.

    I have no idea what TfL intend to do about the short-formation problem with the present route, but I stand by my original assertion that retaining the Thames Tunnel was not the best decision they could have made, even from a short-term political perspective. The latent demand problem south of the Thames has been a problem for decades; if our political classes still haven’t understood this by now, they really should be sacked for gross incompetence.

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


    It seems to me the French do urban rail planning extremely well. I’ve not been to Germany or Benelux but they seem to be very good urban planners too, anticipating transport issues well. As do Communist or post-communist countries, but again I’ve not experienced their systems first hand.

    However, and as someone mentioned this a while ago on another post, Anglo developed countries have a real love/worship of and bias for the auto, which permeates through all their planning.

    It’d be interesting to know how many passengers actually take LO to Whitechapel and Shoreditch to commute to the City.

  78. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Anomnibus / LBM – I really think you are getting this back to front. We have to deal with the world as it is not as we would like it to be. You say it is “obvious” that ELL trains would be stuffed full because of inadequate infrastructure south of the Thames. From my very limited use of the ELL at its busiest times there is a mass exodus at Canada Water with people heading to the Jubilee Line and going both ways. Trains are modestly loaded further north than that and I have never seen Shoreditch High St bursting at the seams. However I am happy to be corrected by those who use the line more regularly than I do.

    I think we need to consider that it took a massive amount of lobbying and battling to get to the point where the DfT would allow TfL to specify and procure the Overground service. Secondly there was an equally long battle to secure the money to actually build the ELL extensions and convert the existing line. Much as you hate it transport investment in the UK is the art of the possible and TfL did not have a massive pot of money to build a 8 or 12 railway. They didn’t even have the money for a 5 car one and the most important issue was to demonstrate they could supplant the DfT as concession specifier and then also that their preferred “recipe” for services is a success. You actually need a track record to point to in order to secure the money for the next stage in improvements.

    The other fundamental point in the UK is that our politics yo-yos back and forth and the emphasis on and commitment to spending on railways and public transport varies hugely. This is toxic when it comes to planning and implementation hence why TfL have argued so strongly for a longer funding settlement for investment. The european mainland countries *seem* to have a much greater consensus across the political spectrum as to the value of improving railways and generally supporting public transport. The UK needs that consensus but I can’t see it ever happening which bodes badly for us as a country. London is a small exception in that some agreement seems to exist about investment in the tube but beyond that there is little agreement about buses, cycling, roads and railways.

    I really wish I could have written Board papers saying “give me £xm to do project y and trust me that this is the best idea ever”. Unfortunately it didn’t work like that back then and it certainly doesn’t these days as the process is much more tightly controlled and verified. It also isn’t down to the TfL Board to “know the obvious” – it is down to the sponsor to develop viable schemes that support the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and meet TfL’s business needs (which in turn improve things for passengers and taxpayers). We can all claim to have “second sight” about the ideal transport network but that doesn’t help the debate (IMO, of course). By all means criticise the politicians for their lack of consensus but don’t berate the planners and sponsors for not seeing the “obvious”. If you’re only given a budget of £1m rather £10m you have to get the best value you can from what you’ve got. I was a past master, as were my colleagues, of juggling budgets and creating scenarios for 5%, 10% and 30% cuts. This happened every year and it was down to the annual funding cycle – something exclusively in the hands of the politicians.

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

    @ LBM etc & Anombius

    “LO’s demonstrated, to everyone’s surprise, the value, need, and success of suburb to suburb rail lines, in a suppressed demand environment. ”


    Without repeating myself again, re WLL etc, I am minded to consider the NEED for the Ruislip chord for this very reason. Hillingdon/Uxbridge residents/workers need to get to Northolt/Greenford/Perivale and White City etc. AND vice versa! It is NOT to enable people to get from Uxbridge to Bond Street two minutes faster.

    The A40 is RAMMED every morning. The opening of the chord would be the very ‘suburb to suburb’ type rail route that is now “exceeding expectations” on LO. (WHY it is taking them by such surprise, I really do not know). It needs to be looked at again in the light of the LO/ELL and WLL success stories.

  80. Latecomer says:

    Not to engage with the intricacies of the above debate, in my experience Shoreditch does have a significant flow of city workers who are prepared to walk a short distance to their offices. There is also a fair bit of demand in the evenings at weekends with the nightlife on offer. I would say that the city commuters really are confined to very specific periods and most people alight there between 8.20 and 8.50. Similarly most people board down services shortly after 5pm but as is the norm there is less concentration and there is general busyness for perhaps an hour and a half.

    Mornings are a frustration for drivers because even though the trains are far less crowded than they were on arrival at Canada Water everyone tends to flow out of one or two sets of doors. It’s very orderly in a typically English type of way but the dwell time is significantly increased as people can’t physically step onto the platform. I occasionally make announcements after departing Whitechapel urging people to use all available doors at the next station. The platforms themselves are never as crowded as Canada Water and they have plenty of room. There is just the particular issue of the morning crush in that half hour period. If passengers were more spread out and used a variety of doors it would certainly reduce dwell time and possibly even reduce the funnel effect through the exit. There are capacity issues north of Brockley most mornings, whether this discourages any more passengers using the ELL to reach the city via Whitechapel or Shoreditch I’m not so sure. It will be interesting to see if 5 cars do fill up immediately. There are lots of interesting questions thrown up in this discussion about who the railways should serve and especially about huge discrepancies in passenger flow between stations just a few hundred metres apart. I don’t quite know where I settle my thoughts that tend to lean towards socialist principles, yet the debate that’s emerged appears to have a lot to do with Utilitarianism and interpretation of ‘the greater good’.

  81. Ian J says:

    @anomnibus: For all Italy’s problems, actually getting stuff done isn’t one of them

    How is the bridge to Sicily going these days? Or the Turin-Lyon high speed line?

  82. Ian J says:

    @Castlebar: The Ruislip Chord can only happen if you terminate the Piccadilly at Rayner’s Lane, which would make suburb-to-suburb journeys like Uxbridge – Hammersmith more difficult and substantially reduce the service at Ruislip Manor and Eastcote. Hardly the slam-dunk in transport planning you seem to think it is.

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

    Ian J

    It is obvious that you have not read previous posts on this matter, and it is too far off topic to repeat them here

  84. Greg Tingey says:

    anomnibus/stimarco 5 June 20.48
    All, possibly true.
    And, unfortunately, irrelevant.
    It’s not TfL or any London “planners” you have to convince … it’s the Treasury.
    And the Treasury back in the 1990’s too!
    Now then, rewind to (say) 1995 – tory guvmint, anti-rail (Privatisation as a means of managing “decline”) & tell us how you are going to get the money for your admittedly very good idea?
    Because I don’t think it could be done.
    Look at the multiple-rebuild-saga of the DLR as a case in point … an exercise in the possible as opposed to the ideal.
    See also WW’s comments on this slight difficulty?

    [Snip. Not so much because there was anything wrong with this response to a previous comment but because I don’t want the discussion to go into this area. PoP]

  85. I am really not happy how this discussion is going.

    Comment referencing the Ruislip chord seem to me to much repeated in various different articles all over the place. This must be one of the least relevant articles for mentioning it.

    Anomnibus is repeating ad nauseum his opinion of what should be done to governments who don’t see the things the way he does. He also seems determined to treat as one the two separate closures of the Thames Tunnel because that fits in better with his arguments.

    I don’t want every post to be hijacked by those who want to discuss their perception that there is a failure in London to plan properly. We have posts where that is appropriate. Somehow I don’t think a historically based article on the Thames Tunnel (completed 1843) qualifies for that category.

  86. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Latecomer – thanks for the clarification re loadings / pass flows. It is interesting to note your observations about the impact of “regular traveller syndrome” by which I mean people knowing the exact position to get off the train so as to have the shortest walking distance. Interesting that you perceive that it affects the smooth operation of the service.

    I think many of us know where the right doors are for a quick escape but I gave up travelling in the first two carriages on Vic Line trains many years ago just to be first off at Walthamstow. Life’s too short to worry about such things *unless* you need to dash for a last train or bus connection or to avoid a 30-60 min wait for a train at some places.

  87. straphan says:

    @Latecomer and WW: Of course people will stand where it is easiest for them to leave the station or interchange. There are plenty of smartphone apps (e.g. Wavana Tube Exits) that tell you exactly which carriage to get onto.

    This is also why I think calls for ever longer trains make no sense. Even today 12-car trains arriving into London termini in the a.m. peak have large bits of breathing space (and in some cases even free seats!) towards the rear. This is because when people buy a ticket to Victoria they wish to get to Victoria, not 200m away from Victoria. Yet people seem to think 16-car trains are the way forward. Yes, they may be, but only if you don’t terminate them at the buffer stops or if you built extra exits at the rear of the trains that actually lead somewhere…

    The same goes for the tube and Overground – these trains are shorter so distances may not be as drastic, but try to push through 100m of crowded platform to get to the exit! It’s neither fast nor pleasant, and I can see why people wish to avoid it.

    Without building more exit or interchange opportunities at stations and/or adding in more doors into vehicles (who thought two doors per carriage on the Overground is a good idea?) this problem will only be exacerbated as the population of London grows.

  88. Graham H says:

    @straphan – Of course- for your amusement, I once had an argument with the relevant Treasury mattoid, who claimed that since it was – particularly – the front (London) end coach that the most heavily overcrowded, overcrowding could be solved by simply omitting the front coach altogether. By way of further amusement, an accountant friend, to whom I had relayed the story, retold it in turn to the MD of Fox’s biscuits, whose books he audited. “Not surprised” was the MD’s comments, “I get similar suggestions from the punters who believe that the ‘first biscuit in the packet is always the broken one syndrome’ could be solved by omitting the first biscuit…”

    [I have subsequently spent too much time worrying as to where to begin to explain the fault in the thinking, but never mind…]

  89. straphan says:

    @Graham H: There is also a joke to similar effect: A man walks into a bar and asks for ten shots of vodka to be lined up. When the bartender complies, the man throws the first and last shot onto the floor and drinks the rest one by one. When the bartender asks why he ditched the first and last ones, the man replied: ‘The first one always burns my throat, and the last one always makes me throw up.’

  90. Graham H says:

    @straphan 🙂 – if only the Treasury had a sense of humour…

  91. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Graham H – 🙂 Perhaps the ROSCOs should invest in refractic shielding (as used on the invisible Aston Martin in James Bond) for the 1st coach? Vanishing first carriage!

    Having rechecked the definition of mattoid I see it includes references to erratic and psychotic behaviour. How apt. 😉

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

    Mattoid – A person whose ideas and actions, whilst at times even approaching brilliancy, are mentally unbalanced in one way or on one subject that approach the psychotic. Found in large numbers at HMT.

  93. Graham H says:

    @WW Pythonesque scenes spring to mind. [Actually, I fear your idea has already been put into action: there was a famous Royal trip to Kings Lynn in a 317. BTP had the witty idea that the best security was to partition off the Royal part of the coach with a false internal vestibule end… the punters’ views as they suddenly found the interior of the coach halved in size (a sort of reverse Tardis effect) are not recorded]

  94. timbeau says:

    How about removing all the seats from the most crowded (London-end) coach, so you get the choice of being first off the train or getting a seat.

    (This was actually done on the class 460s, although for a different reason)

    “This is because when people buy a ticket to Victoria they wish to get to Victoria, not 200m away from Victoria”
    Travelling from Euston on the Fort William sleeper recently, I felt I must already be half way to Scotland by the time I found my coach.

  95. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – but pity the poor diagrammers who’d have to ensure that the sets were always the right way round.

  96. Malcolm says:

    This is a strange effect. Most people think absolutely nothing of walking 200m or so. It’s less than one typical bus stop spacing, and who (apart from those with severe walking difficulties) contemplates a one-stop bus ride? Even if it costs nothing. But put this 200m walk on a platform alongside a train (either before entraining or after detraining, as per “right coach” discussion), and it suddenly turns into a marathon!

  97. ngh says:

    Re Graham H

    I think I can trump that one – I have a friend who insists it is safest to cycle on Motorways.

    Another case of being “right” for all the wrong reasons!

  98. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Malcolm – I think you might be surprised at the number of people who do go for just 1 stop by bus. I see plenty of people doing it – I’ve even done it myself but only as last leg of a much longer set of journeys and usually when laden with bags. A bit lazy of me but I can justify it to myself. 😉

    Your general observation is fine but I wonder if “commuter syndrome” of having to be somewhere at a given time and wanting the sheer ordeal of the commute itself to be over is what makes people act in such a way as to shorten the distance / journey time as much as possible. Having been caught in the nightmare peak congestion in Holborn Stn [1] I can see why people aim for the exit off the platform in order to steal some time advantage.

    There is also the thing about routine where people become attuned to doing the same thing every day and not questioning how they do it or why. This is why people are “lost” when there is disruption on the transport network – they’re not able to readjust their routine.

    [1] other tube stns also fall into this category.

  99. Latecomer says:

    This is all a bit Reggie Perrin to me. The phenomenon is most pronounced Shoreditch High St, but Canada Water comes a close second. Is it down to conditioned politeness or is it because people who spend their days working through logistics/stock dealing/brokering have not given thought to the best means of alighting at a platform? There’s no question they know where the exit is as they all choose those doors to alight from. Phone apps or not, common sense should prevail. If every day you wait 90 seconds to alight from the closest set of doors to the exit and yet if you alight from the next car down in 15 seconds you get to the platform exit in maybe 20 more would you be seen as pushing in? I would love someone to film what I observe. I do think it has more to do with the grind mill than much else.

  100. Ian J says:

    @Graham H: the only way to explain it to the Treasury would be in the language they understand: money. So suggest an alternative plan: instead of removing the first carriage, you introduce a price signal by charging more to travel at the front of the train. Then watch the mattoid’s mind get blown when you point out that the railways have already been doing that for decades…

  101. Theban says:

    Ignoring the fact that it was separate funding bodies and the order of events, I disagree with those who say the Brunel tunnel should have been replaced. Instead of concentrating investment on one tunnel which could carry 12 car trains, East London has end up with three (ELL +2x DLR). That seems to me to be a good outcome.

    That doesn’t change the fact that capacity upgrades are now needed but maybe that shouldn’t be achieved by further upgrades to the ELL tunnel alignment. An entirely new alignment would add even more capacity and further extend journey options and network resilience. There are plenty of choices, but just to pick one, extending the Met South from Aldgate to serve Tower Gateway, Bermondsey, South Bermondsey and New Cross Gate would be of comparable scale to rebuilding the central section of ELL but I suggest would offer much greater benefit.

    Returning to the original theme, in Brunel’s day, the Rotherhithe peninsula (which of course also includes Canada Water and Surrey Quays stations in terms of the ELL) and Wapping were both very busy. By the 1970s that was categorically not the case. That the alignment is again busy shows how the centre of London has grown eastwards over the past generation.

  102. Fandroid says:

    Perhaps a lesson that later promoters of risky projects could have drawn is that Brunel should have built the approach roads first! It would have been the least risky part of the project, would have much improved the access for construction materials and workers. (Horse drawn vehicles could have got all the way from the brick suppliers to the tunnel bottom, ie triple handling would have been replaced by double handling). There was a massive delay as Brunel drummed up support for completion of the tunnel. He then failed to successfully argue for the funds to build the access ramps. If they were already there then the argument would have been solely for funds for tunnel completion. History might have turned out a lot different!

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


    I’ve been reading about the UK Government’s Nudge Unit aka Behavioural Insight Team (BIT), for personal interest and professional purposes.

    Appears to me that LU/TfL could look at applying some Nudge techniques, such as telling passengers that, for instance, using a rear carriage only adds 20 seconds (say) to their commute, as queues for the escalators negate the advantage of standing in the front carriage.

    Or that there are often spare seats in the last carriage (for a more comfortable journey).

    As LU had spent considerable time trying to shave a few seconds off dwell times at busy Tube stations, it sounds like it might be time to investigate if passive Nudge measures could reduce dwell times and improve through capacity at bottleneck Overground stations.

  104. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ LBM – I am afraid your reference to “nudge techniques” caused my daft imagination to picture Kenny Everett wearing enormous foam hands and prodding commuters to behave themselves. Sorry. 😉

  105. timbeau says:

    ” using a rear carriage only adds 20 seconds (say) to their commute, as queues for the escalators negate the advantage of standing in the front carriage. ”
    But it doesn’t – if you are first to the escalator/ticket barrier/etc you don’t have to queue at all.

    You see the same problem manifesting itself as crowding near the entrance to platforms at intermediate stations with a lot of “churn”. As the regulars alighting at that station all know which carriage will stop nearest the exit, that is the one carriage which will have space, so all the regulars boarding at that station crowd round that part of the platform. Wimbledon (SWT) is a very good example (the exit is at the country end of the station), but several Tube stations exhibit it too – made worse on the Victoria Line by so many stations (notably KX, OXO and Victoria) all having exits at the same end of the train.

  106. Graham Feakins says:

    @LBM – Those “Nudge” techniques are used for most trains at London Bridge bound for Waterloo East & Charing Cross by urging passengers to board further back along the train rather than try and cram in the front (and thus add to any delay).

    Whilst many observe that request, many don’t of course.

    The planning going into what will happen when none of those trains will stop at London Bridge for 18 months+ during the Thameslink work is requiring more than just a nudge. It’ll be a headache for all concerned.

  107. AlisonW says:

    Ian J: ” charging more to travel at the front of the train”

    aka ‘First’ Class, on numerous mainline routes.

  108. peezedtee says:

    Yes, but it is the opposite in the down direction! In the case of a terminal-to-terminal journey such as London to Manchester or Liverpool, assuming first class is always at the London end, if you want always to be at the front upon disembarkation, you have to travel down in second class and up in first class. I should be surprised if anyone would do that just to be first off the platform on both journeys.

  109. 378 Driver says:


    In regards to having to wait for everyone waiting to walk through the second door from the front and out the exit at Shoreditch, try doing what I do, just pull up with the cab door next to the barrier. A packed morning rush hour train unloaded in 15 seconds! You’ll be amazed! 😉

  110. timbeau says:

    But not everyone on the train is travelling terminus to terminus, and I would guess more first class passengers board the train at Euston than leave it at Manchester (or Glasgow, or Liverpool for that matter).
    Indeed, on a terminus to terminus journey you are going to have to walk the full length of the train at some point (unless, in the case of Manchester, you are changing to the through platforms).

    (My dear grandmother, a regular traveller between Kings Cross and Lincoln St Marks into her late eighties, never seemed to grasp this: she always complained at having to walk past several First Class carriages to each the “Lincoln portion” at the front of the train – in fact the whole train went to Lincoln, but the presence of the level crossing immediately beyond the station at Lincoln meant only the locomotive, full brake, and first three passenger carriages actually fitted on the platform, so she was inveitably going to have to walk the length of the train at some point.

    *This was in the days when direct trains were provided at times suitable for elderly people and tourists, rather than arriving in Lincoln in the late evening and returning at the crack of dawn.

  111. Latecomer says:

    @378 Driver
    Good tip! Knowing my luck I’ll end up with 30 passengers all thrusting their phones with their ‘which carriage?’ apps at me demanding the email address for complaints!

  112. straphan says:

    The issue of ‘right doors’ or ‘right carriages’ may not be so huge on LO, given it’s (currently) a 4-car railway. But getting off at the middle of the train at Waterloo Jubilee Line, at the rear of the train at Oxford Circus (Vic/Bakerloo northbound) or many other places means you have to walk more than the length of an LO train to get to the exit. And once you get into the habit…

  113. Ian J says:

    @Alison W, peezedtee: Don’t commuter services often have First Class at both ends anyway? InterCity is another matter of course.

    @LBM: Apparently the new Thameslink trains will have the ability to detect loadings in each individual carriage (by measuring the carbon dioxide breathed out by the passengers!), so I expect more sophisticated “nudging” in future. “The train on platform three is formed of twelve coaches. The least crowded coaches are the third and seventh…”

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

    @Ian J

    Perhaps a similar alcoholic air content sensor could be fitted to private vehicles, Tube trains, and commuter trains to identify to police where likely problems will occur, and for passengers which carriages (and car rides) to avoid…

  115. Rich Thomas says:

    CO₂ sensors: really? [citation needed].

  116. straphan says:

    First time I heard of CO2 sensors on the Class 700. More seriously, I think this will be based on the scales each unit will have which are today widely used on a number of unit classes to perform automatic passenger counts.

  117. timbeau says:

    SWT had another solution on the class 450 I was using yesterday. There was a fault in the coach at the London-end which meant that the heating was on!

  118. Graham Feakins says:

    CO₂sensors: I think this where the Siemens Desiro Class 700 story is taken from:

    “Preserving a good climate – Environmentally friendly, quieter, comfortable, and state-of-the-art: The heating, ventilation and air condition system is equipped with CO2 sensors that control the flow of fresh air according to the number of passengers in each car. The system is designed according to EN 14750 regarding saloon and EN 14813 regarding driver’s cab HVAC systems, and incorporates special features. The operational mode ‘Free-Cooling’ is a transition between
    heating and cooling mode in which the saloon is ventilated with an increased amount of fresh air without active use of the refrigerant cooling system in order to keep internal temperature comfort levels.
    For unoccupied areas or low occupancy, an intelligent shutting down management is provided. All these measures help reduce the total energy consumption while at the same time meet your passengers’ satisfaction.
    All this, whilst reducing noise levels in the passenger area.”

  119. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ G Feakins – let’s hope Siemens can get all that fancy heating and vent functionality to work. It takes little imagination to see what the future headlines will be if it doesn’t! The aims are all admirable but I do wonder sometimes about the level of complexity we’re building in to things like trains.

  120. Graham Feakins says:

    @WW – Yes, perhaps you are right. I’d sooner see some effort made towards more comfortable seating than that on display with the mock-up at ExCel. The ‘compromise’ between inner suburban, airport passengers and long-distance commuters veers towards the former, rather than the latter.

  121. Ian J says:

    CO₂ sensors: really? [citation needed].

    I think it was the April issue of Modern Railways.

    Note also in the insanely detailed requirements signed off for the units by the DFT on p.74 “The PIS shall provide information to passengers on the availability of space on the Unit.” (as well as real-time information on Underground lines, mainline and Eurostar departures, airport departures, “high quality advertising movies”…)

    On the other hand, on p. 80: “Each Unit shall include a system to measure and record passenger loadings in each Vehicle to an accuracy of 10% based on an average weight of 80kg per person.” implies a weighing system. But why have one system controlling the air conditioning and another for the Passenger Information System?

    Incidentally, the requirement “It shall be possible for the Operator to recalibrate the system for changes to average weight per person” suggests the DfT isn’t optimistic about the long-term trend on obesity. But is there provision to make the seats wider over time…?

  122. Greg Tingey says:

    Gas sensors in trains?
    Could produce interesting results on a Friday night or after a footy game – all those extra, erm, gas discharges from the passengers.
    I will go no further than that in a family publication, such as this, I think…..

  123. Ian J says:

    Ok found it. Modern Railways April 2014 page 56, from an interview with Jonathan Bridgewood, FCC’s Thameslink Director: “intelligent climate control will feature CO2 sensors that will assess the number of people in each carriage and adjust the fresh air flow accordingly. The system will be capable of transmitting information to shore. This means passengers waiting at the next stations on the train’s route can be informed of whereabouts on the train they are most likely to find seats, so that they can position themselves on the platform accordingly prior to the train’s arrival”

  124. Graham H says:

    @Ian J – most interesting; I note, however, that this is not intended to count the numbers of punters precisely (and it will be subject to the same estimation problems that beset the self-weighing train).

  125. Kit Green says:

    Ian J 11 June 2014 at 05:25

    So DfT taking the PIS with insanely detailed requirements? Sounds like a Greg T quote.

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