The eighties were a time of great change in the social and political fabric of Britain. Overshadowed by rail privatisation in the nineties, what’s often not appreciated is how much transport planning in London changed during the decade too. We look at transport planning in the eighties, and how it affected plans for the Fleet (Jubilee) line.

In our investigation of the Fleet / Jubilee line saga so far, the planning framework and process has always been (somewhat) static. ‎However, this was about to change in the dynamic 1980s.

Before looking at the specific Fleet and Jubilee Line developments, there were six main sources of influence on London transport planning in the 1980s that we need to consider. Each pulled in its own direction, often against other elements. In combination, the outcomes were uncertain, and other consequences would have arisen if different pressure points had proven dominant:

  • The loss of the Greater London Council (GLC) planning role, supplanted in Docklands by the Department of the Environment (DoE)’s rise in influence and participation, and its preferred sub-regional ‘master planner’, the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) – though its territory did not extend beyond the former Docks area.
  • The 1980s was a decade when railway finances faced huge pressures (the 2010s are becoming another). It was in that decade that nominal savings from railway closures were countered by a resurgence in public appreciation of railways. There were the beginnings of additional travel demand that eventually shut down the policy of closure and channelled the political imperative into other directions including privatisation.
  • Trends in London’s economy and demography became distinctly different from trends in the rest of Great Britain, leading to explicit demand for more large-scale railway capacity within London and the Home Counties.
  • London’s transport planning models and processes grew in sophistication. This was both cause and consequence of a turn-round in public transport usage, and a stimulus to making a more credible case for additional rail capacity.
  • Paradoxically, there was also a general fragmentation of railway scheme planning in London, from a centralised process to more of a route-by-route and sector-by-sector competition, stimulated by the government.
  • Britain saw a new generation of developers who weren’t prepared to wait in a queue for their own transport access to be delivered by potentially slow public sector funding. This attitude was matched by the stated willingness of central government to support commercially-stimulated transport initiatives if these enabled large-scale developments, although the ability to turn support into cash proved harder. At the minimum, a private sector involvement in the transport element was a stimulus to government.

Let’s cover each of these in turn.

The loss of the GLC

Mrs Thatcher’s response to Ken Livingstone’s political challenges from 1981 onwards was, sequentially, to reduce the GLC’s powers then abolish the authority, and indeed the city-wide administrations in other major city regions. This left a vacuum in integrated transport planning for London that is arguably still not fully resolved, with TfL’s creation still overlapping with national rail administration of London commuter railways. Similar problems arose at the time with land use planning at a strategic London level, but these were remedied with London’s 1999 Act.

There were also significant changes in Transport Ministers and Secretaries of State for Transport from 1979 to 1990, the latter amounting to 7 in 11 years. This meant they served an average duration of one year seven months – not conducive at all to stable long-term planning. Indeed the churn of Transport Secretaries demonstrates Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s lack of priority for this portfolio. All this means it is not surprising that transport policies for London were so ineffective and chaotic by the latter half of the 1980s.

Paradoxically, governments since 2010 (Coalition and Conservative) have pressed for new stable city-wide or city region administrations across England. London secured a new Greater London Authority in a 1999 Act, an early piece of legislation under the 1997 Blair government that resulted in Ken Livingstone, the ex-GLC Leader, returning to power to be the first new Mayor of London, on an independent platform for his first term.

The decision to abolish the Greater London Council in 1986 had been announced in the Conservative election manifesto of May 1983, and part of the attack on the GLC was an attack on strategic planning itself. Martin Simmons of the London Planning Advisory Committee (LPAC), an ad hoc joint committee responsible for strategic planning after the abolition of the GLC in 1986, wrote:

Michael Heseltine thought that a strategic planning framework for the whole of the South East region could be written on two sides of A4 … in 1985 Nicholas Ridley responded with about five pages on a strategic planning framework for the region … but none of these went to the heart of the matter – the need to adopt a coherent office development strategy for London.

Instead of the London Boroughs and the City of London adhering to the 1976 Greater London Development Plan, they were now to follow ‘advice’ laid down by the DoE in their similarly brief Unitary Development Plans.

The Government removed most of the GLC’s transport powers at the end of June 1984, with the creation of multiple bodies to replace the previous GLC-led hierarchy. London Transport was also slimmed down in 1984, along with abolition of its central planning department, and reduced to just London Buses Limited (LBL) as a bus operating and engineering company in the first instance, but with a requirement to devolve and tender services, and London Underground (LU) as a Tube management organisation which retained long term ownership of the tube network and related engineering and operational responsibilities. The emerging DLR project was also retained by LRT for the first few years. LU did keep alive a small transport planning and development team, which had some capacity for projects and forecasting. The holding company became London Regional Transport, as a newly nationalised industry. And, of course, the GLC was on its way out, so unable to act much in London’s interest.

From 1980 until its final abolition in 1986, GLC planning maintained focus on “their” new town at Thamesmead, so were still advocating a Jubilee extension to Aldwych – London Bridge – North Greenwich, then via a couple of route options to Thamesmead. However we saw in Part 3 that the GLC had not been able to make a sufficiently strong business case to persuade the government to support any progress with a new tube line through Docklands, so the writing on the wall was clear from that point onwards.

Public Transport – The Next Ten Years GLC Report 1985

The GLC had tried what was to be their last attempt at extending the Jubilee, proposing a south bank of the Thames route predominantly using the North Kent Line to Greenwich, Abbey Wood and Thamesmead (LDDC Figure 17)

Map of GLC’s last ditch Fleet to Thamesmead proposal. LDDC

However even the GLC’s own study Public Transport – The Next Ten Years instead recommended a DLR extension from Custom House to Woolwich and Thamesmead – requiring another Woolwich Tunnel – as more cost effective than a Jubilee extension, given the more limited, pre-Canary Wharf scope of projected development.

Parts 1-3 of our series show that the Docklands Tube scheme was ahead of the area’s ability to justify the costs of heavy rail transit. The DLR (as it would become) represented a more affordable scale of rapid transit for the initial phases of Docklands regeneration.

By the time of the GLC’s demise in 1986, the transport focus was changing to serve Docklands and East London (Stratford emerging successfully from as early as 1984), which had been Heseltine’s preference, rather than Docklands and Thamesmead. There was no longer any planning organisation strong enough to argue otherwise. In doing this, Heseltine and his successors were potentially correct. The existing, densely populated and expansive East London catchment merited more focus, and it is not an accident that Crossrail and Jubilee Line extension thoughts headed in that direction in the late 1980s Central London Rail Study.

This priority was to be repeated in the October 1991 decision to re-route the BR-proposed Channel Tunnel Rail Link via the East Thames corridor rather than via South London, despite the King’s Cross Railway Bill which was then already passing through Parliament (see our outline coverage of the HS1 scheme). In that case, the erstwhile GLC might have agreed with the government, but might also have insisted that the intermediate stations originally proposed by Arup on the HS1 railway between Stratford and Ebbsfleet for development stimulus should actually be built. Those stations still don’t exist!

The other key point here is that improved rail access to Stratford – originally a one-off outcome – became a lead example for other principal interchanges between the main railway network and the Docklands distributor links. As we shall see, the DLR has developed into a large-scale access railway for the combined Docklands and East Thames corridor development zones. These zones have required a number of network interchanges and railheads, such as the DLR at Greenwich, Lewisham and Woolwich, while the Jubilee Line as built also provides a Docklands distribution service at numerous East London and Central London interchanges.

A similar central area distributor service had built up since the start of the 20th Century, provided by the Tubes at Central London termini, and at selected suburban interchanges (such as through the Victoria line offering a West End distributor from the West Anglia rail network).

Tighter railway finances

Whilst privatisation of British Rail was rejected during Mrs Thatcher’s reign, the pressure on railway finances was considerable. Parts of the civil service, led by the then-Deputy Secretary Transport Industries, were keen on instilling a more commercial approach to both the main lines and the Tube. He saw London as an area where it should be possible for railway investment to be financially self-sustaining.

Serpell Report – Beeching Redux 1982

There are several examples of this policy mantra during the 1980s. The Serpell Report was commissioned in 1982 by Thatcher’s government, headed by Sir David Serpell (a BR Board member and the former Permanent Secretary at the Department of Transport), to examine the state, finances, and long-term prospects of Great Britain’s national railway system. To put this report into context, the numbers of national railway passenger journeys had been in steady decline since the end of 1957, even allowing for transfer of ownership of some London lines and stations away from British Rail. BR had achieved 1,101 million passenger journeys in 1957 (a high point post-WW2), 22.6bn passenger miles and 20.9bn freight tonne miles.

There had only been a four year period 1977–1980 of consecutive years of passenger growth, as opposed to occasional yearly growth lost in the following year or two. The 1981 results were 719 million passenger journeys, 18.5bn passenger miles, and 10.9bn tonne miles. It didn’t help that there was a major rail strike in 1982, with results depressed further (630m passenger journeys, 16.9bn passenger miles, and 9.9bn tonne miles).

In 1982 terms, revenues had decreased steadily from £2.3bn in 1970 to £1.8bn in 1982, while costs had risen from £2.5bn to £2.7bn (all figures cost adjusted), and this was seen as the nadir of Britain’s railways. Consequently, BR’s deficit had increased by a factor of 4.5.

Several options for the network were considered, all making various degrees of cuts. The report did not seriously examine the effects of improving rail services. On offer were four main options: a severe paring; a profit making “commercial” network; reducing the railway’s annual deficit to given targets; or to retain services only to communities with population greater than 25,000.

The Serpell Report was portrayed by rail supporters as a “second Beeching” to great public outcry. The Marylebone and Settle-Carlisle lines proved to be definitive test cases from 1982 to 1989, the former having been covered in our look at how it escaped closure.

However, the Serpell report had been pushed forward by civil servants – in particular, the Deputy Secretary, Transport Industries John Palmer – not by Ministers who were far more alarmed than Palmer at the publicity surrounding closures. As a result, the Ministers that mattered paid only lip service to its concepts and Serpell died a speedy Whitehall death. There were no further significant line closures.

Also, general rail passenger travel also started to grow again from the end of 1982 to 1988/89, by over 20% (journeys)and 26% (passenger miles).

With passenger demand in London also starting to turn the corner from the end of 1982, stimulated partly by new ticketing offers such as Travelcard and Capitalcard and by the start of population revival within the Greater London area, the London and South East area was relatively resilient to closure risks. Other commentary is set out here.

London’s growing economy – Transport needs to grow

The Department of Transport maintained its commercial preferences during this period in more subtle ways. As the London economy grew again in the mid-1980s, also with the parallel case for more London area railway capacity to support the extra jobs and population, the railway planning studies which emerged – most visibly the 1988-89 Central London Rail Study (CLRS) – were loaded with a policy requirement that progress would only be achieved if it were ‘financially viable’.

The CLRS should be seen more as (a) a response to the criticism that the abolition of the GLC had put an end to railway planning, and (b) to provide a convenient block to further work in the form of the viability test. In the latter case, the definition of viability was the Department of Transport (DTp) version rather than the Cost Benefit Assessment (CBA) version used by London Transport and hated by “orthodox” DTp economists.

The financial viability requirement echoes the earlier government response to the 1987 House of Commons Transport Committee report on rail subsidies, which proposed injecting private capital into the railway system.

Transport Ministers in the late 1980s were also keen to require contributions from beneficiary landowners and other third parties such as local authorities. Thus the DLR Lewisham extension was not to be allowed to proceed as a parliamentary Bill unless it received contributions from the areas it would serve. This ended up as a £10m offer in 1989 in cash and kind from local authorities and City Challenge regeneration bodies. It was accepted by Government as broadly a 10% contribution to the then-foreseen estimate of capital costs (£100m at the time). A co-ordinated lobbying process to support the Lewisham extension had also been undertaken by beneficiary local authorities, the LDDC and Canary Wharf Group.

The arrival of Black Monday in 1987 and financial market collapses in October 1989 temporarily reduced the appetite for this form of scheme funding, but it had been a significant part of Conservative policy for some years before and private sector involvement is very much back on the agenda in the 2010s. For example, with the reprise of the East West Rail project as set out in the new Transport Secretary’s statement of 6 December 2016, which includes a Special Purpose Vehicle to progress the scheme. Private sector leverage was a key factor with the renewed schemes for extending the Jubilee line, which will be discussed in Part 5 of this series.

Economic Trends in London

It is now a baseline that London has a ‘World City’ economy which is different in character, style and volume, and with a degree of independence from economic conditions, to experiences elsewhere in the UK. The Home Counties and the wider London commuting belt – roughly, wherever the 1½ hour isochrone lies – are beneficiaries of this (currently favourable) economy.

That hadn’t been the case up to the 1970s. London’s economic conditions emulated but didn’t diverge substantially from the rest of the UK. However, the London economy gradually differentiated itself during the 1980s, and by the end of the 1990s was in a different league from other UK cities.

Irrespective of whether these were causes or consequences, a useful pointer is house prices – where London was high overall, not just in local zones – while average London earnings were above the rest of the UK. So there was both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ for greater commuting volumes.

Nationwide. Both lines track the difference between London prices and those in the wider UK market

In 2014, Nationwide’s latest data said “London prices were up 18% on a year earlier, around twice the rate of inflation experienced in the wider market. The surge, an extension of a pattern which has been evident in data from many sources for some time, now means London’s prices are 20% higher than at the last, pre-crisis market peak in 2007 (see the graph).

Only two other regions are higher than their 2007 level: the “outer metropolitan” area around the capital, which is around 5% higher than in 2007; and the “Outer South East” region, which also benefits from the London “heat effect”, now around 2% higher than in 2007. All other regions remain below their previous peak, Nationwide said, with Northern Ireland prices faring by far the worst – at 49% below their 2007 summit.

Also relevant were the volume of industrial-based activity – London was largely de-industrialised by the early 1980s – and London’s different jobs strategy, which relied on an expansion of service economy jobs and especially in the high-value financial sector. London was fortuitously where new forms of worldwide financial services took off (rather unsteadily) in the 1980s. We shall see in Part 5 that capacity in Docklands for a different style of financial services accommodation has turned out to be a driving force for London’s economic growth in the late 1980s right through to now.

Overall, these were favourable conditions for growth of commuting demand in the London and Home Counties area during the 1980s, subject to the initial economic downturn being turned around (which it was):

Favourable conditions for growth of commuting demand in the London and Home Counties during the 1980s

This trend would benefit both the main lines and the Tube. Recorded usage of Tube and rail at various dates is shown above, along with later dates’ estimated Gross Value Added for different parts of the UK economy.

More sophisticated London transport planning and fares structures

What no-one had foreseen at national political or civil service levels were supply-side changes in the attractions of public transport and especially railway services, which were fundamentally a consequence of better transport demand analysis by London Transport, and political decisions taken by the Livingstone GLC leadership during 1981 – 1984.

The planning reality was that London Transport and its successor London Regional Transport (LRT) were far in advance of British Rail in developing new transport modelling applications and the databases to support them. Taken as a whole, these tools spelled the end of the simpler justifications on which new project planning had previously relied.

Measures such as ‘passenger miles per pound spent’, devised by London Transport senior planners such as Dr David Quarmby in the late 1960s and early 1970s to rationalise the benefits of investing in a project which itself might lose money in cash terms, had been taken further in breadth and depth of demand and travel pattern knowledge. For example, it could be beneficial with the new methodology to shut a loss-making service because better value ‘loss-making’ could be achieved elsewhere.

In 1975, London Transport’s corporate aim was: “to sell as much passenger-mileage as possible while meeting the current (mainly financial) constraints”. In addition to ‘Passenger-miles per £’, there was also ‘Achievement’, which was a weighted mix of money and passenger-miles. Increasingly, the value of money over a project timescale, capital availability, inflation and discount rates were built into modelling. The idea was to provide a consistent means of reconciling the often conflicting pressures of finance and public service. (See for example London Transport’s Corporate Aim explained, published in July 1975.)

In addition to this, there were exponential advances in computing power that allowed much more sophisticated models to be developed. There are two dimensions to this – the development of the London Transportation Studies (LTS) model since the 1970s, which provided a sophisticated tool for analysing multimodal effects, and the development by London Transport of an ever-widening range of CBA tools and supporting data. This contrasted with BR’s purely financial appraisals.

By the mid-1980s, the divergence of outcomes from the use of these two conflicting approaches was becoming a serious problem within DTp. Station modernisation was the flashpoint because BR had no methodology for appraising this, and the contrast, once the GLC had been abolished, between the two different approaches used by two nationalised industries with such publicly obvious contrasting outcomes became politically very difficult to handle. In practice the issue was fudged in that LRT was kept on such a tight financial leash that money for new projects hardly existed. The succession of right wing Secretaries of State reinforced that – the Nicholas Ridley approach to LU planning was that it was unnecessary and so all the projects fell with it.

In British Rail’s Network SouthEast (NSE) in the 1990s, the absence of any planning basis was beginning to be felt acutely, and had NSE survived longer, one of its particular targets was to build a “Country Cousin for LTS” for NSE’s Chair Chris Green’s ambition to be the “PTE for the SE” (PTE being passenger transport executive). Dis aliter visum – it seemed otherwise to the gods. It is possible that the burgeoning (and politically awkward) ambitions of NSE to meet growing demand were a – possibly significant – factor in the decision to privatise the railway system.

The fares zoning quadrille

Boarding speeds on 1979’s 45% of bus mileage operated by one-person buses (‘one-man’ in those days) had been considered a deterrent to efficient operation and also depressed passenger volume, so London Transport announced that it would experiment with bus flat-fares in Harrow and Havering early in 1980. A new automatic fare collection (AFC) and automatic ticket checking system was also put in hand in 1979 for the Underground, though this would take at least until 1985 to come to fruition.

The “surprisingly successful” bus experiments, according to the 1980 LT Annual Report, generated “substantial additional travel at no revenue loss, with a 15% overall increase in passenger miles for a loss of 3% of journeys”. Under Corporate Aims, this was worth having everywhere in the suburbs, and was intended later in 1981 for all suburban bus services in Greater London, under the pre-May 1981 Horace Cutler GLC administration. However, the revenue volumes raised by Central London fares, and the relationship with Underground revenue volumes which were dependent on incremental fares on radial routes, meant that general flat-fares including Central London weren’t the first priority.

The change to a Labour-controlled GLC following May 1981’s London elections led to overall fares reduction as a political policy. Flat bus fares were introduced on 4 October 1981 throughout the bus network, in Central London as well as all suburban routes. Additionally, the Underground’s central area was zoned, with overlapping City and West End zones, which could be achieved in the context of a fares reduction as revenue consequences were mitigated. Note that incremental radial fares were still applied outside Central London on the Tube (and what British Rail did was seen as that organisation’s problem). On average, London Transport’s fares level reduced by 32%, partly because of extra concessionary fares deals.

Then Bromley Council weighed in with a legal challenge. They had no Tube so felt they were precepted but didn’t benefit in recompense as much as some other boroughs. The Law Lords’ ruling of 17 December 1981 led to a 100% fares increase on 21 March 1982 from the October 1981 fares levels – but importantly the zonal system then in place was retained as beneficial.

Events then proceeded in parallel. There was a legal ‘friendly’ case between GLC and LT during 1982, to define a new legal basis for LT financial and revenue stability. In practice this allowed an overall 25% fare cut from the March 1982 level. Meanwhile LT officials took the opportunity of this ‘force for change’ to see how further good could come out of adversity (draft ideas for further zoning had already been circulating ahead of October 1981).

There was a strong incentive to see how the bus zonal thinking and precedents elsewhere could enable the creation of an Underground zonal fares scheme alongside the buses, under the aegis of a London political administration keen to stimulate use of public transport. Internally, simplification of the Underground’s new AFC programme was also welcomed.

A new comprehensive zonal fare scheme on the Tube and zonal Travelcards were launched on 22 May 1983. The 1983 LT Annual Report stated that:

the change proved to be much more popular with travellers than such experience has suggested, and the reduction in receipts was only £46m in 1983, £16m better than budget.

The total number of holders of Travelcards and other passes reached about 600,000 by the end of the year, an increase of about a third in committed ‘core users’ of public transport compared with the position before 22 May. Journeys by fare-paying passengers rose by 11 per cent and total passenger-miles travelled rose by 16 per cent, roughly double the predictions.

All this, and the 1981 London Transportation Study, were statements about LT’s emerging sophistication in travel analysis and its ability to transmute that into new initiatives despite difficult external political events. The medium and long-term results on the ground from zoning caused large overall influence on Londoners’ and commuters’ propensity to use bus and Tube in combination.

The 1980s zoning and Travelcards have been arguably at least as important to London as a whole as the massive infrastructure schemes overseen by the London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB) after 1933 – which offered no such fares or ticketing integration. Most of the LPTB’s proposals were about capacity and more efficient operations, not about integration even within LT. This was despite (or because of) the existence of the Standing Joint Committee between LT and the main line railways, where revenues were apportioned to the sixth decimal point as they were so critical to shareholders’ interests.

At last, in 1983 there was a degree of intermodal integration on offer which passengers could easily and cheaply embrace. Just like refuelling a car, you didn’t have to do it every day, you did it occasionally. Paying the bus fare daily, and needing a separate ticket while already owning a monthly or yearly rail season, stopped being a burden inflicted on users by the public transport operator. ‘Soft’ investment was making its mark, as also occurred in the Tyne and Wear area (which opened in 1980) with an innovative range of integrated fare zones, alongside Metro investment and bus/Metro interchanges.

British Rail’s role

BR was the weaker of the London transport organisations on forward planning for the London catchment. Its Policy Unit focused, on the statistical side (it had other key roles as well), on national trends and demographics, including economic and social trends, national demand factors and cost parameters which were fed into cyclical marketing and corporate business plans. Those were inevitably influenced by the prevailing political and civil service policy priorities which overlaid the BR Board’s preferences. Also, many specific market factors were assessed by each of BR’s sector businesses, which for London commuting prioritised jobs and population forecasts, and annual Central London cordon counts and future projections for inbound morning peak and outbound afternoon peak demand.

A wider view on the role of national rail within London, which was set out by BR whenever reasonable to do so, proved difficult to transmute into a continuum of consistent delivery plans because of the immense short-term financial pressures that BR always faced. BR was nevertheless drawn into the heart of transport planning solutions for London because of its commuting capacity, and its ability to ‘join up missing dots’ in terms of urban rail links.

This was to be a critical component in the mid-to-late 1980s London railway projects, such as Thameslink 2000, and capital investment on the ‘classic’ main line rail system. It also helped greatly that, under the leadership of Chris Green, the launch of BR’s NSE branding from June 1986 was a fundamental stimulus to achieve more with the main line railway resources which were available across London in large quantity, greatly assisted by NSE equipping itself with the right transport modeling tools for its ambitions.

Change in public support for main line rail in the London area was also signalled by the creation in 1985 of ‘Capitalcard’, as a higher priced zonal season ticket allowing inter-availability on the LRT ‘Travelcard’ area and on the British Rail (BR) main lines. The changes in commuting into London in the morning peak by rail modes say it all, with a 28% overall increase in rail travel and a 76% increase in combined BR/LT rail travel between 1982 and 1988/89. Some of this was bus travel’s loss, where rail was more affordable and competitive on time and reliability.

Capitalcard was amalgamated into Travelcard by 1989, as LRT fares rose deliberately faster than BR’s in that period. The table below shows the direct impact of an integrated Travelcard, in the form it finally took. A recession from 1989/90, following on from Black Monday in 1987, knocked out some of the impetus, along with RPI-plus pricing especially on LRT, but the shift in passenger travel preferences is quite clear:

As we have seen in Part 3, the £100m funding that Sir Horace Cutler had identified in 1979 had been spent on constructing the DLR and local roads by 1986 when the GLC was abolished. So any Tube extension or new rail line was completely dependent once more on a subsidy from Her Majesty’s Treasury – which effectively put paid to it for much of the Thatcher era – even if London was the nation’s economic heart. The King’s Cross fire of November 1987 changed some of that thinking and reinstated some investment priorities, alongside growth in demand which was foreseen in the late 1980s’ Underground Capacity Study
and the Central London Rail Study.

Fragmentation into individual rail schemes

A consequence of Thatcherism was that a ‘free market’ also prevailed on the supply of ideas and priorities. With centralised transport authorities being held in disregard (LRT planning and NSE survived as institutional exceptions), and with no centralised London land use planning whatsoever from the mid-1980s, there was something of a vacuum – which nature abhors.

So if you were a confident developer in the 1980s – or indeed confident local authority keen to create a regeneration zone or new economic hub – and had a clear brief and some funding, then it was open to you to press the case for a new transport project if that were required to open up the area’s accessibility. For example, the DLR Lewisham extension and Croydon Tramlink were coming to the boil in terms of local priority in the late 1980s. The local authorities and related project supporters had to work through LRT and directly into central Government, and secure wider stakeholder support, to make any headway with their aspirations, but the projects were being promoted on a route-by-route basis rather than through centralised planning and prioritisation.

A new generation of developers

The East London Line extension north from Whitechapel was potentially reliant on progress by Grand Met of a brewery redevelopment in Brick Lane, and also on planning approvals for redevelopment at London & Edinburgh Trust’s Bishopsgate Goods Yard. This example illustrates what was an alive financial opportunity for some rail schemes in London prior to ‘Black Monday’ in October 1987. The developers wouldn’t have paid for the entire railway, but would have funded enough to trigger the government to support it, which should have led to Treasury funding.

The Thatcherite free market zone par excellence was, of course, the LDDC area. No rates to pay in the Enterprise Zone, and much planning freedom, subject to LDDC’s house rules and whatever else local Boroughs might be able to influence. No one anticipated what might happen – three-storey sheds were as far as people hoped initially (another reason why a Tube hadn’t been seen as worthwhile) and a few of those sheds still exist, such as Billingsgate Market which we saw in the last instalment.

The BAA-funded Heathrow railway is another ‘developer’ example, and remains as a stand-alone scheme to the 2010s. In this case, the railway was planned as a joint venture by BR and BAA (initially British Airports Authority, later BAA PLC), but was transferred wholly to BAA upon the start of railway privatisation policy – indeed it could be argued to be the first (though unbuilt) railway to be privatised. BAA and its successors are the main shareholder, with a specific air travel objective, and the railway’s financing is also on a stand-alone basis, so that Heathrow railway fares are not integrated with the outer west London zones. As a result, the Heathrow railway achieves less for west London integrated transport and for public transport interchange than it might otherwise do.

Underground Capacity Study (UCS) 1986-87 and CLRS 1988-89

In terms of explicit railway planning processes, there was an Underground Capacity Study in 1986 – 1987 which demonstrated that ‘do nothing’ on rail capacity was not a realistic option, given the post-recession and post-zoning travel trends. Relief of the Central line in East London was favoured, among other projects.

The new London dynamics then transmuted into a strategic Central London Rail Study (1988-89) which prioritised which big schemes to do in which order, or so it was thought – and all to be subject to viability tests:

  1. Crossrail (later called Crossrail 1)
  2. Chelsea-Hackney ‘Chelney’ tube line (later called Crossrail 2, at mainline railway gauge)
  3. Jubilee line extension to Ilford

Other schemes being developed or thought about in official circles in the late 1980s included: the DLR City, Beckton and Lewisham extensions; thoughts on an East London Line expansion and the Metropolitan Croxley-Watford link. In BR territory, examples included: Thameslink 2000; the Heathrow railway; Channel Tunnel Rail Link and a Luton-Dunstable rail project. A line to Stansted Airport was also under construction. So it could be concluded that governmental limitations weren’t stopping the upswell in capacity pressures and demands for extended or extra railways, from a renascent London – and indeed from London and the Home Counties.

In parallel, by 1985 some City financial firms, headed by American companies Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse First Boston, were starting to eye the Docklands with its planning freedoms. It enabled affordable land close to the City for the larger trading floors and additional offices they were starting to need, and, with DLR being built, there was a visible mass transit link. Reg Ward’s vision and the LDDC’s marketing style were starting to pay off, in ways he and the DoE hadn’t anticipated.

The emerging development was called Canary Wharf, and it would change not just the Fleet line, but in some ways the whole sphere of transport east of the centre. We will explore it in Part 5.

Acknowledgements to Graham H and Long Branch Mike for their contributions.

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There are 82 comments on this article
  1. Greg Tingey says:

    Poor old Thamesmead, I note.
    Always the bridesmaid – & still is so, it seems.

  2. Steeevooo says:

    A very interesting article though, which, for younger readers such as myself, offer a very useful and informative insight into the policies, thinking, structures and processes of the ’80s.

  3. Stuart says:

    The table showing the direct impact of an integrated Travelcard doesn’t work for me

  4. Anonymous says:

    Not read the article in full yet but I *really* like the header image. It rocks.

  5. John Bull says:

    The table showing the direct impact of an integrated Travelcard doesn’t work for me

    Large tables are always tricky. It’s an embedded Google Spreadsheet which is about as accessible as we can make it, but if your workplace blocks that kind of thing you may have to check it from home later!

  6. Graham H says:

    @Steeevooo – but, Hey! What goes around etc – we seem to be having a re-run of the ’80s with Grayling pulling the levers.

  7. Sykobee says:

    For me, the URL says Part 5, and the article Part 4…

    Still, a nice article, a good warmup to Canary Wharf changing everything after partial stasis in the mid 80s.

  8. quinlet says:

    Perhaps I could add three points:
    First, LT was initially opposed to the introduction of travelcards because of the potential (in their view) revenue loss. The GLC had to insist. Even after their success London Tribunals opposed one-day travelcards without photocards because of the potential for fraud. Again the GLC had to insist. The feeling at the time within the GLC was that LT was still convinced that they were just managing decline This was put to me at the time by a senior LT planner that there was a ‘secular decline’ in the use of public transport which was irreversible. I replied to him that I was quite in favour of religious declines but not secular.

    Second, the choice of route for HS1(as it is now known) was less about its contribution to the economic fortunes of East London than about deliverability. Indeed, Newham Council had to fight very hard to get a station at Stratford at all. BR had preferred a route through SouthEast London, which was technically optimal, but, as I was told at the time: ‘who in their right minds would propose a new railway lime through four marginal constituencies just before a general election. Arup’s route reduced the housing take from over 700 to 2 and this sold it.

    Finally it is an interesting hindsight that I attended a meeting with Michael Portillo as rail minister, just after CLRS had been published. He was not then known as the rail fan he is now more widely known as, but he committed to approving two of the three main proposals before the end of that Parliament. Sadly, he only managed one.

  9. Anonymous says:

    “…last ditch…”


    Love it.

  10. Graham H says:

    @quinlet – what became HS1 was not at all about regeneration: it was seen inside BR as simply the only available solution to potential overcrowding on SE. Indeed, both its London terminus and any intermediate stations remained undefined for a long time.

    Portillo, with whom I worked very closely on a daily basis in the Department, was always supportive of good rail investment cases (and a major factor in stopping the closure of Settle-Carlisle) although he kept his enthusiasms fairly private in the face of one particular hostile senior official and a succession of curious Secretaries of State.

  11. Malcolm says:

    I thought that what HS1 was initally about was international trains. (The clue might be in its earlier name of Channel Tunnel Rail Link). Its use by domestic trains was a handy add-on — possibly an essential one to help justify the price (*), granted. Speeding at TGV speeds across northern France and across the channel, then trundling at third rail speeds through the platforms of south London was (correctly in my view) perceived as a showcase for British inability to keep up.

    (*) … and provide the mechanism, as Jonathan says, for a poorly-concealed subsidy for the international trains.

  12. Robert Carroll says:

    The usage table is fascinating. Any idea what the last 20 or so years look like?

  13. Graham H says:

    @Malcolm – not so. The first version of HS1 had nothing whatsoever to do with international trains and was conceived as a relief to the existing domestic services. I have in my archive the NSE strategic plan of 1991 which shows the Kent fast link leading to, err, Kent. Amongst other things, the initial planning (and execution ) of the services to the near Continent relied entirely on the use of existing routes (the choice wasbetween BT1 and BT2). . Had that not been so, WIT would never have happened.

  14. Graham H says:

    I should have added that the Kent Fast Link was conceived wellbefore anyone knew that a Channel Fixed Link was going to happen, let alone be a rail link. (You will recall that MT’s preference was for a drive through tunnel, and, next, for a road bridge…)

  15. @Graham H

    What are BT1 and BT2? I know that WIT is Waterloo International Terminal, and that MT is Margaret Thatcher.

  16. Malcolm says:

    Well I never. It was renamed CTRL just to confuse the public (and me) I take it.

    The use of BT1/2 was, I thought, just because a high speed link could not be built fast enough. And building Waterloo International (rather than using those nice long boat train platforms at Victoria) was because it was thought that any high speed link would take a few decades to become unavoidable and/or get funded.

  17. Malcolm says:

    The BTs are the boat train routes, rather confusingly adopted as the way for the channel tunnel trains to get between London and the channel. Boat trains, of course, are not amphibious vehicles, but trains designed to connect with boats.

  18. Graham H says:

    @Malcolm – there you are; something new every day.

  19. Phil says:

    Re Graham H

    BT1 is Victoria – Herne Hill – Orpington – Tonbridge – Asford – Dover / Folkestone / Channel Tunnel

    BT2 is Victoria – Catford -Swanley – Maidstone – Asford – Dover / Folkestone / Channel Tunnel

    Also HS1 ( originally called the “Channel Tunnel Rail Link” on ALL project planning ) had EVERYTHING to do with the Channel Tunnel. Yes BR / NSE may have at some stage previously identified at a high level the need for a LGV style line at some point in the future for domestic traffic in Kent, but the simple fact is the economics of building such a line to Kent for domestic traffic don’t stack up (hence all the concerns expressed in Parliamentary select communities over the years that the Financial figures justifying for HS1 were suspect.

    WIT was built precisely because BR knew it wasn’t going to get authorization for what became HS1 anytime soon – and it needed to do something to accommodate Eurostars in the meantime. Victoria lacked the space necessary to build a terminal capable of handling the vast numbers of travelers the lengthy – it only had two long platforms that could be closed off for immigration purposes and even these are too short to take a full Eurostar set, besides there was no way of accommodating the necessary security / immigration facilities + strict separation between arriving and departing passengers there given the numbers of travelers each Eurostar set holds, so a brand new site was needed – which basically left Waterloo as the only London terminal with enough railway land to build an International station.

  20. 100andthirty says:

    Malcolm…..although one boat train a night did actually go on the boat…..the Night Ferry….made up of ancient Wagons Lits sleeping cars which by the early ’70s had been “done up” internally in the favourite upholstery colour of the day…..Orange. The clanking of chains to tie the cars to the deck of the ferry did nothing for a good night’s sleep. It can’t have lasted much longer after I travelled in about 1972 or 1973

  21. Malcolm says:

    Waterloo – the only possibility? I seem to remember (or did I imagine it) Olympia as being an alternative “possibility”, but of course that would have been almost as ridiculous as dumping international travelers at Paddington 🙂

  22. Graham H says:

    @Phil – Sorry, I was there and you weren’t (unless Phil conceals the name of one of my staff). If you had been on my staff, you too might have sat through the endless discussions between the Board and DTp about whether BT1 or BT 2 was better and whether we needed to spend any money on them. CTRL was not discussed at the time and there were no plans laid for its London terminus. If you had been on my staff in NSE subsequently, you would have known that what became CTRL was conceived before anyone even began to think of a fixed link to the Continent.
    So far as the Board was concerned, Eurostar was expected to use the Boat Train routes for the foreseeable future, only when the actual performance of the routes became clearer were the Kent Link plans dusted off and rebranded.

    We took the planning of the future Kent High Speed Link/CTRL sufficiently far to attach a cost and a route to that and include the putative rolling stock in our long term requirements. The business case depended on the extent to which the government would be willing to fund the maintenance of service quality and in that sense, it was absolutely no different to funding extra stock or Crossrail – other things for which BR had plans. We – and the Department – knew that conventional business cases couldn’t be made. Indeed, that was the whole point of NSE’s strategic plan – the state had to make the choice between funding these investments or agreeing to a fall in quality.

    Yes, WIT was well known as the only possible terminus for all the reasons you state, except that immigration formalities were not the issue – as late as 1992, it was assumed that these would take place on the train itself.

  23. Malcolm says:

    So to sum up, would it be correct to say that it was domestic traffic which caused HS1 to be planned, but it was international traffic that caused it to be funded. Since both planning and funding are necessary, the best answer to “Was it built for domestic or international traffic?” would seem to be “Yes”.

  24. Malcolm says:

    Graham: These endless discussions about BT1 or BT2 and possible enhancements – I take it this was in the context of their use for channel tunnel traffic? And did no-one involved in these discussions at the time spot the possible relevance of the plans for the Kent High Speed link which were meanwhile sitting gathering dust in a nearby cupboard? I know hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I’m still doing a bit of a double take here…

  25. NickBxn says:

    Well that’s interesting news – as all the while I thought that Kent Link was a cut-price branding exercise by attaching stickers to the ageing slam door trains while waiting for the Networkers. I’m obviously not the only one to be surprised to find that a 70-mile long peninsula (boat services notwithstanding) would be more deserving of high-speed relief than, say, the longer-distance southwesterly direction towards Southhampton and Exeter. I would be interested to know – prior to the tunnel being considered – whether there was any anticipation that the high speed line would contribute much to development of foot passenger ferry volumes, even though the overall business case, as said, didn’t stack up.

  26. Malcolm says:

    NickBxn: Me too. Except that of course capacity relief is not the same thing as high speed relief, though they do tend to be linked together, either in reality or the public mind. The usual formula is (need more capacity) -> (build new tracks) -> (while we’re at it, make them high speed).

  27. Ian J says:

    @Malcolm: Olympia as being an alternative “possibility”

    Wasn’t that proposed as part of the 1970s Channel Tunnel scheme? (The cost of the new rail line being an excuse used to kill off the whole thing). Which is itself a reminder that schemes for what became HS1 predate the 1980s.

  28. Greg Tingey says:

    Once past the Chilselhurst connecting junctions – put in immediately after the SER/LCDR amalgamation, 1899-1902 approx, then BT1 = the SER route & BT2 = the LCDR route – except, shouldn’t it be: Chilsehurst – Rochester – Faversham – Dover (?)
    Vic eastern was the LCDR terminus & Charing X the SER one before then.
    Diversion down the ex- LCDR line trundling through Maidstone to Ashford was a diversionary route, surely?
    [ Taking it on a Eurostar was very slow bumble, I can tell you ]

    For a detailed history see Rixon Bucknalll’s “Boat Trains & Channel Packets” though I believe copies are as rare as rocking-horse droppings these days.

    Graham H
    immigration formalities were not the issue – as late as 1992, it was assumed that these would take place on the train itself.
    Yes, & would that said very sensible suggestion had been followed.
    Grrrrr ….

    To an extent, as we all know higher speed IS higher capacity, isn’t it?

  29. Greg Tingey says:

    Anonymous_ ( & everyone)
    I would love to see the current/updated version of that plot.

    “Driverless cars will make public transport obsolete” – not

  30. Southern Heights (Light Railway) says:

    I seem to recall a grumbling back bencher in the late ’90’s saying that the U.K. had no need for a high speed rail link… As he was from Kent I can only assume he was a Tory MP. … But then I’m sure the similar things were said when the railways first appeared!

  31. Graham H says:

    @Malcolm and others. Right here goes,with advance apologies for the length of post.

    First, you must remember that the ’80s and ’90s were a period of extreme fluidity in rail planning terms. The GLC had been abolished, NSE had not got going, and many leading politicians were (a) anti-planning, but (b) had their own pet ideas. Taking the question of the use of the Kent Fast Link by Eurostar, the combination may seem logical with the benefit of hindsight but that’s not how they emerged. The Kent Line appeared because the engineers could find no alternative to capacity relief on the SEML once the trains had been lengthened and the power upgraded. In its very early version, I seem to recall Cannon Street as being a possible terminus.

    By 1991 -I have in front of me NSE’s “Future Rail: the London Agenda” – the line had mutated to become *Kings Cross International* to Ashford, with a total cost of £1.6bn including stock. That may, to answer NickBxn, seem a lot but the other congestion relief measures included CR1, TLK and the SWML fifth tracking – so, not out of line in that context. Bear in mind, too, that major infrastructure works were funded differently in those nationalised days and didn’t weigh on the businesses. Note also that in those days, London Bridge didn’t require the massive rebuild it has now had, and that TLK was due to go to Ashford, Horsham and Guildford.

    The choice of terminus for Eurostar followed a different path. Victoria was for some time the preferred choice as it had the platform length and theoretically the spare capacity; as noted Olympia was a possible alternative but lacked the connexions to centralLondon. It must have been in the later ’80s that a youthful Michael Schabas spent a morning in my office trying to persuade me of the virtues of Waterloo as an alternative (his presentation culminated in a mock up view out from the terminus with Parliament in the background and the strapline “And so we can say that we have truly arrived in central London). No mention of HS1 but a lot of discussion about BT1 and BT2.

    *Kings Cross International*? Remember that at this time, it was still believed by Ministers that there would be overnight train services through the tunnel to regional centres in Britain and these would naturally start from KX where some existing sleepers started and the platform lengths were suitable. Note that there was no mention of St P.

    Things changed in the early ’90s – St P was taken away from Railtrack and vested separately in a move which anticipated its possible use as HS1’s terminus. WIT had been selected and built. Stratford had reared its ugly head. The ONS had been mothballed and so KX passed out of contention. However, funding for HS1 was hard to find. Mrs T had set her face against a penny of public money going into the Eurotunnel project and indeed against investment in the rail system generally. The realisation that HS1 would never be built unless it was as a commuter line primarily dawned slowly once there was a change of PM but got caught up in the general emeute over privatisation. I seem to recall timetabler colleagues struggling with producing workable timetables for the Kent commuter services as late as 1998.

  32. Reggie says:

    During the late 1970s, I worked in a very minor Customs policy department (not Whitehall, but within sight of it). We were something of a backwater, and were responsible for four subject areas: the Continental Shelf, offshore oil pipelines, the geographic limits on the powers of Customs officers, and the Channel Tunnel.

    The first two subjects generated most of our day-to-day work, and the third was temporarily busy because of a once-a-century exercise to redraft deficient Statutory Instruments; but I don’t recall anything disturbing the slumbers of our Channel Tunnel files during my time there. Although it was a logical grouping, the attitude in this particular Branch was that it would never happen, and it had only ended up with us because nobody else wanted it.

    Given the eventual success of the Tunnel, and the way it has become part of our national identity, it sometimes surprises me how we thought of its construction as unlikely, even impossible, back in those days.

  33. Fandroid says:

    When trying to imagine the attitudes of those historical times we should remember that a Channel Tunnel was being planned very seriously in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It actually got as far as the start of construction in 1974. It was a change of government (to Labour) that got it aborted in 1975. That doesn’t alter the facts about rail service connections to the tunnel but reminds us that those plans were far from hypothetical.

  34. Southern Heights (Light Railway) says:

    @Reggie: That would be the “national London identity”, I have colleagues Oop North who would never even consider using either the Shuttle or the Eurostar. When I memtion I’ve nipped over to the continent for the weekend (or heaven forbid a beer run on a Saturday), their reaction is invariably one of astonishment!

    They know it exists but only in an abstract way. The fact that you could actually use it, is something they wouldn’t consider. To them it’s only ferries that get you across the channel…

  35. Purley Dweller says:

    I’ve got to the point where it’s only ferries that get you across the channel too. I have been on Eurostar several times and a great service it is too. But to take 4 of us to Bruges in April will cost 340 quid. Disney was quoted to me at the best part of a grand. Against £150 return on the ferry I can’t justify the cost. But then I can’t justify the cost of going to Devon for the weekend on the train either which is a shame because I much prefer the train to the car.

    As for the shuttle I booked it last year and there was a power failure. The complete disaster that is the Calais terminal decided me that I would never do it again. I didn’t do it then either, I went out of the back and got a ferry for an extra 30 quid.

  36. Joseph says:

    My take on the central london rail study is a follows. Annoying for the government the tube and south east rail were getting busier; some serious pressure was starting to build up to spend some capital money, not something the thatcher government was inclined to do. So the first thing to do was set up a study; then every time the minister was asked what he was doing about overcrowding on the tube he would say I can not do anything until the CLRS reports. Then the CLRS reports and the minister can say I can not do anything until the government can considered the report. Then of course by the time the report is considered we have a cyclical recession and tube use went down. Then the minister can say actually on second thought we don’t need to do anything.

    Looking at the study itself it seems that it was finely balanced between hackney to Chelsea and east west cross rail. There is a nice table in section 6.1. As we all know cross rail came out top and was built. But the financial model shows £330m on trains for hackney to Chelsea and £15m for cross rail as it would use almost exclusively existing trains. With new rolling stock for both hackney to Chelsea would have become less expensive than cross rail. Presumably the writers believed that in the 10 minutes the terminators spent at Paddington they could just travel to Liverpool Street and vice-a-versus. Bingo who needs new trains or even any more trains. Now given the ones on the west were diesel and the ones in the east had slam doors, a bit like 1890’s self opening tube doors, how did this fallacy survive in the report; was it deliberate to scupper hackney to Chelsea with tube stations in solid labour Islington and Hackney? Much better to put great big stations in conservative Westminster and City of London?

  37. Anonymously says:

    @Graham H….Is this ‘NSE “Future Rail: the London Agenda”’ available anywhere on the web? I’m curious to find out what is in it regarding these ‘Kent relief lines’. Were they to be built parallel to the existing BT1/2 routes, or take an entirely new alignment?

    Now, if only there was a way on LR for contributors to share interesting archival documents in their possession that do not have any copyright issues 😉….

    @Joseph….Probably less to do with political conspiracy theory, and more to do with a genuine oversight on the part of the report’s authors?

  38. Graham H says:

    @SHLR – Yes! I did a due diligence project on an NR subcontractor in Folkestone for a firm of accountants; the accountancy end was supplied from our Manchester office, We stayed in Folkestone and my Manchester colleagues were amazed to find that they could make the evening trip to France on the shuttle for a few pounds. A carfull (I didn’t accompany them as I knew what would happen) set off and ate out in Calais. They returned saying what a really good time they had had in an Indian restaurant there. I won; you are right…

    The due diligence was fun. The target firm specialised in current isolation during engineering possessions. Their business flourished because they were so far down the food chain that NR didn’t notice the 500% mark up they charged. The MD needed to sell because he was having an affair with his HR director and needed to buy out his wife’s share and feed his midlife crisis purchase of superbikes. I pointed out that the whole business depended on NR not taking the thing back in-house. The bank agreed with me….

  39. 100andthirty says:

    Graham H…….your story about the current isolation company sounds horribly like a miniature version of one of the Underground PPP companies (no names, no snip!)

  40. Man of Kent says:

    @Graham H

    I spent a very brief period working on the high speed proposals circa 1991, when there was expected to be a Mid Kent Parkway station, between Maidstone and the Medway Towns. This was eventually rejected because of a desire to keep the green gap between the two settlements.

    If I remember correctly, Ebbsfleet did not figure until Michael Heseltine’s regeneration agenda included the Thames Gateway.

    Incidentally, the Chris Green authored “Network Southeast Story” gives 24 January 1994 as the date of the decision to use St Pancras as the Eurostar terminus – exactly three weeks before Waterloo International opened (and a little over two months before Railtrack started trading).

  41. Graham H says:

    @Man of Kent – thanks for that -I’d forgotten the MidKent Parkway – the dates seem to reinforce my dim recollections (always a good thing as one gets older…). Ebbsfleet another Hezza -led disaster.
    @130 !

  42. Londoner in Scotland says:

    With reference to property developer contributions, mentioned towards the end of the article, it is worth recalling the extent to which BRB exploited the 1980s property boom to obtain funds, most of which were not restricted to any particularly purpose. In ‘British Rail 1974-97’ Terry Gourvish quotes the Broadgate development at Liverpool Street producing income totalling £415 millions by March 1993, to be set against a cost of £152 millions for rebuilding Liverpool Street station. To put this sum in context, electrification of the East Coast Main Line north from Hitchin cost £420 millions (per authorised account of the scheme written by Peter Semmens). Around the same time, other property development schemes went ahead at Charing Cross, Cannon Street, Fenchurch Street and what is now City Thameslink. And there was Chelsea Harbour as well.

  43. timbeau says:

    @Graham H
    “Remember that at this time, it was still believed by Ministers that there would be overnight train services through the tunnel to regional centres in Britain and these would naturally start from KX where some existing sleepers started ”
    As late as 1991?

    “Presumably the writers believed that in the 10 minutes the terminators spent at Paddington they could just travel to Liverpool Street and vice-a-versus. Bingo who needs new trains or even any more trains. Now given the ones on the west were diesel and the ones in the east had slam doors, a bit like 1890’s self opening tube doors, how did this fallacy survive in the report”
    That is how Thameslink was justified – a reduction in the number of trains – although north of the Thames they were ac (and had sliding doors) and south of it they were dc (and were slam door).

    And given the age of the rolling stock on the GWML and GEML in the late 1980s, it was likely that both would need new trains very soon. (Which they got, in the form of Networker Turbos and 321 “Dusty Bins” respectively)

  44. Anonymously says:

    @timbeau….Don’t forget that the Nightstar wasn’t formally cancelled until the mid-90s….it even got as far as coaching stock being built for it that eventually found a new life in Canada. Wikipedia has more details.

    TL might have required (at least as originally conceived) fewer trains overall, once terminating services were converted to through services, but unless they were planning to redeploy 313s(!), new dual-voltage stock would still be needed, hence the 319s.

  45. Graham H says:

    @Anonymously – indeed,when I reviewed the operation of the Royal Train for the Palace in 1997, we looked at buying and converting some of the ONS as a replacement for the existing stock.

    [ONS means overnight stock in this context, not Office of National Statistics. LBM]

  46. Timbeau says:

    @anon/Graham h

    It was the reference to sleeper services operating out of Kings Cross in 1991 I was querying. They were all transferred to Euston in 1988 – despite protests from Northumberland MPs, who seemed to be their main market!

  47. Jonathan Roberts says:

    @ Robert Carroll 17 March 2017 at 19:29
    The desire for more up to date stats on commuting patterns is noted! You could look at TfL’s Travel in London series, they are quite comprehensive. A separate LR article might be merited in due course, to give a critique of changes over a long time frame.

    It is interesting that rail modes were, even in the early 1990s and partly thanks to Travelcard, effectively shouldering some of the short distance radial travel volumes previously on buses/ trolleybuses/ trams in earlier decades. (Though one should also be aware of the loss of much inner London manufacturing activity whose workforce was a large-scale user of surface public transport in the decades up to the 1960s/70s.)

    Nowadays those sites are already housing or converting to that, in large measure. Strategic Industrial Land is shrinking in geographical scale and being encouraged to be more space efficient in the remaining areas – see for example Docklands, and various Opportunity Area plans such as Oak Oak & Park Royal, Vauxhall Battersea Nine Elms, and the Old Kent Road/New Cross-Lewisham-Catford areas.

    Whether high reliance on continuing capacity of rail modes, for additional commuting originating in inner London, will be sustainable in future is an interesting topic for discussion. See LR’s ‘Peak Tube’ article [] for foreseen pressures on the Underground, and preceding Parts 3 and 4 London 2050 articles for the main line pressures.

    There is increasing outer London population (see the London 2050 expectations) which will have little choice but to use rail, and yet we are seeing high growth in Zones 2 and 3 populations arising already and much more forecast. So there is a case for more short distance passengers being encouraged to use surface transport (buses and other modes).

    However it is unclear how this might be achieved if buses are reduced in volume to/from central London which is the current policy arising because of severe cash limits within TfL. Increased road congestion is also getting in the way of efficient bus journey times and reliable services, and indeed is deterring bus travel.

  48. Graham H says:

    @Timbeau – KX retained the scope – perhaps I should have said – for accommodating lengthy trains such as sleepers. Euston would have been too difficult (sc expensive) to reach from HS1 (as we all know these days) and St P lacked the length.

  49. From the Seventies says:

    Looking at the table of rail and other transport usage, it seems that up until the late 1990s (and beyond) it really was reasonable to assume the rail usage was inexorably declining and was an industry from the past (and busses too). And how surprising and indeed “shocking” it is that this has completely changed over the last twenty years. In that period, claims about ‘congestion’ just sound like special pleading, since people believed you could place employment and shopping in large out-of-town complexes. Hence it is not surprising that many people were quietly waiting for rail to just whither away.

    The last twenty years have seen employment concentrated in fewer, larger, centres. With something similar for retail, and in particular social activities. The explosion in rail based transport it has caused could not have been anticipated. The transport world really has changed in a way which would have staggered policy-makers little more than thirty years ago. It makes me wonder what things might look like in another thirty or forty years.

  50. Graham H says:

    @From the ’70s – in the late eighties, we had begun to notice a distinct upturn in NSE commuting into London, which has continued, with a blip in the early nineties, ever since. That was the basis on which BR indicated to the department that the loading standards couldn’t be maintained without substantial investment. The Treasury took a punt at privatisation that the upswing rather than the downswing was the blip….

    The headline figures conceal some important shifts, however. You will notice the secular decline of bus trips into the CAZ; whereas in the ’50s, there was a roughly equal split between tube, bus and BR, by the late ’80s, bus was barely more important than car/cycle. Within the apparent growth figures for BR, the BR commuting from within the GLC area remained fairly static; the growth was largely concentrated in the longer distance markets. Given the acceleration in London property prices, this trend seems set to continue, so long as CLE [central London employment. LBM] continues to rise.

    I agree very much with your view that the pattern of employment and retail has also changed significantly, although that too is probably part of a long term secular trend. One has to think only of the decline and fall of so many suburban shopping centres and department stores – Kensington springs to mind, West Ealing, Wealdstone, and so on. But that trend could be traced further back to the decline and fall of the department stores in the Strand and Tottenham Court Road, and the steady conversion of local shops into flats everywhere. (The West Ealing in which I grew up had little parades of three or four shops in every third or fourth street – all gone now.)

  51. Anonymous says:

    While most readers no doubt appreciate the in-depth comments from those that have been in and around the events being discussed, could I ask commentators to consider the use of plain English and to avoid acronyms wherever possible (or to otherwise explain what they mean)? At the risk of appearing obtuse, some of the (very interesting) commentary is otherwise lost to the casual reader.

  52. Sad Fat Dad says:

    *Pedant* Black Friday is mentioned a few times in relation to the financial crash in October ’87.

    For those of us who were there, it was definitely Black Monday 19 October, the first day the financial markets were opened after the great storm. A huge amount of money was thrown away in the markets.

    Whereas Black Friday is the last Friday in November, where a huge amount of money is thrown away in the (super)markets.
    (Other retail channels are available)

  53. Southern Heights (Light Railway) says:

    @Graham H: I doubt that you’d find a curry house in Calais these days, although it begs the question: WTF would you go to France for a curry???????

    Which reminds me… Beer and wine stocks are running low….

  54. Balthazar says:

    Re: Graham H – your reference to Kings Cross International and sleeper trains has confused me. My first recollection of the-line-that-eventually-became-HS1, along with Malcolm and others it would seem, had it as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and entering London from the south east with a subterranean station on a south-north alignment at King’s Cross (somehow located underground between the surface stations of KX and St Pancras, I think, although it’s hazy) and I believe connected on to the West and East Coast main lines. I also seem to recall artist’s impressions of super-Networker Class 381 (?) trains in Network SouthEast colours for domestic services.

    (I now appreciate that what I always thought of as the CTRL had a much longer heritage than I was aware of before reading your posts here.)

    Nonetheless, I had assumed that all the Channel Tunnel passenger services then planned – three capitals and regional Eurostar* plus sleeper services originating/terminating both in London and the regions – would have used these low-level platforms.

    So could you clarify your reference to the supposed suitability of Cubitt’s King’s Cross station for international sleeper services? I’m struggling to see how they would have got on to the CTRL (or indeed Boat Train Routes BT1 or BT2 as alternatives) if they had used the north-facing terminus “upstairs”.

    *I think it was still referred to as TMST (TransManche Super Train) at the time, although this was the project title rather than a proposed public service brand. (The Eurostar brand came relatively late; I recall around the same time Private Eye writing disparagingly of “TGV on one side of the Channel, Network South East on the other” while going on about the orange high speed trains that would run between London and Paris.)

  55. Graham H says:

    @SHLR -well that’s (some) Mancunians for you…

  56. [email protected] says:

    Maybe folk have forgotten how much the City Corporation cared
    I recall the leaflet they dished out to commuters, trying for example to get support for the Docklands extension underground to go not to Bank, but to Cannon Street and well beyond.

  57. Graham H says:

    @Balthazar – I suspect that the “truth” of what was intended will remain forever uncertain. The projected cost of pre-HS1 (£1.6bn) would almost certainly not have allowed for the construction of a massive subterranean station and the NSE planning documentation makes no mention of daytime services on the link (this in 1991). And WIT was certainly not seen as a *temporary* home for Eurostars until some point after 1991 – not least because the EU would have demanded their money back pdq for the International Junction flyover – and NSE forward plans for SWML in 1991 assumed that the Eurostar terminus was permanently lost to commuter traffic . I do recall a somewhat later (and very short lived) proposal for a 2 terminus solution to Eurostar, but I have a feeling that that was after 1994 when St P had come into the picture and there was still the initial euphoria about cross-Channel traffic growth. I’m sorry I can’t pin things down more closely from the documents I still have; as I remarked, rail planning was very fluid after 1984

  58. Walthamstow Writer says:

    An interesting view of what transpired in the 80s. Although not directly involved in the planning occasionally I got sight of what the LU “Line Extensions” Directorate were up to in the 80s and 90s. It’s interesting and depressing that it takes us an inordinate amount of time to get anything of substance done and that it seems the divergence between TfL / DfT planning and project appraisal regimes remains in place. If people ever want to see the stresses and strains placed on London from the “laissez faire” approach to funding and planning transport then just dig out some of the relevant Thames News clips on Youtube. You can see the stress on the faces of senior LRT people who know the system is creaking dangerously but they can’t overtly criticise Ministers (their ultimate bosses).

    Two related remarks. Firstly the reference to LRT’s structure seems a little defective to me. Yes London Buses (LB) were required to establised a Tendered Bus Division (TBD) to tender the route network. However LB remained an operator with extensive support and engineering facilities and London Underground was not merely a “management organisation”. It owned the tube network and had all the attendant engineering and operational responsibilities.

    Secondly (shameless plug) if any is interested in the Fares Fare fares and ticketing info then I have scans of the public leaflet for Fares Fare on Flickr.

    https:[email protected]/sets/72157632882951244/

    I also possess the “Just the Ticket” leaflet for the later fares reduction but that’s not scanned. I can do that if people are interested.

  59. Ian J says:

    @Balthazar: a subterranean station on a south-north alignment at King’s Cross

    See here for the scheme, as designed by Norman Foster in the late 1980s (and here for its formal abandonment). It was for a combined Thameslink and international through station: I think that Thameslink was planned to have four platforms instead of the two it ended up with.

    This Hansard extract from 1992 makes it clear that the Kings Cross International scheme was presented by BR as a *second* international terminal, and also as being separate to the CTRL scheme. The comments from Lord Rea suggest the money was to come roughly a third from Thameslink, a third from the CTRL, and a third from general improvements to the station for Intercity services). Funding was also linked to the redevelopment of the King’s Cross railway lands (expected to cover 60% of the cost in the late 80s according to Lord Rea). It is also clear that the project was under a lot of doubt by 1992.

    See also here for a compendium of all kinds of information about the CTRL planning process.

  60. ngh says:

    Re Graham H,

    International (Waterloo) curve – how long was the period for it to remain “in use” to avoid grant repayment?

    Is it the usual 40 years? Hence were stuck with it till 2034 ish???

  61. @Anonymous of 6.27pm

    Anonymous correctly points out that much of the LR readership is not a rail professional and enthusiast. Please provide the full spelling of non-standard abbreviations (consisting of TfL, LU, DfT and the like) for the first instance, at minimum.

    Here are some explanations:

    GLC – Greater London Council
    KX – King’s Cross station
    HMT – Her Majesty’s Treasury

  62. Graham Feakins says:

    For those interested in delving further into esp. Graham H’s comments on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL), then this interesting 140 page document, complete with tables and maps, produced by UCL’s OMEGA Centre – Channel Tunnel Rail Link Case Study, updated in 2008, will assist:

    I was vaguely involved in the TALIS scheme which is discussed. TALIS = Thames Alternative Link International Scheme – a seemingly clumsy name to define an easterly route through the Medway to Tilbury and Stratford but it was given that to distinguish I believe from RACHEL which was an all tunnel line from Dover to Rainham and thence to the Thames. Both schemes were discarded by BR in 1989.

    Hanover/Bechtel promoted both those schemes, whilst ‘JV’ was bid for by Rail Europe – Laing/Mowlem/GTM. At the same time Ove Arup (promoters of KentRail) put forward a route running via Stratford to King’s Cross. Also Newham BC continued to lobby for a second terminal in Stratford, to be connected to BR’s southerly route.

    All that taken from page 17 of the pdf above.

    Perhaps it ought to be added to next Friday’s reading list.

  63. Graham Feakins says:

    P.S. These further comments extracted from the pdf link above may encourage further reading and doubtless will ring bells with Graham H:

    “The main emphasis from early 1992 was to translate government’s broad conceptual alignment into a fully developed scheme. Staff/management changes early in this period were intended to
    ring fence the project in light of its possible privatisation, improve accountability and help boost morale. Over 40 consultants were involved together with the Treasury, DOE and DTp. (page 335)

    Finally, it is interesting to note Gourvish’s concluding remarks on BR’s position during the CTRL preparation process (page 340):
    “While some railway managers were dubious about the need for additional capacity for international services, the Board, ever obedient to its political masters, did its best to progress the scheme. It was all the more irksome, then, to find that the hoops through which it was forced to jump were [more] numerous than expected. Frequently disconcerted, and shunted around by the government as it wrestled with changes of route, vociferous protesters, and the complexities thrown up by armies of consultants, British Rail made a substantial commitment to the Channel Tunnel in terms of investment, resources and management time. Some of its actions in the early stages of the process may be criticized, and a sizeable amount of public money was wasted. However, most of the blame rests with the government, where the perceived need to appease interests in Kent, South-east London, and the Regions produced the number of vicissitudes, while the anxiety to open the way to private-sector ownership of them flew in the face of the economic realities.” “

  64. Graham Feakins says:

    P.P.S. I forgot to add that Tilbury was in the TALIS scheme because its aim was to include international high speed freight on the route to and from the Channel Tunnel, with gradients set to suit.

    Which routes do international freight trains take these days to and from the Kent Channel Tunnel portal one might ask.

  65. Henning Makholm says:

    “Which routes do international freight trains take these days to and from the Kent Channel Tunnel portal one might ask.”

    According to Opentraintimes, mostly onto the Kent Main Line at Dollands Moor immediately west of the portal, thence Ashford, Tonbridge and to the West London Line either via Redhill and BML or Orpington and Catford.

    A handful of trains a day use HS1 until Dagenham, but others to/from Dagenham are routed the long way around via Goblin and Olympia.

  66. Jonathan Roberts says:

    @SFD, @WW
    Thanks for factual corrections desired. I have drafted minor changes to accommodate those, and forwarded to editors.

  67. Greg Tingey says:

    [Total Snip. Another comment that mentions the Kent Route Study. The temporary ban applies on commenting on it to all articles. You can’t get round it by commenting in a different place. The article is written. It needs diagrams and tables added to it. Until it is published anything that mentions the Kent Route Study will be deleted. PoP]

  68. Graham H says:

    I am grateful for all the various additional insights into the abortive KX low level scheme; as Gourvish implies, some schemes had more substance in BR’s mind than others. TLK development discussions never bothered with it, for example. Hotel Curve, lots, Low level, no. It’s amusing, but an exercise in crayonism, to consider where and more importantly, how, south of KX, the two routes could have had a junction with each other (perhaps the promoters had in mind quite separate TL and CTRL stations…) and TLK a junction with its route via Farringdon.

    Just to plop a further pebble into the pond, I have a recollection,which may be wrong, of course, of Hezza’s earliest ideas (ie late’92 /early ’93) for Stratford envisaging that Eurostar should terminate there until it was tartly pointed out to him that (a) Stratford was not central London,and (b) good onward connexions to the City depended on an otherwise unmentionable project… I guess the opposition to this would have come from LU (and the City), NSE having abandoned longterm planning once the privatisation gun was fired.

    The whole saga illustrates the dire mess, delay, and cost that occurs when a rational approach to planning is replaced by the freeform promotion of silo schemes by competing private interests. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?

  69. Greg Tingey says:

    Freight from the Chunnel ….
    Apart from the pathetically small amount of it, mostly for political-in-one-form-or-another reasons, it’s very noticeable that almost of it (excepting the tiny fraction exiting at Ripple Lane) passes through the Clapham Jn/Stewarts La complex. I.E. threads its way through suburban London.
    All because there isn’t a “3rd side” at Redhill …..

  70. quinlet says:

    IIRC the face saving position when Hezza decided that his original plan for a Stratford terminus was a non-starter was that there would be some form of station at Stratford on the high speed link when it was built. Certainly that was one driving force for Newham Council to press so firmly for this to be built, and their pressure ensured that international platforms were built at Stratford International, even though it now looks as though they will never be used.

  71. Moosealot says:

    While the heading of this piece has been changed to (part 4), the HTML <title> hasn’t…

  72. Londoner in Scotland says:

    “Which routes do international freight trains take these days to and from the Kent Channel Tunnel portal one might ask.”

    For freight, the Channel Tunnel Core Route is via Maidstone East and Catford. The Channel Tunnel Diversionary Route is via Tonbridge and Redhill. There is relatively little Channel Tunnel freight via Sevenoaks.

  73. NickBxn says:

    Please allow me to praise this thread as LR at its very best. The quality of insight and links from contributors is an outstanding repository of enlightening information that answers many longstanding questions of whys, wherefores and ‘what-might-have-beens’. I wonder if there is any other single place that holds as much accessible ‘corporate memory’ on the subject.

  74. Graham H says:

    @quinlet – yes, that’s my recollection, too.

  75. Sad Fat Dad says:

    quinlet, Re: international platforms at Stratford International, presumably you mean ‘looks as though they will never be used again’.

    They did see plenty of use for a few weeks in 2012 for sports day.

    (I must stop being pedantic!)

  76. Graham H says:

    @NickBxn – you will be pleased to hear that the NRM has decided to create the National Archive of Railway Oral History which is intended to capture the memories of a wide range of people at all staff levels involved in the privatisation process. The focus is likely to be on organisation, process, and change and the impact of these things on operations. We are expecting its launch around this Easter. For my sins I seem likely to be drawn into its steering arrangements, as well as contributing presumably. (Whether that reassures or not, I leave for others to judge).

  77. Phil Harmonic says:

    re Quinlet & SFD:

    “quinlet, Re: international platforms at Stratford International, presumably you mean ‘looks as though they will never be used again’.
    They did see plenty of use for a few weeks in 2012 for sports day.”

    Yes but how many where International trains?

    So much for the so-called Olympic Legacy!

  78. Alan Griffiths says:

    Phil Harmonic @ 21 March 2017 at 09:44

    “Yes but how many where International trains?
    So much for the so-called Olympic Legacy!”

    You strike a discordant note. The International (or merely the Hi-Speed) station was an important part of winning the Olympic bid, not the other way around.

    For International trains, we await Deutsche Bahn.

  79. timbeau says:

    “The International station was an important part of winning the Olympic bid,”

    So one white elephant was used to get another one. How do we stop them breeding again?

  80. IslandDweller says:

    @timbeau. Not sure all of us see the developments at Stratford as a white elephant. Former mayor Ken, a man who has never shown the remotest interest in any sport, was enthusiastic in the bid process for the games. He realised that it was leverage to push the government to release funds for transport across east London. There’s many things I dislike about the former mayor, but I do admire his ability to think strategically about how to achieve his goals.

  81. Anonymous says:

    Boat Train Routes
    I think there is some confusion between the SR Boat Train Routes (BTRs) and the Eurostar Channel Tunnel Routes (CTRs). There were three of each:

    BTR1: Victoria – Chatham – Faversham – Dover Marine (later Western Docks)
    BTR2: Victoria – Tonbridge (via Orpington) – Dover Marine/Folkestone Harbour
    BTR3: Victoria – Maidstone East – Dover Marine/Folkestone Harbour

    CTR1: Waterloo – Tonbridge (via Orpington) – ET Boundary
    CTR2: Waterloo – Maidstone East – ET Boundary
    CTR3: Waterloo – Tonbridge (via Bat & Ball) – ET Boundary

    All routes were nominally via Herne Hill but some trains were booked via Catford

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