Diving into the Fleet (Part 4): The Eighties


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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Written by Jonathan Roberts