Friday, 1 August 2008

Moving on

You know when you're happily watching a TV show, and the credits roll, and out of nowhere the announcer says "That was the last in the present series..."? Well that's this post.

I'd love to continue working on this blog as I have done, but I'd also like to move on to other projects, and I've decided it's best to have a clean break rather than try to keep fingers in every pie.

Thanks to everyone who's read, contributed, linked, corrected, shared, prodded, praised, learnt from, ranted against, puzzled at and pored over the posts here. The archive will stay online, the email address is still working, but for time-being at least my work here is done.

Thank you.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Shepherd's Bush Overground: Finished!

Well almost. These men are putting the last bits of trim onto the aluminium panels that cover the rebuilt part of the station building:
You can see in that picture there are still some bits of back fence to do, and there's some tidying up of the work of the other platform, but I can't see them spinning it out for more than a couple more weeks.

In that spirit, here's an attempt to recreate the very first picture I posted of the station, last October, so you can see the difference:

And here's the widened bit and the non-widened bits of the platform together:

Update: According to the latest TfL board papers, opening is pencilled in for October 1. [Thanks to D-Notice in the comments]

Finally, a bonus picture of the enormous new Shepherd's Bush Central Line station:

The Thameslink Programme, illustrated

There are lots of elements to the Thameslink Programme, but at its core is a proposal to untangle the lines outside London Bridge to get the maximum possible number of trains through as efficiently as possible.

As an introduction, here's how things currently work (click to enlarge):
[NB pedants: this is a simplified schematic showing the principle of the thing, not a track map, though it doubles as one in places]
The worst problems are highlighted in red:

  1. Thameslink trains through London Bridge have to cross in front of Southeastern services terminating at Blackfriars. There's also a short section of single track due to cost cutting before the Thameslink service was introduced.
  2. Borough Market Viaduct. A huge number of different services have to share this double track bottleneck, as well as the London Bridge platforms that serve it.
  3. To get onto the route towards Borough Market Viaduct, Thameslink trains need to make a flat crossing move.
  4. It's fairly common to have a pair of fast tracks between the two tracks used by stopping services, but normally there's a flyover provided near the terminus to switch them out. At London Bridge there is no flyover, so trains just cross the southbound slow line.
  5. Tanners Hill flydown. This link was built relatively recently to allow the bridge taking trains to Victoria* to double as a flyover to get trains onto the fast lines to London Bridge without crossing the slow lines. Currently only single track.
If you follow the route of Thameslink trains through London Bridge (dotted purple), you'll notice they share track or otherwise conflict with almost every other service in the area, which is why they don't run during peak hours. Given that London Bridge is going to be the principal Thameslink route when the programme is finished, that isn't a good start.

Here's how they intend to fix it:
  1. Rebuild Blackfriars to have the through tracks to Farringdon on the same side as London Bridge. The knock-on effect is that services from the Wimbledon/Sutton loop will now be on the wrong side to run through, so will terminate at Blackfriars, and services from southeast of Elephant & Castle will run through instead.
  2. Build a second pair of tracks over Borough Market. London Bridge will also be rebuilt with extra through platforms.
  3. The Bermondsey Diveunder. This is a massive piece of engineering due to the number of viaducts that need to be reworked. Its basic purpose is to get Thameslink trains to/from the Brighton direction over the top of the Southeastern tracks to/from Charing Cross.
  4. The southbound slow line is also routed under the dive under, and no longer crossed by other services.
  5. Double tracking the Tanners Hill Flydown. There aren't going to be many Thameslink trains going this way, but it's still part of the project.
The second diagram also illustrates how the East London Line extension fits in (with phase 2 dotted), and incorporates proposals from the South London RUS (chiefly evicting everything but Southeastern fasts from Charing Cross).

[* The "temporary" replacement bridge built after the 1957 Lewisham Rail Crash, in fact]
[Thanks to Paul Scott for forwarding me the documents used to draw this]

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Imperial Wharf construction begins!

If you believe this press release or this press release, they've finally started work on site at Imperial Wharf station, just 5 short years after it was approved (in May 2003). Hurrah for St George!

[Thanks to Rick for the tip]

ELL works at Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace is one of the strangest stations on the network. It's built on the apex of a triangular junction with platforms on two sides of the triangle. While one side is perfectly normal, the other is, well... see for yourself:
That vast building is the station footbridge - and you can only see half of it in that picture. This is the platform area:

It once had six platforms and a twin-span overall roof. The roof has been gone for over a hundred years, there's nothing left of the two middle platforms, and only the through platforms are in use. So the current configuration looks like this:

Crystal Palace will be one of the termini of the extended East London Line, and they'll need a couple of terminating platforms. So given the choice between reinstating the existing side platforms, or rebuilding the centre platforms, they've chosen something completely different:
That's according to the latest planning application, which although not explicitly stated, will see the northern island taken out of use. I expect most East London Line trains will use platform 5, as getting out of platform 3 means crossing the other line.

I've marked the locations of the planned lifts as black squares, but I don't understand them. The one on the 3/4 island gets you to half way up the station's stairs, which is useless, and the one on the 5/6 island gets you to nowhere.

As for what's happening at the other new terminus, West Croydon, they're just putting in a siding beyond the station.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

East London Line phase 2 works to go ahead

According to this planning application, "funding has been secured" for enabling works for the phase 2 extension of the East London Line (network map) to be done before the line reopens.

To be clear, this isn't the full scheme, but it does involve building a rather substantial grade separated junction, like so:
You can view a much larger version of that picture, and a reverse angle shot in this document (sans annotations), and an explanation in this one.

The junction is located at the northern tip of the Silwood triangle (near Surrey Quays station), which currently looks like this:
That's taken from the footbridge marked on the diagram above, with the East London Line on the left, and temporary works sidings on the right, on the path of the phase 2 extension.

The work proposed to do before phase 1 opens in 2010 (and before phase 2 is given the green light) includes building the underpass, replacing the footbridge, and building earthworks to take the phase 2 tracks down the side of Silwood Triangle, but no further.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Mudchute DLR station progressing well

The main reason service the southern branch of the DLR is messed up is to rebuild Mudchute with three platforms. Reader Robert sends in this picture taken yesterday of how they're getting on:
They were doing two thing to this platform - extending it to take three car trains and giving it a second face onto the [currently trackless] siding behind it. The platform extension is clearly finished already (it's the section on individual supports) and the canopy shows there's serious progress on making it double sided.

It's notable that the canopy is much more substantial than the old one. The three-car programme is being used as an excuse to do a general upgrade programme, and several stations are going to get their whole canopies replaced, which is why you'll find construction hoardings along the whole length of Limehouse and Westferry, for example.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

That London Overground interchange map

London Overground have quietly added walking interchanges to the London Overground network map found on trains:

Oddly they don't tell you which line the other station is on (except at West Hampstead), and some of them are completely useless (Kensal Green to Kensal Rise) and, as noted, some of the most useful ones are missing (Wanstead Park-Forest Gate).

Of course there's nothing saying these are meant as interchanges at all. Maybe they're just to show that stations in places you've never heard of (like Brondesbury) are near places you have (Kilburn).

Shepherd's Bush/White City/Wood Lane interchanges

When the new stations at Shepherd's Bush and Wood Lane open there'll be two new out-of-station interchanges, requiring a short walk outdoors to change between lines. But how short?

Interchange #1: Shepherd's Bush (Overground) to Shepherd's Bush (Central Line)
Just across the bus station.

Approximate gateline-to-gateline walking distance: 100 metres.

Interchange #2: Wood Lane (Hammersmith & City Line) to White City (Central Line)
A stroll along Wood Lane right past BBC Television Centre.

Approximate gateline-to-gateline walking distance: 230m.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Top secret London Overground news

Well, not very secret. But I've been sent a non-public London Overground presentation that contains a few interesting bits.

Firstly, there's an updated rendering of the new London Overground trains:
Compared to the old rendering, it's gained eyeliner and a thicker orange stripe that continues around the front, and lost its Overground logo, Bombardier logo and number (though there should be a real one of these to ogle by now).

Moving on, it's stated the East London Line will reopen in "January 2010". Although completion much earlier than the "Summer 2010" public date have long appeared in TfL's board papers, this is the first time I've seen them telling anyone it'll open so much earlier.

Finally, they have a construction schedule for the North London Line upgrade, and the extensive line closures required:

  • April 2009 to April 2010: Camden Road to Dalston
    Freight trains will be diverted onto the passenger tracks. Currently freight trains use the single track on the north side of the passenger tracks, which needs to be rebuilt as double track during the upgrade. It's unclear what the effect on passenger services will be.
  • April 2009 to June 2010 (Sundays): Hackney Wick to Stratford
  • Dec 2008 to April 2009 (Sunday and some Saturdays) Gospel Oak to Woodgrange Park 
  • April 2010 to June 2010 (weekends): Kensington Olympia to Clapham Junction
    They need to convert Latchmere Curve, just outside Clapham Junction, from single to double track.
  • April 2010 to May 2010 (weekends): Willesden Junction to Kensington Olympia 
  • Jan 2010 to Feb 2010 (weekends): South Action to Acton Central 
  • April 2009 to Jan 2011 (Sundays): Acton Central to Gospel Oak
They don't actually give specific reasons for these closures, so the two above are mine, and otherwise it's for general track, signalling and power upgrades for the new high frequency service.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Gospel Oak-Barking Line news

A few quick quotes from the Barking - Gospel Oak Line User Group's latest news update:

[...] as all the track works to permit 4-trains-per-hour running will be complete, commissioned and tested by Easter 2009, we want that service frequency to start ahead of schedule in May 2009 [...]
[...] the new in-train maps show useful details of walking distance between our stations and others nearby - but oddly omit the Wanstead Park/Forest Gate interchange
[...] As a stop-gap the three-seat rows are to be converted to two-seaters to increase standing room, but regrettably it seems the North London Line trains are taking precedence over ours for this work to be done
Waltham Forest Council have assured us that there is firm commitment at senior level to getting the long-overdue pedestrian link constructed between Queens Road and Central
Oddly, they don't seem to know Boris thinks the line's getting three car trains in 2010.

Oyster problems: Blame Transys

During today's Oyster failure, TfL put out a press release that includes the first hint of what the problem is:

This problem, like the recent issue, resulted from incorrect data tables being sent out by our contractor, Transys (a consortium of the firms EDS and Cubic).
They're probably referring to new fare and routeing data (there are a few changes due). No word yet on how this caused 65,000 cards to be permanently destroyed last time this happened.

Network Rail: "Waterloo sucks!"

Network Rail have a long term plan (after 2014 at least) to extend Waterloo's platforms across the current concourse (which is elevated), and move all the stations facilities downstairs to street level. English Heritage have retaliated by trying to get the whole station listed, as "largest and finest British terminus of the early 20th century”.

Network Rail obviously object, and the only way to do that is to rubbish the station. Some choice quotes:

“a late and rather weak expression”
"The station was a major engineering project of its period, but the results, in spatial and architectural terms, are far from dramatic or memorable"
"The architecture... is a late expression of Edwardian baroque styling, rather thinly applied."
“Waterloo is not especially innovative in terms of planning and in structural terms is unadventurous, lacking the excitement of the great 19th century stations"
Thanks to reader Bob for sending this in.

Wood Lane aerial photo

Following on from the photos I posted earlier this week, here's a great aerial photo of Wood Lane station taken by reader Former Optimist, presumably from the roof of BBC Television Centre:
There can't be many tube stations with another line they don't serve passing underneath the ticket hall.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Mayor's Question Time: July 2008

A few interesting items from the most recent Mayor's Question Time:

  • Trains on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line will be lengthened to three cars by 2010. Electrification of the line is too expensive.
  • Bus roofs are being painted white to help keep them cool.
  • Boris likes Greenwich Waterfront Transit.
  • This list of South London transport improvements includes things like Greenwich Waterfront Transport but conspicuously not Cross River Tram. Nail, coffin, etc.
  • Croydon's tram system will be getting deep cleaned and refurbished, as well as a new livery and new seat moquettes.
  • The first three bus routes to be unbendied will be the 38, 507 and 521, with "appropriate" capacity to be provided by the double deckers (note not "the same" capacity).
  • The DLR is set to go back to normal  on August 25 (at least on the Lewisham route) , rather than there being a different set of closures.
  • The redeveloped King's Cross may include a new footbridge to allow continued access from York Way.
  • The Mayor has met with Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly to ask for money for the East London Line phase 2 extension.

Rebuilding Tottenham Court Road station

Tottenham Court Road station is being massively rebuilt and expanded over the next 8 years - both to accomodate Crossrail and increase capacity - and an exhibition about what they're doing opened at New London Architecture today.

Here's the money shot (click to enlarge):
(1) is the new Crossrail platforms; (2) is a new escalator down to the Northern Line platforms; (3) is Crossrail's Oxford Street entrance (which looks like this inside); (4) is an escalator down to the Crossrail platforms, obscured by a new ventilation and emergency stair structure; (5) is the massively expanded ticket hall; and (6) is a new set of escalators down to the Central Line.

To build this, they've got to dig up a big chunk of the West End:
The right half of the site is the plaza outside Centre Point, while the left half is a block of buildings to be demolished - including as noted, The Astoria. In the middle is where the top end of Charing Cross Road currently is. They'll also be demolishing the block to the south of Sutton Row to build the Crossrail ventilation shaft (4). Everything currently on the site of the western ticket hall (3) will also be going.

The timescale for this is glacial, with preparatory works long since started, demolition and construction beginning next year. The new piazza entrance (on the southeast corner) opens 2013, and the piazza itself opens in 2015. Charing Cross Road will be diverted from 2010 until 2014. Construction at the station won't be finished until 2016.

In contrast, the exhibition lasts only until August 9.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Shoreditch High Street station box going up

As previously reported here, the East London Line extension's Shoreditch High Street station is to be enclosed on all sides by a massive windowless concrete box (i.e. walls and a roof). The primary aim of this is to protect the line so that it can stay open during the construction of skyscrapers alongside it.

Until now there was no sign of it, but this week they started erecting posts to support the structure:
It really is that big compared to the poxy humans.

Thanks to Antonio for the photo. Here's a panorama of the whole of Bishopsgate Goods Yard, using pictures taken by him today from the Tea Building on the north side of the site (click to enlarge):

The box will stretch at full height for the length of the platforms (which corresponds to the finished section of viaduct), and at a lower height all the way to Brick Lane on the left and Shoreditch High Street on the right (a map of Shoreditch, if you're lost).

Crossrail is Law

Today both the House of Lord and House of Commons approved the Crossrail Bill, which grants the powers needed to build Crossrail, London's new super tube line. The only obstacle now is money.

From now on the route, the stations, the buildings to be demolished, and everything else is now set in stone. If they build it at all, it has to be built as set out in the countless bill documents, unless they aquire new powers or push through another Act of Parliament. The only thing I can't see is any requirement for them to build all of it.

So no more bickering about how the route should be changed. And no more Astoria.

The diagram shows how the tunnels will be dug, taken from this document. Yes, it's missing Woolwich station, but is otherwise correct.

Crossrail Bill approved by Lords

The Crossrail Bill was approved by the House of Lords this morning. The final step to Royal Assent is a vote in the House of Commons scheduled for 5pm-7pm tonight. Watch this space.

Monday, 21 July 2008

The 2M Group's Heathrow Express Network

The 2M Group is an anti-Heathrow expansion pressure group formed by 19 London Borough Councils, plus a few from outside London. Today they became the latest entity to publish a blueprint for a high speed line to the north.

The intriguing part about this one is the diagram on the right. They want to passengers to be able to transfer from the High Speed Line to Heathrow, and also run feeder services from Cambridge and Portsmouth. The orange bit is Airtrack, the green bit is Crossrail and the purple bits are high speed lines, but what on earth is the route in red?

I emailed them, and their response is on this Google Map (the text is theirs, the route plotting is mine, using nothing but the text included). In short: Heathrow Express tunnels to Hayes & Harlington, new build route up to the Chiltern Main Line, east to Neasden, Dudding Hill Line to Cricklewood, Midland Main Line to Radlett, new build east to Hatfield, segregated as far as is possible, and running at conventional. They reckon trains will take 20 minutes to get from Heathrow to Cricklewood, and that this is comparable to interchange between terminals.

Obviously this isn't a transport project at all and is just meant as a cudgel to beat about the government's collective head, but as the plans have been worked out in some detail by a proper engineer, they're worth a look.