Friday, 27 June 2008

Tower Gateway DLR closes for rebuilding

As part of the three-car upgrade Tower Gateway DLR station will be closed from the end of service today until next April for a complete rebuild of the platform area.

The narrow island platform (pictured) will be replaced by a single track with platforms on both sides, of which you can see an artist's impression or download the planning application diagram. Departing passengers will wait on the south platform and arriving passengers will disembark onto the north platform.

While losing a platform gives the appearance of reducing capacity, the current track layout (effectively single track) means the two platforms can't be run at full capacity anyway, so the new layout should hopefully be no worse.

Tower Gateway's only service, to Beckton, has been curtailed to Poplar for the last couple of months, with the City Airport service diverted to serve Tower Gateway. This will be going back to Bank, which will be then be handling the same number of trains that it did before.

The existing main entrance won't be changed apart from getting brand new movement activated escalators, while the second entrance at the east end will be remodelled to only link to the departures platform. In the artist's impression there are passengers loitering at the east end of the arrivals platform, yet there is no exit there. I trust the BTP will be along shortly.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Mayor's Question Time

Since coming to power, Boris Johnson has taken part in two Mayor's Question time sessions. You can read his written answers here and here. Lots of predictable non-answers to awkward questions, but a few interesting things come up:

  • The East London Line phase 2 extension does not have funding. If it does get it, the target opening date is December 2011.
  • London-wide Oyster PAYG on National Rail is now officially pencilled in for mid-2009 (the January 2009 date has seemed unlikely for some time).
  • London Overground carried 29% more passengers in its first 5 months than Silverlink did in the equivalent period a year before.
  • Feasibility studies for the Oxford Street Tram will not be going ahead. This answer is notably more negative than that given to the other tram schemes (which are merely "under review"), so don't expect it to happen in the foreseeable future.
  • On Cross River Tram, Boris notes "the Government’s 2007 spending review allocation of funds to TfL to 2017 did not provide for the implementation of CRT". It's looking like time to cross that one off the list as well.
  • A North London Line extension to Kingston is officially off the table (if it was ever on it).
  • Not transport-related, but I think question 1052 (in the second document) may be some sort of secret of code.
I've also listened to some of the webcast of the June 18th meeting. About an hour in there's a long discussion of the Routemaster/bendy bus replacement project, which Boris sounds very keen on pushing ahead with.

During the discussion an assembly member points out that the first wave of bendy bus contracts comes up for renewal next year, which will put the Mayor in a very awkward position. He could renew them (can't do that), replace them with double deckers (not enough capacity) or replace them with lots of double deckers (increasing congestion). An issue to watch, certainly.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

More progress at Shepherd's Bush Overground

Things are certainly moving quickly at Shepherd's Bush Overground station. Since two weeks ago...

They've built a neat connection between the moved and unmoved sections of wall:

They've moved all but these last 4 blocks, and cut away that inconvenient pillar and installed a chunky bit of steelwork to take the weight (before):

Instead of putting in new wall-mounted streetlights (like they were meant to), it looks worryingly like they're just moving the old ones:

They're just toying with us, right?

Baffled Boris boffins dripping with sweat chuffed afoot fight to keep passengers fresh

TfL have put out their annual press release announcing the summer's cooling plans (cf. 2007, 2006). Despite the success Victoria's groundwater-based cooling system there's no sign of it being installed elsewhere; air-conditioned S-stock is still not due until 2010; tube trains are still too hard to cool; more industrial fans will be put in stations; more ventilation shafts will be reactivated; and generally that kind of thing.

Monday, 23 June 2008

London Overground lose fight against darkness

When London Overground moved in last year, they were quick to replace the external signage at all of their stations with their signature white on bright orange colour scheme:

Looks great in sunlight, of course. Such a shame that their railway network had to be in a city with no sunlight at night, and is instead lit by dingy yellow streetlights, under which white looks orange and orange looks orange.

The Goblin people quizzed them on this a few months ago, but the LOROL suits were insistent, the colour scheme was perfect, the problem was Silverlink's substandard stations, and night time would simply have to be cancelled.

A surprise then, that now they've finally got round to covering over the Silverlink signs on platforms, they've done this:
Slightly less pretty, but actually readable in low light. It's almost as if they've got their priorities in the right order.

One consequence of this U-turn is that if you're on a London Overground train at night and you can't for the life of you read the station signs, you must be at a station managed by London Underground. They replaced their platform signs early on, and are now stuck praying for the sun to orbit the earth.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Gatwick Express ceases to exist

By the time you read this, Gatwick Express will have operated its very last train, the 01:25 arrival at London Victoria. But not to worry, all trains, staff and operations immediately transfer to Southern, and nothing much will change in the short term.

That is, until December this year, when the scheme to overcome crowding on the Brighton Main Line will be implemented. There'll still be trains running non-stop from London to Gatwick every 15 minutes, and for most of the day they'll still use the same trains.

The different comes during each rush hour, when the current fleet will be substituted for longer, higher capacity trains which will run through to Brighton and various other stops south of Gatwick. These trains will have enough seats for 500 commuters in addition to the 100 or so airline passengers you'll currently find on the average Gatwick Express service.

These extra trains have been sitting idle since South West Trains displaced them during a fleet reshuffle last year. They're being refurbished with new seats and extra luggage racks and double width internal doors, but will still have narrow external doors. They'll lose their distinctive "snug" area in the buffet car.

Image taken from Elsie's Flickr stream under Creative Commons

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Virgin tear up the London Connections map

As work on the West Coast Main Line upgrade intensifies with the hope of getting it completed by the end of the year, the southern part of the line is going to be closed for a lot of weekends this year. But instead of forcing passengers onto buses as they used to, Virgin have come up with a plan to run shuttle trains down the Chiltern Main Line. Somehow, they're still terminating at Euston.

Here's how they're going to get there :

  1. The Chiltern Main Line. Used by Chiltern trains from Birmingham to Marylebone.
  2. The New North Main Line. Once British Rail's flagship London-Birmingham route, now single track and used only by Chiltern Trains to access Paddington on the weekends when Marylebone is closed, and for one daily barely-advertised train.
  3. The Greenford Branch. The local trains crawl along this line due to the poor condition of the track, and it isn't normally used for diversions.
  4. The Great Western Main Line. Used by all trains to and from Paddington.
  5. Acton East Junction. The only passenger service on this route is the daily Brighton-Kensington Olympia-Reading CrossCountry service. Unlike on the map above, this is actually west of where the New North Main Line connects, hence why Virgin are forced to use the Greenford Branch.
  6. The North London Line.
  7. Willesden South West Sidings. Also used by the CrossCountry trains mentioned above on their way to/from the West London Line.
  8. The West Coast Main Line. Finally, Euston.
Of course, since it won't call anywhere between Euston and Coventry, the route it takes is of limited interest to Londoners, but it's an interesting display of what connections exist.

If you fancy a trip, it'll run hourly on the days the WCML is blocked, starting next weekend, and it'll also give you a glimpse of the new platform at Denham and the Gerrard's Cross Tesco Tunnel disaster.

Meanwhile, if you're interested in what they're actually doing to the West Coast Main Line, there's a very readable in-depth brochure here, with lots of diagrams.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Northern Line extension to Battersea Power Station proposed

The latest masterplan for the Battersea Power Station site has been unveiled by the poetically named new owners Real Estate Opportunities Ltd, and includes a surprising transport element:

Treasury Holdings UK is in discussions with Transport for London and other landowners in the Nine Elms about building an extension of the Northern Line from Kennington to bring the Tube into the heart of Battersea.
Looking at the map it's not a completely terrible idea. Kennington is where the two central branches merge so would be a good place to start the extension, most likely from the Charing Cross branch due to the track layout. I'd suggest an interchange at Vauxhall and a possible extension to the massive Chelsea Barracks redevelopment.

With construction of the development not due to start until 2012, it's more likely the site will be sold on again and this plan scrapped. The last owner's masterplan centred around upgrading Battersea Park railway station, which is one stop south of Victoria and a bit useless really.

There's a half finished website about the proposal here, which mentions an exhibition will open at the site this Wednesday.

Update: Today's londonpaper tells of a stop at "Wandsworth Road", though they can't mean the railway station of that name, since it's a long way out of the way.

Update 2 : More details

[Thanks to reader Jonathan for the tip off]

Saturday, 14 June 2008

New platform at Denham

Reader THC contributes this photo of the new platform being built at Denham station* on the Chiltern Main Line:

They've built this because the existing westbound platform (left) is slipping down the embankment. It's accessed by a new footbridge which includes lifts, rather than the subway to the existing platform.

The station was originally built with space for four tracks so that express trains could run through the middle, but these have long since been removed, leaving plenty of space between the two remaining tracks for the new platform. The station's Wikipedia article has a good "before" picture.

* Outside Greater London but inside the M25, so it's just about on-topic

GE19 bridge collapse: New details emerge

New Civil Engineer has a write-up (reg. req'd) of the latest information regarding the GE19 bridge collapse:

Packing supporting the bridge failed at one support point, causing a second temporary support to fail. The bridge slipped to its final resting position at both points. As the steel warren truss structure fell, one of the precast concrete slabs forming the bridge's deck came loose and dropped onto railway lines below.
So it wasn't scaffolding or part of the support that fell down. The slab in question was part of a thin lightwight deck, probably designed to protect the line from workers above until the final deck was poured on top.

The article mentions that until the bridge is finished they can't bring materials from the Silwood Triangle worksite to the northern extension by rail, which means this cock-up could have delayed the whole East London Line project.

[via District Dave]

Mayor reviewing tram schemes and bus shelter projects

Architects' Journal has a slightly scare-mongering story about the status of the Oxford Street Tram and bus shelter redesign projects:

Boris Johnson has poured cold water on the proposals after he asked for a pan-London review of all the tram schemes currently on the drawing board.

Meanwhile, the TfL-run contest to find a new design to replace London's 12,500 bus shelters – hailed by Design for London boss Peter Bishop 'as the chance to design a new icon' – has failed to come up with a winner.
I don't think it's even news that Boris Johnson is conducting a review of the tram and transit schemes he's inherited (West End Tram, Cross River Tram, East London Transit and Greenwich Waterfront Transit), but I'm surprised to learn Westminster Council is against the West End Tram scheme.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Chesham shuttle replacement proposed

TfL have announced a proposal to replace the Chesham shuttle at the far end of the Metropolitan Line. Currently most trains from London run to Amersham, with Chesham served by a half hourly shuttle from Chaltfont & Latimer, with the odd through train during peak hours.

The proposal is to get rid of the shuttle and have the through trains alternate between going to Chesham and Amersham. Amersham is also served by Chiltern trains, so will have 4 trains an hour to London on weekdays rather than 6.

The impetus for this is the introduction of S stock to the Metropolitan Line in the next year or two, which will be made up solely of 8 car trains, rather than pairs of 4 car trains as now. The bay platform at Chalfont & Latimer used by the shuttle is only 4 cars long and would be difficult to extend.

The date given for the new service pattern is May 2009, which may indicate the Modern Railways story about the introduction of S Stock being postponed to after 2012 is nonsense.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Imperial Wharf station: No progress yet

We got word last week that construction work at Imperial Wharf station was meant to be getting under way. There's currently no sign that it has:
I'm posting this as a Before picture, and I've doodled on the rough location of the platforms. The dark brick structure by the platform ends is a disused road bridge, and will contain the ticket office.

Here's a rendering of the finished thing, as seen on the construction hoarding that's been taunting the residents for possibly several years:

Located on the West London Line just north of the river, near Chelsea Harbour. Opens 2010.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Shepherd's Bush progress update

They've now moved 26 of the 45 blocks at Shepherd's Bush Overground:
The rate seems to be about 1 a day, so this task should be done by the end of June. They've already filled in behind the blocks in the middle. The hole at the north end (nearest the camera) has got much deeper, but there's no sign of work to connect the two parts of the wall, or to fill in the gap between the wall and the platform or move the street lights.

At the south end, under the footbridge, they're putting in rebar to form the joint between the relocated platform wall and the station building:
There's also a strange bracket covered in pink gunk where the footbridge is held up by the old wall. I presume this will be cut.

(In the first photo I've annotated how interchange between the Overground and tube stations will work. The two face each other across a new open air bus station. There'll be no indoor interchange)

Speaking of the tube station, they've nearly got the front wall fully glazed:
I say "front wall", but this would have been the side wall of the old building, which had its main entrance round to the left. The focus has been rotated 90 degrees away from Shepherd's Bush Green and onto the bus and rail stations and shopping centre.

Just around the corner, here's London's last new tube station for the foreseeable future, Wood Lane:
All this cladding is new, as are the window frames above the entrance. From a passing train you can see the platform surfacing and edging is almost complete.

All these stations open in October-ish.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Crossrail Bill ready to pass Lords

The parliamentary process to approve the Crossrail Bill looks to be coming to an end shortly, after the House of Lords committee hearing petitions against it, approving it while making only minor amendments. This was the last major hurdle for the bill, and the last chance for the public to object.

It now only has to pass a "committee on re-commitment" (whatever that is) and go for a final vote in the two houses - likely to be a formality - and then it's law. The bill provides powers and outline permissions to build the line, but not funding.

Looking at the committee's report, they were quite keen on a connection from Heathrow to the west (page 42), but decided not to require it be added to the scheme. They also liked the idea of extending the line from Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet (page 36), but again, decided it could be built separately.

While we're on the topic, I've received an email from the Crossrail press office in response to this old post. They confirm the central section of the line will have Automatic Train Operation:

Crossrail is using Automatic Train Operation (ATO) in the central area from Ealing Broadway to Abbey Wood and up to Stratford station where it can be integrated with current automatic systems. ATO is a system in which all train movement control is automatic apart from the door operation and starting from stations.

Safety information is continuously transmitted to the train in the form of electrical codes in the running rails which tell the train its permitted speed. For signal stops, a brake command signal in the running rail causes the brake to be applied and then automatically restarts the train when the signal is cleared.
A quick Google reveals ATO has actually been an ambition for a while, but this confirms it's still on the table.

The email also goes over the reasons for not specifying double deck trains (construction expense, dwell times, limited capacity gains, etc), and mentions the future extension from 10 to 12 car trains will allow a similar capacity gain (20% vs 30-40%) for much lower cost.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

London Overground notes

I've been forwarded a set of slides from a recent presentation given by Transport for London about London Overground. A few interesting things:

  • The date for the Gospel Oak to Barking Line getting trains every 15 minutes is given as December 2008, rather than 2009 when the new larger fleet (pictured) arrives. Maybe they'll be getting the spare trains back* that they've leant to First Great Western. Or it might be a mistake.
  • Work to construct Imperial Wharf station allegedly started on June 1st. Anyone seen anything yet?
  • Work to fix Shepherd's Bush station is due to be completed by late summer, but they're looking strategically about when exactly to open it. Definitely by October though.
  • During this autumn's closure, replacement bus services will run serving all stations Gospel Oak-Barking and Gospel Oak-Camden Road plus an oddball route running South Hampstead-West Hampstead-Brondesbury-Kilburn High Rd-South Hampstead-Hampstead Heath-Gospel Oak-Upper Holloway-Crouch Hill
  • During the closure slab track will be laid in Hampstead Tunnel and road bridges carrying Sussex Way (near Upper Holloway) and Albert and Shrubland Roads (near Walthamstow Queen's Road) over the Goblin will be completely replaced.
  • The rebuilding of the Camden-Dalston section of the North London Line begins in the second half of 2009, with "all week" closures happening in early 2010.
There are some similar presentation documents on the LOROL site. One of them is a lot like the one I've got except with a fraction of the detail. The other is stuffed full of dates:
  • All London Overground stations are to be fully refurbished between July 2008 and November 2009, with new train displays, signage, help points, CCTV and so on.
  • Former Southern stations on the East London Line extension will be refurbished between June 2009 and March 2010.
  • Test running on the East London Line is due to start in Late 2009, with the core opening in April 2010 and running south of New Cross Gate from June.
* London Overground got custody of the whole of Silverlink's diesel fleet, but with no Bletchley-Bedford Line to run had more than they needed

Monday, 2 June 2008

Mitcham Eastfields now open (sort of)

London's newest railway station opened this afternoon, 8 hours, 2 weeks or 72 years late.

Just 9 months ago it was greenlighted, 5 months ago it was little but dirt, 2 months ago there were still no buildings and a month ago there was no footbridge.

As of today:

  • Southern trains are calling, but First Capital Connect trains aren't, whatever Live Departures tells you. Update 3/6: Possibly they are now.
  • One of the four Driver Only Operation cameras on the southbound platform is dead, and one of the four on the northbound is out of focus, which must be why only Southern are calling (FCC don't employ any guards).
  • The footbridge is open, but the lifts aren't.
  • Both platform canopies have panels missing.
  • The station building canopy and adjacent platform canopy do not overlap.
  • The station building has at least 5 external doors, but as yet none is the promised public toilet.
  • Some ticket machines can already you a ticket to the station, but don't expect the barriers at Victoria (either station) to recognise them.
  • It has a staffed ticket office, but the opening hours are puny.
  • Both platforms have entrances at their far ends, as well as by the level crossing.
  • There were a whole load of locals gathered to check out the station, but no staff around.
I shan't bore you with more photos. Go down there yourself - it's easy to get to now and you'll find the best chip shop in London a couple of minutes walk down Tamworth Lane.