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Transport upgrades

Campaigning lobby Rail Future have welcomed the 2005 Transport Select Committee's recognition that proposals must "fit into an integrated, long term transport plan" and leave a "legacy appropriate to the (ongoing) needs of [e]ast London". However, they query the extent to which the Government has agreed to fund basic improvements to the rail network in London. They comment:

During a recent radio broadcast London Mayor Ken Livingstone suggested that he had secured all the funding required to boost access through the local rail network. However, further discussions with Transport for London (TfL) officers revealed that very few local rail schemes were included. This is particularly worrying as one rail reopening scheme supported by TfL in 2001 has already been dropped. A list of planned rail and integration projects must be clearly set out and costed. Also a local bus strategy must be developed and costed in 2006.
Richard H. Pout (2005/2) Rail Future, Going for Gold: Delivering Excellent Transport for London's 2012 Olympics

Rail Future's submissions (July and September 2005) to the parliamentary Transport Select Committee highlight numerous improvements to the London rail network necessary for local, London, regional, and international spectators to be able to reach the Lower Lea Valley precinct and other Olympic venues. Information below concentrates on improvements needed to the London network and is sourced from these submissions unless otherwise stated.

Crossrail

The Thames Gateway London Partnership (a public private partnership supported by all 12 local authorities) has stated fears that the Treasury will use congestion caused by Olympic developments as an excuse to delay the Crossrail funding package. The Crossrail tunnel is due to surface at Pudding Mill Lane by the Olympic media centre (J. Gardiner, Regeneration & Renewal, September 16, 2005).

However Crossrail itself is not expected to be completed before 2013. Rail Future (2005/1) suggest that a core section from the Western Portal to Stratford, operational with three key stations (Paddington, Farringdon and Liverpool Street), could be open and working in time for the Olympics to enable a limited Shenfield Heathrow service.

This option has been supported by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (Rail Future, 2005/2). Rail Future (2005/2) recommend an upgrading of the Shenfield Line London 'Overground' route to deliver a 5 minute interval metro service throughout the day to Gidea Park. This route will be required to handle city commuters and Stratford employees as well as Olympic visitors.

Javelin

The Olympic Javelin service, that will speed passengers from St. Pancras to Stratford in less than seven minutes, will cease after the Olympic event. Rail Future (2005/1) suggests that rapid dispersion of crowds travelling to and from the Games will be inhibited unless the new St. Pancras Midland Road station on Thameslink is not fitted out and operational. Some Kent services may lose trains to provide the Javelin shuttle. "The importance of this service has been overemphasised;[...] an independent consultant has argued that its actual capacity could be as low as 8,500 passengers per hour in each direction" (Rail Future, 2005/2).

North London Line

In July 2005 the campaign suggested that if this portion of Crossrail is not ready by 2012, traffic will be forced to rely on the North London Line (NLL), where, currently, the short trains and quarter hourly service can barely cope with current traffic (Rail Future, 2005/1). The campaign recommended platform lengthening and signalling improvements to service longer and more frequent trains on the NLL (3-4 minute operating headways), interchange improvement at West Hampstead and Willesden Junction, a "re-quadrupling [of] the route between Dalston West Junction and Camden Road"; they also anticipate a diversion of freight traffic from the line during the Games period.

Olympic traffic will demand more frequent and longer six car trains, running at least every ten minutes. Additional rolling stock, compatible with the new East London Line trains is also needed. Their September submission also suggests that "Planners might explore the practicality of running direct services from Heathrow to Stratford over the North London Line, as proposed route improvements could offer capacity for a half hourly daytime service after the morning peak, complementing the Heathrow Connect services".

The campaign also proposes extension of the North London Line from Stratford to Chingford, providing a direct link for commuters from Chingford and Walthamstow to Stratford and Hackney. A feasibility study in 2001 funded by TfL costed this project at £18 million, but the extension has disappeared from TfL's London Rail Plan and the Olympic strategy.

East London Line

The campaign proposes (ibid) extension of the East London Line services to Highbury and Islington by 2012 (this line is planned to be operational south of Dalston only by 2012), and to Finsbury Park serving the new Arsenal Stadium at Holloway, enhancement of platform and siding space at Stratford (to enable trains from East Anglia), and additional stops at West Ham on the C2C route (for interchange to NLL or the Docklands Light Railway) which require signalling changes. The Dalston Eastern Link towards Hackney should also be reconstructed, permitting trains to Hackney and Stratford from Croydon, Clapham Junction or Crystal Palace. Richard Pout states (2005/2): "This is fundamental to a long term rail strategy for serving Hackney, Stratford and the Lower Lea Valley".

The campaign suggests (2005/1) that extra capacity is needed at Tottenham Hale, with additional track between Tottenham, Cheshunt and Bishops Stortford. An extra tunnel into Stansted, a pre requisite for airport expansion, would improve route capacity and operational flexibility. A proposed half hourly service from Stansted to Stratford requires work by Network Rail. The potential for park and ride at Angel Road, using waste ground and two large retailers' car parks, they state has not been considered. Two new local stations just north of the Olympic complex, at Temple Mills and Lea Bridge, are regarded as essential to improve local access.

Public transport is the answer to traffic congestion generated by Olympic developments and Stratford City. Only one of the lines in the north of the Lower Lea Valley will be open by the time of the Olympics. This links Leyton to Stansted airport. Lines to Chingford and Seven Sisters will remain closed. Traffic will simply be too heavy on roads north of Stratford.
Laurie Wortley, Westdown Residents' Association

Thameslink

Some Thameslink traffic will go by Loughborough Junction and Herne Hill. Rail Future recommend upgrading these stations "well before 2012" to connect with Javelin services from St. Pancras. Enhanced Thameslink services would also benefit local access to the Wimbledon venue and provide a long-term and much needed improvement to the Metro services on the Streatham-Wimbledon-Sutton loop (Rail Future, ibid). Links to the Woolwich Arsenal site need "further evaluation. There is still some uncertainty over the development of the Greenwich Waterfront Transit linking [the Dome and the Woolwich Arsenal] to Charlton, Plumstead and Abbey Wood stations. The Thames Gateway Bridge proposal also remains uncertain, and may not be completed by 2012 [...] Local buses will be needed to provide a shuttle to and from Woolwich Arsenal Station" (Rail Future, 2005/2).

There would be a lot of support for Thameslink 2000 to be finished for the Olympics especially as it would help access to the Olympic site from a large area of south east England. Given the ability of protestors who object to the works at London Bridge and at Borough Market to delay these works, we feel that completion is unlikely.
Rail Future (2005/1) Transport in and around East London at and beyond the 2012 Olympics. A response to the Transport Select Committee call for evidence (Press notice July 21)

Chiltern Line

The September submission also notes the absence of funding in the Wembley Park redevelopment for new Chiltern platforms to serve Aylesbury trains, stating "Claims that Chiltern's Wembley Stadium station cannot be rebuilt to accommodate three platforms are spurious. The Chiltern Line Evergreen II route expansion and service upgrade strategy does not include any enhancements to the Neasden and Wembley [or] South Ruislip section. Links between Stratford and Wembley are important. The provision of an alternative service over the North London Line would be beneficial. [...] Ensuring adequate platform capacity is available at Wembley Central and Stadium rail stations is also important" (Rail Future, ibid).

It is pertinent that the 2005 World Athletics Championship in Helsinki [was] to be staged at Picketts Lock, about eight miles north of Stratford. With hindsight, perhaps London's failure was more due to apathy than overcoming the hurdle of providing the necessary facilities; a stadium and rail access to the site alongside the Lea Valley rail route to Stansted and Cambridge. Nevertheless, a major obstacle was the inflexibility and inability of both Railtrack and the train operator to provide a new station and extra trains needed to move 20,000 people to and from the new stadium each day. This must not happen for the Olympics, yet current proposals just do not stack up. [...] It is notable that Manchester's Metrolink Ashton extension planned to serve the Commonwealth Games event remains moribund. Liverpool's tram planned for completion in time for the 2008 European City of Culture festival has stalled. Funding streams will inevitably focus on the Olympics if the UK is to be a credible host, but this must not be at the expense of the regions.
Richard H. Pout (2005/2) Rail Future, Going for Gold: Delivering Excellent Transport for London's 2012 Olympics

Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL)

MPs have voiced fears over prospective subsidy of the CTRL should the private sector consortium not be able to sustain project risk (Press Association, The Guardian, May 4, 2006). The link will get spectators from St. Pancras to the Olympic site in Stratford in just seven minutes. The PA highlights a report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee which revealed that "in bidding for the CTRL project in 1996, London & Continental Railways (LCR) forecast that passenger numbers using Eurostar would reach 21.4 million in 2004 but that the actual number for 2004 was only 7.3 million. The committee said that the initial aim was to transfer a high level of commercial risk to a private sector consortium 'which did not, however, have the financial strength or equity capital to sustain that risk if things went wrong'". Edward Leigh (Con. Gainsborough), committee chair stated: "The economic justification remains marginal. No-one really knows how much money taxpayers will be required to cough up in the future". The Government is committed to provide £285 million to meet last-minute budget overuns. Total estimated cost of the CTRL project is £5 billion (N. Temko, The Observer, April 30, 2006).

Other forms of transport

  • Rail Future note that more attention should be paid to private sector investment in rail and bus infrastructure. Three public transport conglomerates provide contracted services in the TfL area. Richard Pout comments (Rail Future, ibid): "Ensuring adequate modern accessible buses may, even then, be a problem, as contractors are unlikely to bear the risk of maintaining and servicing an enlarged fleet without some return on their investment".
  • There are also proposals for 60 miles of reserved lanes in the city to ease VIP road traffic between the Olympic precinct and Park Lane (Radio 4, Yesterday in Parliament, November 2005).

This essay is part of the Games Monitor briefing papers available for download from our Media Centre page.


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