Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

I make no claims at expertise, but…

Posted in Commuter, Infrastructure, London by Chairman Pip on 6 February 2012

Although you’ll have noticed that I have a lot to say about the railways, I make no claims to be an expert, even though I am often asked for my opinion. Indeed, in the last few weeks two good friends of mine have each asked me questions in regards to travelling by rail, as I am the closest thing to an “expert” on the subject they both know (for the record, I couldn’t find a return journey to Manchester Piccadilly leaving at a decent time on a Monday morning for less than £50.50p, and I was unable to find out for definite whether an annual Travelcard loaded onto an Oystercard requires a photocard as well). So, I’m just offering my opinion, and trying my best to find out whether what I’m saying is actually correct. All clear?

My reason for posting this is because in the Evening Standard‘s letters page on Friday, in their “Get it off your TXT” section (where people can send in what they want to say by text message), was an entry from someone called Dean (just Dean). Rather than give you a flavour of what he said, I’ll include it here verbatim:

If the Government is prepared to spend £16bn on Crossrail and £32bn on High Speed 2, surely we can find a few million to speed up the journey between London Bridge and Charing Cross? Millions of commuters currently take eight minutes to travel less than 1.6 miles: a paltry 12mph. If this time could be reduced to say five minutes (roughly 20mph) then the time saving to commuters would add up to one day per year for each one. Surely that would be good for London’s economy?

While one applauds his positive thinking, there are some things that came to my mind while reading this.

  • The great, all pervading elephant in the room that is the timetable. There are currently 16 trains per hour off-peak running out of Charing Cross. Maintaining that level of service would likely require a massive rethink of the entire timetable through London Bridge.
  • The routes from London Bridge towards the termini it serves are all up on viaducts, go through heavily built up areas and are all quite twisty, as opposed to similar suburban and commuter routes on the other side of the river. As a consequence, reducing speed could be seen as a safety issue.
  • Trains to Charing Cross have to share part of the route out of London Bridge with trains to Blackfriars and, as a consequence, they have to fit around each other.

However, the thing that got me most of all is the fact that our Deano does not seem to be aware that, in addition to the £16bn on Crossrail and £32bn on HS2, £6bn is being spent on the Thameslink Programme, which will include a massive programme of work in and around London Bridge – in case you had forgotten (and to inform Deano), this will see additional through platforms being installed at London Bridge itself, the installation of a new viaduct that will take the route to Charing Cross more directly over Borough Market, and the creation of a new diveunder at Bermondsey, all of which will have the effect of separating Charing Cross and Blackfriars trains from using the same route through London Bridge, increasing the capacity (i.e. number of trains). So, while spending a “few million” to increase the speed may seem a good idea, it looks (to me at least) as if Deano hasn’t quite seen the bigger picture.


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  1. […] may recall in my post about “Deano” that I mentioned trying to help my friend with her trip to Manchester. Fortunately she managed to […]

  2. […] spoken on occasion about a friend of mine, the one I tried helping with a trip to Manchester. Well, she is a regular visitor to Iceland (though not, to the best of my knowledge, Iceland. Of […]

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