Now that Crossrail is 75 per cent complete (issue 146, December 2016), thoughts are turning to what comes next. Crossrail 2 is more than just a possibility. Transport for London has appointed Michèle Dix as managing director for the project, reporting directly to TfL Commissioner Mike Brown. Based at 55 Broadway, the iconic former London Underground headquarters above St James’ Park tube station, Michèle now heads a team planning the new route.
But the projects, and the reasoning behind them, are quite different. In its 2012 policy paper, the coalition government stated: “Crossrail is creating new transport infrastructure to support London’s economic growth. It will increase London’s rail transport capacity by 10 per cent, make journey times shorter and bring an extra 1.5 million people within 45 minutes of London’s business centres – leading to employment growth of up to 30,000 jobs by 2026 in central London.”
In other words, it was all about making the commute to work easier for 1.5 million people and, as an extension to that, result in 30,000 new jobs.
However, Crossrail 2 is about more than that – it’s about housing as well. Michèle Dix explained that Crossrail 2 will not only transform travel across the whole of the South East region, it will also support economic regeneration by providing the infrastructure needed to support 200,000 new homes and 200,000 new jobs. “It’s not just a railway scheme,” she explained. “It’s a growth scheme and it’s based on the fact that, by the 2030s, London won’t be able to cope with the demands for travel because population growth is predicted to continue. And because we’ve got a housing shortage now, and with that population growth we’ll have a bigger housing shortage, we also need to plan our railways so we can open up new housing areas as well as get them to work.”
As mentioned elsewhere in this magazine, Crossrail 2 will take inner-suburban services away from Waterloo and Liverpool Street. With the forecast a continuing increase in traffic, when built it will provide much-needed additional capacity.
So it’s not just about moving existing commuters in a more efficient and quicker way, it’s about giving them new places to live and work as well.
The first plans for Crossrail 1 and Crossrail 2 were drawn up in 1991. Crossrail 1 was taken forward for further development while Crossrail 2, then called the Chelsea-Hackney line, was safeguarded for the future. Over time, the proposed route was reassessed and, during the 2009 review, it became clear that the safeguarded route was no longer the best one.
The overall need for improved transport from the south west to the north east of London was still needed but, with recent improvements to train services on the Jubilee and Central lines, as well as the London Overground service, the alignment in the north east could be improved.
“There was a big gap in terms of connectivity that was needed up the Upper Lee Valley,” Michèle stated. “So we redirected the route up the Upper Lee Valley to open up that area in terms of additional housing.
“We also reviewed the whole route and we undertook a study which looked at about 100 different options in terms of how Crossrail 2 could be aligned in that general south west to north east corridor. The overwhelming response was that stakeholders want to see the regional route that we are now developing because not only would that help London’s problems of growth and immediate capacity shortage in the centre, it would help the wider South East.”
The principal change is the route in the North East. The original plan had been for a tunnel across London connecting the District and Central Lines, linking ‘Chelsea to Hackney’. Now it is to go through to Tottenham Hale, where it will connect with the Network Rail route to Waltham Cross and beyond, and then continue to New Southgate.
There was also a modification of the route to include a combined Euston/St Pancras station rather than King’s Cross, so as to connect with HS2. With platforms 250 metres long it is intended that the Euston connection will be at one end and the St Pancras one at the other.
Trains will be equally long, nominally the same as those for Crossrail 1 (now named the Elizabeth line) – full-sized trains running on a full-sized railway under the heart of London.
All change at Tooting
Portrait of Michele Dix
Another change to the Chelsea to Hackney alignment was made south of the Thames to take the alignment to Tooting Broadway. “Tooting Broadway was a station that we wanted because it provides an interchange with the Northern line, helping to relieve congestion on one of the busiest sections of this line,” Michèle Dix commented. “However, when we looked at the geological data, it showed that Tooting Broadway was on a fault line and that the soil conditions in that area would make building a station there difficult – not impossible but very difficult.
“So we looked to see whether we could move that interchange between Crossrail 2 to somewhere else on the Northern Line that would still provide this relief but on the right side of what we call the fault line, and we chose Balham. That would provide us with most, but not all, of the transport benefits that going to Tooting Broadway would and, because it was within clay, the soil conditions are better.”
The response on this to a public consultation was strong support to go to Tooting Broadway and not to go to Balham. Decisions on the route will be made by TfL and the Department of Transport, taking into account recommendations made by the National Infrastructure Commission, as well as reflecting comments from the public consultation.
Fifteen years to go
However, prior to that and further consultation on the scheme, TfL will be submitting a revised Strategic Outline Business Case to the Secretary of State for Transport for consideration. Subject to this, the intention is to submit a Hybrid Bill in 2019. Once that goes through its various stages, Royal Assent is likely (or anticipated) in 2021/2.
Construction will take ten years, so that would give an opening date by 2033.
“We will have different entry points to Crossrail 1 because we will have additional entries and exits. The orientation of Crossrail 1 is east/west whereas the orientation of Crossrail 2 is north/south. So our entrances will be away from the operating Crossrail 1 station and close to our ventilation shafts, which will be at the end of each platform.
“Crossrail 1 also made passive provision for pedestrian tunnels which will link with ours, so disruption will be kept to a minimum.”
“This is a big scheme, this is twice as big as Crossrail 1,” Michèle commented. That may surprise many readers, but Crossrail 1 has a total of 44km of tunnels under the capital while Crossrail 2 will have 38km of twin- bore tunnels, a total of 76km.
Preliminary design is already underway, a large part of the work being undertaken by Arcadis. As the Hybrid Bill gets closer, this will ramp up and more packages of design work will be contracted. Many of those designers will work with potential contractors, to take advantage of their practical experience and to get the much-vaunted ‘early contractor engagement’.
“We won’t be issuing contracts to contractors at this stage, we will be issuing contracts to designers but ensuring that contractors are part of that,” Michèle stated. “Arcadis at the moment have Taylor Woodrow working with them, so they’ve got that good contractor involvement. Because, whilst they are designing it, they also need to be thinking ‘how can I construct it?’ as that influences the design.”
What we need to know is…
While visiting with Michèle, it seemed opportune to ask a couple of ‘thorny’ questions. Firstly, had she given consideration to automatic operation?
“With all these schemes, you have to design for the future, but the Victoria line is a service that runs on automatic operation although it’s a manned service.
“The key thing is that we’ll have automatic signalling, because that is what will give us that increased frequency of service. So it’s making sure that our signalling systems allow for minimum headroom, minimum headways, maximum services. And we are designing for Crossrail 2 to operate 30 trains an hour on the core.”
Secondly, Tottenham Court Road station has been a building site for years with the works for Crossrail 1. Will it all happen again for Crossrail 2?
“We certainly won’t be tearing it all up again. Crossrail 1 made passive provision for Crossrail 2 as part of the safeguarding – Crossrail 1 was designed knowing that Crossrail 2 would have an interchange there. And things like the grouting shafts that were used for Crossrail 1 can be used for Crossrail 2.
Following recommendations from the National Infrastructure Commission, Crossrail 2 is now a project jointly sponsored by the Mayor of London and the Government. So, subject to the approval of the business case, Michèle is aiming for a 2021 date for Royal Assent, with trains carrying passengers by 2033.
On the Charles line perhaps?
Written by Nigel Wordsworth