Saturday, 12 March 2016

Municipalisation of London's Railways

There is talk at present of adding competition within route franchises on Britain's railways. It is a recipe for chaos. What is required is simplification and co-ordination under one brand and one ticketing system. Even if there is some private provision of rail rolling stock and running, it should come under the one plan and one identity. Pay such a fee for a job done. Otherwise hail the now lost successful State-run East Coast Service.

If it is good enough for Transport for London, then it is good enough for - let's hear it - British Rail. The present arrangement on the railways is a disaster: lots of spending, and far too much to overcome fractious operating and a kind of internal blame-game and fining for when things go wrong.

In 2021 all franchises that commute into London, beyond national rail used for such purpose, will come under Transport for London planning and branding. Quite sensible. It is noted that when bus privatisation wrecked provision up and down the country, the integrity of London buses was maintained. No one cares who provides the bus service because they are all red and all come under the same ticketing.

Those of us who play trains have had to adjust their maps to take account of this huge expansion of TfL responsibility. My suggestion of better routes has had to catch up with the news. And what is emerging is not simply an expansion of London Overground alongside London Underground, but a new concept of London Metro. London Metro may absorb services like Thameslink. I think it still makes sense to talk of Thameslink, Riverlink, Citylink as routes, but bring them, along with what I call Long Commutes, under the London Metro label. London Overground brands generally shorter or more compact if weaving routes, and these are not all 'Chords' (routes that do not pass through the centre but stay out) but include 'Spokes' as well. The London Underground consists of 'lines' (TfL stipulates the use of lower case 'L' in its grammar and use directive). This is why the recent renaming of Crossrail 1 into the Elizabeth line is confusing, because it clearly is not an Underground line. It cannot be, as it is full size but also starts out in Reading and ends in Shenfield, as well as Heathrow and Abbey Wood. It also allows other national rail services to use its tunnels - and this will not be the Elizabeth line as such. So it should have been called the Elizabeth Link or Elizabeth Rail.

So it has taken some thought and drawing to add in routes that are sensible and perhaps optimal as suggestions. One can still see problems, particularly that as the connections are increased between Overground and Underground routes, with new stations, and as routes are suggested as efficient, enormous pressure is placed on stations. This is why some must have through routes even though they could be terminii for a number - for example Lewisham and St. John's nearby. Ealing Broadway is another station desperate for more platforms. Old lines need bring back, and it is possible to re-establish much of the old Northern Heights route (I call it Mill Chord). Bromley wants the Tramlink and once into its streets it can take over right to Grove Park - more connecting - and Tramlink can elsewhere extend to London Biggin Hill Airport. It could handle a little of airport expansion, as can and must Stansted and Luton expand using the rail connections.

So a bit of a diversion and a bit of fun but then we are interested in the future of railways including in the capital city. I am less interested in the diagrammatic challenge (e.g. look up Max Roberts) and will follow geography, but there are plenty of people searching for the structure that Harry Beck found. Sameboat's tilted bottle works well, but (in my opinion) needs stretching to the north and west a little further out and he needs to add in many more routes and not as faint lines. He does make changes, but the 2021 intention demands many more.

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