Why avoid East Croydon?
It’s a bottleneck and a significant barrier to growth. Obviously the number of trains serving East Croydon will continue and people need to go there. But like Redhill which was a problem in the nineteeth century, we need a ‘bypass’. That’s why the Victorians built the avoiding ‘Quarry Line’ between Horley and Coulsdon in 1900 to ease Brighton Line congestion. Without it, the Brighton Line couldn’t function today. Certain BML and BML2 trains will still obviously serve East Croydon, but others carrying people who don’t want East Croydon (exactly like Redhill) will be on avoiding services – it’s quite simple.
What about Tramlink?
About a mile of Tramlink’s New Addington branch occupies the former heavy rail tunnels and will need realigning between Lloyd Park and Lebanon Road. That will be costly, but well worth the stupendous benefit it releases in rail capacity. Further north, the section to Elmers End could easily share the rail corridor, running alongside as the boundary is sufficiently wide.
What about the Hayes branch?
It’s important not to worsen Hayes services, but instead improve things. Again the corridor is generally wide enough to accommodate four lines – as the Norwood Junction – New Cross Gate section does. Solutions for the intermediate stations would be necessary, whilst some BML2 trains could stop (only) at Elmers End, giving Hayes commuters a fast connection to Canary Wharf Crossrail and beyond. It’s important for London to have a 90mph railway where possible between Selsdon and Lewisham.
Why Canary Wharf?
There are no spare paths into London Bridge, although some there would be nothing to stop BML2 trains going there, for example in emergencies or diversions. However, some truly immense benefits come with a new five mile railway beneath the Thames connecting Lewisham with Canary Wharf and Stratford. Terminating services in London takes up space and capacity –it’s better to go through – which was the argument for Thameslink in the 1980s.
Canary Wharf is already a key destination for commuters and with Crossrail will become even more significant. We’re not proposing running Crossrail trains on BML2 but having interchange at Canary Wharf and Stratford. There is also interest in having a new station on the south bank at Lewisham. People could be spared the wasted time, cost and so on of needlessly travelling right into London and back out again to Canary Wharf. The cost/benefit ratio would be impressive.
Probably the biggest benefit of BML2’s London Phase is physically joining Stansted and Gatwick airports with one continuous railway which can operate dedicated shuttles connecting Gatwick – Canary Wharf – Stratford – Stansted. Stanwick would be one seamless journey between the two airports with interchange onto Crossrail.
Is Thameslink 2 realistic?
Wholly so. Farringdon will become the busiest and most important interchange between Thameslink and Crossrail. But again, as with Croydon and London Bridge, there will be thousands who have to needlessly go there to reach Canary Wharf. TL2 would strip out such over capacity and bolster Thameslink, relieving pressure through the Farringdon core. TL2 would also connect currently separated counties on both side of the Thames. There would also be benefits for the capital’s road systems by reducing congestion on the M25 and other Thames road crossings.
This graphic shows the potential to link the Brighton Main Line to Canary Wharf and Stratford International. The lines criss-crossing in the centre are not meant to represent any definite proposal, but merely to illustrate the ability to realistically connect these routes.
The area coloured is the exact length and width of the area occupied by East Croydon station's lines and platforms and therefore shows how a new Croydon Gateway station could be much larger and purpose-built for interchange not only between London Bridge and Victoria, but new services to Canary Wharf/Stratford and Crossrail.
Obviously, Croydon Gateway and its new lines and multi-level platforms is for competent engineers to design. It may also be advantageous to amalgamate the current stations at Sanderstead, Purley Oaks and South Croydon in this vicinity.
London's Croydon Tramlink could also be extended to the Gateway.
East Croydon would remain served by the same standard and quality of services as today for everyone who wants to go there for work, shopping etc. However, non-stopping services would be able to avoid East Croydon and thus ease the bottleneck. More services could be run between London and the South Coast, whilst Gatwick airport could have its rail connections speeded-up and increased by means of the Stanwick Express dedicated shuttle services operating between Gatwick and Stansted through Canary Wharf and Stratford International.
Isn’t Croydon Gateway unnecessary and over ambitious?
No, because there will need to be a cross-connection to enable BML trains to cross over onto BML2 and reach Canary Wharf. East Croydon deals with huge amounts of people switching trains and would benefit by having a far larger and purpose-built interchange station at this location currently occupied by light industrial units. It might well be desirable to amalgamate Sanderstead, Purley Oaks and South Croydon stations into Croydon Gateway which would obviously be connected to Tramlink.
Inevitably, won’t the cost be prohibitive?
No, because the combined overall benefits are so massive. It would be difficult – impossible even – to justify the Canary Wharf connection simply for commuters into London, but alongside Stanwick and TL2 it will pay for itself many times over. Its value to London and the airline industry is substantial, not least for giving them the capacity into the capital they want, but cannot otherwise have, as well as the regeneration for East London and the suburbs.
We don’t have all the detailed solutions – that’s for well-paid consultants and engineers to determine precisely what is needed. We can only provide the concept and show the advantages. We don’t believe the suggested 15 mile tunnel from Coulsdon to Victoria to avoid East Croydon is realistic let alone capable of delivering anywhere near the benefits of BML2. Look at a map or satellite image and you’ll see a largely disused/underused rail corridor from the Brighton Line to Lewisham – that speaks volumes. It’s gold dust and should be exploited for all its worth
Will BML2 happen?
Yes, it has to, there is nothing which comes anywhere near delivering the additional capacity London and the South East is going to need in the next few years.