TfL wants to bring construction forward – but where will the Bakerloo line extension actually go?

All stops to Lewisham: a Bakerloo line train. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Transport for London just released its new business plan. It promises various dull-but-worthy administrative reorganisations in search of financial savings, shuffles various station upgrade plans around the schedule (Camden Town, Holborn), and includes £20m set aside to develop a plan for rail devolution just in case Chris Grayling has an unexpected change of heart.

The most exciting bit, though, is that it confirms plans to extend the Bakerloo line to the south east through a newly bored tunnel. That’s actually been the plan since last December – but TfL have brought it forward, and now reckon that, instead of getting it done by 2030, it might be finished for 2028-9.

What with one thing and another, all this remains a bit theoretical, but nonetheless, here’s the map:

It’s hard to imagine the station names “Old Kent Road 1” and “Old Kent Road 2” surviving contact with the enemy, though. So what else might they be called?

One possibility – the boring possibility – would be simply “Old Kent Road North” and “Old Kent Road South”. This would have the virtue of clarity, I suppose, but I can’t bear stations named after roads, and it would in any case also be unbelievably dull.

So what else might they be called? Let’s assume for a moment – perhaps optimistically – that this map is intended as literal, and that the points marked on it represent actual proposed station locations, rather than simply a vague aspiration to have two stations somewhere on the Old Kent Road. Do that and, best I can tell – comparing the station to the position of the Thames, borough boundaries, and so forth – the two new stations are roughly where I’ve placed the two black stars on this map:

The northern stop looks to be somewhere in the vicinity of the big Tescos by the junction with Albany Road. Buses terminating around there used to refer to that junction as “Old Kent Road / Dun Cow” after a long dead pub. (It’s now a doctor’s surgery.) But they don’t often do that any more, instead defaulting to “Old Kent Road / Tesco”, and no way are Tesco getting their name on a tube stop on my watch.

So a more sensible name would probably be “Burgess Park”, after, well, guess. It’s not ideal – the park in question is nearly a mile wide, its western edge lying all the way over on the Walworth Road – but it’s a nice park more people should know about, and Dun Cow is a stupid name for a tube stop.

A map of Burgess Park. Image: Open Street Map/Dan Karran.

The southern one is easier, albeit sillier: the junction with Peckham Park Road still revels in the name “Canal Bridge”, as this was once the point where the Old Kent Road crossed the Grand Surrey Canal.

The canal in question is long gone: its route through Burgess Park is now a cycle path, its previous role visible only in the occasional, slightly vexing iron bridge. But the junction still goes by that name, and there is something wonderfully London-appropriate about naming a new tube stop after a canal that’s not there any more.

So, if I had my way, here’s how the bottom of the Bakerloo line will look, c2030:

It won’t, of course. I’m almost certainly reading more detail into that map than it actually contains. And there’s already a campaign to add a third Old Kent Road stop at the very top of the road: Bricklayers Arms, another long dead pub, which gave its name to a long dead freight terminal and latterly a big roundabout with a flyover.

So, no, for those and no doubt other reasons, my map is almost certainly wrong. But I got to draw a map, that’s the important thing. I like maps.

Maps.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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How the big freeze of 1962-3 killed off Britain’s canals

Little Venice, London. This was actually 2010, but you get the idea. Image: Getty.

The English are internationally renowned for banging on about the weather. When British drizzle is compared to the hurricanes of the Caribbean or the cold faced by more landlocked countries, our complaining seems wholly unjustified.

Still, our weather can have ruinous effects on whole industries. The particularly cold winter of 1962-63 was the final nail in the coffin of a centuries old water-borne trade.

At one time canals played an essential role in the UK’s economy. In the early days of the industrial revolution, canals snaked across the map, connecting the coal mines of the countryside to the factories of cities. They fuelled the furnaces and kept the hearth fires burning, allowing for cities to rapidly grow in the closing years of the 18th century.

A map of British and Irish waterways. The canal network is in orange. Image: Peter Eastern/Wikimedia Commons.

Economics is rarely sentimental, though, and when more effective modes of travel came along the canals began their slow demise. Whereas European canals widened to accommodate for ever larger boats, the thin British canals –bar the mighty Manchester ship canal – slowly gave in to the supremacy of those new-fangled trains.

The rise of railway also saw the odd canal being bought and shut down by railway companies. In most cases this was simply about eliminating the competition, but in some the straight canals proved a perfect place for new railway tracks – the fate of South London’s Croydon Canal.

Still, the bargepeoples tightened their belts, and the canal system limped on as a viable option for freight until the early ‘60s, when nature came in with the knockout blow. The Big Freeze of 1962-3 was, as the name suggests, uniquely cold for the UK. Records going back as far as 1659 only recorded two winters colder, and the canal system froze solid.

Somerset, January 1963. The snow stayed for so long it stretched phone wires out of shape. Image: Howard Dublin/Wikimedia Commons.

Facing months of no service by barges, industries that had been reliant on the canals switched to alternatives on the rail and road networks. When the ice finally thawed, and with grim memories of that winter on mind, few returned to using the canals for freight. Besides having dire consequences for that years football calendar, the winter mostly finished canals as a component of British industry.

Luckily many of the canals themselves survived to be repurposed, first for leisure and more recently for living. London’s canal system currently holds around 5000 boats, 60 per cent of them permanent homes. These liveaboards, driven there by the desire for the slow life or the rest of the city’s crippling property prices, are changing the face of London’s waterways.
The water dwellers, along with those drawn to these lateral parks for leisure, have brought business back to the city’s canals. Now books shops, grocers, coffee shops and even bakeries can be found floating on the waters.

So next time the trope of the weather obsessed Brit comes up, you can scoff at other countries hailstones the size of Chihuahuas, or sun you can cook an egg in. Tell them that the weather has shaped British history, too – and with huge climatic shifts on the horizon, it shows no sign of stopping any time soon.

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