What would London's new orbital rail link look like?

Image: Nick Hall on Flickr, re-used under creative commons.

Yesterday the mayor's office released its £1.3trn (yes, trillion) London Infrastructure 2050 plan. The document contains all sorts of goodies for the sort of people who get all excited by the prospect of new transport infrastructure (i.e. us), so we'll no doubt be writing about it rather a lot.

Perhaps the most striking proposal it contains, however, is the one for a new orbital rail link, which would connect a string of existing lines to the Overground Network and which, according to the Guardian, is referred to by officials as the 'R25', after London's orbital motorway.

Sadly, though, the map in the report is a bit on the vague side...

...so thought we'd flesh it out a little.

We can't promise that what follows is an entirely accurate reflection of City Hall's plans: In a few places we've had to guess where the new line would go, based on the jagged twists and turns on its own map.

We've assumed, though, that TfL would prefer to use existing lines wherever possible, and so would only construct new track where it had no other choice. (We've marked these bits using hollow tramlines.) We've also resisted the impulse to add new stations willy-nilly, and only included them where it seems almost certain the powers that be would do the same. (These are marked with ticks rather than interchange roundels.) Even so the project is just a teensy bit on the ambitious aide. 

 

As you can see, the new network swallows up the Gospel Oak to Barking line and the Bromley branchline; takes in large chunks of the North London Line, the Wimbledon-Sutton loop (currently part of Thameslink), the Kingston loop (currently South West Trains); and uses chunks of assorted other lines. It also means bringing the long forgotten Neasden spur back into passenger service.


Most ambitiously of all it implies several new tunnels - in Wimbledon, Bromley and, biggest by far, under the Thames from Barking down to Sidcup. You could run this latter section above ground - but only if you were willing to bulldoze large swathes of Kentish suburbia.

The whole thing looks distinctly like London's answer to the Grand Paris Express plan, which will see four new orbital lines built over the next two decades or so. But the Infrastructure Plan stresses that this project is "not included in the costings": even if the engineering challenge could he met, how much all this would cost remains to be seen.

So, it may well never happen. But you can forgive the authorities for dreaming big once in a while.

 

 
 
 
 

The Fire Brigades Union’s statement on Theresa May’s resignation is completely damning

Grenfell Tower. Image: Getty.

Just after 10 this morning, Theresa May announced that she would resign as Britain’s prime minister on 7 June. A mere half an hour later, a statement from Royal Institute of British Architects president Ben Derbyshire arrived in my inbox with a ping:

“The news that Theresa May will step down as Prime Minister leaves the country in limbo while the clock ticks down to the latest deadline of 31 October. While much is uncertain, one thing remains clear – a no deal is no option for architecture or the wider construction sector. Whoever becomes the next Prime Minister must focus on taking the country forward with policies beyond Brexit that tackle the major challenges facing the country such as the housing crisis and climate change emergency.”

I was a bit baffled by this – why would the architecture profession try to get its thoughts into a political story? But then Merlin Fulcher of Architects Journal put me right:

Well you know construction is a larger contributor to GDP than financial services, and most of the work UK architects do is for export, and at least half of the largest practice (Foster + Partners) are EU, so there's a lot at stake

— Merlin Fulcher (@merlinfulcher) May 24, 2019

So, the thoughts of the RIBA president are an entirely legitimate thing to send to any construction sector-adjacent journalists who might be writing about today’s big news, and frankly I felt a little silly.

Someone else who should be feeling more than a little silly, though, is Theresa May herself. When listing her government’s achievements, such as they were, she included, setting up “the independent public inquiry into the tragedy at Grenfell Tower” – a fire in a West London public housing block in June 2017 – “to search for the truth, so nothing like it can ever happen again, and so the people who lost their lives that night are never forgotten”.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, is having precisely none of this. Here’s his statement:

“Many of the underlying issues at Grenfell were due to unsafe conditions that had been allowed to fester under Tory governments and a council for which Theresa May bears ultimate responsibility. The inquiry she launched has kicked scrutiny of corporate and government interests into the long-grass, denying families and survivors justice, while allowing business as usual to continue for the wealthy. For the outgoing Prime Minister to suggest that her awful response to Grenfell is a proud part of her legacy is, frankly, disgraceful.”

A total of 72 people died in the Grenfell fire. At time of writing, nobody has been prosecuted.

Jonn Elledge is editor of CityMetric and the assistant editor of the New Statesman. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

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