Boris Johnson settles on route for Crossrail 2

London's new railway line will be really big, promises Mayor Boris Johnson. Image: Getty.

Londoners! Let joy be unconfined, as his royal mayorness has confirmed his support for building Crossrail 2. Boris Johnson has asked the government to safeguard a route for what he, for some reason, wants to call the "Churchill Line". 

Specifically, mayor Boris Johnson is backing the "regional route", that'll travel a longer distance, and connect various commuter lines that currently run into Liverpool Street and Waterloo. Here's a map:

 

Some *exciting things* things to note:

  • In both north and south, the line goes out of its way to create new radial links between existing lines. Which would look nice on the map.
  • What will look less nice is the combined Euston St Pancras station. This will connect to both High Speed 1 (to the continent) and High Speed 2 (to Birmingham and points north). But it also links two existing tube stations, which serve three main line terminals between them and are connected by two existing lines. It's going to be bloody horrible on the tube map. Honestly, it'd make Châtelet–Les Halles in Paris look like a rural halt.
  • What’s more, Euston and St Pancras are a good half a mile apart: even with very long platforms, it might require some kind of travelator. The station might have to sit under the British Library’s vaults, too.
  • Finally a Chelsea tube station! No station at Piccadilly Circus though. Boo.
  • In the south, the line will take on some of the suburban commuter services into Waterloo, freeing up paths on the main line. Which services it’ll take, however, is not yet clear: it seems unlikely it'll include five different branches.
  • It's not entirely clear where the "proposed eastern branch" would go, either. The strain of Crossrail 2 that was prevalent back in the 90s tended to involve swallowing part of the Central line, so perhaps that'd be an option, though it might require some extra tracks through Leytonstone.
  • In the north the choice is rather more settled: the line to Cheshunt is the only bit of the Lea Valley lines which won't be transferring to London Overground from next year. It's also an area that's likely to see a lot more housing developed over the next few years, so is an obvious target for a new rail link.

Crossrail 2 has been on the table in some form since the 1970s, when it was generally known as the Chelsea-Hackney line. Transport for London, the Department for Transport and PricewaterhouseCoopers are now undertaking a funding and feasibility study, following a public consultation ovr the summer.

If it goes ahead, the new line could open by 2030 and  is expected to cost £20bn. But Boris Johnson said this morning that London itself could contribute "well over half" this cost, thus reducing the burden on the national Treasury.

 
 
 
 

Sadiq Khan and Grant Shapps clash over free bus travel for under 18s

A London bus at Victoria station. Image: Getty.

The latest front in the row between Transport for London (TfL) and national government over how to fund the capital’s transport system: free bus travel for the under 18s.

Two weeks ago, you’ll recall, TfL came perilously close to running out of money and was forced to ask for a bail out. The government agreed, but offered less money, and with more strings attached, than the agency wanted. At present, there are a range of fare discounts – some up to 100% – available to children depending on their age and which service they’re using, provided they have the right Oyster card. One of the government’s strings, the mayor’s office says, was to end all free TfL travel for the under 18s, Oyster or no Oyster.

The Department for Transport’s line on all this is that this is about maximising capacity. Many working-age people need to use buses to get to their jobs: they’re more likely to be able to do that, while also social distancing, if those buses aren’t already full of teenagers riding for free. (DfT cited the same motivation for banning the use of the Freedom Pass, which provides free travel for the retired, at peak times.)

But in an open letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps, the mayor, Sadiq Khan, wrote that TfL believed that 30% of children who currently received free travel had a statutory entitlement to it, because they attend schools more than a certain distance from their homes. If TfL doesn’t fund this travel, London’s boroughs must, which apart from loading costs onto local government means replacing an administrative system that already exists with one that doesn’t. 

Some Labour staffers also smell Tory ideological objections to free things for young people at work. To quote Khan’s letter:

“It is abundantly clear that losing free travel would hit the poorest Londoners hardest at a time when finances are stretched more than ever... I want to make sure that families who might not have a choice but to use public transport are not further disadvantaged.”

London’s deputy mayor for transport, Heidi Alexander, is set to meet government officials next week to discuss all this. In the mean time, you can read Khan’s letter here.

UPDATE: The original version of this piece noted that the full agreement between the mayor and DfT remained mysteriously unpublished. Shortly after this story went live, the agreement appeared. Here it is.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.