Here’s a fantasy metro network for Bournemouth and Poole

A detail from the proposed network. Image: Benjamin Chadwick.

We haven’t had one of these in a while – but it’s Christmas, so just for you, here’s a fantasy metro network for the Bournemouth conurbation....

I've enjoyed reading about people's fantasy metro networks, and wanted to submit my own, for the area I grew up in. The South East Dorset conurbation, centred on the resort town of Bournemouth and the historic port of Poole, once boasted a tram network. But this was ripped up in the 1930s and today's inhabitants – numbering almost half a million – are forced to rely on cars and buses.

The following proposal is quite ridiculous, as the population is too spread out for mass transit of this nature to be viable. But in my fantasy world, here's how the South East Dorset Metro (SEDM) would be rolled out.

The full network. Click to expand. Image: Benjamin Chadwick.

Phase 1

The first phase of the project sees SEDM-branded trains running along the main line between Wareham and New Milton. Long-distance trains no longer stop at intermediate stations apart from Bournemouth and Poole, and all stations on the route receive upgrades to handle increased traffic.

The old line from Hamworthy to the port (part of the original railway to Poole, before the line from Bournemouth was built) is reopened. The new SEDM trains then branch at Hamworthy and serve two new stations: The Yachtsman, and Poole Port, which connects with the international ferry terminal.

Two other new stations are opened, one on the eastern shore of Holes Bay, and the other (Rockley) on the Wareham branch, just west of Hamworthy. The line, coloured red on maps, is called the Jacob Line, after the architect of the Victorian Bournemouth station.

Work is also carried out at this point to prepare for later projects: the railway is buried for a stretch west of Bournemouth station and around Branksome.

Phase 2

Though advertised as a metro, the network's five other lines are tramways in the manner of those of many French cities: long trams (Citadis or Eurotram, perhaps) running on reserved rights of way, turfed over to keep cars away.

But the Coast Line, introduced in the second phase of the rollout, is unique in running mostly underground, in cut-and-cover tunnels under some of the main roads linking the conurbation's main settlements. This new line, coloured blue, calls at all of the Jacob Line's stations between Poole and Christchurch, but also makes intermediate stops, leaving the Jacob Line as an express service, à la Crossrail. At Branksome, the two lines can cross thanks to our preparatory works there.

The most ambitious part of this project is the work carried out in Poole, where the ailing building housing the Dolphin shopping centre and bus station is ripped down and replaced with a nice mixed-use highrise. New tram lines are buried under this building, with easy connections between tram, bus and train.

Phase 3

The next two lines are diagonals, connecting Poole with Kinson and Bournemouth Airport, and Bournemouth with the main university campus, Canford Heath and Corfe Mullen. The line to the airport, coloured yellow on the map, is called the Pottery Line in honour of the historic Poole Pottery. The other new line celebrates the granting of city status to Bournemouth on the queen's Platinum Jubilee (hey, it's a fantasy). Following London's precedent of naming lines in honour of queens, we call it the Platinum Line and colour it grey.

These two lines run mostly at-grade along existing roads (with some traffic and parking lanes inevitably sacrificed). The Platinum Line also runs through a number of parks, and is elevated across Tower Park. The Pottery Line runs on a viaduct between Northbourne and Bournemouth Airport.

Phase 4

The next line on the agenda is the Castleman Line. For some of its route, this runs alongside the Castleman Trailway, which follows the old railway line, axed under Beeching, between Poole and Wimborne. From there it continues in an inverted U shape, travelling east to Ferndown and then south to Bournemouth, where it connects again with the Jacob and Coast Lines.

In the spirit of transit-oriented development, new high-density housing is built around some of the new stations, most notably on the present-day Broadstone and Ferndown golf courses (served respectively by Broadstone Heath and Dudsbury). Avid golfers needn't fear: in the time I've spent poring over the local map, I've been struck by just how many golf clubs there are in the area. There's no shortage.

In its eastern section, the Castleman Line runs mostly along roads, except through the busy streets of Winton, where it is buried, and between Charminster South and Bournemouth, where it runs above the newly-buried railway.

Phase 5

The final line, the black Northern Line, runs between Christchurch and Broadstone via the Castlepoint shopping centre. There's ample opportunity on this route for more transit-oriented development, in particular the stretch along Magna Road, between Bear Cross and Merley.

See here for a detailed geographical map of the network.


What's actually in the UK government’s bailout package for Transport for London?

Wood Green Underground station, north London. Image: Getty.

On 14 May, hours before London’s transport authority ran out of money, the British government agreed to a financial rescue package. Many details of that bailout – its size, the fact it was roughly two-thirds cash and one-third loan, many conditions attached – have been known about for weeks. 

But the information was filtered through spokespeople, because the exact terms of the deal had not been published. This was clearly a source of frustration for London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who stood to take the political heat for some of the ensuing cuts (to free travel for the old or young, say), but had no way of backing up his contention that the British government made him do it.

That changed Tuesday when Transport for London published this month's board papers, which include a copy of the letter in which transport secretary Grant Shapps sets out the exact terms of the bailout deal. You can read the whole thing here, if you’re so minded, but here are the three big things revealed in the new disclosure.

Firstly, there’s some flexibility in the size of the deal. The bailout was reported to be worth £1.6 billion, significantly less than the £1.9 billion that TfL wanted. In his letter, Shapps spells it out: “To the extent that the actual funding shortfall is greater or lesser than £1.6bn then the amount of Extraordinary Grant and TfL borrowing will increase pro rata, up to a maximum of £1.9bn in aggregate or reduce pro rata accordingly”. 

To put that in English, London’s transport network will not be grinding to a halt because the government didn’t believe TfL about how much money it would need. Up to a point, the money will be available without further negotiations.

The second big takeaway from these board papers is that negotiations will be going on anyway. This bail out is meant to keep TfL rolling until 17 October; but because the agency gets around three-quarters of its revenues from fares, and because the pandemic means fares are likely to be depressed for the foreseeable future, it’s not clear what is meant to happen after that. Social distancing, the board papers note, means that the network will only be able to handle 13 to 20% of normal passenger numbers, even when every service is running.

Shapps’ letter doesn’t answer this question, but it does at least give a sense of when an answer may be forthcoming. It promises “an immediate and broad ranging government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and future financial structure”, which will publish detailed recommendations by the end of August. That will take in fares, operating efficiencies, capital expenditure, “the current fiscal devolution arrangements” – basically, everything. 

The third thing we leaned from that letter is that, to the first approximation, every change to London’s transport policy that is now being rushed through was an explicit condition of this deal. Segregated cycle lanes, pavement extensions and road closures? All in there. So are the suspension of free travel for people under 18, or free peak-hours travel for those over 60. So are increases in the level of the congestion charge.

Many of these changes may be unpopular, but we now know they are not being embraced by London’s mayor entirely on their own merit: They’re being pushed by the Department of Transport as a condition of receiving the bailout. No wonder Khan was miffed that the latter hadn’t been published.

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