The news that London's all-night tube services are to be extended to a much wider swathe of the network than previously thought has left Londoners asking themselves one big question:
What does the British government have against the Bakerloo line?
The original plan, you'll recall, was for the (weekend only) 24-hour service to begin running on chunks of the Piccadilly, Victoria, Central, Jubilee and Northern lines by the end of this year.
But today, the authorities announced that night trains would be extended to cover the Metropolitan, Circle, District, and Hammersmith & City lines – the "sub-surface" network – by 2021. Bits of the London Overground (by 2017) and Docklands Light Railway (by 2021) will be getting all night services, too.
This is obviously tremendously exciting. Still, though, the plans exclude two lines entirely.
Leaving out the Waterloo & City makes some kind of sense: it’s a tiny two stop shuttle, which exists almost entirely to give Surrey commuters a quick route to the financial district, so probably isn’t much use at 4am on a Sunday.
The other, though, is the Bakerloo, which links Paddington to Waterloo via the West End. This probably would be of use on all-nighter – and yet it’s conspicuous by its absence.
So, what’s that about, then?
The all-night tube network, as envisioned before today's announcement. Image: TfL.
One possibility is that it's being blocked by bigger and more exciting things. Today's announcement also included news that the government wanted more detailed plans for a long-awaited extension of the line from Elephant & Castle into south east London. But even if that happens – far from guaranteed – there’s no way it’s happening quickly enough to get in the way of all-night trains in 2021.
Another possibility is simply that the line isn't up to it. It uses the oldest trains on the network, dating to 1972, and the intention is to replace these with something newer and shinier. The ageing trains might, for reasons we're not entirely clear on, be a barrier to running all night.
The explanation TfL gives is more prosaic. "The major reason is that we don't think there will be demand for it," says a spokesman. So, there we are.
The all-night tubes is part of a broader "long term economic plan for London" announced today by mayor Boris Johnson and chancellor George Osborne. As you’d expect, given the timing, much of it is fluff: empty promises to grow faster than New York, £10bn of infrastructure spending that we basically already knew about, promises to make London a centre of something or other.
But it does contain a pledge to build another 400,000 homes over the next 10 years. That'll mean some planning reforms, the establishment of a "London Land Commission", and the creation of nine designated "housing zones". All of which looks like good news, although as Labour's Lord Adonis points out, those nine housing zones are barely scratching the surface of the problem:
Today's housing zones in perspective: total new homes (30k) barely covers Mayor's 24k shortfall against his own target last year alone (24k)
— Andrew Adonis (@Andrew_Adonis) February 20, 2015
There'll be feasibility studies for various big transport projects, too: not just the Bakerloo extension, but Crossrail 2, the Old Oak Common redevelopment, and a series of bridges across the Thames in east London.
Anyone would think there was an election coming up.
Here's the key part of the statement.
The plan aims to:
1) secure London’s strong economic future by setting the ambition to outpace the growth of New York, adding £6.4bn to the London economy by 2030. This is equivalent to £600 more per person if London’s productivity grows at the same pace projected for New York
2) create over half a million extra jobs in London by 2020 by backing businesses, attracting world wide investment and continuing to raise standards in schools
3) solve London’s acute housing problem, the number one challenge facing the city, by building over 400,000 new homes – including through a London Land Commission to identify and support development of brownfield and public sector land
4) deliver £10 billion of new investment in London’s transport over the next Parliament including new tube improvements, better roads, more buses and cycle lanes and identifying the next big infrastructure investment after Crossrail
5) make London a centre of the world’s creative and commercial life, with new investment in science, finance, technology and culture. This will include a new feasibility study to develop a world class concert hall for London which will be led by the Barbican Centre
6) give more power to Londoners to control their city’s future, with new powers for the Mayor of London to support economic growth, boost skills in the capital and have more control over planning powers