The Problems With Crossrail

January 25, 2008 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Towards the end of last year, the government said it would pay for the Crossrail link and, after getting the legal go-ahead later this year, is due to open by 2017.

If you’re not aware of it, Crossrail (more correctly known as “Crossrail 1”) is a planned east-west underground railway from Paddington to Liverpool St., via Bond St., Tottenham Court Road and Farringdon. On the face of it it seems a great idea – we all know how crowded the tube is, especially in central London, and we know how useful the Thameslink (St. Pancras to Blackfriars), a.k.a. Crossrail 0, is – but unfortunately, there are quite a few problems with the planned route, which are unlikely to be improved.

The first problem with Crossrail 1 is that the government have decided to take a route from 20 years ago and added branches to Heathrow and the Docklands, instead of coming up with a new route from the beginning. On the face of it, taking an already existing idea isn’t that unreasonable – we all know how long it takes for anything useful to be done in this country – but the problems arise from where the trains will run to. The idea is to take over the existing local trains from Maidenhead and Heathrow to Paddington, then via a new tunnel in central London towards Liverpool St and calling at Whitechapel before splitting off towards either Shenfield, Essex or Abbey Wood. The problem is that Maidenhead is in the middle of nowhere – about halfway between Paddington and Reading. It would make more sense to extend the route to Reading and so connect with a very busy train station – which is planned to be upgraded in the new few years – and so connect with trains throughout the UK. The other problem is east of Liverpool Street: going to Shenfield creates no new capacity on the rail network, as is simply takes over existing services, and stopping; going through Whitechapel creates lots of disruption to the area – there are large campaigns against it – and nobody can show why it’s needed, even the connection with London Overground would be unlikely to justify it. There’s also the fact that half of the trains which reach Paddington stop there, and so their journeys are wasted. It’s also worth mentioning that this lack of new capacity is why Crossrail is opposed by the rail industry.

The second problem is the cost of it. At the moment, it’s planned to cost £17 billion to build, with money coming from central government, TfL and business contributions. There’s a more cost-effective alternative, called Superlink ( The part of this which is effectively Crossrail 1 involves going from Reading to Liverpool Street, but then things change. After leaving Liverpool St, instead of the trains splitting routes, their plan is to make all of them go through the Docklands, then heading north, exiting at Harlow and taking over the existing routes to Cambridge and Stansted. Their cost of doing this is about £8 billion, i.e. half of Crossrail’s cost, as well as getting more people on their routes, so earning more money, and creating badly-needed space at Liverpool St, by taking over the existing routes. Superlink also plan on taking other routes – local trains to Basingstoke/Woking, Northampton, Ipswich, and the Essex coast – which would create even further space at existing stations, namely Euston, Waterloo and Fenchurch St., significantly increasing rail capacity! All this at an estimated cost which is approximately equal to that of the current Crossrail route!

My final gripe with Crossrail comes from their marketing slogan “Crossing the capital; connecting the UK”. I accept it’s purely marketing hype, but it’s also false advertising, as I’ve already shown; it barely extends outside the M25, never mind the UK. However, being northern, I am aware that as far as Londoners are concerned, the M25 is the entire United Kingdom.


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This post was written by Demetrius Notice

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