Crossrail is a large rail transit project in Central and Greater London that stems from decades of proposals, numerous bills submitted to Parliament, and close to £16 billion by its scheduled opening in 2018. It serves as a significant East-West connection of Central London, a missing element of heavy rail transit in the city stemming from policies in the 19th century that forbade rail lines from entering the core of the 5 boroughs of Central London.
As the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom and the capital city of England, London experiences a great deal of traffic entering and leaving the city on a daily basis. It is estimated that greater London has an official population of nearly 8 million people although the number of people entering London often times is closer to 14 million people. London has the most international visitors of any city in the world which consists of mainly tourists who come to visit the city which is incredibly rich in history. This has led to the development of an extensive transportation network which includes modes such as above and underground rail networks, transit, light rail, tram lines and boats that run along the Thames River. It is estimated that because of the options available for travel, almost 1/3 of London residents do not own a car. London is looking to keep up with the transportation demands of both residents and tourists and is considering building a major new railway link under Central London. This new project aims to eliminate some of the congestion in the city and tie a lot of the existing rail and transportation networks together to develop a more expansive transportation system which implements greater ease of travel for people wanting to experience all London has to offer.
History of Transit in LondonEdit
The invention of the steam train and its railway forever changed the layout of London. From about 1830 to 1930, London was the world’s largest city so naturally, congestion and overcrowding was a constant issue. The first railway line opened in 1836 and connected Spa Road in Bermondsey and Deptford. The trains ran along 4 miles and could take a passenger to Greenwich in just under 12 minutes. This was at least half the time it would take by either omnibus or riverboat. As people realized the ease of travel by rail, more and more lines were being developed. However, to build a new railway in London, a lot of the existing buildings had to be removed to make room for the new lines. Before a new railway was built, it needed approval and at the time, it was much easier to get approval for lines that ran through the poorer areas of the town. Seeing as the property was much cheaper south of the Thames River, the London Bridge was chosen as the terminus for the lines and more lines were built south of the river. Eventually, people were evicted from the more affluent parts north of the river to make way for more rail lines. More than 20 new lines opened in the 1840s and in 1843, there were 8 different routes connecting London to Paris via rail lines. The growth of the railways is what transformed London from a residential city to the commercial center it is now. The railways allowed people to travel farther to and from work and as such created much greater congestion in the city. This was eventually alleviated when the London Underground system was constructed. 
With the addition of more railway in London, congestion became a growing concern. People were taking the rail system into London to get to work and then completing their journey by road once they got to the center of the city. This is when the idea came about to build an underground railway system to link the City of London with the mainline terminals. The Tube, as it is now referred to by the people of London, was first created in 1863. This rapid transit system is the oldest underground railway in the world and serves 270 stations. The London Underground stretches almost 250 miles, making it the second largest metro station in the world only to the Shanghai Metro system. It is estimated that close to 3 million riders use The Underground on a daily basis.
The London Overground transports riders above ground around London via 54 miles of rail service and travels through 20 of London’s 33 boroughs. The Overground Network was developed as a brand to bring together all the National Rail services which were being operated by many different companies. This system was taken over in 2007 by the Transport for London and improvements were made including more accessibility, more reliable services, new trains and extended and new lines being implemented. To date, there is an estimated ridership of close to 200,000 people per day on the Overground system. The goal is to have all the improvements in place and complete by the start of the 2012 Olympics which are set to take place in London.
Privatization of the British Rail SystemEdit
In the 1980s, industries such as telecommunications, electricity and gas supply, water supply and sewage services were being privatized. At the end of 1990, John Major replaced Margaret Thatcher as the Prime Minister. With a changing administration came changing ideas. In the 1992 general election, John Major and his conservative party vowed to privatize the railways but were not specific on how they would do so. Soon after his election came the Railways Bill which was published in 1993. The bill laid out how British Rail was to be broken up into more than 100 separate businesses with most relationships between the successor companies established by contracts. In most cases, the privatization of British Rail is not seen in a favorable light. The intention of privatization was to improve customer service, and to allow private borrowing to fund investment and remove the short–term constraints of the Treasury budgeting from the railways. In actuality, customer service worsened, unregulated fare prices have increased as the demand levels shifted, and not enough new stock and profit was generated as expected so the new trains that privitization was supposed to bring were not funded. The privatized railway has not shown the improvement and reliability that was hoped for and most people consider it to be a failing system.
The Chelsea-Hackney Line, sometimes referred to as Crossrail 2, is a proposal for an underground railway running from south-west London to north-east London. Plans for this new line were called in after the National Rail showed projections of overcrowding. The current plans for this line include linking the Wimbledon branch to the Central line‘s Epping Branch and as of right now, the line is to be built to the same standards as Crossrail will be in regards to the size of the tunnels used and other features. It will not be built by the standards of the London Underground.
Service providers, regulators, and private interests:
- The Strategic Rail Authority
- Transport for London (TfL)
- London Underground
- Infrastructure providers for London Underground
- Several train operating companies (TOCs)
- Heathrow Express
- British Airports Authority
- Docklands Light Railway
- London and continental railways
- The Rail Regulator
- The Health and Safety Executive
- The Civil Aviation Authority
- London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority
The 1989 Cross London Rail study was the beginning of the Crossrail's appearances in Parliament; from the study of East-West rail demand in London came the 1991 Crossrail Bill. Although it was voted down in 1994, the demand for the service still continued to grow. In 1999, the Deputy Prime Minister requested a review of current and future funding options for an east-west transit link, and the review was published in 2001 as the London East-West Study (LEWS).2005 Crossrail bill – approved by House of Lords in 2008 as Crossrail Act 2008; construction started on May 15, 2009 at Canary Wharf
After the preliminary LEWS showed a strong case for the construction of a cross-London link between Paddington and Liverpool stations, Cross London Rail Links, Ltd. (CLRL) was set up by the Government (Department for Transport and Transport for London) in 2001 to define a specific route for Crossrail, as well as the services to operate through it. CLRL used the Government’s New Approach to Appraisal (NATA) and Guidance on the Methodology for Multi-Modal Studies (GOMMMS) framework to assess and appraise transport alternatives for the project.
GOMMS Evaluation Criterion:Edit
- a. Reduce noise
- b. Improve local air quality
- c. Reduce greenhouse gases
- d. Protect and enhance the landscape
- e. Protect and enhance the townscape
- f. Protect the heritage value of historic resources
- g. Support diversity
- h. Protect the water environment
- i. Encourage physical fitness
- j. Improve journey ambience
- a. Improve transport economic efficiency
- b. Provide beneficial wider economic impacts
- c. Improve reliability
- a. Reduce accidents
- b. Improve security
- a. Improve option values
- b. Reduce severance
- c. Improve access to transport system
- a. Improve transport interchange
- b. Integrate transport policy with land-use policy
- c. Integrate transport policy with other Government policies
Central London Corridor AlignmentEdit
The LEWS strongly suggested that the safeguarded (protected from conflicting development) route from Paddington to Liverpool Street stations on the edges of Central London be used as a basis for analysis; the intermediate stations at Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, and Farringdon were also strongly advised to be considered as part of this route. The alignment was largely designed and the adoption would lessen costs and conflicts related to construction or government approval, according to LEWS. Additionally, LEWS addressed the small number of existing feasible alignments for a tunnel through Central London due to Underground tunnels, building foundations, infrastructure, and other obstructions, and suggested that this information provided further justification for the Central London alignment.
An alternative to the safeguarded route for Central London was presented by the Residents Association of Mayfair, and was first considered as an alignment route as part of the 1991 Crossrail Bill in Parliament. CLRL reassessed the route in 2002, which is also known as the “Northerly Alignment.” This proposed alignment was approximately 1 mile north of the safeguarded route, and would have followed the Marylebone, Baker Street, Euston, and King’s Cross stations, while maintaining a similar alignment to the safeguarded route east of Liverpool Street. Among other advantages, the new proximity to St. Pancras International station from King’s cross would have increased accessibility to the EuroStar service to Paris and Brussels that was relocated from Waterloo in 2007.
Although CLRL determined that the engineering of the alignment was feasible, it also determined that the route would induce less ridership, fewer passenger benefits, and higher costs compared to the safeguarded alignment. It would require more demolition of existing structures and impact significant archaeological areas, as well as reducing the time savings for passengers accessing the largest shopping, employment, and entertainment areas in the West End district of Central London. Additionally, the Northerly Alignment was not approved by the Westminster and Camden city councils, and the CLRL ultimately designated the previously safeguarded route between Paddington and Liverpool Street as its preferred Central London alignment.
Eastern and Western Corridor AlternativesEdit
(See pages 12-13 for maps of corridor alternatives: Development of the Crossrail Route)
CLRL chose five separate corridors to the east and six corridors west of the safeguarded Central London alignment for review. Ultimately, it selected two of the eastern corridors and one western corridor as part its preferred Crossrail scheme to be presented to Parliament in the Crossrail Bill of 2005. Corridor Alternatives (preferred corridors designated by asterisk):
- Eastern Corridor A*— Great Eastern Line
- Eastern Corridor B – Tilbury Line via Forest Gate
- Eastern Corridor C – Tilbury Line via Royal Docks
- Eastern Corridor D* – North Kent Line via Royal Docks
- Eastern Corridor E – North Kent Line via Charlton
For the selected Corridor D, which performed highly in the economic impact assessment and transport economic efficiency, CLRL considered the option of operating the Crossrail service from Abbey Wood only, rather than projecting a proportion of the service to start at Ebbsfleet. CLRL concluded that by sharing tracks with other rail services on the North Kent Line between Abbey Wood and Ebbsfleet, there was an unacceptable risk of disruption to Crossrail’s high-frequency service pattern. As a result, Abbey Wood rather than Ebbsfleet was selected as the starting point for all Crossrail services in the corridor. Corridor E, which would have followed the Greenwich Peninsula instead of the Royal Docks east of the Isle of Dogs station, performed equally well in the economic and transport assessment criteria, but selection of Corridor D avoided the need to restructure National Rail lines through Southeast Greater London and Kent, demolish a significantly larger amount of businesses and residential property, and to find a feasible site on the Greenwich peninsula for an additional station.
The Great Eastern corridor (corridor A) was also selected for inclusion in the preferred scheme. Although this corridor performed less well than the other eastern corridors against the sub-objective of beneficial wider economic impacts, Crossrail would still have a positive impact on this sub-objective by improving accessibility to Stratford, where significant development is proposed. Inclusion of this corridor also offers significant transport economic efficiency benefits by providing crowding relief to both the National Rail and London Underground networks, as well as providing additional rail capacity into the Liverpool Street station. This additional rail capacity could be used to improve services to destinations on the Lee Valley Line between London and Cambridge.
- Western Corridor A — Watford Junction Line
- Western Corridor B – Aylesbury Line via Amersham
- Western Corridor C – High Wycombe Line
- Western Corridor D – Uxbridge and Watford Metropolitan line
- Western Corridor E* – Great Western Line
- Western Corridor F – Kingston via Richmond Line
The Great Western corridor (E) was ultimately designated as the western alignment for CLRL’s preferred plan. Although it is not explicitly listed in the GOMMMS criteria, the corridor was selected largely because it met the goal of international connections by connecting to Heathrow International Airport. Airport stakeholders and limitations on service to stations along the Great Western Line pushed for an extension of the corridor past Heathrow, and CLRL ultimately determined that terminating the route at Maidenhead, which is approximately 15 miles west of Heathrow Central Station, was optimal. Additionally, the selection of this corridor also avoided significant contractual and construction related impacts, and benefited National Rail and freight rail needs in the corridor.
The central alignment, along with the preferred eastern and western corridors was included in the bill submitted to Parliament in 2005 as a hybrid bill, which is a public bill on behalf of private organizations or interests. Ultimately, the bill was granted Royal Assent by Queen Elizabeth II in July of 2008, and groundbreaking ceremony was held at Canary Wharf in May of 2009.
The future economic benefits attributed to the Crossrail project can be divided into three separate categories: direct user benefits, revenues from operation, and wider economic benefits to London and the region as a whole. Economic analysis done by Cross London Rail Links (CLR), a subsidiary of Transport for London, has attempted to predict the impact the Crossrail project will have when fully completed.
The direct user benefits are make up the largest share of the predicted economic benefits of the Crossrail, and are often cited as a primary justification for the project. The most important of these benefits is time savings to commuters. Time savings are achieved by providing a quicker and more direct route through London, with fewer transfer points, and less wait and walk time. Other user benefits include the value of crowd reduction and ambience, reduction in accidents, and increased access to disabled users. The present value of the total benefit to users is estimated to be slightly over £16 billion. This amount is estimated to accrue at a roughly 2:1 ratio between leisure/commuting users and business trips.
The second set of predicted benefits is the revenues the Crossrail will bring in. The present value of revenues earned by the Crossrail is expected to be approximately £13.5 billion. However, much of those revenues will come from passenger shifts from other modes of public transportation; primarily National Rail and the London Underground. Once these passenger shifts are accounted for the present value of revenues is expected to be £6.1 billion. CLR also expects there will be significant economic benefits to greater London as a result of the Crossrail. These benefits primarily take the form of labor force movement to more productive jobs and the agglomeration benefits from the increase in jobs locating in the central city. Improved access to central London through the Crossrail is assumed to increase the number of workers who are willing to work there to take advantage of the higher wages. The tax revenues associated with the higher incomes are an external benefit to the public. Additionally, each of these jobs will marginally increase the density of central London which can increase average productivity across workers in the area. Average productivity in London is expected to grow by 1.75% annually. The expected GDP growth resulting from the economic benefits associated with Crossrail is approximately £15.2 billion (present value).
Total costs for the Crossrail project are expected to approach £16 billion. The project is being hailed as the largest and most expensive public work for a generation. Capital expenditures, including laying rail, digging tunnels and building stations, as well as acquiring land and property, are projected to make up approximately £13.2 billion, with the remainder attributed to depot costs and operating costs. The total cost is estimated to have a 5% probability of being higher than what is currently projected. Cost estimates for this project have climbed slightly since the initial proposal, in 2005 CLR estimated a £13.9 billion total cost.
|Crossrail Limited (CRL) Direct Capital Expenditure||£billion|
|Central Tunnels, central stations and railway systems||9.1|
|Land and Property||1.0|
|Indirect CRL costs and project management||2.4|
|Sub total direct expenditure||12.5|
|Other CRL Expenditure|
|Payment to Canary Wharf Group for Isle of Dogs Station||0.6|
|Total CRL Expenditure||13.2|
|On Network Works||2.3|
|Total P95 Funding Requirement (cash) Numbers may not sum due to rounding||15.9|
Given the considerable logistical and organizational complexities of the Crossrail project, funding the largest infrastructure project in England (£15.9 billion) may be an even more monumental task. The key to sustainably funding a project of this scale, which has in the past been rejected for financial reasons, is capturing some of the value created by the project and spreading the cost out over numerous agencies and time. Both planners, government officials, and the Crossrail Sponsors(GLA, TfL, & DfT) have drafted a funding proposal which they feel sufficiently spreads the burden of funding while simultaneously capturing value added by the project. As noted the total project cost is projected with a 95% degree of certainty to be approximately £15.9 billion. A break down of capital expenditures for each component of the project is detailed in figure 1. Additional costs not included in this amount are items being funded by third parties, rolling stock, and financing costs which will add an estimated £2.1 billion in additional project costs. Other costs not included in this figure are the bulk of the cost of the Woolwich Station, which will be privately funded, and a £0.15 billion contribution for the Canary Wharf station coming from the Canary Wharf Group.
The Crossrail project funding is coming from three primary sources: Transport for London(TfL), the Department of Transport(DfT), and the Greater London Authority(GLA). Funding for the project breaks down as follows. The Greater London Authority and Transport for London have agreed to contribute around £7.7 to 7.8 billion towards the construction costs of the Crossrail project. The Greater London Authority has put in place the Crossrail Business Rate Supplement which assesses a fee of two pence per pound to business ratepayers occupying premises where the rateable value is £55,000 or more(will be reassessed in 2015). The BRS will fund approximately £4.1 billion of this figure with £3.5 billion of that amount coming from GLA borrowing. This borrowing is done against the BRS and has an expected repayment date of 2036-37, although the actual data of repayment could be from 2035-2042 dependent on a range of factors. An additional £0.6 billion in capital will come directly from BRS funds not used in servicing the GLA's debt, with a projected £219 million to be raised in the first year by the BRS. The total amount levied by the BRS is expected to be somewhere between £7.3 billion to £8.5 billion, due in large part to the cost of financing the GLA’s borrowing (estimated at £4.0 billion), an amount not included in the overall cost of the project. This additional £4.0 billion, plus another £2.1 billion in financing cost, and hundreds of millions in private sector station development puts the true total cost of the project closer £22.0 billion, an amount which still doesn't factor in operating costs once the project is completed.
Additional funding of as much as £0.3 billion will come from a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) in the City of London. The CIL will be a sum paid by developers, and local planning authorities can choose to set to help fund infrastructure needed to support the development of their area. Still more London funding will come from London's Section 106 (Town and Country Planning Act of 1991) with a contribution of £0.3 billion. Section 106 is an assessment on developments involving new office space in Central London and the northern part of the Isle of Dogs, placing focus on those developments and locations which contribute most significantly to the problems of congestion that Crossrail will help relieve.
Direct contributions by Transport for London(TfL) will total close to £2.4 billion, with the bulk of this funding coming from one of three lending sources: Public Works Loan Board (Primary), the European Investment Bank, and additional capital through three bond issues. TfL will use any incremental operating surplus generated once Crossrail is operating to meet its debt servicing responsibilities. Additional costs my be recouped by the TfL at the end of construction by selling surplus land and over-station development rights.
The Department for Transportation (DfT) has promised a contribution of £5.1 billion, which will be paid to Crossrail Ltd. as a grant. DfT will also underwrite contributions from the Common Council of the City of London and the BAA plc. Network Rail, the surface rail provider outside London, will also contribute £2.3 billion to improvements to the National Rail network needed by the Crossrail project. Although cost projections have been made with a 95% certainty level, there are contingency plans in place if funding needs should exceed or fall short of projections. If costs rise above projected levels, the DfT would take over responsibility for funding the remainder of the project and if costs fall short of projections, the surplus would be shared among Crossrail Sponsors (GLA, TfL, & DfT) after the 2017 project completion.
The massive and historic scale of the Crossrail project, in conjunction with the UK’s domestic and international commitments to meet reduced targets of greenhouse gas emissions, warrant a significant amount of attention to the potential impacts and emissions of construction and future operations. Perhaps the most evident display of these commitments in the project thus far is its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which was published and submitted to Parliament in 2005 alongside the Crossrail Bill.
Since the Royal Assent was granted for Crossrail in 2008, Crossrail Ltd. developed a Crossrail Construction Code that incorporates experience from other major UK transport construction projections, such as the Thameslink, Heathrow Terminal 5, and Channel Tunnel Rail Link) as well as current industry best practices. Software is actively used to report any environmental incidents throughout construction as a forum to share information, best practices, and lessons across all parties involved with the construction. Additionally, award programs have been implemented for exception environmental practices by contractors to act as a performance incentive for construction.
Ecological loss due to construction will be staggered and insignificant between the Maidenhead and Paddington stations. However, many areas along the Great Eastern Line will undergo significant loss of botanical resources and habitats due to the removal of concentrations of line-side vegetation that serve as important nesting and wildlife corridors in the suburbs. Approximately 8 million m3 of material is expected to be produced throughout the Crossrail project, which includes waste from demolition, as well as the materials excavated from tunnel, ventilation shaft, portal, and station construction. The (2004) London Plan, which is the strategic plan created by the Mayor of London, includes an 80% target for the re-use of excavation and demolition materials in order to support the demand for materials needed for building and transport development up to 2016. The majority of the excavated materials will be suitable for use in site engineering and restoration; preliminary predictions in the EIA of the potential volumes of contaminated materials requiring treatment or disposal within the Crossrail project are approximately 7% of the total materials (530,000 m3).
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is creating a new 1,500 acre nature reserve on Wallasea Island in Essex County, which is Northeast of Greater London. Tunneling for the Crossrail will produce approximately 6 million tons of materials, and close to 100% of this is expected to be uncontaminated; close to 4.5 million tons of material is expected to be used by the RSPB for the wetland project, which requires 10 million tons, and will be the largest of its type throughout Europe and the UK. The wetland conversion on the island, which intends to help mitigate the loss of tidal habitats in England from climate change and coastal flooding, is scheduled to be completed by late 2012.
Equity and ImpactEdit
There is some concern about the impact the Crossrail project will have on various interested parties, particularly business owners and residents of the East End, London’s historically poorer side of town. Residents and politicians from the representing the East End complain that the project will most directly benefit the City of London (downtown business district), that the negative impact of construction will disproportionately affect East End business, and that the cost is too high.
An MP representing the East End quotes one of his constituents in speech in parliament given in July 2005 as saying the cost is equal to “40 new hospitals or more than 400 new schools”. Major opposition was also voiced against the original material removal process that was to take place during construction. A large part of the operation was to take place in Spitalfields Banglatown, a neighborhood on the East End. Impacts included three tunneling sites, with a conveyor belt operation 24 hours a day, in some cases operating very close to residential housing. The complaints resulted in the debris to be removed via barge rather than the conveyor belt. There have also been some conflicts between Crossrail and residential property owners over the purchase of their property for construction. Some residents have complained that they are being offered significantly less that the market values of their homes, in some cases as much as a third less.
The Crossrail project is enormous and there are few projects that can match its scale. However, the RER A line in Paris started out similarly to Crossrail, and there are numerous similarities between these projects. The A line was the first of five that comprise the Paris RER (Réseau Express Régional – translates to Regional Express Network). It was formed by tunneling under Paris to connect two rail mainlines previously operated by SNCF (the French national railway agency) and is operated today as a type of metro/commuter rail hybrid. The trains used are long, two-level trains typical of commuter rail, while the frequency is similar to that of most metro systems with as little as 90 seconds of headway (24-30 trains per hour in peak periods).
Similar to what happened in London, the rail companies in France built terminal stations on the outskirts of Paris in the middle of the 19th century. Metro lines were connected to all of these stations, and most notably to Line 1, which also runs east-west and connected to the Gares de Lyon, de la Bastille, and de Reuilly. In 1929, the first plan was developed to connect the heavy rail lines across the city with tunnels. Two lines were proposed, one north-south and the other east west, connecting at Châtelet-Les Halles (not a train station, but a location close to the center of the city and City Hall). Both of these lines were eventually built, but the 1929 plan stalled due to the Great Depression and World War II.
In 1956, another study proposed 8 lines cutting across Paris. Two of these were combined into the RER A project, which was approved in December 1959 and started construction in July 1961. The section through Paris was entirely new, but west of the city the line followed the Ligne de Saint-Germain, and east of the city it followed the Ligne de Vincennes. These lines strongly contrast one another: the Saint Germain line was the first passenger line built in France, in 1837, and was still very successful, while the Vincennes line was one of the most antiquated and underused in the system, still running steam trains until its last day in 1969. The Saint Germain line was included because it was too successful and removing it would free capacity at the Gare Saint-Lazare. In contrast, the Vincennes line was included partly because of its geographical location opposite the Saint Germain line, but mostly because the SNCF wanted to get rid of it. The initial plan was to connect these lines by tunneling between the Gare Saint-Lazare and the Gare de la Bastille. This was changed to a tunnel through the entire city of Paris, from La Défense business district on the west side to Vincennes on the east side with connections to the Gare Saint-Lazare and the Gare de Lyon. The Gares de la Bastille and de Reuilly were then abandoned and later demolished in the 1980s. Outside of the city of Paris, the existing track was used, with signal and overhead wire upgrades paid for as a part of the project. The first segment (Nation to Boissy-Saint-Léger) opened in December 1969 and the entire tunnel through Paris opened in December 1977.
London and Paris are comparable cities. Both have a regional population of around 12 million. Both cities developed along a large, navigable river that runs on an east-west axis and developed first on the north bank. Because the river was the best way to transport goods for hundreds of years, both cities can be said to have some natural preference for east-west travel. The RER A and Crossrail are east-west lines that connect mainline rail on either side of the city with a tunnel through it. Both are (or will be) operated with local and commuter trips in mind and have the same fare structure/smart pass as the rest of the transit network.
Lessons for Crossrail
Perhaps one of the best lessons from this Paris example is to never underestimate the demand for an east-west transit line in a region of 12 million people. The Metro Line 1, the first east-west line built in Paris, opened in July 1900 and was already congested by December 1900 with 130,000 passengers per day. Today, the Metro Line 1 carries 725,000 passengers per day. The RER A is busiest transit line in Europe by far with its 1.2 million passengers per day, and the Metro Line 14, which was built as an attempt to relieve the previous two, carries 500,000 passengers per day and is becoming overcrowded as well. Furthermore, the RER A has been successful because it serves a historically important corridor through the city as well as large new developments outside of it. La Défense, the financial center of Paris, is comparable to Canary Wharf and was developed at the same time as the RER A. Cergy-Pointoise and Marne-la-Vallée are “new towns” developed beginning in the 1960s as anchors at either end of the line.
Crossrail will probably have high ridership in any case due to its status as a high-speed east-west link across London that connects to Heathrow Airport, the City of London, and Canary Wharf. However, it does not link to new towns in the same way that the RER A does. The only new town served by Crossrail is Thamesmead (near Woolwich station), a failed new town that never met its development goals. Crossrail is also different in that it does not directly compete with one Underground line, but has multiple interchanges with several different lines. It connects to the Central Line 5 times, the Hammersmith and City Line 4 times, and 3 times each to the District, Circle, and Jubilee Lines. This could attract more riders since there are likely to be many cases where Crossrail reduces the number of transfers required. On the other hand, people and businesses locate based on the network structure at the time of their decision and may not switch to Crossrail if their trip is already served by just one Underground line.
Thameslink has a somewhat different history than Crossrail or the RER A but is a useful comparison nevertheless because it was the first mainline connection across central London. Thameslink is a much longer line (225km vs. 119km for Crossrail). The Snow Hill Tunnel under the Thames was completed in January 1866 and passenger trains ran across London using this tunnel until 1916. The lack of a mainline passenger connection across London between 1916 and 1988 can be seen as more of an operational decision, then, rather than a physical constraint. The tunnel was used to carry freight from 1916 to 1970, but it was abandoned and tracks were removed in 1971. The first Thameslink program paid to rebuild tracks and make station improvements in the mid 1980s and service began in May 1988.
The primary lesson for Crosslink is that, within 10 years of opening, the Thameslink was overcrowded during peak periods. This led to the Thameslink 2000 proposal, first pitched in 1991 ,and approved in 2006. Now called the Thameslink Programme, it is a £6 billion effort to increase capacity on the Thameslink. Some of the improvements will occur before 2012, in time for the Olympics, but most will be built at the same time as Crossrail, from 2012 to 2018. The fact that Thameslink became overwhelmed so quickly suggests that the ridership was underestimated in the planning process. After this experience with the first mainline connection across central London, it would be prudent to plan for additional capacity on Crossrail. This could mean building more capacity than is needed right away, or allowing for easy capacity upgrades (such as longer or double-decker trains) in the future. News reports seem to suggest that Crossrail planners are doing this.
Two of the largest Thameslink Programme projects are Farringdon Station and London Bridge Station. Farringdon will be the junction between Thameslink and Crossrail, and is undergoing an upgrade to handle the increased passenger traffic. London Bridge Station is the oldest of the terminal stations in London, built in 1836, and is being reconfigured to eliminate a bottleneck on the Thameslink line. The station currently has 9 terminal platforms and 6 through tracks. The reconfiguration will reverse this and dedicate 2 of the through tracks to Thameslink. It will also expand the station building. The Thameslink Programme estimates that these changes will increase the station capacity by 66%.
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