The map of the London Underground has gained a new branch and two extra stations.
The new Northern Line extension from Kennington to Battersea Power Station via Nine Elms was officially opened by London mayor Sadiq Khan.
But several much larger projects are coming down the track – or at least have got as far as the drawing board – while the bungled Crossrail project is finally nearing completion.
These are the key developments that Londoners – and people visiting the capital – can look forward to.
Crossrail (Elizabeth Line)
By some time next year, travellers from Heathrow airport will be able to reach Canary Wharf in London’s Docklands in 38 minutes – but in a sense they will be over three years late.
The Crossrail project, which will be known as the Elizabeth Line once it opens to the public, was due to open in December 2018.
It is intended to connect Heathrow and Reading to the west of the capital with Shenfield and Abbey Wood to the east.
The core of the line is a new tunnel between Paddington and Whitechapel, running east-west through the centre of the capital, with stations at Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon and Liverpool Street. These intersect with the Underground network, and will take pressure off existing lines. Crossrail is intended to increase passenger capacity in London by 10 per cent.
As late as July 2018, taxpayers and the travelling public were assured that it would open within five months. In fact, Crossrail was years from opening. Informed sources have told The Independent that the best estimate for the central section beneath London is late spring 2022, making it more than 40 months late. A spokesperson for Transport for London (TfL) said: “We remain confident that the line will open in the first half of 2022.”
Initially trains through the central section will run every five minutes in each direction, though the frequency will double when the full service is operating. The full project will not be complete until May 2023. In the meantime, the cost has risen from the original £14.8bn price tag to more than £20bn – with hundreds of millions of pounds subtracted from forecasts because of lost revenue.
Bakerloo Line southeast extension
The Bakerloo Line is something of a Cinderella strand on the London Underground: its rolling stock is to celebrate half-a-century of trundling to and from Elephant & Castle, serving central London between the two stations that gave the line its name: Baker Street and Waterloo.
Passengers who are decanted from the train at “the Elephant” mainly continue their journeys by bus into southeast London.
The plan is to extend the line along the line of the Old Kent Road (which will have a station of that name) to Lewisham via New Cross Gate. A further phase could see the Bakerloo Line taking over an existing overground line via Catford to Hayes.
“Extending the Bakerloo line and upgrading the existing line would connect an historically under-served part of London to the Tube network, while unlocking thousands of new homes that London needs and supporting new jobs,” said a spokesperson for TfL.
“We remain committed to delivering the scheme when the time is right. We are working with the boroughs on funding for the ongoing development of the scheme, and will continue to work with the government on a viable funding package so it can be delivered in the future.”
Northern Line extension extension
Yes, that is potentially a thing. The new Northern Line extension (NLE) to Battersea Power Station ends a tantalising mile short of Victoria station. Continuing to that key hub – which has National Rail links to Kent, the Sussex coast and Gatwick airport – would have provided great connectivity.
The project, though, is built with a possible extension to Clapham Junction – the busiest railway station in the UK, in terms of trains passing through.
Regrettably, a TfL spokesperson said: “There are no current plans to extend further to Clapham Junction; however it was a requirement that the NLE was designed so that a further extension would be possible in the future.”
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, this project was seen as essential to relieve the extreme congestion from southwest London into the centre, and to provide the northeast of the capital with a much-needed connection.
The Crossrail 2 line would run from Clapham Junction via Chelsea, Victoria, Tottenham Court Road to a joint Euston-St Pancras station – giving a link to HS2 and Eurostar – and onwards via the Angel to Dalston and beyond.
TfL says it is still a necessity. But with commuter numbers failing to recover after they collapsed during the Covid crisis, the pressure on existing services has abated.
“While we are working to help get London back on its feet,” the TfL spokesperson said, “we are also dealing with the biggest challenge in our history – the impact the pandemic has had on our own finances.
“We have made tough decisions in the last year as a result of the pandemic and recognised that major growth schemes such as Crossrail 2 and the Bakerloo Line Extension, while still important to London, are no longer the immediate priority.”