The pressure on transport links in and around London is inexorable. It has been thus since the middle of the nineteenth Century: this was what drove the first underground railways, what is now called the “sub surface” part of the system. That pressure continued to build, and with it came “deep level” tube lines. More recently, the need for links around the centre has led to the development of what is now called the “Overground” network.
One feature of the ever rising demand has been the need to build new lines to relieve existing ones, or to serve new centres of growth. The Victoria Line of the late 60s was in large measure built to relieve the Piccadilly Line, which it shadows between Green Park and Finsbury Park. The first part of the Jubilee Line relieved the Bakerloo, taking over its Stanmore branch.
And the latter, I can confirm from grim experience, was sorely needed: even occasional visitors to the capital knew that, by the late 70s, you avoided the Bakerloo at busy times. The demand was then ramped up by new building developments: when the regeneration of London’s Docklands went almost overnight from low rise to a proliferation of skyscrapers and high apartment blocks, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) was never going to cope.
And so it proved. The DLR went from one car to three car operation, but it has needed the extension of the Jubilee Line through Canary Wharf to provide a solution. That solution, with more development coming on stream, may soon reach capacity, and this is where Crossrail comes in.
Crossrail – an east to west tunnel across central London and Docklands – relieves a number of other lines and pressure points. Most importantly, it helps the Central Line, which experiences peak overcrowding so severe that it is impossible to board trains at stations close in to the centre. In Docklands, it will relieve the Jubilee Line at Canary Wharf, and also the interchange at Stratford.
Relieving the Central Line, which passes under the length of Oxford Street, is crucial for the continuing credibility of the West End as a shopping and leisure destination. Likewise, providing more capacity across Docklands allows that area to keep growing, and to keep attracting the kind of businesses that contribute significantly to economic growth.
Put simply, it isn’t just a building project. Nor is it something that can be delayed or cut back – not if we want our capital city to retain its power to pull in workers, shoppers and all those others who keep the economy moving. That is why Bozza is batting for Crossrail.