The creation of “entirely new rail lines” including Crossrail 2 may be necessary to cope with train overcrowding on some London routes over the next 20 years, Network Rail said today.
The situation was most pressing on some outer suburban routes from the south-west into London and between London and Ipswich, Network Rail said. Construction of High Speed 2 would also heap pressure on the existing network, it said.
A new approach would be needed to meet predicted future demand on “a small number of routes”, with measures such as train lengthening, timetable changes and infrastructure enhancements possibly being too complex and costly.
“More extensive options – for example, the building of entirely new lines – may be needed,” said Network Ral, in its 20-year Rail Utilisation Strategy (RUS) for London and south-east England services.
It assumes that the number of passengers travelling into London in the busiest hours will grow by more than a third by 2031.
It says that provided committed schemes such as Crossrail and Thameslink were implemented in full, “overall peak capacity in the London suburban area will largely be able to cope with predicted passenger numbers in 2031, with the addition of some other key measures”.
These other measures include extra commuter services between the Thames Valley and Paddington station in London, additional tracks on the Lea Valley line in east London and more trains on the Windsor lines into London’s Waterloo station.
The RUS recommends developing proposals for extending Crossrail to Reading and improving rail links to Heathrow. The proposed Airtrack scheme that would link Heathrow and London Waterloo is currently in planning.
The RUS also stresses the impact the proposed High Speed 2 line would have on capacity on the local rail network, and notes the key role that could be played by Crossrail 2, the proposed new line that would run in tunnel beneath London from Chelsea to Hackney.
It suggests that the currently safeguarded alignment of the cross-London rail tunnel be adapted to accommodate an interchange at Euston, the likely London terminus of any High Speed 2 line.
Proposals for a interchange between High Speed 2 and Crossrail at Old Oak Common also need more work, says the strategy. It also highlights issues with linking High Speed 2 with High Speed 1.
The RUS advises that detailed consideration of the effect of a High Speed 1 to High Speed 2 connection is required, given that the only viable route for such a connection “appears to interact significantly” with the North London Line.
Network Rail planning and development director Paul Plummer said: “Some of the conclusions in this report are stark. This strategy should act as the starting point for a wider discussion, looking beyond rail planning to housing policy, the ability of the railway to drive regeneration and changes to how we live, work and travel.”
Today’s publication marks the start of a three month consultation on the draft strategy with key stakeholders. After taking feedback into consideration, Network Rail will publish the final strategy in summer 2011.