Consultation opens on extending Crossrail or rapid bus routes into Kent

Consultation has begun on extending the Elizabeth Line and/or a Bus Rapid Transit beyond Abbey Wood into Kent.

I wouldn’t be too excited. There is no money allocated for a Crossrail extension – and issues with completing the first stage makes an extension unlikely. And that’s before considering government’s recent attitude towards infrastructure investment.

The group behind this consultation is C2E “formed in 2016 as an informal group of authorities” including:

  • London Borough of Bexley;
  • Dartford Borough Council;
  • Gravesham Borough Council;
  • Ebbsfleet Development Corporation;
  • Kent County Council;
  • The Greater London Authority; and
  • Thames Gateway Kent Partnership

Abbey Wood has yet to see a single train yet of course, and would need to be half demolished to allow any extension.

Abbey Wood station only just completed but would require rebuilding

Bexley have been fixated on this project despite large costs yet often overlooked far easier and cheaper measures for capacity increases in the short term such as Thameslink services stopping at Belvedere and Erith. Thameslink currently sails through from Abbey Wood to Slade Green despite being timetabled slower than Southeastern Metro calling at all stations. Calling at those stations is an immediate increase in capacity.

Bexley plan thousands of homes in the north of the borough as part of their “growth strategy”. The first stages of that strategy could be accommodated through Thameslink stoppers and longer trains from both operators.

Additional easier uplifts – compared to a Crossrail extension – in the next decade are extending all Southeastern trains to 12 carriages alongside Thameslink services from 8 to 12 carriages. That requires new trains with the aged Networkers needing replacement anyway and additional carriages for Thameslink stock.

Abbey Wood station

Options in the consultation all involve increasing services to Northfleet with up to 10 trains per hour. There is arguably no real demand in the near to mid term at smaller stations past Dartford such as Stone Crossing given they all saw a doubling of service frequency in 2018 when Thameslink commenced.

Proposed services to Northfleet would see a new pedestrian link to Ebbsfleet but this should really be happening in the near term regardless of other changes. Northfleet and Ebbsfleet are extremely close as the crow flies but it’s a long, meandering walk currently with little but vacant land and a car park between the two stations.

Close together but no pedestrian-friendly link in place to interchange between stations

One alternative option featured is an increase in Southeastern/Thameslink services to 10 trains per hour between Northfleet to Abbey Wood. Just where trains would terminate in Abbey Wood is an issue. They can’t continue towards London as London terminals are at capacity unless other lines see cuts which isn’t happening. Presumably a new platform would also be needed on the current small car park in Abbey Wood for those Northfleet-Abbey Wood shuttles to turn back, but to do so would mean demolishing homes and the new station.

Courtesy Crossrail. Abbey Wood station – car park on the right.

A more likely option is a Bus Rapid Transit.

BRT routes

It doesn’t sound too enticing with only single deckers running at six buses an hour – and it will always be slower than rail. Given it mostly duplicates rail routes in London would many use it? If you live in, say, Erith, walk to the station, get a train for five minutes then change at Abbey Wood.

Beyond London there is already Fasttrack – which when I tried to use had no information online about pricing with a very dated website. For a flagship public transport option serving many new builds in north Kent it was far from impressive.

This consultation raises questions over the feasibility of some options, but then with no money confirmed maybe it doesn’t need to. Local authorities would probably be better off focusing on measures that are eminently achievable and relatively affordable over the next decade – and then hope central Government changes attitude towards infrastructure. A true high frequency rail extension along four tracks could be built to cater for tens of thousands of new homes. It wouldn’t be cheap, but it would be transformative.

Click here to view the consultation.

 

 

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John Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

5 thoughts on “Consultation opens on extending Crossrail or rapid bus routes into Kent

  • January 27, 2021 at 2:14 pm
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    A Northfleet-Ebbsfleet connection is an absolute no-brainer. You might even get one of those whizzo people mover tech companies to fund it. I’ve tried connecting to a train at Ebbsfleet off of the North Kent Line and it was such a faff, it would have been easier to go into central London and back out.

    Reply
    • January 27, 2021 at 5:52 pm
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      Once the Northfleet Ebbsfleet pedestrian connection is complete they could just have the current Thameslink Rainham trains stop at Northfleet but admittedly there is only 2ph.

      Reply
  • January 29, 2021 at 10:49 pm
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    At least with the introduction of new electricand hydrogen buses. The Rapid Transit buses can use normal roads and bus lane in Greater London with out the need for expensive guided bus ways to be constructed.

    it is interesting how history repeats itself up until he late 1950’s and early 1960’s. London had electric trolley buses. But these routes were replaced with diesel buses. Mainly RT’s and RM’s Now we are converting back to electric.buses.

    Reply
  • January 30, 2021 at 7:02 pm
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    An extension of the Elizabeth Line could be accomplished without demolishing the brand new Abbey Wood station by having the trains share the mainline track past Abbey Wood – there’s a junction connecting the two lines just past the station, towards Belvedere – although that of course brings its own complications in the form of capacity issues. I’d hazard that it would be simpler, though, than clearing a path for a new dedicated track all the way through to Dartford and beyond.

    BRT systems usually have their own isolated “track” or lane, too. That’s the point – they are faster, “rapid”, because they avoid traffic, essentially a train line served by buses. Running them on normal roads…. well, it would just be another bus route, wouldn’t it?

    Reply
  • February 3, 2021 at 6:55 am
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    I think the rapid bus transit routes will use dedicated bus lanes. These will be buses rather than trams. The same as the fast track buses operating in Kent.

    Reply

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