With the end of summer, we start autumn with a bunch of small updates both in and out of London. These include surprise level boarding rolling stock coming soon to the Isle of Wight, new light rail lines moving forward, and continuous progress of step-free access.
Isle of Wight Level Boarding
Yesterday, it was announced that the Island Line on the Isle of Wight would be receiving refurbished London Underground trains (class 484) starting next year. Given the line’s complete segregation from the rest of the UK’s railway network, the line is set to raise its platforms (to around 1100 mm) to allow level boarding onto the new trains. This is amazing news, even if this solution cannot be replicated in the majority of the network. For example, these same high-floor trains will operate in North Wales and on the line from Bletchley to Bedford, but are not expected to get level boarding as these routes aren’t fully segregated from other traffic.
Luton and Hounslow
The new light rail line connecting Luton Airport to Luton Airport Parkway Station is progressing in the background. Luton Airport is currently by far the worst connected of London’s airports, requiring a bus to actually reach the airport from the railway station, located a mile away. Once the automated rail link opens in 2021, going to Luton Airport will be much less of a hassle.
In addition to this line, a small freight line between Southall and Brentford has reached a major milestone towards conversion to passenger services. Hounslow Council, which has been very proactive with step-free access in the borough, has commissioned Network Rail to conduct a detailed study for this route following a public consultation last year. This service would connect to the Elizabeth Line at Southall and would provide a much-needed connection between Western and South West London. As with all new or reopened lines, it will be very interesting to see how the railway industry will approach accessibility on this line, and whether level boarding will be prioritised from the start.
More Step-Free Access!
Starting last week, there has been a dramatic change for services between Stratford and Meridian Water in North London. With the opening of the third track between Tottenham Hale and Meridian Water, there is now a new 2 train-per-hour service, giving Meridian Water a consistent service throughout the whole day. To coincide with this opening, the lifts at Tottenham Hale are reportedly in operation, meaning that this major interchange station now has step-free access to all platforms.
As always, I am eager to see what happens accessibility-wise with this new and dedicated track. Greater Anglia will be bringing in high-floor Aventra trains for this route, but given the segregation from other services, could it be feasible to install temporary platform humps to allow level boarding once the new trains are here? This is a similar case to Great Northern, where a segregated section could technically allow for a platform hump at Highbury & Islington, giving a level boarding cross-platform interchange with the Victoria line. The new Great Northern trains are still in the middle of their roll-out period, but expect constant queries from me about this once the class 717’s are fully introduced.
Good News and Bad News
The good news is that the Bank Station Upgrade is moving along nicely, with the new accessible entrance building now “topped out.” The Londonist recently went on a site visit and from their pictures, you can appreciate the scale of this project and the impact it will have. This station upgrade will bring step-free access to the Northern line when completed in 2022, and maybe one day also to the Central line. Although the completion date has steadily been pushed back from 2020 to 2022, partially due to the construction of the Northern Line Extension to Battersea Power Station, at least we’ve had more of a heads-up than with Crossrail’s endless delays.
Speaking of which, Crossrail is potentially going to miss its latest deadline. Crossrail boss Mark Wild is now admitting that the core section, except for Bond Street, is not 100% guaranteed to be ready by March 2021, which was supposed to be the latest estimate. This is very disappointing, as these deadlines keep changing, but the work is ongoing and finally becoming more tangible. For example, the hoardings are starting to come down at Farringdon.
Hopefully we will not have to deal with too many further delays and we can finally get to use this amazing railway!