TfL have been very busy announcement-wise recently, as well as the driverless trains we’ve had the Bakerloo extension, the Silvertown tunnel and the cycle superhighways. The Bakerloo extension seems like a reasonable plan, a new tunnel from Elephant & Castle to Lewisham then running over Network Rail’s Hayes Line but there are a couple of points that stood out.
Some questioned why it wouldn’t happen until after 2030, demanding that it should be done earlier but the reason why is quite simple, the Bakerloo doesn’t have enough trains to cover an extension that would nearly double its existing route and they won’t be getting replacements for the 1972s until after 2030. There’s also the question of signalling, the Bakerloo operates on the most basic coloured light and trip cock system, why build a brand new section of line with outdated signalling that would be replaced in a matter of years?
Another twist is where to put the new trains, there’s about a dozen spaces at London Road next to Lambeth North station, another three in the sidings at the Elephant and Castle – which would probably be lost when the extension was built - but everything else is up at Queen’s Park or Stonebridge Park, if they’re going to extend the line an extra 12 miles or so into South East London then you’re going to need extra sidings down there somewhere.
And then there was the claim that the estimated £3bn cost wouldn’t be shouldered by the tax payer, one of Boris’s most regular jokes that gets rolled out almost every time he announces something. He claimed that the extension could be funded in the same way that the Northern Line extension to Battersea was but what seems to have slipped his mind is that the only reason the Battersea extension is being built at all is that the developers offered to pay for the Northern Line to come to them. To the best of my knowledge there currently aren’t any developers offering shedloads of cash for the Bakerloo Line to come to Lewisham or Catford Bridge, we’ve been on the receiving end of Boris’s hopeful punts for private funding before with the cable car and the public ended up forking out £65m for the pleasure.
Rather than jam tomorrow the Bakerloo extension is jam next Tuesday if someone else can afford it so why announce this and all the other future projects? I believe the answer is legacy; Boris is set to make the move from City Hall to the House of Commons with possibly a view to a future move into No. 10, he desperately wants something that he will be able to parade as a positive result from his eight years in office because nothing he’s done so far has been an unqualified success.