McGuinness on…the ‘M25 of railway’

Posted on March 10, 2011


On Monday last week Boris Johnson (I need to come up with a nickname other than BoJo, so suggestions welcome below) announced that he was dead chuffed the East London line had finally been finished. Taken a while, but I guess it’s worth it.

I jumped on the old girl on Friday morning on a trip back to QM, Canada Water to Whitechapel, to see what it’s like in the rush hour. My only previous experience of the upgraded track had been when going the other way when seeing Deanne in Earlsfield last year, and before that I can only recall a few times about a decade ago when I had a bit of work experience down at Wapping with the Sunday Times.

I was impressed. It wasn’t overly crowded (although I boarded just about 9 o’clock so I think the northern-bound monkeys were probably already at work) and it was as clean, bright and pleasant as always. I even got a picture.

...not to scale!

As to being the ‘M25’, I’d ask BJ (appropriate?) to explain himself further. It connects new areas of the capital, sure, but then so did the North and South Circulars before the notorious ring-road bordered our capital. The tube network, rather than the Overground, ferries 400 times as many people each day than the East London line, supposedly the busiest branch (people carried-per-station) of the railway.

The money is well spent on the linking of suburbs, especially given the underlying geology of the south and the development and sprawl across the outer regions. And its efficiency, at the moment, is evident. Will it get people off the roads, though?

The London Overground makes some noteworthy suburban connections, but are they necessary?

I haven’t been able to do any in-depth analysis, but I’d imagine that most people who travel between the suburbs either travel by bus (which is cheaper, even if it takes longer), or don’t do so with too much regularity (anecdotally I’m sure that won’t stand up, but statistically it’s probably about right).

I still have a feeling that a lot of rail development in the capital is done to make the maps look prettier. Someone staring at a an image of London and saying ‘why isn’t there a route connecting these two areas?’ Not because there is necessarily a need, but because having a bit more orange and a few more stations on the south side will appeal to the voters who now feel as though they’re wanted by the rest of the capital, rather than relying on the ‘nasty’ national rail who charge more.

Buses are sometimes annoying but they do the job, and the environmental impact is actually far less than building entire railways. This is a topic that probably won’t be resolved until I interview the BorJ (Star Trek, anyone?)