Something to say? This is your platform.
As somebody who can remember the embryonic Crossrail project as a dozen people working in a tiny office near St James Park Tube station, I was saddened (but frankly not surprised) to learn that this mega-project is now running a year late and is also now massively over budget.
Even back then, in those very early days of 2005, it was quite obvious there were some major flaws inherent within Crossrail’s conceptual designs.
The root causes of this very expensive failure we see in 2018 are not the ones which Christian Wolmar recently identified in
RAIL. Exploding high-voltage electrical sub-stations and under-sized ventilation fans are simply the most obvious symptoms.
The initial designs for all of the Crossrail underground stations were, in far too many cases, simply wrong. All city centre stations, especially those servicing high-capacity and high-frequency underground metro stations, are not about trains - these stations need to be designed around realistic estimates of the pedestrian flows.
Unfortunately, in Crossrail’s earliest days, that particular exercise does not appear to have been done properly. Thus, the initial designs for Crossrail stations - especially the busy one at Liverpool Street - just ignored all well-known good design practice… that is, copying what London Underground had first and brilliantly designed way back in the 1930s.
They then steadfastly refused to change their initial drawings. It is no surprise to me now that these underground stations are all now very late and also all significantly over budget.
Then came the decision to integrate Crossrail’s timetable into the National Rail network, at both ends of the main tunnel. This introduced a completely unnecessary degree of complexity into the whole project.
This whole concept of inter-linking city-centre operations into the ever-changing national rail timetable therefore completely overwhelmed the one key principle - the one that normally says that city centre metro systems must always be kept very simple and completely self-contained. From then on, the final outcome was inevitable.
Finally, and most seriously, the whole Crossrail scheme always was back then - and unfortunately still is today - completely and utterly lop-sided in terms of its passenger loadings.
At the eastern end, it will attract millions of commuters, all of whom will want to alight at Liverpool Street for their jobs in nearby City of London offices. Meanwhile, the trains on the western end will be (in the words of a former Transport Secretary) carting lots of fresh air around.
Accordingly, the biggest challenge which the Elizabeth Line will have to face when it eventually opens is the really big one, the topic that nobody today wants to talk about: severe congestion and overcrowding at Liverpool Street. Once it opens, the poor layouts and inadequate signage at this station will undoubtedly cause operating issues.
Whatever else you might think of the recently departed Network Rail Chief Executive Mark Carne, he did get one thing right: when he said that he had travelled all over the world, but that he had never before come across an industry where all of the major projects were designed and approved on the back of an envelope.
“Chaos at Liverpool Street” always used to be one of the London Evening Standard’s favourite headlines. When the Elizabeth Line finally opens for business, I rather suspect that this headline will be appearing rather too frequently.
On April 21 2017, the ticket hall roof is being installed at Crossrail’s new Liverpool Street station. Peter Bryson believes that the new station will not be able to cope with Crossrail traffic.