Essay on the Chords

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The London rapid Transit system is set to become more integrated and have providers subsumed under one planner. There will still be national rail, but under London's control will be long commutes, the London Overground, the London Underground, and a number of defined services such as Docklands Light Railway and Tramlink.

The first principle is that if you define a route and name it and display it, it is then more likely to be used. Even a generalised defined London Overground with an orange colour and such roundels and signage (plus vague references to North London Line, East London Line, etc.) has improved the use of the London suburban/ urban railways.

Taking such definition further, I suggest these proposals. London Metro is the Long Commute routes, and then comes London Overground. The Overground is divided into a relatively few Spokes and the feature of Chords. Spokes connect to the centre of London, whereas Chords are those railways skirting around the capital. To be on a Spoke or a Chord (capital letters) is to be on the London Overground; London Underground and the Crossrails (full size railway) use 'lines' (not capitalised). TfL has this usage of lower case 'line'.

A chord in mathematics is a line that joins the diameter of a circle without going through the centre.

Providing defined Chords within an integrated system gives the rail user options to use slower, less direct, but less busy rail routes as part of a journey that transfers, at some point, to more direct London Underground lines. A Chord with good connections (sometimes via a permitted external short walk) provides a number of route varieties for any journey. The entirity of a Chord route use may be longer and less direct than other means of public transport. Thus, for any individual, a Chord works in sections and works by connections. A Spoke is a short London Overground commuting route connecting with Chords and providing additions to London Underground lines.

Some Chords and Spokes (and London Metro) have poor connections with London Underground lines. A programme of investment is to extend platforms (especially above ground) and move them to add connectivity.

The chords are usually named avoiding geographical area suggestion (not North, High etc. but stations may provide part place names, as in Sisters, Mill, Cat - possibly Dog - Abbey and Beck). Chord names set up contrasts and themes to aid memory and recognition - Brothers, Sisters and Cousins, and Boot and Shoe, and Fox, Dog, Wolf, Goat, Cat and Kitten, and Unity and Diversity, Football, Golf and Rugby (with Underground names of Tennis, Dukes and Cricket). Chord names should be of few syllables.

Indeed, a criticism of the named Elizabeth line for the Crossrail is that the name has too many syllables.

Crossrails are, in effect, a Spoke railway size service with a substantial section continuously underground, so they are like combining Underground and Overground. It's unfortunate that there is nothing to distinguish the Elizabeth line from other lines. It might have been called the Elizabeth Cross, Route or Stretch. The Crossrails also function as terminus connectors, although compromised in this role. They have some fewer stops but they are not expresses. Although they are large-scale Undergrounds, which Underground starts from as far out as Reading? This is the sort of distance some TfL Metro services reach. Heathrow Express becomes TfL integrated with the Elizabeth line in operation.

As well as connections, some halts are 'shared' on the basis of a nearby more principal connection but they may also accommodate external transport connections, such as bus links.

These imaginary plans for routes are practical suggestions. Some take note of a number of campaigns but may offer other solutions. For example, the campaign to reopen the Hall Farm Curve between the Cousins Chord (Chigford) and the Lea Chord/ Brothers Chord for services between Stratford and Chingford is recognised by a new station, called Lea Pathway (rather than Lee Valley Pathway or a selection of nearby potential names), on scrubby land at the edge of the nature reserve making connections between arguably simpler routes.

Striving for efficiency means lessening duplication yet with choice and flexibility. An example is to reduce the Bakerloo line and have its northern terminus at Wembley Park, this instead of removing a once Watford Junction to Euston London Overground for an extended Bakerloo line. Rather, the Spoke, like a Chord, via a reopened Primrose Hill and Camden Road, gives more choice and passenger dispersal - and still drops in to London St. Pancras. The Bakerloo line extension east requires considerable tunnelling (under the A2) but the line should cease at Lewisham. The Termini line takes as much advantage of existing tube lines as possible to add to the route flexibility of the system. New tunnel sections go under parkland. Not everything new has to be the massive spend of a new full-size Crossrail.

Lines are simplified so that the District and Piccadilly lines have no branches and the Metropolitan has fewer branches, the latter aided by part closure and relocation of West Harrow (even if a short hop). The Central line loses its Ealing Broadway branch to ease pressure given the part-repetition from the Elizabeth line. New line identities include the Dukes line and the Tennis line (both simplifying the District line). The since 1990 Hammersmith and City line is abolished, with the Spiral line and restored Metropolitan line taking over.

Tramlink is extended considerably to support the development of London Biggin Hill Airport and add connectivity at the eastern side of London, including a branch up to Hayes with single track and double track. One chord has single line and speed restrictions because it finds narrow paths through territory, but the Mill Chord around Mill Hill Broadway is still heavy rail.

New stations are built with necessary economy. They can be very basic - simple platforms, basic shelter, announcement displays and speakers, bridges or tunnels for safe movement, and technology for payment purposes. Bard Road would be built with side extensions from the brick arches, in the manner of Latimer Road, with a lifts and staircase in two-storey towers. Lea Pathway is a low cost exchange of level platforms. Juno Halts would be basic and efficient, with a walkway purchased directly to The Den with shelters and seats along the way. The key is the capacity at platforms and it is inevitable that the system will be run at full efficiency so the emphasis must be on improving capacity. Heathrow and West Ruislip use travellators (or 'travelators') because of the distances on foot. Otherwise there are frequent bus links between some stations for connectivity.

Ticketing should be unified, whether travelling on the Metro, Spokes, Chords, lines, Crossrails, Riverlink, Thameslink, Tramlink, Citylink, Expresses, Docklands Light Railway, within the London Rapid Transit area of the map. Whatever the purpose of the service, users can get on and off trains to their advantage. This includes British Rail services between BR stations on the map, the price being the same as Rapid Transit tickets. In addition the Expresses and links have BR tickets beyond the map area and for themselves under BR control and between BR stations.

Proposed is that private suppliers of train services (progressively nationalised) are paid a fee and operate the service under London Transport and British Rail liveries. (This is the significance of a real-world TfL takeover - it means companies will not provide services under their own brands but as servants of the TfL brand and timetable.) They may identify themselves only in small print. The State runs other services and all include the benefit of the traveller and the employee. (I favour renationalising all rail except heritage lines, and some heritage lines can be encouaged to integrate services with the removal of the twenty five miles per hour limit.)

Where practical, drivers of one train ending at a reverse terminus get off the train and walk to return the next train along. So the very first train has a driver waiting, the very last train involves no transfer for that last driver of the day.

Podlinks are for up to eight people per automatic driverless unit that has dial out instructions to arrive and dial-in instructions for the (veer-off) destination points. They drive along guided roads. There is one pre-payment for continuous use over a four hour period with a maximum of eight journeys. These are smaller than trams and do not use rails, and are flexible space users and of less structural impact where raising over/ going beneath the major roads and rail lines. Buslinks use the same ticketing as trains, with defined routes.

Trams are light rail alternatives, able to go into streets including those with loading and unloading - usually one way - and using existing rail lines for faster speeds. At the shared route west of Beckenham Junction a single rail is for the tram service and a single rail for the Beck Chord. The Mill Chord uses speed restricted heavy trains at close proximity to parks and housing. Tramlink is extended considerably to support the development of London Biggin Hill Airport and add connectivity at the eastern side of London.

Passengers disperse across the system by their own preferences for time and comfort and, sometimes, use the Overground with the incentive of crossing fewer pay zones.


Adrian Worsfold