The extra Crossrail line which could link Croydon to Canary Wharf and Stratford

Crossrail 1 is still not open, Crossrail 2 has been frozen for months and yet, plans for a Crossrail 3 are still being talked about.

Currently nothing more than a few ideas put forward by local politicians, transport organisations and campaigners, but the rebound of passengers in Zone 2 following the coronavirus-related lockdowns suggests now might be the time to put the plans into action.

Stratford station has been consistently one of the busiest stations throughout the lockdowns, with station usage data suggesting the station did not quieten down as much as its Zone 1 peers and is now rebounding quicker than most other stations on the TfL network.

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Data from the ORR released in December 2020 shows Stratford is now the 8th busiest station in the entire country, with more people using it than St Pancras, Manchester Piccadilly or Clapham Junction.

Some 46 million passengers entered, exited or interchanged the National Rail part of the station alone. It is quickly becoming full despite housing developments and the regeneration of Stratford Broadway still to complete.

TfL data shows passenger usage has already returned to pre-pandemic levels at Stratford unlike most other stations

Lewisham and East/West Croydon are proving to be much the same, so Crossrail 3 (also known as ‘Thameslink 2’) calls for a new line which would link South East London (Lewisham and/or Croydon) to Stratford.

There are also similar ideas for a southeast-northwest London link to complement Crossrail 2, creating a megastation between Euston, St Pancras and King’s Cross where the lines would intersect.

If plans for the line were to go ahead, it would likely take the form of a heavy-rail line much like Thameslink or Crossrail to allow trains to use the existing lines either side of Stratford or Croydon.

A tube line would be unlikely, given that plans for extending the Bakerloo line all target the same South East London area, notably Lewisham.

Thousands of additional commercial and residential properties are still being built within walking distance of Stratford station meaning it will get busier

Thousands of additional commercial and residential properties are still being built within walking distance of Stratford station meaning it will get busier

The scenario envisage by railway campaign groups ‘Railfuture’ (under the name Thameslink 2) and Brighton Main Line 2 Project Group would see a line run between the following points:

  • West/East Croydon
  • either via a new tunnel section or parts of the current Ladywell-Hayes line
  • Lewisham
  • Isle of Dogs
  • Canary Wharf
  • Stratford

Trains would use the above route to travel from Brighton, Surrey and Gatwick Airport to Stansted Airport, Hertfordshire and Essex.

You might be wondering about the existing DLR line between Stratford and Lewisham. It will not be able to keep up with the growing demand in the area on its own.

Its stations have already had their platforms lengthened, extra trains provided and still passenger numbers are going up.

Around 40,000 homes are currently being built in Tower Hamlets, a new events venue is being constructed in Stratford and 27,000 new homes in Lewisham have been earmarked for developments pushing the Stratford-Lewisham corridor to breaking point.

East Croydon station is a pinch point for services from across South East England

East Croydon station is a pinch point for services from across South East England

Crossrail 3, even if it got the go-ahead would not be completed until at least 2040 as things stand.

Crossrail 2, which has been fully studied and endorsed by Transport for London (TfL) does not yet have the necessary legislation, financing and approvals to allow construction to begin. That’s despite it appearing on London’s first Mayor, Ken Livingstone’s, 2006 masterplan for projects to be completed by the year 2025. Crossrail 2 even has a Managing Director on a six-figure salary.

The BML2 Group states on its website: “It [the proposed line] should not be termed Crossrail 3 as this implies it must wait until after Crossrail 2 has happened, which could be decades away.”

Railfuture agrees with the urgency of making the line a reality. It has named it one of its three transport priority campaigns, pointing out key dates which will affect passengers in the area: “A link a Lewisham would also enable Thameslink 2 to provide extra capacity for trains on the South Eastern route, which will reach the limits of terminal capacity in 2024, providing a direct connection with Docklands avoiding Zone 1 and thereby avoiding the need for an extremely expensive and disruptive expansion of Charing Cross.”

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The Environmental Transport Association (ETA), a campaign group and charity, call for a slightly different proposal which would take a new Crossrail line from Lewisham and other South East London destinations through a new Central London viaduct along the River Thames above the South Bank from London Bridge to Waterloo and then onto Clapham Junction (to meet Crossrail 2) and South West London destinations. It is calling on TfL to perform a feasibility study for this project which would be called ‘Southern Crossrail’.

This option would not serve Stratford and would see Charing Cross closed to National Rail trains. It would free up an extra river crossing and make cross-south-London journeys easier though.

What do you think Crossrail 3 should look like? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

You can find all of MyLondon’s Crossrail-related news stories and features on our dedicated page here.

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