Tube and rail upgrades shelved

Piccadilly Line
The Piccadilly Line serves four stations in the west of Enfield borough

Report by James Cracknell and Jessie Mathewson, Local Democracy Reporter

Two major railway upgrades deemed crucial for serving Enfield’s growing population have been shelved by Transport for London (TfL) after its finances were hit by the pandemic.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he had been forced to ditch a Piccadilly Line signalling upgrade that would have allowed trains to run every 90 seconds, boosting capacity by 60%.

Similarly, the long-touted Crossrail 2 project planned to serve the new station at Meridian Water, as well as Ponders End, Brimsdown and Enfield Lock, with trains into central London every five minutes, has also been paused. Doubts had already been cast over the future of Crossrail 2 before the pandemic, as reported by the Dispatch in January.

Earlier this year, former TfL boss Mike Brown described the £2.45billion Piccadilly signalling upgrade as the network’s “number one priority”. The capital’s transport authority had highlighted the need for government support to fund the scheme, but given the strain on TfL’s finances since the pandemic, a number of major projects are now deemed too expensive to pursue.

New walk-through trains for the Piccadilly Line are still set to be delivered by 2024, and on their own would boost capacity by 20%, but without new signals the trains would be forced to run to the same timetable as at present. It is the only tube line serving Enfield, with four stations in the west of borough.

Mayor Khan told a City Hall budget meeting last month that speeding up the Piccadilly Line would be vital for the capital – but that it cannot go ahead “until we’ve resolved the finances”. He added: “It would increase the frequency of trains… it would increase capacity hugely, so we need it, but that’s paused.

“Those capital projects where we’re contractually obliged to follow through, we’re going to follow through – but those that [we] aren’t contractually committed on, where we don’t have a funding source, will be paused.”

TfL faced a huge revenue hit with passenger revenues down 90% at the peak of the crisis, but later agreed a £1.6bn bailout with the government to keep services running until October. Bosses say they cannot plan for capital investment without long-term security.

London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon, a Liberal Democrat, said: “Getting agreement on funding and the green light for the Piccadilly Line upgrade is a critical test of whether Sadiq Khan and Boris Johnson can put aside their differences and for once put the interests of London first.”

Crossrail 2, like the Piccadilly Line signalling, is seen by Enfield Council as a crucial infrastructure upgrade. At a transport policy forum last December Neeru Kareer, the council’s head of strategic planning and design, said the project was “about transformative impact” and would help reduce inequality between the east and west of Enfield borough. It would also “propel delivery” of Meridian Water, the council’s flagship housing redevelopment.