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Project : ECML two track section between Knebworth and Welwyn

Publication date 08 March 2021
Minor update 09 March 2021

ECML capacity release via Crossrail

In a Network Rail report on capacity of the existing rail network capacity of the rail network (pdf format, opens in new window or tab, usefully searched for Welwyn) page 15 reports under ECML constraints the two track section between Knebworth and Welwyn and with Welwyn North station situated on this two track section.

In this article we will propose Crossrail services on to the ECML and the reasons for this. The infrastructure proposed is illustrated below. An explanation follows.


East west rail in Hertfordshire. Also Crossrail to WAML and via Ware, Stevenage to ECML.

Crossrail is an east-west rail connection between Paddington and Liverpool Street enabled by construction of a tunnel beneath central London. The proposed infrastructure for Crossrail services on to the ECML is illustrated in light green above. As illustrated, there would be a connection on to the existing national rail line to Tottenham Hale. From Coppermill Junction to Broxbourne Junction the West Anglia Main Line (WAML) would be upgraded to four tracks, an upgrade that has been discussed for some years and the design of much of which has been further refined as part of the Crossrail 2 project. The Crossrail 2 project itself was suspended in November 2020 however we are here proposing that the part of the Crossrail 2 project concerned with upgrading the West Anglia Main Line (WAML) to four tracks would proceed. The third piece of infrastructure for Crossrail services on to the ECML, again illustrated in light green, is a connecting line between Ware and Watton at Stone. This connecting line therefore performs two functions, since it is also proposed as part of east west rail in Hertfordshire i.e. Rickmansworth and Watford to Harlow, project : East west rail - Oxford to Cambridge.

Crossrail services on to the ECML at Stevenage would replace at least one existing ECML service via Welwyn and so provide capacity release. This would serve to ease the constraint on the two track section between Knebworth and Welwyn listed in the Network Rail report, being a matter that has been awaiting resolution for several decades.

New line northwards from Ware

On page 18 of the same Network Rail report we read that if the ECML were upgraded between Knebworth and Welwyn to four tracks the next capacity constraint would be on the fast lines south of Hitchin. For this reason we have hypothesised a new line northwards from Ware, coloured yellow above, connecting on to the Shepreth branch westwards to Hitchin and eastwards to Royston. Taking inspiration from the former Buntingford branch but probably further to the west in order to provide an interchange at Ware, this would provide routes for additional Crossrail services via Broxbourne and Ware. As replacements for existing ECML services these would release capacity on the ECML not only between Knebworth and Welwyn but also south of Hitchin, thereby responding to the observation on page 18 of the Network Rail report. This is in addition to our proposed connection between Ware and Watton at Stone and the benefits of a line northwards from Ware would need to be evaluated separately.

We will give no further consideration to a new line northwards from Ware in this article. Instead we will focus on Crossrail services on to the ECML.

Crossrail connection at Stratford

Crossrail to the ECML requires connecting Crossrail to the line to Tottenham Hale. On the OpenStreetMap.org map below, the Crossrail branch to Shenfield emerges from a tunnel portal at Pudding Mill Lane which is at the lower extremity of the map with trains serving Stratford platforms 5 and 8. The railway line passing Pudding Mill Lane to Stratford is the Great Eastern Main Line (GEML). At the top above Stratford International is the line northwards to Tottenham Hale.


View Larger Map (opens in new window or tab)

We suggest selecting the option above to view a larger map, which opens in a new window or tab. Source : OpenStreetMap.org

Additionally, a map of the rail network in this area is available from website cartometro.com (opens in new window or tab) by selecting from the list London transport which provides more detailed information than London lines. The detailed London transport map can be viewed online or as a png or pdf file. By selecting or zooming in on Stratford, detailed information can be viewed including platform numbering. South of Stratford at Pudding Mill Lane, the tracks for the Crossrail branch connecting on to the Great Eastern Main Line (GEML) are coloured purple, at least at the time of writing, with a tunnel portal at Pudding Mill Lane.

We require a connection from here on to the national rail line to Tottenham Hale. One option could be to connect to platforms 11 and 12 at Stratford on the north side of the Great Eastern Main Line (GEML) and then continue northwards. It is not clear whether this is feasible although, by reference to OpenStreetMap.org, it would seem that Sidings Street running parallel to the GEML does not need to remain as a through road. A possibility, in terms of achieving the connection, could be to relocate the Pudding Mill Lane tunnel portal to the northern side of the GEML. However in this case, if the Crossrail branch to Shenfield were to remain open, trains would be running on a different pair of tracks and no doubt with significant implications. These trains would call at Stratford platforms 9 and 10. Whilst this may be possible, we will give no further thought in this article to connecting Crossrail for Tottenham Hale to platforms 11 and 12 at Stratford.

By reference to OpenStreetMap.org, to the west of Stratford International there is a line on a north-east south-west orientation connecting in both directions on to the line to Hackney Wick and Stratford, being the North London Line. By zooming in, there is a reference to Lea Junction although this refers to the western of the three junctions i.e. nearest to Halfway Bridge. The two connections from the North London Line converge at Westfield Avenue / Waterden Road, this being High Meads Junction. The second option for connecting Crossrail to Tottenham Hale could be that the connection would cross the Olympic Park, possibly in tunnel and connect into High Meads Junction. Northwards from here, the line is covered over beneath a park and then runs beneath Liberty Bridge Road emerging again into open air to join the line from Stratford at Temple Mills East junction. Details can also be verified by reference to cartometro.com

This then is our proposal : crossing the Olympic Park, possibly in tunnel and connecting into High Meads Junction.

New station Stratford West

We suggest that a new station, provisionally named Stratford West, might be provided on this line, being the High Meads Loop. The location is illustrated below. Google maps satellite view and street view can be consulted : all images below are courtesy of Google. Access to this new station would be shared with access to Stratford International DLR, lower right on the image. To construct the station, much of the park would close although the line would again be covered once construction was complete and the park then reopened.

View of the High Meads Loop entering the covered section :


View of the High Meads Loop entering the covered section

View of tracks prior to the covered section :


View of tracks prior to the covered section

Another view of tracks prior to the covered section :


Another view of tracks prior to the covered section

View of tracks from Westfield Avenue to the covered section :


View of tracks from Westfield Avenue to the covered section

The view from Olympic Park Avenue emphasises that the tracks are not straight :


View from Olympic Park Avenue

North of Stratford

North of Stratford, the WAML would be upgraded from north of Lea Bridge to four tracks. A sample image of the existing line passing between Warwick Reservoirs West and East follows. At the time, a third track was in the process of being laid. The image shows that formerly there were four tracks between the reservoirs, being what we require.


Former four tracks between Warwick Reservoirs West and East

Crossrail to Edinburgh

If there were no station stops for Crossrail services between a possible station Stratford West and Stevenage, a Crossrail service to Edinburgh could be a candidate for consideration. Otherwise more local services would be candidates.

With an interim implementation being a connection between Watton at Stone and Ware and without additional infrastructure, a service between Stevenage and Stratford might be considered.

 

Our current proposals, projects and articles are listed here : List of articles

 

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