Rail strategy sets out plan to meet growing demand across London & South East

A long-term strategy for the railway in London and the south east has been unveiled, setting out the steps needed to cater for increasing demand for rail travel in and around the capital.

With the number of passengers travelling into London, especially at peak times, set to grow significantly by 2031, Network Rail’s London and South East Route Utilisation Strategy identifies ways to boost capacity, improve journeys and increase connectivity across the region.

Produced in partnership with the rest of the rail industry, the Department for Transport and Transport for London, the strategy builds on existing plans for major schemes such as the Crossrail and Thameslink programmes, as well as ongoing train and platform lengthening works and many other projects to increase capacity on some of the country’s busiest rail routes.

The strategy restates many previously published recommendations which, in many cases, are still required to accommodate forecast peak demand.

It also sets out new interventions, for which it has sought to avoid major capital expenditure unless absolutely necessary.

These include extra commuter services between the Thames Valley and Paddington, extra services on the Great Eastern Main Line into Liverpool Street, additional trains on the Lea Valley line into Stratford, more trains on the Windsor lines into Waterloo and longer trains on orbital routes.

The RUS also recommends further planning for new routes in the London area – for example improving services to Heathrow with a new western rail access, potential future extension of Crossrail services onto the West Coast Main Line and to Reading and, in the longer term, a Crossrail 2 line under the capital.

These last two in particular are indicative of a new approach which aims to increase connectivity across London, rather than see most rail journeys end, as they traditionally have, at terminus stations on the fringes of central London.

Paul Plummer, Network Rail group strategy director, said:

“London relies on rail to get more than two million people to and from work each day. It’s clear that further investment is essential if rail is to continue to play its part in supporting the economy and this strategy provides a clear vision of how rail can continue to cater for the passengers and businesses of tomorrow.

“To make this happen, Network Rail and the rest of the industry need to focus on ways of improving efficiency and value for money.”

On a small number of routes into London it is clear that a more radical approach will be needed to meet forecast future demand. This particularly applies to the South West Main Line, which will be close to capacity even once the currently disused platforms at Waterloo are reopened.

The RUS sets out a possible long term option for an additional track on the London approaches but further development will be required.

In some cases, finding solutions will require a broader debate, looking at how the railway benefits the wider economy, interacts with housing policy and can drive changes to travel patterns.

Along with the Department for Transport and the rest of the industry, Network Rail is also keen to investigate further the extent to which ticket pricing structures might enable more even distribution of passenger numbers throughout the day.

The strategy’s publication follows a three-month consultation on the draft strategy (published in December 2010) with key stakeholders including train operators, local authorities and passenger groups.


  1. Ticket pricing cannot and should not be used to
    PP ‘even out demand’. That’s just another way of saying ‘pricing out those who need the trains most’.


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