04 February 2020

Adonde vas IAG? (Whither goest thou IAG?)

It has now been confirmed that Willie Walsh is stepping down from being CEO of IAG from 26th March this year and then retire completely on 30th June.

My first minor question is what his role will be in those three months and what power of decision will he have? Normally, if one leaves an important post then that is that as we do not want godfather figures influencing things in the background.There is no worse thing than backstreet drivers.

Willie Walsh instigated the takeover of Air Europa to which this blogger was against initially. This is a Spanish airline flying out of Madrid Barajas domestically, throughout Europe and internationally to Latin America. However, considering that LATAM had suddenly fallen into the hands of Delta (part of Skyteam) while AF-KLM was organising the integration of Air Europa into a joint venture also in Skyteam, the takeover of Air Europa is not after all a bad idea even if the only consideration were to put a spoiler on AF-KLM plans. That is one last ditch action which has still not been completed. Is that the real reason for WW´s departure a long way before the two years prenotice are up?
Air Europa A330

However, we have to take into consideration that it is not a done deal and will not be until the end of the year. There is speculation that the Spanish and/or European competition authorities might well think that the concentration  of the Spanish airline market into basically two big carriers, Iberia (and Vueling and its group) plus Ryanair is a step too far. It is most likely going to be a condition of the takeover that Iberia sheds some routes and most certainly slots at Madrid Barajas from its domestic network. On the international stage they might question the competition available on routes to South America. The takeover could well mean an unacceptable concentration on some routes, meaning Iberia might well have to reduce frequency on some popular routes so that other competing airlines can step in. If the conditions for merger become too onerous then IAG could well call off the takeover, having to pay the penalty clause in the process. 

Air Europa  is part of the Globalia travel group. Its owners are divesting the airline from the group in order to concentrate its future investment in the high-speed rail market in Spain. That would mean they could go back to the original plan of forming a joint venture with fellow Skyteam members AF-KLM on routes to South America. This would be a real threat to Iberia. One has to remember that Air Europa is no minor airline as it flew almost 13 million passengers in 2019. It  might even sell out to AF-KLM. What is IAG s Plan B if there is one?

Let us look at IAG´s situation at the end of January 2020.

-There has been great movement to try and prove that the company is able to operate in Europe despite having a large number of British and non-EU shareholders.That might well get accepted. But what is it now, a Spanish company?

-BA, Iberia, Vueling and Aer Lingus seem to be achieving their financial objectives, though nobody who I have read speaks well of Iberia nor Vueling and few of BA. On the other hand the group seems stuck in a mold and is not moving. Maybe the takeover of Air Europa will give it a push.

-Worse still, nobody speaks of LEVEL. For an up and coming supposedly dynamic company this is not good enough. The structure is inexplicable and a mess. It has one head man (who cannot be called COE) but is run by three companies, Iberia, Open Skies and Anisec. It does not get promoted but now news is filtering out. It stops flying Vienna to London and might close down the base altogether, and suddenly announces the cancellation of sales on its routes from Paris to Boston and Las Vegas. The latest rumour is that LEVEL is even to be closed down altogether. There are no headline advances as there were in the Ryanair and Easyjet formative years. Also the website is very uninformative as it is difficult to see exactly when and where LEVEL flies to the destinations from it bases.


-Now the game of musical chairs is falling into place. Willie Walsh is going to be replaced by Luis Gallego as chief executive of IAG, Antonio Vazquez as IAG Chairman, Alex Cruz is COE of BA, while Javier Sanchez-Prieto becomes CEO of Iberia, Marco Sansavini takes over at Vueling. All of these men might well be highly capable and even successful for the company. However, I feel uncomfortable that there is no northern European in the picture, be the person Anglo-Saxon, German or Scandinavian.This is not a racist question but one of culture for me. An international airline needs input from experts with experience from all over the world. In this particular case that means executives with understanding of northern European markets (JUST WHERE IAG HAS A WEAK PRESENCE)

    Finnair A350
Is Finnair going to be snatched from IAG´s grasp? Finnair is also a member of the oneworld alliance with IAG. For some time there has been speculation that Finnair would join IAG as it could not go very far on its own. Its home market is small and it is making its mark, quite successfully at the moment, by offering the shortest routes to the Far East over Russia. It flies over 13 million passengers per annum. However, if it were the case that it had to merge with another airline it might be tempted to leave oneworld and the possible IAG orbit. LATAM was firmly embedded in oneworld and forming a joint venture with American Airlines until Delta came along and snatched it away putting a spanner in oneworld plans. The same or similar outmanoeuvring should not be allowed to happen again.
Norwegian B787
SAS A350 (c) ArthurC

  • Has IAG given up on Norwegian or is it just a ploy?
If not Norwegian would not SAS make a good partner? 

Norwegian is still very interesting for IAG. Apart from its network within Scandinavia and from London Gatwick it offers the opportunity to extend its LCC network throughout Europe. The airline is recovering from near bankruptcy 12 months ago and is on the way to becoming profitable. The main advantage of this carrier, apart from its European network, is the long-haul network of routes from Oslo, Amsterdam, Paris, London Gatwick, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Athens. Whether it can still remain independent or not is a moot point. It claims to carry 37 million passengers annually.

But Norwegian or not, a very rich area and clientele of Europe cannot be ignored. Thus the alternative of SAS.  This has the advantage of not competing with Finnair, as does Norwegian, at its home base of Helsinki so would make the two airlines complementary. SAS covers Denmark, Sweden and Norway extensively The annual traffic of SAS is more than 20 million passengers.

LOT B787
Condor B757    2020     (C)Alejandro Hernandez Leon
It looks like the brightest sparks on the horizon are at LOT which has just now doubled in size (from 10 million to about 20 million passengers per annum) with its takeover of Condor (this was the German airline in the Thomas Cook Group which went bust in late 2019). LOT is one of the airlines which realises its home market is not big enough for it to survive. Poland is about the same size as Spain with a similarly sized population. However, it does not have the history of a big overseas empire which provides a lot of passengers from Latin America to Europe.LOT has decided to start services from Budapest as well as Warsaw to try to achieve a critical mass from the diaspora of both countries in the USA, thus making it big enough to survive, but that has its limits.There are about 3 million Polish-Americans while about 1 million Hungarian-Americans. At least the management shows ambition. Condor gives it a foot in the massive German and German speaking markets. However, Condor is also essentially a leisure airline transporting tourists to the Mediterranean and worldwide. Can the mix work or is it a massive gamble to change Condor into a regular airline?

 One other area to look at is the role of LEVEL at Paris Orly. In autumn 2019 two French airlines went bust - XL and Aigle Azur - This should open up the opportunity to expand the presence of LEVEL at Paris. Some months previously the holiday company TUI sold most of its French airline, Corsair, to a German investment company. This is a leisure airline like Condor but has more interesting routes which compete with LEVEL, mainly to the Caribbean, connecting French overseas territories to the mother country. Apart from Air France the principal competitor is the Dubreuil group which flies two airlines Frenchbee and Aircaraibes to the Caribbean and other overseas French territories as well as the USA. These in themselves might well be interesting airlines to take over, but I would look on Corsair as less of a mouthful. There should be no competition worries as there is plenty of competition against Air France and the Dubreuil groupCorsair would also open the door to routes to Africa (an extremely under-represented area within the IAG group) as well as Indian Ocean territories (Reunion, Mauritius and others).

All these companies would all make excellent fishing grounds for talent. But is IAG going to do anything about the perceptions about lack of movement because at the moment it seems to be in a rut. At the very least it needs to change the impressions.

What do I see as the future? In an ideal future this blogger sees the individual companies inside IAG making their headway. In the low cost market Vueling would occupy itself with mostly southern Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa. Norwegian would mostly occupy the market north of a line from London to Moldova. LEVEL would be the hybrid long-haul airline flying from the cities already mentioned as its exit points as well as those already offered by and instead of Norwegian. It would be neither a full service airline nor a low-cost one - something which has not as yet been developed.  LEVEL would also offer flights from other European cities which are not in direct competition with other IAG airlines - such as Geneva or Lisbon for example. Air Europa would be absorbed into Iberia, and Corsair into LEVEL. Meanwhile Finnair, LOT, and Condor, as stand alone airlines like Aer Lingus, would join the full service airlines of BA, Iberia and Aer Lingus in offering coverage of the vast majority of Europe - something it does not do at present. That way IAG will have ensured itself as a strong all Europe airline group - but would that be enough?

05 August 2019

How O´Leary´s (CEO of Ryanair group) predications will come true.

Mr.O´Leary, CEO of the Ryanair Group, is always outspoken about the airline business. However, he is not to be ignored because many of the things he says will certainly, at least, have an influence on events in the business if not actually provoking a response from the market.

As we are at the beginning of August we are well into the summer season, or third quarter of the year. This is the make or break period for any airline. They have to make their money, sell their seats, during the next few weeks, or they will find themselves short on the readies to tide them over the lean winter period.If that is so then they will go to the wall and fail to make next year.

O´Leary has particularly targeted Norwegian as a likely candidate to go bust. However, things are no so simple as they appear to be. Let us look at the important players in the European market.
---IAG (Iberia, British Airways, Aer Lingus, Vueling and LEVEL) is the most profitable of the European groups.  
---Lufthanasa (plus Swiss, Austrian, Brussels Airlines and Eurowings) is well considered and in a strong position.
---AirFrance/KLM (plus Air France Hop, Transavia France and Transavia Holland) is dragged down by the Air France side of the business but is strongly supported by both French and Dutch governments so will not go to the wall. It is signing agreements with Delta Airlines for joint ventures and joint investments such as in Virgin Atlantic which is now under the control of both groups but principally Delta (with the maximum 49% permitted). Virgin Group has an interest but that is basically to ensure the continuence of Virgin receiving royalties for use of the name.
---Alitalia is still under the hammer but the Italian government will not let it go bust. Delta wants a part of it but is under the handicap of the 49% rule prohibiting non-Europeans investing in European airlines. The Italian government apparently wants Alitalia to have Italian shareholders (preferably of government owned companies or institutions) so that it can still have a strong influence in any development in the flag carrier. However, I do not see that coming to fruition as the Virgin Atlantic solution could be the better one for Alitalia, solving the 49% problem at a stroke. It looks like a never ending story.

So that  seems to be the situation for the three alliances in Europe. SkyTeam will strengthen its position with Virgin Atlantic and Alitalia and be preoccupied with both. Thus Lufthansa with Star Alliance and IAG with Oneworld will be waiting to make a move.

Before we look at the two big alliances let us ponder the three largest LCCs (not counting Norwegian).
---Ryanair: This group is reorganizing itself into a "holding company" just like IAG.  It maintains the Irish and British subsidiaries as before. However, the takeover of Laudamotion (from the demise of Air Berlin) means that Lauda will become a subsidiary focused on the German speaking market which has always been a difficult nut to crack. Ryanair Sun (the Polish subsidiary) is being renamed BUZZ aimed at Eastern Europe(the use of the name makes one ask if Ryanair has an eye on WIZZ as a takeover candidate). Also for cost reasons many flights are being transfered to the newly set up subsidiary, Malta Air, because of lower taxes and lower salaries. The group is probably too self centred at the moment in order to make the new structure work, so it will not go looking for prey. That is not to say the group would not take advantage of slots, aircraft or even an airline if it were to fall into its lap.
---Easyjet: This British LCC has had a Swiss subsidiary for a long time in order to operate from that country. Because of Brexit it has also set up a subsidiary in Austria to run its European operations. It, too, will be concentrated on making the new structure work so is unlikely to go hunting any airline. But just like Ryanair it would not be averse to picking up the bits and pieces of any airline that collapses.
---Wizz: This group is based at Budapest and the majority of its flights are to and from Central and Eastern Europe. A large number of flights run into the UK so it has set up a subsidiary in that country in order to protect its interests. Apart from that it has shown no movement or interest in another airline. This blogger still considers its best bet to be Volotea. Volotea is a similar airline flying into/out of secondary airports and is not really a fit with anybody else. The two are quite complementary with Volotea concentrating on Spain, France, Italy and Greece. Wizz on the other hand flies from those same countries but to Eastern Europe.

--Norwegian. This is the fourth LCC but needs a seperate mention. It is the only one to fly both short-haul and long-haul. IAG considered Norwegian a takeover target and so took a 4.6% shareholding in the airline. It tried, twice, to convince the Norwegian board to sell out but was rebuffed each time. It has subsequently sold its stake and repeatedly said it is no longer interested in the airline.  As a result it set up LEVEL to run both long-haul and short-haul LCC flights.  O´Leary insists that Norwegian is not going to last the winter. It did survive the winter of 2018-19, just, thanks to an injection of cash by Norway´s richest man. But will it last the next winter, 2019-20? The airline has certainly been cutting costs and even reducing routes

Copenhagen – Fort Lauderdale*                    even cancelling two: 
Copenhagen – Los Angeles*                                  London Gatwick - Las Vegas  
Copenhagen – New York JFK*                               Stockholm Arlanda - Orlando
London Gatwick – Chicago O’Hare*
London Gatwick – Denver
Oslo – Los Angeles
Oslo – Orlando
Paris CDG – Boston
Rome – Los Angeles*
Stockholm Arlanda – New York JFK 

The CEO, Bjorn Kjos, has stepped down to become an advisor as he considers himself "too old" for the task ahead. While the airline looks for a replacement CEO, the current CFO Geir Karlsen is taking his place in the interim.  

The measures taken suggest Norwegian is in dire straits. If Norwegian can survive the winter it might well have a strong possibility of maintaining its independence. However, as seems much more likely that in the coming months Norwegian seeks help in maintaining itself afloat then this blogger sees IAG or Lufthansa stepping in.

Normally Lufthansa would be considered too big a group to take over Norwegian. However, when a large number of employees are affected, important regional routes in Scandanavia would lose connections and large numbers of passengers would lose a meaningful offer of an alternative airline, then I think the European authorities might well permit the take-over to go ahead. The UK market would be important. Such a take-over would give Lufthansa a strong presence in the UK and might be welcomed. An IAG take-over of Norwegian would raise objections in the UK for the same reasons as too much concentration in the hands of one group (British Airways plus Norwegian). However, Lufthansa taking-over Norwegian would probably be at the price of SAS abandoning Star Alliance (to enter Oneworld?) This could be to the advantage of IAG and might even push SAS into merging into IAG

That is not so clear cut as it looks because we then have the case of Finnair. This airline is fiercely independent at the moment and looks like wanting to stay so.It seems content in Oneworld and would appear to be a clear candidate to merge into IAG. The same cannot be said for SAS as it does not appear to be so appealing to IAG. Thus IAG would fight for Norwegian (and not only to protect its own back yard). Even if it were successful in taking over Norwegian, IAG would have the problem of deciding what to do with it and LEVEL. This blogger considers it most likely to have Norwegian as the Northern European LCC while Vueling is the Southern and Mediterranean LCC. LEVEL would probably maintain some short-haul routes in Central and Eastern Europe while the logical thing would be for the long-haul routes to all handed over to LEVEL  to operate from European bases which do not compete directly with IAG´s own airlines.

---Returning to LEVEL it is an airline which is progressing well but less so in Paris than in Barcelona. That is principally because there is strong competition on the long-haul routes out of Paris. From Paris Orly LEVEL operates long distance flights across the Atlantic, mostly considered leisure destinations. The company has entered a crowded market with two established competitors, apart from the French national flag carrier, French Bee and Corsair. The first of these is tied up in an industrial group(The Dubreuil Group) together with Air Caraibes. This would probably make this group not so interesting and too expensive to take over. With Corsair that is not the case. After many years trying, in March 2019, TUI has managed to sell 53 per cent of the airline to German airline investor Intro Aviation. TUI maintains a 27 per cent interest in the company. Since investors wish to sell on their purchases in order to make a profit, I see this as an excellent opportunity to take over Corsair to incorporate it into LEVEL. Some destinations complement LEVEL in the Caribbean thus reducing the competition. Others extend the coverage in the Caribbean and North America, while adding other destinations in Africa and the Indian Ocean. Corsair seems to be the right company in Paris to help LEVEL achieve the critical mass to make itself an established name and provide a springboard to other leisure and business destinations South and West of Europe. The possibilities seem endless.
It should be pointed out here that at the weekends Vueling flies to Dakar and Banjul from Barcelona. Since these flights are to West Africa (a long way outside the normal operating area of Vueling in Europe) I would have considered them to be routes more appropriate for LEVEL. Since they are not promoted by Vueling then these routes could increase the offer made by LEVEL to make the airline more attractive.

Other flights which might well be considered in the realm of LEVEL would be those to Russia and the Eastern Mediterranean. Egypt, Israel, Lebanon and Jordan are not in Europe and might well be considered exotic enough to be delivered by LEVEL. Flights to Moscow, St.Petersburg and any other destination in that country could well prove more appealing to the public if not provided by a "crushed" LCC such as Vueling but by a long-haul operator like LEVEL.

If LEVEL did take over Norwegian then it would be concerned in turning a profit on the routes it has rather than opening new ones. Norwegian offers long-haul from...
Dublin                                London Gatwick                    Paris 
Barcelona                           Madrid
These could be considered a direct threat to other airlines in the IAG group.

Amsterdam                         Rome Fiumicino                    Athens 
These routes might well become points of conflict with LEVEL...........but also
Oslo                                   Copenhagen                          Stockholm
and Helsinki (to Tel Aviv)
Even if LEVEL did not take over Norwegian it would still be interested in routes from certain bases in Europe
With the new base becoming established in Amsterdam I see that the competition authorites in Holland have forced KLM to free up slots at Schipol so that Norwegian can fly to New York. If Norwegian can do it, so can LEVEL. We will have to wait and see how that can be built upon. The Dutch islands in the Caribbean offer a possibility.
As LEVEL expands I see it establishing new bases in certain countries. It is probably far too soon to think about the UK because of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the continued application of the APD tax – which will not change anything until it is abolished or other countries introduce a similar tax. However, Manchester and Edinburgh have been mentioned  as bases to offer from the UK outside London.
The next base to consider would be Rome. Vueling has joined battle there and established a fair sized number of destinations into/from the capital city. These would be feeder routes for a long distance LEVEL operation . Any action on this should be done sooner rather than later because it seems that Alitalia could be on the point of falling into the hands of Delta(and others) and they will be formidable competitors.
It has always been a surprise to me that no long distance carrier flies from Berlin. This is a must when Berlin Brandenburg opens in October 2020 but the preliminary establishment of a feeder network should be taking place now. 
Long distance flights from Vienna can be introduced at any point but LEVEL will want to ensure the feeder flights are in place before competing against Austrian Airlines. I do not see Easyjet nor Lauda offering long distance flights in the near future. Here LEVEL can steal a march on the competition.
Later on I see LEVEL opening a base in Athens but that will need an extended route network to be established which does not exist at present. 
We should not forget Switzerland also. A base or bases at Geneva and/or Basel could be possibilities to compete with airlines from Zurich. Maybe even by taking over an established Swiss airline such as Chair (the reincarnation of the Swiss subsidiary of Germania).

Outside of these airlines there are two large European ones to take into consideration. Aeroflot and Turkish Airlines are certainly large but not really considered European. To participate in any European airline they are subject to the 49 per cent rule. In that case they could only participate in airline consolidation in conjunction with other European airlines and/or investors.

Most of the remaining airlines of any size are mostly connected to the travel industry, selling package holidays etc. like Thomas Cook, TUI, Jet2 and so on.
The interesting airlines which could appeal are TAP and LOT

TAP would be a mouthful for IAG(Iberia). SkyTeam already has Air Europa flying to Latin America from Madrid and fits in well with the other members of that alliance. That seems to be its future. Oneworld has Iberia so I do not see the competition authorities accepting TAP entering Oneworld or IAG. TAP covers the Brazilian market quite thoroughly from Lisbon and is already in Star Alliance so I see no change there.

The last airline of a decent size is LOT Polish Airlines.This is already in Star Alliance and Lufthansa will fight to keep it. However, LOT is just what IAG needs. It is a full service airline covering a large part of Central/Eastern Europe, an area which has little coverage from IAG or Oneworld. LOT has made great strides in putting its house in order. It has even established a base in Budapest, to replace the full service airline Malev which went bust. It has looked East to establish connections to the Orient from Eastern Europe but more importantly it has crossed the Atlantic to connect to US cities where there is a diaspora of Polish and Hungarian communities. That shows some clear thinking, just like Aer Lingus, which should be harnessed. It cannot be anything but a big winner for IAG.

There are other airlines in Europe such as Air Serbia, Air Baltic, Pegasus, Tarom and others but they are not of a sufficient size to make an impact on the market. Some are members of the alliances most are not.
All this leads us to think that O´Leary Is right to suggest that that there will be movement in the market. The most likely outcome is a battle for Norwegian between IAG and Lufthansa. This in turn will provoke other take overs to really change the European airline market.

26 July 2019

More about London´s Cross City rail lines

It all started with "London First´s" attempt to promote a cross London line from the South West to the North East of the City. This they called Crossrail 2 which is really a misnomer since it mixes concepts even though most of the idea might well be positive.

We will look at this later in a clearer context.

It would be better to look at why these ideas about cross London rail connections are now flourishing. From that we can see why these ideas should be focused and what such focussing can provide us with.

Let us begin with why there is a desire to provide cross London Rail services.
The London Underground lines (LUL) go across town over a network developed over 150 years. There was no great plan and so we have what we have. We can live with this network, or fix it, or develop it inside or outside the limitations it has given us.

The National Rail network developed for differing reasons, mostly providing (what came to be known as regional and inter-city services. The exceptions here were the commuter services (pricinpally south of the Thames) mixed in with the other services. Basically these were provided where there was a lack of LUL services.

From 1948  British Railways became the nationalised body in the UK to run the railways. In the south-east these were still grouped around the four original companies (which became the regions) of Western, London Midland, North Eastern and Southern. Much later the regional and commuter services were organised into Network South East.

Thereafter, from the 1980s and 1990s the government policy was of privatisation of the transport system which resulted, after several ups and downs, into the system we know today in 2019.

Faced with an upsurge in demand for rail services, which have not seen such passenger demand since the 1920s, based on experiences in the last ten years together with forecasts of a growing population for London of 1.000.000 over the next 15-20 years, it is then obvious to see that pressures on the transport system are going to be tremendous.

 "What can be done?"
Obviously, a lot can be done but we have to be rational and work within reasonable parameters and manageable resourses.
From this we come to...
a)-more trains with greater frequency - this is the result of better operational use, reducing the interval between trains -- it comes down to improved signalling. 
b)-longer trains -- this is heavily dependent of the length of platforms at each station. Extension is possible but limitations apply.
c)-higher capacity trains -- double-decker trains are not a possibility on British rail lines but "walk-through" carriages are. The layout can be so improved as to increase the passenger carrying capacity - without any impediment from one articulated carriage to another then capacity can be increased substantially.That is what has been done on the new trains for the Circle Line
http://www.globalrailnews.com/2013/09/03/s-stock-trains-take-to-circle-line/ and will be done on other lines.

After that we come to basic operational details. Any train stopping at a platform on a through station will remain to offload and load its passengers in a short time. These permit the train to enter and exit the station in an extremely short period so that it can be on its way in, even, under one minute. That permits the time difference between trains on lines through London being in the region of two-three minutes at rush hours. At least the north-south Thameslink through Farringdon and Blackfriars, as well as Crossrail aim to offer 24 trains per hour in each direction.

That is fine for through stations but when it comes to termini the situation changes. The Thames Valley commuting trains into Paddington and the commuter trains into Liverpool Street are the ones which will provide the traffic for Crossrail when it comes into service in 2020 or 2021. These trains, at present, arrive at each terminus and stay for far longer than two-three minutes. They occupy space and time at each terminus. This is where time can be saved and frequency increased by putting them on to Crossrail. Eliminating these commuter services from the termini permits greater use of the platform space for more regional and long distance trains. This is where great gains can be made. The introduction of Crossrail is estimated to provide an increase in total London commuter capacity of 10% - a substantial increase.

Having understood this we can then look at the problem of commuter services entering and terminating at mainline stations in London and how they can be taken out of the termini to provide services through Central London.

A second problem raises its head, however. Almost all the commuter services are run with electric traction. All London Underground(LUL) and almost all London Overground(LOL) services are run on the three rail system - drawing electric current for traction from a third rail. The old Southern Region of British Rail - basically all the services south of the Thames - also uses the third rail for electric traction. These services these days are offered by, mostly, South West Trains, Southern and Southeastern.

North of the Thames most services are electric but using overhead wires for collection of the current. This is true for commuter services out of Paddington, Euston, St.Pancras, Kings Cross, Moorgate, Liverpool St. and Fenchurch St. The exception here are the Chiltern Trains services out of Marylebone. At the moment they are run with diesels so it is not a question of if, but when these lines are electrified they will be to overhead electric transmission.

From that if we wish to link commuter services to commuter services, as will be done with Crossrail, then we have to think of compatibility and cost. This brings us to the conclusion of "like with like", as much as possible. Thameslink is the exception since it operates both north and south of the Thames. This is not an ideal solution because the trains which travel to both sides of the river have to be compatible with both systems,third rail and overhead, resulting in more complex and more expensive vehicles.However, a lot can be done with thought.

1)-   Crossrail A: I do not wish to use numbers since they could lead to confusion about what I want to say. For that reason the original Crossrail I will call Crossrail A. This is the line which runs from Reading and Heathrow Airport in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. It involves electrification of quite a part of the line with some new construction down to Abbey Wood and tunnels through Central London which are about 21kms in length each way. In the east there has been speculation about extending the line from Abbey Wood to connect to HS1 at Ebbsfleet - a logical and inevitable event. From Shenfield the extension can be made from there to Southminster and Southend Victoria taking over the said part of the Greater Anglia services into Liverpool St.

In the west we find that 14 of the 24 trains per hour will stop at Paddington. To rectify this misuse of resources there has been a proposal to feed on to Crossrail some of the commuter services from Tring, or even from Milton Keynes, that presently run into Euston(London Midland services) from the WCML. To this blogger that sounds like a badly thought out quick-fix.Thus I offer an alternative.The Great Western services between West Ealing and Greenford are intended to be run as a diesel shuttle service. This blogger proposes that Crossrail A services run along that line to Greenford and on to West Ruislip.They would thus take over the LUL Central Line services to West Ruislip so that the Central line would terminate at Greenford.This would entail lengthening of the platforms at each station and conversion of the system to overhead electric wires. This will not seem such a wild idea when I mention Crossrail B.

 2)-   Crossrail B:  If we take it as a logical progression from policies applied north of the Thames regarding electrification of rail services, then it is safe to say that when electrification comes to the Chiltern Lines from Marylebone station then they will be converted to overhead operation. 
From that we can associate the Chiltern Line commuter services from Marylebone with  existing commuter services to Amersham and Aylesbury Vale Parkway plus those to High Wycombe and Aylesbury, plus the London Midland services to Tring and Milton Keynes along the WCML. These run roughly parallel so are complementary. The line to High Wycombe runs through West Ruislip thus providing the outer London connection to Crossrail A

At the other end of central London we have the Essex Thameside line operated by C2C from Fenchurch St. The London Midland and the C2C services (and it is supposed the Chiltern services eventually) are operated by overhead electrical supply. Join the two sides with a tunnel from Fenchurch St. - Cannon St. - Blackfriars - Aldwych (more to be said later) - Tottenham Court Rd.- New Cavendish St./Portland Place(new station) - Marylebone (and Baker St.). From Marylebone one branch would continue to South Hampstead and West Hampstead to continue on the Chiltern Lines to the north west, while a second branch would connect Marylebone with Queens Park and on to the WCML out to Watford Junction etc.

The lines at both ends would need no special conversion as they are overhead wires. The inevitable electrification of the Chiltern lines would be brought forward but that is only a question of when not if. The tunneling from Fenchurch St. to Marylebone and onwards would come to about 13.3kms. which compares quite favourably with Crossrail A where the tunneling has come to be about 21kms. in each direction.

Are the services compatible? If we look at the periods of 06.30 to 10.00hrs for those services into the London termini, and from the termini between 16.30 and 20.00hrs. we can see that C2C runs 48/49 into and out of Fenchurch St. while London Midland (into / out of Euston) plus Chiltern Trains (into / out of Marylebone) run in total the same number of services - 48/49. That makes for a rate of 14 tph at each end. However, if we understand that joining the lines would mean there were no platform dwelling time at the termini we can see that a capacity increase is built into the system ready to be exploited.

As a result a valuable piece of real estate at Fenchurch St. would be freed up for development to help pay for the scheme.


3)-   Because of this solution we are now presented with an opportunity. The Metropolitan lines from Amersham, Chesham, Watford Junction (soon to be completed) and Uxbridge run into Baker St. for most of the day. At the rush hours these trains run along the Circle Line to Aldgate to serve commuters into/out of the City. The potential of this line is, therefore, underused. With the "Crossrail B" services running across town to serve the City and onwards The Metropolitan Line does not need to serve the City but can be put to other uses.

An overlooked gap in the central London LUL map now has the opportunity to be filled.
The Metropolitan line can now run  Baker St. - Marble Arch - Hyde Park Corner - Victoria - Kennington. From there it would continue south to - John Ruskin St.(new station) - Camberwell New Rd. (new station) - Denmark Hill - North Dulwich - West Dulwich - Sydenham Hill - Gipsy Hill - Crystal Palace. One line would then branch off to Beckenham Junction while the other would go to Purley then divide to Tattenham Corner and Caterham. These inner London services would thus pass to TfL following the policies of London´s mayor that all such services should be under TfL.


4)-   Once we look at the Metropolitan Line services from the north west suburbs then we have to look at the LUL Bakerloo Line. This, at present, runs from  Harrow & Wealdstone to the Elephant & Castle, south of Waterloo.Any extension northwards of this line would be up to Watford Junction coinciding on that section with the services into Euston of Overground. 

However, there is a proposal on the table from Transport for London(TfL) to extend this line to underserved areas south of the Thames. "Proposed Bakerloo line extension route considered", (Global Rail News 30-9-14) and (Evening Standard 20-10-14)"Government funds may not be needed for £3bm Bakerloo Line extension,"

There are a couple of things to point out. The southern extension only provides one new station at Camberwell connecting to the existing station at Peckham Rye, while the northern extension to New Cross Gate provides two new stations (provisionally named Old Kent Rd. 1&2) in this underserved area of South London. This blogger thus supports the northern option as being more beneficial especially since a Camberwell station can be built in the Metropolitan Line project.
The other point to mention is that there is a reference to an extension to Bromley town centre. This has since proved to be the the extension of the branch through Beckenham Junction to Bromley South. On the other hand there is a branch from Grove Park to Bromley North. This, at the moment, is stuck out on a limb. However, if the previously existing services from Lewisham to Grove Park were reinstated to go along this branch then we have another option for the whole Bakerloo line.

It is pointed out that the branch to Hayes would take over all the National Rail services along that line. Any extension to Bromley South might take over, at least, some of the services from Victoria to Orpington. That, however, has to be explained in more detail. The Bromley North branch runs 3 tph thoughout the day. To provide a metro service a minimum of 4 tph is considered necessary. With a Bakerloo branch running through Lewisham direct to Bromley North that is quite feasible , if train paths are available. On the other hand there exists the idea of extending the services from Beckenham Junction to Shortlands or Bromley South and then with a new section of line to join up to Bromley North and on to Grove Park. These services would substitute the services through Lewisham to Bromley North and , therefore, not then interfer with the mainline ones through Lewisham and Hither Green down to Sevenoaks.


5)-   Once we mention any Bakerloo line extension we have to look at the Overground(LOL) service from Watford Junction to Euston. The Overground service is basically a cross London service to circle the capital. This has been the development so far, very successfully. 
The Overground services terminating into Euston, therefore, have no logic. 
If we look at the Overground map we can see that there is just a short break between South Hampstead and Camden Rd. The distance is 2.8kms over an already existing line between the two stations but really comes down to a connection of only 800 meters on lines which already exist. It does not suppose any new construction so can be accomodated very easily. From there the Watford line can be connected, in two stops, to the line at Highbury & Islington  from which services can be forwarded on to New Cross, Crystal Palace, West Croydon, and Clapham Junction without any difficulty.

There was a proposal to extend the Overground services from New Cross southwards to Lewisham. This is only possible with works at New Cross. Where the present lines diverges from Surrey Quays to New Cross it becomes a one way line which then runs into New Cross without any connection to the other lines through the station, into a turnback facility with one platform. Substantial works would be necessary to be able to extend the line southwards to Lewisham which are most likely not cost effective. For that reason the Overground services from Watford Junction could run into New Cross,into New Cross Gate and on to West Croydon, Crystal Palace and Clapham Junction as the present services do. 

These Overground services from Watford Junction, being diverted along the line through Camden Road and  Highbury & Islington will only mean the loss of Euston as a station. That is beneficial as it will free up much needed platform space and can be easily covered by the services on the Bakerloo line plus the improved services on Crossrail B.


6-)  The Cockfosters Line:
The Piccadilly (LUL) Line runs from Heathrow and Uxbridge to Cockfosters. From the west after Leicester Square and Covent Garden the line turns north to Holborn, Kings Cross, Finsbury Park and Cockfosters.
However, from Holborn, there still exists a branch(now closed) to Aldwych (closed). If there were a will then the Cockfosters branch could run south to Holborn, then Aldwych and southwards under the Thames.
The logical extension would be to Temple (Circle/District lines) - Waterloo/Waterloo East - Elephant & Castle - Camberwell(a new station as indicated before) - Loughborough Junction - (and stations to)  - Tulse Hill - Streatham Common - Mitcham Junction - Sutton and Epsom Downs. Obviously this line would include the loop through Tooting, Wimbledon and Sutton (at present operated by Thameslink).


7-)  With this operation the Piccadilly Line would be truncated at Holborn. However, other proposals in the past (like the abandoned Fleet Line project) have looked at the idea of alleviating the crowded Central Line. This has meant, for example, taking over the Central Line services from Leytonstone to Gants Hill and Hainault. If we extend this Piccadilly line services through Leyton Midland Rd. - Hackney Central, it can connect to the Chingford Line services through St. James Street to Hackney Central. The Line could then go south through (e.g.) London Fields - Haggerston - Essex Rd. - Angel - Clerkenwell(new station) to Holborn and onwards.That way we would have the Central Line alleviated while the Chingford Line, which was taken over in 2015 by Overground, giving up its terminus and platforms at Liverpool St. while obtaining  useful cross-London destinations.

Tunnelling would be needed from Holborn to Hackney Central which is about 6.4kms each way. Add to this tunnelling from Hackney Central to below St.James St and Leyton Midland Rd. which could come in total to 6.2kms. each way. The the service to Chingford would need to be changed to the third rail system but that to Hainault would need no change.

This is how the map would look like with these two lines.


That leaves the "London First" proposal for the so-called Crossrail 2 project. It is also known as  the Chelsea- Hackney line, or in short the Chelney Line. That is how I prefer to refer to it as will be seen.

As said in the report as prepared by London First..........
"The new line, Crossrail 2, would transform journeys for commuters from the south-west and the north-east, including Wimbledon, Kingston Hackney, Islington, Tottenham, Cheshunt and Hertford East. It would also provide essential relief to major London interchanges, including Euston, Victoria and Clapham Junction, and reduce pressure on congested Tube lines. In some cases, journey times would be more than halved.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson at that time,  presented on  29th October his plans for this route.


8-)  The Chelney Line:
The general direction of the line has been laid down for some years. At first it was a southwest - northeast line to cover areas, such as Chelsea and Hackney which were lacking in Underground coverage.
Now, however, we have to be more specific.

i)- The Greater Anglia lines from Cheshunt and Enfield through Seven Sisters were taken over by London Overground, together with the services from Chingford, into Liverpool St. in 2015.
These services can be taken out from Liverpool St., thus freeing up platforms,  and fed under the City to form part of the Chelney Line.

ii)- I disagree with London First in that these lines should go through Tottenham Hale. I would prefer to send out the Greater Anglia services from Liverpool St. to Hertford East, Stansted and Cambridge through Stratford. The Stansted Express as well as other local stopping services can call at Stratford to provide the necessary connections. By not calling at Tottenham Hale the Victoria line will not have the connections envisaged and so will not be provided with transfer passengers to an already overcrowded line, these will then be funnelled on  to the Circle Line.

iii)-The extension to Alexandra Palace and even New Southgate can be taken on from London First´s suggestion, however, I would run the line from Seven Sisters.That way the inner core could have greater frequencies of trains while reducing the construction costs.

iv)-In the inner core the number of stations and their location can be taken from London First´s plan. However, north from Kings Cross this blogger suggests stations at Essex Rd., Haggerston, London Fields to connect to Hackney Central.

v)-At the southern end of the line there would be branches to Shepperton, Hampton Court and Chessington South. These would take over the South West Trains lines to those destinations thus freeing up platform space at Waterloo.

vi)-There is a suggestion to run a service through Kingston, Teddington, Strawberry Hill to Twickenham. That, however, has its difficulties as a new flyover would have to be constructed at Twickenham into a turnback facility which does not exist - certainly an expensive option. It would probably be better therefore to eliminate this part as not being viable.

vii)-There is also a suggestion to run trains from Wimbledon and Raynes Park through Motspur Park and Stoneleigh to Epsom. The practicality of this would depend on other services from Victoria and Waterloo to outlying areas.


9) The possibilities of Cross London trains do not stop there.
Across London on the south of the Thames there exist variations which could be offered so that West-East routes would eliminate the need for termini stations at Waterloo and London Bridge.

The logical routes to be combined are those circular ones out of both stations.
Waterloo offers (i) ...Clapham Junction - Chiswick - Hounslow - Twickenham - Richmond - Barnes - Clapham Junction....
and the other from (ii) ....Clapham Junction - Wimbledon - Kingston - Twickenham - Richmond - Barnes - Clapham Junction....
and vice versa, of course.

London Bridge offers routes
(i) .... Greenwich - Woolwich Arsenal - Abbey Wood - Bexleyheath - Blackheath - Lewisham- New Cross.....   
(ii).... New Cross - Hither Green - Mottingham - Crayford - Bexleyheath - Blackheath - Lewisham - New Cross ....
and vice versa. 

Between New Cross and London Bridge the tracks would go underground with one or two stops before Waterloo. Thereafter, the lines would connect with Vauxhall and Queenstown Road and then with Clapham Junction before emerging to the surface again.

Joining these lines would provide a much needed cross London option south of the Thames. The added benefit would be freed up platforms at both main line stations for longer-distance regional services. 

10)Last but not least is the short unexploited line from Waterloo to Bank.  This is now operated by TfL while years ago it was part of British Rail. 
Defenders of maintaining the status quo state that its role is to connect Waterloo main line station to the City of London. It is already crowded at the rush hours and could not take on more passengers, so should not be modified. This blogger disagrees.

I see that the other modifications to the system already proposed in this article would help alleviate some of the problems of overcrowding e.g. the so called Crossrail 2.  

This blogger sees this line as being part of a Cross London line connecting outer London Hubs at Clapham Junction and Stratford.
The line would run Clapham Junction - Battersea Park - Vauxhall - Waterloo - Blackfriars (the line already runs directly beneath Blackfriars station on the north bank) - Bank - Liverpool St. - Hackney (new station) - Stratford.
To make this service completely viable two factors must be complied with. One - train length - the capacity must be maximised so the length must be at least the same as Victoria or Jubilee line trains. Two - the frequency must be such that it equals the maximum achievable on the present Underground (24 tph?)
These are major works but would make for a much less crowded system as the capacity could be substantially increased. It would also ensure that other Underground lines are not so overcrowded in the rush hours in the centre part of the system. You are also satisfying the foreseen demand increases.  
The use of the terminal platforms at Waterloo would be further decreased as commuters would join the line at the hubs. This would alleviated use of Waterloo main station.

At the end of the day the present distribution of lines into the centre of London offer us with possibilities which could be of great significance for the rail transport offerings in the future. Thinking in a holistic way makes for logical progression in planning and eventually a system, built on the original Victorian plans of our predecessors, which could be the envy of the world. 




9Of the train services that remain within the Greater London boundaries there are four.  
South West Trains run from Waterloo the loop services through Chiswick, Hounslow,  
Twickenham and Richmond, and the services through Wimbledon, Kingston, Teddington, 
Twickenham and Richmond.
On the Southeastern side there are loop services through Deptford, Woolwich Arsenal
Bexleyheath and Lewisham, together with services through Lewisham, Sidcup,
Bexleyheath, Blackheath and Lewisham.

These services have no solutions at present but might have if the services were cross-south-
London.But that is another story into which I prefer not to delve, as yet, as I do not see the 

However, the platforms saved from surburban trains at Paddington, Marylebone, Euston, 
Liverpool St., Victoria, Waterloo provide for a broad scope to increase regional and inter-city 
trains. That way the capacity, connections and convenience of the system can do much for the 
crushed commuter.

The London rail system, though mature, still can provide a flexibility to offer a greater variety of 
services along its lines. It only needs some broad thinking and political will to increase the 
capacity so as to satisfy the demands to made upon it it in the latter part of the 21st Century.