Rail Industry Focus


Ambitious aims for £1bn Northern Line Extension

Source: Rail Technology Magazine June/July 2014

Graeme Shaw, head of Northern Line Extension at London Underground, gives an overview of the project and its ambitious aims.

Work on the Northern Line Extension (NLE) could be up and running by autumn this year if Transport for London (TfL) gets the nod from the Department for Transport.

If not, it is more likely that the programme, which will deliver two new stations at Battersea Power Station and Elms Park, extending the Charing Cross branch from Kennington, will begin in January 2015.

Speaking at Infrarail, Graeme Shaw, head of Northern Line Extension for London Underground, said the team is in a “limbo period” as it waits for the decision on its Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO) application.

Public consultations highlighted the preferred route for the extension, and the TWAO application report is now with the secretary of state for consideration.

Innovative funding

It was confirmed in the Chancellor’s 2012 autumn statement that up to £1bn of borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board would be available to the Greater London Authority (GLA) to finance the construction of the NLE.

In a first for an infrastructure project in England, the unique funding scheme means that whilst the borrowing will be undertaken by the public sector, the funding to repay the borrowing will come from the private sector through a levy on the area’s development sites and through future growth in business rates revenue.

So far, more than three years of detailed planning and design work have already been completed and the scheme has received widespread backing during its first and second round public consultations. It is now estimated that the NLE will cost £998.9m based on completion by the end of 2019.

Project challenges

Shaw noted that there have been some ‘challenges’ in trying to seek powers to build the extension. He said: “In the beginning I had to persuade people that we were going to build the railway and get the permission to operate it at the same time as trying to persuade the land owners to give up that land without knowing what we were going to build.

“We then had to try to secure the funding to build something that we didn’t really know what it was or when we could build it.”

But Tfl did manage to persuade the GLA that it should borrow an “enormous” amount of money, Shaw said – but so far the unique funding process is “working extremely well”. Lots of people want to ensure the project is value for money, however.


TfL has been conducting a procurement process which needed a “firm scope to be successful”.

In March 2013, TfL put out an OJEU notice for expressions of interest and that has been whittled down to four bidders: Balfour Beatty/BAM, Bechtel/Strabag, Costain/Murphy and Laing O’Rourke/Ferrovial.

The two highest-scoring bidders are now participating in the next phase of the procurement process – understood to be Balfour Beatty/BAM and Laing O’Rourke/Ferrovial, though TfL cannot confirm this while the process is still underway.

Shaw said it was an interesting exercise to go to market to find a contractor “and, in theory, place the contract before TfL had powers to build the railway”.

But he is confident TfL will award the contract in mid-to-late July and will receive the TWAO powers.

It is hoped the extension will improve transport links and public spaces in the local area and has been deemed “essential” to support the transformation of Vauxhall, Nine Elms and Battersea, a designated regeneration area on the South Bank.

Estimates also suggest that up to 25,000 jobs and 16,000 new homes could also be created following the extension. And journey times from Nine Elms or Battersea to the West End or the City will, in some cases, be less than 15 minutes.

Unity of aim for partners

While waiting for the TWAO powers, Shaw stated that during the construction phase it will be interesting to see how the political landscape evolves.

“Before the project ends, there is the matter of one mayoral election, which could change things, and then there will be one – maybe two – general elections,” he said. “In between there will be lots of people within the GLA who will go, as will their thoughts and desires and requirements. So it is going to be stressful all the way through.

“One good thing is that all the funders know we will build this railway to deliver what they need, so there is a unity of aim.”

As well as developing two new stations, TfL plans to build 3.2km of tunnel with a 5.2m internal diameter, including overrun/stabling tunnels west of the terminus at Battersea, a crossover east of the terminus and junctions serving each of the tunnels to link with the existing railway at the Kennington loop.

“It is not quite Crossrail but it is a lot for us,” said Shaw. In addition, NLE will become the seventh part of TfL’s current signalling roll-out on the Northern Line upgrade, which should be finished shortly.

As TfL has previously explained, the NLE is “primarily considered as an extension of the Charing Cross branch”, because:

• Connection for the extension can be made from the Kennington Loop, allowing trains to continue to Battersea, or terminate at Kennington and then return northwards from the loop;

• Charing Cross branch are less crowded (and forecast to remain so) than the Bank branch;

• Charing Cross branch allows for enhanced transport accessibility to Crossrail at Tottenham Court Road as well as the Central line;

• Charing Cross branch enables construction and operation of the NLE with relatively minor disruption to other train services; and

• The Charing Cross branch would perform better than the Bank branch in meeting demand to travel from the Vauxhall Nine Elms and Battersea Opportunity Area to the West End and City destinations.

In terms of a full train service, TfL is hoping to have it operational by 2020.

“Once the line is complete you will get about 10 to 16 trains per hour down to Battersea, and then we will do the second part of the extension increasing that number. It really fits in with the overall Northern Line plans,” Shaw added. He was confident that if the ambitious aims of NLE can be achieved, “it will allow us to demonstrate that TfL can be trusted to spend taxpayers’ money wisely – and that we can build things on target and to price.”

(image: Ian Simpson Architects)

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