Richmond Rail Tunnel and Through Line Park with Cycle Superhighway – Proposal.

WHY: Railway capacity to the South-West of London is at breaking point. South West Trains (SWT) and Network Rail are currently undertaking a number of improvements to reduce over-crowding and improve service on lines out of London Waterloo. Radical long-term measures have also been proposed, including remodeling the line to allow for the use of double-decker trains.

WHAT: I believe the best way of achieving extra capacity is for the existing London Waterloo to Windsor/Reading railway line to be taken underground between Barnes and Whitton/Strawberry Hill in a purpose-built train tunnel (or pair of tunnels) with 4 tracks rather than the existing 2. This would be complete in 2030 at an estimated cost of 1.5bn. It would be built in parallel to, and complement, Crossrail2, and would also allow for the London Overground to extend to Twickenham and beyond (Kingston/Shepperton/Feltham & possibly Heathrow).

BENEFITS: Burying the railway from Barnes to Whitton could allow for:

· A new ‘high line’ style public park replacing the existing railway line through Richmond Borough (known as the Through Line Park). This starts West of Richmond Station, connects to 5 existing public open spaces (Old Deer Park, Richmond Green, Moormead Park, Craneford Way playing fields, Kneller Gardens/Crane Valley), is accessible from a number of roads and paths, and has western ends at Strawberry Hill Station and Kneller Gardens.
· Possible cycle superhighway (CS) along the Through Line park, including dedicated bridges and underpasses for pedestrians, cyclists and wildlife. This could form part of the annual London-Surrey cycle classic, which already passes through Richmond, Twickenham, and Strawberry Hill.
· Several footpaths & roads extended to improve community connections and journey options for local residents.
· Road links & congestion improved by the removal of five level-crossings (Vine Road south, White Hart Lane, Sheen Lane, Manor Road, Strawberry Hill Station).
· Much needed extra space for prime residential, commercial, and community developments (helps offset scheme costs).
· Reduced noise pollution for residents living near existing railway.
· Improved rail services at all stations in the area, including ability for additional SWT services (currently not possible due to level crossings), longer 12-carriage SWT trains, Western extension of the London Overground, and a fitting terminus for Crossrail2 services at Twickenham from 2030.
· Improved rail services for other areas of the South West Trains network with the option of fast non-stop trains due to the 4-track configuration.
HOW: The key proposals rely on a new Richmond Rail Tunnel (or pair of tunnels), which involves:

· Western tunnel portal 1 located East of Whitton station (at the Richmond Council Craneford way depot), allowing the two existing lines (one in each direction) from Windsor/Reading/Frimley to be routed through a tunnel towards Twickenham.
· Western tunnel portal 2 located South of Strawberry Hill Station (at the existing rail depot), taking the two existing lines (one in each direction) from Kingston or Shepperton to a new Strawberry Hill station, built underground in a 1.6km (1 mile) tunnel that connects to the core tunnel.
· These lines/tunnels converge underground at New Twickenham Junction, to the West of Twickenham Station, to become a Core tunnel (or pair of tunnels) extending for an additional 6.6 Km (4.1 miles) to the Eastern tunnel Portal, located West of Barnes station (Vine Road Recreation Ground). This would carry four lines, two in each direction (fast and slow, with fast lines on the outside).
· An Additional connecting tunnel spurs from the core (slow lines) in the St Margarets area, before emerging at a Richmond Portal to the West of Richmond Station (at Old Deer Park car park), allowing connection to the existing platforms 1 and 2 at Richmond. By altering existing track to the East of Richmond station this will allow London Overground services to use Platforms 1 and 2 at Richmond (thereby freeing up additional platforms for London Underground District Line trains to terminate at Richmond), and to continue on to Twickenham and beyond towards Kingston, Shepperton, or Feltham (and possibly Heathrow).
· A new Twickenham station. This will be built underground beneath the existing station, with 6-8 platforms to allows space to terminate proposed Crossrail 2 services via Kingston, accommodate London Overground services via Old Oak Common (extended from Richmond), and improve access and capacity required for Twickenham Stadium and the expanding Harlequins rugby ground.
· A total of Six stations rebuilt with platforms underground: Mortlake, North Sheen, Richmond, St Margarets, Twickenham, Strawberry Hill. Each is fully accessible with much improved facilities, commercial space, and lengthened platforms (ready for 12-coach trains),
· Additional services possible in 2030 utilising rolling stock and terminus platform/line capacity around waterloo which is expected to be released when crossrail2 takes several lines away from SWT (including Strawberry Hill & Shepperton trains).

NOTE: These plans could also be altered to include or connect to the Heathrow Southern rail access proposal by extending the existing tunnel around 8km from the core at Twickenham Junction, through Whitton and Feltham, and on to to Heathrow airport. This may depend on Heathrow airport expansion going ahead.

James Pratt, 10 March 2015.

More details to be published at

Thanks and Farewell – The James Pratt / AJE goodbye email

Dear friends,

It’s my last day at Al Jazeera and the end of my time in Doha. The end of an era, and the start of a new one (for me at least). The decision to leave AJE has been the most difficult of my career, and that’s as much to do with the people as the job… though I admit, despite the many challenges I’ve probably had the best job in the building for most of the last seven years!

It’s not all laughs on the sportsdesk though, and I’m very proud of our team and what we’ve achieved as a department and as individuals. The small corner of the mezzanine is home to some of the most multi-skilled people in the building. Each day AJE Sport staff ensure we’re covered on TV and online by fulfilling the roles of the newsgathering and output teams. They plan, produce, report and present, co-ordinate lives, arrange guests, sort budgets and travel details, and of course ensure the newshours get off air on time too. Sports folk have even been known to pick up a camera, front conferences or events, or produce the odd feature show and documentary. On top of it all they’re some of the nicest people in the network.

I also want to take a moment to praise our excellent coverage of major sports events since launch, which many of you have been involved in. The exclusive journalism we have delivered has been a highlight, as shown by the amount of worldwide exposure AJE received following our exclusive interview with FIFA boss Sepp Blatter in 2011. We have set ourselves apart from the competition with features from around the globe on topics as varied as boxing in the slums of Ghana, the re-opening of the Galle cricket ground in Sri Lanka following the Asian Tsunami, South America’s football hooligans; the secretive world of Japanese Sumo Wrestling, issues of concussion in contact sports, cycling’s recent doping controversies, and of course the huge increase in popularity of running, covered in locations from the North Pole to Antarctica (any of you who haven’t had a chance to watch our programme “Why We Run” should do so now:

These varied roles and projects have meant i’ve interacted with most of you at some point, and it’s been a real pleasure to have worked with some incredibly talented, dedicated, extraordinary people. I’ll leave Qatar at the end of the week with some fantastic friends and contacts, and countless amazing memories.

I’m taking a bit of a sabbatical before diving back into the world of work later in the year. I’ll be mostly based in London for the foreseeable future, so let me know if you’re in my hometown.

For now though, thanks and farewell!


James Pratt
Sports Editor,
Al Jazeera English | Doha, Qatar