Crossrail what? Crossrail 1 (or, as it's known now, the Elizabeth Line) isn't due to start running through central London until 2018, so everyone's now thinking about its upstart sibling. So what on earth is Crossrail 2?
There's been an idea for a rail line running between Hackney and Chelsea for about four decades but it's the last few years where momentum has really picked up — in fact the government's National Infrastructure Commission gave it the thumbs up, calling for it to be a 'priority'.
The current route proposal is for a core, central section from Wimbledon, through either Balham or Tooting to Clapham, Chelsea, Victoria, Tottenham Court Road, Euston and Dalston, before splitting in two and heading off up to Tottenham Hale and New Southgate. At either end the line then heads off out beyond London: to Broxbourne and further north and, to the south, there are branch lines proposed to Epsom, Chessington, Hampton Court and Shepperton.
The central section would get 30 trains an hour at peak times, running in each direction. Stations north of Dalston would get up to 12 trains an hour in each direction, while 20 trains an hour would run south of Wimbledon. TfL says each line would have a minimum of four Crossrail 2 trains an hour, though there'd be some shift between the number of trains on Crossrail 2 and existing services to Waterloo.
Well, aren't you the cynical one. Apart from 'more public transport is always good in a world that's trying to wean itself off fossil fuelled, congestion causing, individual carrying, machines', there's a question of population and capacity. London's population is booming — estimated to reach 10m by 2030 which is, coincidentally, the earliest date Crossrail 2 could start running. The tube saw its busiest ever day on 4 December 2015; Crossrail will increase capacity by 10%, but only east-west and it's expected to fill up quickly. It's estimated Crossrail 2 would provide capacity for 270,000 passengers during peak times.
The connection at Euston is also thought vital for helping take passengers from HS2 away from Euston and off to their final destinations. What good is a high-speed national rail network if Euston acts as a bottleneck, slowing everyone down when they reach London?
Any other reasons?
The people who work these things out reckon the extra transport could support 200,000 more homes. And we all know that's something London desperately needs.
The Dalston station would connect with Dalston Junction at one end and Dalston Kingsland at the other — finally, Dalston's stations would be properly linked up.
How will it be paid for?
Of the £27bn that Crossrail 2 is estimated to cost, around half will need to come from Treasury funding. The rest will come from fares, sale of TfL land, council tax and various levies that City Hall can raise from businesses and developers. Transport for London wants the Treasury to grant City Hall and the mayor more control over London's business rates, so some extra funding could be raised there.
Does everyone want it?
Of course not: we're dealing with human beings. There's a particularly noisy campaign group in Chelsea which wants the Hackney-Chelsea line's descendent to skip the area altogether, and go straight from Victoria to Clapham. They don't like the fact the station will be built on the site of the Chelsea Gardener and local farmers' market and say some local listed buildings could be put at risk by tunneling work (Crossrail 1 tunneling has damaged homes elsewhere).
The main complaint seems to be that the line would bring more people, citing 60 trains an hour, carrying up to 1,500 people each. Which is true, but they won't all be getting off at the King's Road. The group also says Chelsea is already perfectly well served by Sloane Square and South Kensington tube stations. They've obviously never attempted to get to the Royal Court Theatre from, well, anywhere, and sighed deeply at the prospect. (Question: is the Circle line London's worst tube line? Answers in the comments.)
Residents and business owners in Wimbledon have their own concerns: TfL thinks it will need to demolish around half of the Centre Court shopping centre in order to enlarge the station. It's going to involve quite a lot of construction work in the town centre, too.
The area around Tottenham Court Road would only just have gone back to normal after Crossrail works before Crossrail 2 comes along to put construction back onto Dean Street. We're also giving up hope of ever seeing Victoria as not-a-building-site in our lifetime.