Abandoned railway plan could be revived for Parkland Walk
I WAS interested to read Ernie Nice s letter relating to the former railway line between Alexandra Palace, Highgate and Finsbury Park. It is indeed ridiculous that no-one in authority has taken seriously proposals to revive this line in an effort to allev
I WAS interested to read Ernie Nice's letter relating to the former railway line between Alexandra Palace, Highgate and Finsbury Park. It is indeed ridiculous that no-one in authority has taken seriously proposals to revive this line in an effort to alleviate the appalling traffic congestion - and poor public transport availability - in such places as Muswell Hill and Crouch End.
What makes this perhaps the greatest blot on the history of London Transport is the fact that the line should have become part of the Northern Line in 1940, having originally been one of the Great Northern Railway's suburban branches from King's Cross. Later inherited by the London & North Eastern Railway, it was to become part of an expanded Northern Line under London Transport's 1935-1940 New Works Programme.
The Northern Line was extended in a new tunnel from its previous Archway terminus, via a new tube station beneath the existing Highgate station on the Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace line, to East Finchley in July 1939. Here it joined the branch from Finsbury Park, which divided at Highgate - one section going via Muswell Hill to Alexandra Palace, the other continuing to East Finchley and then on to Finchley Central (originally called Church End) and High Barnet.
The branch to High Barnet from East Finchley was added to the Northern Line in April 1940. A second branch that went to Edgware via Mill Hill from Finchley Central (Church End) should also have been part of the Northern Line, and was extended as far as Mill Hill East in May 1941 to serve the army barracks there.
Sadly, the rest of the scheme, that is the line from Finsbury Park to Highgate and Alexandra Palace, which was also to have been connected to the isolated Moorgate to Finsbury Park tube line (known as the Northern City Line and eventually taken over by British Railways Great Northern electric services in 1976), and the section from Mill Hill East to Edgware, along with a new extension further out to Bushey Heath, was held "in abeyance" during the war.
Although London Transport fully intended to complete the project (even announcing completion dates for 1948/49), all uncompleted sections were abandoned in the early 1950s - the line to Alexandra Palace still being served by antiquated steam trains until finally closed in July 1954.
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What makes all this particularly absurd is that so much had already been carried out before the war forced it to be suspended. Over three million pounds' worth of work - at 1939 values - had been done on the uncompleted sections, and that from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace was virtually complete.
For instance, connecting ramps had been built to link the Northern City tube line at Drayton Park with the LNER line into a new high-level station at Finsbury Park. Much of the structure of the two new platforms and facade in Station Place had been erected - its rusting steel girders remaining as an eyesore until demolished in 1973. Most of the conductor rails and lineside cabling had been installed throughout the branch to permit electric running - indeed sub-stations to supply the current were built and fully equipped at Crouch Hill and Muswell Hill.
Most important of all, the existing Highgate station was completely rebuilt in modern London Transport style, with new platform buildings between the tunnels beside Archway Road, and a new booking office beneath them to serve the interconnecting tube platforms below (as it still does). A brand new station at East Finchley was also built with four platforms, the two outer ones for tube trains running from High Barnet or Edgware (via Mill Hill) to Central London and onwards to Morden, the two inner ones for trains from High Barnet to Moorgate via the line through Highgate and Finsbury Park.
Today, of course, these platforms are used only for training, running to or from the Northern Line's Highgate Depot, which is situated where the branch from Finsbury Park divided to go to Alexandra Palace or on to East Finchley and Highgate Barnet.
Ironically the new platform buildings at Highgate - built for tube trains but never served by them - remain intact today and could easily be brought back into use.
Whether as a light rail system (as suggested by the Muswell Hill Metro Group) or as something more ambitious - for instance an extension of Ken Livingstone's Overground network that could be connected via Canonbury tunnel with the North and East London lines, obviously the so-called Parkland Walk (which more resembled a dogs' toilet and a wilderness of stinging nettles when I last visited it a few months ago!) should be used to restore this vital railway link, which also could easily co-exist with a footpath and much of the present wildlife habitat.
Hon Chairman, North London Transport Society