A comparison of travel times to Canary Wharf before and after Crossrail

With a budget of just under £15bn, Crossrail is Europe’s largest construction project and London’s largest public transport project since the Jubilee Line was opened in 1979.  It is a huge project extensive tunnelling and the complete redesign and rebuild of many existing stations. Crossrail is scheduled to be fully operational within 5 years.  To meet this timeframe the following milestones need to be achieved:

  • Liverpool Street to Shenfield section open – December 2018
  • Heathrow to Paddington (mainline platforms) section open – December 2018 (when the Crossrail concession takes over the Heathrow Connect service)
  • Paddington (Crossrail platforms) to Abbey Wood section open – December 2018
  • Paddington (Crossrail platforms) to Shenfield section open – May 2019
  • Full through service (including services to Reading) open – December 2019


The objective of this study is to analyse the impact that Crossrail will have on commuting times to Canary Wharf in 2019 once the service is fully operational across London and the Home Counties.  At the time of this analysis the extension to Reading had not been announced, so has been excluded in this analysis.

To undertake this task and produce accurate results, a modern and powerful multi-modal accessibility planning tool along with comprehensive datasets are required.  TRACC’s sophisticated calculation engine and advanced database design provide the ability for full multi-modal calculations to be undertaken utilising national datasets. This allows analysis of results across the whole country with the ability to drill down to specific geographical areas, in this case London and the surrounding area.  The software covers a full range of transport modes such as walking, cycling, driving and public transport and allows a mixture of these to be used during the calculation stage.

To build up the travel time analysis, we firstly need to look at public transport timetable data.  This was sourced from the latest NPTDR dataset from Basemap (latest data snapshot was from January 2014).  It was decided that, as the focus of this case study is the macro accessibility to Canary Wharf, the public transport modes used would be the overground (National Rail), tube, ferry, Emirates cable car and tram data.  For the road network the OpenData favourite Ordnance Survey Meridian 2 dataset was imported.  This allowed walking access throughout the network and between various stops to be included if an interchange was required.

To create the origins (point at which each of the calculations would start) a few options were available such as postcode centroids, addresses or a standardised grid across all of London and the surrounding areas.  A 150m standardised origin grid as selected as it was felt this would give enough points to provide an accurate travel time analysis.  A smaller grid would have increased accuracy but would also have increased calculation times.  The grid went from Reading in the West to Southend-on-Sea in the East and from Luton in the North to Crawley in the South – a large area that consisted of half a million grid points.  A journey time was then created for every one of these points giving a current view of accessibility and how it would be impacted by Crossrail in the future.

Canary Wharf was selected as a destination as it is one of the fastest growing areas of development in London with significant growth in numbers of people living and working there.  Since its inception, Canary Wharf has continually battled with the City to persuade major financial institutions to locate their offices there.  However, compared to the City, Canary Wharf is awkward to get to from a range of destinations throughout London and the South East.  With four buildings currently in development and ten further buildings with planning permission granted providing a mixture of both office and residential space, it is not surprising that the Canary Wharf Group have invested £150 million into the Crossrail project.

Using the data described above, an analysis was undertaken in TRACC to show current accessibility to Canary Wharf on a Monday between 7am and 9am to give an overview view of commuting times to the site.  Accessibility was then mapped and shown on the image below: –





The map shows the travel time to Canary Wharf using 12 time bands of 10 minute intervals.  This represents the total travel time taking into account in-vehicle time, any walking time or interchange times between stops.  The darker bands represent lower journey times.

The next stage was to build in the impact of Crossrail into the analysis in Visography TRACC using its powerful public transport editing tools that allow a new service to be created and modelled. Crossrail provided station to station transit times which were entered as a brand new rail service into TRACC along with the various routes, including the spurs off to Heathrow and Whitechapel, which were created with both Eastbound and Westbound services.  TRACC allowed this service to be exported to a CIF file, which could then be analysed in other software tools.  As the timetable is not yet available, a frequency of four trains an hour was assumed during the peak times and two an hour during the off peak as highlighted on the Crossrail website.

After the creation of the new route, this was then run through TRACC using the same time period (Monday 7am-9am) resulting in the image below: –



This again shows the travel time to Canary Wharf using 12 time bands of 10 minute intervals with the quicker times being in dark purple and the longest journey times being in yellow.

There is a clear difference between the two images with a big change in the areas adjacent to the new Crossrail route as well as changes to the north and south where people are able to travel by National Rail into London and then interchange onto the new Crossrail route to get to Canary Wharf.  Some of the biggest changes are to the north of London, with national rail routes travelling via Watford, St Albans and Enfield showing a dramatic decrease in journey times.  In the south east noticeable changes can be seen out towards Gravesend and slightly closer into town around Woolwich and Bexley which show a decrease in journey times due to High Speed Rail 1 and other national rail services.

To show the impact of Crossrail an image was created: –



This shows the net reduction in travel times.  From this it can be seen that, in certain areas, journey times will be cut by up to 45 minutes which represents a massive change in accessibility and makes commuting to Canary wharf a viable option once Crossrail is available.

The latest census data from 2011 was loaded into TRACC to ascertain the total population impacted by the introduction of Crossrail.  The results are shown in the following tables:-

Statistical Analysis

Total journey time to Canary Wharf Total population(before Crossrail) Total population(after Crossrail) Addition population after Crossrail % change of population able to access
30 minutes 629,414 775,311 145,897 +23%
60 minutes 4,506,409 5,034,596 528,187 +12%
90 minutes 8,791,632 9,261,109 469,477 +5%
120 minutes 10,864,219 10,965,605 101,386 +1%


The table above shows that there is a significant increase (23%) in the number of people who can travel to Canary Wharf within 30 minutes during the morning peak.  In absolute terms the highest increase is for those who are able to travel to Canary Wharf within 60 minutes with an increase of over 500,000 once Crossrail is fully operational.  It is clear from the table above that Crossrail will have a signficant positive impact on travel times to Canary Wharf which is particularly relevant given the additional 14 buildings that are being built or in the planning stage.

The table below shows examples of areas where Crossrail has a significant positive impact on the journey time to Canary Wharf.

Examples of areas where Crossrail has a significant positive impact

Location Total time before (minutes) Total time after(minutes) Time improvement(minutes)
Langley 105 65 -40
Burnham 91 55 -36
Abbey Wood 76 40 -36


Langley, which is located to the West of London near Slough, shows the greatest reduction in travel time with the journey time reducing by almost 40% (40 minutes).  Abbey Wood, which is located near Woolwich just south of the Thames to the East of London, shows the biggest percentage drop in travel time, with journeys now being almost 50% quicker resulting in a commuting time of just 40 minutes which is much more manageable than the previous time of 76 minutes.

The analysis conducted in this paper shows the capabilities of Visography TRACC in demonstrating the huge impact an infrastructure change such as Crossrail will have on the number of people who can reach certain destinations with an acceptable timeframe.  The whole process of loading the various datasets, plotting the new routes and running both calculations of over a million trips took less than a day – which is impressive given the size of London and the number of journey options available.  TRACC has also been used to complete national runs, with a recent study using a snapshot of public transport data to assess travel times from every census output area (181,408) to every primary school (16,500) – this type of macro analysis is made possible in TRACC due to its powerful algorithms and data storage mechanisms.

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26th September 2014