The Anonymous Widower

Can Any More Of London’s Smaller And Forgotten Railways Be Reused?

I ask this question, as last night and today, I got stuck in the City, because of monumental traffic jams due to roadworks and was thinking that perhaps the Waterloo and City Line might be extended North East from Bank to perhaps Liverpool Street and Shoreditch to create another route across the City. It would be good for me, as I would just go to Shoreditch High Street on the East London Line and then use the Waterloo and City to get to Waterloo.

Reading Wikipedia, I’m eighty years too late, as it says this under plans for the line in the 1930s.

In 1934 the London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB), operator of most of the London Underground system, proposed that the Waterloo & City should have a new intermediate station at Blackfriars, connecting with the District line station there. They further proposed that the Waterloo & City line should be extended to Liverpool Street station and Shoreditch, the trains there continuing over the East London Railway to New Cross and New Cross Gate. It is not clear whether the scheme had been costed, but nothing came of it.

It would probably be more difficult now to do anything sensible with this orphan line of the Underground.

A better plan would probably be to improve the trains and the station to a modern step-free standard and run at an increased frequency.

As the Central Line runs directly underneath the East London Line at Shoreditch High Street, it would seem logical that after Crossrail is completed, these two busy lines are connected.

But what of all the other smaller and forgotten railways in London. Can any be used to improve London’s transport system?

East London Line

The East London Line used to be a semi-detached part of the Metropolitan line, but is now been extended to be a very important part of the Overground.

It just shows how infrastructure can be reused successfully.

Transport for London are now talking about squeezing 24 trains per hour, up and down this line.

Greenford Branch Line

The Greenford Branch Line is one of the few remaining branch lines in the London area. Crossrail will see it cut back to a line from West Ealing to Greenford with four trains per hour.

Greenford itself is an unusual station, with two Central Line platforms on an island, that has a bay platform to accept the branch line trains. Platform sizes on the branch, mean that only two coach trains can be used.

According to Wikipedia, Ealoing council have proposed extending the line to West Ruislip in the North West and Clapham Junction in the South West.

I think it is true to say, that some very innovative thinking is needed to make something useful out of this line.

The only circumstances under which I can envisage anything radical happening, is if Chiltern Railways gets electrified and West Ruislip station gets rebuilt to allow the Greenford Branch to terminate there.

North London Line City Branch

Trains ran on the North London Line City Branch from Broad Street to Willesden Junction and onto Richmond.

Like the old East London Line the northern part of this line is part of the East London Line of the Overground.

I probably use the line at least half-a-dozen times a week.

Northern City Line

The Northern City Line used to be part of Underground, but since 1976 has been part of the suburban services to Welwyn Garden City, Letchworth and Hertford North.

The new franchise holder; Govia Thameslink Railway, has ambitious plans to replace the Class 313 trains on the line and extend the service hours. This document contains all the details on the new franchise.

Palace Gates Line

The Palace Gates Line ran from Seven Sisters to Palace Gates and I remember it well as a child, when I used to sit on ledgers in my father’s office in Station Road, Wood Green and watch the tank engines trundling up and down the line.

In my lifetime, it has probably never been viable as a working railway, but it seems that Crossrail 2 might run in tunnels along more or or less the same route, just as HS1 runs underneath the route of the North London Line. I suppose this might give construction advantages, if you want to sink something like a ventilation shaft down to the railway.

Romford to Upminster Line

The Romford to Upminster Line must be one of the smallest branch lines in the UK. It has just one track and three stations; Romford, Upminster and Emerson Park.

In some ways the surprising thing about the line, is that it has survived at all and has even been electrified.

But obviously, it is needed or has a very important politician living on the line, because it is being taken over by the London Overground in May 2015 and they’re even spending money on a brand-new  train for the line.

After writing this I found that the Stourbridge Town branch line, is shorter with only two stations and claims to be the shortest branch line in Europe. But that line is not electrified and passengers are transported in Parry People Movers, which uniquely have flywheel drive!

As the operating speed on the Romford to Upminster line is just 30 mph, perhaps the company could come up with an appropriately-sized train for this line!

On the other hand if you read about the history of the line through Chafford Hundred Lakeside station, it says this.

The single track line through the area was opened in 1893 by the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway as part of a branch fromRomford to Grays via Upminster.

So perhaps, as the other part of the old branch serves the Lakeside Shopping Centre, it might be an idea to recreate the old branch line, as it would give this centre,Grays, Tilbury and possibly even London Gateway simple access to Crossrail. It would mean that the shopping centre would be just fifteen minutes away from Crossrail. The Shopping Line would get another attraction.


With the exception of the Greenford and Romford-Upminster branches, there doesn’t appear to be much scope for reusing any more of London’s old railway lines.

October 26, 2014 - Posted by | Travel | , ,

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