The Anonymous Widower

An Open Letter To All Those Along The Gospel Oak To Barking Line

I should say that I don’t live on the Gospel Oak To Barking Line (GOBlin), but I use it regularly.

I must say that I’m looking forward to using the new four-car trains on the line, but I’m not looking forward to all of the years of disruption, as the line is electrified.

In an article on the RailFuture web site,  how the electrification will be implemented is described.

It is expected that NR will electrify first one half of the line and then the other half, and that whilst electrification is in progress on each half, that part of the line will be closed and the service provided by rail replacement bus. Whilst electrification is in progress LOROL will be able to run longer trains on the remaining half of the line with the existing stock, provided platform lengthening is completed early whilst work proceeds. Therefore if electrification keeps to current plans and if TfL could source electric stock (possibly temporarily, until the new stock is available) when electrification is completed, overcrowding will only be a problem for a period of a year between now and the start of electrification.

That sounds like a plan for organising chaos.

Everywhere in the UK electrification projects are in trouble. Network Rail are getting the blame, but underneath it all is the crumbling Victorian infrastructure and other political and environmental problems. The problem is also made worse by a shortage of engineers and equipment and on top of this, you also have the justifiable desires of passengers, politicians and train companies to get things done as soon as possible and at an affordable cost.

On the Great Western, the train operating company, First Great Western have lost patience and have ordered extra electro-diesel go-anywhere trains, so they can increase their services to the West.

In the September edition of Modern Railways there is an article entitled  Class 387s Could Be Battery Powered.

The trains referred to in the article are an order of eight four-car Class 387 trains that will be used by First Great Western to provide electrified services to places like Newbury and Oxford.

The Class 387 train is a modern electric train produced by Bombardier, but will probably be the last of their ubiquitous Electrostar family to be produced before the company switches production in Derby to the new Aventra train for Crossrail and the London Overground.

In their article, Modern Railways says the following about the First Great Western order.

Delivery as IPEMUs would allow EMUs to make use of as much wiring as is available (and batteries beyond) while electrification pushes ahead under the delayed scheme, and in the longer term would allow units to run on sections not yet authorised for electrification, such as Newbury to Bedwyn. The use of IPEMUs might also hasten the cascade of Class 16x units to the west of the franchise.

Note that these trains are called IPEMUs or independently powered electric multiple units.

To passengers, there is no difference between the standard train and the IPEMU variant, but the IPEMU variants use overhead wires where they are available and charge their batteries at the same time. The batteries give the IPEMU trains a range of about sixty miles, where the wires are not available.

I think that IPEMU will be an acronym we’ll be hearing increasingly in the future.

Especially, as all Aventra trains are being built so they can be fitted with batteries, so every train is a potential IPEMU.

But don’t think that these new trains, are some form of second-class cobbled-together stop-gap!

Last year, I rode the prototype based on a modified Stansted Express from Manningtree to Harwich and back. The only thing that told me it wasn’t a normal Class 379 train, was the engineer sitting opposite, who was monitoring everything on a laptop.

They are a serious innovation using proven technology, developed by serious engineers, serious companies and cost-conscious train operators.

As I believe that electrifying the GOBlin will be a nightmare for contractors, train companies, passengers and residents alike, I feel there is a possible chance, that IPEMU variants of the Bombardier Aventra trains could be ordered for the line, as they’d charge their batteries on the stretch of overhead wires at Barking and then make the twenty-four mile trip from Woodgrange Park to Gospel Oak and back silently on the batteries.

The only work that would need to be done, would be platform lengthening to accept the new four-car trains and the electrifying of the terminal platform at Barking and possibly Gospel Oak. This work would not need a long closure and once it was done, the trains could be delivered. Similar platoform work on the North and East London Lines has been done to accept the new five-car trains, during weekend closures.

The extension to Barking Riverside would probably be fully-electrified and then when the passenger trains are all delivered, the rest of the line could be electrified using a method and pace, that would be acceptable to all.

One possible benefit could be a lower cost of providing the new electric trains and that some of the savings could be used to upgrade stations with full step-free access, better shelters and other facilities.

So if you should hear rumours that electrification of the GOBlin is to be delayed and battery-powered trains are to be used in the interim, don’t think slow, uncomfortable, overcrowded milk-floats!

It’s more like ordering a Ford Escort hire car from Hertz for your holiday and finding that on collection they’ve given you a Toyota Prius.




August 31, 2015 - Posted by | Transport | ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] An Open Letter To All Those Along The Gospel Oak To Barking Line, I called for an alternative approach. Seeing what might happen in Aukland, that I wrote about […]

    Pingback by GOBLIN Electrification On Track For January 2018 Completion « The Anonymous Widower | July 28, 2017 | Reply

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