The Anonymous Widower

Is The GOBlin Electrification Another Network Rail Dog’s Breakfast?

I’m asking this question, as I’ve been following the Gospel Oak to Barking Line electrification for some time and nothing seems to make sense.

In the last few hours, this article has appeared on the Rail Technology Magazine web site. The article has been given the title of TfL tries to reduce line-closure time for GOBLIN electrification.

I suppose a partial closure followed by a full closure is a reduction over a full closure, but it strikes me, as I know it does others, that behind the Press Release and the published story, there has been heated argument between Network Rail and Transport for London.

So What Do We Know?

In no particular order, we have.

  • A fourteen-mile double-track railway in generally pretty good condition.
  • The line can be considered to be in two parts; a western section in a cutting, with wide margins and an eastern section on a viaduct with lots of businesses underneath.
  • There are two short sections of electrified railway and power is available at Gospel Oak and Barking stations, so getting the power to the line, is not the big problem it often can be in electrification schemes
  • Most stations need platform-lengthening, but many have original and disused platforms, that appear to be sound if rather overgrown.
  • By May 2016, South Tottenham station will be a fully step-free station in the middle of the line with lengthened platforms and a cross-over, so it could be used to split services on the line.
  • The worst station on the line; Harringay Green Lanes, will be rebuilt in the near future, as the whole area is being redeveloped by Haringey Council.
  • The Class 710 trains, that are being built for the line can’t be delivered until 2018, but there are at least eight Class 387 trains, that will be sitting in sidings, due to Network Rail’s atrocious performance on the Great Western Electrification.
  • J. Murphy and Sons, whose yard is conveniently by the line, have been given the contract to do the track, station and enabling works.

We learn a bit about the problems of the electrification from various articles based on the original Press Release.

  • From early June to late September 2016, the line will be part-closed, with trains running between Gospel Oak and South Tottenham on weekdays, but none from South Tottenham onto Barking, and no services at all on weekends.
  • The 14-mile line will be completely closed from October 2016 to early February 2017, with rail replacement buses operating instead. Once the line reopens, there will be further evening and weekend works until late June 2017, then four months of commissioning works before the wires go live.
  • Four sections of track have to be lowered and four bridges rebuilt, with less extensive work required to a further six bridges.

I think that we have not been told anything about the difficult negotiations that have gone on.

What Do I think Of The Plan?

Not much!

But then Network Rail and Transport for London will rightly accuse me of never planning any large infrastructure project.

They’re right!

But I have written software to support the building of some of the world’s lsrgest projects from oil platforms in the North Sea to the Channel Tunnel and the preparing of the Space Shuttle for each flight. So I can count several very good project managers amongst my friends.

I also keep coming across Artemis users on trains. That must have happened upwards of half-a-dozen times.

So what is wrong with the plan?

The main thing is that those who have designed the works are so conservative, that they haven’t taken full advantage of some of the new technology that is now available.

  • The Gospel Oak to Barking Line only has no passenger trains running overnight, although freight trains operate. So why is the line not closed totally overnight and the freight trains diverted via the North London Line? Surely, this could be arranged so that much of the work could be done under rthe long summer nights or under lights.
  • The Swiss firm of Furrer + Frey have developed innovative solutions for overhead electrification on difficult Swiss mountain railways and other tricky lines. I see no evidence, that some of the methods of this and other companies is being used to shotyern the project length.
  • Network Rail also had a large input into Bombardier’s IPEMU development and this short line would be ideal for these trains their battery technology. These innovative trains, seem to have no part in the plans. If nothing else, they could save several million on the cost of the extension to Barking Riverside.

The Gospel Oak to Barking Line is an important railway across North London and I think that the closure could be shorter than that envisaged.

Perhaps Network Rail, Transport for London and Murphys will surprise us in the end!

A few weeks ago, I thought they might. But I’m not so sure now!



February 3, 2016 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , ,

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