The Anonymous Widower

Rail Replacement Trains

I was alerted by this blog post from Utterlee, that was entitled LONDON OVERGROUND GOES OFF THE RAILS.

It describes how because of engineering works, London Overground were routing North London Line services between Camden Road and Willesden Junction stations by way of South Hampstead, Kilburn High Road and Queen’s Park stations.

These pictures show my journey.

Well it makes a change from the dreaded rail replacement bus.

The Route

I took the train from Stratford to Willesden Junction, via the following stations.

The route took eight minutes longer.

I think this was explained by having to wait to slot in with the Bakerloo Line trains at Queen’s Park and the wait of a minute or so, which the power was changed between voltages.

The Class 378 Trains

The Class 378 Trains obviously fit the route, as they run on all of it on a daily basis.

The station display and onboard announcements were correct and the five-car train I rode, fitted all the stations between Camden Road and Willesden Junctions.

The Bay Platform 2 At Willesden Junction

I wrote about this platform in Platform Action Has Finished At Willesden Junction.

Wikipedia says this about the platform.

Normally only the first and last NLL trains of the day, which start or terminate here, use the bay platform, though it is used for empty stock transfers between the depot and the North London and Gospel Oak to Barking lines.

This map from, shows the lines.

The Bay Platform At Willesden Junction

The Bay Platform At Willesden Junction

It looks like the platform can accept trains from the South and East.

It certainly reversed the train efficiently for its return journey.

As it gives a totally step-free access between both Northbound and Southbound services on the Bakerloo and Watford DC Lines, I’m certain that this platform wasn’t built solely to handle empty stock movements, early and late trains, and rail replacement trains.,

If you look at the map, the station can act as a terminus and reverse trains from the following directions.

  • From the East on the North London Line in the Bay Platform 2
  • From the South on the Watford DC Line in the Bay Platform 2
  • From the West on the North London Line in the Willesden Junction Turnout
  • From the South on the West London Line in the Willesden Junction Turnout

Because of the crossover to the North of the station, trains can even be reversed coming from the North on the Watford DC Lines.

I can’t believe that Transport for London haven’t got a cunning plan for the use of this convenient platform.

The Class 172 Trains

As the pictures show, all of the Class 172 trains for the Gospel Oak to Barking Line were parked at Willesden Depot.

I know, they’ll be used again from February 2017, but surely there is something more productive they could do in the meantime.

The Class 710 Trains

The Class 710 trains ordered for the Gospel Oak to Barking Line are actually Class 710/2, with a dual voltage capability. This is probably sensible, as it would mean they could go past Gospel Oak to Richmond or Clapham Junction, which has been suggested and the stations are firmly in third-rail territory.

London Overground have also ordered six Class 710/2 trains for the Watford DC Line. Wikipedia says this about the use of Class 710 trains on the Watford DC Line.

The intention is that the five-car Class 378 trains currently used on the Watford route will be cascaded back to the North London and East London Lines to allow for strengthened services.

I suspect that London Overground want a fleet with a consistent capability of dual voltage on all the cross-London Lines.

But will four-car trains on the Watford DC Line be sufficient capacity for the line, which currently has five-car services?

It is probably worth noting that South Hampstead and Kilburn High Road stations have lower passenger levels than say Hackney Central or Dalston Kingsland stations, so perhaps, a three tph four-car service will be sufficient.

Incidentally, as Euston to Watford Junction takes fifty minutes,it would need six trains to run a three tph service all day.

So it looks to me, that the base service through Kilburn High Road and South Hampstead stations will be three four-car trains per hour all day.

Could Stratford To Willesden Junction Via South Hampstead Be Made Permanent?

Last week, when I passed through Willesden Junction station, I noticed a Class 378 train was waiting in the Bay Platform 2.

Perhaps it was an empty stock movement or were London Underground doing a bit of route training for drivers in preparation for the weekend’s Rail Replacement Train.

There are various factors that will affect Transport for London’s thinking.

  • The Watford DC Line means that paths and platforms at Euston station must be reserved for third-rail electric trains.
  • Watford Junction station will be getting a direct connection to
  • Euston station will be rebuilt for HS2.
  • Crossrail and Thameslink will be fully open in 2019.
  • Camden Town tube station will be rebuilt and extended, possibly with a better link to Camden Road station.
  • Old Oak Common station will be built, as part a major infrastructure development and transport hub.
  • A future Old Oak Common station could have connections to Central Line, Chiltern Line, Crossrail, HS2, North London Line, West Coast Main Line and West London Line.
  • The low passenger numbers at Kilburn High Road and South Hampstead stations.
  • Highbury and Islington station must be on an early list for updating to improve its terrible access to the low-level Victoria Line and Great Northern Metro.
  • Camden Council would like to reopen Maiden Lane station.
  • Primrose Hill station could be rebuilt with a decent walking route to Chalk Farm tube station.
  • Four-tracking of the North London Line between Camden Road and Highbury and Islington stations could be possible.
  • West Hampstead Interchange could be created to link the North London Line, Chiltern Line and Underground services.
  • There is a need for more freight and passenger services across London.
  • Electrification and an increase in capacity for the Gospel Oak to Barking Line will change travel patterns.
  • Plans exist to run passenger services on the Dudding Hill Line.

I feel that we could be seeing a reorganisation of services across North London and probably there will be no better time

Stopping the Watford DC Line service to Euston might be a good idea for the operation and reconstruction of the crowded London terminus, but it would deprive passengers from Kilburn High Road and South Hampstead of their direct service to Euston.

But is a three trains per hour (tph) service to Euston worth keeping, if stopping it, eases the situation at Euston?

Perhaps if the following interchanges were built or improved, then  passengers might accept the closure of the direct service to Euston.

  • Primrose Hill station and Chalk Farm tube station.
  • Camden Road station and Camden Town tube station.
  • Maiden Lane station for everything at Kings Cross.
  • Highbury and Islington station for Victoria Line and Great Northern Metro.

I think in an ideal world, the least amount of disruption and uncertainty will be caused by improving one or more of the stations named above and then seeing how the pattern of passenger journeys develop.


  • Transport for London had a lot of staff on the platforms and in the stations on Sunday, who were explaining what was happening to the trains.
  • There could be arguments to reopen Primrose Hill station with a walking route to Chalk Farm tube station, as it would surely give an alternative route to avoid Camden Town station during that station’s rebuilding.
  • There are probably freight capacity reasons for four-tracking between Highbury and Islington and Camden Road stations.

I think we could see a package of improvements such as.

  • Step-free connection between the Overground and the Victoria Line and Great Northern Metro at Highbury and Islington station, using the closed entrance on the other side of Holloway Road.
  • Reopening of Primrose Hill station
  • Improved voltage changeover at Primrose Hill station.
  • Reopening of Maiden Lane station.
  • Enabling works for four-tracking between Highbury and Islington and Camden Road stations.

Organised professionally, I suspect that it could all be done with the minimum of disruption to existing services.

Could The North London Line Be Four-Tracked Between Camden Road And Highbury And Islington Stations?

I ask myself this question every time, I take a train across from between Camden Road Highbury and Islington stations.

This map from explains why.

North London Line

North London Line

Note the two extra tracks to the North of the North London Line, that have been closed. Some were closed in 1870, but the space looks from the train that there might be a possibility of reinstatement.

This Google Map shows the four-track section through the site of the former Maiden Lane station.

The Site Of Maiden Lane Station

The Site Of Maiden Lane Station


  • The four tracks of the North London Line at the top.
  • The remains of the platforms at Maiden Lane station.
  • The East Coast Main Line going down the right hand side pf the map.
  • The Channel Tunnel Rail Link going across the bottom -right hand corner.

The single track in the space between the lines , which runs South-West to the North-East, is the North London Incline, which loops to the South of the North London Line and allows train to come down the East Coast Main Line and then go West along the North London Line.

I once took it in a sleeper between Edinburgh and Euston.

It was a journey that illustrates how all sorts of freight and passenger trains, get to use the North London Line.

Four tracks between Hackney and Willesden would certainly add to the capacity of the line and help get its unique mix of trains through this crowded part of London.


  • East of Camden Road station, there would need to be some reorganisation and new track.
  • Highbury and Islington station would need reorganising.
  • West of Camden Road station, as there is two routes to Willesden Junction, each of which has two tracks, there are four tracks already.
  • New digital signalling will help.

Four tracks might not be created, but something will have to be done to create more capacity for freight trains from London Gateway and the Haven Ports to any part of the country West of London or the M1.

And of course, travellers will demand more passenger trains along the line.

Is Highbury and Islington Station The Key That Unlocks Everything?

Highbury and Islington station suffered a double whammy.

  • On the 27th June 1944 it was hit by a V1 flying bomb.
  • Much of the remains of the station was then demolished in the 1960s, to create an interchange for the Victoria Line.

Luckily the 1960s architects  left the station building on the other side of Holloway Road more or less intact on the outside.

But things are happening at the station.

  • The Northern City Line will become the Great Northern Metro with a minimum of twelve trains per hour (tph) between Moorgate and Alexandra Palace before splitting for Welwyn Garden City and the Hertford Loop Line.
  • The Victoria Line will keep increasing the number of trains, it squeezes through the 1960s tunnels. One day, I wouldn’t be surprised to see 40 tph. Victoria is a generous lady!
  • In Increased Frequencies On The East London Line, I wrote of up to 24 tph along the East London Line, with Automatic Train Control in the core section. This must surely bring more trains to Highbury and Islington.
  • The North London Line will get extra trains cascaded from the Watford DC Line from 2018.
  • The urban realm outside the station could be improved.

If all these trains and their passengers are going to be handled quickly and safely, then improvements must be made to the station.

This map from shows the lines at the station.

Highbury And Islington Station

Highbury And Islington Station

The access to the Overground Lines at the station is easy, but with two just escalators and long passageways the access to the four deep-level platforms is terrible. It’s even worse if you’re disabled or have problems, as there is no lift.

I’ve not seen a 3-D image of the station, but a station-man told me, that he feels that lifts and possibly another bank of escalators could be installed in the second entrance on the other side of Holloway Road.

He might be wrong, but something drastic needs to be done to improve connectivity between the Overground and the deep-level lines.

The only thing that might get the station out of trouble in this matter,  is the cross-platform interchange between the Victoria Line and the Great Northern Metro. This will ease passengers speedily to and from Moorgate and its hopefully comprehensive double-ended Crossrail station shared with Liverpool Street.

At present, two of the four lines through Highbury and Islington are bay platforms.

  • Platform 1 would probably be left as it is, as going through would probably be difficult.
  • However Platform 2 looks like it could accept through sevices, or serve as a terminus from services from either direction.

So will Highbury and Islington station be the key that unlocks everything?

It’ll certainly give passengers from stations like Camden Road, interesting travel options.

Possible New Routes

If you look at the combined North and East London Line system, that runs in a curve around North East London, it has termini; both in use and possible all along its length.

  • At the Eastern and Southern ends you have Clapham Junction, Crystal Palace, New Cross, Stratford and West Croydon.
  • Walthamstow and Chingford can be reached from Hackney Wick and Stratford.
  • At the Northern end you have Watford Junction.
  • At the Western ends you have Clapham Junction and Richmond.
  • In the middle you have Highbury and Islington and Willesden Junction stations, that could probably turn trains from either direction.

It looks to me, that Transport for London have several options and all the statistics to create cross-London routes that passengers would use.




October 2, 2016 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | ,

1 Comment »

  1. This has to be the opportunity area for the Overground network.
    Highbury is overloaded and should have through services on Platform 2.
    Reinstating Quadrupling is no longer feasible at Westbourne Rd Junc. This is a current crossover with space for three tracks plus equipment boxes. The decking supports following landslip or to create a new school have taken the extra bed. Bi-directional working on the short section would not be a problem to extend 4 tph to WJLL and/or Watford.
    If the Camden Rd bridge bottleneck remains for the time being switching services is possible, Barking or Richmond to ELL. Even a Clapham Junc orbital route.

    Comment by Aleks2cv | February 20, 2018 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: