The Anonymous Widower

The Future Of The Watford DC Line

Primrose Hill Station

I was looking at the tracks through Camden on, as I wanted to see how the  former Primrose Hill station fitted into the knitting.

Lines Through Camden

Lines Through Camden

Note the two orange tracks of the Watford DC Line from Euston curving to the West around the carriage sidings.

The line through Primrose Hill station from Camden Road is a connection that allows freight trains to  go between the North London Line and the West Coast Main Line.

One of the plans for the area, is to reopen the station. This is said in the station’s Wikipedia entry under Plans.

It has been proposed to re-open Primrose Hill station by bringing the short stretch of line between South Hampstead and Camden Road stations back into the regular passenger service by incorporating it into the London Overground network.

South Hampstead station is just off the map to the West on the Watford DC Line.

No Infrastructure Required To Open Primrose Hill Station

Obviously, the station will have to be rebuilt, but look at this page from the Journey Planner for Sunday, the 2nd of October, when I enquired how you would get between Willesden Junction and Highbury and Islington stations.

Willesden To Highbury and Islington

Willesden To Highbury and Islington

As the Class 378 trains can’t fly, the route via South Hampstead station must be open and available to the trains.

This sequence of pictures shows a train entering Camden Road station after coming through the site of the former Primrose Hill station.

Benefits And Disadvantages Of The Route

The current setup seems to be rather a waste of resources, with two tracks into Euston for the Watford DC Line and the need for platforms with third-rail electrification to handle the short four- and five-car trains.

Euston station is a very busy station and it would probably be glad to lose the Overground services.

So it might be a good idea to divert the three trains per hour (tph) between Watford Junction and Euston, through Primrose Hill and onto perhaps Highbury and Islington or even Stratford stations.

Others might not think so, as all those passengers along the Watford DC Line, would lose their direct connection to Euston.

But in a few years time, the following projects should have been completed or will be in progress.

These projects will mean that the Watford DC Line could and will have to be reorganised. If only to make sure there was enough capacity for commuters in the Peak and electric freight trains.

In my view the service on the Watford DC Line to London,  should be as close to a high-capacity link running perhaps six to eight tph as is possible.

It is not as easy to achieve as many might think.

  • London Midland services stop at stations on the Watford DC Line.
  • The Bakerloo Line runs 6 tph on the line.
  • The train size limit on the Watford DC Line is probably about six cars and might be possible to raise to say eight or ten.
  • The train size limit along the North London Line is currently five-cars and all the Class 378 trains are this length.
  • Six-car trains on the North London Line is probably an upper limit, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see longer platforms in my lifetime.
  • There will be pressure to increase the number of freight trains on the North London Line.
  • A Northern terminal for the Bakerloo Line must be provided.
  • Third-rail electrification must be provided on all track shared with the Bakerloo Line.
  • If possible, the route should avoid Euston, so that the HS2 rebuilding can proceed at a faster pace.

But I suspect an innovative solution will be found to provide a high capacity link between the stations on the Watford DC Line and Central London.


Crossrail will have a massive influence on how passengers use London’s rail network.

Plans have been talked about for extending Crossrail to the West Coast Main Line. Wikipedia says this.

Network Rail’s July 2011 London & South East Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) recommended diverting West Coast Main Line (WCML) services from stations between London and Milton Keynes Central away from Euston, to Crossrail via Old Oak Common, to free up capacity at Euston for High Speed 2.

The previous Government rejected it as having a bad economic case

But Crossrail with its massive trains carrying fifteen hundred people a time, will strongly influence stations and routes it connects to Central London.

  • At Abbey Wood, it is forcing an update to services on the North Kent Line, which could bring 6-10 tph through the Medway Towns.
  • At Moorgate, it will bring passengers to an updated Great Northern Metro sending 8-10 tph to North London and South Hertfordshire.
  • At Reading, it will bring passengers to updated Thames Valley and West Country services.
  • At Shenfield, improvements are in progress to link Crossrail to Essex and East Anglia.

Where Crossrail will lead is an unanswerable question.

North-West from Old Oak Common, there are several stations that could be possible Crossrail termini.

  • High Wycombe for Chiltern.
  • Milton Keynes with its link to the East West Rail Link
  • Tring, which was the original idea
  • Watford Junction has been suggested before.

In the end, passenger numbers will decide where the trains go.

This map from shows the lines at Watford Junction station.

Rail Lines Around Watford

Rail Lines Around Watford

The North-South orange line is the Watford DC Line, which goes starts from Watford Junction station and goes through Watford High Street, Bushey and Carpenters Park stations.

Note the Croxley Rail Link going between Croxley and Watford Junction stations.

This short length of new line would also make possible direct services between Amersham and Watford Junction stations.

I’m not going to speculate on where trains on Crossrail and the Watford DC Line will go, but there are lots of possibilities.

I suspect that new housing developments will also be a driver of the routes of services.

The New Class 710 Trains

The Watford DC Line is going to see some some extra trains from the new fleet of Class 710 trains. If we see eight trains of the new dual-voltage fleet going to the GOBlin on a one-for-one replacement basis, that would mean a doubling of capacity on the line, that means that only six trains are left for the Watford DC Line.

But as the Watford DC line runs three tph currently in the Off Peak and the trip takes about fifty-five minutes, then perhaps those six four-car trains might be enough.

When I first read the specification for the Class 710 trains for the GOBlin, I was surprised to see that they were dual voltage. After all between Gospel Oak and Barking stations, there is precisely no third-rail lines.

But if you think about extending GOBlin services, the ability to run on third-rail lines would be needed on the following routes.

  • Willesden Junction to Clapham Junction
  • Willesden Junction to Richmond
  • Willesden Junction to Watford Junction
  • The Barking Riverside Extension to Abbey Wood.

Abbey Wood, Clapham Junction, Richmond and Watford Junction stations all have third-rail platforms.

I doubt all of these routes will be delivered, but at least by making the GOBlin trains with a dual-voltage capability, they are future-proofed for any possible services.

The Future Of The Bakerloo Line

The Bakerloo Line is a line, with spare capacity across Central London, according to many reports I’ve read.

Wikipedia has a section on the Future of the Bakerloo Line in its entry for the Watford DC Line.

This is said.

Various proposals have been made to alter services involving both extending or truncating Bakerloo Line services but there has been no basic change until 2015 other than to rolling stock and service patterns. As of 2015, plans and suggestions (from official bodies and others) connected to development of Crossrail and the Old Oak Common area have current potential consequences.

If the Bakerloo Line is extended into South London, this must have an effect.

Rumours are circulating as I write this, that this is being brought forward to 2029.

This article in New Civil Engineer is entitled £775M Paddington Cube gets green light. It says that the development by Paddington station, will be designed to enhance the area and will upgrade the Bakerloo Line station.

What Will Upgrades And Extensions To the Bakerloo Line Do To The Watford DC Line?

I suspect there’s both scope for rationalisation, increased capacity and faster services, along both lines, with the correct design.

There are other factors, that might create something special from an integrated Watford DC/Bakerloo Line.

  • The Milton Keynes to East Croydon service might be increased in frequency and it might share the route.
  • London Midland trains to Birmingham, Northampton and the Midlands could join the party.
  • Train control and signalling is improving fast and might allow all these dissimilar services to share safely and give passengers better routes.
  • Better train and station design could improve the terrible step-down and step-up access to Bakerloo Line trains at some stations.

The Watford DC/Bakerloo Line could end up as another important North South route.

  • 27 tph on the Bakerloo Line.
  • Same platform interchange with trains for Birmingham, Euston, Milton Keynes, Northampton and many other places.
  • Quality step-free interchange to Crossrail and main line services at Paddington.
  • Improved step-free access to main line services at Charing Cross, Marylebone and Waterloo stations.
  • An improved interchange with the Victoria and Central Lines at Oxford Circus station.
  • Interchange with Thameslink at Elephant and Castle station.
  • Interchange with the East London Line at New Cross Gate station.

If all this happens by 2029, it won’t be soon enough!

The Bay Platform 2 At Willesden Junction Station

In posts like this one, entitled More Platform Action At Willesden Junction, I showed work to create a new bay platform 2 at Willesden Junction station.

On Sunday, the 2nd Of October 2016, I took these pictures of the station in use.

What are Transport for London’s plans for this platform, other than stock transfers and Rail Replacement Trains?

As they were doing on that Sunday, they could run a Willesden Junction to Stratford service via a rebuilt Primrose Hill station.

Platform Height Issues

At some stationS to get in to and out of the Bakerloo  Line 1972 Stock trains, is quite a step and it would be difficult in a wheel-chair.

I have covered this in Platform Height Issues On The Watford DC Line and feel that dual-height platforms could be used.

Highbury And Islington Station

In some ways, Highbury and Islington station is the worst station in North London, as after war damage and then the addition of the Victoria, North London and East London Lines, it shows major evidence of Topsy at work.

With better connections between the deep-level Victoria Line and Great Northern Metro and the London Overground, it could be a very useful interchange. At the moment, there’s just too much walking in long underground passageways.

But as the Great Northern Metro will have new Class 717 trains giving a  10-12 tph link to Crossrail and the City at Moorgate, surely improvements at Highbury and Islington station would be worthwhile.

These services will be going through the station in a few years.

  • 6 tph between Highbury and Islington and Crystal Palace – East London Line
  • 4 tph between Highbury and Islington and West Croydon – East London Line
  • 3+ tph between Stratford and Richmond – North London Line
  • 3+ tph between Stratford and Clapham Junction – North London Line
  • 10+ tph between Moorgate and Hertfordshire – Great Northern Metro
  • 36 tph between Brixton and Walthamstow Central – Victoria Line

Admittedly, Crossrail will take some pressure off the station, by providing alternative routes via Moorgate and Stratford, but I can’t believe that Transport for London, aren’t looking to improve the interchange between the various lines.  Especially, as with a few tweaks, Dear Old Vicky could possibly deliver forty tph or a train every ninety seconds, as opposed to the current hundred. These could include.

  • A second entrance at Walthamstow Central station to provide step-free access and cope with the sheer numbers of passengers.
  • A loop at Brixton, with a possible new station at Herne Hill to turn the trains at the Southern end.
  • New trains with a higher performance.
  • Improvements at certain busy stations like Oxford Circus, Euston and Kings Cross St. Pancras.

Other improvements like air-conditioned trains would attract passengers to the line and make greater capacity necessary.

This article on the authorative London Reconnections, which is entitled A Look At The World Class Capacity Upgrades, concludes its thoughts on the Victoria Line with this.

With the Victoria line pushing towards what must be the theoretical limit for a line with that amount of rolling stock and – more importantly – two-platform termini, there are no plans to further improve the service. Indeed the challenge of procuring more trains and finding the depot space for them would probably discourage any such plans on its own. This does not mean that the line will be forgotten, as both Oxford Circus and Walthamstow Central are on TfL’s top ten hit list of stations in need of a major capacity upgrade. Simply that the days of pushing more trains through the same stations more quickly have passed. In the case of Walthamstow Central it is highly likely that the next step will be making the station double-ended, with an entrance near or in the shopping centre.

I have a feeling that forty trains per hour will come sooner rather than later.

Oxford Circus Station

In two sections of my ramblings, Oxford Circus station has had a small mention.

An improved Oxford Circus station could benefit both the Bakerloo and Victoria Lines.

As the station is high on TfL’s list of stations for improvement, I would expect to see something planned to start here before the mid 2020s.

  • Step-free access.
  • Better interchange between Victoria and Bakerloo Lines in different directions.
  • More space around the Central Line.
  • An underground pedestrian link to Crossrail at Bond Street station.
  • Extra entrance and exits to serve pedestrianised Oxford and Regent Streets.

I believe, that adding new passages, entrances, exits, lifts and escalators into the current complex can be organised in a similar way to how Bond Street station has been successfully upgraded over the last few years. Hopefully, Bank and Camden Town stations, will also be upgraded in the same way.

But Oxford Circus is the big one!


As I write this, the BBC is announcing that plans will be announced by Sadiq Khan today to bring the Bakerloo Line Upgrade forward to 2029.

I think that this will bring forward a lot of related work to improve the Watford DC Line and the related lines across North London.

The future is brown, with large splashes of orange!

October 26, 2016 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , ,


  1. I’ve been trying to discover why the East London line, with its 3rd rail, has not been considered for extension via Camden Town and Primrose hill? As all it would require is the widening of about 100ft of viaduct just west of Camden Road I do not see why it has never been considered? This would give a fully separate ELL route to the Watford DC lines and keep the trains out of Euston. There is space for the viaduct if you remove 1/2 houses and it appears that space has been left in the new development in the area for a viaduct extension? Just curious as to your thoughts?

    Comment by Matt | December 6, 2016 | Reply

    • They are thinking about this and it was talked about in Wikipedia.

      At times, they run services as I pointed out in the post.

      But I think, it’ll all happen after Crossrail, as the next line to be improved is the Northern City Line which connects Highbury and Islington and Moorgate stations.

      By then the GOBlin will be electrified and I suspect that the Dudding Hill Line could be electrified to take electric freight trains across London from Barking to Acton.

      Who knows what will happen at Old Oak Common?

      Comment by AnonW | December 7, 2016 | Reply

  2. The Watford DC lines were a City service to Broad Street, they only got diverted to Euston.
    With HS2 there will not be room for local suburban services just as with HS1 at St.Pancras.
    The only unique purpose for the DC service is at South Hampstead, Kilburn High Road is close enough to Kilburn Park as an alternative.
    Eventually the UK will require level platform boarding so either underground or national rail will remain after Queens Park not both.
    With Metropolitan service at Watford Junction a Bakerloo extension would create an out of centre interchange. Counter-flows are good for peak management.
    With HS2 more Midland trains will be able to stop at Watford Junction, Harrow, and Willesden Junction.
    Passengers will be able to interchange and travel faster to more places.
    The city East London line will become busier through the core with half of the services terminating at Dalston Junction.
    At Highbury platform 1 terminates but Platform 2 could continue through services to Willsden Junction Bay Platform 2. Battersea Park will need more services when future development is finished as an example.
    This use would finally restore a DC City service avoiding Euston.

    Comment by Aleks2CV | January 4, 2018 | Reply

  3. Tfl would probably shut and close Kilburn High Road and South Hampstead stations and have no more London Overground service serving the Watford DC line anymore as Bakerloo line would have replaced London Overground to Watford Junction. Kilburn High Road is close to kilburn park as an alternative as the entire London Overground’s Watford DC line service would cease and withdraw. Euston Station would lose its London Overground’s service. The frequency and capacity on the Bakerloo line between Queens Park and Watford Junction could be fully raised.

    Comment by Aronjit | December 27, 2019 | Reply

    • There has been talk of removing the Watford DC Line before. The idea was not popular and I doubt it will ever happen.

      I think it will be more likely that the Bakerloo Line Upgrade will have two Southern terminals; Lewisham and Euston. This would allow all platforms to be step-free between train and platform. This would mean that Kilburn High Road and South Hampstead would still have a service to Euston.

      Comment by AnonW | December 27, 2019 | Reply

  4. I was thinking about for frequencies on the combined Bakerloo line, there would be 6tph between Queen’s Park and Lewisham/Hayes, and 24tph between Lewisham/Hayes and Watford Junction (which is astoundingly good). This is so that the remaining 6tph will go to Euston from Watford Junction. Im only concerned if this frequency needs to be increased which will cause a reduce in frequency for passengers heading to Lewisham/Hayes (because it creates a bottleneck at Queen’s Park where some folks have to change trains). Neither Stonebridge Park or Harrow & Wealdstone have the capacity to handle the turnarounds tho

    Comment by vkzylumcfan | January 30, 2020 | Reply

    • Watford has four platforms and two would handle thirty trains per hour.

      There is more capacity to come as digital signalling can be applied.

      Comment by AnonW | January 30, 2020 | Reply

  5. I am also intrigued by the fact that Stonebridge Park was not considered for step-free access. On google maps, there’s tons of space for two lift shafts. Plus I don’t think the passageway needs that much of widening works. When they planned for step-free access at North Wembley, I wonder how they were gonna execute as there is barely any space left for the southbound platform. South Kenton is easy to be modified. Just widen the underpass to fit in a few ticket barriers and then add a lift shaft at the northern end will do. I assumed that when they wanted to do Harlesden, ramps were considered but the southbound platform again has no space due to the cablings being in the way, but I am sure lifts would do the trick. They already made the entrance step-free.

    Comment by vkzylumcfan | January 30, 2020 | Reply

  6. Doing a random search on this one, recently, because I was curious to see if anyone knows who owns this short section of track, who it was built for and used by, and if it ever had a name?

    My guess was maybe that it was a short West Coast Main Line branch, since that’s the mainline it branches from. But from the description, above, maybe it’s just an unnamed National Rail section used for mostly for freight.

    Comment by Ted | March 16, 2020 | Reply

    • Network Rail designates the part of the lines up until roughly the bridge over the access road to Morrison’s are called the Primrose Hill lines. Beyond that it’s just part of the North London Line. I think they were built as a joint line between the North London Railway and LMS.

      Comment by angelmoon117 | March 16, 2020 | Reply

      • Excuse me, not being a local, is the LMS the London, Midland and Scottish Railway? Speaking of which, are their any old maps showing it’s routing in London? Lastly, where can maps be found of current Network Rail designations?

        Comment by Ted | March 18, 2020

      • I’m not a great railway historian. Perhaps someone else could reply!

        Comment by AnonW | March 18, 2020

  7. Why not just reconnect the Watford DC line to the North London Line as you suggest… …yet ALSO retain the Watford DC services to Euston? Surely there’s capacity on the network? Especially given that many Bakerloo services terminate at Queens park. If there’s any drop in the patronage of the Euston services (which I don’t expect); decrease their frequency.

    I agree that this should happen. Not only for a connection for the Watford DC line to Stratford but also to connect the Watford DC line to the East London line. There’s been such a growth in employment opportunities around the Shoreditch area and the East end in general in the last 2 decades. And reestablishing this connection (the same as the connection that the old Broad St. terminus provided) could be a decent and convenient connection for many people. And it would allow people in the South East End access to North London. And yes, of course, a Primrose hill station should come back, this time maybe better-connected to Adelaide Road & Chalk farm tube station.

    Comment by Daniel Eyre | June 18, 2020 | Reply

  8. The Bakerloo line should definitely replace London Overground services to Watford Junction Station in order to segregate the Bakerloo line service. Watford DC line should retain London Euston but be diverted to Old Oak Common and be renamed Ealing DC line. Stations between Kensal Green and Watford Junction Stations will be served exclusively by the Bakerloo line. Old Oak Common station is being built and London Overground services from Euston should be made to serve Old Oak Common instead of Watford Junction Station by diverting it North of Queens Park. North of Queens Park London Overground services from Euston will enter a short tunnel to Old Oak Common and onwards to North Acton Station where it would replace the Central line to Ealing Broadway Station. This would mean that the Central line will lose the Ealing Broadway Branch. That would be that Ealing Broadway Station will have direct services to London Euston. Both West Acton and Ealing Broadway Stations will be served by direct London Overground services to London Euston while the Central line can only focus on the West Ruislip Branch. This would mean that London Overground services from Euston will serve Ealing Broadway Station instead of Watford Junction Station. This would simplify Central line operations by retaining the West Ruislip Branch while the Ealing Broadway Branch will be converted to London Overground operations. It would be renamed Ealing DC line. The Central line will lose the Ealing Broadway Branch. The Ealing Broadway Branch and West Acton Station will benefit from direct London Overground services to Euston. The London Overground services from Euston should Take Over the Ealing Broadway Branch of the Central line. The Ealing Broadway Branch of the Central line will be transferred to the London Overground services from Euston.

    Comment by Aronjit | August 6, 2020 | Reply

  9. Would it be possible for the London Overground to take over the Ealing Broadway Branch of the Central line as London Overground trains from London Euston will replace the Central line to Ealing Broadway Station? Would it be possible to divert the London Overground to Old Oak Common via a short tunnel North of Queens Park instead of Watford Junction Station which will be served exclusively and Sufficiently by the Bakerloo line? Would it be possible to divert London Overground to Old Oak Common, North Acton and Ealing Broadway?

    Comment by Aronjit | August 7, 2020 | Reply

  10. Would it be a good idea for the London Overground to take over the Ealing Broadway Branch of the Central line? Would it be a good idea to divert the London Overground to Old Oak Common North of Queens Park via a short tunnel and onwards to North Acton and replace the Central line to Ealing Broadway Station? All Central line trains will only focus on the West Ruislip Branch.

    Comment by Aronjit | August 8, 2020 | Reply

  11. […] They have also been known to run a Rail Replacement Train between Willesden Junction and Camden Road stations during engineering works, as I wrote about in The Future Of The Watford DC Line. […]

    Pingback by Will Camden Road Station Get a Third Platform? « The Anonymous Widower | June 19, 2021 | Reply

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