The Anonymous Widower

Could The Romford To Upminster Line Handle Four Trains Per Hour?

If you look at the current version of this page on Transport for London’s web site, which is entitled Track Closures Six Month Ahead, you will notice that there are the following closures on the Romford to Upminster Line.

  • Sunday May 28th to Monday May 29th 2017.
  • Sunday Aug 27th to Monday August 28th 2017.
  • Saturday Oct 21st to Sunday October 22nd 2017.

It could be a periodic closure for track or station maintenance as the three closures are three months apart, but I’ve noticed closures on this line before.

I’ve also searched the Internet and can find no references to any ongoing work or improvements on the line or the intermediate station at Emerson Park..

But the entries got me thinking about whether services could be improved on this line.

Various factors will come into play.

The Crossrail Affect

From May 22nd 2017, the new Class 345 trains will start running through Romford station on Crossrail‘s initial service between Liverpool Street and Shenfield stations.

How will Crossrail affect usage of the Romford to Upminster Line?

A lot of journeys from c2c territory in South East Essex will be quicker or easier using Crossrail and the Romford to Upminster Line.

I’ll give Southend to Heathrow as an example.

c2c’s Ambitions

It should also be pointed out that c2c are an ambitious company with new Italian owners and I think they will add new destinations and routes to their network.

I can see a lot of commercial and residential property being built along the North Bank of the Thames at Tilbury and London Gateway.

But if c2c have a problem, it is that it has good connections to the City of London at Fenchurch Street station, but getting to some parts of London like Euston, Kings Cross, the West End and Heathrow Airport is not easy.

There are good onward connections across the City at Barking, Limehouse and West Ham stations, which will be improved with the electrification of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

c2c To Liverpool Street

c2c use Liverpool Street station at occasions on Saturdays and Sundays and I have read that they would like to open a second London terminal at Liverpool Street, as this would also allow services to serve Stratford station with the Eastfield Shopping Centre and the Olympic Park.

But I can’t see Greater Anglia and London Overground allowing another operator into the crowded Liverpool Street station.

Could c2c Have Direct Access To Romford?

In an ideal world, where the Romford to Upminster Line would be double-tracked feeding into adequate bay platform or platforms at Romford station, c2c would be able to run a direct service between Romford and Grays stations via UpminsterOckendon and Chafford Hundred Lakeside, if they felt the service would be worthwhile.

It is one thing to run a four-car shuttle between Romford and Upminster, but look at this Google Map of Upminster station.


  • The c2c lines are South of the District Lines.
  • The Romford to Upminster Line goes off to the North-West.

A c2c train going between Romford and Grays would have to cross the busy District Lines, that terminate at Upminster station.

It would probably be possible, but only with the great expense of a massive fly-over or dive-under.

c2c’s Best Access To Crossrail

I would think that c2c’s best access to Crossrail would lie in a frequent service along the Romford to Upminster Line. The current two trains per hour is not enough, so could the branch handle three or even four trains per hour?

The Current Service On the Romford To Upminster Line

The single Class 315 train, that I saw today trundles along at 60 kph and takes a total of nine minutes to go between Romford and Upminster. Turnroumnd at Romford and Upminster take eight and four minutes respectively.

The single train does a round trip in thirty minutes, so it easily does two round trips in an hour.

Emerson Park Station

I went to Emerson Park station this afternoon to see if there was any evidence of improvements.

I found the following.

  • The catenary appears to have been given a good refurbishment.
  • The station has been tidied up.
  • The station is now staffed.
  • CCTV is being installed.
  • An office is being built.
  • New hand-rails are being fitted.
  • The station couldn’t accept a train longer than four-cars.

I got the overall impression that London Overground are expecting a lot more passengers to be using Emerson Park station. Wikipedia says this about passenger usage at the station.

It has relatively low but fast-growing patronage for a suburban railway station, with 260,000 passenger entries/exits in 2015/16, compared to 82,000 five years prior and just 32,000 ten years prior.

Given the platform length restriction and the convenience of passengers, I am led to the conclusion that a higher frequency of trains would be beneficial to passengers and operator alike.

How Fast Could An Aventra Travel Between Romford And Upminster?

If you look at a typical three station run on the Overground, such as Dalston Junction-Haggerston-Hoxton, it can tqke between three and five minutes in a Class 378 train, which is probably marginally slower than the new Aventra.

But that is only part of the time, as the driver of the train has to change ends between trips. I walked the length of a Class 378 train today and it took me a minute, so with a well-designed cab and some degree of automation, I suspect that a driver could safely change ends in under two minutes.

As the Aventra will be optimised for fast trips like these, I can see no reason, why a train can’t travel between Romford and Upminster in seven minutes.


A seven minute trip would mean the train could perform the required four trips per hour.

One major problem would be if say there was an incident on the train, like a passenger becoming seriously unwell. The driver would call the emergency services and proceed to the next station. After dealing with the emergency and perhaps seeing the passenger safely in the care of paramedics, the driver would resume the timetable. As there is only one train on the line at all times, service recovery is just a matter of restarting.



May 10, 2017 - Posted by | Transport | , , ,


  1. Excellent article but I really don’t see any logic for a dive under or flyover at Upminster to connect with the c2c route. There are routine conflicting moves further west on the district line with far higher frequency of services and more conflicting moves (Plaistow for instance). A crossing on the flat should be quite adequate.

    Comment by Mick Hewitt | May 17, 2017 | Reply

  2. A passing loop was originally provided close to Emerson Park station and removed in the mid 20th century (see wiki entry). The road bridge above the station would greatly benefit from some realignment/upgrading as buses have difficulty manoeuvring in the northbound direction. If the passing loop was reinstated, train frequency could easily be increased to 4 per hour (i.e. 15 minute intervals) without changing running times. The loop should ideally be placed each side of the Emerson Park station so that trains could wait in a platform for the opposite direction train to arrive.
    If c2c wanted to run trains from the east (say Southend), why could they not cross the sidings access tracks to the east of the main Upminster station avoiding the necessity to cross Underground service tracks, using Upminster platform 6 on their way to Romford. This would imply that, under current arrangements, both c2c and London Overground would run alternating services on the same line, unless c2c took over the line completely.
    Increasing the frequency of trains on this line, no matter how organised, would encourage passengers to use the train rather than buses along already badly congested roads between these two centres.

    Comment by Brian Jolly | September 20, 2018 | Reply

    • I think the big problem is Network Rail. I think the best thing would be to remove the overhead wires, put in a passing loop and run using Aventras with batteries. I also think that using two drivers on the train, one in each cab could enable fast turnrounds.

      Comment by AnonW | September 20, 2018 | Reply

  3. Are District line trains to Upminster busy? If they are then all District line trains should terminate at Upminster and construct a 4th platform for the District line to terminate as instead of 3, District line trains will have 4 Platforms to terminate at Upminster. Also all Barking, Dagenham East and Tower Hill terminators should be scrapped

    Comment by Aronjit | August 3, 2020 | Reply

  4. Are District line trains to Upminster busy? If they are then all District line trains should terminate at Upminster and construct a 4th platform for the District line to terminate as instead of 3, District line trains will have 4 Platforms to terminate at Upminster. Also all Barking, Dagenham East and Tower Hill terminators should be scrapped.

    Comment by Aronjit | August 3, 2020 | Reply

  5. All District line trains should terminate at Upminster Station and scrap all Dagenham East, Barking and Tower Hill terminators. Both Tower Hill and Dagenham East Bay Platforms should be fenced off like Putney Bridge. Upminster station should expand which will involve the Construction of a 4th Platform for the District line to terminate. The District line will terminate at Upminster with 4 Platforms instead of 3 like Richmond and Wimbledon. I also agree that the Bay platform terminating tracks at Dagenham East and Tower Hill should be torn out and fenced like at Mansion House and Putney Bridge. Both Tower Hill and Dagenham East stations will reduce to 2 Platforms. All Barking terminators should be Hammersmith and City line ones only and only Barking sidings should be used by Hammersmith and City line trains as District line trains will be banned from using them. The London Overground sign at Upminster Platform 6 should be used on all District line Platforms instead of c2c ones as they should be replaced by London Overground signs on Platform 6.

    Comment by Aronjit | August 9, 2020 | Reply

  6. […] years ago I wrote Could The Romford To Upminster Line Handle Four Trains Per Hour?, and came to this […]

    Pingback by A Last Ride On A Class 315 Train Between Upminster And Romford? « The Anonymous Widower | October 4, 2020 | Reply

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