The Anonymous Widower

Will The East London Line Ever Get Six-Car Trains?

On the East London Line yesterday, I was in the front car and it was noticeable how passengers moved backwards and forwards along the train so they could find a seat and also get in and out easily at the stations with short platforms.

It got me thinking, about whether six-car trains could be run on the East London Line.

Before I discuss this, I’ll give a few facts. Some are history and some are future plans.

The Original Line

I can remember taking the London Underground  era line between New Cross Gate and Whitechapel stations, to get between Haywards Heath and Mile End stations. I had a client at the former and my youngest son, used to live by the latter.

The trains were four-car A60/62 Stock with a length of just 65 metres!

There were five intermediate stations, which coming North were as follows.

  • Surray Quays
  • Canada Water
  • Rotherhithe
  • Wapping
  • Shadwell

The platforms and those at Whitechapel, were probably not much longer than the original trains.

The platforms have been improved in recent years.

  • When the Jubilee Line was built, Canada Water station was rebuilt, but the platforms on the East London Line were not substantially lengthened.
  • When the Overground was created in the early part of this century, the platforms ended up at their current length of around eighty metres.
  • Recently, to create a better interchange for Crossrail, the platforms at Whitechapel station have been lengthened to around a hundred metres.

So there is now four short platforms on the East London Line.

The Class 378 Trains

The Class 378 trains were originally ordered as three-car trains, which were about sixty metres long.

Was this short length to fit the short platforms or was it because it was felt that these trains would be adequate for the route?

By the time, the trains entered service in 2010, the trains had all been extended to four-cars.

But this was still inadequate and in 2013 an order was placed to lengthen all trains to five cars, which was completed in January 2016.

Fitting Five-Car Trains Into Four-Car Platforms

Travel in the last coach of a train between Shadwell and Canada Water stations and when a station stop is made, you are left in the tunnel.

Some or all the doors don’t open and a announcement tells you, that if you want to get out, you should move forward in the train. This picture shows the last carriages of a train at Canada Water station.

The less-than-perfect arrangement works very well.

  • The walk-through nature of the trains means passengers can easily walk forward if required.
  • The announcements are numerous and clear.
  • Only Canada Water station, with its interchange to the Jubilee Line is a busy station.

But what probably makes the system work so well, is the fact that East Londoners are the World Champions at ducking and diving and they adjust their behaviour to the less-than-perfect arrangement.

The Length Of The Northern Platforms

Travelling home to Dalston Junction station in the last carriage, I got the impression, that all platforms are built to comfortably accept five-car trains.

It also appears that the two central bay platforms at Dalston Junction station were built for five-car trains.

This picture shows Platform 2 at Dalston Junction station.

The Length Of The Southern Platforms

I have looked at nearly all the Southern platforms on all four Southern branches and there seems to be few if any platforms, that couldn’t take a six-car train. It should be noted that most platforms are shared with Southern services which are run by longer trains.

These pictures show Sydenham station.

Platform lengths like these are typical of many stations.

Work would be needed at Platform 2 at Clapham Junction station.

But there is space to extend the platform.

There are no problems at West Croydon station, where it seems all trains now use the bay Platform 1.

There appear to be no plans to increase services to West Croydon station from four tph, but turning the trains in the bay platform might make scheduling easier.

The Rebuilding Of Whitechapel Station

Whitechapel station is being rebuilt to provide an interchange between Crossrail, the District and Hammersmith & City Lines and the East London Line.

  • The rebuilt East London Line platforms appear to be long enough for six-car trains.
  • There will be two footbridges over the East London Line.
  • There will be lifts and possibly escalators.

It will be a major high-capacity interchange.

The connection to Crossrail at Whitechapel station may actually take pressure from the Canada Water station.

Will passengers from the Northern section of the East London Line change at Whitechapel for Crossrail, if they are going to the West End or Canary Wharf, rather than using the Jubilee Line from Canada Water station.

As Crossrail will open up a large number of new routes, I believe, Whitechapel station will become one of the most important interchanges in East London.

East London Line Frequency Will Be Increased

This table shows Transport for London’s plas for the London Overground.


  1. In 2018, two extra trains per hour (tph) are planned to be run between Dalston Junction and Crystal Palace.
  2. In 2019, two extra tph are planned to be run between Dalston Junction and Clapham Junction.

This will mean that the frequency through the core of the East London Line will rise from 16 tph to 20 tph. This will be a train every three minutes.

It also means that the London Overground will be running ten tph between Whitechapel and Sydenham stations, with a call at New Cross Gate, which could become an important interchange.

Platforms Would Need To Be Lengthened

I think that, unless someone can come up with an innovative solution, that there will need to be some platform l;lengthening  to accommodate six car trains on the East Londoin Line.

The tricky problem would be extending the platforms at Shadwell, Wapping, Rotherhithe and Canada Water stations.

Could Frequencies Be Increased?

After the increase of frequencies to Crystal Palace and Clapham Junction to four tph, there will be twenty tph, through the core of the East London Line.

With five-car trains, this would be a hundred cars per hour and with six-car trains, it would be 120 cars per hour.

Suppose another four tph, were to be squeezed through the core, then this would be 24 tph. With five-car trains, this would be 120 cars per hour.

There would be two main alternatives to increase the frequency.

  • Run six tph on all the four routes.
  • Add a new route, with a frequency of four tph.


  1. Twenty-four tph, is a frequency that is proposed for Crossrail and Thameslink using digital signalling.
  2. There will be one train every two and a half minutes.
  3. No major engineering work would be required at the stations with short platforms.

I very much feel, that increasing the frequency of trains, will be more affordable than using six-car trains.

The Problem Of Creating Six-Car Trains

Note these points about running trains through the core of the East London Line.

  • Class 378 trains have an end door, so that passengers can be evacuated in the Thames Tunnel.
  • Aventras don’t have end doors and would need to be updated.
  • Five-car Class 378 trains can be replaced by Aventras on the North London Line and the Watford DC Line, to release more trains for the East London Line.

But the biggest problem, is probably that Bombardier don’t make Electrostars any more, and the factory ihas been turned over to Aventra production.


I will be very surprised if Network Rail’s original plan on six-car trains on the East London Line happens in the next few years.




October 10, 2018 - Posted by | Transport | , , , ,


  1. […] I indicated in Will The East London Line Ever Get Six Car Trains?, cars could be used from the five-car trains not needed for the East London […]

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  2. […] I indicated in Will The East London Line Ever Get Six Car Trains?, cars could be used from the five-car trains not needed for the East London […]

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