The Anonymous Widower

Where Do They All Come From?

Not the lonely people in the Beatles, Eleanor Rigby, but although some may be lonely, I am referring to the passengers on the North London Line.

Today on the Saturday morning before the Bank Holiday, the Class 378 train was fairly full, with all seats taken and quite a few standing.

When the refurbished line opened in 2009 with new trains, there were six trains per hour (tph) of three-cars between Stratford and Willesden Junction stations. Now there are eight tph of five-cars. This is an increase in capacity of 2.22.

Travel this route in the Peak and it is difficult to find space to put your feet on the floor.

Passenger loading on this line seems to have got higher, since the train frequency increased from six tph to eight in December 2018.

So where do these passengers all come from?

  • Are passengers avoiding the Gospel Oak To Barking Line, because of the reduced capacity?
  • Has the increased frequency on the Victoria Line and new Class 717 trains on the Northern City Line, encouraged more passengers between Highbury & Islington and Stratford stations.
  • Are passengers fed up with being fried on the Central Line?
  • Is it people living in new developments along the line?
  • Is it just people are fed up with driving in North London’s traffic and using trains as an alternative?
  • Is it passengers using the line as an alternative after the non-appearance of Crossrail?

But whatever it is, action needs to be taken to create more capacity.

So what can be done?

Crossrail Needs To Be Opened

Crossrail’s non-appearance must make a difference, so when it finally opens, I will be very surprised if a proportion of passengers travelling to Highbury & Islington, don’t use Crossrail with its massive capacity as an alternative.

Class 710 Trains Will Finally Arrive On The Gospel Oak To Barking Line

When the Class 710 trains are working well on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line, this will mean that the three Class 378 trains, currently working the line, can go back home to the North, West and East London Lines fleet.

The Gospel Oak to Barking Line may also take passengers from the North London Line, once it is working with four tph and four-car trains.

Class 710 Trains On The Watford DC Line

The six Class 378 trains on the Watford DC Line will be replaced with Class 710 trains, thus adding six trains to the North, West and East London Lines fleet.

Extra Class 710 Trains For The North and West London Lines

Six new five-car Class 710 trains will also be delivered for the North and West London Lines.

As Clsas 710 trains can’t work the East London Line, does this mean that the six Class 378 trains cascaded from the Watford DC Line will go to the East London Line.

I have to ask what frequency of services could be run with an extra six trains.

In Gospel Oak-Barking Fleet Plan Remains Unclear, I calculated how many Class 378 trains were needed to run a full service on the North, East and West London Lines.

I said this about the trains needed for North and West London Lines.

Between Stratford and Richmond, trains take 59-64 minutes to go West and 62 minutes to come East.

Between Stratford and Clapham Junction, trains take 62 minutes to go West and 64 minutes to come East.

The round trip times are very similar and are around two and a half hours.

This means that the current eight tph service would need twenty trains

Extending this calculation gives the following numbers of trains for a combined North and West London Lines service.

  • Eight tph needs twenty trains.
  • Ten tph needs twenty-five trains.
  • Twelve tph needs thirty trains.

Could this mean that the North and West London Line will get these services?

Stratford and Willesden Junction – 10 tph

Willesden Junction and Clapham Junction – 5 tph

Willesden Junction and Richmond – 5 tph

There would be one train spare, to cover for maintenance, software updates and breakdowns.

Six-Car Trains

In Will The East London Line Ever Get Six-Car Trains?, I looked at the possibility of six-car trains on the East London Line.

I came to this conclusion.

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.

There are various reasons.

  • Bombardier don’t make Electrostars any more.
  • Trains need an end-door for tunnel evacuation.
  • Class 710 trains don’t have end doors.
  • Some platforms would probably need difficult and expensive lengthening.

But six-car trains on the North and West London Lines could be a possibility.

In By Overground To High Speed Two, I said this about running six-car trains on the North and West London Lines.

Only a few stations can handle six-car trains without selective door opening and even the rebuilt West Hampstead station still has platforms for five-cars.

Selective door opening would allow six-car trains to use the five-car platforms and passengers have in London have shown they can cope with moving forward to get out at certain stations. Especially, as the walk-through design of the train, makes this a lot easier.

These numbers of trains would be needed to run the following frequencies to Richmond and Clapham Junction stations.

  • Four tph – 20 trains
  • Five tph – 25 trains
  • Six tph – 30 trains

Obtaining these numbers of Class 710 trains would probably not be a big problem, if they were needed and the budget was available.


The new Class 710 trains and the moving around of trains should keep services going for a couple of years.

May 4, 2019 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , ,


  1. Another issue for 6 car on the ELL, is that platforms at Canada Water, Rotherhithe and Shadwell are already too short for 5 car (using selective door opening there). Not good for metro services.

    Elsewhere, if they did go to six car, perhaps one option would be to take some of the 378s and use their 3x middle cars to lengthen the remaining 378s, then buy more 710s to replace the ones you’ve disassembled.

    Comment by ijmad | May 5, 2019 | Reply

  2. If as expected, when the East London Line is resignalled, twenty-four trains per hour can run through the Central Tunnel, some of the need for six-car trains on the East London Line will drop a bit.

    24 trains per hour will need more 378s.

    On the other hand the opening of Crossrail will bring more passengers to the line.

    I also think, that if TfL take over South Eastern’s metro services and the 377s get replaced, that the intermediate cars on these trains are actually the same as those on 377s, with a different interior, as they were built at the same time.

    TfL will also be needing trains for the West London Orbital Railway. These could be four-car battery trains, so could they be 710s or rebuilt 378s?

    Comment by AnonW | May 5, 2019 | Reply

  3. The 57 378s you could re-arrange into 42* 6 car sets, this leaves 14* as 2 car (or 4* 6 cars and 2* 4 car) and 1* as 5 car sets.
    Bombardier might not be producing, but surely can still make up additional cars if needed,(they still have the drawings), ie 14*4(intermediate) and 1* 1 to make all sets 6 car.

    Comment by Daniel Altmann | May 9, 2019 | Reply

    • I have a feeling that the structure of 377 intermediate cars are the same as those of 378s as they were built at the same time. So converting some that may get replaced by the new Sputheastern franchise could be an option.

      Comment by AnonW | May 9, 2019 | Reply

      • The bodies and equipment might be same on 377s and 378s, but the doors are different and unlikely to be rebuilt on the 377s. There is only 25* (23* /5s and 2* /1s) which is not enough for the 57* 378s.

        Comment by Daniel Altmann | May 9, 2019

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