The Anonymous Widower

Do A Lot Of Other Cities Need An Overground?

This article on the MayprWatch web site is entitled London Overground Celebrates Ten Years Of Transforming Rail Travel In The Capital.

The principles behind the Overground are simple.

  • Bring run-down suburban railways under local control.
  • Clean everything like crazy.
  • Run four trains per hour on all routes.
  • Introduce contactless ticketing with Oyster and bank cards.
  • Have lots of visible well-trained staff.
  • Upgrade stations and step-free access, when money allows.
  • Increase train length to match passenger numbers.
  • Allow disabled passengers to just turn up and get the assistance they need.
  • Add lots of passenger information.

The principles certainly appear to have worked. This is from the MayorWatch article.

This investment, which started under Mr Livingstone and was continued by his successor Boris Johnson, has helped the London Overground become one of the UK’s most successful rail services, with independently measured passenger satisfaction scores routinely above 80%.

Since launch, more than a billion passenger journeys have been made on the network which now serves 23 of the Capital’s boroughs as well as southern Hertfordshire.

The investment is continuing.

  • In 2018, new Class 710 trains will replace the thirty-year-old Class 315 trains on West Anglia routes to Cheshunt, Chingford and Enfield Town.
  • In 2018, the newly-electrified Gospel Oak to Barking Line will change over to four-car Class 710 trains to double capacity.
  • In 2018, Friday and Saturday night services will start on the East London Line.
  • By 2020, service frequencies on the circular North, East, South and West London Lines will have increased to decrease the overcrowding.
  • In 2021, the Gospel Oak to Barking Line Extension to Barking Riverside will open to serve ten thousand new homes.
  • In 2026, the North London Line will join the big party at Old Oak Common station, when HS2 opens.
  • Could the West London Orbital be the next project?
  • Transport for London would love to get their hands on the Northern City Line. This proposal is supported by many Londoners, polticians and rail professionals like Chris Gibb.

So long as passengers turn up, we will see increasing amounts of orange on London’s Rail and Tube Map.

Celebrating Ten Years

To celebrate ten years, London Overground have released a map showing attractions that are accessible from the Overground.

The Overground could become a tourist attraction in its own right.

  • No special ticket required – Just touch in and out!
  • Many of the attractions served by the Overground are affordable or free.
  • Trains have a frequency of at least four trains per hour.
  • Stations generally have good directions to local attractions.

In addition, Overground trains have better views from the windows than Underground trains.

The Overground Has Certainly Been A Success

When I moved to Dalston in 2010, the Overground had just opened to four station within walking distance; Canonbury, Dalston Junction, Dalston Kingsland and Haggerston.

New three-car Class 378 trains ran to Clapham Junction, Crystal Palace, New Cross, Richmond, Stratford and West Croydon, every fifteen or so minutes.

Now the trains have grown to five-cars and there is an extra route across South London to Clapham Junction to complete the circlke around Central London.

Passenger numbers have grown with the capacity and the railways have transformed Hackney and Dalston in particular.

Other Overgrounds In The UK

Several cities in the UK have their own local rail networks that are heavily used for commuting, leisure, shopping and tourism.

I’ve rode on systems in Birm,ingham, Glasgow and Liverpool, but none of these railways is as easy to use and as travel information-rich as the London Overground.

Not one of the UK’s local networks for instance, allow ticketing by using a contactless bank or credit card.

But then, with only a couple of exceptions, European networks are no better than the abysmal norm!

Contactless Ticketing

I believe that every local rail or Metro network, should support ticketing using contactless bank or credit cards.

  • There is no need to buy a ticket or a special electronic travel card.
  • A maximum daily, weekly or monthly cap can be applied.
  • \Entry and exit at stations is quick and easy.

I also feel that cities that don’t go this route will lose out, as tourists will go elsewhere.

Network Maps

New Metros in Europe and the rest of the world, shameslessly copy the features of London’s iconic Tube map for one of their networks. But often for various reasons, they position them high-up and make it that you need to be over six foot tall to read them.

Every network, should have a large map, that is at least the size of London’s with the stations laid out in an easy-to-read format, that can be read by anybody from an eleven-year-old child to an eighty-yrear-old with failing eyesight, sitting in a wheelchair.

London’s maps aren’t perfect, but they are a good start!


I know the Merseyrail network well and it probably comes closest to the London Overground in terms of operation.

But, in terms of Marketing, I don’t think it does is best to sell itself to visitors.


Is a big change about to happen in Birmingham?

This article in the Railway Gazette is entitled West Midlands Trains Announces London Northwestern Brand.

This is also said about services in Birmingham.

Services operating around Birmingham are to use the West Midlands Combined Authority’s West Midlands Railway branding, with a view to facilitating the possible future devolution of responsibility for these services from the national Department for Transport to the authority.

So will Birmingham improve its local rail offering?

It’s certainly going to have new trains and an expanded service, so will they add the following.

  • Contasctless bank card ticketing.
  • A route pattern and map, that is understandable to non-Brummies.
  • Dedicated local platforms at New Street station.
  • More visible staff on the platforms.
  • More information.

The bare bones are there, but they need a lot more flesh!


The world needs to develop more Overground networks as London has done!



November 11, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Could London Introduce Lifts With Inbuilt Ticketing?

Use the Underground or the trains in London and you have to have to touch in and out with your contactless ticket, Oyster card, smart phone or Freedom Pass.

Suppose you want to put lifts into a station, where putting the lift inside the ticket barriers would be difficult, but perhaps putting it outside on the street would be easy.

This technique has been used at Bank station to provide step-free access to the Docklands Light Railway.

When I called the lift to enter the station, the lift was sent by an operator in the Control Room.

So why not combine an outside lift with the ticketing?

Perhaps to call the lift, you need to touch in or out?


November 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

Welcome To The Future, New York City

The title of this post is the sub-title of this article on the Inverse web site.

It describes how New York City is changing its public transport ticketing from a card-based system to a Tap-and-Ride system based on london’s Oyster technology.

Is this one of the first steps to the world becoming London’s Oyster?

October 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

What Is Most Important In A Train Service?

I am prompted to ask this question after my trips on the reopened Gospel Oak to Barking Line (GOBlin), which I wrote about in Along The Reopened Gospel Oak To Barking Line.

These are my thoughts on what is important in a train service.

Clean And Tidy Trains And Stations

London Overground is a network of nine lines and 112 stations and the operator makes sure that everything is clean and tidy.

Also unlike many rail lines in the world, it is very rare to find any graffiti on trains or inside stations on the Big Orange.

I’ve only ever seen one example of spray paint on a train, in the seven years, that I’ve used the Overground.

So what is it, that enforces the good behaviour?

I don’t know, but even on a crowded train, I’ve never seen any anti-social behaviour.

Could it be that the clean, practical environment of the trains and stations discourages it? Perhaps it has just been designed out?

Remember that stations are the marketing or retail face of the trains.

Would you buy your supper, clothes or household goods from a badly-designed and scruffy shop?

You wouldn’t!

And you didn’t buy much from BHS, Blockbuster, Comet or Woolworths either!

The Size, Quality And Type Of Trains

My fellow passengers on my GOBlin trips, didn’t seem bothered about the quality of the Class 172 trains., but a couple did say that four-car trains would be welcome, as overcrowding on the line can be a problem.

But I do wonder if you have a quality train of the right size and performance, does it matter what  method is used to power the train, so long as it is reliable.

I also think that if you asked a selection of users and residents by the line, that electric trains would be fasvoured on noise grounds, but some would object to gantries marching along the line in a sensitive area.

It should be noted, that one of the reasons for electrifying the GOBlin, is so that freight trains can be electric-hauled, which is preferable for environmental reasons, of which diesel locomotive noise is very prominent.

The Number And Quality Of he Stations

More and higher quality stations are a sound policy, that is only limited by the budget.

Many recently opened stations, like Dalston Junction, Galashiels, James Cook, Oxford Parkway and Southend Airport have been a success, as like most new stations, they’ve built to fulfil a perceived need!

In addition, stations like Deptford,  Hampstead Heath and Lower Edmonton have also shown an increase in patronage after upgrading with lifts and a refurbished  building.

A cynic might say, that Network Rail’s Access for All program is not just about passenger needs but more about getting more people  to ride in trains to generate revenue.

But the outcome is the same for those with special travelling needs.

A Turn-Up-And-Go Service

One lady of a certain age, I met yesterday, said she’d never used the GOBlin before and as she’d heard it was running again, she thought she’d give it a try, as she fancied a walk on Hampstead Heath.

Since, it was taken over by London Overground, the short line has been running four trains per hour (tph) in both directions, which is what London Overground, Merseyrail and other operators would consider a Turn-Up-And-Go-Service for an urban route.

If you just miss a train, then you only have to wait a maximum of fifteen minutes for another train.

But to be an efficient Turn-Up-And-Go Service other things are needed.

Contactless Ticketing

My fellow traveller was  like me, travelling on a free Frredom Pass, which means we just touched in and went on our way. But in London, I actually carry two other valid tickets as two of my credit/debit cards are contactless. I use one of these, when I’m travelling to Gatwick Airport, as it is outside the Freedom Pass area, but inside London’s contactless ticketing area.

, Surely when you use a line like the GOBlin, be it in London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Paris or Zurich, you shouldn’t have to buy a ticket if you have a contactless debit or credit card.

These days with modern technology, no-one should not have to do anything more than touch in and touch-out with a contactless bank card to use a local transport network; based on bus, tram or train.

Operators that don’t embrace this contactless bank card route and insist you buy a separate card or download an app to your new Nokia 3310 are Luddites of the worst kind.

Getting To And From The Station

Efficient Turn-Up-And-Go also needs enough car and bike parking and/or well-documented bus links.

Tea And Coffee Kiosks

London Overground also like to add good tea and coffee kiosks into their Turn-Up-And-Go mix, often using very independent operators.

If you do miss that train, you might as well take your caffeine fix!



March 2, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Ticketing In Liverpool And Manchester

On my trip to Wigan, I travelled around Liverpool and Manchester extensively on both days.

Whether the cities like it or not, transport-wise, the whole of Lancashire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester  is one ticketing area.

I bought a Lancashire Day Ranger at £15 on both days. But!

  • That is not expensive for me, but it probably is for others.
  • It doesn’t include Manchester’s or Blackpool’s trams.
  • It doesn’t include the Wirral Line in Liverpool.

Why can’t I just touch in with my contactless bank card, like I can in London?

This article on Global Rail News is entitled Sydney to trial contactless payments on public transport network.

Sydney will be using London’s system, so why can’t Liverpool and Manchester?

December 20, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Smart Ticketing Delivery Board

This article on the Rail Technology web site has a section entitled Smart Ticketing Delivery Board.

This is the opening paragraph of the section.

Elsewhere in his speech Grayling announced his vision to introduce smart ticketing across Britain’s railway network, enabling passengers to use mobile phones, contactless cards or smart cards to buy their tickets along with more pay-as-you-go options.

I’m glad to see contactless cards mentioned, as in my view there is no other way to go.

Why shouldn’t one contactless credit or bank card get me all over the UK? Or Europe for that matter? But that’s being small. If I can use my Amex card in a restaurant, why can’t I use it on the train, bus or tram? Or even a plane!


December 8, 2016 Posted by | Travel | | Leave a comment

Heathrow Services Post Crossrail

To take some of the pictures for A Look At Stockley Junction, I took Heathrow Connect to the Airport..

My return ticket from Hayes and Harlington station, cost me £8.20 with a Senior Railcard, which must be one of the most expensive journeys  per mile in the UK. Especially, as there are only two trains per hour (tph). Considering that I could have done the journey quicker yesterday, using a 140 bus, as the train was ten minutes late.

But it would be difficult to take the pictures I wanted from the bus.

Arriving at Heathrow, I thought that a hot chocolate would be in order, so I set off for Terminal 2.

Passenger friendly the journey is not, so as I wanted to get back, I returned to the station to catch the next train.

I did not see a single sign to Heathrow Connect, with this one being typical.

Where's Heathrow Connect

Where’s Heathrow Connect

I knew where to go, as I’d walked it.

Incidentally, it is easy enough to find the overpriced Heathrow Express, but how many passengers with a brain want to go to the disconnected Paddington?

Some like me might actually want to go to Hayes and Harlington or perhaps Maidenhead.

I didn’t ask, but I wonbder if the advice to go to Maidenhead, is to take Heathrow Express to Paddington and then get a train to Maidenhead. The Oracle (Nation Rail’s Journey Planner) recommends taking Heathrow Connect to Hayes and Harlington, but will all the staff.

Current Services To The Airport

There are four ways to get to Heathrow by public transport.

Heathrow Express  – 4 tph to and from Paddington. – Overpriced

Heathrow Connect – 2 tph to and from a series of stations along the route to Paddington – Infrequent and overpriced.

Piccadilly Line – Slow, frequent, usually reliable and the most affordable.

Bus – For a lot of those living near the Airport, this is the preferred route.

This map from shows the layout of the rail and Underground lines.

Rail And Underground Lines At Heathrow

Rail And Underground Lines At Heathrow

Simple it isn’t!

But that is what you get if you dither over the next runway in the South-East for forty years.

Heathrow’s rail links are so very Topsy, unlike those at Birmingham, Edinburgh, Gatwick, London City, Luton, Manchester, Southend and Stansted.

Not all the others are perfect, but they’re getting better.


Crossrail will be the new wayto get to Heathrow and in some ways it is a replacement for Heathrow Connect. This is said under Future in the Wikipedia entry for Heathrow Connect.

From May 2018, Crossrail trains will replace all Heathrow Connect trains between London Paddington and Heathrow terminals 2, 3 and 4. Furthermore, as of December 2019 all services will run through the new tunnels at Paddington to central London destinations including Bond Street, Liverpool Street and Canary Wharf

So, it would appear that there will no substantial improvement until December 2019.

This is a detailed timetable, with particular reference to going between Heathrow and the City of London and Canary Wharf.


  • May 2018 – Heathrow Connect will be taken over by Crossrail. We’ll certainly see better signage and service under Transport for London’s management.
  • May 2018 – The Crossrail start schedule on Wikipedia, also shows that the shuttle between Heathrow Central (Terminals 1,2 and 3) and Terminal 4, will be transferred to Crossrail. Terminal 5 will be reached by using Heathrow Express from Heathrow Central.
  • May 2018 – Heathrow Connect in the guise of Crossrail will be serving erminals 1,2, 3 and 4, but not Terminal 5. Will we be seeing new Class 345 trains and a higher frequency to Heathrow? I woulden’t be surprised if Heathrow Airport, try every trick to keep Crossrail out of the Airport, to protect the revenue on Heathrow Express.
  • December 2018 – Crossrail services between Paddington and Abbey Wood will start, thus linking Paddington to  the City of London and Canary Wharf. There will probably be a longish walk between the two parts of Crossrail at Pasddington, but the tunnel across London, will give Paddington the much need-connectivity, it’s needed since the Second World.
  • May 2019 – Crossrail services between Paddington and Shenfield via Whitechapel will begin, thus meaning that many travellers East of Paddington, will use a single change there to get to and from Heathrow.
  • December 2019 – The full Crossrail should open, meaning that there will be direct trains between Abbey Wood and Heathrow Terminal 4 calling at Canary Wharf, Liverpool St-Moorgate, Farringdon, Tottenham Court Road, Bond Street, Paddington, Heathrow Central and all the stations in between.

Trains into the Airport will be.

  • 4 tph – Heathrow Express for Paddington, where many passengers will change to and from Crossrail.
  • 4 tph – Crossrail to Abbey Wood.

One will be expensive and the other will be affordable and much more convenient, as it reaches the places passengers want to start or finish their journey.

It looks good, but there are a some questions to answer.

Is eight tph enough trains to and from the Airport?

If you compare Heathrow with Gatwick, Luton and Stansted, eight tph seems good.

However, I found this article in TravelWeekly, which is entitled Gatwick outlines plans for a train departure to London every three minutes.

It gives a very good summary of the train services that will run to Gatwick after Thameslink is completed.

  • Four tph dedicated Gatwick Express trains to Victoria
  • Six tph to Victoria – originating from East and West Coastway, Horsham/Littlehampton, and Three Bridges/Haywards Heath
  • Four tph to Bedford via London Bridge – originating from Gatwick and Brighton
  •  Two tph to Cambridge via London Bridge – originating from Brighton
  • Two tph to Peterborough via London Bridge – originating from Horsham
  • Two tph to London Bridge – originating from Littlehampton/West Coastway, and Haywards Heath/Three Bridges.

That is a total of twenty trains to and from London and beyond and most of the South Coast from Southampton to Hastings.

How many better rail-connected airports are there anywhere in the world?

Luton and Stansted are also have aspirations to improve their rail links.

I think that passengers will press for increase in the frequency of services to the Airport and they’ll want more destinations.

After all Shenfield and Abbey Wood are planned to have 8 tph all day to and from Central London, with at least twice as many in the Peak.

How do passengers get to and from Iver, Langley, Maidenhead, Reading and all staions to the West of Hayes and Harlington?

A rail link into Terminal 5 from the West is planned, but something needs to be done before that is completed probably in the mid-2020s.

After December 2019, their will be four routes.

  • Go to Paddington and use Heathrow Express – Expensive
  • Go to Hayes and Harlington and take Crossrail into Heathrow Central – Requires two step-free changes of train.
  • Take a coach from Reading.
  • Go to Hayes and Harlington or West Drayton stations and use a local bus.

I can see something innovative being done at Hayes and Harlington station.

There is probably capacity between Heathrow Terminal 5 and Hayes and Harlington stations for a 4 tph shuttle in both directions, that would also solve the Terminal 5 connectivity problem.

Southall could even be an interesting alternative, as there is lots of space.

What Would Be My Solution?

I would use Hayes and Harlington station, as the interchange for Heathrow Airport.

In an ideal layout there would be three slow lines through Hayes and Harlington station, with two island platforms separating the lines. From the South, they would be.

  • The Reading-bound (Up Slow) line.
  • The Heathrow shuttle line, which would also be used by Crossrail trains going to and from Heathrow Terminal 4. This liine would be bi-directional.
  • The London-bound (Down Slow) line.

Between the platforms would be two welcoming island platforms to give passengers a step-across interchange, between trains.

It would need a major rethink of the station.

But consider.

  • Passengers from the West for Heathrow would just walk across the platform to get their train.
  • Passengers for Heathrow Central could take any train.
  • Passengers for Terminal 4 or Terminal 5 might need to wait a few minutes for an appropriate train.
  • Crossrail passengers for Terminal 5, would change at Hayes and Harlington.
  • Passengers from Heathrow for the West would just walk across the platform to get the train.
  • No passenger would need to change platforms using the step-free bridge.

What is being provided at Hayes and Harlington station is very much a poor design.


Will the current Heathrow Connect service between Paddington and Heathrow Central and Terminal 4 be dropped?

I can’t see any point to it, after Crossrail has an all-stations service to the Airport from Paddington.

How do passengers get to and from Terminal 5?

I proposed the shuttle to do this, with passengers changing at either Hayes and Harlington or Heathrow Central stations, to a train going to either Terminal 4 or Terminal 5.

Will passengers be able to use contactless cards to the Airport?

I think if the decision was down to the Mayor, Transport for London or the people of London, Oyster and contactless bank cards would be a way of paying a fare to Heathrow, as it is to Gatwick.

Will passengers like me with Freedom Passes, be able to use Crossrail to Heathrow?

Boris said Yes and I suppose the current Mayor, Transport for London and card holders, will expect it to be possible, as it is on the Piccadilly Line.


The Heathrow spur of Crossrail has not been thought out too well!







November 22, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Behind London’s Contactless Ticketing

I have just read this article on London Reconnections, which is entitled Don’t Fear the Beeper: Bus Hopper Tickets and the Future of Oyster.

It is fascinating stuff and a lot consists of an interview with Shashi Verma, TfL’s Director of Technology and Customer Experience.

One thing that surprised me is that Oyster and Contactless have separate back-ends, but the two will be combined in 2018.

So I think we’ll see lots of new features coming in after 2018.

As many of these will improve the customer experience, isn’t Sadiq a lucky Mayor, as he’ll get the credit rather than the geek who had the idea and did the coding.

This is said in the article about the Bus Hopper

This isn’t to say, of course, that the Hopper was an entirely new idea.

“[It] is something we have wanted to do for years and years.” Verma confirms. “But we haven’t wanted to do in the way that some politicians have wanted it to be done.”

So it was there all along.

How many other things will be possible, when the back offices are combined?

Use With Railcards

According to this page on the TfL web site, railcards don’t work with contactless cards.

I would suspect that one feature after 2018, would be that if you create an account for contactless or Oyster and add a railcard to the account, your fares will be adjusted accordingly.

The system could also handle the very popular Two Together Railcard. You’d just register two accounts for each traveller with the same railcard, then if they’re both used within say five minutes for the same journey, the back office applies the discount.

Use With Freedom Pass

Once the back offices are combined, the Freedom Pass could be made to work in two ways.

As now!

Or it is registered in your TfL account along with your contactless card and the back office would charge you an appropriate fare.

So if say I wanted to go to Gatwick Airport or anywhere in the Oystercard area, I just tap in and out with my contactless bank card and the back office charges be the £3, I would be charged if I went to East Croydon using my Freedom Pass and left the station before coming back in using contactless to get a train to the Airport.

If such a method was possible, I would certainly use it, as quite a few of the journeys I do are just outside the Freedom Pass area, but still within the Oystercard area.

It would then mean that I would only have to carry one card in my pocket.

The Outer London Freedom Pass

Say you live in one of the administrative districts that ring London. I’ll use Epping Forest as an example.

Because of your age or circumstances, you are entitled to a bus pass, but you get no free travel on trains or the Underground.

If your local authority decided to have a Freedom Pass scheme for all travel in the district, you would get any train or tube travel between stations in the local authority or to the boundary of the area, free.

In the case of Epping Forest, you’d get the outer reaches of the Central Line.

So if you were travelling from Theydon Bois to Liverpool Street, you’d only get charged for the tube between Woodford or Grange Hill and Liverpool Street.

You would create a contactless/Oyster account on TfL and add your bus pass and/or railcard to the account.

The back office would do the rest and you’d travel all over the Oystercard area using your contactless card.

I think that some local authorities could look at this concept seriously to encourage card holders to shop locally.

Stations Could Allow Freedom Passes Outside Zone 6

I’ll take Greenhithe for Bluewater station as an example.

The clue is in the station name.

Suppose that the Shopping Centre felt it would get a lot more business from Freedom Pass holders if it were to be in Zone 6, would it pay for the cost of tickets for Freedom Pass holders to attract them to their relaxed shopping experience.

It should be noted that there are already stations outside Zone 6, like Watford High Street and Shenfield stations, that allow Freedom Passes provided you use the London Overground or TfL Rail.

Other possibilities include.

  • Gravesend by an extended Crossrail.
  • Gatwick Airport
  • Watford Vicarage Road
  • Windsor

Who knows, which local authorities, events and attractions would find subsidising travel worthwhile.

Imagine for instance Winter-only Off Peak use of a Freedom Pass to say Brighton or Southend.


Travel in London is going to get even more interesting.

I look forward to the day, when I have a single card in my pocket!

October 14, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Along The North Kent Line

The North Kent Line has seen some changes in the last few years and could see some more in the next few.

Starting from the terminal in London Bridge, which itself is going through a massive upgrade, these improvements have been done or will happen.

Woolwich Arsenal

Woolwich Arsenal station has from 2009 provided a direct link to the Docklands Light Railway, giving a direct connection to London City Airport and Bank.

In 2019, Woolwich station on Crossrail will open, which will be two hundred metres away from Woolwich Arsenal station. This will probably not have a direct effect on Woolwich Arsenal station, but two stations will certainly stimulate development in the area.

I doubt many will use this station to interchange between the North Kent Line and Crossrail, as it looks like the connection at Abbey Wood station could be easier.

Abbey Wood

Abbey Wood station is being rebuilt and in December 2018, Crossrail will start services at the station to Paddington via Canary Wharf and the central tunnel.

Wikipedia says this about Crossrail services at Abbey Wood station.

Abbey Wood is the terminus of one of two eastern branches of Crossrail and will offer cross-platform interchange between terminating Crossrail services (at 12 trains per hour on new line) and existing Southeastern services (along existing tracks)

Plans are always being talked about to link Abbey Wood station to the North Bank of the Thames at either Gallions Reach or Barking Riverside.

I doubt it will happen in the next ten years.


Dartford station has from the beginning of this year been one of London’s contactless ticketing stations, as is reported in Oyster and Contactless Bank Cards, under the station’s Wikipedia entry.

Don’t be surprised if this creeps outwards from London.


Greenhithe station was rebuilt in 2008 and is the station for Bluewater.

Because of the Shopping Centre, Greenhithe will probably be a station that could benefit from contactless ticketing.


Northfleet station is the closest to Ebbsfleet International and we could see an improved link between the two stations.

As Northfleet could have upwards of four trains per hour (tph) stopping in both directions, a frequent shuttle bus, could be an affordable option.

Smaller Stations

There are several smaller stations between London Bridge and Gravesend.

I’m obviously not sure, but on a quick look all of them seem ready to accept the long trains, that will be used by both Thameslink and Crossrail.


Gravesend station was remodelled in 2013 and now has two long through platforms and a bay platform.

Crossrail to Gravesend

Under Future in the Wikipedia for Gravesend station, this is said.

In December 2008, the local authority for Gravesend (Gravesham Council), was formally requested by Crossrail and the Department for Transport, to sanction the revised Crossrail Safeguarding. This safeguarding provides for a potential service extension, from the current south of Thames terminus at Abbey Wood, to continue via the North Kent Line to Gravesend station. The Crossrail route extension from Abbey Wood to Gravesend and Hoo Junction, remains on statute. With current services from Gravesend to London Bridge, Waterloo East and London Charing Cross being supplemented by highspeed trains from the end of 2009 to St Pancras, the potential in having Crossrail services from central London, London Heathrow, Maidenhead and/or Reading, terminating at Gravesend, would not only raise the station to hub status but greatly contribute towards the town’s regeneration.

At present, Gravesend station has the following services.

Typical off-peak services are:

  • 2 tph Highspeed services in each direction between London St. Pancras, Ebbsfleet intewrnation and Faversham and the East.
  • 2 tph Southeastern services between London Charing Cross and Gillingham.
  • 4 tph Southeastern services between London Charing Cross and Gravesend.

From 2019, Thameslink are saying that they will be running two tph between Rainham and Luton via Dartford and Greenwich.

This will mean that eight tph in each direction will go between Gravesend and Dartford, with another two tph going between Gravesend and Ebbsfleet International.

Because of the  new Thameslink service, the train frequency between Gravesend and Gillingham will increase from the current four tph to six tph.

I think that although Gravesend will be the nominated terninal for Crossrail, the trains will actually reverse direction at Hoo Junction, so there will no need to use any platform space at Gravesend to prepare the train for its return journey.

At present, Wikipedia is saying this will be the Morning Peak service from Abbey Wood station.

  • 4 tph to Heathrow Terminal 4
  • 6 tph to Paddington
  • 2 tph to West Drayton

With this Off Peak service.

  • 4 tph to Heathrow Terminal 4
  • 4 tph to Paddington

What the current North Kent Line can handle would probably determine how many Croosrail trains went to Gravesend and Hoo Junction.

But Crossrail won’t be short of seats to really provide a superb service to and from the Medway Towns.

I have a feeling that once Crossrail is running successfully, the traffic will define, if, when and how any extension to Gravesend is built.

But the creation of the extension to Gravesend and Hoo Junction will not be a massive undertaking.

  • The depot and other facilities at Hoo Junction will have to be built.
  • Could the depot at Hoo Junction be without electrification? If the Class 345 trains have sufficient onboard energy storage, which I believe could be the case and I wrote about in Bombardier’s Plug-and-Play Train, then this is a serious possibility, which would save money and time in building the depot.
  • All platforms are probably long enough for the Class 345 trains.
  • The Crossrail train specification says that trains must have the potential to be converted for third rail operation. The similar Class 710 trains will have this capability.
  • Judging by my observations in Between Abbey Wood And Belvedere Stations, I feel that Abbey Wood station is probably capable of handling the same number of trains going further down the line.
  • The signalling would have to be adjusted for the new service pattern.

But there would be no tunnelling and no major electrification on the North Kent Line.

Perhaps, the only major expenses would be.

  • Building the depot/reversing sidings and facilities at Hoo Junction.
  • Any extra trains needed.
  • The cost of any rail link into Ebbsfleet International station.

So I doubt, we’ll be talking large numbers of billions.

Class 395 Trains

The Class 395 trains are normally six-car trains, but they can work in pairs as twelve-cars.

This probably means that any station, where the Highspeed service calls can handle a twelve-car train.


Strood station was updated in 2009 for the Highspeed service. Ready for Crossrail/Thameslink.


Rochester station was rebuilt in 2016. Ready for Crossrail/Thameslink.


Chatham station accepts twelve-car trains. Ready for Crossrail/Thameslink.


Ready for Crossrail/Thameslink.

Gillingham station is an interchange with two long platforms and a bay platform.

Five tph including two Highspeed services pass through the station and two tph go to and from London Charing Cross.

From 2019, there will be another two Thameslink tph between Luton and Rainham stopping at the station.

All this adds up to comprehensive service which stretches out to several London termini and the Kent Coast.

London Bridge, Abbey Wood and Gravesend all have at least four tph from Gillingham.


Ready for Crossrail/Thameslink.

Rainham station has been updated in the last couple of years. An Update section in the Wikipedia entry, says this.

As part of the rebuild of Rochester Station, a new Up Bay Platform has been added.
Trains are now able to use this new platform as the East Kent Resignalling Project has been completed. At present, only a couple of trains use it in the evening rush hour.

The East Kent Resignalling Project is described on this page of the Southeastern web site.

These improvements are noted.

  • New £26 million station at Rochester
  • 250 new signals to replace old signalling equipment
  • Disabled access at Strood station
  • New bay platform at Rainham
  • Safer level crossings fitted with obstacle detection technology at Aylesford, Yalding, Beltring, Wateringbury, East Farleigh, Cuxton and Snodland
  • Centralisation of signalling control to Gillingham and the decommissioning of several signal boxes.

It would appear that a updated railway and a short series of good stations through the Medway Towns has been created, that can handle the increased frequencies.

Thameslink To Rainham

Modern Railways in August 2016, said that Thameslink would be running a two tph service between Luton and Rainham via Greenwich and Dartford.

The new bay platform at Rainham would be ideal for this service.

Onward From Rainham

There doesn’t seem to be many changes to what services are run now.


Everything seems to fit together rather well.

  • Twelve-car platforms seem universal or at least where needed.
  • The signalling is up to scratch.
  • The new bay platform at Rainham makes the new two tph Thameslink service to Luton deliverable.
  • To extend Crossrail to Gravesend probably just needs the new depot at Hoo Junction.
  • Dartford to Rainham gets at least a four tph service with six car or longer trains.

The only area, where nothing has been published, is how to incorporate Ebbsfleet International station into the network.

I think it could suffer from London Overground Syndrome. This is my definition of the disease.

This disease, which is probably a modern version of the Victorian railway mania, was first identified in East London in 2011, when it was found that the newly-refurbished East London Line and North London Line were inadequate due to high passenger satisfaction and much increased usage. It has now spread across other parts of the capital and across the UK, despite various eradication programs.

It is usually solved by adding more capacity.

Related Posts

A Design Crime – Ebbsfleet International Station

A Trip To Sheppey

A Twelve-Car Ready Railway

Between Abbey Wood And Belvedere Stations

Connecting North Kent And The Medway Towns To Ebbsfleet International Station

Extending Crossrail To Gravesend

Rainham (Kent) Station

Thameslink To Rainham

Through The Medway Towns

What Do You Do With A Problem Like Sheppey?


September 18, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A Contactless Card Explosion

According to Becky Barrow in the Sunday Times, it not yet ten years since contactless cards were introduced.

She says that during the first six months of this year, we spent £9.3billion using the cards.

In the same period of 2009, we spent just £315,953 and half of that was Patsy and Edina in Harvey Nicks.

That is some increase.

When contactless cards were introduced on London’s buses, after listening to quite a few idiot techophobe politicians, I set up a very tight Internet trawl about ticketing problems on London’s transport.

I have not found a single problem reported in a newspaper or web-site.

My problem with contactless cards, is that I can’t use them for small train or tram trips outside London. Every train company and local authority seems to be reinventing London’s wheel.

No wonder London gets all the tourists!

I also had a small problem where a branch of a well-known store set up their tills incorrectly and AMEX thought it was fraud and refunded my purchases.


August 28, 2016 Posted by | Finance | , , | 2 Comments