This article on Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Delayed Sheffield tram-train completion date finally set.
This project was announced in 2015 and the Class 399 tram-trains were delivered in 2016. So you’d think it would be nearing completion, with the tram-trains tested and the track complete. But no! The link will open in Summer 2018.
But the West Anglia Four-Tracking has not even been announced and the Orange Army is already hard at work to squeeze in the extra tracks along the West Anglia Main Line.
Both construction projects have one important thing in common. They need new track to be laid on land already owned by Network Rail or supporting local authorities, with modifications to the overhead electrification and signalling.
So why has one started before it has been announced and the other has taken for ever to get out of the starting blocks?
Wrst Anglia Four-Tracking has been talked about seriously for over ten years, so Network Rail have had a long time to finalise their design.
So do Network Rail need something like a dozen years to go from the start of design to full on construction?
Perhaps they were caught on the hop with the Gospel Oak to Barking Electrification and hadn’t got a design together?
If a project takes a long time to go from initial design to construction, all of the good engineers, managers and workers move on to something they might see completed in their lifetime. So the project has to be restarted time and time again with new people.
Crossrail was different in that when the politicians said build it, the team was created, who will see it through from design to the trains running throyugh the tunnels.
Let’s hope HS2 gets the same treatment as Crossrail, so that in 2026 we can all experience London to Birmingham in the blink of an eye.
This article in the Hackney Gazette is entitled Dalston Kingsland: Four in hospital after sparks and smoke cause stampede off train.
As the problem was sorted by the London Fire Brigade using a bucket of sand to extinguish a fire in the battery pack of a workman’s drill, it doesn’t appear to have been very serious.
The injuries seem to have been caused by panic, as passengers tried to get away fro the problem.
I know Dalston Kingsland station well and although the entrance, ticket hall and gateline has been updated, the stairs are not the best.
So did everybody try to get out of the station on these stairs and it was this that caused the injuries?
I think there are questions that have to be asked about the design of the station and its operating procedures.
If you look at the passenger numbers for 2015-16 on the North London Line, you get the following.
- Canonbury – 2.86million
- Dalston Kingsland – 5.93million
- Hackney Central – 5.98million
- Homerton – 4.65 million
- Hackney Wick – 2.10million
So the station has a fairly high usage.
At the moment, the Gospel Oak to Barking Line is closed, so is the station getting more passengers, who need to get across London?
It looks to me, that the incident could have been a lot worse.
Luckily it wasn’t, but I do believe that something must be done to improve the stairs at Dalston Kingland station.
The title of this post is taken from this article in Global Rail News.
This is said.
In an announcement earlier today, Network Rail said it had been unable to install some of the OLE structures because they had been “incorrectly designed”. It also blamed the late delivery of materials.
But the line will reopen with the Class 172 trains on the 27th February.
In June 2016, I wrote The Signs Of Bad Planning On The Gospel Oak To Barking Line Were There.
In the post, I talk about the rebuilding of three bridges on the line at Wightman Road, Palmerston Road and Holloway Road, which although Palmerston Road was done early and successfully, Holloway Road was going well at the time of writing, but Wightman Road had almost been forgotten.
The closure of Wightman Road for rebuilding certainly caught a lot of people by surprise.
There was also the late rebuilding of Holloway Road bridge, which certainly caught Islington Council on the hop.
If you read a News Release from the Barking – Gospel Oak Rail User Group dated the 6th February 2017, this is said.
Other problems have been accidental breaches of sewers in Walthamstow by pile drivers and the discovery that there will be insufficient clearance for the overhead wires under the road bridge at Crouch Hill station.
It is believed that Network Rail has received a temporary dispensation to run electric trains under the bridge pending a later closure to raise the height of the bridge.
As the guy said, when he breached the sewer – “Shit Happens!”
In October 2016, I wrote The Gospel Oak To Barking Line Is Planned To Reopen On February 6th 2017.
But a couple of weeks ago, this date had slipped to the fourteenth.
I have just checked the reopening date this morning on the National Rail train timetable and it appears to be the 27th of February.
I don’t give it much credence.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have been taking photographs of various parts of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line (GOBlin).
There would still seem to be a lot to do to restore the railway to operation as a non-electrified railway.
However, the National Rail on-line timetable is showing that from Monday, the 13th of February, 2013, a four trains per hour (tph) service will be working.
It is also worthwhile looking at Transport for London’s Track Closures Six Months Look Ahead. This is usually reliable and states the following.
There is no London Overground service between Gospel Oak and Barking until late February 2017. Replacement buses are running.
It also lists no substantial closures on the GOBlin in the next six months.
There is also this article on Global Rail News, which is entitled Electrification of London Overground’s Gospel Oak-Barking line 80% complete.
These various statements and my pictures could point to a coherent interim set of objectives.
An Interim Set Of Objectives
Both Transport for London and Network Rail will want to get the line open for the following trains as soon as possible.
- Engineering trains to support the finish of the electrification and station works.
- Diesel-hauled freight trains.
- Restoration of the four tph passenger service using the two-car Class 172 trains.
It could be that from the point of view of the electrification, the engineering trains are the most important.
So what will need to be done to meet these interim objectives.
- Full reinstatement of the track, with all track lowering and bridge raising complete.
- Rigorous testing of track and signalling systems.
- Completion of the road bridge at Upper Holloway station.
- Completion of the pedestrian bridge at Blackhorse Road station.
- Completion of the rebuilding of Walthamstow Queen’s Road station.
- Ensure other stations are safe to use for a two-car train.
Hopefully, the line will reopen to passenger traffic before the end of February 2017. But no-one would complain, if it happened earlier.
Finishing The Project
Once the limited objectives are met and trains are running, the following will need to be done to complete the modernisation.
- The completion of platform lengthening, as at Harringay Green Lanes station.
- Erection of the missing gantries.
- Installation and testing of the overhead wires.
All of these tasks , can probably be done alongside of the working railway, as similar work has been done on the North and East London Lines and Crossrail.
The contractors will have the following advantages.
- The track and signalling will be complete.
- It can probably be arranged that overnight very few trains will use the line.
- They will have a working double-track railway to bring in supplies and specialist rail-mounted equipment.
- No electric trains will need to run on the line.
- They will soon have light evenings in which to work.
If they can fit construction around the passenger service, everybody will benefit.
Handling Regenerative Braking
Little has been said about regenerative braking on the GOBlin.
I think, it will be likely, that the Class 710 trains will be able to use regenerative braking on the line, as it typically saves around 20% of the energy required to drive a train.
In Class 710 Trains And Regenerative Braking, I discussed the issues.
I came to the conclusion, that it is highly likely, that onboard energy storage will be used to handle regenerative braking on the Class 710 trains and thus the method would be used on the GOBlin.
As the prototype Aventra is now being tested, any design issues of handling braking energy will probably be resolved soon.
But prudence probably dictates that regenerative braking with batteries must be shown to work before the electrification design is finalised.
So could this explain, the delay in putting up the overhead wires?
Handling Regenerative Braking For Freight Trains
This is more complicated, as the freight locomotives on the UK network are not the most modern units.
- The Class 86 locomotives are vacuum and air-braked.
- The Class 90 locomotives aren’t fitted with regenerative braking.
- The Class 92 locomotives are fitted with regenerative and rheostatic braking.
I’m not sure, but the Class 92 could probably work the route using rheostatic braking.
I think that this project has been planned to open up a non-electrified railway before the end of February 2017.
This probably gives least disruption to all of the stakeholders.
- Passengers get a four tph service.
- Freight operators can run trains through under diesel haulage.
- A route for engineering trains is maintained to assist in the finishing of the line.
But also by delaying the electrification, they can make sure they incorporate all of the lessons learned by the test running of the Class 345 trains.
Some might think it’s a bit of a dog’s breakfast, but in truth, it could be some very clever project management, which has minimised the closure of the line.
I took these pictures this morning of the reopened bridge by Upper Holloway station.
Note there are no wires on the tracks of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line. But it does look, that the line could be run with the current Class 172 trains
Today, to get to know the line, I took a Hounslow train from Waterloo and after passing through Clapham Junction, Putney and Barnes stations, the train took to the Hounslow Loop Line calling at a succession of stations on both sides of the Thames.
These pictures give a flavour of the Hounslow Loop Line.
It is a very tidy suburban line.
- Most platforms have been lengthened to take ten-car trains.
- Whitton station has been rebuilt as I wrote about in How To Spend Five Million Pounds.
- It has a triangular junction with the North London Line around Kew Bridge station.
- In the mid-2000s, the train frequency on the line was doubled from 2 trains per hour (tph) to four.
All of this work has led to a 162% increase in passengers between 2004-5 and 2007-8.
I wonder what is the limit of trains round the Hounslow Loop Line.
This is more proof if it were needed, that suburban lines need at least 4 tph to really bring in the passengers.
Transport for London’s Orbital Railway
In August 2014, I wrote Will The Gospel Oak To Barking Line Be Extended To Hounslow?, which was based on a Modern Railways report on the Mayor’s Transport Infrastructure Plan for 2050. This is said.
There may be a case for further orbital rail capacity, says the document – it shows an indicative, uncosted network to link Hounslow, Old Oak Common, Neasden, West Hampstead, Harringay, Walthamstow, Barking, Abbey Wood, Bexleyheath, Norwood Junction, Sutton and New Malden and back to Hounslow, with another route between Abbey Wood and New Malden via Lewisham, Peckham Rye and Wimbledon.
The proposed orbital railway passes takes a route from Hounslow to Wimbledon via the following stations.
- Strawberry Hill
- New Malden
- Raynes Park
Nothing concrete has been said since about the railway, but the following is happening or planned.
- The Gospel Oak to Barking Line (GOBlin) is being electrified.
- New four-car Class 710 trains will go to the GOBlin and the Watford DC Line.
- More five-car Class 378 trains will be available to boost services on the North London Line.
All these should happen by the end of 2018.
Will More North London Line Trains Go To Richmond?
Currently the North London Line service from Richmond is 4 tph to and from Stratford.
It takes around an hour, which is ten minutes faster than going via Waterloo and taking the Jubilee Line.
The only possibly faster way would be when Old Oak Common station is opened and a change there would be made to Crossrail.
I estimate, that this could result in a timing of around 45 minutes or perhaps lightly less.
As Old Oak Common station, will also have connections to HS2, the West Coast Main Line ans other important routes, Richmond to Old Oak Common could become a very heavily used route.
4 tph would probably not be enough trains, especially as the current service to the East from Willesden Junction is 8 tph.
So I think it quite likely, that the frequency between Richmond and Old Oak Common stations would be eight tph.
The extra four trains, wouldn’t need to go all the way to Stratford, as there has been talk of alternative routes.
- Terminate at Old Oak Common.
- Terminate at somewhere convenient on the North London Line.
- Terminate at Barking via the Gospel Oak to Barking Line
- Go Along the Dudding Hill Line to Brent Cross Thameslink
The choice would be large.
But could Richmond handle the increased frequency of trains?
If the trains used the same route as now, there is probably a current limit of 4 tph, as the route is shared with the District Line from Gunnersbury station. Especially, as the District Line service will be increased!
So alternative ways of turning the trains is needed.
But it’s not just events at Twickenham that need more capacity and North London Line services, so could we see services going in a loop via Hounslow, Whitton, Twickenham and Richmond?
This Google Map shows the line between Richmond and North Sheen stations.
- Richmond station is to the West.
- North Sheen station to the East.
- The North London Line turns North off the line through the two stations.
In some ways, North Sheen station is a bit of a mess and a real problem.
- It has a level crossing at one end.
- It has no disabled access.
- There is another three level crossings between Mortlake and Barnes stations, which are the next stations on the line towards London.
- The level crossings feature regularly in Google News with respect to accidents, failures and suicides.
It might be best, if North Sheen station was completely rebuilt and the level crossings are consigned to the dustbin of history.
This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the layout of lines at Richmond station.
I don’t think it would be too difficult to complete the loop, so that trains from the North London Line could turn without needing a terminal platform
Improving Richmond To Waterloo
But the problems of the level crossings are still there!
These posts describe the line between Richmond and Barnes station.
- Is There A Worse Station Than This In London?, describes North Sheen station.
- Mortlake Station With A Level Crossing
- A Level Crossing In White Hart Lane, Barnes
- A Pair Of Level Crossings At Vine Road, Barnes
Currently, 8 tph run on the lines between Richmond and Waterloo via Clapham Junction stations.
In the other direction, the service is as follows.
- 2 tph to Reading
- 2 tph to Windsor and Eton Riverside.
- 2 tph to Waterloo via Hounslow and Brentford
- 2 tph to Waterloo via Kingston and Wimbledon.
Richmond will become an important station connecting lots of places to Old Oak Common.
Will 8 tph between Richmond and Waterloo be sufficient?
Heathrow Airtrack was an attempt to create a link from Waterloo to Heathrow Airport.
Wikipedia says this about the proposal.
The scheme, estimated to cost around £673 million, was controversial mainly because of the projected impact on local road traffic due to the high number of level crossings on the route.
Trains would have been 2 tph calling at the following stations.
- Clapham Junction
Could another 2 tph be squeezed in through Richmond?
With difficulty and Automatic Train Operation, it might be a possibility.
But it also looks like the level crossings have already killed one project.
On the other hand, it does appear that if more capacity could be created between Richmond and Waterloo, other services would follow.
One of my Google Alerts picked up this article from the Ham And High entitledGospel Oak’s Christmas Day peace to be shattered by ‘unfair’ rail work.
I suppose the protesters think that as long as they can use their cars why should they care about a railway.
I would also suppose the railway was here before they moved in.
This news release on the Murphy Group web site is entitled Murphy Wins £60M+ London Overground Electrification Project.
Given, that it was known to be a difficult project, I don’t think I am alone in thinking that Murphy’s contract price was good value for London Overground.
Since then, progress has not been at a fast pace and some challenging problems seem to have emerged, but on whole professional commentators in magazines like Modern Railways an Rail Engineer have been broadly praising of the way the work is being done and what has so far been finished.
The troubles on the Holloway Road Bridge, which is not in Murphy’s contract, that I wrote about in Did The Project Management Go Wrong On The Holloway Road Bridge?, can’t have helped either.
I do wonder though, if the Murphy Group could be a beneficiary of the successful electrification of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line (GOBlin).
This Google Map shows the area between Gospel Oak and Kentish Town stations.
- Gospel Oak station in the top left, where the GOBlin meets the North London Line.
- The Midland Main Line curves across the bottom of the map, with Kentish Town station, just off the bottom right corner.
- There is another rail line (Tottenham North Curve ?) connecting the GOBlin to the Midland Main Line, that is current used by freight trains.
Between all these lines is a massive builders yard, which is the home of the Murphy Group.
In some ways giving the Murphy Group, the contract for the GOBlin upgrade and electrification, is like giving your local builder, the job of upgrading your house.
The Murphy Group have even accessed some parts of the work, by putting gates in the security fence between the railway and their yard.
This map from carto.metro.free.fr, shows the railway lines in the are.
It shows how at times in the past, the rail connections from this area, were some of the most comprehensive in London.
There are already plans for some of the railways in the area.
- The Tottenham North Curve from Carlton Road Junction to Junction Road Junction is being electrified, so that electric-hauled freight trains can run between Barking and the Midland Main Line.
- Passenger services could be introduced on the Tottenham North Curve to create a second route across North London, linking Barking and Acton via West Hampstead Thameslink and the Dudding Hill Line.
- Could we even see a re-opened Highgate Road station?
I have a feeling, that all this, together with London’s enormous need for new housing will see the Murphy Group site developed, in a manner that is best for London. And the Murphy Group!
- The development will have very good transport links.
- A reopened Highgate Road station, would be in the middle of the development.
- The development site is occupied by largely one company.
- The site is well-connected to railways for the transport of building materials and spoil.
- The site could be developed gradually, as the Murphy Group released the space.
Probably, the biggest problem would be finding the Murphy Group a new site.
It will be very interesting to see what happens on this very valuable site!
Don’t knock it, but the sun ruined some of these pictures.
- I’m only one metre seventy, so taking pictures over a high bridge parapet iis not easy.
- Shrubland, Albert and Queen’s Roads are respectively Bridges 68. 69 and 70.
- From Bridge 70, you can get good views of the slab track.
- East of Bridge 70, there is extensive piling, that probably stabilises the cutting.
- East of Queen’s Road station, there was little evidence of overhead gantries.
- There appeared to be work going on at the Eastern end of the slab track, where the viaduct starts.
It looks to me, that there is still a lot of work to do and the planned reopening as a diesel-powered railway in February, that I wrote about in The Gospel Oak To Barking Line Is Planned To Reopen On February 6th 2017, must be in doubt.
Unless of course, all that the closure is intended to do, is get the track, bridges and viaducts, in tip-top condition for the actual electrification.
A little bird told me, that the work around Bridge 70 at Queen’s Road was particularly challenging, but there was very little evidence of work still being carried out. As the pictures show, there is slab track and lots of piling. The slab track is from Rhomberg and will hopefully last for sixty years (Modern Railways – August 2016)
It should be that the design of slab track used, is one that facilitates easy repairs if anything goes wrong.