The Anonymous Widower

Could Three-Car Aventras Run Services On The Greenford Branch?

Services on the Greenford Branch Line between West Ealing and Greenford stations, are currently provided by a two-car Class 165 train.


  • There are no plans to electrify the line.
  • West Ealing station has a recently-constructed bay platform to serve the branch.
  • The branch line is a 2.7 mile double-track line with three stations.
  • The intermediate stations at Drayton GreenCastle Bar Park and South Greenford have short platforms, that can only accept two-car trains.
  • The service frequency is two trains per hour (tph).
  • Each trip takes eleven minutes.

In an ideal world, the service would be electric and four tph.

Proposals For New Trains

Most proposals seem to suggest moving the branch line to the London Overground and using one of their Class 172 trains. But these trains are now being moved to West Midlands Trains, so that proposal would seem to be a non-starter.

Three-Car Aventras

Could three-car Aventras run services on the line using battery power?

I discussed such a train in A Detailed Look At A Three-Car Aventra, after West Midlands Trains ordered thirty-six of the trains.

These are my thoughts.

Capacity Increase

A three-car train would give a fifty percent increase in capacity on the line.

Is this capacity increase needed?

The Link With Crossrail

Under Services in the Wikipedia entry for Crossrail, it is indicated that twelve tph will pass through West Ealing station, although it is not yet known how many will stop.

Surely, when Crossrail opens fully, an integrated service with good connections will be created at West Ealing.

I believe Crossrail will work in one of two ways at West Ealing.

  1. In a London Underground-like manner, all trains will stop.
  2. Perhaps four or six tph will stop.

I suspect that Londoners won’t accept the second pattern, as they are used to the Underground and the Overground, where there are not many limited-stop services and a train comes along every few minutes.

So this would mean that there will be trains every five minutes in both directions at West Ealing station, creating a steady stream of passengers for the Greenford Branch Line.

Passengers will get fed up waiting thirty minutes for the branch line train.

As West Ealing will be a well-equipped station, waiting fifteen minutes for a train will probably be acceptable to passengers.

Anything less and there will be masses of complaints.

The Link With The Central Line

What applies at West Ealing with Crossrail, surely applies at Greenford with the Central Line.

Short Platforms

I feel that selective door opening on the Aventra could handle the short platforms on the branch.

Four Trains Per Hour

I think it be possible to work a four tph West Ealing to Greenford shuttle, as the branch line is double-track.

But it may need another cross-over to be installed.

Four tph would need two operational trains.

Charging The Trains

The trains could be charged at either end of the branch line, although for practical reasons, charging might use 25 KVAC overhead at West Ealing and 750 VDC at Greenford, as these are used on other tracks in the respective stations.

But as Aventras can be dual voltage, this could be handled by the trains.

As the line is only 2.7 miles long, charging could probably be done at one end only.

Other Alternatives

It would not be balanced to ignore other possibilities.

Refurbished Two-Car Diesel Trains

Two refurbished two-car diesel trains, like say Class 150 trains could also work four tph. on the branch.

But these would probably present services and refuelling problems.

Class 230 Trains

Two Class 230 trains could also work four tph. on the branch.


  • They could work the branch on diesel or battery, or a combination of both.
  • Trains would be refurbished to a modern standard, with wi-fi and power sockets.
  • Two-car trains would fit the stations on the branch.
  • They are designed for remote servicing.

I think that a dedicated fleet of three two-car Class 230 trains would be a viable alternative.


Three-car Aventras could provide a good service on the Greenford Branch Line, but there are issues and it may be more complicated than anyone thinks to run a service, that is acceptable to passengers.

But three two-car Class 230 trains would be a viable alternative.

October 19, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Is Happening To The Greenford Branch?

It appears to me, that the Greenford Branch Line has been quietly shunted into a siding, as it has been some months since any statements of any worth have come from the Department of Transport, Transport for London, Great Western Raiiway or Network Rail.

The line now gets a two trains per hour  shuttle service between Greenford and West Ealing stations. Trains that use the branch line to don’t go to Paddington any more.

West Ealing station is being rebuilt and looks like it won’t be complete for a couple of years.

This article on City AM is entitled Ealing Council seeks ‘urgent clarity’ over five delayed Crossrail stations as Network Rail retenders contracts to save money, which says a lot and may even explain, why nothing has been decided about the future of this branch line.

Current Speculation And Rumours

Various reports and forums outline solutions that suggest or include the following.

  • It is probably not the easiest line operationally, as the train has to be stabled some distance away.
  • Four trains per hour.
  • Transfer of the line to the Overground.
  • Run a shuttle from High Wycombe to West Ealing.
  • Use London Overground’s Class 172 trains, when the Gospel Oak to Barking Line is electrified.

But there are a few problems.

  • The incomplete West Ealing station.
  • The platform at Greenford is rather short.
  • Electrification would be difficult.

I hope all the silence is because the DfT, TfL, GWR, Network Rail and perhaps a train manufacturer are working hard to create an innovative solution for short branch lines like the Greenford Branch.

London’s Other Branches

London has two other short branch lines, that currently carry passengers.

Both are electrified and are run by a four-car shuttle using a bog-standard electric multiple unit.

But I doubt, they are some of most profitable routes in London.

In one forum, it was suggested that London Overground might use the Romford to Upminster Line for driving training on the new Class 710 trains.

In addition, there is the Brentford Branch Line, which has been proposed for reopening.

The Marlow Branch Line

I’m including the Marlow Branch Line, as according to the August 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, Network Rail have devised an innovative track layout for Bourne End station, that will allow trains to pass in the station and thus allow at least a two trains per hour service all day.

Modern Railways says  this about financing the new track layout at Bourne End.

The LEP has allocated £1.5million to the infrastructure change needed to accommodate this proposal and GWR is seeking to close the funding gap on it.

There is also an informative diagram.

This Google Map shows Bourne End station.


Note how a two-car Class 165 train is parked in the station with lots of space. These trains have two 23 metre long cars, so it would appear that a three-car train with possibly shorter length cars could be accommodated.

I wonder what is the maximum length train that the design team are working with.

Two three-car trains per hour would be a tripling of capacity over the current single two-car train per hour at present.

This innovative proposal certainly looks like one, that has a high chance of realisation.

Other Branch Lines

The UK probably has several short branch lines, with a similar profile to the Bromley North, Greenford and Marlow Lines, where often the service is inadequate or expensive and difficult to provide.

A Train For Branch Lines

Would it be possible to create a train using existing stock, that was ideal for these lines?

Vivarail with their Class 230 train have attempted to do this.

  • Two or three cars.
  • Diesel-electric or battery power.
  • Designed to be serviced remotely.

It may turn out to be a high-class and reliable train, but there may be operational and marketing disadvantages, due to the train’s London Underground history.

But it is certainly a possibility.

Otherwise it is probably necessary to carry on as before with a two-car diesel multiple unit.

But at least, London Overground will be releasing eight Class 172 trains in Spring 2018.

The Unconventional Solution

Although two or three-car diesel multiple units will serve these branches well, I just wonder whether applying the same thinking that led to the Class 319 Flex train could produce a much better solution.

In their brochure for the train, Porterbrook state that they are thinking of adding a battery option to the train. The electrical layout of the Class 319 train leads me to believe it is certainly possible.

These branch lines are not arduous, so why not do the following.

  • Replace one diesel power-pack of the Class 319 Flex train with a battery pack.
  • Remove the trailer car to create a three-car train.
  • Give the trains a good refurbished interior.


  1. A three-car train would probably not be a 100 mph train.
  2. A three-car Class 319 Flex train would only be fourteen metres longer than a two-car Class 165 train.
  3. Several similar four-car Class 321 trains have been converted to three-car Class 320 trains.
  4. Being able to run on electrified lines would ease operation, open up new services and charge the batteries.

I feel that having both diesel and battery power for working away from electrified lines would give the trains a high degree of reliability.

These trains could certainly work the Brentford, Greenford, Marlow and Windsor Branches.

The Bombardier Solution

In Will London Overground Fit On-board Energy Storage To Class 378 Trains?, I mused about this statement, after reading this article in Rail Technology Magazine entitled Bombardier enters key analysis phase of IPEMU. Marc Phillips of Bombardier is quoted as saying this in the article.

All Electrostars to some degree can be retrofitted with batteries. We are talking the newer generation EMU as well as the older generation. So, the 387s and 378s are the ones where we have re-gen braking where we can top-up the batteries and use the braking energy to charge the batteries. That gives us the best cost-benefit over operational life.

So it would seem that the Class 378 trains of the London Overground are candidates for fitting with batteries.

These trains started out with just three cars and have grown twice, by adding another motor car and a trailer car. So they are now five-car trains.

London Overground have said that they might lengthen the trains again to six cars.

I would suspect that Bombardier can play musical carriages and create, some six-car trains and a few three-car trains.

Fit batteries to the three-car trains and you have a battery-powered train for a short branch line, that starts in an electrified station.

Services on the Brentford, Greenford and Marlow branches could probably be run by these three-car battery-electric trains.

If the Class 378 train is too spartan, then there is always other Electrostars.

Just remember, that 4 + 4 = 5 + 3!


Don’t be surprised to see an innovative solution at Greenford.

August 10, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Track Layout At West Ealing For The Greenford Branch Line

These pictures show the track layout, where the Greenford Branch Line leaves the Great Western Main Line.

The basic track layout is simple.

The track from the bay platform 5 in West Ealing station and a track that joins to the Up Slow Line through platform 4 come together in a short length of single track, that then splits again to form the double track of the Greenford Branch Line.

Whilst I was waiting on West Ealing station, a freight train came down the Down Slow Line and then  through Platform 3 of the station, before going down the branch line. So there must be another crossover to allow trains to change tracks.

The pictures are described in detail as follows.

  1.  The Greenford Branch Splits/Joins Outside West Ealing Station – The track to the left, goes to the bay platform 5.
  2. The Greenford Branch Changes From Single To Double Track At The Start Of The Branch – The branch is double-track until outside Greenford station.
  3. West Ealing Sidings To The Top-Left And The Greenford Branch To The Right – The Plasser site is in the middle.
  4.  The Greenford Branch Joins The Great Western Main Line – The bay platform 5 is straight ahead.

I suspect that when the timetable changes in May, the track layout will be in its final form.


January 4, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Changing At West Ealing Station

This morning I changed at West Ealing station onto the Greenford Branch Line, after taking one of the new Class 387 trains from Paddington, which now run at a frequency of two trains per hour (tph).

It was not the best of experiences.

My train arrived and I assumed that they would be a few minutes to allow me to get across from Platform 3 to Platform 5.

But by the time I got there, the train had long since left, so I had a twenty-seven minute wait on a draughty and cold platform.

GWR could do one of three things.

  • Arrange the schedules, so that transferring passengers have time to catch the shuttle train.
  • Put up a temporary shelter, until the new station is built.
  • Run four tph on the Greenford Branch.

I wasn’t the only passenger, who was a bit fed up.

January 4, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Drayton Green Station

Drayton Green station is the first station on the Greenford Branch Line.

I took these pictures of the station and the nearby bridge, this morning.


  • The station is a tidy station, with shelters and information.
  • There are gentle steps up and down from the nearby road bridge to access the two platforms.
  • The station fits the current two-car Class 156 train, that works the branch.

I’ve seen far worse stations on my travels around the UK.

The Current Service

The current two trains per hour (tph) service is provided by  a single two-car Class 156 train, that shuttles between bay platforms at West Ealing  and Greenford stations.

Two trains could provide a four tph service.


In an ideal world, the branch would be electrified.

  • There is occasional freight traffic.
  • It might serve as a diversion route.
  • It might be a way of serving Old Oak Common station and the nearby depots.
  • Crossrail will increase the number of passengers on the branch.

But to electrify the area around Drayton Green station could be expensive.

I’m no expert, but it does strike me, that not only is the bridge rather low, but also the parapets of the bridge certainly are.

So I suspect that electrification of the branch meeting all the regulations, would need an expensive new bridge, which would need several months of closure, with the resulting inconvenience to passengers.

But there is an alternative for passengers and that is to use electric trains with onboard energy storage to work the line.


  • Greenford station is electrified with 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • West Ealing station is electrified with 25 KVAC electrification.
  • Out and back is only 5.4 miles.

Or the current Class 156 train could continue until it fell to pieces.

As the branch is not busy, two two-car trains delivering a 4 tph service could be sufficient for some years.

But I very much feel that the operator and the passengers would prefer an modern electric train.




January 4, 2017 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Shuttling Between Greenford And West Ealing Stations

T took these pictures as my Class 165 train shuttled between Greenford station and the new bay platform at West Ealing station on the Greenford Branch Line.

It seemed to work very well, except for the signalling, which was generally on the blink on the Great Western Main Line, this morning.

I don’t think that GWR had been giving out their information well, about what was happening on the branch.

I met two passengers, who hadn’t heard it was a shuttle and one was surprised that she had to change to get to Paddington.

There was no-one to ask either and another passenger and myself gave the best information we knew or couple find.

The Future Of The Branch

It will be interesting to see what happens to the service on this branch.

This page from AlwaysTouchOut includes this.

The Greenford – Paddington half-hourly branch line service would be cut back to West Ealing to avoid conflicts with Crossrail services; however, to compensate for this, the frequency will be doubled to every 15 minutes with connections to Crossrail trains at West Ealing.

As each trip takes about twelve minutes, one train can do two out-and-back trips in an hour which explains the two  trains per hour (tph) frequency for the shuttle.

To run four tph would require a second train.

  • One train would start at Greenford and the other at West Ealing on the hour, at say XX:00.
  • They would arrive at the other end at XX:12, before returning at XX:15.
  • They would arrive at their start station at XX:27, before returning at XX:30..
  • They would arrive at the other end at XX:42, before returning at XX:45.
  • Finally, the trains would return to their start station at XX:57.

The process would go on all day.

There could be problems with such a service.

  • Freight trains share use of the line and could sufficient paths be created in the timetable?
  • The Class 165 trains are not of a modern design and would need to be updated with wi-fi and poossibly other features.
  • Running longer than two-car trains could need platform lengthening at the intermediate stations.

One plan that has been mentioned on the Internet could be to handover the branch to London Overground, who would use two of their four-car Class 710 trains.


  • They are electric trains, but Bombardier have confirmed to me, that the trains are wired to be fitted with onboard energy storage.
  • So they could charge their storage, whilst waiting in the bay platform at West Ealing station and travel back and forth on stored energy.
  • The Class 710 electric trains would probably be faster than the current Class 165 diesel trains.
  • Four electric tph would be a true Turn-Up-And-Go service and a powerful passenger magnet.
  • They are too long for the platforms at Drayton Green, Castle Bar Park and South Greenford station, but selective door opening could be used.
  • As the trains will be walk-through, passengers would move to an appropriate place to enter and exit the train.

I suspect too, that as Network Rail and Chiltern Railways have plans to use the Acton-Northolt Line to access a second Chiltern terminal at Old Oak Common station, that some innovative uses of the Greenford Branch Line might be suggested.

If two Class 710 trains did work the branch, it would be a doubled frequency and a four-fold increase in hourly capacity.





January 3, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , | 2 Comments

Timetable Updates At West Ealing

I’ve just been looking at the National Rail Journey Planner, and it appears that starting from January 9th 2016, to get between Greenford and Paddington, you’ll need to change at West Ealing station.

So this means that Platform 5 at West Ealing station will be opening after Christmas and the New Year.

But it also appears that the frequency of the shuttle on the Greenford Branch is still two trains per hour (tph).

This map from shows the layout of lines at West Ealing station.


Note the track to the new bay Platform 5, shown as a dotted line.

But note that if a train uses the bay platform, the track layout does not allow it to return to Greenford on the correct left-hand line as there is no cross-over.

This means that if two trains are working the shuttle, there is no way they could pass and it restricts the shuttle to 2 tph.

To get to the promised 4 tph, a cross-over needs to be installed.

As the current bridge at West Ealing station, is one of the worst disabled-unfriendly horrors in London, I suspect that until there is a decent bridge across the line, the shuttle will be restricted to 2 tph.

I think the only way, that they could start a 4 tph shuttle earlier, that wouldn’t cause problems will be, if the bridge is one that has already been assembled off-site and it will be lifted in during a convenient blockade.

October 23, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

A Low Key Launch Of New Electric Trains

This morning at 07:15, I was on the first Class 387 train out of Paddington for Hayes and Hsrlington.

It was a new train of eight coaches, complete with that smell that all new vehicles have for a few weeks.

At the moment GWR only have four Class 387 trains in service, which should be enough for a two trains per hour (tph) shuttle with eight coaches in each service.

But because the new bay platform for the Greenford Branch has not been completed yet at West Ealing station, there are only a few services a day.

This page on the GWR web site gives more details and says this about services in 2017.

From January, all Greenford trains will terminate at West Ealing; as we increase our electric service between Hayes & Harlington and London Paddington to every 30 minutes.

From May, these trains will start running to and from Maidenhead, as we replace our existing diesel fleet.

Does this mean that from  January 2017, the Greenford branch will be served by a four tph shuttle? Or will that be later?

September 5, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 3 Comments

Is The New Bay Platform At West Ealing Opening On August 1st?

I heard a rumour that the new bay platform at West Ealing station was going to open on the first of August, but I have just found a change in the timetable, that could mean that it is true.

If you look at the on-line timetables, you will find the following.

At present the first two trains after 07:00 from Greenford to West Ealing, are the 07:16 and the 07:46, which go on to Paddington in twenty-six minutes.

From the first of August, they are the 07:13 and 07:43 which are shown as only going as far as West Ealing, where you change for Paddington and do the journey in twenty-eight minutes.

The strange thing is that these two trains are the only ones before nine, that require a change for Paddington.

The times of trains from Hayes and Harlington to Paddington appear to change on the first too!

There is also an additional electric service leaving for Hayes and Harlington at 07:18.

Could it be that electric services are starting on the first of August too?

June 3, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

West Ealing Station – 4th May 2016

I took these pictures today, as I went past the bay platform at West Ealing station.

The details of what will happen here have not emerged yet.

I think it is pretty certain that the following will or could happen.

  • Responsibility for the Greenford Branch will pass to TfL and/or London Overground
  • The Greenford Branch will be served by a shuttle from the bay platform at West Ealing station.
  • The Greenford Branch will lose its direct service to Paddington.
  • The frequency on the branch will increase from two to four trains per house.
  • It is unlikely, that the branch will be electrified.
  • Although electrifying the bay platform would seem to be easy, if you look at the pictures.

The line will need to be run by either diesel multiple units or some form of IPEMU, that could be charged in the bay platform at West Ealing station.

As the journey between Greenford and West Ealing takes ten minutes, so two trains would be needed for a four trains per hour service.

May 4, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment