The Anonymous Widower

A London Overground Replacement For Southern’s East Croydon And Milton Keynes Service

In July 2017, I discussed this suggestion by Chris Gibb in Gibb Report – East Croydon – Milton Keynes Route Should Be Transferred To London Overground.

In an article, in the July 2019 Edition of Modern Railways, , which was entitled ‘710s’ Debut On Goblin, this was this last paragraph.

On the West London Line, TfL is curremtly working with the Department for Transport on options for the devolution of services originally suggested in Chris Gibb’s report on the Govia Thameslink Railway franchise, which could lead to ‘710s’ being deployed here.

It made me think, that further investigation was called for.

An Apology

I apologise, if you think I’m repeating myself.

What The Gibb Report Says

The Gibb Report, says this about the current service between East Croydon and Milton Keynes Central stations.

I believe there is an option to transfer the East Croydon – Milton Keynes operation to TfL and it’s London Overground concession in 2018.

TfL may decide to change the service, for example by not running it north of Watford Junction, or running it to an alternative southern destination other than East Croydon. They could also develop the combined West London line service to better match available capacity to demand.

They would have a number of crewing and rolling stock options, but should be able to operate the service more efficiently than GTR in the longer term, without the involvement of Selhurst.

Selhurst TMD is the depot in South London, where the current Class 377 trains are based.

A few of my thoughts.

The Trains

Using Class 710 trains  as suggested in the Modern Railways article, would surely offer a suitable  crewing and rolling stock option for the route, if they were based at the convenient Willesden TMD, where the fleet of up to twenty-five dual-voltage Class 710/2 trains are stabled.

The Northern Terminus

Chris Gibb suggested the service might not go past Watford Junction.

I think that could be difficult.

  • The longitudinal seating of the Class 710 train, is probably not suitable for outer suburban services North of Watford.
  • East Croydon to Watford Junction takes 69 minutes, which is not a good journey time to create an efficient service.

It would also appear to be tricky for a train to transfer between the West London Line and the Watford DC Line.

This map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the complicated track layout in the Willesden Junction area.

Note.

  1. The two Willesden Junction stations, labelled High Level and Low Level.
  2. The Watford DC Line, which is shown in black and orange, passing to the North of Willesden TMD. and through the Low Level station.
  3. The four tracks shown in black are the West Coast Main Line, with Watford to the West and Euston to the East.
  4. The North London Line to Richmond and the West London Line to Clapham Junction splitting at Wilesden High Level Junction.

The current service between East Croydon and Milton Keynes, is only one train per hour (tph) and uses a succession of flat junctions to take the slow lines to and from Watford.

This is not a good operational procedure and I suspect Network Rail and various train operators, would like to see it discontinued.

So if trains in a new London Overground version of the service, don’t go up the Watford DC Line or the West Coast Main Line, where do they turn back?

Note the siding to the East of the High Level platforms, which is labelled Willesden Junction Turnout.

This is regularly used to turnback London Overground services on the West London Line.

I feel that London Overground will be turning their replacement service in Willesden Junction High Level station.

Current train services at the station include.

  • For passengers, who want to go further North, there is a good connection to the Watford DC Line for Wembley Central, Harrow & Wealdstone and Watford Junction stations.
  • The Watford DC Line can also take you to Euston.
  • The Bakerloo Line between Stonebridge Park and Elephant & Castle via Central London.
  • Frequent North London Line services between Stratford and Richmond.

The station has kiosks, coffee stalls, toilets and waiting rooms.

There are certainly worse places to change trains.

The Southern Terminus

Obviously, existing travellers on the route would like to see as few changes as possible.

East Croydon station must be a possibility for the Southern terminus, as it is the currently used.

But East Croydon is a busy station and perhaps it is not a convenient station for trains to wait in the platform.

On the other hand, West Croydon station offers some advantages.

  • The station has a long bay platform, which might be long enough for nine or ten cars.
  • There is a separate turnback siding.
  • It has space to add another bay platform, but this may have been sold to a developer.
  • It already has a four tph London Overground service to Highbury & Islington station.
  • Using West Croydon avoids the crowded lines to the North of East Croydon station.

It is also managed by London Overground, so the landlord would be co-operative.

How Many Trains Would Be Needed For A West Croydon And Willesden Junction Service?

West Croydon station has two possible routes, that trains could take to Willesden Junction.

  • Via Norwood Junction and Clapham Junction in 55 minutes.
  • Via Selhust and Clapham Junction in 45 minutes.

These times mean that a two-hour round trip between West Croydon and Willesden Junction should be possible.

Trains required for various frequencies would be as follows.

  • One tph – Two trains.
  • Two tph = Four trains.
  • Four tph – Eight trains.

They would need to be dual voltage Class 710/2 trains, as are now running on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

Compare the figures with those for the current East Croydon and Milton Keynes service, which needs four pairs of four-car trains for an hourly service.

What Would Be The Frequency?

I think one, two and four tph are all possibilities!

One tph

One tph would be a direct replacement for the current service. But is it enough?

Services at West Croydon could probably share the bay platform with the existing Highbury & Islington station service.

Two tph

Two tph could be a compromise frequency.

Two tph could probably still share the current bay platform with the Highbury & Islington service.

Four tph

Four tph would be a full Turn-Up-And-Go service,

  • It would probably be London Overground’s preference.
  • It would give a very passenger-friendly eight tph between Willesden Junction and Clapham Junction stations.
  • The two services would call at opposite sides of Clapham Junction station.
  • It would give a four tph link between Croydon and High Speed Two.
  • Westfield wouldn’t mind all the extra shoppers at Shepherds Bush!

But there could be downsides.

  • The service could need an extra bay platform at West Croydon.
  • Would it be possible to turn four tph at Willesden Junction?
  • Will the train paths be available through South London.

But four tph would probably would be London Overground’s preference.

It will be interesting to see the reasons, why Transport for London choose a particular frequency.

A Trip Between Imperial Wharf And East Croydon Stations

Today, I took a trip between Imperial Wharf and East Croydon stations at around 11:30.

  • The train was  two four-car Class 377 trains working as an eight-car train.
  • After Clapham Junction it wasn’t very busy.
  • I was in the last car, which was empty, except for myself.

I came to the conclusion, that an eight-car train was too much capacity for the Southern section of the journey.

I suspect that Transport for London have detailed passenger estimates for this route, so they should be able to determine the frequency and length of replacement trains required.

The Upgraded Norwood Junction Station

In Major Upgrade Planned For Norwood Junction Railway Station, I talked about a plan to upgrade Norwood Junction station.

The idea behind the upgrade is to improve connectivity and capacity in the crowded Croydon area.

If the West Croydon and Willesden Junction service, was routed via Norwood Junction station, the upgraded station would give easy access to both East and West Croydon stations.

Conclusion

I’ve always liked Chris Gibb’s suggestion of the transfer of the service between East Croydon and Milton Keynes stations to the London Overground and I can now start to see flesh on the bones!

At the present time and until better data is available, I think the replacement service should be as follows.

  • The Northern terminus should be Willesden Junction.
  • The Southern terminus should be West Croydon station, where there are good tram and train connections.
  • The route would be via Shepherds Bush, Kensington Olympia, West Brompton, Imperial Wharf, Clapham Junction, Wandsworth Common, Balham, Streatham Hill, West Norwood, Gipsy Hill, Crystal Palace and Norwood Junction.
  • Going via Gipsy Hill, rather than the current route via Selhurst, would give access to the connectivity at Norwood Junction.
  • The frequency should be four tph.
  • Trains will be four- or five-car Class 710 trains.

The benefits would be as follows.

  • The rail hubs of Clapham Junction, Norwood Junction, West Croydon and Willesden Junction would be connected together by a Turn-Up-And-Go service.
  • The proposed four tph service would need eight Class 710 trains, whereas the current one tph service needs eight Class 377 trains. Would this be better value?

In the future with a connection to High Speed Two in the Old Oak Common area, the benefits would increase.

  • There would be a simple interchange with High Speed Two.
  • South London from Clapham to Croydon, would get a direct service to High Speed Two.
  • There would also be a better connection to Heathrow Airport and other rail services through Old Oak Common.

I think that the connection to High Speed Two trumps everything else.

July 1, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘710s’ Debut On Goblin

The title of this post is the same as an article in the July 2019 Edition of Modern Railways.

The article is mainly about the introduction of the Class 710 trains on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

But the last sentence of the article is worth more investigation.

On the West London Line, TfL is curremtly working with the Department for Transport on options for the devolution of services originally suggested in Chris Gibb’s report on the Govia Thameslink Railway franchise, which could lead to ‘710s’ being deployed here.

I investigate it fully in A London Overground Replacement For Southern’s East Croydon And Milton Keynes Service.

This was my conclusion.

At the present time and until better data is available, I think the replacement service should be as follows.

  • The Northern terminus should be Willesden Junction.
  • The Southern terminus should be West Croydon station, where there are good tram and train connections.
  • The route would be via Shepherds Bush, Kensington Olympia, West Brompton, Imperial Wharf, Clapham Junction, Wandsworth Common, Balham, Streatham Hill, West Norwood, Gipsy Hill, Crystal Palace and Norwood Junction.
  • Going via Gipsy Hill, rather than the current route via Selhurst, would give access to the connectivity at Norwood Junction.
  • The frequency should be four tph.
  • Trains will be four- or five-car Class 710 trains.

The benefits would be as follows.

  • The rail hubs of Clapham Junction, Norwood Junction, West Croydon and Willesden Junction would be connected together by a Turn-Up-And-Go service.
  • The proposed four tph service would need eight Class 710 trains, whereas the current one tph service needs eight Class 377 trains. Would this be better value?

In the future with a connection to High Speed Two in the Old Oak Common area, the benefits would increase.

  • There would be a simple interchange with High Speed Two.
  • South London from Clapham to Croydon, would get a direct service to High Speed Two.
  • There would also be a better connection to Heathrow Airport and other rail services through Old Oak Common.

I think that the connection to High Speed Two trumps everything else.

I will keep returning to this vital link down thw West London Line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 30, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

By Overground To High Speed Two

The North London Line will be my route to High Speed Two when it opens in 2026.

This map from Wikipedia, shows how the lines connect.

I will actually have two Overground stations, that I will be able to use.

Note.

  1. Wikipedia says that both stations should open in 2026, which is the same date as High Speed Two.
  2. Hythe Road station is 700 metres from the High Speed Two station.
  3. Old Oak Common Lane station is 350 metres from the High Speed Two station.

Currently, both lines have a four trains per hour (tph) service.

  • The Class 378 trains are five cars, which can get very busy in the Peak.
  • It would need an additional five trains to increase the frequency to five tph on both routes.
  • Six new five-car Class 710 trains are on order for North and West London Line services.
  • I feel the higher frequency could be in operation by the opening of High Speed Two.
  • Most stations between Stratford and Willesden Junction would appear to be able to accept six-car trains, if selective door opening were to be used.

I think by 2026, there will be a more than adequate service between Stratford and High Speed Two.

  • There will be at least ten tph to Stratford, with services split equally between Hythe Road and Old Oak Common Lane stations.
  • Richmond and Clapham Junction stations will get at least five tph.
  • Step-free access is not currently available at Brondesbury Park, Brondesbury, Finchley Road & Frognal, Kentish Town West and Dalston Kingsland stations.

But what other developments will or might happen?

Highbury & Islington Station

Highbury & Islington station is the thirteenth busiest station in the UK and it is in need of a major upgrade to bring the deep level platforms and their access up to the standard of the four London Overground platforms, which all have lifts.

I also think that the track layout at the station could be modified to allow trains on the East London Line to continue further to the West. This was mentioned, when the Oveground was created, but is seldom talked about these days.

Step-Free Access On The North And West London Lines

These two lines which form a Y-shaped railway that splits at Willesden Junction, will provide these services from High Speed Two to major interchange stations.

The only thing that is needed is to complete step free access at all stations on the North and West London Lines.

The Maximum Frequency Across North London

Five tph on both the North and West London Line would give the following turnback frequencies at the four terminals.

  • Clapham Junction – 5 tph
  • Richmond – 5 tph
  • Stratford – 10 tph

This chart from TfL shows planned improvements on the London Overground

Note that it clearly shows that it is possible to run a six tph service between two single platform stations.

I think it likely that it would be possible to run six tph on both routes, provided that the route and the signalling could handle the increased frequency.

Twelve tph between Stratford and Willesden Junction stations would probably be the maximum frequency.

But would the number of freight trains allow this frequency?

A Reduction In Freight Services

Currently, the North London Line carries a lot of freight trains, going between Barking, Felixstowe and London Gateway in the East to virtually everywhere West of London.

  • Noises from the East West Rail Consortium are hinting that services to and to and from Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, South Wales, Southampton and the West Midlands might use their new route between Oxford and Cambridge.
  • Could more freight use ports like Liverpool and Teesport in the North of England, which would reduce the traffic through the ports in the South?

Whatever happens, the current succession of diesel-hauled freight trains across London is not environmentally-friendly and it will raise increasing numbers of protests.

I think it is inevitable that the number of freight services will reduce, thus allowing more paths for passenger trains.

Digital Signalling

To handle the increasing traffic on the North and West London Lines, I can see digital signalling being installed. There could even be a degree of Automic Train Control.

Six-Car Trains

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.

A Round-The-Corner Service

I can remember reading in Modern Railways, that one of the reasons for the East and North London Lines running parallel through Canonbury to Highbury & Islington was to possibly enable extension of the East London Line to perhaps Willesden Junction, where there is a handy bay platform.

This has not happened and I doubt we’ll ever see something like a New Cross to Willesden Junction service, as Crossrail will effectively provide a faster frequent service between Whitechapel and Old Oak Common stations.

West London Orbital Railway

The proposed West London Orbital Railway will have two routes.

  • West Hampstead Thameslink and Hounslow
  • Brent Cross Thameslink and Kew Bridge

Both routes will have four tph and have a connection to Crossrail, High Speed Two and the North London Line at Old Oak Common station.

The only possible problem would be the eight extra tph through Acton Central station and level crossing and South Acton station.

But it would become an important feeder route to Crossrail, Heathrow Airport and High Speed Two.

Conclusion

The North and West London Line route between Stratford and Willesden has the ability to handle a lot more traffic than it currently does.

Dgital signalling and six-car trains could add over another fifty per cent capacity to the route.

I very much feel that digital signalling will be absolutely necessary.

 

March 26, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Platform Action Has Finished At Willesden Junction

It looks like the low-level platforms at Willesden Junction station are now finished.

As you can see it’s just a simple bay platform between the two main platforms for the Watford DC and Bakerloo Lines.

July 22, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , | 2 Comments

Is Everything A Short-Term Fix At Willesden Junction?

In posts yesterday, I highlighted the problems with platform/train gaps and the dreadful interchange at the North London Line platforms at Willesden Junction station.

But is all the work done to lengthen the platforms for five-car trains just a short-term measure, which doesn’t address these problems at all?

Obviously, work has to be done on the low-level platforms and as they don’t have too many problems, except for the step up and down into Bakerloo Line trains, it will make the low-level station a good one with step-free access, a cafe and toilets.

The Tube/Overground Mismatch

The Tube/Overground Mismatch

But upstairs, I can’t help feeling that solving the problems are virtually impossible, without a complete rebuild of the station. But look at this map of the proposed layout of the lines at Old Oak Common.

Rail Lines At Old Oak Common

Rail Lines At Old Oak Common

 

This would link HS2 and Crossrail to the North and West London Lines at a new station at Old Oak Common.

So if the Old Oak Common area is developed with a new station, would this have a knock-on effect at Willesden Junction? This could ich mean that the station had to be changed substantially  or possibly was no longer needed.

The big problem is what to do with the interchange between the North London Line and the Bakerloo and Watford DC Lines.

There have been plans for the Bakerloo Line to take over the Watford DC Line north of Harrow and Wealdstone. This would mean diverting the North London Line via Queen’s Park and Primrose Hill.

This would fit in well with the combined North/West London Line station at Old Oak Common. On the other hand, it would mean a few station closures and stations between Queen’s Park and South Hampstead would leave their links to Euston.

Old Oak Common station is still very much at the planning stage and if the ideas get firmed up to a mega-interchange, it should make it easier to sort out the North London Line and the Watford DC Line.

There is also the question of how the Croxley Rail Link will affect ridership on the Watford DC Line. The fastest jouneys to Euston Square from Watford Underground station, are now about 45 minutes, whereas the DC Line takes 52 minutes from Watford High Street. However by going one-stop the wrong way to Watford Junction station, you can do it in 35 minutes. As London Midland runs several trains an hour into Euston in about twenty minutes, this might be a preferred option.

If Crossrail goes up the West Coast Main Line, as is also being proposed, then the trains would surely stop at Harrow and Wealdstone and Watford Junction.

Transport for London have a lot of deep thinking to do.

November 6, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

More Platform Action At Willesden Junction

In a previous post, I talked about work on the Southbound platforms at Willesden Junction. Here’s some more pictures.

The low-level platforms to and from Watford are in better state than those on the North London Line.

November 5, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , | 2 Comments

The Dreadful Change At Willesden Junction

No sane person with movement issues, like a wheelchair, a baby in a buggy,a heavy parcel or just plain old age, would change between the North London Line and the Watford DC or Bakerloo Lines at Willesden Junction.

As a lot of the walkways are uncovered, you certainly wouldn’t do it in the rain.

November 5, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

Train/Platform Gaps At Willesden Junction

Willesden Junction’s Westbound North London Line platform has some of the worst train/platform gaps on the Overground.

Train/Platform Gaps At Willesden Junction

Train/Platform Gaps At Willesden Junction

The reason is probably that the platform is on a curve here as this Google Map shows.

The platform is the rightmost in the picture. Here’s a close-up of the platform.

The Curved Platform At Willesden Junction

The Curved Platform At Willesden Junction

As can be seen, there is quite a curve. Unfortunately, trains tend to have straight sides!

November 5, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , | 1 Comment

Platform Action At Willesden Junction Station

As I came back from Watford, I had a choice of going all the way to Euston or changing onto the North London Line at Willesden Junction.

In the end I chose to do the latter, as I needed the toilet and I know that Willesden has one of the few toilets on the Overground. As ever it was clean and welcoming.

I couldn’t hope noticing though that there seemed to be substantial work in progress on the platform faces on the line through the station.

Platform Action At Willesden Junction Station

Platform Action At Willesden Junction Station

Normally, the platform extension work for the five-car trains is much less than this. Checking on Wikipedia, this is said.

In October 2014 the DC line was closed temporarily between Wembley Central and Queens Park reportedly to allow platform 2 to be extended further west as a through platform.

Platform 2 is on the left in the picture.

So it would appear that the Overground/Bakerloo lines to the South are getting an extra platform. Looking at the Google Map view of the area shows the layout.

Note the three platforms for the Bakerloo and Watford DC Lines at the left and the two North London Line platforms at the right. Just above these is the double-track link to the West Coast Main Line.

Could it be that London Overground are just making sure that all the work they are doing to make the Overground ready for five-car trains, they are future proofing as much as they can? This section in Wikipedia talks of a reorganisation of the Bakerloo Line and the Overground DC Line to Watford, so with all the uncertainty and variability around Old Oak Common, this is probably a good approach.

I think the only certainty is that anybody using the Overground or Bakerloo Line through Willesden Junction in ten years time will find the station very different, with probably more connections and longer and more frequent trains.

 

 

November 3, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

Crossrail, HS2 And The Overground Seem To Be Coming Together At Old Oak Common

There has been a report in the Standard, which talks about how Crossrail, HS2 and the Overground could come together at Old Oak Common, which is an area of London ripe for redevelopment.

The report shows this map.

Rail Lines At Old Oak Common

Rail Lines At Old Oak Common

 

The map is informative and it shows how the West London Line might split from the North London Line at the new Old Oak Common station, rather than at Willesden Junction.

The map though doesn’t show the Dudding Hill Line which joins the North London Line in this area, possibly just south of the new station.

To show the space available in the are, look at this Google Map shoeing the wider area around the proposed station.

Old Oak Common Area - Downloaded 7th July 2015

Old Oak Common Area – Downloaded 7th July 2015

There are rail lines everywhere. This second image shows the Southern part of the previous one, along the Great Western Main Line and Crossrail.

Old Oak Common Detail - Downloaded 7th July 2015

Old Oak Common Detail – Downloaded 7th July 2015

Working upwards from the bottom (South) on this map, you see the following.

1. The long building is the North Pole depot to be used by the new Hitachi Class 800/801 trains, which will be delivered over the next few years.

2. The Great Western Main Line and the future Crossrail tracks.

3. Depots for Heathrow Express and other trains.

4. I think that the large building surrounded by a large amount of grey blobs is the factory that manufactured the tunnel linings for Crossrail.

5. The Grand Union Canal  encircles the site.

So could the imaginative minds of the planners at Transport for London have decided to bring the North London Line, an Extended Gospel Oak to Barking Line, Crossrail and HS2 together at the proposed new large development at Old Oak Common? With a little bit more clever design, they might even be able to tie the Central Line into the mix.

I’m all for this personally, as North East London, where I live, will be given a simple route to get to Heathrow and Reading, by just taking the North London Line or the GOBlin to Old Oak Common for Crossrail.

September 25, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 2 Comments