Ken Jones made use of a special London Midland offer to get to Watford Junction where he bought a one day travel card [also available on buses and tubes in the areas] to travel on the London Overground taking in as many of the routes that he could.
It would not be possible to do all these lines in one day in daylight at this time of the year [February], so I didn’t do the Gospel Oak to Barking line as I had done that pre London Overground days in a class 150 unit. More changes are happening to the London Overground system in 2015 with additional routes, so as it was my first visit to the system I thought I’d go round clockwise taking in the spur to Stratford in East London and the line to West Croydon if possible. I would also not do the line into Euston as that follows the route used by LM and Virgin trains.
The London Overground is a suburban rail network which was established in 2007. It serves a large part of Greater London and parts of Hertfordshire, with 83 stations on six lines. The network is operated by London Overground Rail Operations (LOROL) as part of the National Rail network, under the franchise control and branding of Transport for London (TfL).
On 11 November 2007, TfL took over the franchise for North London Railway routes, formerly Silverlink Metro. On 15 April 2009 the North London Line platforms at Stratford moved to new high-level platforms.
On 27 April 2010, the East London Line became part of the London Overground network when the Phase 1 extension was completed. The former London Underground line was extended northwards, mostly along the former Broad Street viaduct of the North London Line, to the re-opened Dalston Junction, and southwards to Crystal Palace and West Croydon.
The incorporation of the East London Line into the Overground network has added substantial sections of line in tunnel, including the historic Thames Tunnel, the oldest tunnel under a navigable river in the world
The most recent addition opened on 9 December 2012, from Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction via the South London Line. The extension uses an alignment between Surrey Quays and just north of Queen's Road Peckham that had been disused since 1911, Stations in this area are too short to take 5 car units so people have to alight from the front 4 coaches. The 5 car units used in this area have branding on front and rear of the trains.
The route passes over both Loughborough Junction and Brixton stations without stopping, and this lack of interchange stations was criticised during the planning phase of the project. No stations are planned at these locations as the line is on high railway arches, making the cost of any station construction prohibitive
On 31 May 2015 the Liverpool Street to Enfield Town, Cheshunt (via Seven Sisters) and Chingford services, as well as the Romford to Upminster service, of Abellio Greater Anglia will become part of the London Overground network. A revisit is planned in the future.
Much of London Overground passes through less affluent areas, and is seen as contributing to their regeneration. It’s quite interesting passing through areas like Wapping and Peckham although the longitudinal seating means you have to turn your head sideways to see anything.
Rolling stock is maintained at depots at Willesden Junction and New Cross (newly built for the extended East London line). There are also sidings and stabling points around the system. Until recently London Overground operated with a Conductor or Guard on its North London, West London and Gospel Oak services. With the other 60% of Overground services already operated by only a Driver, it was decided in 2013 to convert these remaining two person operated trains to Driver Only.
Since the Overground took over from Silverlink, TfL has pursued a programme of rolling-stock replacement in order to remove from service the ageing second-generation EMUs and Class 150 DMUs it inherited from Silverlink. In 2009, Class 378 Capitalstars built by Bombardier Transportation were introduced on the electrified lines to replace the Class 313 and Class 508 units used previously, while the Class 150s were replaced by new Class 172 Turbostar units on the non-electrified Gospel Oak to Barking Line. By October 2010 the new rolling stock had completely replaced the units previously operated by Silverlink.
The Class 378 trains were officially unveiled at Willesden Junction on 13 July 2009. They include a number of tube-style features, including controversial longitudinal seating and increased standing room to provide a high-capacity metro service. They also benefit from walk-through carriage interiors and air conditioning. They are great during the day as there is plenty of room but at peak times it is very much a case of sardines and I actually found them more cramped than the tube during the rush hour in the evening.
The North London Line has a base fleet of 24 four-car units, Class 378/2. However, these were delivered as three-car units (378/0), with the extended trains being introduced from September 2010, following platform extension works and delivery of the first 20 four-car units (378/1) for the East London Line. A further 13 dual-voltage units were delivered to expand services, taking the total fleet to 57 four-car units. These trains are being extended to five-car sets from the end of 2014, starting with the East London Line sets. In fact I saw two new carriages passing Watford Junction pulled by a class 66 with 2 buffer wagons either side of the new carriages. Some station platforms will need to be lengthened to accommodate the longer trains.
View inside 378 225 showing longitudinal seating and standing capacity for peak times
One of the extra carriages – this one has advertising
showing London Overground unwrapping extra capacity
Eight two-car Class 172/0 units, leased from Angel Trains, were ordered on behalf of TfL in November 2007, and entered service in 2010. Before its closure to become part of the Overground, services on the East London line were operated with London Underground A60 and A62 Stock.
In 2012, TfL announced its intention to procure a fleet of new, longer DMUs, as the Class 172s were unable to handle the passenger demand, causing overcrowding throughout the day. TfL issued a tender for manufacturers to supply eight three- or four-car trains. However, this proposal was subsequently shelved when the Government announced that the Gospel Oak to Barking line would be electrified, with proposals instead to purchase a fleet of new EMUs. This is planned to be included with the procurement of a new fleet to replace the Class 315s currently used on the inner suburban routes from Liverpool Street, which will be taken over by London Overground from 31 May 2015
TfL invited expressions of interest for a total of 39 four-car EMUs in April 2014, with 30 required for the Cheshunt and Chingford routes, 8 for the Gospel Oak to Barking, and 1 for the Romford to Upminster. Since then the planned procurement has been increased to 45 four-car EMUs, with the additional 6 units intended for the Watford DC Line. The intention is that the five-car Class 378 trains used on the Watford route will be cascaded back to the North London and East London Lines to allow for strengthened services.
Arriving at Watford Junction on a London Midland class 350 from Birmingham International, I caught a London Overground train to Willesden Junction, which continued to London Euston.
378 225 stands in the bay platform at Watford Junction waiting to depart for London Euston. The West Coast main line can be seen to the right of the picture
Changing trains at Willesden Junction by walking the short distance and climbing steps to another set of platforms I caught another unit headed for Stratford
|378 225 at Willesden Junction|
378 219 seen entering Willesden Junction having just crossed over the West Coast Main Line.
I got out at Gospel Oak to see a couple of the dedicated class 172 diesel units on the Barking line.
|172005 seen at Gospel Oak with a diesel train for Barking|
|378 219 seen at the dedicated platforms at Stratford. An Abellio class 90 is seen heading a main line train on an opposite platform.|
378 233 is seen entering Stratford. I was last here in 2012 for the Olympics and also went up the red tower
Then I had to retrace my steps back to Canonbury to change for the East London line which starts at Highbury & Islington. Canonbury originally opened in 1858 to the east of its present location as "Newington Road & Balls Pond" and was renamed "Canonbury" shortly before the move to its present site in 1870. To the west of the station is the Canonbury curve, a freight-only connection through the Canonbury tunnel to the East Coast Main Line at Finsbury Park.
I got out at Canada Water to see one of the “underground” stations on the route before catching another unit to West Croydon to see some of the trams.
|378 135 approaching the platform at Canada Water|
|378 135 at West Croydon – note the signage relating to the length of train|
|378 210 entering West Croydon for the trip back to East London. The station is on the bridge, although an entrance to the left of the arrival platform takes you to the trams|
Heavy showers and the failing light meant I didn’t try out the trams. The branch to West Croydon is quite a long one and although I could have bought a ticket to get me across to Clapham Junction on a Southern train I decided to take the London Overground back to Surrey Quays.
|378 139 arriving at Surrey Quays with a service to Clapham Junction|
This station was built by the East London Railway Company and opened on 7 December 1869; it was originally known as Deptford Road. On 17 July 1911, it was renamed Surrey Docks in reference to the nearby, now closed, Surrey Commercial Docks, and further renamed Surrey Quays on 24 October 1989, following the construction of the nearby Surrey Quays Shopping Centre
Here I would get another class 378 unit to Clapham Junction, where a walk along the platform would allow me to board another 378 unit to Willesden Junction. The London Overground has dedicated platforms at most of the stations I saw, and I’m sure they could run services through Clapham Junction without the need to change train – but the station is actually the terminus of two of the London Overground lines.
|378 219 at Clapham Junction with a service to Stratford|
At Willesden Junction it was a case of following the crowds for the Watford Junction service, which shares it platform with the Bakerloo line.
Crew change at Willesden Junction
Most people caught the tube and in fact there are future plans to extend the Bakerloo line to Watford Junction, releasing the class 378 units to other London Overground lines.
The spurs to New Cross and Crystal Palace will have to wait for another trip as indeed will the Richmond branch which I could have done in the dark from Willesden Junction, but I decided to get a 350 unit to Milton Keynes Central and change for a train to Birmingham and home.