London Overground Progress


Organised by the Sydenham Society & supported by the London Borough of Lewisham

+ Peter Field (TfL) slide presentation (6Mb pdf)
+ Michael Abrahams (FH Society) slide presentation (24Kb pdf)

Peter Field, Director, London Rail Development, gave an overview of the new situation. Mike abrahams of the Forest Hill Society also gave a presentation on the impact of the proposed reduction in the London Bridge NationalRail service. Here is the report and a summary of the Q&A session with thanks to Annabel & Barry of the Sydenham Society.

The London Overground is the first national railway in London to be operated by TfL. From Nov 07 the former Silverlink/North London Line will be handed over to TfL. It will be operated under the name of the London Overground and services will appear on the London Underground map – both north and south. The new East London Line Railway will link the North London Line to West Croydon, Crystal Palace and Dalston – creating the first part of an orbital service around London.

TfL’s values will be reflected in that services must get better; improved safety and security (staffed stations, unlike national rail stations). The Mayor has said that all national rail stations operated by him will be staffed. There will be frequent services – with a minimum of 4 trains an hour and hopefully more; use of Oyster cards from day 1; improved quality of service in terms of access for mobility-impaired people; a programme of upgrading – 5 new stations will all have better access for mobility-impaired people from day 1.

These lines pass through areas of significant social deprivation – which is a major problem in London. Rail routes cover 20 London boroughs with some of the most deprived wards in the country. 26% of all people within 15 minutes walk of a station live in the top 10% of the most deprived areas. By 2016 new services will mean that many more people are within a 60-minute commute of half a million jobs.

£1.4bn is earmarked for London Overground services. TfL is inheriting approximately 60 stations from Network Rail, some of which are extremely rundown (Sydenham is not one of the worst – some north of the river are far worse!)

We want to bring the stations up to London Underground standard from day 1 – this will initially involve cleaning up and refurbishment. Our intention is to bring them up to the standard they were at when they were built, then modernise them one at a time.

From January 09, you will be able to use Oyster cards – possibly sooner. We are working with the local authorities to ensure that your journey is also better as you approach the station – with enhancements such as dropped kerbs and improved pedestrianised traffic crossings etc.

TfL is buying 44 new trains, 20 of which are dedicated to ELLR; there is also the option to buy more. The new trains will be built in Derby and maintained at the new depot at New Cross Gate, where 200 new jobs will be created. The new trains will have greatly improved sightlines within them – like a “bendy bus”, passengers will be able to see all the way along them. They will be air conditioned, have lateral seating (like a tube train), and lots of accessibility with wide doors and big congregating areas. All will have on-board CCTV and facilities for disabled users. All will be driver-operated.

TfL have already started the construction work to link the North London Railway and the East London Line, including rebuilding a section north of Shoreditch that was closed in the Beeching cuts in the 60s. The line at New Cross Gate will have to close for a period and we apologise for that – there will be alternative bus services, but accessing London Bridge via the Jubilee Line might be a better alternative. The link to Highbury & Islington is expected to open in 2011 – the money is in place but it is an engineering challenge.

Service changes: there will be 8 ELL trains an hour, 7 days a week. We will operate the first and last trains to the same timetable as London Underground. The new service will call at all stations – it is a ‘turn up and go’ service. There will be faster journey times to Canary Wharf – we believe that by 2016 50% of all passengers will be heading towards Canary Wharf and the new City. In this period there will be a 79% growth in the Sydenham corridor towards Docklands. Over the next 30 years there will be a 30% increase in demand for services to Central London – but you will benefit from the new links at Canada Water and Shoreditch (from where it is a short walk into the east side of the City).

Other links – TfL understands that Network Rail are undertaking consultation about the structure of their services. They are going to increase the number of coaches from 6 to 8 (Government have just announced purchase of new coaches); ultimately the intention is to increase train lengths from 8 to 10 coaches.

Network Rail do intend to reduce the number of services going in to central London from 8 to 6, but the services will be starting closer to Croydon and will not be so full. The 2 trains that will now not call at Sydenham and Forest Hill will take demand from West Croydon. Colleagues at Network Rail tell us there will be sufficient capacity.

Question & Answer Session

Q. Why are trains on the new East London Line only four carriages long?

A. Because many of the stations on the existing central section – such as those at Shadwell, Rotherhithe, Wapping and Canada Water – only have platforms long enough to accommodate four-carriage trains. The cost of lengthening these platforms is prohibitive and health and safety regulations will not allow longer trains to stop at these stations.

Q. When will Oyster cards be available to use from local stations?

A. TfL and Southern have now agreed a deal to introduce these by January 2009.

Q. When will we see improvement to our local stations?

A. An announcement that TfL is taking over the running of our stations is expected shortly. TfL will invest approx £300,000 on improving each local station. Forest Hill station has also been awarded a £300,000 grant from DfT’s Access for All programme to improve access to the station for disabled passengers. Once TfL takes over, local stations will be staffed throughout the day, whilst trains are running.

Q. At present there are some “fast” trains on the line that go direct to London Bridge from Forest Hill. Will these continue in the future?

A. There will be no more “fast” trains after 2010. ELL and London Bridge trains will stop at all stations between Sydenham and New Cross Gate.

Q. The East London Line will close in December 2007 for building and refurbishment and will only open when the new line starts operating. Will the line to and from London Bridge be closed at any time?

A. There are no plans to close the London Bridge line during construction of the new service. Just before the new service starts, the signalling systems for both lines will have to be linked and tested but this work will take place outside the normal working day, probably at weekends.

Q. I currently change at Canada Water during the rush hour to get to Canary Wharf. Eastbound-trains are often packed and I find that I have to let two or three trains pass before I can get on the service? What can be done to improve this before the new East London line comes into operation?

A. In January, train lengths on the Jubilee line were successfully increased from six to seven carriages. Before 2010, new signalling on the Jubilee Line will increase the number of trains on the Jubilee Line from the current 24 trains per hour in each direction to 32 trains per hour – increasing the capacity of the line by one third.

Q. I travel from Sydenham to Whitechapel daily via New Cross Gate. When the East London Line closes for two years, I’ll have to go via London Bridge in Zone 1 which will increase my annual season ticket by £300. What can be done about this?

A. Alternative bus services will be provided to Docklands from New Cross and New Cross Gate during closure. It will be almost impossible to provide an offsetting financial compensation for only those people affected. Goldsmiths has also raised this problem with us and we are looking into it.

Q. The blueprint timetable after 2010, mean cuts in off-peak services from six trains per hour to four. I can see that there may be problems running trains during the rush hour but why should these services be affected?

A. TfL does not support cutting off-peak services along this line. There is simply no excuse for such cuts.

Q. Why do we have to wait until 2016 for platforms to be extended so that London Bridge trains can be 10 carriages long?

A. Funds for this need too be approved by the government. We expect an announcement this summer and the work can then be timetabled.

Q. I have impaired mobility. When will you be introducing disabled access to Forest Hill Station? When visiting Hornimans Museum, many families pass through the station and require toilets – when can these be provided?

A. £300,000 will be spent on Forest Hill station between 2009 and 2014 from the Access for All programme to improve access and facilities. Cllr Susan Wise advised that there are currently locked toilets within the station and PF said we will reinstate them.

Q. If the London Bridge to Victoria Loop is axed, how will ambulant disabled travellers cope with the change at Crystal Palace?

A. We are talking to Government about this at the moment. ELL phase two which will open up access to Clapham Junction from Surrey Quays is the London Mayor’s top transport priority.

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