Monday, 29 October 2007

A beginner's guide to London Overground

London's getting a new trainsetHello random Googlers! You've seen this ad around town and are now wondering what the hell it's on about. Here are some answers.

What is London Overground? From November 11th, Transport for London (TfL) will be given direct control of the local trains services currently operated by Silverlink. These are:

  • North London Line (Richmond to Stratford via North London)
  • West London Line (Clapham Junction to Willesden Junction via Kensington Olympia)
  • Gospel Oak to Barking Line (edge of Hampstead Heath to East London via Walthamstow)
  • Watford DC Line (Euston to Watford Junction, partly shared with the north end of the Bakerloo)
Here's a map

What happens on November 11th? Very little. Same timetable, same trains, but you'll be able to use Oyster Pay As You Go across the network, and the lines will be added to the standard tube map. TfL plan to put staff on all stations at all times they're open, though some may just be security guards. Branding in the early days will be minimal.

When can I expect improvements to the service? From December 9th, the timetables will improve slightly, with longer operating hours and the odd extra train. The next major improvement comes in December 2009, when the Gospel Oak to Barking service doubles to every 15 minutes. The North London Line service frequency is due to double on some sections by 2011, when trains will be extended to four cars. Some improvements are due in the intervening years, but details are hazy.

Are we getting new trains? Yes. All trains will be replaced with brand new ones in the next couple of years. The first will be delivered around a year from now. They'll have seating along the sides, like tube trains, to give more space to stand. The new trains on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line will still be diesel.

Are the stations being upgraded? Yes. This will start with a "deep clean" within the next six months, followed by a fairly ambitious program of rebuilding and upgrading over the next 4 years. Several stations will have ticket barriers installed.

Are any new stations planned? A new station has been built at Shepherd's Bush, but it's opening date has been postponed indefinitely by a construction cockup. Another new station at Imperial Wharf in Chelsea was once a certainty, but due to spiralling costs is looking increasingly doubtful. The disused Primrose Hill station may one day be reopened. That's it.

Will Overground be part of the tube? No. It'll appear on the tube map, but will still be an ordinary timetabled train service. Think of it as a train company run by Transport for London, which it more or less is.

What about the East London Line? The tube's East London Line will close just before Christmas. When it reopens in 2010 it'll be part of Overground, and will have been extended north along a disused viaduct, with new stations at Shoreditch High Street, Haggerston, Hoxton and Dalston Junction. Trains will also continue further south than New Cross, using the existing railway lines to reach Crystal Palace and West Croydon. Here's a brochure with more details.

For more info check the blog archives and the Wikipedia page. Don't bother with the TfL page.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

London gaps

Inspired by this post, I've created a map showing exactly how well covered London is by rail services (click to enlarge). Tube stations are blue, DLR and Tramlink stops are green and National Rail stations are grey. The blobs indicate the area within a quarter mile and a half mile of each station, so anywhere the background is visible is outside the easy walking distance of one. The light grey area is Greater London and the white area is Travelcard Zone 3.

Update: A better version, with labels.

All data sourced from the Google Earth Community: Tube stations, National Rail stations, DLR stations, Tramlink stops and the Greater London boundary. Map created using a combination of grep hacks, PHP and Inkscape.

Friday, 26 October 2007

TfL October board meeting notes

Transport for London held a board meeting on Wednesday, and today they published the stack of documents (5 MB PDF) produced for it. A skim through the 286 pages reveals:


  • On October 7, TfL began replacing the now-redundant push-button Few Fare Machines with Advanced Fare Machines, which do Oyster, but don't do change. 100 are planned by January, and the full 350 by April.
  • TfL's rollout of Oyster to Overground faced problems at Clapham Junction, because South West Trains are meant to be selling ITSO rather than Oyster cards. TfL ticket machines will be installed at each entrance.
  • Barclaycard expect to issue 75,000 OnePulse Oyster cards by the end of the year.
  • Cash fares are down to 3.5% of tube journeys and 2.3% of bus journeys.
  • All the train companies have finally signed an agreement for Oyster PAYG use, which includes details of how fares money will be distributed. The Financial Services Authority have confirmed the scheme doesn't fall under e-money regulations.
  • It's stated "C2C, ‘one’ and First Capital Connect" will be expanding PAYG from this January, but I think they mean Chiltern rather than FCC (see this blog's sidebar).

London Overground

  • The upgrade plans for the North London Line are due to be agreed with Network Rail this month, for delivery in 2010-11. This presumably includes resignalling, 3 and 4 tracking in places and platform extensions for 4 car trains. The associated improvement in service is called "SLC2k" and is due in January 2011.
  • The superstructure design for the "bridge at Liverpool Street" has been approved. I'm not sure if refers to the one over the Liverpool Street tracks by Brick Lane, or the one nearer Liverpool Street station over Shoreditch High Street.
  • The 3 extra Overground trains ordered in July are said to be dual voltage and intended for the North London Line, rather than for the East London Line as stated at the time. I'm not sure which is correct.
  • Stations on the Gospel Oak to Barking line will get shelters by March 2008, and initial repairs at all Overground stations will be completed by May. The full upgrade programme will run until November 2011, however.

Tube, DLR, Rail and Trams

  • Approval has been given to apply for the Victoria and Archway station upgrade Transport & Works orders.
  • Automatic Train Operation on the Jubilee Line is due by the end of 2009, and on the Northern by the end of 2011.
  • The first new Victoria Line train is due in service by January 2009.
  • Southfields, Baker Street (SSL only) and Green Park will be made step-free in time for the Olympics.
  • The DLR City Airport extension is carrying 48% of the airport's passengers.
  • The first new design DLR car is scheduled to be delivered on 14 December this year, a bit behind schedule. It's already running on a test track in Germany.
  • Train and platform lengthening are planned for many London National Rail lines (details are in the minutes).
  • TfL has now officially disbanded the West London Tram team, and appear not to be leaving open the possibility of restarting the scheme.
  • Funding for the Crystal Palace Tramlink extension appears hazy.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Camden Town redevelopment plan moving forward

TfL have been quietly continuing to pursue their plan to rebuild Camden Town station. After a public consultation earlier this year, Camden Council have now decided that the development can go ahead, sort of.

The actual news is that the council's Environment subcomittee quietly resolved to adopt this planning brief as a "Supplementary Planning Brief". TfL still need to reapply for planning permission, but as long as they stick to the guidelines they should be OK.

The plan is to build a temporary station (which means a new ticket hall connected to the existing platforms) before the current station closes, and only then will work begin on the permanent new station. This delays possible completion until around 2016.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Imperial Wharf: Price now £8m

A few months ago Hammersmith & Fulham council publicly complained that the cost of Imperial Wharf station had risen to £6.5m. They were looking to get the price lowered and promised they were working on a funding plan. They've now published the next instalment:

Hammersmith & Fulham Council, working with Kensington & Chelsea Council, Tfl and developers St.George, had a funding package agreed in the summer that would have meant the station got a green light but just as progress looked likely Network Rail’s construction and project management fees increased. The total cost of building the station is now £7.93 million.
They're asking for Network Rail themselves to cover the increase.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

A couple more photos

A couple of photos of new things:

  • The first is of one of the covered Oyster readers appearing on Silverlink Metro platforms. This is much prettier than the reader underneath, which were uncovered until recently and look like a GCSE metalwork project. These readers are also the nearest TfL have come so far to advertising to passengers that they're taking over Silverlink. Otherwise there's no sign of London Overground yet - even the new ticket machines are Silverlink branded, though only in software.
  • The second is of one of the new projectors on the southbound Victoria line platform at Euston, and yes, they really are that huge. There's only 3 of them, and as shown in the picture, they seem to spend a lot more time than necessary switched off.
(Sorry, only had a camera phone with me)

Temporary tunnel opens at King's Cross St Pancras

A new tunnel connecting the Piccadilly line with the Victoria line at King's Cross St Pancras. What's odd about this tunnel is despite its size, it's only temporary, while they rebuild the old route as a connection to the Northern Ticket Hall.

I've drawn a quick sketch of the area. The new tunnel replaces part of the Thameslink interchange tunnel, and once King's Cross Thameslink closes in December will serve only as an interchange route between the Piccadilly and Victoria lines (which are also connected by a shorter route at their southern ends), and as a route from both lines to the Thameslink station entrance on Pentonville Road.

Update: Yes, it truly is temporary


Crossrail fare rises: A stitch-up?

Last night the BBC London News led with a story bluntly stating that fares in London would have to go up to pay for Crossrail. The thing is, this story seems to be built entirely around catching the mayor out saying these words:

Fares are going up to pay for the cost of the borrowing to do the construction
Not much arguing with that. Now watch the video. Not only does it start awkwardly, apparently mid-sentence, but he says immediately afterwards that they aren't going to go up, and put out a press release this morning denying the story.

I've emailed both parties for clarification. The Mayor's office say the quote is taken from a hypothetical discussion of what might happen as a last resort if interest rates go out of control, which would mean the BBC cut off a rather important part of the clip. BBC London News haven't replied.

I realise the naivety of expecting even basic journalistic standards from local news, but unless I've got the wrong end of the stick, this is a just a little bit brazen, isn't it?

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Mayor confirms Crossrail details

Ken has released a statement confirming various details of Crossrail. In summary:

  • As already announced, TfL will take sole control of the Crossrail project from next year
  • The Abbey Wood branch will be built in the first phase - a direct rebuttal of rumours it wouldn't.
  • Crossrail services will be phased in over 12 months
  • Standard rate zonal fares (including Oyster) will apply to most of Crossrail, but premium pricing on the Heathrow branch will continue.
  • The Mayor hopes East Londoners will be able to get jobs on the project.
  • "With the advent of Crossrail, total public transport capacity will increase by 10%", which represents "40% of the extra rail capacity London needs by middle of the next decade".
There's nothing spectacularly new here, but it should stop a few of the rumours flying around.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

DLR capacity enhancement summary

Bank in July, TfL announced that various parts of the 3 car DLR upgrade program were going ahead, but the press release was so confused about exactly which bits I gave up trying to write it up and emailed them for clarification. I stumbled upon their reply today while clearing out my inbox, and I though I'd belatedly share.

Phase 1:

  • Bank to Lewisham
  • Tower Gateway rebuild - conspicuously absent from the last press release, but definitely in phase 1.
  • Delta Junction rebuild - this is still listed on the website under phase 2, but they tell me it's part of phase 1.
Phase 2:
  • Poplar to Beckton
  • Poplar to Stratford
The DLR has successfully obtained Transport And Works Orders (1, 2) for everything listed, despite what their website says. Phase 1 has funding and should be completed in two year's time. Phase 2 does not, but nevertheless they told me they expect construction on at least the Stratford route to start early next year.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

The Shepherd's Bush platform debacle

Rumour has it that the mysterious delay in the new Shepherd's Bush station on the West London Line opening is down to one of the platforms being built too narrow. I went down there to take a look, and it's obvious even from first glance that something's not right.

[Latest 02/08: The wall will be moved, taking at least four months]

As the photos show (click to enlarge), there's barely enough space to walk round the lamp posts without crossing the yellow line, and apart from the area by the stairs the problem seems to exist along the entire length of the platform. The second photo shows the retaining wall that needs to be moved to fix the problem. Although not clear in the picture, there is at least a short area of tarmac between the metal fence and the concrete structure beyond, so it may be straightforward to fix. The right hand (southbound) platform appears to be a decent width.

If you want to see this for yourself, turn left out of Shepherd's Bush tube station, cross in front of the bus station, and follow the pavement round to the left. As you descend the ramp towards the subway under the West Cross Route, you get a very clear view of the station to your left.

Update: I've dug up a plan (4.7MB PDF) showing that the structure in the second photo is probably the Peninsular Building, and there's a wide road between it and the station. Worryingly, more than a year before construction began, it clearly shows a very narrow northbound platform (Here's a more detailed view from the same application). And here's the latest version of the interchange plans, dated June 2007, again showing plenty of space beyond the retaining wall.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Late night trains from Stansted Airport

Stansted Express are extending their service into the small hours:

Last Trains from Stansted:
  • The 0030 Stansted Airport to Liverpool Street which previously ran each Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings, now runs EVERY DAY.
  • An additional 0100 and 0130 Stansted Airport to Liverpool Street will run each Monday, Friday and Saturday morning.
First Trains from Liverpool Street:
  • The 0430 Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport which runs Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings is retimed to start at 0410.
  • The 0455 Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport which runs every day is retimed to start at 0440.
  • On Sundays the 0525 and 0555 Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport departs at 0510 and 0540 respectively.
  • On Mondays there is an additional 0340 Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport service.

Crossrail still sort of actually has funding

The DfT have put out a press release making news of the Crossrail funding deal rumoured earlier in the week official, meaning Gordon Brown has given the project the 'go-ahead', whatever that means. As far as I can tell, there's no actual change in the project's status today - we still seem to be waiting for the deal to be finalised.

More interestingly, the press release has the latest construction timetable:

  • 2008 Royal Assent
  • 2009 Enabling works
  • 2010 Construction begins
  • 2017 First services commence
It looks like we can forget the possible 2015 opening date a few sources had been reporting this week.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Projection adverts trial at Euston station

TfL have announced they'll be trialling projected adverts on platform 5 of Euston station (Victoria Line southbound) for the next 4 weeks. The release is written in the future tense but says they hope to install the equipment by "the beginning of October", so it's anyone's guess whether it's in yet or not. Readers?

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Crossrail sort of actually gets funding

The BBC are reporting that the City of London has approved extra funding for Crossrail. So it looks like it might actually get built, assuming the actual last hurdle is crossed, and the bodies that have promised funding actually cough up.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Crossrail sort of gets funding

Gordon Brown has announced progress on Crossrail funding, in his inimitable way:

I want the project to go ahead subject to the satisfactory conclusion of detailed negotiations for additional contributions from all the beneficiaries.
This isn't an official announcement of funding, just that they've worked out how it might get it. And the bill still hasn't been passed in parliament, which means it essentially doesn't have planning permission either. No wonder opening is apparently now scheduled for 2017, with no work starting until 2010.