Saturday, 12 July 2008

What the Overground disruption is for

As I've posted about before, most of the London Overground network is going to be disrupted this autumn for engineering work. If you haven't seen it, the official leaflet about the replacement buses and changes to service is online.

But I wanted to go over what work they're doing and why, and how it will benefit passenger services. Basically, the problem is freight traffic, particularly container traffic from the ports around the coast of Essex and Suffolk. A lot of this traffic ends up going north on West Coast Main Line, and the only real way to get there is along the most congested part of the North London Line. Here's a diagram:

The current main freight route is in dark blue. Freight from the LT&S Line has to run across both pairs of tracks of the Great Eastern Main Line. Freight from both directions has to pass along the two track section of the North London Line from Stratford to Dalston Kingsland, which is also one of the busiest passenger sections.

It should be obvious from the diagram that it'd be much better to send freight from the LT&S Line along the Gospel Oak to Barking Line (shown in light blue), and that's exactly what they're trying to do. The problem that needs fixing first is that bridges and tunnels along the route aren't tall enough to allow modern containers through. During the closure three bridges over the Gospel Oak to Barking Line will be demolished, and the track in Hampstead Tunnel will be lowered.

Similar upgrades to other rail routes are planned to reduce the importance of the London Overground network to freight. Work to allow larger containers on the Felixstowe-Ely-Peterbrough-Leicester-Nuneaton will provide an alternative to the North London Line, while Southampton-Basingstoke-Reading-Oxford will provide an alternative to the West London Line.

The frequency increases on the London Overground network can only happen if freight traffic is properly managed, and these various upgrades are an important part of that.


NW Simon said...

It's a shame that this will result in alsightly less electric-powered freight services. If only this could have gone hand-in-hand with electrification of the GOBLIN, with its obvious other benefits.

Anonymous said...

nw simon - there may be method in their madness. If the gauge clearance is done properly, the bridges should be lifted enough to allow electrification clearances as well. So when they eventually put the wires up, an expensive part of the job is already done...

JPB said...

So the containers that go along the GOBLIN route at present are smaller than normal?

Mr Thant (Editor) said...

Yes - or rather they're what were normal until a few years ago, when the industry started switching.

The other possibility is that they are full height, but on wagons with smaller wheels than usual (which are high maintenance) or they're on a low deck between the wheels (which halves the number of containers you can carry in a given length of train, which is often limited due to short sidings etc).

D-Notice said...

When the freight traffic is diverted from the WLL and more passenger trains run on it, any idea if there's a chance of more stations on the WLL?

Mr Thant (Editor) said...

I should be clear - the WLL and NLL are still going to carry significant amounts of freight. The WLL is still going to be the primary route between the south east (including the Channel Tunnel) and the north, unless they start allowing freight on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

I've not heard about any new WLL stations on the drawing board after Imperial Wharf and Shepherd's Bush.

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure that only two stations were ever realistic due to capacity. Shepherds Bush was one, and the other would be the first to be financed. Given that most new stations are privately financed these days, St George beat the Battersea Village people and Chelsea FC.

Could have been good to have a North Pole station for local services. And also a bigger scheme to get rid of Olympia and West Brompton with a big station under Earls Court - pipedream that, for many reasons, but just a thought.

Anonymous said...

West Brompton would not be got rid of, as it provides a useful (and step-free) interchange from the Wimbledon-bound District line to London Overground and Southern.

Olympia is quiet, but you should see the demand for services when there is an event on - blimey!

Additionally, due to the position of Earls Court Tube station (which is on the opposite side of the road around the other side of the Exhibition Centre), and the Lillie Road Underground depot, it would be near impossible logistically to build a new station.