Gospel Oak to Barking Line

Gospel Oak to Barking Line

Infobox rail line
name = Gospel Oak to Barking Line
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type = Commuter rail
system =
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start = Gospel Oak
end = Barking
stations =
routes =
ridership =
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owner = Network Rail
operator = London Overground
character =
depot =
stock = British Rail Class 150
British Rail Class 172 (from 2009)
linelength =
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gauge = Standard gauge
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map_state = show
Gospel Oak to Barking LineThe Gospel Oak – Barking Line is a railway line in north and east London which connects Gospel Oak in North London and Barking in East London as part of the London Overground network. It is sometimes known as the Goblin (for Gospel Oak and Barking LINe), although this is a nickname rather than an official title. Unlike most railways in London, the line does not pass through the central Zone 1. Traditionally the line has played a minor role in London's transport system; however, it is now receiving significant investment to increase its capacity.


Original lines

The line has only existed in its current form since 1981; however, most of the line is an amalgamation of lines built in the 19th century. The main section of the current line, between South Tottenham and Woodgrange Park, was built as the Tottenham and Forest Gate Railway, a joint project between the Midland Railway and the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway. This opened on 9 July, 1894, linking the Midland and Great Eastern joint line at South Tottenham, and the Forest Gate and Barking line at Woodgrange Park. The section west of South Tottenham was originally built as the Tottenham and Hampstead Junction Railway, which opened in 1868 but had not been commercially successful as a stand alone railway.

Predecessor routes

Although the route between Upper Holloway and Woodgrange Park has been constant, several different stations have formed the east and west ends of the route. Kentish Town, St Pancras, Gospel Oak and Moorgate (via St Pancras) have all acted as western termini. East Ham was an alternative eastern terminus for some time. Some trains were also extended beyond Barking to destinations such as Southend and Tilbury.

A connection to Gospel Oak was added in 1888 however the routes via Kentish Town remained the primary ones and the Gospel Oak branch was abandoned in 1926. The connection to East Ham station was abandoned in 1958.

The "Tottenham and Hampstead Junction Railway" section of the line had a number of additional stations which were closed due to close proximity to other stations or for other reasons. These include, Highgate Road (closed 1918), Junction Road (closed 1943), Hornsey Road (closed 1943) and St Ann's Road (closed 1942) [ [http://www.abandonedstations.org.uk/Goblin.html London's Abandoned Stations] ] .

The line was considered for closure to passenger services in 1963 as part of the Beeching Axe [ [http://www.joyce.whitchurch.btinternet.co.uk/maps/lonmap.jpgMap 9A] from The Reshaping of Britian's Railways (aka "The Beeching Report") showing services proposed to be withdrawn in London] . Beeching's proposals for London were not implemented (for the most part) and the line remained open. Instead the line was allowed to fall into a poor state of repair and reliability. By 1980 the line had been cut back to a single hourly service between Kentish Town and Barking. The station canopies were gradually demolished, the ticket offices closed and the stations unstaffed.

Introduction of the present route

The situation began to improve in 1981 when electrification and upgrades to the line out of St Pancras (later to become part of Thameslink) displaced the line from Kentish Town. A new link to Gospel Oak was built and the hourly service from Kentish Town was replaced by the current route between Gospel Oak and Barking with two trains per hour. The service remained very unreliable due to the age of the trains, which were initially Class 115 and 108 units, replaced in the early 1990sFact|date=November 2007 by class 117 and 121 units.

Private operators

Initially part of British Rail Network SouthEast, the line was privatised in 1994 and became part of the North London Railways franchise. This was awarded to North London Railways Ltd and then passed to National Express in 1997 who operated the line under the brand name Silverlink until November 2007. Under Silverlink, the trains were replaced by the current class 150 units in 2000, which improved reliability significantly. There were also minor improvements in station facilities (such as CCTV and information points) but major investment to upgrade the line and boost capacity was never made and the stations remained unstaffed.

London Overground

In recent years, train use has grown significantly in London with many of the lines through central London running at their full capacity. This has led to the Gospel Oak & Barking Line taking on a new strategic significance as a by-pass, relieving the load on central London by allowing passengers to travel between north and east London directly.

The Railways Act 2005 abolished the franchise and devolved operation of passenger services on the line to Transport for London (TfL). In 2005, TfL started funding a small number of additional peak time and late evening services on the line, to relieve the worst overcrowding.

TfL took full control in November 2007 introducing improved late night and weekend services as well as staff, ticket machines and Oyster equipment at all stations. The line is now included on the Tube map.

Current operations

Passenger services on the line are operated by London Overground and the typical service is two trains per hour (i.e. one every 30 minutes) in each direction during off-peak times. During rush hours there is an extra train per hour (i.e. one every 20 minutes).

Freight services on the line are operated by EWS and Freightliner. The line is heavily used by freight as it provides part of an orbital route around London, connecting with many radial routes, and the North London Line at Gospel Oak.

The line remains part of the National Rail network and the track is maintained by Network Rail.

The line has an active users' group called "The Barking - Gospel Oak Line User Group". [ [http://www.barking-gospeloak.org.uk/ The Barking - Gospel Oak Line User Group] ]


Except at the interchange stations, there are no staffed ticket offices. Ticket machines and Oyster pay-as-you-go were introduced in November 2007. Oyster card validators (for touching in and out) are installed at all stations. The ticket machines can be used to load additional credit onto Oyster cards. Passengers are required to buy tickets or touch in to validate their Oyster cards, or else face a penalty fare.

Owing to a lack of ticket barriers, and the difficulty of ticket verification when trains are crowded, the line has historically had a high level of fare avoidance. Under Silverlink, most stations lacked any ticket purchasing facilities. In theory, passengers could purchase tickets from the conductors on the trains however it was not always possible to do this. Following the introduction of the current ticketing arrangements, Ticketless Travel has fallen from an estimated peak of 40%, under Silverlink, to 2% in March 2008 [ [http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/5-London-Overground-Review.pdf London Overground Review] page 5] .


All trains are diesel powered as the line has never been fully electrified. The line is overhead electrified at South Tottenham to provide a link from Seven Sisters to Stratford and again from Barking to the junction with the Great Eastern Main Line. These short sections are used only by occasional electric trains on other routes or by freight trains.

Passenger trains consist of Class 150 Diesel multiple units with two coaches each. London Overground has a fleet of six Class 150/1 units which are used on this line.

Recent increases in passenger numbers have led to severe overcrowding at peak times and it is not possible to further increase peak time train frequencies without reducing the number of goods trains as the line can currently only accommodate 6 trains per hour in total (in each direction). To extend the passenger trains with additional coaches is also problematic because it would require station upgrades as some of the station platforms are too short to accommodate longer trains. The line capacity is scheduled to be upgraded in 2009.


The line has same-station interchange with the North London Line at Gospel Oak, the Victoria Line at Blackhorse Road and the Hammersmith & City Line, District Line and London, Tilbury & Southend Railway (c2c) at Barking. Several out-of-station interchanges are considered official by the National Rail timetable: [ [http://www.networkrail.co.uk/browse%20documents/eNRT/Dec07/Commercial%20Information.pdf National Rail Timetable] Page 46]

* Harringay Green Lanes to Harringay on the Great Northern Route
* South Tottenham to Seven Sisters on the Seven Sisters Branch of the Lea Valley Lines and on the London Underground Victoria Line. (The sign posting in the street does not indicate the pedestrian/cycle route between the two stations through Stonebridge Road).
* Walthamstow Queens Road to Walthamstow Central on the Chingford branch of the Lea Valley Lines and on the London Underground Victoria Line. (The footpath between these two stations, which would shorten the route length considerably, is long overdue for re-opening.fact|date=January 2008)
* Wanstead Park to Forest Gate on the Great Eastern Main Line

There are also walkable interchanges with London Underground between Upper Holloway and Archway on the Northern Line; Harringay Green Lanes and Manor House on the Piccadilly Line; and Leytonstone High Road and Leytonstone on the Central Line (via Harrington Road).

Station facilities

Except at the interchange stations, the station facilities are very basic. There are small rain shelters, information points with recorded service information, information screens and CCTV cameras. Typically there are one or two staff members on duty at any one time. Where there are no station buildings they operate out of container sized portable offices.

Step-free access

The line has a number of stations with step-free access, allowing wheelchairs/pushchairs etc. easy access from street level to the platforms. This access is provided at Upper Holloway, Harringay Green Lanes, Walthamstow Queens Road and Barking. [ [http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/system/galleries/download/mobility_maps/LondonSouthEast.pdf National Rail, Accessibility Maps (London and South East)] ]

The trains themselves do not align exactly with the platform height and it is likely that wheelchair users would find it difficult to board or leave the trains without some assistance.


Line Upgrade

The entire line was closed throughout most of September 2008 for upgrade work carried out by Network Rail, replaced by bus services. This forms part of a project to increase the line's capacity from 6 trains per hour to 8 (4 each for passenger and goods trains). Gauge improvements to W10 will allow full height goods trains to operate; three underbridges were replaced entirely (those carrying Sussex Way, Shrubland Road and Albert Road), and elsewhere track lowering work took place. Electrification was not included in this proposal. [ [http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/media/newscentre/3754.aspx TfL press release regarding funding for the upgrade of the line] ] [ [http://www.dft.gov.uk/press/speechesstatements/statements/statebarkingtogospeloak DfT press release Barking to Gospel Oak Railway and Freight Capability Enhancements] ] .


In November 2007, Transport for London (TfL) took control of passenger services as part of the London Overground network with the intention of upgrading the station facilities and increasing the line's service frequency.

Confirmed Changes

TfL have confirmed various changes to the line [ [http://www.tfl.gov.uk/modalpages/6310.aspx Next steps] ] , including the following:
*Eight new Class 172 Turbostar diesel trains will be introduced from 2009. These will have two 23 metre coaches each with the option to introduce a third coach if necessary. At the same time the service frequency will be increased to 4 trains per hour. [ [http://www.barking-gospeloak.org.uk/temp_page2.htm New service plans] ]
*Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has announced that the shortest platforms will be extended by 2010 and that three car trains will be introduced [ [http://mqt.london.gov.uk/mqt/public/question.do?id=22779 Mayor answers to London (Question 1540/2008)] ] but ruled out electrification, for the time being, on grounds of the cost and difficulty of electrifying a line with so many viaducts and bridges [ [http://mqt.london.gov.uk/mqt/public/question.do?id=22780 Mayor answers to London (Question 1541/2008)] ] .

Other proposed changes

There are a number of other possible options for the long term future of the line. These include:
*Full electrification of the line (which is supported by the Greater London Authority and the User Group)
*Extension of the line eastwards from Barking to Dagenham Dock and Rainham
*Extending the line west and southwards along the North London Line from Gospel Oak to merge with the West London Line to Clapham Junction
*In the longer term these lines could then be further integrated with the East London Line and South London Line to form a full London orbital railway system, similar to the proposed Orbirail system.
*Reconstruction of the closed Junction Road railway station to interchange with Tufnell Park tube station on the Northern Line
*Interchange between Walthamstow Central and Walthamstow Queens Road

External links

* [http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/media/newscentre/archive/3686.aspx Tfl press release on North London Railway]
* [http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/media/newscentre/archive/3658.aspx TfL North London Railway plans]
* [http://www.alwaystouchout.com/project/43 Orbirail North & West London line improvements]
* [http://www.alwaystouchout.com/query/mode/rail General rail improvements]
* [http://www.barking-gospeloak.org.uk/ The Barking-Gospel Oak Line User Group]


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