On the right track

Ian Brown BSc, FCILT – managing director, London Rail, Transport for London, looks at current and future plans for rail transport in the capital

Transport for London was set up in 2001 as the Mayor of London’s transport planning and operations organisation with three divisions; the Tube, the buses (including the strategic road network) and London Rail. The London Rail division was created to address the challenge of integrating the key rail modes into London’s thinking and ensuring that National Rail and light rail grow in capacity to meet London plan projections.
Now TfL’s London Rail’s responsibilities include London Overground – started in November 2007; Docklands Light Railway; London Tramlink – a street car system based in Croydon; Crossrail operational services – at the planning stage; progress and delivery of major rail projects; and working with stakeholders and the Department for Transport in planning the development for London’s rail services to support growth.

The importance of rail
Few realise the importance of the National Rail network in London. 30 per cent of National Rail journeys are entirely within London and indeed 50 per cent of all rail journeys in the UK are made by Londoners with 70 per cent of all National Rail journeys on the system, starting or finishing within the boundary of London. This is heavily dominated by commuting where 71 per cent of these journeys are to and from the work place.
Interestingly, Londoners are much more used to using rail and excluding intercity journeys, Londoners make an average of 60 journeys by rail per year. The comparative figure in other major UK cities is 10 journeys per year.
London’s population is expected to increase by approximately one million by 2026. If we look at project employment in 2026, there is a similar growth of c. 1 million jobs to be accommodated but concentrated in central London and the inner Thames Gateway. This has led to an overall vision for London’s rail network, to be used as a template on which to build integrated links with the Tube and with buses through key interchanges.
DfT transferred responsibility to TfL for ‘Silverlink Metro services’ in November 2007. London Rail’s aim has been to effectively create a new ‘mode’ of transport for London by upgrading and integrating these services to create an orbital network around London. This takes the form of a £1.4bn investment programme with a few key components – the East London Line (formerly an Underground self-contained operation); the North London Railway (formerly Silverlink Metro); new trains; and refurbished stations.
The then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone launched the London Overground initiative in November 2007. This followed a competition to run the train service for London Rail in the form of a seven-year concession. The winner was London Overground Rail Operations Limited (LOROL) – a consortium formed of the Mass Transit Railway Hong Kong and Deutsche Bahn. The familiar Underground roundel was complimented with a new Overground roundel and the new Overground standard was launched, including frequent services; Oyster Pay-as-you-go ticketing and fares structure from Day 1; staff at all stations during operating hours; new Oyster ticket barriers at key stations; additional policing and security staff; the start of a major station improvement programme; and customer information, fares and ticketing being linked through TfL’s Journey Planner
Major improvements were seen quite quickly, two highlights being a reduction in ticketless travel from 15 per cent to 4 per cent and a reduction in reported crimes in the first three months, down 40 per cent on the same period prior to TfL’s responsibility as a result of additional policing.
The East London Line project is designed to complete London’s orbital Overground network, linking into the North London Line at Dalston, running along an old railway alignment (that once served Broad Street station) then via the London Underground Shoreditch/New Cross route, running onto the Southern railway network to West Croydon and Crystal Palace.
Phase II of this project, linking to the important traffic hub of Clapham Junction is also going ahead. Phase I is on schedule to open by June 2010 at a project cost of £1bn, the project is managed directly by London Rail. The main works contract includes new track and signalling, four new and fully accessible stations and a brand new maintenance depot at New Cross Gate for the new London Overground electric train fleet.
The project involves some major infrastructure enhancements, including new bridges designed to link each section of the route together. A new bridge at Shoreditch High Street, designed to a high environmental standard, was completed in March 2008.
Major new rail over rail bridges have also been installed over the Great Eastern main line at Liverpool Street and at New Cross Gate to link in with the Brighton main line.
By contrast, the North London Railway infrastructure upgrade takes an existing Network Rail mixed traffic railway and upgrades it to provide frequent metro services, designed to cope with the Olympic and Paralympic Games, but also, significantly put in place to provide a long lasting legacy in the form of an upgraded rail service. The total scheme costs £400m and TfL, the Olympic Delivery Authority and Network Rail fund it.
The output from the project is basically to provide a doubling of frequency of trains on this route, linked in with the East London Line project in order to provide direct through services from points such as Highbury & Islington, right through to south London to West Croydon, directly serving the City of London via Shoreditch High Street station. This work will be complete by 2010 with the linkage in to the East London Line provided by January 2011, so available well in time for London 2012.

New trains
Eight new diesel, 2-car trains and 57 new, 4-car, dual voltage, electric trains are being built for the London Overground. These are being delivered at the moment. The electric trains will incorporate regenerative braking whereby approximately 20 per cent of the electrical energy consumed will be returned to the system for use by other trains on the route. The diesel trains are being procured to meet the highest standards of emissions.
These trains are to a new design, providing a dramatic improvement in capacity, achieved through maximum standee capacity and wide gang-ways between the cars between the cars so providing the ambience of continuous space throughout the train. Additionally, the trains will be air-conditioned
In summary, this represents a massive investment in the complete system for London’s inner suburban, orbital railways; designed to complement the Tube. At c. £1.5bn, the investment represents exceedingly good value for money, effectively extending the Tube into an extended catchment area north, south, east and west of the central Tube network.

Image courtesy of John Sturrock

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