Three years after upgrade work began, long-promised electric trains on the Gospel Oak to Barking line are finally here, reports James Cracknell
Rail passengers who have endured frequent line closures, delays and reduced services for three years, have finally got their reward.
The first electric trains on London Overground’s Gospel Oak to Barking line (or ‘Goblin’) began to enter service at the end of May, a year behind schedule, with Transport for London confirming today that a regular 15-minute service had now been restored for the first time in several months.
Over the rest of this summer all eight new four-carriage Class 710 trains will arrive, completing the line’s electrification – and its long-promised doubling of capacity.
The Goblin’s upgrade began in June 2016 with an eight-month closure, but in February 2017 Network Rail admitted serious errors had been made – including a severed sewer in Walthamstow – requiring more closures. In May 2018 the line was ready, but TfL admitted new Class 710 electric trains had been delayed by manufacturer Bombardier. In March this year the last diesels were shipped to the West Midlands, leaving TfL to run a less frequent service using borrowed trains.
Confirming passengers’ patience would pay off with a free travel offer this September, Jon Fox, director of rail at Transport for London (TfL), said: “We know this was a long time coming and we will offer a month of free travel for customers. I am pleased we will now make a real difference to their journeys.”
Glenn Wallis, secretary of the Barking to Gospel Oak Rail User’s Group, said: “Passengers have waited 14 months for these Class 710s and endured a deteriorating service in the meantime. It is to be hoped that all software issues have been resolved and the units prove reliable.”