From Cinderella to success for the Goblin line

Graham Larkbey on the latest success story from rail users group BGORUG

Sir Ray Dudley Way

Sir Ray Dudley Way, a shortcut between Walthamstow Central and Walthamstow Queens Road stations

September saw the ‘official’ opening of a long-delayed direct pedestrian link between Walthamstow Queen’s Road and Walthamstow Central stations.

This is the Barking-Gospel Oak Rail User Group’s most recent success, one of whose most vociferous campaigners, the late Ray Dudley, is commemorated in the pathway’s name.

When the group formed in the 60s to fight the line’s threatened closure, nobody dreamt that it would one day become a thriving, busy crosstown link. Through subsequent decades of decline and neglect, the group fought tirelessly on behalf of its long-suffering passengers, winning some improvements to stations and services.

Nicknamed ‘Goblin’ by passengers, the big step-change for the line was when London Overground took it over in 2007. The whole Overground orbital-route idea had been the brainchild of another group stalwart, Richard Pout.

Suddenly, London’s ‘Cinderella Railway’ was on the tube map – Oyster cards were accepted, grim uninviting stations were spruced up and restaffed, services were improved, new trains appeared and passenger numbers shot up. So much so that the group had a new and unfamiliar problem to contend with – overcrowding!

In response, it stepped up its campaign for longer trains and electrification and eventually the government was persuaded and announced last year that new, longer electric trains would begin running in 2017.

Another success, which won the group the prestigious National Railfuture award for Best Campaign of 2013 and a personal award from Waltham Forest Council for its hard-working secretary, Glenn Wallis.

The electrification works will mean extensive and prolonged disruption during 2016, and the group’s focus in the coming months will be to ensure the best possible alternative arrangements for passengers during that period.

The Barking-Gospel Oak line has improved out of all recognition since those far-off dark days – but the user group’s work is far from done yet.

For more information and news updates about the line and the group, go to www.barking-gospeloak.org.uk, or write to the Secretary at 227 Old Church Road, London E4 6RB. You can also follow us on Twitter @RidingtheGoblin. New members are always welcome, and membership costs just £5 a year.

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