Report by James Cracknell
Today is the last day until February 2017 that trains will stop at four Waltham Forest railway stations.
The temporary closure of London Overground’s Gospel Oak to Barking line will allow work to begin on doubling its capacity. New overhead wires will be installed to allow for electrification from 2018, necessitating major works along the route, including rebuilding four bridges.
It means passengers who use Leytonstone High Road, Leyton Midland Road, Walthamstow Queen’s Road and Blackhorse Road stations to board London Overground trains will be forced to find alternative routes for eight months.
Transport for London (TfL) has arranged rail replacement bus services to help ease the disruption, but there will be no replacement buses between South Tottenham and Walthamstow Queen’s Road stations. Passengers are instead being told to use the Victoria Line.
While welcoming the improvements being undertaken by Network Rail to the route, a rail users’ group has expressed concerns that the alternative arrangements could in some cases see passengers paying more for longer and slower journeys.
Glenn Wallis, secretary of the Barking to Gospel Oak Rail User Group (BGORUG), said: “We welcome the works, which will enable TfL to operate longer, electric passenger trains, thus relieving severe overcrowding and enabling faster journeys.”
But Glenn added: “It would be completely wrong for passengers who are faced with much longer and much less convenient journeys than normal to be expected to pay higher fares.”
The rail replacement bus services will run from Walthamstow Central, towards Barking, and Seven Sisters, towards Gospel Oak. But Glenn said that TfL’s offer to refund extra fares for passengers who choose alternative routes via central London was “hedged with unreasonable restrictions”. He also criticised the decision not to refund passengers whose alternative journeys include standard bus services.
Glenn said: “BGORUG has analysed the information that TfL supplied and worked through a number of examples of alternative journeys that do not pass through Zone 1. This shows a common extra cost of £15 if someone works five days per week – which could be £510 over the whole [period] of the closures.”
Nearly four million passenger journeys began or ended at the four affected railway stations in Waltham Forest during 2014-15, according to Department for Transport data. This equates to an average of 11,000 journeys per day.
A full closure of the Gospel Oak to Barking line does not commence until 24th September, with services continuing to run between Gospel Oak and South Tottenham on weekdays over the summer.
Mike Stubbs, TfL’s director of London Overground, said: “The work being carried out by Network Rail will enable us to run new longer walk-through trains on the line from January 2018, which will double capacity on the route.
“We, along with Network Rail, have been publicising the work and the alternative travel arrangements and have held drop-in sessions at all 12 stations along the route to ensure that customers are well informed. We know that there will be disruption and would like to thank customers in advance for their patience in the upcoming months while this essential work takes place.”
Richard Schofield, Network Rail’s route managing director, said: “Passenger demand is growing, particularly in London, and Network Rail is carrying out major upgrade work to build a bigger and better railway for passengers as part of its railway upgrade plan.
“Electrifying a Victorian railway like this one is major engineering work to create the extra space needed for overhead power lines. It would be impossible to do this without closing the railway and I would like to thank passengers and local residents in advance for their patience and understanding while we carry out this vital modernisation.”
For more information on the Gospel Oak to Barking line closure: