Free travel offer as railway chaos continues

Blackhorse Road Station
A London Overground train at Blackhorse Road Station in Walthamstow

Up to 30-minute wait for passengers as three temporary trains left to serve line that usually has eight, reports James Cracknell

London Overground passengers in Waltham Forest have been promised a month’s free travel – because their railway line is about to run out of trains.

Transport for London (TfL) made the pledge to regular users of the Gospel Oak to Barking line – affectionately dubbed the ‘Goblin’ – after announcing that trains from other lines would be brought in to help keep the service operational.

The Goblin route has been beset by closures, cancellations and overcrowded services for three years. Work to electrify the line was belatedly completed last spring after a series of gaffes by Network Rail, but TfL is now being blamed for the year-long delay to the introduction of new electric trains.

All remaining two-car diesel trains that have served the line for the last decade will be transferred by TfL to West Midlands Trains in less than two weeks, as part of pre-existing deal. There were originally eight of these trains, but they have gradually left the line over the last few months.

New four-car electric trains built by Bombardier Transportation – which will double capacity once in operation – were supposed to have been introduced a year ago. However, software problems discovered during testing mean they are still not ready.

It means that just three trains, brought in from other London Overground lines, will be serving the entire Goblin route. A temporary timetable of one train every 30 minutes will be put in place from Monday 18th March.

Compensation to passengers will only be offered once the new electric trains are operational and, in the mean time, extra bus services will be laid on to help cope with demand.

New London Overground trains
New class 710 electric trains at the Bombardier factory in Derby, which will (eventually) be used on the London Overground (credit @RidingtheGoblin)

Jon Fox, TfL’s director of rail and sponsored services, said: “We are very sorry for the continuing delay to the introduction of the new fleet of electric trains on the Gospel Oak to Barking line and share our customers’ frustration. The manufacturer continue to solve software issues and we hope that driver training will start in earnest soon, which will bring us an important step closer to introducing the new trains.

“Regrettably, despite our efforts, we need to release the last three diesel trains currently being used on the line. So from Monday 18th March we will need to temporarily reduce the weekday service to a half-hourly service. Despite the reduction in frequency, by continuing to use the modified four-car trains overall capacity will remain the same.

“We strongly advise customers to check before they travel and re-time their journeys where possible to avoid disruption. We are providing detailed station-by-station travel advice on our website and station staff will have up-to-the-minute information to help customers plan their journeys.”

Goblin passengers can keep track of their travel options via the TfL website and at stations, with a new dedicated webpage providing station-by-station travel advice at tfl.gov.uk/gospel-oak-barking-trains

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