Russell Hargrave reports on the impact of a railway line closing during maintenance work to double its capacity
Commuters in the borough will face “extensive disruption” when a train line closes for eight months later this year.
The London Overground line between Gospel Oak and Barking is closing for major upgrade work that will eventually double its capacity. Trains currently stop at local stations Blackhorse Road, Walthamstow Queen’s Road, Leyton Midland Road and Leytonstone High Road, and during rush hour passengers struggle to board packed carriages.
Transport for London (TfL) confirmed last year that work to electrify the line is scheduled to begin with a part-closure of the route in June, and a full closure then planned from October 2016 to February 2017.
Passenger services will then continue to be provided by the existing two-car diesel trains on the same timetable until spring 2018 when new four-car electric trains are delivered.
More than three million journeys on the line arrived and departed in Waltham Forest in 2013/14, according to data from the Office of Rail Regulation. Trains will be replaced with a temporary bus service while the work is carried out.
The upgrade is estimated to cost more than £130million, but TfL promises the work will improve services as capacity is doubled.
It has also been welcomed by the Barking-Gospel Oak Rail User Group (BGORUG), which campaigns for improvements along the line.
Group secretary Glenn Wallis has been critical of the current situation, in which “commuters are shoe-horned into our two-car diesel trains twice each working day” and has hailed the electrification of the line as “vital”.
But in a BGORUG newsletter Glenn also criticised TfL’s replacement bus arrangements. He said: “TfL has decided to change the routing of the two existing rail replacement bus services to shorten journey times and reduce the effects of traffic congestion, but these alterations will leave several stations without a rail replacement bus service. ”
Mike Stubbs, TfL’s director of London Overground, stressed that customers will “reap the benefits” when the work is completed, but acknowledged that the public would face inconvenience in the months to come.
He said: “We recognise that eight months is an extensive disruption for our customers, but this is minimised for the first four months by being a partial closure during the week, followed then by a full line closure.
“We continue to work with Network Rail to see if the timetable they set out can be reduced.”
Local commuters have taken to social media to discuss alternative plans during the line’s closure. Some plan to form groups to cycle or run into work, but others have expressed concern for the knock-on effect if more passengers are pushed onto the tube each morning.
For more information on the line closure and alternative travel options:
To find out more about the Barking to Gospel Oak Rail User’s Group: