A rail users group is “over the moon” after winning its long-running campaign to electrify a railway line through Waltham Forest.
The Gospel Oak to Barking line run by London Overground – nicknamed ‘Goblin’ by passengers – stops at Blackhorse Road, Walthamstow Queen’s Road, Leyton Midland Road and Leytonstone High Road and is the last remaining railway in north-east London to use diesel trains.
But Network Rail has now confirmed the line will be electrified at a cost of £133million, doubling capacity on the route by allowing four-car trains to run in place of the existing two-car diesels. Work will start next summer and the first electric trains are due to start in early 2018.
The announcement represents a big victory for the Barking-Gospel Oak Rail Users Group (BGORUG), which had been calling for the line to be electrified since 2007 shortly after it had been taken over by Transport for London (TfL) as part of its London Overground network.
“It is an amazing success,” the group’s secretary Glenn Wallis told the Echo. “We thought we already had it agreed but then the transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, put everything under review.
“It is an amazing surprise to find we have finally got the contract for this work. We are delighted, absolutely over the moon.”
Chancellor George Osborne had announced in June 2013 there would be £90m added to the £25m already pledged by TfL to carry out the electrification work, but this pledge was thrown into doubt earlier this year when several government rail schemes were put on hold.
BGORUG lobbied both Network Rail and DfT to allow the electrification scheme to proceed and sought help from MPs along the route of the line, including Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy and Islington MP and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who both submitted written parliamentary questions to the transport secretary.
“We just couldn’t contemplate any delay or cancellation,” said Glenn. “At peak periods people get left behind on the platform because the trains only have two carriages. We hear stories about fights breaking out.
“This is what needs to change and electrification will do that.”
Confirming that electrification would now go ahead, a Network Rail spokesperson said: “We are working on behalf of DfT and TfL to electrify the railway between Gospel Oak and Barking, to allow TfL to operate four-car electric trains from 2018.
“Our plan is to complete infrastructure upgrades on the line in 2017 to enable electric trains to start running on the line from 2018.”
Despite the campaign’s success, passengers will continue to squeeze into the existing two-car diesel trains for at least another two years and endure regular line closures while the electrification work is carried out.
BGORUG is keen to hear from commuters about what replacement bus and alternative rail, tube and bus ticket acceptances they would like to see in place during the line closure, and will take these suggestions to TfL.
To contact the group email [email protected]
By James Cracknell