News Front


TRANSPORT FOR London is working to increase capacity on the East London line stretch of London Overground. Work is underway to increase frequencies from the current 16 trains per hour (tph) to 18tph, with new funding now announced to improve this further to 20tph in the future.

The work to deliver an 18tph service involves relocation of four signals and associated equipment to improve signal spacing. TfL told Modern Railways it is aiming to deliver this with the May 2020 timetable change.

On 17 August Chancellor Sajid Javid confirmed investment through the Housing Infrastructure Fund, with £80.8 million allocated for ELL frequency improvements in respond to a bid from TfL. The upgrades, set to support up to 14,000 new homes in Southwark and Lewisham, include further signalling adjustments to shorten block sections and enable a 20tph service, along with an upgrade of Surrey Quays station including provision of step-free access and construction of a new station at Surrey Canal Road.

Presently the 57-strong Class 378 fleet is split between the East London line and North London line, with 29 units allocated on the east side. To support an 18tph service, initial planning suggests this would increase to 30, and for 20tph to 32. Provision was made for this cascade of units when TfL exercised an option in its order for Class 710s from Bombardier for an extra 6x5-car units and 3x4-car units; these would be used on the North London line and release ‘378s’ for the East London line.

The 20tph service also requires additional stabling space on the east side with TfL considering various options including reviving the former London Underground depot at New Cross and sites at West Croydon and Crystal Palace.

TfL retains aspirations to further increase frequency on the ELL to 24tph, which would require a switch from conventional signalling to a digital railway solution involving automatic train operation on the core section. This forms part of TfL’s strategic case for metroisation that was published earlier this year and covered enhancements on this and a number of suburban routes.


Also announced in the latest round of HIF funding was £218 million awarded to Essex County Council, including for construction of a new station at Beaulieu, north of Chelmsford on the Great Eastern main line. As well as the new station, the funding will allow the building of the Chelmsford North East bypass, enhancing access to and the catchment area of the station. The combination of the new station and road improvements is expected to unlock up to 14,000 new homes, with the council saying no more than 2,500 homes can be built at Beaulieu and north east Chelmsford without the station.

As well as providing access to housing, Beaulieu station is planned to relieve crowding at Chelmsford station and act as a transport interchange to encourage sustainable travel by bus, cycle, electric vehicles and on foot. The station is planned to include platform loops enabling fast trains to overtake slower ones and is expected to be served by at least four trains per hour towards London.

Meanwhile, an allocation of £69.6 million to Central Bedfordshire includes funding to create a transport interchange at Biggleswade station.

The council says the station’s ability to accommodate future growth is constrained by its poor facilities, including a lack of step-free access.

The proposed improvements would provide a bus interchange and improved pedestrian and cycle access. The station has already received Access for All funding for provision of step-free access following a Government announcement in April.

The bulk for the funding (£40 million) will be spent on a 240MW Supergrid to boost power supply in the area, while £5 million will be spent on a new bridleway bridge over the East Coast main line to enable the closure of Lindsells level crossing, which has a ‘high’ risk rating from Network Rail. The bridge would be delivered by NR in partnership with the council and located 385 metres to the north of the crossing.