diamond geezer

 Monday, May 23, 2011

Five years ago, TfL announced funding for something they called the "London Overground". They'd take some Silverlink services and the existing East London line and combine them, and build some linking bits, to create most of an orbital railway about the capital. The plans were bold, and expensive, and would take years of engineering work to complete. Well, those years of engineering work are finally complete, and yesterday TfL proudly launched the timetable they've been working up to all this time. A better service and more frequent trains - hopefully making all those ever-so-many extended line closures worthwhile.

But how much more worthwhile? Rather than wait for TfL's press release that's bound to slip out later today, I thought I'd check for myself. I've gone back to 2005, before the Overground was conceived, and compared services then with services now, in the first week of completion. Here's how much better (or in a couple of cases worse*) the Overground is than what came before.

Clapham Junction to
Willesden Junction
Trains per hour2424
Last train2235233022182315

This is a huge improvement. Until last week trains ran between Clapham and Willesden only twice an hour, at irregular intervals, which encouraged nobody. Now they run every fifteen minutes, until later in the evening, and two trains each hour continue to Stratford. This, folks, is why long-term investment in railways works.

Richmond to
Trains per hour44 (Rich-WillJn)
6 (WillJn-Strat)
24 (Rich-WillJn)
6 (WillJn-Strat)
Last train2257230022082129*

This too is a huge improvement, especially on the eastern half of the line and on Sundays. One train every ten minutes between Willesden Junction and Stratford is particularly impressive, especially given the number of freight trains that still have to fit into the gaps in the timetable. But the last through train on a Sunday now leaves ridiculously early, which is a poor show. And it's not good that end-to-end journeys are now scheduled to take 4 minutes longer than before (58 minutes in 2005 but 62 minutes in 2011).

Gospel Oak to
Trains per hour2424
Last train2225233521202310

Round of applause. The GOBLIN was always the Cinderella of north London railways, running an infrequent service in clapped-out trains until not very late in the evening. Now it's a train every fifteen minutes, a proper 'walk up and go' service, and in decent rolling stock. And Cinderella need no longer hurry home - from this week the last train now rolls in after midnight.

Watford Junction to
Trains per hour3323
Last train2305232123222321

Weekdays, no change. But on Sundays, a 30 minute gap cut to 20 - that's more like it.

East London lineTrains per hour
Highbury & Islington to Dalston Junction08
Dalston Junction to Whitechapel012
Whitechapel to Surrey Quays1012
Surrey Quays to New Cross54*
New Cross Gate to Sydenham68
Sydenham to West Croydon44
Sydenham to Crystal Palace(M-Sat)

No fresh changes in this week's timetable, but that's because all the magic's already happened. A new connection north of Shoreditch, another south of New Cross Gate, and a five minute frequency along the majority of the line. Just shows how much can be achieved in five years with a bit of imagination (and hard cash).

Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction: Wasn't part of the original Overground announcement because funding hadn't been approved. So isn't ready yet, and won't be until the end of next year.

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