Today is the final day for one of the tube's quirkier connections.
Central line trains to Woodford via Hainault.
Currently some trains from central London run all the way round the eastern side of the Hainault Loop to Woodford, every twenty minutes. But from tomorrow they won't. Instead a separate shuttle service will operate between Hainault and Woodford all day, still every twenty minutes, but passengers will have to change trains.
Essentially we're going back to how things were 30 years ago.
There is a reason for this.
» Central line trains first entered service 27 years ago
» Central line trains have dodgy motors which need replacing
» One train needs to be taken out of service, repeatedly, until all have been upgraded
» The current timetable cannot operate with one less train
» A new timetable is needed, making cunning use of resources
And this is the cunning solution.
» One existing train will be split in half, creating two four-car trains
» These shorter trains will operate a Woodford-Hainault shuttle
» The rest of the Central line will continue to be served by full length trains
Rest assured that these half-length trains won't cause overcrowding issues because Roding Valley, Chigwell and Grange Hill are the three least-used stations on the entire Underground network.
As well as replacing the old motors, engineers will also be adding wheelchair spaces, LED lighting and CCTV, and improving on-board audio-visual information. It's hoped that the upgrade will be complete by 2023. But until then, or maybe later, the Hainault Loop is severed.
I particularly enjoyed the second diagram which is titled "Future Woodford via Hainault service", despite no longer having any "via" whatsoever.
There is additional fallout. The end of the Epping branch will now see fewer peak time services, with passengers at Debden, Theydon Bois and Epping having to make do with two fewer trains an hour. But additional trains will now operate between Leytonstone and White City from 6-7am on weekdays, from 10-11pm almost-daily, and from 4.30-6pm on Sunday afternoons. All the stations gaining are in London. All the stations losing out are in Essex.
But the most prominent change will be the introduction of a Woodford to Hainault shuttle. Having to change trains at Hainault and cross to platform 1 for onward connection won't be fun, but at least the frequency on the chopped-off section isn't changing. And there will still be a tiny number of through services...
↶ Grange Hill - Leytonstone(via Woodford)
↶ Grange Hill - West Ruislip(via Woodford)
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Those two early morning trips to Leytonstone are nothing special, they're simply to get trains out of Grange Hill depot first thing. The three West Ruislip services are a bigger deal, ideal for commuting to central London, and are a feature of the existing timetable which is being retained.
↷ Woodford - Ealing Broadway(via Hainault)
This is the only other train to escape the shuttle zone and make its way to central London. Once a week, Sundays only.
↷ West Ruislip - Hainault(via Woodford)
↶ White City - Woodford(via Hainault)
↶ Ealing Broadway - Woodford(via Hainault)
Meanwhile these are the only direct services from central London. One train clockwise to Hainault (via Woodford) in the evening peak, one train anti-clockwise to Woodford (via Hainault) slightly later in the evening, plus the last train on Sundays. But that's it. You won't be seeing "Woodford via Hainault" flash up on the display at Oxford Circus any more, unless that is you happen to be there around quarter to seven on a weekday evening, twenty past seven on a Saturday evening or around six or eleven o'clock on a Sunday evening.
The early evening Woodford (via Hainault) journeys are for an unexpected reason.
» Two four-car trains operate the shuttle service for most of the day
» In the early evening one of the four-car-trains goes back to the depot
» A full-length train comes in to replace it for the rest of the evening
This means half the trains serving Roding Valley, Chigwell and Grange Hill in the evenings will have four carriages and half will have eight carriages, for a frisson of added variety.
But don't head out to see these unique four car trains tomorrow because they're not ready yet. Nobody's chopped an eight-car train in half yet, but the new timetable has to be introduced tomorrow because drivers' shift patterns were set in stone months ago. It's a bit galling for the affected passengers, knowing TfL have introduced an annoying shuttle service before it was technically necessary. But those "Woodford via Hainault" services will still be out there, very occasionally, if only you know when to look.