Friday, 2 December 2016

TfL takeover of London suburban rail routes and what is missing?

Firstly, I should say that I’m not as much of a railway enthusiast as I am with buses, but I do want to express my view on this proposal by TFL.

You may be aware that during October the media was promoting a map by TfL which shows the proposed takeover of the London suburban railway services to London Overground. I want to explain why some of the branches are missing as there’s nothing in their Q and A document about it.

A brief history

The transfer of the London Railway services has been talked about constantly since the 1970’s; then during the 1980’s, London Transport and British Rail launched the Capitalcard scheme which enabled commuters to have unlimited travel between London Underground, British Rail and London Transport for a single price. Then in 1989 the Capitalcard was superseded with the Travelcard.

During the 1990’s when British Rail services were privatised into rail franchises, the only railway line that was transferred to London Transport was the Waterloo and City Line. The reason for the transfer was because the trains and infrastructure were pretty much the same as the London Underground – such as the rails and the rolling stock which are the 1992 Tube Stock, known as Class 482.

As we approach 2017, TFL want to “develop” the rail network further and transfer more London railway branches to London Overground.

From TFL

Developing the rail network

Under a new partnership we're proposing with the Department for Transport (DfT), management of London's suburban railways would be transferred to TfL as soon as possible.

Giving us the management of suburban rail services currently run by companies such as Southern, Southeastern, South West Trains and Great Northern will improve your journeys.

Our management of the suburban railways would bring:
  • Reliable, frequent trains
  • More reliable, faster and more frequent trains
  • Wider doors and more space to move around inside
  • Clear identifiable lines

Fairer, simpler, fares
  • Consistent fares across all services, so you pay the same whether your journey is on the Tube or rail
  • Refunds of the full single fare after delays of more than 30 minutes
  • Oyster and contactless payment extended to more areas around the edge of London

Modern, staffed stations
  • Staff at every station from the first to last train
  • Cleaner, brighter stations with modern facilities
  • New ticket gates to avoid fare evasion and improve security
  • More stations with step-free access and a turn-up-and-go service for all disabled customers

Information at every stage
  • An integrated TfL map of all rail and Tube lines
  • WiFi at stations so you can stay connected wherever you are
  • Personalised and relevant live information integrated into Journey Planner and Twitter travel alerts
  • Staff equipped with mobile devices to get you live information from the whole TfL network

Now let’s take a look at the map and compare it to the London Connections map and the Tube and Rail map to identify the missing branches…
Starting off with the Greenford Branch Line, which is currently operated by First Great Western Railway.

The stations the branch serves are Greenford, South Greenford, Castle Bar Park, Drayton Green and West Ealing. The branch is entirely within the Greater London boundary, so TFL should have taken over the line and integrated it as part of the London Overground. This would make it easier for passengers to connect with the Central Line at Greenford and the future Crossrail (Elizabeth Line)

Back in 2013, London Reconnections wrote about the Department for Transport asking TFL to take over the Greenford Branch line.

Another branch which is missing in the proposed Overground map is the Tattenham Corner Line, which is currently operated by Govia Southern Rail.

The stations that the branch serves are Tattenham Corner, Tadworth, Kingswood, Chipstead, Woodmansterne, Coulsdon Town, Reedham and Purley.

All those stations are in Zone 6 and inside the M25. The section between Tattenham Corner to Chipstead is outside the London boundary and come under the Surrey Borough of Reigate and Banstead.

The next missing branch from the map is the Caterham Line, which is currently operated by Govia Southern Rail.

The stations which the branch serves are Caterham, Whyteleafe South, Whyteleafe, Kenley, Purley, Purley Oaks, South Croydon, East Croydon and then towards London Bridge.

The stations between Whyteleafe and Caterham are outside the Greater London Boundary but still in zone 6 and inside the M25. They come under the Surrey District of Tandridge though.

The branch also runs parallel to the London Bus route 407, which in turn, runs from Sutton to Caterham via Croydon.

It’s quite odd that TFL missed out the stations beyond East Croydon station which are operated by Govia Southern Rail. Southern Rail consider those branches as part of their Metro route.

Back in July 2016, the London Mayor called for TFL to immediately take over the Southern Rail services due industrial disputes. If TFL took over Southern Rail this would cause most of their metro services to be transferred over to London Overground early.

It’s not just the Missing Southern Rail metro routes which go beyond East Croydon – let’s take a look at the c2c line which is the London, Tilbury and Southend route…

I suggest that TFL should take over part of that route, such as the section from Fenchurch Street to Grays via Rainham station as part of the London Overground network. This could increase services on the Grays to Barking section with more Overground trains.

Also, going over to Thameslink, in my opinion, the reason why TFL avoids the Thameslink line is because of their new service pattern which will take place in December 2018. This will provide up to a possible 24 services an hour, which will travel through Central London (St. Pancras International to Blackfriars). It’s quite possible to take over the section of the service though, one example would be from St. Albans to the Sutton Loop and a service from Kentish Town to Sevenoaks. The London Overground has proposed extending their service to Sevenoaks.

Not all railway services within the Greater London area will be part of the London Overground network. The main thing is that its part of the London Zonal fares for Oyster and Travelcard systems. I think TFL should brand the London Overground lines to make it easier for the commuters to find their service.

Here’s a list of regional railway branches in London:

  • Aylesbury Line
  • Bexleyheath Line
  • Caterham Line
  • Dartford Loop Line
  • Epsom Downs Branch
  • Hampton Court Branch Line
  • Hertford Loop Line
  • Lea Valley Lines
  • North Kent Line
  • Oxted Line
  • Shepperton Branch Line
  • Sutton and Mole Valley Lines
  • Tattenham Corner Line
  • Watford DC Line
  • Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Line

And the list of routes entirely contained within the Greater London boundary:

  • Acton–Northolt Line
  • Bromley North Line
  • Catford Loop Line
  • Chessington Branch Line
  • Chingford Branch Line
  • Crystal Palace Line
  • Dudding Hill Line
  • East London Line
  • Gospel Oak to Barking Line
  • Greenford Branch Line
  • Greenwich Line Hayes Line
  • Hounslow Loop Line
  • Kingston Loop Line
  • North London Line
  • Northern City Line
  • Nunhead to Lewisham Link
  • Romford to Upminster Line
  • South London Line
  • West London Line

Information taken from a Wikipedia page.

I know a few of the routes are part of the London Overground network, but it’s interesting to see the expansion which will occur in the near future. The London Overground is part of the National Rail network which is the brand for railway services in Britain, they also provide timetables and fares for all railway services in Britain.

If I missed anything out or you have anything to add then let me know in the comments section below.

As always, I invite you to follow me on Twitter and Google Plus which is @CLondoner92


  1. So will TfL completely takeover lines like the Kingston and Hounslow loop and put their own trains on them and rebrand stations with London overground, or will they just contract it back out to south west trains for instance.

    1. Hello Frenzie 2, thanks for commenting on my article.

      I believe it will be the same as TFL did with Lea Valley (Cheshunt Branch, Chingford Branch & Enfield Town Branch) and Romford to Upminster line back in mid 2015 with the rebrand of the stations.

      The lines I've mentioned above are still using older trains, (Class 315 & 317) but they will be using the new trains that I wrote about back in July 2015.

      Regarding contracting out, the London Overground services are contracted to Arriva Rail London which started on the 13th November 2016.


Share this page