Network Rail’s London & South Eastern Route Utilisation (L&SE RUS) Strategy reveals interesting proposals to benefit passengers.
Both the West Anglian and Great Eastern lines may be in line for significant capacity increases, as well as higher frequencies of service. The area which is likely to see most change is bounded by the lines from Liverpool Street and Stratford towards Chingford, Cheshunt, Hertford East and via Tottenham Hale.
At present, the Greater Anglia RUS has stated the ambition for most peak hour services to become 12 carriages in length, necessary to bring these lines into touch with other areas.
The first new suggestion for the L&SE RUS states that services from Hertford East would be best running via Seven Sisters and not Tottenham Hale en route to Liverpool Street. This line has spare capacity and by these services calling at Seven Sisters passengers will still be able to interchange with the Victoria Line. Another practical reason for this would be that an extra two services could run each hour from the Harlow and Cambridge directions to London.
On the Lea Valley routes, it is envisaged that four trains per hour would be needed at local stations, such as at Ponders End and Brimsdown. Space exists at Brimsdown for a third platform, which would be for terminating trains, although owing to capacity constraints with Stansted Express and West Anglian Main Line services, they would be unable to call at all stations. Owing to the congested nature of lines at Bethnal Green, these services would be most likely to operate to Stratford, and not Liverpool Street. Other plans include 6 or 8 trains per hour from the Lea Valley to Stratford, although as the demand is not there for services to Stratford, the high cost of this is not justifiable.
Services do currently run from Stratford to West Anglia, as a half hourly service to Bishops Stortford. In any circumstance, two trains per hour from West Anglia would be expected to remain. A new proposal states that two trains per hour could be provided from Stratford to Chingford, although a new spur would be needed in the Coppermill Junction area. This could be achieved, but would be a serious Civil Engineering Project, likely to cost a large amount of money, with no current demand from the Walthamstow and Chingford areas to Stratford.
On the Great Eastern Main Line, from London to Norwich, improvements do need to be considered almost immediately for the line between London and Shenfield, where Bow Junction and Bethnal Green currently create problems for increased capacity.
At present, all peak hour services are proposed for 12 car operation. The infrastructure exists, but the only constraint is the lack of available rolling stock to create 12 car services. Also proposed is the replacement of Loco Hauled Stock from London to Norwich on “Intercity” services.
There is also a supposed requirement for 28 trains per hour out of Liverpool Street on the “Express services” towards Southend, Southminster, Chelmsford, Clacton and Norwich. Using the current infrastructure, there would be serious consequences to performance, although with the re-modelling of Bow Junction, as well as turnback facilities at Wickford and Chelmsford. Chelmsford is the largest station for commuters on the entire line, contributing around 7 million passengers per year.
Having looked at these plans, and as an advocate of rail travel, I am positive that these schemes can provide these areas and lines with the much needed boost they deserve. In respect of the Hertford East services being diverted via Seven Sisters, I think this is an intelligent and reasonable move. Nobody will lose their connections with the Victoria line as a result.
Also, as the Southbury Loop line via Seven Sisters is less well utilised, performance of these trains will likely improve. The West Anglia Main Line has always struggled on two trains per hour as a reaction to the Stansted Express, and thus any attempt to double the number of services is nothing short of brilliant. As a regular traveller to places like Enfield Lock, I also agree with the four trains per hour through these stations, vice the current two.
Services from Stratford to Bishops Stortford currently have odd stopping patterns, meaning stations such as Enfield Lock only get an hourly service in practice. If both services stopped at both stations, we would see obvious benefits to passengers and capacity.
Looking to the Great Eastern Main Line, it is obvious that 12 car services will be needed in the interim, which could be achieved by bringing back the 317/7s that are now in store. This was a decision made by new Franchisees, Abellio in their bid and accepted by the Department for Transport thus making economies for the short franchisee.
New trains would however be needed, which is easily achievable if funding can be found. Other ideas for lengthening of trains could see more Class 379 units for services to Cambridge, which in turn releases Class 317 units for the Great Eastern Line. If these were to be concentrated on routes to Southend, a more uniform fleet of Class 321 and Class 360 trains could operate beyond Chelmsford. I also agree that Locomotive hauled trains to Norwich need to be replaced, potentially with purpose built multiple units.
I look forward to watching developments with interest.