Great Eastern Main Line
The Great Eastern Main Line (GEML, sometimes referred to as the East Anglia Main Line) is a 133-mile (214 km) major railway line of the British railway system, which connects Liverpool Street in the City of London with destinations in east London and the East of England, including Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich, Norwich and several coastal resorts such as Clacton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze. The main markets are commuter travel to London, particularly to the City of London and Docklands, and business and leisure travellers. The route also provides the main artery for substantial freight traffic between the Port of Felixstowe, Harwich International Port and the rest of Great Britain, via London.
The earliest section of the line operated between Devonshire Street railway station (Mile End) and Romford from 1839 and was built by the Eastern Counties Railway (ECR). The London terminus was then moved to Bishopsgate railway station (initially known as Shoreditch) on 1 July 1840 and the line was extended out to Brentwood in the same year. A further 51 miles (82 km) of route was added to link London with Colchester by 1843. The original gauge for the line was 5 ft (1,524 mm), but this was converted to 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge in 1844.
The section of line between Colchester and Ipswich was built by the Eastern Union Railway to standard gauge and opened for passenger traffic on 15 June 1846 and the route to Norwich (Norwich Victoria railway station) opened in 1849.
Eastern Counties Railway and Eastern Union Railways and others were amalgamated to form the Great Eastern Railway in 1862.
The London terminus was again moved, this time to Liverpool Street on 2 February 1872.
In the 1930s a flyover was constructed just west of Ilford to switch the main and electric lines over, to enable main line trains to utilise Liverpool St's longer west side platforms without having to cross east side suburban traffic in the station throat. The new arrangement also facilitated cross-platform interchange with the Central line at Stratford, services commencing in 1946. Either side of Ilford Flyover, there are single-track connections between the slow and fast pairs of lines, with the westbound track extending to Manor Park railway station and just beyond. A short fifth platform face serves the track at Manor Park, but it sees no normal use. The eastbound track extends as far as Ilford, connecting with that station's fifth (bay) platform, which does see frequent rush hour services. It was also envisaged that a flyover would be built at the country end of Gidea Park Carriage Sidings to allow trains to Southend Victoria to change from the fast line to the slow line, instead of at the London end of Shenfield as they do now.
Plans were drawn up in the 1930s to electrify the suburban lines from Liverpool Street to Shenfield at 1500 V DC and work was started on implementing this. However, the outbreak of the Second World War brought the project to a temporary halt and it was not until 1949 that the scheme was completed with electrification being extended to Chelmsford in 1956.
The British Railways 1955 Modernisation Plan called for overhead line systems in Great Britain to be standardised at 25 kV AC. However, due to low clearances under bridges the route was electrified at 6.25 kV AC. The section between Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria was completed in November 1960. Extensive testing showed that smaller electrical clearances could be tolerated for the 25 kV system than originally thought necessary. As a result it was now possible to increase the voltage without having to either raise bridges or lower the tracks along the route to obtain larger clearances. The route between Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria was converted to 25 kV AC between 1976 and 1980 Electrification was extended to Colchester in 1961 by BR's Eastern Region and finally to Norwich by 1986.
In 1986 it became part of Network SouthEast. Between 5 January 1997 and 31 March 2004, suburban and medium distance services were operated by First Great Eastern, while fast mainline services were operated by Anglia Railways. Between April 2004 and February 2012 services out of Liverpool Street except for c2c services were all operated by National Express East Anglia. As of February 2012 services out of Liverpool Street except for c2c services are now operated by Abellio Greater Anglia. However on 31 May 2015 the Shenfield Metro all stopping service transferred from Abellio Greater Anglia to TfL Rail.
Liverpool Street IECC replaced signal boxes at Bethnal Green (closed 1997), Bow (closed 1996), Stratford (GE panel closed 1997), Ilford (closed 1996), Romford (closed 1998), Gidea Park (closed 1998), Shenfield (closed 1992) and Chelmsford (closed 1994). The system uses BR Mark 3 solid state interlockings, predominantly four-aspect signals and a combination of Smiths clamp-lock and GEC-Alsthom HW2000 point machines.
The first signalbox to be closed and transferred to Liverpool Street IECC was Shenfield, which had only opened in 1982. The last boxes to be transferred were at Romford and Gidea Park, and were the oldest of those being transferred, having been opened under the GER/LNER 1924 resignalling scheme.
- 1840 - Brentwood bank; 4 killed
- 1850 - Brentwood station; 9 workman killed in dense fog Brentwood railway station
- 1905 - Witham rail crash; 11 killed, 71 injured
- 1915 - Ilford rail crash; 10 killed, 500 injured
- 1944 - Ilford rail crash: 9 killed, 38 injured
- 1947 - Gidea Park 7 killed, 45 injured
The line is owned and maintained by Network Rail. It is part of the Network Rail Strategic Route 7, is composed of SRS's 07.01, 07.02 and 07.03, and is classified as a primary line. The line has a loading gauge of W10 between Liverpool Street and Haughley junction and from there is W9 to Norwich. It has a line speed of between 80–100 mph (130–160 km/h).
The main line is electrified at 25 kV AC using overhead wires and comes under the control of Romford Electrical Control Room. The branches to Upminster, Southend Victoria, Southminster, Braintree, Clacton-on-Sea, Walton-on-the-Naze and Harwich Town are also electrified.
In between Romford and Chadwell Heath there is a small Network Rail OLE depot adjacent to the Jutsums Lane overbridge. In addition at the London end of the depot is Network Rail's Electrical Control Room that controls the supply and switching of the OHL system for the whole of the former Anglia Region.
Signalling is controlled by two main signalling centres, Liverpool Street IECC (opened in 1992) and Colchester PSB (opened in December 1983). Liverpool Street IECC controls signalling up to Marks Tey, where it fringes with Colchester PSB, which has control to Norwich. There are also several small signal boxes that control local infrastructure, such as Ingatestone box, which has jurisdiction over several local level crossings.
On leaving Liverpool Street, the route comprises two pairs of tracks, known as the Mains and the Electrics, with a further pair of tracks, the 'Suburbans', which carry the West Anglia Main Line alongside the GE to Bethnal Green Junction.
From Bethnal Green the GE has four lines to Bow Junction, where there is a complex set of switches and crossings. A line from the LTS route joins the up electric and there are a further two lines, the up and down Temple Mills, giving access to the North London line and Temple Mills. The GE is six tracks up to the London end of Stratford and the junction to Temple Mills, and there are five lines through the station dropping to four at the country end.
A flyover just west of Ilford enables main line trains to utilise Liverpool St's longer west side platforms without having to cross east side suburban traffic in the station throat. This arrangement also facilitated cross-platform interchange with the Central line at Stratford. Either side of Ilford Flyover, there are single-track connections between the slow and fast pairs of lines, with the westbound track extending to Manor Park railway station and just beyond. A short fifth platform face serves the track at Manor Park, but it sees no normal use. The eastbound track extends as far as Ilford, connecting with that station's fifth (bay) platform, which does see frequent rush hour services.
At Shenfield the line to Southend Victoria diverges and the main line route drops from four lines to two; this arrangement continues for the vast majority of the way to Norwich. There are several locations where the route has more than two lines, predominantly through stations such as Colchester and Ipswich, along with goods loops, such as at the London end of Ingatestone.
The only railway tunnel on the Great Eastern Main Line is just to the south of the current Ipswich railway station. The 361-yard (330 m) long tunnel was built by Peter Bruff as part of the Ipswich to Ely Line. It was completed in 1846 and it is thought to be the earliest driven on a sharp continuous curve. During the excavation of the tunnel many important fossils were uncovered, including rhinoceros, lion, and, mammoth; the site was known as the 'Stoke Bone Beds'. The finds are considered important in understanding climate change during the Ice Age. This tunnel had the trackbed lowered so the line could accommodate higher container trains.
The tunnel has earned itself the reputation "the wettest tunnel in Britain" as a natural spring still runs through the tunnel, the walls carry running water most of the time.
Electric locomotive-hauled inter-city trains on Norwich to London service. From 2004 onward, these were updated with refurbished ex-West Coast Main Line locomotives and coaches following the introduction of the Class 390 Pendolino stock on that route.
- Class 315 - 318 seats across four cars. Maximum speed 75 mph (120 km/h)
- Class 321 - 307 seats across four cars per trainset, 100 mph (160 km/h)
- Class 360 (Desiro) - four cars per trainset, 100 mph
- Class 90 with Mark 3 coaches - London-Norwich express passenger trains, maximum speed 110 mph (180 km/h), running speed 100 mph (160 km/h)
2011 DLR extension
In summer 2011, the DLR extension from Canning Town to Stratford Regional and Stratford International was completed. It is using the former North London Line alignment that runs beside the Jubilee line and will directly link Stratford Regional to its international counterpart, local stations to the south and existing DLR branches in the Royal Docks.
International services from Stratford
Stratford International station opened on 30 November 2009, and is connected to Stratford station by the Docklands Light Railway extension which was completed on 31 August 2011. Stratford International was originally built to serve Eurostar trains to mainland Europe, however these plans never came to fruition.
There are several other potential operators that may use the station for International services including Deutsche Bahn's proposed London-Frankfurt service and the "Transmanche Metro" project to Calais via local stations.
On 31 May 2015, TfL Rail (Crossrail concession) took over the metro service and (after 2018) take it via a tunnel through central London and link up with the Great Western Main Line as far as Reading and Heathrow Airport. However, the Crossrail rolling stock is expected to enter service on the GEML in May 2017. The Crossrail service will interchange with remaining Great Eastern Main Line services at Liverpool Street (via new underground platforms), Stratford, Romford and Shenfield.
The Greater Anglia RUS, published in December 2007 outlines a number of developments intended for the Great Eastern route. Other proposals have been announced separately.
- 68 additional carriages to provide longer trains will be introduced between December 2009 and December 2011.
- Extension of platform 10A at Stratford to increase peak flow and capacity during the period 2009-2014.
- Additional path on the Colchester, Chelmsford and Southend routes during the period 2009-2014.
- A turn-back facility at Chadwell Heath and Brentwood during the period 2009-2014.
- A new station at Great Blakenham as part of the SnOasis development approx. half-way between Needham Market and Ipswich, which received its final go-ahead on 6 November 2008.
- A new station at Beaulieu Park, 4 km north of Chelmsford, with 7 km of extra tracks between A130 and Hatfield Peverel.
- Crossrail from 2018.
In November 2013 an upgrade of the GEML to enable London to Norwich express services to achieve an improved journey time of 90 minutes was announced, this indicated that a raised linespeed of 110 mph would be required and the replacement of the existing Cl90/Mk.3 rolling stock with new Inter-City rolling stock.
Nearly all trains are operated by Abellio Greater Anglia and TfL Rail, however a number of early morning, late evening and night c2c services operate on the line. From May 1985 to May 2007 London Fenchurch Street closed at 22:30 as a cost-saving exercise and all services operated from Liverpool Street. c2c also operates from Liverpool Street when engineering work prevents access to Fenchurch Street.
Fast services utilise the main lines between Liverpool Street and Shenfield. Branch lines diverge at Romford, Shenfield, Witham, Marks Tey, Colchester, Ipswich, Stowmarket and Norwich.
|London Liverpool Street||City of London|
|Romford||Havering||Romford to Upminster Line: Upminster|
|Shenfield||Brentwood||Shenfield to Southend Line: Southend Victoria / Southminster|
|Witham||Braintree||Braintree Branch Line: Braintree|
|Marks Tey||Colchester||Gainsborough Line: Sudbury|
|Colchester||Colchester||Sunshine Coast Line: Colchester Town / Clacton-on-Sea / Walton-on-the-Naze|
|Manningtree||Tendring||Mayflower Line: Harwich Town|
|Ipswich||Ipswich||Felixstowe Branch Line: Felixstowe
East Suffolk Line: Lowestoft
|Needham Market||Mid Suffolk|
|Stowmarket||Mid Suffolk||Ipswich to Ely Line: Ely / Cambridge|
|Norwich||Norwich||Wherry Lines: Great Yarmouth / Lowestoft
Bittern Line: Sheringham
Breckland Line: Cambridge
A high-frequency service operates on the slow lines between Liverpool Street and Shenfield serving all stations which is operated by TfL Rail. The off-peak service between Liverpool Street and Shenfield consists of six trains an hour with eight trains per hour during rush hour. Some peak trains are scheduled to start or terminate at Gidea Park with a small number of trains starting/terminating at Ilford and a limited service starts/terminates at Stratford and Romford. A limited service also operates between Stratford and Ilford-Shenfield. The line is mostly within Greater London, with two stations in the Brentwood borough of Essex. All of these services are run by TfL Rail.
The line is also used by a limited service extending to/from Southend Victoria and Southminster stopping at Stratford, Romford then all stations operates on the line on weekdays. Semi-fast services to/from Southend Victoria also use the line on Sundays. One limited service between Liverpool Street and Colchester also serves the line, this service calls at Stratford, Seven Kings, Gidea Park, Shenfield then either all or most stations to Colchester. As well as limited services to/from Colchester on Sundays. However all services to/from Southend Victoria and Southminster do use the slow route between Liverpool Street and Stratford. These services are all run by Abellio Greater Anglia. 
|London Liverpool Street||1||City of London|
The section between Stratford and Gidea Park follows the same route as the A118 road.
These are the passenger usage statistics from the year beginning April 2002 to the year beginning April 2013. Needham Market is the only station on the line that is not served by trains to/from London.
|London Liverpool Street||38,968,814||50,469,209||47,271,234||55,265,748||57,759,809||55,103,416||51,596,155||55,769,423||57,105,400||58,448,814||63,004,002|
|The annual passenger usage is based on sales of tickets in stated financial years from Office of Rail Regulation statistics. The statistics are for passengers arriving and departing from each station and cover twelve month periods that start in April. Please note that methodology may vary year on year.|
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