|Owner||Transport for London (TfL)|
|Locale||Greater London; Watford, UK|
|Transit type||Commuter rail
|Number of lines||6|
|Number of stations||83|
|Daily ridership||427,000 on a typical weekday|
|Operator(s)||Operated by LOROL under contract to TfL, 11 November 2007–2016|
|Reporting marks||LO (National Rail)|
|System length||86 km (53.4 mi)|
The London Overground (LO) is a suburban rail network in the United Kingdom. Established in 2007, it serves a large part of Greater London and parts of Hertfordshire, with 83 stations on six lines. The network is operated by London Overground Rail Operations (LOROL) as part of the National Rail network, under the franchise control and branding of Transport for London (TfL). On 11 February 2013, it was announced that LOROL had been awarded a concession extension until 14 November 2016.
- 1 History
- 2 Current network
- 3 Current operations
- 4 Rolling stock
- 5 Planned developments
- 6 Proposed developments
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The concept of developing a network of orbital services around London goes back to the independently produced Ringrail proposals in the early 1970s. Some of these were evaluated in the London Rail Study of 1974 (The Barren Report) and Barren suggested consideration of a North London Network of orbital services, based on a later suggestion by the Ringrail Group, which involved using many existing rail routes, rather than new construction suggested in earlier drafts of the Ringrail Plan.
The proposal from Barren was for several overlapping services mainly using the North London Line, generally at 20 minute intervals. The suggested routes followed the original North London Line service from Broad Street to Richmond, and new services from Barking to Clapham Junction, and a third service from Ealing Broadway to North Woolwich. However, the continuing antipathy to the railways from the third Wilson Administration, along with the disinterest in minor local train services by British Railways' management meant that few of these initiatives were carried forward.
In 1979, the then GLC decided to sponsor an improved service from Camden Road, on the North London Line, to North Woolwich, opening up a previously freight-only line between Dalston and Stratford and linking it to an improved Stratford - North Woolwich service. This was given the rather clumsy marketing name, 'Cross Town Link-Line', and operated with basic 2-car Diesel Units.
The next initiative came from the GLC in 1984, when the Thatcher Government supported the Broadgate development that would demolish Broad Street Station. The closure process was convoluted because of problems in making alternative arrangements for the North London Line, and the remaining services operating from Watford to the City. These would eventually run to and from Liverpool Street via a new section of track, the Graham Road Curve.
Nevertheless, the new Richmond to North Woolwich service quickly settled down, but the then British Rail made a serious management error replacing the existing 3-car Class 501 electric trains (built 1957) with slightly newer but shorter 2-car Class 416 electric trains (built 1959), that quickly became overcrowded. In 1988, by reorganising and reducing services on the Great Northern routes from Moorgate, about 18 relatively modern Class 313 dual voltage electric trains were transferred to operate the North London and Watford services, from both Euston and Liverpool Street.
Several voluntary sector groups, the Railway Development Society, (RDS) later Railfuture, Transport 2000's then London groups, along with Capital Transport Campaign, launched a series of leaflets and briefings promoting a concept called Outer Circle. This used a name once associated with a semicircular service that operated from Broad Street to Mansion House, but Outer Circle trains ceased during World War 1.
The pamphlets and briefings, first issued in 1997, initially suggested a route from Clapham Junction to the Greenwich Peninsula, intended to improve access from south London to the Millenium Dome. However, this was thwarted by architect Lord Richard Rogers who considered a railway route on an elevated viaduct could cause 'community severance' and so the Victorian brick viaduct was demolished. Nothing further happened to develop this network until after the new GLA was set up in 2000. But the lobbying discreetly continued with a series of short briefings published by one RDS member based in North London. Mayoral and GLA candidates were approached to discuss the viability of the Outer Circle concept. The principle was widely supported and was adopted into the first Mayor's Transport Plan, published in 2001.
Meanwhile, a pilot scheme was launched in 2003 to bring several National Rail local services, mainly in South London by multiple companies under the ON - Overground Network brand. TfL introduced consistent information displays, station signage and maps on the selected routes in South London. Although this pilot was primarily an exercise in branding, some service improvements were introduced, it was the first instance of the newly created TfL having a visible influence over National Rail services. The pilot scheme was later dropped.
In January 2004 the Department for Transport announced a review of the rail industry in Great Britain. As part of that review, proposals were put forward by TfL for a "London Regional Rail Authority" to give TfL regulatory powers over rail services in and around Greater London.
A result of this consultation was agreement by the then Secretary of State for Transport, Alistair Darling to transfer of part of the Silverlink Metro Group of services rail franchise to TfL control. 
Silverlink had two areas of operation: Silverlink County regional services from Euston to Northampton, St Albans Abbey, Bletchley and Bedford); and Silverlink Metro within the London urban area. When the franchise was split up in 2007, County services were taken over by the London Midland franchise, and the Metro services came under TfL control. TfL decided to let this franchise as a Management Contract, with TfL taking the revenue risk.
On 20 February 2006, the Department for Transport announced that TfL would take over management of services then provided by Silverlink Metro. Tenders were invited to operate the service under the provisional name of the North London Railway. On 5 September 2006, London Overground branding was announced, and it was confirmed that the extended East London Line would be included.
On 11 November 2007, TfL took over the franchise for North London Railway routes, formerly Silverlink Metro.
The launch was accompanied by a marketing campaign entitled "London's new train set", with posters and leaflets carrying an image of model railway packaging containing new Overground trains, tracks and staff.
At the launch, TfL undertook to revamp the routes by improving service frequencies, staffing all stations, improving station facilities, introducing new rolling stock and allowing Oyster pay as you go throughout the network from the outset.
All stations were "deep-cleaned" following the TfL takeover, and Silverlink branding removed. Station signage has been replaced with Overground-branded signs using TfL's corporate New Johnston typeface.
On 15 April 2009 the North London Line platforms at Stratford moved to new high-level platforms 1 & 2 from low-level platforms 1 & 2, the latter being needed for the DLR's Stratford International service. Platforms 1 & 2 comprise an island platform with step-free access to platform 12 and subway links to platforms 3–11.
East London Line extension
On 27 April 2010, the East London Line became part of the London Overground network when the Phase 1 extension was completed. The former London Underground line was extended northwards, mostly along the former Broad Street viaduct of the North London Line, to the re-opened Dalston Junction, and southwards to Crystal Palace and West Croydon.
Operations began with a limited preview service between Dalston Junction and New Cross/New Cross Gate, with full operation between Dalston Junction and West Croydon/Crystal Palace on 23 May. On 28 February 2011, the line between Dalston Junction and Highbury & Islington was opened. In attendance were the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and London Underground's Managing Director, Mike Brown. TfL said in November 2010 that ridership was ahead of forecast at 92,000 a day, and that patronage at Surrey Quays had "gone through the roof".
The incorporation of the East London Line into the Overground network has added substantial sections of line in tunnel, including the historic Thames Tunnel, the oldest tunnel under a navigable river in the world. A peculiarity is that at Whitechapel the London Overground runs below the London Underground (though there are other parts of the network where this occurs, e.g.: the Watford Junction to Euston route between Kenton and South Kenton - shared with the Bakerloo line - passes under the Metropolitan line between Northwick Park and Preston Road).
South London Line extension
The most recent addition opened on 9 December 2012, from Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction via the South London Line, calling at Queens Road Peckham, Peckham Rye, Denmark Hill, Clapham High Street and Wandsworth Road. The extension uses an alignment between Surrey Quays and just north of Queen's Road Peckham that had been disused since 1911, new track was laid following some major civil engineering works. Passive provision has also been made a new station at Surrey Canal Road, to be constructed when funding becomes fully available. This was put on hold in 2009, although a suitable station 'foundation structure' has been built to facilitate completion in the future.
Funding for the railway rebuilding project was secured in February 2009, including £64 million from the DfT and £15 million from TfL, with construction beginning in May 2011.
The route passes over both Loughborough Junction and Brixton stations without stopping, and this lack of interchange stations was criticised by local politicians during the planning phase of the project. No stations are planned at these locations as the line is on high railway arches, making the cost of any station construction prohibitive.
North-east and East London
On 31 May 2015 the Liverpool Street to Enfield Town, Cheshunt (via Seven Sisters) and Chingford services, as well as the Romford to Upminster service, of Abellio Greater Anglia will become part of the London Overground network.
The Overground is operated by a private company, London Overground Rail Operations Ltd (LOROL). Following a model similar to that used for the Docklands Light Railway, TfL invited tenders for operation of the Overground. Unlike National Rail operators under the franchise control of the Department for Transport, TfL would set fares, procure rolling stock and decide service levels. The operator would take an element of revenue risk: TfL takes 90% of the revenue and 10% is retained by the operator, responsible for revenue collection.
The tenderers were MTR Laing, a 50:50 joint venture between the MTR (Mass Transit Railway) Corporation of Hong Kong and Laing Rail; Govia; National Express Group, the operator of Silverlink; and NedRailways. In December 2006, this was narrowed to Govia and MTR Laing, who were selected to submit their 'best and final offers', and on 19 June 2007 it was announced that MTR Laing had been selected.
The contract was signed on 2 July 2007 for seven years with the option of a two-year extension. In preparation for the launch of the Overground, MTR Laing renamed itself London Overground Rail Operations Ltd.
In December 2007, Henderson Group, the parent company of John Laing plc, announced the sale of the Laing Rail division, which comprised half of LOROL, Chiltern Railways and a stake in the Wrexham & Shropshire open-access railway operator. In April 2008, Laing Rail was bought by the German Government's rail operator Deutsche Bahn, which now holds a 50% stake in LOROL. The price was said to be around €170 million.
The initial network, service levels and timetables were a continuation of Silverlink Metro services. As the Overground name implies, the majority of the network is above ground, and it mostly consists of railway lines that connect areas outside Central London, with a considerable portion of the network in Zone 2. The network also uses Euston in central London, the southern terminus of the Watford DC Line.
The network interchanges with the Bakerloo, Central, District, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Northern and Victoria tube lines, and also with the Docklands Light Railway and Tramlink networks. The Overground lines appear on Tube maps issued by TfL, and a separate map of the system is available.
Much of London Overground passes through less affluent areas, and is seen as contributing to their regeneration. The North London and Gospel Oak to Barking lines were previously considered by the Transport Committee of the London Assembly to be neglected and not developed to their full potential.
|Routes||Frequency (per hour)||Depot(s)||Fleet|
|East & South London||4 Dalston Junction - West Croydon
4 Highbury & Islington - Crystal Palace
4 Dalston Junction - New Cross
4 Highbury & Islington - Clapham Junction
|New Cross Gate TMD||Class 378 Electrostar|
|North & West London||4 Richmond - Stratford
2 Clapham Junction - Stratford
2 Clapham Junction - Willesden Junction (Stratford at peaks)
|Watford Local||3 London Euston - Watford Junction|
|Gospel Oak - Barking||4 Gospel Oak - Barking||Class 172 Turbostar|
The Overground serves the following stations:
LOROL has its head office and control centre in Swiss Cottage. Rolling stock is maintained at depots at Willesden Junction and New Cross (newly built for the extended East London line). There are also sidings at Silwood Triangle (just north of New Cross depot), built in 2013-14. Satellite locations for stabling trains include Stratford, London Euston and sidings (mainly used by London Midland), and Barking Depot in East London (a central depot for the National Express Group franchise c2c). Train crew are based at stations including London Euston, Willesden Junction, Watford Junction, New Cross, Stratford and Gospel Oak.
Ticketing is a mix of paper and the Oyster Card electronic smart card. As with all National Rail and TfL services in London, passengers can use a Travelcard (daily, seven-day, monthly or annual); as on other National Rail services in London, paper single, return and cheap day return tickets priced under the zonal fare scheme are also available. In addition, Oyster "pay-as-you-go" (PAYG) is available.
As part of an effort to improve safety and protect revenue, TfL has announced that it will introduce ticket barriers at a number of stations. The stations that did not have barriers when TfL took over have been fitted with standalone Oyster card readers similar to those at ungated Underground and DLR stations. The validators at Blackhorse Road which were needed to enter/exit the Oyster card system when changing to and from the Victoria line were replaced with route validators, coloured pink to signify this. Route validators are used to show that a traveller using Oyster PAYG changed lines at that station, showing which of the possible routes s/he used. Typically, this avoids paying for zone 1 when the passenger did not travel into it.
Ticket stock is common National Rail stock as Overground services remain part of the National Rail network, but sometimes with a large TfL roundel in the centre and the repeated legend "Rail Settlement Plan" or on newer visions "National Rail" on a light green background. This ticket stock, coded "TFL" on the reverse, was introduced in November 2007.
Oyster PAYG is charged on the same zone-based rules as for the Underground and the Docklands Light Railway. Stations outside Greater London (except Watford Junction) are included in the new Travelcard Zones 7-9. On 2 January 2008 Acton Central was rezoned from zone 2 to 3, Hampstead Heath from 3 to 2 and Willesden Junction from 3 to 2 and 3.
Paper tickets are charged on the same zone-based rules as for Underground and DLR paper tickets, which were expanded to take in the extra zones covered. Watford Junction has its own fare scale. Paper tickets are significantly more expensive than using Oyster PAYG.
Although a TfL service, the Overground is part of the National Rail network, unlike the Underground. The most recent figures released by Network Rail (NR), for period 7 (2013/2014), showed that it had achieved 96.6% of the Public Performance Measure (PPM) target for punctuality and reliability set by the ORR - down 0.9 percentage points on the period last year. The moving annual average (MAA) of the PPM for the 12 months to 12 October 2013 was 96.5%. TfL, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has investigated the use of data from the Oyster smartcard ticketing system to measure the performance of the Overground explicitly from the passenger perspective.
In the autumn 2011 National Passenger Survey, conducted by Passenger Focus, London Overground received an overall satisfaction rating of 92%, a 7% improvement on the previous survey. However, a survey in February 2014 by the consumer group Which? found that customer satisfaction of London Overground was at 6th place (out of 20 train operators) with a satisfaction percentage of 58%.
Public presentation is visually associated with TfL design standards, using similar graphic design elements to those used on the Underground, drawing on the design heritage of Frank Pick. These design standards have been applied to the new fleet of trains.
The routes are branded with a new version of the roundel, consisting of an orange ring with a blue bar. The roundel was adopted from an earlier design by the London Passenger Transport Board in 1933 and has spawned many variations. The current TfL versions use a hollow circle or ring rather than the original solid circle. Unlike other National Rail networks, stations which are not served by another National Rail operator omit the red National Rail "double arrow" logo from signage outside the stations, using only the Overground roundel instead.
In common with other TfL services, the Overground is denoted by its own colour, a vivid orange (Pantone 158C). Like the DLR, the Overground is shown on Tube maps as a double stripe rather than a solid line, to show that it is not an Underground line.
Corporate signage, stationery and literature use the New Johnston typeface in common with other TfL services. A few refurbished or new stations on the reopened East London line display the station name in large orange three-dimensional upper-case letters.
Since the Overground took over from Silverlink, TfL has pursued a programme of rolling-stock replacement in order to remove from service the ageing second-generation EMUs and Class 150 DMUs it inherited from Silverlink. In 2009, Class 378 Capitalstars built by Bombardier Transportation were introduced on the electrified lines to replace the Class 313 and Class 508 units used previously, while the Class 150s were replaced by new Class 172 Turbostar units on the non-electrified Gospel Oak to Barking Line. By October 2010 the new rolling stock had completely replaced the units previously operated by Silverlink. The Class 313 EMUs and Class 150 DMUs units have been cascaded to other train operating companies such as Southern, First Capital Connect and First Great Western. The Class 508 units were stored at Eastleigh Works but were subsequently scrapped in 2013 after being deemed unfit.
The Class 378 trains were officially unveiled at Willesden Junction on 13 July 2009. They include a number of tube-style features, including controversial longitudinal seating and increased standing room to provide a high-capacity metro service. They also benefit from walk-through carriage interiors and air conditioning. The North London Line has a base fleet of 24 four-car units, Class 378/2. However, these were delivered as three-car units (378/0), with the extended trains being introduced from September 2010, following platform extension works and delivery of the first 20 four-car units (378/1) for the East London Line. A further 13 dual-voltage units were delivered to expand services, taking the total fleet to 57 four-car units. These trains are to be extended to five-car sets towards the end of 2014, starting with the East London Line sets.
The trains are leased from newly formed rolling stock operating company (ROSCO) QW Rail Leasing until 2027. TfL planned initially to buy the new fleet outright, but in February 2008 announced that it would lease the trains in order to free up the £250 million capital cost of purchase, combined with reducing the risk of making a loss through any future sell-on of the fleet.
Eight two-car Class 172/0 units, to be leased from Angel Trains, were ordered on behalf of TfL in November 2007, and entered service in 2010. These were originally restricted to a top speed of 40 miles per hour (64 km/h) as opposed to their intended design speed of 100 mph (160 km/h), as it was thought there was a fault with the exhaust system requiring modifications to the original design and the already procured units. However, it transpired that the exhaust emission testing had been flawed and that there were no major problems with the units or the original design. Electrification of the Gospel Oak to Barking line was advocated by TfL, local boroughs and passenger groups, but had not been included as part of Network Rail's Route Utilisation Strategy. Electrification has now been approved, but there is serious concern that this will not be finished until 2017.
Before its closure to become part of the Overground, services on the East London line were operated with London Underground A60 and A62 Stock.
|Class||Image||Type||Top speed||Number||Cars per set||Seat layout||Routes operated||Built||Years operated|
|Class 172/0 Turbostar||DMU||100||160||8||2||2+2||Gospel Oak to Barking Line
|Class 378 Capitalstar||EMU||75||120||57||4 or 5||Longitudinal||East London
|Class||Image||Type||Top speed||Number||Cars per set||Routes operated||Built||Years operated||Notes|
|Class 150/1 Sprinter||DMU||75||120||6||2||Gospel Oak-Barking||1984–1987||2007-2010||Transferred to First Great Western|
|Class 313/1||EMU||75||120||23||3||North London
(Refurbishment 1997–2001 by Silverlink)
|2007-2010||Transferred to First Capital Connect and Southern|
|Class 508/3||EMU||75||120||3||3||Watford DC Line||1979–1980
(Refurbished 2003 by Silverlink)
|2007-2010||Stored at Eastleigh Works until scrapping in 2013.|
In 2012, TfL announced its intention to procure a fleet of new, longer DMUs, as the Class 172s were unable to handle the passenger demand, causing overcrowding throughout the day. TfL issued a tender for manufacturers to supply eight three- or four-car trains. However, this proposal was subsequently shelved when the Government announced that the Gospel Oak to Barking line would be electrified, with proposals instead to purchase a fleet of new EMUs. This is planned to be included with the procurement of a new fleet to replace the Class 315s currently used on the inner suburban routes from Liverpool Street, which will be taken over by London Overground from 31 May 2015. TfL invited expressions of interest for a total of 39 four-car EMUs in April 2014, with 30 required for the Cheshunt and Chingford routes, 8 for the Gospel Oak to Barking, and 1 for the Romford to Upminster. Since then the notional base order has been increased to 45 four-car EMUs, the additional 6 are intended for the Watford DC Line to allow its 6 five-car Class 378 trains to be cascaded back to the North London and East London Lines to allow for increased services. TfL plan to issue an Invitation to Tender (ITT) early in 2015 with the intention of signing a contract in spring 2015.
To increase capacity, Class 378 trains are being lengthened from four coaches to five (the first lengthened train entered service on the East London Line in November 2014, and will start to be introduced on the North London Line in April 2015). Some station platforms will need to be lengthened to accommodate the longer trains. TfL's Business Plan provides for the introduction of five-car services on the East London line first, followed on the rest of the electrified Overground network by the end of 2015.
All rolling stock in service now carries Overground livery. It is similar to Underground livery, and consists of light grey coaches, a longitudinal thick blue stripe and a thin orange stripe along the bottom, London Overground roundels at midpoints along the coaches, and orange doors. The ends of each unit are painted yellow to comply with National Rail standards. The seat upholstery features a moquette by fabric designers Wallace Sewell.
Older rolling stock inherited from Silverlink retained Silverlink's purple and lime green livery with yellow doors until it was replaced. The Silverlink logos were removed and Overground banners were added.
Gospel Oak to Barking Line
There is a proposal to extend the Gospel Oak to Barking Line to Barking Riverside. Also, after a great deal of campaigning the electrification (at 25kV overhead) of the diesel operated Gospel Oak to Barking services has been announced. These changes are due to happen in 2019.
Following the completion of the current Overground network in December 2012, TfL expressed its intention to operate several other suburban lines within the London area.
In late June 2013, as part of the 2013 Spending Review, the Greater London Authority confirmed that Chancellor George Osborne gave the commitment for the West Anglian Suburban Lines to be taken over by TfL by the end of 2015.
London Overground will take the Seven Sisters routes and the Chingford Branch (but not the main Tottenham Hale route or the Hertford East Line). These lines are instead proposed to be part of the 2nd phase of Crossrail, and the interim STAR (Stratford to Angel Road) metro service.
The Upminster to Romford service (via Emerson Park) will also be taken over by London Overground in 2015 as a consequence of the absorption of the GE Local Services to Shenfield by the Crossrail concession.
Proposals not accepted
Other proposals for railway services to be devolved to TfL included: a number of Southeastern metro services from Victoria, Charing Cross and Cannon Street to Dartford, Sevenoaks, Orpington and Hayes. The taking-over of Southeastern 'metro' services has been refused.
The possibility of TfL acquiring routes out of London Bridge has also been discussed in the media. Finalised plans for granting TfL greater control over London's suburban railways are expected to be announced in April 2013. Kent County Council has expressed opposition to the Dartford route plans on account of limited capacity for Kent express trains being lost to expanded TfL services.
The Department for Transport proposed to ask Transport for London to take over the Greenford to West Ealing Line. This would have brought Greenford, South Greenford, Castle Bar Park, Drayton Green and West Ealing into the Overground network. West Ealing station will be reconstructed to allow Greenford branch trains to terminate there. However, it was confirmed in April 2014 that the branch would stay with the Great Western franchise.
Stations to be added to the network 31 May 2015
|Seven Sisters Line||Chingford Line||Romford to Upminster Line|
Watford DC Line move to Bakerloo
TfL has proposed re-extending the Bakerloo line to Watford Junction. It has been suggested that most or all of the line from Queen's Park to Watford Junction would be used exclusively by the London Underground, and London Overground services would be withdrawn.
As part of this change, Overground services would be diverted at Primrose Hill Junction via Primrose Hill (closed to passengers since 1992) to Camden Road, providing a new service between Queen's Park and Stratford. Were this change to take place, Kilburn High Road and South Hampstead would no longer have direct services to central London.
Funding has since been confirmed for the Croxley Rail Link, diverting the Watford branch of the Metropolitan line to Watford Junction via Watford High Street, where it will share tracks with the Overground.
Old Oak Common interchange
A long-term plan exists to create interchange with High Speed 2 at the proposed Old Oak Common station. Planning documents issued by the Department for Transport suggest that the new station, on a site just south of Willesden Junction, could open by 2025 and offer connections with the Overground on both the North London and West London Lines.
The station would also be served by Crossrail, Great Western Main Line services and Heathrow Express, and the proposals indicate the possibility of interchange with the Bakerloo and Central lines. The plans are supported by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.
The vision mentions various connections to the London Overground system, linking Old Oak to the North London Line, West London Line, and to two new London Overground branches, to Hounslow, and - via the Dudding Hill Line - to Thameslink stations on the Midland Main Line.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to London Overground.|
- London Underground
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|Look up Underground, aboveground, underground, or overground in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
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- London Overground information at alwaystouchout.com
East London line operator
|Operator of London Overground
2007 – present
(East London Line from 2010)
North London Railways franchise
Abellio Greater Anglia
Lea Valley Lines routes