West Anglia Main Line

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West Anglia Main Line
379 011 Bethnal Green(8091060727).jpg
Overview
Type Commuter rail, Suburban rail
System National Rail
Status Operational
Locale
Termini Liverpool Street, London
Cambridge
Stations 28
Operation
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s)
Rolling stock
Technical
No. of tracks 2-4
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification 25 kV 50hz AC OHLE
Operating speed 100 mph (160 km/h) maximum
Route map
Fen Line
55m 52ch  Cambridge
Varsity Line
Cambridge Line
52m 36ch  Shelford
Stour Valley Railway
River Cam
49m 01ch  Whittlesford Parkway
A505 road
M11 Spur to A11
Newmarket & Chesterford Rwy
River Cam
45m 56ch  Great Chesterford
Littlebury Tunnel (407 yds)
Audley End Tunnel (456 yds)
Saffron Walden Railway
41m 55ch  Audley End
39m 72ch  Newport
Elsenham & Thaxted Lt Rwy
35m 45ch  Elsenham
36m 67ch  Stansted Airport
35m 45ch 
M11 motorway
33m 28ch  Stansted Mountfitchet
Bishop's Stortford-Braintree
30m 27ch  Bishop's Stortford
River Stort Navigation
26m 57ch  Sawbridgeworth
24m 36ch  Harlow Mill
Harlow Mill aggregate terminal
22m 59ch  Harlow Town
River Stort Navigation
20m 09ch  Roydon
River Lee Navigation
Hertford East Branch Line
17m 17ch  Broxbourne
14m 01ch  Cheshunt
M25 motorway
Lea Valley Lines
6m 00ch  Tottenham Hale Underground no-text.svg
2m 78ch  Hackney Downs
0m 00ch  London Liverpool Street Underground no-text.svg

The West Anglia Main Line is one of the two main lines from Liverpool Street, the other being the Great Eastern Main Line to Ipswich and Norwich. It runs generally north through Cheshunt, Broxbourne, Harlow, Bishop's Stortford and Audley End (near Saffron Walden) to Cambridge, with branches serving Hertford and Stansted Airport. It line runs along the boundary between Hertfordshire and Essex for much of its length.

In the early years the line was the main route from London to Norwich, now primarily a commuter route for stations between Cambridge and London. It was an important goods route for many years as the southern end of a route from coalfields in Yorkshire.

Detail on the routes in London are in the Lea Valley Lines section.

History[edit]

The first section was built for the Northern and Eastern Railway from Stratford to Broxbourne and opened in 1840. It was extended northwards in stages, reaching Spellbrook, 3 miles (5 km) short of Bishops Stortford, in 1842. In 1845 it reached Bishops Stortford, having been leased by the Eastern Counties Railway in 1844, which opened the section from Bishops Stortford to Cambridge as part of its extension to Ely and Brandon.

In 1862 the line passed to the Great Eastern Railway.

The opening of the Great Northern and Great Eastern Joint Railway in 1882 saw the Great Eastern open up a direct link with coal-producing areas in Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire joining the line north of Cambridge at Chesterton Junction, generally routed to the large marshalling yards at Temple Mills.

Following the grouping in 1923 the line became part of the London & North Eastern Railway.

In 1948 following nationalization the line passed to British Railways Eastern Region.

In 1952 the branch from Elsenham to Thaxted (known as the "Gin & Toffee Line") closed to passengers, and goods services were withdrawn a year later.

Electrification first came in the early 1960s in sections. Electrification to Chingford included the Stratford - Lea Bridge - Hall Farm Junction section (although whether this was ever worked by electric traction is doubtful) and the line from Liverpool Street to Broxbourne via Seven Sisters and the Southbury Loop was electrified. The route via Tottenham Hale was still operated by diesel traction, the British Rail Class 125 'Lea Valley' DMUs.[1]

The line from Clapton Junction (on the Chingford line) through Tottenham Hale to Cheshunt and from Broxbourne to Bishops Stortford was electrified on 9 March 1969.[2] and from there to Cambridge in 1987. Stratford to Coppermill Junction was electrified in 1989. The power supply is 25 kV AC overhead line.

In 1990 a branch line to Stansted Airport was opened and services to London Liverpool Street commenced.

The Network Rail Greater Anglia Route Utilisation Strategy, published in December 2007, outlined a number of developments. Proposals for 2009-14 include the extension of remaining non-compliant platforms on the Liverpool Street-Cambridge route and at Stansted Airport to handle 12 cars; the reinstatement of 9-car trains during peak times on the Hertford East, Enfield Town, Cheshunt via Southbury and Chingford branch services, requiring a small amount of infrastructure; stabling and maintenance facilities for the larger, enhanced fleet; removal of the three level crossings between Tottenham Hale and Waltham Cross; and power supply to be enhanced for some of these options and likely future requirements.[3]

In early 2011, ticket barriers were installed at Bishop's Stortford, Harlow Town, Broxbourne, Cheshunt and Hackney Downs, some of the busiest stations on the line, to reduce the need for ticket inspectors on the Stansted Express service and reduce fare evasion. By 2014 selected stations had had their platforms extended to enable 12-car trains to Cambridge.

Service (2014)[edit]

Services from Liverpool Street to Cambridge, Hertford East and Stansted Airport are operated by Greater Anglia.

Express services from Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport are operated by Stansted Express, a brand of Greater Anglia.

Services from Stansted Airport to Cambridge (and onward to Birmingham New Street via Peterborough) are operated by CrossCountry.

The line is part of the Network Rail Strategic Route 5, which comprises SRS 05.01 and part of 05.05. It is classified as a London and South East commuter line.[4]

In London, the line forms the Tottenham Hale branch of the Lea Valley Lines.

Infrastructure[edit]

The line was initially 5 ft (1,524 mm) gauge, but between 5 September and 7 October 1844 it was converted to 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge.

In 2013 the line was double track for most of its length, with small sections of single track on the Stansted branch and at Ware, some quadruple track between Hackney Downs and Liverpool Street. The line is electrified at 25 kV AC and has a loading gauge of W8 except for the Stansted branch, which is W6.[4]

Engine sheds[edit]

Stratford engine shed had the biggest concentration of steam locomotives (555 in January 1923) supplying the line, the Great Eastern Main Line, extensive suburban services out of Liverpool Street and numerous shunting and freight locomotives.

There was a significant steam shed at Cambridge (178 in January 1923), which supplied the line, a number of cross-country lines and services to King's Cross.

There were smaller sheds at Broxbourne and Bishops Stortford with smaller engines for all-stations trains. In 1923 locomotives were allocated to Stratford but everyday maintenance was the responsibility of the smaller sheds.

Following dieselisation in the 1960s Stratford became the major depot with nearly all the other depots closing. Cambridge became a Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) depot and maintained a small allocation of shunting locomotives. Most other workings were supplied by March depot on the March to Peterborough line.

Electrification in the 1960s and 1970s saw electric trains generally allocated to Ilford depot on the Great Eastern Main Line. In 2014 there are stabling sidings at Cambridge, Bishops Stortford and Orient Way (between Lea Bridge and Stratford). Other units are stabled at Chingford or Ilford.

Locomotives and Rolling Stock[edit]

Throughout the steam era trains were predominantly hauled by Great Eastern Railway (or its constituent companies') locomotives: when steam ended in East Anglia in the 1960s some of these locomotives were still operated - see Stratford TMD and Great Eastern Railway. After the grouping of 1923 LNER-designed locomotives were used with the B17 4-6-0 class working many main line services. Following nationalisation in 1948 British Railways introduced the Britannia 4-6-2 class on some main line services until succeeded by diesels in the late 1950s.

East Anglia was the first area to be worked completely by diesel trains with Class 31s taking over some express workings. These were succeeded by more powerful Class 37 and Class 47 until full electrification to King's Lynn in the 1980s when Class 86 locomotives took over.

Suburban services from about 1958 were operated by British Rail Class 125 DMUs, and following the 1969 electrification Class 305 and Class 308 units. Other units from the GE section such as Class 302 and 306 also operated services during this period.[5]

These were replaced by Class 317 units and in 2014 mostly Class 315s or Class 317s and new Bombardier Class 379s. Class 170 DMUs operate from Stansted Airport north through Cambridge to Birmingham on Cross Country services only.

Future developments[edit]

A WAGN EMU travels through Harlow Town station in 2001.

If Stansted Airport's expansion is authorised it is planned that the line will see many further changes. Long term proposals include four-tracking between Coppermill Junction and Broxbourne junction; an additional tunnel and platform edge on the Stansted Airport branch; one additional train per hour serving Stansted and up to six further trains per hour at peak times, including four into Stratford as a terminus.[3] More stations, such as Broxbourne, will also have platform extensions to accommodate 12-car trains.

It seems likely that two tracks will be built alongside the line to Cheshunt as part of Crossrail 2. Intermediate stations from Tottenham Hale will transfer to Crossrail 2 releasing capacity on the main line for additional trains.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mitchell, Vic; Dave Brennand (January 2014). Startford - Cheshunt. Midhurst: Middleton Press. p. 96. ISBN 978 1 908174 53 6. 
  2. ^ Mitchell, Vic; Dave Brennand (January 2014). Stratford - Cheshunt. Midhurst: Middleton Press. p. 3. ISBN 978 1 908174 53 6. 
  3. ^ a b "Greater Anglia Route Utilisation Strategy". Network Rail. Retrieved 2009-05-08. 
  4. ^ a b "Route 5 - West Anglia". Network Rail. Retrieved 2009-05-22. 
  5. ^ Mitchell, Vic; Dave Brennand (January 2014). Stratford - Cheshunt. Midhurst: Middleton Press. pp. 106, 110, 120. ISBN 978 1 908174 53 6. 
  6. ^ "The Transport Committee: Crossrail and the Overground Talk Shop". London Reconnections. 7 March 2013. Retrieved 2014-01-18.