West Anglia Main Line
The West Anglia Main Line is one of the two main lines which run from Liverpool Street, the other being the Great Eastern Main Line to Ipswich and Norwich. It runs generally north from London, through the towns of Cheshunt, Broxbourne, Harlow, Bishop's Stortford and Audley End (near Saffron Walden) station before reaching Cambridge, with two branches serving Hertford and Stansted Airport. The line runs along the border between Hertfordshire and Essex for much of its length.
In the early years the line was the main route from London to Norwich although now the line is primarily a commuter route for stations between Cambridge and London. It was also a strategically important freight route for many years being the southern end of a route from coal fields in Yorkshire.
This article covers the main line whilst further detail on the routes to London are covered in the Lea Valley Lines section.
The line was opened in the 1840s. 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 the N&ER reached Bishops Stortford although it was leased by the Eastern Counties Railway in 1844 who took over operation of the line.The Eastern Counties Railway opened the section from Bishops Stortford to Cambridge as part of its extension to Ely and Brandon.
In 1862 operation of 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. This traffic joined the West Anglia Main Line north of Cambridge at Chesterton Junction and was generally routed for the large marshalling yards at Temple Mills.
Following the grouping in 1923 the line was operated by the London & North Eastern Railway.
In 1948 following nationalization operation of the line passed to the British Railways Eastern Region.
In 1952 the branch from Elsenham to Thaxted (known as the " Gin & Toffee Line") closed to passengers. freight services were withdrawn a year later.
Electrification first came to the line in the early 1960s but, rather surprisingly it only affected the West Anglia Main Line in sections. The electrification of the Chingford line saw the Stratford - Lea Bridge - Hall Farm Junction section electrified (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 so in effect Cheshunt to Broxbourne was electrified but the route via Tottenham Hale was still operated by diesel traction - in fact the British Rail Class 125 'Lea Valley' DMUs.
The line from Clapton Junction (on the Chingford line) through Tottenham Hale to Cheshunt and from Broxbourne to Bishops Stortford was electrified in 1968 and opened to electric traffic on 9 March 1969. and finally from there to Cambridge in 1987. Finally the section from Stratford to Coppermill Junction was electrified in 1989. The power supply is by 25 kV AC overhead lines.
In 1990 a new branch line to Stansted Airport was opened and services between there and London Liverpool Street commenced operation.
The Greater Anglia RUS, published in December 2007, outlined a number of developments intended for the West Anglia route. Proposals for the period 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.
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. This was done 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 train operation to Cambridge.
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 sub-brand of Greater Anglia.
In London, the line also forms the Tottenham Hale branch of the Lea Valley Lines.
The line was initially laid to a gauge of 5 ft (1,524 mm) but already this had been identified as non standard and between 5 September and 7 October 1844 the whole network was re-laid to 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge.
The line is in 2013 double track for most of its length, with small sections of single track on the Stansted branch and at Ware, with some quadruple track between Hackney Downs and Liverpool Street. The line is electrified at 25 kV AC and has a loading gauge of W8 for most of it length except for the Stansted branch which is W6.
When steam was being operated there was a greater requirement for locomotives which were maintained at a number of locations on the West Anglia Main Line. Stratford engine shed had the biggest concentration of locomotives (555 in January 1923) for, as well as supplying locomotives for the WAML, it also supplied engines for the Great Eastern Main Line , extensive suburban services out of Liverpool Street station as well as numerous shunting and freight locomotives.
There was also a significant steam locomotive depot at Cambridge (178 in January 1923) which supplied motive power for the main line, a number of cross-country lines and services to Kings Cross.
Between these two depots were smaller depots at Broxbourne and Bishops Stortford with allocations of smaller engines for all stations trains. The locomotives here were certainly in 1923 all allocated to Stratford but everyday maintenance was the responsibility of the smaller depots.
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 over the line would have been supplied by March depot located on the March to Peterborough line.
Electrification of the line in the 1960s and 1970s saw electric trains generally allocated to Ilford depot on the Great Eastern Main Line operating the WAML. In 2014 there are stabling sidings at Cambridge, Bishops Stortford and Orient Way (between Lea Bridge and Stratford stations). Other units are stabled off route at Chingford or at the home depot Ilford.
Locomotives and Rolling Stock
Throughout the steam era trains were predominantly hauled by Great Eastern Railway (or its constituent companies) locomotives and indeed when steam ended in East Anglia in the 1960s some of these locomotives were still operated. The article on Stratford TMD and the Great Eastern Railway gives further details of these. After the grouping of 1923 LNER designed locomotives were also employed in the area with the B17 4-6-0 class working many main line services. Following nationalisation in 1948 British Railways introduced the Britannia class 4-6-2 class which worked 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 up until full electrification of the route through to Kings Lynn in the 1980s when Class 86 locomotives took over man line services.
Suburban services from c1958 were operated by British Rail Class 125 DMUs and then following the 1969 electrification services were operated by Clss 305 and Class 308 units. Other units from the GE section such as Class 302 and 306 also operated services during this period. 
These were replaced by Class 317 Electric Multiple Units (EMUs) and in 2014 passenger services on the line mostly use Class 315s or Class 317s and brand new Bombardier Class 379s. Class 170 DMUs are used for services that operate from Stansted Airport north through Cambridge to Birmingham. (Cross Country services only).
If Stansted Airport's expansion is authorised it is planned that the Main Line will see many further changes. Long term proposals include the four-tracking of the route 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. More stations, such as Broxbourne, will also have platform extensions to accommodate 12 car trains.
However it seems more likely that although two tracks will be built alongside the WAML these will actually become part of Crossrail 2 and be operated as a separate railway as far as Cheshunt. the intermediate stations between Tottenham Hale and Cheshunt will all transfer to the Crossrail line releasing capacity on the main line for additional trains.
- Mitchell, Vic; Dave Brennand (January 2014). Startford - Cheshunt. Midhurst: Middleton Press. p. 96. ISBN 978 1 908174 53 6.
- Mitchell, Vic; Dave Brennand (January 2014). Stratford - Cheshunt. Midhurst: Middleton Press. p. 3. ISBN 978 1 908174 53 6.
- "Greater Anglia Route Utilisation Strategy". Network Rail. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
- "Route 5 - West Anglia". Network Rail. Retrieved 2009-05-22.
- Mitchell, Vic; Dave Brennand (January 2014). Stratford - Cheshunt. Midhurst: Middleton Press. pp. 106,110,120. ISBN 978 1 908174 53 6.
- "The Transport Committee: Crossrail and the Overground Talk Shop". London Reconnections. 7 March 2013. Retrieved 2014-18-01.