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Gospel Oak to Barking line

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Gospel Oak to Barking line
LocaleGreater London
TypeSuburban rail and goods
SystemNational Rail
Operator(s)London Overground
Rolling stockClass 710 "Aventra"
Line length13 miles 58 chains (22.1 km)
Number of tracks2
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
ElectrificationSeries 2 25 kV AC OHLE
Route map

(Click to expand)
Gospel Oak to Barking line
Gospel Oak
Highgate Road Low-level
Highgate Road High-level
Junction Road
Upper Holloway
Hornsey Road
Crouch Hill
Harringay Green Lanes
St Ann's Road
Seven Sisters Lea Valley lines Victoria Line
Lea Valley lines (7 Sisters branch)
South Tottenham
Blackhorse Road Victoria Line
Walthamstow Queen's Rd
Leyton Midland Road
Leytonstone High Road
Wanstead Park
Woodgrange Park
High Speed 1 London Tunnel 2
Barking Station Junction
Barking District Line Hammersmith & City Line National Rail
Barking sidings
Barking Freightliner Terminal
Castle Green
Barking Riverside
London River Services

The Gospel Oak to Barking line,[5] frequently unofficially called the Goblin,[6] is a railway line in London. It is 13 miles 58 chains (22.1 km) in length and carries both through goods trains and London Overground passenger trains, connecting Gospel Oak in north London and Barking Riverside in east London. The line is part of Network Rail Strategic Route 6, and is classified as a London and South East Commuter line.[7] On 15 February 2024 Transport for London announced that the Overground service will be renamed the Suffragette line as part of a strategic rebrand.[8]

For much of its existence the line has played a minor role in London's transport system; however in recent years it has received significant investment to increase its capacity, including full 25kV AC overhead electrification, completed in 2018.[9] At the eastern end of the line, the extension to the Barking Riverside regeneration site opened on 18 July 2022.[10]


A 1914 map of the Tottenham and Hampstead Junction Railway

Original lines


The line is mostly an amalgamation of lines built in the 19th century. The main section, between South Tottenham and Woodgrange Park, was built as the Tottenham and Forest Gate Railway, a joint project between the Midland Railway and the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway. This opened on 9 July 1894, linking the Midland and Great Eastern joint line at South Tottenham and the Forest Gate and Barking line at Woodgrange Park. The section west of South Tottenham was built as the Tottenham and Hampstead Junction Railway, which opened in 1868 but had not been commercially successful as a stand-alone railway.[citation needed]

Predecessor routes


Although the route between Upper Holloway and Woodgrange Park has been constant, several stations have been the ends of the line. Kentish Town, St Pancras, Gospel Oak and Moorgate (via St Pancras) have all been the western termini. East Ham was an alternative eastern terminus for some time. Some trains were extended beyond Barking to destinations such as Southend and Tilbury. There was a regular boat train service between St Pancras and Tilbury.[citation needed]

A connection to Gospel Oak was added in 1888, but the routes via Kentish Town remained the primary ones and the Gospel Oak branch was abandoned during 1926. The connection to East Ham was abandoned in 1958.[citation needed]

The Tottenham and Hampstead Junction Railway section of the line had stations that were closed due to proximity to other stations or for other reasons. These include Highgate Road (closed 1918), Junction Road (closed 1943), Hornsey Road (closed 1943) and St Ann's Road (closed 1942).[11]

The line was considered for closure to passengers in 1963 as part of the Beeching Axe,[12] but local users protested and formed an action group to prevent closure. Beeching's proposals for London were not implemented for the most part, and the line remained open. Even so, it was allowed to fall into a poor state of repair and reliability,[13] and by 1980 had been cut back to an hourly service between Kentish Town and Barking. The station canopies were gradually demolished, ticket offices closed and staff withdrawn from stations.[citation needed]


During 1981, the situation began to improve when electrification and upgrades to the line out of St Pancras (later part of Thameslink) displaced the line from Kentish Town. A new link to Gospel Oak was built and the hourly service from Kentish Town was replaced by the current route from Gospel Oak with two trains per hour. The service remained relatively unreliable, largely due to the age of the rolling stock used, which were initially Class 115 and 108 units, replaced in the early 1990s by Class 117 and 121 units.[citation needed]

Private operators

A Silverlink Class 150 at Gospel Oak

Initially part of British Rail Network SouthEast, the line was privatised in 1994, the track being owned by Railtrack (subsequently Network Rail) with the passenger service provided by the North London Railways franchise. This passed to National Express in 1997, which operated the line under the brand name Silverlink until November 2007. Under Silverlink, the slam door trains were replaced by Class 150 units in 2000, which improved reliability significantly. There were minor improvements in station facilities (such as CCTV and information points) but no major investment to upgrade the line and boost capacity, and the stations remained unstaffed.

London Overground

Early London Overground branded signage at Wanstead Park

During the opening years of the twenty-first century, many lines within London were running at full capacity, and as a consequence the line took on a new strategic significance as a bypass, relieving load on other lines by allowing passengers to travel between north and east London directly.

The Railways Act 2005 abolished the franchise and gave the operation of passenger services to Transport for London (TfL). During 2005, TfL started funding a small number of additional peak time and late evening services to relieve the worst overcrowding.[citation needed]

In November 2007, TfL took full control of the line, after which it introduced improved late night and weekend services, and staff, ticket machines and Oyster equipment at all stations. The frequency was increased to three trains per hour during morning and afternoon peaks and the line was included on the Tube map for the first time.[citation needed]

The line was closed throughout most of September 2008 for upgrade work carried out by Network Rail. Capacity was increased from six trains per hour to eight (four each for passenger and goods trains). By replacing the overbridges carrying Sussex Way and Albert Road, and lowering the track in some other locations, it was made possible for W10 loading gauge goods trains to operate. Electrification was not included.[14]

In 2010, eight new Class 172 Turbostar diesel trains replaced the Class 150 units, with two 23-metre coaches and the option to introduce a third coach.[15][16] The service frequency was increased to four trains per hour in January 2011.[17]


The electrified stretch at South Tottenham (completed before the rest of the line)

During 2008, electrification was ruled out by the Mayor of London on grounds of cost and difficulty of electrifying a line with so many viaducts and bridges,[18] but the Network Route Utilisation Strategy published by Network Rail in October 2009 showed a benefit–cost ratio for the scheme of 2.4:1.[19] During 2012, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, indicated that funding was "a matter for the Department for Transport".[19]

In 2011, Network Rail proposed electrification in Control Period 5 (CP5), however, in July 2012, Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Transport, stated that electrification was not included in the High Level Output Specification for CP5, and that any funds would need to be provided by TfL.[20] In August, the Mayor wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport to seek a way forward, and "she committed her officials to support work with TfL, Network Rail, train operators and other industry parties to see if a viable way can be found to bridge the funding gap."[21]

During November 2012, the magazine Modern Railways reported that the Department for Transport had ruled out the work on the basis of an estimated cost of £90 million, in contrast to an estimate of £40 million by TfL.[22]

In June 2013, it was announced that £115 million of funding for electrification would be made available as part of upgrades to rail infrastructure included in the government's 2013 spending round.[23] At the same time Transport for London announced that they had obtained a £90m commitment from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Transport.[24]

In September 2015, Network Rail awarded the £56.9 million contract to electrify the line to J. Murphy & Sons.[25] There were part closures (at weekends and from South Tottenham to Barking) from June to late September 2016, followed by a full closure from October 2016 to February 2017. In February 2017, Network Rail announced that whilst the line would re-open as scheduled, they were not able to complete all the work planned due to "incorrect" designs and late delivery of materials.[26] Further evening and weekend works until late June 2017 were already planned, followed by around four months of commissioning work before the electric wires could be turned on so that Class 710 trains could run.[27] Although the line was completely electrified by mid-January 2018,[28] delays prevented the introduction of new electric trains until 2019.[29][30]

The line was electrified using the NR Series 2 OLE (Overhead Line Equipment) range.[31]

New trains

A new Class 710 four-coach electric train at Barking station

On account of the completion of electrification in 2018, new electric Class 710 trains were supposed to run from March 2018. However, the delivery of these trains was delayed by the manufacturer; at one point, officials were not even willing to divulge an anticipated service date for the Class 710 sets.[32][33][34]

Due to the Class 172 units being needed by West Midlands Trains, three Class 378 units (378 206, 378 209 and 378 232) were moved from other parts of the London Overground and shortened down from five to four carriages to provide an interim service until the class 710 units entered service. However, six trains are needed to be able to run a full service, so from 15 March 2019 (the day the last Class 172 units left London Overground) the frequency on the line was halved to two trains per hour.[33]

Increases in passenger numbers led to severe overcrowding at peak times, but it was not possible to increase peak frequencies without reducing the number of goods trains, as the line could accommodate only eight trains per hour in each direction. The two-coach Class 172 diesel trains in use between 2010 and 2019 were incapable of handling the increased number of passengers experienced after the incorporation into the London Overground. Between 2016 and 2018 the line was electrified by Network Rail; this work was delayed due to a number of design, track works and delivery problems. At the same time, platforms were lengthened to accommodate the new four-coach electric Class 710 trains. These trains were intended to be introduced in the spring of 2018, but the delivery was delayed by the manufacturer, the first two entering service on 23 May 2019,[35] but the existing two trains per hour service was maintained until the full timetable was restored in June of that year.[36] The full fleet entered service in August 2019.[37] Because the delay caused timetable cutbacks and continued overcrowding, TfL offered a month's free travel, financed by the manufacturer Bombardier, to compensate passengers for the months of disruption they experienced.

Extension to Barking Riverside


The line was extended southeast by 4.5 kilometres (2.8 mi) from the terminus at Barking to serve the Barking Riverside regeneration area, a brownfield site with permission for around 10,800 new homes.[38] Proposed in the mid 2010s following cancellation of the DLR extension to Dagenham Dock, the extension was approved in 2017,[39] leading to construction commencing during late 2018.[40] Running partially alongside the existing London, Tilbury and Southend Railway line and then a new viaduct to the Barking Riverside station, the extension opened to passengers on Monday 18 July 2022[41] at an estimated cost of £327m.[42]



In July 2023, Sadiq Khan, Head of TFL and Mayor Of London announced that it would be giving each of the six Overground services unique names, relevant to the "historical contributions by minority groups" of the area the service passes through by the end of the following year.[43][44] On 15 February 2024, it was confirmed that the Gospel Oak to Barking section would be named the Suffragette line (to honour the Suffragette movement in Barking) and would be coloured green on the updated network map.[45]

Accidents and incidents


On 23 January 2020, a freight wagon derailed between Leyton Midland Road and Walthamstow Queen's Road stations, causing extensive damage to more than 2.5 miles (4 km) of track; the line was closed between Barking and South Tottenham stations while repair works took place, whereby 10,000 tonnes of ballast, 5,300 concrete sleepers and 39 new pieces of rail were installed.[46] The line re-opened on 19 February 2020.[47]

Current operations


The line carries both goods and passenger traffic. It is owned by Network Rail, with the exception of the Barking Riverside branch which is owned by Transport for London. It has thirteen stations, eleven of which are managed by London Overground, one by c2c and one by London Underground.

Passenger services on the line are operated by Arriva Rail London as part of the London Overground network under contract to TfL. There are four trains per hour in each direction, running from around 06:30 to 23:30 on Monday to Saturday, and around 06:30 to 22:00 on Sundays.[48][49][50] There is a single weekday morning service from Woodgrange Park to Willesden Junction, calling at all intermediate stations except for Gospel Oak.

The line is heavily used by freight as it provides part of an orbital route around London, connecting with many radial routes and the North London Line at Gospel Oak. Freight services are operated by DB Cargo UK, GB Railfreight and Freightliner.[citation needed]

Other services use parts of the line infrequently, or as a diversionary route, but do not stop at most stations:

The line has an active users' group, "The Barking–Gospel Oak Rail User Group".[52]



Except at the interchange stations, staffed ticket offices were withdrawn by BR in the late 1980s. With operations transferred to London Overground, self-service ticket machines were introduced in November 2007. Oyster- and contactless-card validators (for touching in and out) are at all stations. The ticket machines can be used to load credit onto Oyster cards. Passengers are required to buy tickets, or touch in with their Oyster or contactless cards, or else face a penalty fare.

Owing to the lack of ticket barriers and the difficulty of ticket verification when trains are crowded, the line has historically had a high level of fare avoidance. Under Silverlink most stations lacked any ticket purchasing facilities. In theory, passengers could purchase tickets from the conductors on the trains, but it was not always possible to do this. Following the introduction of the current ticketing arrangements, ticketless travel fell from an estimated peak of 40% under Silverlink, to 2% in March 2008.[53]

Passenger volume


The number of paying passengers has increased very significantly since London Overground assumed the line's management.

This is the passenger volume for the years beginning April 2002 to April 2023.[54]

Station usage
Station name 2002–03 2004–05 2005–06 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18 2018–19 2019–20 2020–21 2021–22 2022–23
Gospel Oak 627,750 340,980 397,700 1,511,609 922,699 1,052,692 956,474 1,508,264 2,198,128 2,755,214 3,498,058 3,568,772 2,629,076 2,355,852 2,379,460 2,699,604 2,458,922 1,112,612 2,005,642 2,223,682
Upper Holloway 189,632 52,331 47,992 206,090 204,715 283,884 285,272 505,822 736,306 900,538 1,086,512 1,166,102 1,291,668 415,180 696,286 1,088,442 974,102 594,500 1,063,258 1,159,000
Crouch Hill 72,727 45,251 44,680 271,491 152,633 189,696 171,598 321,100 497,964 636,424 789,704 832,150 825,262 284,672 469,790 706,722 596,958 353,194 668,250 726,486
Harringay Green Lanes No data 36,457 34,052 319,250 228,338 299,934 273,160 502,600 762,442 955,660 1,189,990 1,292,534 1,395,266 408,558 722,864 1,075,256 927,894 617,572 1,025,222 1,106,422
South Tottenham 135,208 45,834 42,090 243,519 183,840 232,748 225,126 441,988 657,598 799,950 1,001,870 1,046,516 1,379,768 409,534 748,758 1,168,598 948,036 683,162 1,054,286 1,129,644
Blackhorse Road No data 26,143 22,593 169,067 86,550 69,904 184,472 444,802 669,050 828,002 813,532 1,101,636 2,013,700 774,220 1,428,396 2,014,394 1,838,242 972,286 1,753,120 1,932,462
Walthamstow Queen's Road 76,675 34,379 30,503 62,520 68,681 69,418 86,904 216,142 334,630 405,656 458,732 541,314 945,750 218,732 500,768 734,832 644,254 404,150 689,920 764,968
Leyton Midland Road 110,046 34,865 32,407 285,208 224,047 308,836 302,722 501,186 749,488 951,730 1,182,122 1,355,070 1,340,438 286,620 795,236 1,178,122 1,014,328 631,408 1,101,844 1,193,380
Leytonstone High Road 60,227 31,542 26,724 261,238 224,047 251,676 244,624 416,310 587,078 733,060 858,864 1,001,820 977,634 210,496 570,554 837,232 709,980 437,732 801,860 841,092
Wanstead Park 52,477 29,014 25,717 179,718 147,521 215,262 213,644 351,450 505,344 627,170 767,308 845,926 1,013,078 212,572 563,186 886,990 769,666 517,316 871,416 890,942
Woodgrange Park 52,320 29,090 25,256 173,771 115,969 168,434 171,972 310,006 484,632 602,428 702,302 750,758 977,648 196,244 513,594 764,606 629,330 453,500 731,542 775,936
Barking 4,687,665 5,121,894 4,908,499 3,762,562 3,559,402 3,753,582 4,677,952 6,515,606 7,427,422 8,072,356 8,330,632 9,675,012 13,428,608 12,786,542 13,473,374 14,451,652 13,831,488 6,742,918 11,231,850 12,730,212
Barking Riverside 461,384
The annual passenger usage is based on sales of tickets in stated financial years from Office of Rail and Road estimates of station usage. The statistics are for passengers arriving and departing from each station and cover twelve-month periods that start in April. Methodology may vary year on year. Usage from the periods 2019-20 and especially 2020-21 onwards have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic


  • The large increases in the year beginning April 2006 were partly due to travelcards for National Rail journeys being made from stations that have only a London Underground office and also using a different methodology to estimate likely journeys made from National Rail stations in Zone 1.
  • The large increases in the year beginning April 2010 were partly due to Oyster Cards being introduced in January 2010,[55] and new rolling stock.
  • Usage of the Gospel Oak to Barking line on the London Overground reduced as a result of engineering works throughout the year. Work included a full closure between October 2016 and February 2017.
  • Barking Riverside opened in 2022.


Class 378 at Harringay Green Lanes station
Class 710 standing at Barking

Until 2010 London Overground operated six Class 150 two-coach diesel units on the line. They were replaced by eight Class 172/0 two-coach diesel multiple units (DMUs).

In 2017, all trains were diesel powered as the line was not fully electrified, with only two short sections having overhead electrification, at South Tottenham, to provide a link from Seven Sisters to Stratford, and from the junction with the Great Eastern Main Line to Barking but excluding the bay platform which this service uses. These sections were used only by occasional electric trains on other routes or by goods trains.[citation needed]

Electrification of the line was completed in 2018, but electric trains did not run at first as the delivery of the new Class 710 sets had been delayed.[56] As the leases for the Class 172 came to an end in early 2019, London Overground temporarily shortened three of its Class 378s to run on the line to substitute the Class 172s until the long-delayed Class 710s entered service on 23 May 2019.[35] All of the Class 378s were replaced by Class 710s by August 2019.


Sign advertising the interchange at Gospel Oak

The line has same-station interchanges with:

There are out-of-station interchanges at:[57]

There are official TfL out-of-station-interchanges,[60] whereby the passenger can continue an unbroken journey between:

Two other interchanges are walkable:

Station facilities

Walthamstow Queens Road station entrance

Except at the interchange stations, station facilities are very basic. There are small shelters, information points with recorded service information, information screens and CCTV cameras. Typically, there are one or two staff members on duty. Where there are no station buildings they operate out of container-sized portable offices.

Step-free access


The line has some stations with step-free access, allowing wheelchairs/pushchairs etc. easy access from street level to the platforms, at Gospel Oak, Upper Holloway, Harringay Green Lanes, South Tottenham, Walthamstow Queens Road, Barking[61] and Barking Riverside.[41]

As the trains do not align exactly with the platform height, wheelchair users require assistance from a member of staff to board or alight from trains. The only exception however is at the newest station on the line, Barking Riverside, built with level access.



Residents in Walthamstow complained in 2012 that vibrations from goods traffic on the line were causing damage to their houses.[62]



Castle Green


As part of the extension to Barking Riverside, a station, called Castle Green, at Renwick Road on the London, Tilbury & Southend Railway was proposed.[63] Although not built as part of the extension to Barking Riverside, the station site was safeguarded so that it can be built at a later stage.[64]

Potential Abbey Wood extension


Following the plan to extend the line to Barking Riverside, there were also proposals to extend the line further across the river to Abbey Wood via Thamesmead, to allow for easier Orbital journeys in East London, and provide Thamesmead with a railway connection for the first time.[65] This was outlined in the R25 orbital railway proposal in 2014,[66] and the potential of a future extension was mentioned in the inspectors report of the Transport and Works Order authorising the extension to Barking Riverside.[39]

However, in 2019 Transport for London and City Hall proposed an extension of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) to serve Thamesmead instead of an extension of the Overground, as part of the proposed Thamesmead and Abbey Wood OAPF (Opportunity Area Planning Framework).[67] A DLR extension was chosen due to lower connectivity benefits of an Overground extension, the low frequency (four trains per hour) of the Gospel Oak to Barking line, and — most significantly — a construction cost twice as much as the DLR, as the gradients required to cross the River Thames would require large scale tunnelling works when compared to the DLR.[68] Despite recommending an extension of the DLR to Thamesmead, the consultation also noted that an extension of the Gospel Oak to Barking line could provide good orbital transport links in the long term.

Other proposed changes


Local residents and users of the line have proposed adding a station between Leytonstone High Road and Wanstead Park to serve the Cann Hall area. The Leyton and Wanstead branch of the Labour Party has expressed an interest in the proposal.[69] The line's user group and Islington Borough Council have been pressing for the reopening of the station at Junction Road, as its proximity to Tufnell Park Underground station would allow interchange with the Northern line.[70]


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Further reading

  • "London's forgotten railway". RAIL. No. 321. EMAP Apex Publications. 31 December 1997 – 13 January 1998. pp. 18–22. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.