West London Orbital

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West London Orbital
West London Orbital Route Map.png
Route map of the proposed West London Orbital extension of the London Overground network
LocationLondon boroughs of Camden, Barnet, Brent, Ealing, Hounslow, United Kingdom
ProposerWest London Alliance group of local authorities
Project websitetfl.gov.uk
TypeLondon Overground extension
Cost estimate£264M
Completion date2020s
StakeholdersGreater London Authority, Transport for London, Network Rail

The West London Orbital is a proposed extension to the London Overground railway system in London, UK. The extension would make use of a combination of existing freight and passenger lines including the Dudding Hill Line, North London Line and Hounslow Loop. The route would run for approximately 11 miles (17 km) from West Hampstead and Hendon at the northern end to Hounslow at the western end via Brent Cross West, Neasden, Harlesden, Old Oak Common, South Acton and Brentford.

If the extension were opened, it would improve rail connectivity across West and North-West London and establish a number of new connections to existing radial rail infrastructure including Thameslink, the Jubilee line, the Bakerloo line, High Speed 2, Crossrail and the Piccadilly line. It is anticipated the line would be operational by the mid-2020s, due to the fact that it makes use of existing underused rail infrastructure rather than requiring significant lengths of new track or tunnels to be built. The planned line would follow a portion of the route of the former Super Outer Circle that was operated by the Midland Railway from 1878 to 1880.

The scheme is supported by the Mayor and Transport for London's Transport Strategy;[1] it is still at the proposal stage, although TfL published a business case for the plans in August 2019.[2]

Detail of the scheme[edit]

The Dudding Hill freight line, which may be re-opened to passenger services
West London Orbital
Proposed route
Hendon National Rail
Brent Cross West
under construction
Dudding Hill Line
(currently freight only)
West Hampstead National Rail North London Line Jubilee Line
Dudding Hill
closed 1964
Neasden Jubilee Line
Harlesden Watford DC Line Bakerloo Line {
Old Oak Common Lane National Rail Elizabeth line North London Line
Acton Central
South Acton North London Line
Lionel Road London River Services
Brentford National Rail
Syon Lane
Hounslow National Rail

The West London Orbital line consists of a number of distinct sections: The Dudding Hill Line, the North London Line and the Hounslow Loop. The Dudding Hill line itself has had no scheduled passenger service for over a century. It has no stations, no electrification and a 30 mph (48 km/h) speed limit with semaphore signalling, and is lightly used by freight and very occasional passenger charter trains. It is roughly 4 miles (6.4 km) long.

Near the site of Old Oak Common the West London Orbital would connect to the existing North London Line, and then further south at Acton, use the link down to the Hounslow Loop to reach Brentford and Hounslow. Taken together, this set of routes would be known as the “West London Orbital” railway.

In March 2017 the West London Alliance group of local authorities commissioned a study to assess the feasibility of the line so that a decision could be taken as to whether it merited pursuing further. This study found that:[3]

  • The route is technically feasible.
  • The scheme represents a high value for money, with a benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of 2.2.
  • Peak three-hour demand at 3,000 passengers southbound and 2,500 passengers northbound in 2031. This suggests that the level of passenger demand may be able to sustain a regular four-trains-per-hour or more service along the line.
  • The line would enable significant new development to be undertaken along its length, supporting the creation of new homes and jobs.
  • It would drastically improve orbital travel times around West London compared with the equivalent journey by car. For example, a journey from Barnet to Park Royal (enabling a change on to Crossrail or HS2 services) would take approximately 12+12 minutes. A trip from Acton to Cricklewood or Brent Cross would take approximately 16+12 minutes. A journey along the whole line from Barnet[clarification needed] to Hounslow would take approximately 39 minutes (times the same for reverse journeys).
  • Eight trains per hour in each direction would be achievable given existing traffic along the length of the route.
  • It would connect town centres and regeneration areas, including the 45,000 new homes and 86,000 new jobs that will be created at Old Oak Common, Wembley and Brent Cross regeneration areas, putting a greater number of jobs and homes within easy reach of one another and supporting intensification in growth areas.
  • It would remove a significant number of cars from the road, reducing congestion and improving journey times, particularly along the North Circular Road, as the population of London approaches 10 million over the next 20 years.
  • It would allow passengers in outer London to access new services on Crossrail and HS2 via an interchange at Old Oak Common Lane.
  • Potential to unlock significant amount of new housing.
  • It would help to reduce passenger demand for central London stations such as King's Cross and Paddington for orbital journeys that currently require travellers to go into central London before then travelling back out to reach their destination.

In June 2017 Transport for London published the Mayor's Transport Strategy, which stated that London government would work with the relevant boroughs to explore the feasibility of the proposed service, that would become the West London Orbital.[4] In March 2018 the Mayor's Transport Strategy was published, which includes a proposal for this orbital connection to Old Oak between Hounslow and Brent Cross.[5]

Current position[edit]

Map of the proposed route. TfL roundels indicate interchanges with other Underground or Overground services. Larger icons indicate new stations.

The London Mayor's Transport Strategy (MTS), published on 28 February 2018 and ratified by the London Assembly on 8 March 2018, includes plans for a West London Orbital railway line under Proposal 88. The mayor's proposal for the service highlights that utilising new and existing orbital connections in west London could also improve public transport connections in the city centre.[6]

The West London Alliance group of local authorities have expressed support for the West London Orbital Scheme, and have confirmed that it will be incorporated in to all Local Plans.[7] Discussions are currently underway between West London councils and London government on the future of the scheme.[8]

A number of independent analyses of the scheme have been published, including by Modern Railways magazine[9] and the independent blogging community[10][11]

In April 2019, £320 million of funding was approved for a new Brent Cross West railway station, that would also serve the potential new service.[12]

In June 2019, Transport for London published the Strategic Outline Business Case for the scheme and concluded that there was a strong case for the scheme as it had a medium to high benefit-cost ratio. TfL found that for 8 trains per hour in the core the BCR was between 1.4 and 1.8 and for 4 trains per hour it would be 1.7 to 2.0. As the scheme was found to have a strong business case, TfL stated that it intended to proceed to the next stage which will look at how the scheme can be funded.[13] A more detailed business case is expected to be developed in the next 18 months.[14]

Earlier proposals[edit]

A number of routes have previously been examined for new orbital tube lines and improved connectivity across West and North London. It was considered that the most likely route of the previous proposal would be a north–south route running from Brent Cross to Surbiton, via Wembley Park, Ealing Broadway, Richmond and Kingston fully underground, connecting several London Underground and National Rail lines, including the forthcoming Crossrail (Elizabeth Line) at Ealing Broadway.

The proposal envisaged an underground driverless light rail train system similar to the Docklands Light Railway, and updated "to the most modern standards". The transit time from Brent Cross to Surbiton was quoted as 28 minutes, with a maximum train speed of 50 mph (80 km/h).

The promoters cited a number of reasons why they believed an underground scheme would be cost-effective at £1.75 billion: with lower tunnelling costs as the tunnel diameter would be smaller than for a heavy rail scheme; there are no other rail tunnels to avoid (as in central London); and the subsoil strata are suitable for modern tunnel boring machines.[citation needed]

An unrelated scheme of the same name was previously proposed in June 2008 by the West London Business group. That proposal involved the construction of a new underground line across West and South West London and did not progress beyond concept stage.

Additionally, Regional Eurostar proposals meant to send trains from Eurostar lines into Waterloo International station to London Heathrow Airport used parts of the orbital between Willesden Junction and Acton.[15]

Alternative orbital schemes[edit]

A number of other notable orbital rail schemes for London have been previously proposed:

  • R25 railway orbital around the Zone 3 area of London. First proposed in the Mayor of London's £1.3trn London Infrastructure 2050 plan, the line would use some existing National Rail and London Overground lines, linked by stretches of new railway.
  • Orbirail was a 2012 proposal for an outer "super loop" service roughy equivalent to a M25 for rail. The West London Orbital proposal makes use of some elements of this concept.
  • The Park Royal Partnership promoted a 'FastBus' scheme[16] of branded, limited-stop buses, between Wembley Park and North Acton stations and possibly beyond.
  • The 'North and West London Light Railway' (or the 'Brent Cross Railway') is a proposed rapid transit network. The scheme was originally developed by the London group of the Campaign for Better Transport, and mainly uses existing or abandoned surface railway corridors.


  1. ^ "Mayor Sadiq Khan backs West London Orbital Rail in draft transport strategy | Daily Echo". www.dailyecho.co.uk.
  2. ^ "WEST LONDON ORBITAL CASE SET OUT". www.keymodernrailways.com.
  3. ^ "The Beginnings". West London Alliance. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  4. ^ "Mayor's Transport Strategy 2018". London City Hall. 5 January 2015. Archived from the original on 26 July 2019. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  5. ^ "Mayor's Transport Strategy" (PDF). Greater London Authority. March 2018. Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 July 2019. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  6. ^ "Mayor's Transport Strategy 2018: Chapter five – New homes and jobs - Proposal 88" (PDF). London Assembly. 28 February 2018. p. 231. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 June 2018. xxxxx
  7. ^ "West London Orbital Rail (WLO) progress and next steps" (PDF). West London Economic Prosperity Board. 20 September 2017. Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  8. ^ Miller, Frederica (23 November 2017). "West London Orbital Railway talks gathering momentum". getwestlondon. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  9. ^ "Modern Railways - November 2017". pocketmags.com. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  10. ^ "New Railway Line For West London Proposed". The Anonymous Widower. 8 October 2017. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  11. ^ "New railway line for West London proposed". London News and Events Guide. 29 September 2017. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  12. ^ "Funding for homes and a new railway station in North London". www.ianvisits.co.uk.
  13. ^ West London Orbital – Strategic Outline Business Case Transport for London; June 2019
  14. ^ West London could get a £281 million overground line from Hounslow to West Hampstead My London; 28 June 2019
  15. ^ "Memorandum by Inter-Capital and Regional Rail Ltd (RES 4)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Parliament of the United Kingdom: House of Commons (Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs). 26 January 1999. p. Appendices Section 4.
  16. ^ "FastBus rapid transit scheme proposed" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 August 2012.

External links[edit]