West London Orbital

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West London Orbital Key Facts
LocationLondon, United Kingdom
ProposerWest London Alliance group of local authorities
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 that makes use of a combination of existing freight and passenger lines including the Dudding Hill Line, North London Line, and the Hounslow Loop. The route runs for approximately 11 miles from West Hampstead and Hendon at the northern end to Hounslow at the Western end via Brent Cross West, Neasden, Harlesden, Old Oak Common, Acton and Brentford.

The route would improve rail connectivity across West and North London, and establish a number of new connections to existing radial rail infrastructure including Thameslink, the Jubilee Line, Bakerloo Line, High Speed 2, Crossrail and the Piccadilly Line. It is anticipated the line will be operational by the mid-2020s, reflecting the fact that it makes use of existing under-used rail infrastructure rather than requiring significant lengths of new track or tunnels to be built.

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.

Detail of the scheme[edit]

Route map of the proposed West London Orbital extension of the London Overground network

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 miles per hour (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:

  • The route is technically feasible.
  • The scheme represents a high Value for Money, with a “Benefit-Cost Ratio” (BCR) of 2.2:1.
  • “Peak” three-hour demand at 3,000 passengers anti-clockwise and 2,500 passengers clockwise 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 Cross Rail or HS2 services) would take approximately 12.5 minutes. A trip from Acton to Cricklewood/Brent Cross would take approximately 16.5 minutes. A journey along the whole line from Barnet 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 A406, 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 High Speed Two via an interchange at Old Oak Common – Victoria Road.
  • Potential to unlock significant amount of new housing.
  • It would help to reduce passenger demand for central London Stations such as Kings 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 draft 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. 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.

Current position[edit]

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. It reads: “Most Londoners want to move around London – rather than in and out of the centre – every day, and the London Overground supports this type of travel. London Overground train service improvements are therefore needed to support new jobs and housing throughout inner London and parts of outer London.”

The West London Alliance group of local authorities have agreed that the West London Orbital Scheme is to be a shared strategic infrastructure priority across borough boundaries, and that it will be incorporated in to all Local Plans. Discussions are currently underway[1] between West London councils and London government on the future of the scheme.

A number of independent analysis of the scheme have been undertaken, including by Modern Railways[2] magazine and the independent blogging community[3][4]

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 1 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 80 km/h.

The promoters cited a number of reasons why they believed an underground scheme would be cost-effective at £1.75bn: 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 (TBMs).[4]

Alternative orbital schemes[edit]

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


  1. ^ Miller, Frederica (2017-11-23). "West London Orbital Railway talks gathering momentum". getwestlondon. Retrieved 2018-02-11.
  2. ^ "Modern Railways - November 2017". pocketmags.com. Retrieved 2018-02-11.
  3. ^ "New Railway Line For West London Proposed". The Anonymous Widower. 2017-10-08. Retrieved 2018-02-11.
  4. ^ "New railway line for West London proposed". London News and Events Guide. 2017-09-29. Retrieved 2018-02-11.
  5. ^ FastBus rapid transit scheme proposed Archived 9 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine