Gospel Oak to Barking Line

Gospel Oak to Barking Line

A London Overground train approaching Leytonstone High Road.
Type Suburban rail and goods
System National Rail
Status Temporarily Closed
Locale Greater London
Termini Gospel Oak
Stations 12
Services 1
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) London Overground
Rolling stock Class 172 "Turbostar"
Number of tracks Two
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification 25kV AC OHLE
(Woodgrange Park - Barking, around South Tottenham)
Route map
North London Line
to Willesden Junction
Midland Main Line
to the North
Gospel Oak

North London Line
to Stratford

Highgate Road (High Level)
Highgate Road (Low Level)

Kentish Town London Underground Northern line
Midland Main Line
to St Pancras International
Junction Road
Upper Holloway
Hornsey Road
Crouch Hill
Edgware, Highgate
& London Railway
East Coast Main Line
Piccadilly line
Harringay Green Lanes
Victoria line

St Ann's Road
Lea Valley Lines
(Seven Sisters branch)
South Tottenham
Lea Valley Lines
(Temple Mills branch)

River Lea

Blackhorse Road London Underground
Lea Valley Lines
(Chingford branch)
Walthamstow Queen's Road
Leyton Midland Road
A12 road
Central line
Leytonstone High Road
Wanstead Park
Great Eastern Main Line
Woodgrange Park
River Roding
North Circular Road
High Speed 1

London, Tilbury & Southend Rly
to Fenchurch Street

East Ham
East Ham Depot
Barking London Underground National Rail
London, Tilbury & Southend Rly
via Upminster
Barking Freightliner Terminal

London, Tilbury & Southend Rly
via Purfleet

Barking Riverside(proposed)

The Gospel Oak to Barking Line (sometimes unofficially called the GOBLIN)[1] is part of the Network Rail network of railway lines. It carries both through goods trains and London Overground passenger trains, connecting Gospel Oak station in north London and Barking station in east London. The line is part of Network Rail Strategic Route 6, and is classified as a London and South East Commuter line.[2] For much of its existence the line has played a minor role in London's transport system; however, it is now receiving significant investment to increase its capacity, which will include full 25 kV AC overhead electrification, due to be completed in June 2017.


A 1914 map of the Tottenham and Hampstead Junction Railway

Original lines

The line has existed in its current form since 1981, and 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.

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.

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 in 1926. The connection to East Ham was abandoned in 1958.

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).[3]

The line was considered for closure to passengers in 1963 as part of the Beeching Axe,[4] but as Beeching's proposals for London were not implemented for the most part, the line remained open. Even so, it was allowed to fall into a poor state of repair and reliability, 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.

Introduction of the present route

The situation began to improve in 1981 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 very unreliable due to the age of the trains, which were initially Class 115 and 108 units, replaced in the early 1990s by class 117 and 121 units.

Private operators

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

Many lines within London were running at full capacity, and as a consequence the line took on a new strategic significance as a by-pass, 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). In 2005, TfL started funding a small number of additional peak time and late evening services to relieve the worst overcrowding.

TfL took full control in November 2007 introducing 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.

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.[5]

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.[6][7] The service frequency was increased to four trains per hour in January 2011.[8]

Current operations

The line is owned and maintained by Network Rail as part of Great Britain's national rail network. It carries both goods and passenger traffic.

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 Monday to Saturday from about 06:30 to about 2330, and on Sundays until about 22:00.[9][10][11][12]

Freight services are operated by DB Cargo UK, GB Railfreight and Freightliner. 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.

Other services that use parts of the line infrequently and as a diversionary route, but do not call intermediately are: c2c which runs a few services on the east end of the line through Woodgrange Park; London Overground also runs a service three times a week on Saturdays one between Liverpool Street and Enfield Town, one between Liverpool Street and Edmonton Green and the other between Liverpool Street and Cheshunt via Stratford and Seven Sisters. There is also a single workday morning service from Woodgrange Park to Willesden Junction, calling at all intermediate stations except for Gospel Oak.

The line has an active users' group, "The Barking - Gospel Oak Rail User Group".[13]


Except at the interchange stations, staffed ticket offices were withdrawn by BR in the late 1980s. Under London Overground, self-service ticket machines were introduced in November 2007. Oyster 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 their Oyster 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.[14]

Passenger volume

The number of paying passengers has increased very significantly since the start of London Overground.

This is the passenger volume for the years beginning April 2002 to April 2014:

Note: The large increases in the year beginning April 2006 were 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 due to Oyster Cards being introduced in January 2010,[15] new rolling stock and the general increase in usage of London Overground services.


Artist's impression of a London Overground-branded Class 172 unit
A diesel Class 150 at Gospel Oak

All trains are diesel powered as the line is 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 are used only by occasional electric trains on other routes or by goods trains.

London Overground operates eight Class 172/0 two-coach diesel multiple units (DMUs) exclusively on the line. Until 2010 the passenger train fleet consisted of six Class 150 diesel units with two coaches each.


Sign advertising the interchange at Gospel Oak

The line has same-station interchange with the North London Line at Gospel Oak, the Victoria line at Blackhorse Road and the Hammersmith & City line, District line and c2c at Barking. There are out-of-station interchanges at:[16]

There are official TfL out-of-station-interchanges,[19] 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 and Barking.[20]

As the trains do not align exactly with the platform height, wheelchair users will probably require assistance to board or leave them.


Geographical layout of the Gospel Oak to Barking line


Residents in Walthamstow complained that vibrations from goods traffic on the line was causing damage to their houses.[21]


Confirmed changes


The electrified stretch at South Tottenham

Electrification of the line has been proposed for many years. In 2008, it was ruled out on grounds of cost and difficulty of electrifying a line with so many viaducts and bridges,[22] 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.[23] In 2012, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, indicated that funding was "a matter for the Department for Transport".[23]

In 2011, Network Rail proposed electrification in Control Period 5 (CP5), but 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.[24] 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."[25]

In 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.[26]

It was announced in June 2013 that £115 million of funding for electrification was being made available as part of upgrades to rail infrastructure included in the government's 2013 spending round.[27] At the same time Transport for London announced that they had obtained a £90 million commitment from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Transport.[28]

In September 2015, Network Rail awarded the £56.9m contract to electrify the line to J. Murphy & Sons.[29] There will be part closures (at weekends and from South Tottenham to Barking) from June to late September 2016, followed by a full closure from October to February 2017. There will be further evening and weekend works until late June 2017, and finally around four months of further work to add the wires so that electric Class 710 trains can run from early 2018.[30]

The line will be electrified using the NR Series 2 OLE range.[31]

Longer trains

Increases in passenger numbers have led to severe overcrowding at peak times, but it is not possible to increase peak frequencies without reducing the number of goods trains, as the line can accommodate only eight trains per hour in each direction. Any lengthening of passenger trains will require station upgrades, as some of the platforms are too short to accommodate longer trains. In 2008, works for this were planned to have been completed by 2010,[32] but as of January 2014 were not completed. Initial plans to extend or replace the existing diesel trains with three coach diesel units were dropped following the approval of the electrification project. Instead a new fleet of 4 coach Class 710 Aventra electric units has been ordered from Bombardier.[33][34]

Proposed changes

Extension to Barking Riverside

It was announced as part of the 2014 United Kingdom budget that the Gospel Oak to Barking Line of London Overground would be extended to Barking Riverside.[35] £263 million will be spent to extend the line to the brownfield 10,800-home Barking Riverside housing development, which Barking and Dagenham Council does not believe to be viable without improved transport connections. The developers of the site, Barking Riverside Limited, will provide £172m towards the project with the remainder coming from Transport for London.[36] Construction will start in 2017 and be completed by 2021.[36]

Thamesmead extension

In addition to the plan to extend the Gospel Oak to Barking Line to Barking Riverside, there are also proposals to extend it further across the river via a future Belvedere Crossing to a station in Thamesmead, and then on Abbey Wood to connect with the future Crossrail line.[37]

Improved interchange and new station at Junction Road

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.[38] 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 tube station would allow interchange with the Northern line.[39]


  1. "GOBLIN commuters get a boost". Barking & Dagenham Yellow Advertiser. 9 May 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-16.
  2. "Route 6 - North London Line and Thameside : 2009 Route Plan" (PDF). Network Rail. 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-28.
  3. "London's Abandoned Stations". Abandonedstations.org.uk. Retrieved 2010-07-11.
  4. Map 9A from The Reshaping of Britain's Railways ("The Beeching Report") showing services proposed to be withdrawn in London
  5. DfT press release Barking to Gospel Oak Railway and Freight Capability Enhancements
  6. "Transport for London signs new train leasing contract | Transport for London". Tfl.gov.uk. 2008-02-20. Retrieved 2011-05-30.
  7. "Gospel Oak to Barking".
  8. "Gospel-Oak-Barking-May2011" (PDF). Transport for London. 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-25.
  9. Arriva wins £1.5bn London Overground contract BBC News 18 March 2016
  10. Transport for London announces intention to award London Overground contract to Arriva Arriva 18 March 2016
  11. TfL confirm London Overground contract with Arriva signed Railway Technology Magazine 18 April 2016
  12. "The Barking - Gospel Oak Rail User Group". Barking-gospeloak.org.uk. Retrieved 2010-07-11.
  13. London Overground Review page 5
  14. "Station Usage". Rail Statistics. Office of Rail Regulation. Retrieved 2012-04-19.
  15. National Rail Timetable - Page 46. Retrieved 2013-10-25
  16. Geoff Marshall and Matthew Frost. "New Station Entrance, Walthamstow - StationMasterApp". Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  17. Binns, Daniel (25 January 2013). "Link between Walthamstow Central and Queens Road stations 'due this summer'". Waltham Forest Guardian. Retrieved 2013-06-27.
  18. "Oyster and National Rail". Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  19. National Rail, Accessibility Maps (London and South East) Archived 15 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. "Residents demand action over 'shaking' homes". BBC News. BBC. 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
  21. "Mayor answers to London (Question 1541/2008)". London Assembly. 2008-07-16. Retrieved 2010-07-11.
  22. 1 2 "Mayor answers to London: Barking to Gospel Oak line (Question 1158/2012)". London Assembly. 23 May 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-05.
  23. "Rail Investment: 16 Jul 2012: House of Commons debates". TheyWorkForYou. Retrieved 2012-12-05.
  24. "Mayor answers to London: Diesel trains (Question 2942/2012)". London Assembly. 17 October 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-05.
  25. Wallis, Glenn (1 November 2012). "Barking–Gospel Oak Line User Group News eBulletin 1 November 2012" (PDF). Barking–Gospel Oak Line User Group. Retrieved 2012-12-05.
  26. HM Treasury (June 2013). "Investing in Britain's future" (PDF). The Stationery Office. p. 26. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  27. "Mayor secures 'unprecedented' transport settlement for London to support long-term economic growth". Greater London Authority. 26 June 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  28. http://www.railtechnologymagazine.com/Rail-News/j-murphy-sons-to-carry-out-electrification-of-gospel-oak-barking-route
  29. "TfL tries to reduce line-closure time for GOBLIN electrification". 2 February 2016.
  30. "CP5 Enhancements Delivery Plan June 2015" (PDF). Network Rail. June 2015. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  31. "Mayor answers to London (Question 1540/2008)". Greater London Authority. 2008-07-16. Retrieved 2010-07-11.
  32. "Green Light for Electric Trains at Last!" (PDF). Barking - Gospel Oak Rail User Group.
  33. Sadler, Katie (3 July 2015). "Bombardier to supply and maintain 180 AVENTRA vehicles for London Overground". European Railway Review. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  34. Freddy Mayhew. "Budget 2014: Commitment to Overground extension to Barking Riverside announced alongside funding for new homes". Barking and Dagenham Post. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  35. 1 2 "London Overground Barking Riverside extension approved".
  36. "Call to bring London Overground to Thamesmead – south east London's largest town with no trains". This is London Local. 22 September 2014.
  37. "WALTHAM FOREST: Campaign for new station in Leytonstone". Waltham Forest Guardian. 29 February 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  38. "BGO History". Retrieved 12 February 2014.

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