ELL: Updates, Launch Dates and A Glimpse Behind the Scenes

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This week saw the East London Line reach an important milestone – its official handover from the Balfour Beatty Carillion Joint Venture to TfL which was completed yesterday.

This means that the Line is now entering its final stages of development, focusing on the training and testing of both train and station staff and fixtures and fittings work.

In terms of launch dates, the 23rd May has long been seen as the most likely “full” opening date as this coincides with the National Rail Summer Timetable change. It’s not possible to run the whole line before that date as the new ELL services are dependent on several changes to other services that this timetable will usher in.

Emails received from the TfL enquiries desk this week on the subject of the ELL launch now appear to confirm this, as well as more limited services which will begin on the 4th April. In full, the current plan is to run the following:

From 4th April

Dalston Junction – New Cross Gate (4tph)
Dalston Junction – New Cross (4tph)

From 23rd May

Dalston Junction – New Cross (4tph)
Dalston Junction – West Croydon (4tph)
Dalston Junction – Crystal Palace (4tph)

Obviously the above is all dependent on the successful completion of testing. One final potential change may come if the decision is made to delay the commencement of the full 12tph until Gospel Oak – Stratford services resume after the NLL shutdown. This was suggested by the TfL spokesman at a recent public meeting as something currently being considered, and would likely mean the full launch would slip to either the 31st May or the 7th June. This has been the only time such a possibility has been mentioned thus far, however.

TfL’s current estimated journey times (based on a journey from Canada Water) are as follows:

Northbound

00:00:00 Canada Water
00:01:30 Rotherhithe
00:03:30 Wapping
00:05:30 Shadwell
00:08:00 Whitechapel
00:11:30 Shoreditch High Street
00:14:00 Hoxton
00:16:30 Haggerston
00:18:00 Dalston Jn.

Southbound

00:00:00 Canada Water
00:02:00 Surrey Quays
00:05:00 New Cross Gate
00:08:00 Brockley
00:11:00 Honor Oak Park
00:14:00 Forest Hill
00:16:30 Sydenham
00:20:00 Crystal Palace
00:19:00 Penge West
00:21:30 Anerley
00:24:30 Norwood Jn
00:30:00 West Croydon

Westbound

00:00:00 Canada Water
00:02:00 Surrey Quays
00:04:00 Surrey Canal Road
00:06:30 Queens Road Peckham
00:09:00 Peckham Rye
00:12:00 Denmark Hill
00:16:30 Clapham High St
00:18:30 Wandsworth Road
00:23:30 Clapham Junction

It is interesting to note that Surrey Canal Road gains a mention on the Westbound list. TfL were bullish towards the end of last year about the possibility of Surrey Canal Road station being built, but no announcement on financing has been forthcoming as of yet. TfL did confirm at a recent public meeting, however, that foundations and enabling works will be carried out at the station site in the coming months regardless of whether final financing has been agreed or not.

Training & Testing

As an additional point of interest to the all the above, LR was at Willesden Junction towards the end of last year where we were lucky enough to be given a brief overview of the current training setup for drivers of the new 378s.

Given the level of computerisation involved in the new rolling stock, the temptation is to think that the setup will be wholly high-tech. The reality, however, is an interesting mix of training equipment and methods.

The centre-piece of the training setup is the full-cab simulator, which interfaces with a small control room next door. The simulator allows the trainee to be taken through their paces in a relatively realistic environment by the Simulator Manager and Instructor (Paul Butterfield and Roy Brown kindly volunteering to fulfil those roles in our particular case).

The 378 cab in all its glory
Roy Brown demonstrates that most vital of skills for a Train Operator – how to adjust the seat.

The (well-rendered) route used for simulation purposes isn’t an exact copy of any of the current Overground Lines, but it has obviously been designed to mirror many of the key features and behaviours to be found on the network – our short session left us with a faint feeling that we’d passed through both Highbury & Islington and the Brondesbury Park area, for example. Passenger boarding behaviours also seemed reasonably well modelled and suitably random.

Unsurprisingly, one of the key opportunities the simulator provides is the ability to run trainees through a number of events that may be encountered in service, and to which they may need to respond. These range from the relatively mundane – such as the presence of debris by the line or a disabled passenger, to the more extreme – such as trackside fires and cars on crossings (those familiar with the North London Line may be slightly disappointed to discover that “man with overly large bike at Camden” did not appear to be a featured event). All events can be customized and thrown in as required during a session by the Simulator Manager.

The control room from which both events and weather can be controlled in real-time

Interestingly, simulator performances can be simulcast (or replayed) onto screens in the large training room adjacent, which must render group training sessions both interesting and (occasionally) embarassing.

Operations Manager Les Bird and Simulator Instructor Ian McClay prepare to politely comment on LR’s tendancy to run through red signals, whilst Simulator Manager Paul Butterfield looks on.

This training room itself also provides plenty of evidence that there are some areas in which more traditional training methods are still distinctly useful. Whilst its clear that training is less reliant on rote learning than times past, for example, the presence of large numbers of guides and charts clearly shows that a distinctly theoretical approach is still required at times.

Similarly, its clear that the need to roleplay and visualise situations beyond the simulator still plays a key role – opening the nondescript black cases found in the training room yields a model set that would be the pride of many modellers’ collections.

Models provide the opportunity for situations to be roleplayed and visualised easily

Overall, the training setup at Willesden yielded an interesting glance into something that all of the drivers now familiarising themselves with the new-and-improved ELL will have passed through. It’s a setup that will certainly have been busy in recent months, with the backup of 378 delivery meaning precious few units available for advanced driver testing.

Hopefully, however, what appeared – at least to the casual eye – to be a well thought out and executed setup will have helped mitigate the problems this has caused as we head towards launch.

Written by John Bull