One of the curious legacies of the post-Beeching railway era is the concept of the Parliamentary Train. Essentially, due to the mandatory consultation process that must now take place before a section of line is closed to scheduled passenger service, it is often easier (and cheaper) to run one train a week over sections of line that are no longer used rather than go through the lengthy process necessary to officially close them.

One such Parliamentary Train currently runs between Kensington and Olympia (IanVisits has an excellent account of a trip on the service last year). This is a legacy of the redesign of the Cross Country franchise in 2007.

When the franchise was drawn up, direct services between Brighton and Manchester were removed (largely to allow rolling stock to be redeployed for capacity improvements in the Midlands during the peak). Unfortunately, it was not realised until the franchise process was well underway that this would technically leave three small sections of line in West London without any passenger services. This would have constituted a line closure – even though there was no intention to actually do so (both freight and relatively regular charter services would still use the line).

The sections of line in question were:

  • Factory Junction – Latchmere Junction no.1 (a short chord between Wandsworth Road and Imperial Wharf stations)
  • Willesden West London Junction – Acton Wells Junction (between Shepherd’s Bush and Acton Main Line stations)
  • Acton Wells Junction – Acton East Junction (between Shepherd’s Bush and Acton Main Line stations)

After discussions with Southern, the only operator who still had Factory Junction – Latchmere Junction no.1 in their Track Access Agreement, a weekly service was established over this stretch of track. For the Willesden and Acton sections, however, a bus (and later taxi) rail-replacement service was instituted – keeping the sections of line technically in passenger service.

Since then, these services have all operated, albeit with very little traffic as all of these areas are arguably better served by other services. It seems, however, that the DfT is now ready to officially take the step of closing these sections of track to regular passenger traffic, as the notice below appeared in the Evening Standard on Friday marking the start of closure consultations:

Ending the Parliamentary Train

Ending the Parliamentary Train

Those interested in reading (or taking part) in the consultation can find the full DfT Consultation document here.

Ultimately, it’s a move that will have little effect on passengers. It will however, mark the removal of one of London’s minor transport quirks – and one that has fascinated both train aficionados and Sunday Supplement writers for some time.

For those looking for an alternative “Ghost Train,” LR believes that Paddington – Gerrards Cross is still running…

Thanks to PM for the spot

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There are 75 comments on this article
  1. Tom says:

    I believe Chiltern do still run one train a day into Paddington so that the drivers know the route in case Marylebone is closed for some reason. Came in useful last summer during the mainline works!

  2. Litttlejohn says:

    I think Tom is right – the Chiltern service to Paddington is really to maintain route knowledge rather than to avoid the cost of withdrawal. There was also a slightly different form of Parliamentary Train, which was one run to meet the requirements of the 1844 Railway Regulation Act, which required train operators to provide third class passengers with at least one train per day with covered carriages with seats, calling at every stationr on every route at a cost of no more than a penny per mile. In this case the trains were run because Parliament required them, not because it was a cheaper alternative to withdrawing them.

  3. swirlythingy says:

    If they’re “closing it to passenger services”, will this affect the aforementioned charter trains?

    I really must travel on that service before it’s too late…

  4. Chris says:

    swirlythingy, as NR dont intend to close the sections of track affected this doesnt change anything – freight, charter and test trains will continue to use the sections of track as before.

  5. Andrew Bowden says:

    A rare case of the DfT trying to rid itself of a parliamentary train then – they seem highly content to let most of them float around for no apparent reason. But then I guess this one has a bad cost-benefit ratio.

  6. Woodvale says:

    I was out one day exercising my Freedom Pass and realised that I was at Paddington in time to catch the Gerrards Cross service. Unfortunately, it runs non-stop to Gerrards Cross so I had to get an extension ticket rather than detraining at one of the Ruislips. The train had a conductor checking tickets (not onerous, there were only three or four passengers on the train) who told me that, when the new summer timetable comes into effect, it will be stopping at the Ruislips. It will be a lot easier and free for those of us with Freedom Passes, or One Day Z1-6 Travelcards, to travel that route.

    I’ve caught the Wandsworth Road to Olympia service as well – again non-stop – where it provides the stock for a Kensington Olympia-Clapham Junction shuttle during the evening rush hour. I wouldn’t be surprised if Southern continue to run the stock along that route to get it in position even if DfT succeed in the closure application.

  7. timbeau says:

    There is anothber parliamentary service in London – the 05;31 (I think) saturdays only service from Liverpool Street to Enfield takes a route via south Tottenham to keep two curves once used by the North Woolwich to Palace Gates line open.

    As others have commented, charter trains and diversions can still use the line – what ius being withdrawn is the scheduled passenger service over these lines

  8. Greg Tingey says:

    The Seven SIsters – S Tottenham – Tottenham S Jun working is ALSO for “route knowledge”.
    It has certainly been used at leat twice in the past year, for diversions, for either engineering works or to get round a emporary obstruction/failure

  9. Whiff says:

    The consultation report is surprisingly interesting and easy to read. The main point seems to be that they want to officially stop this service when the new overground timetable starts in December and the primary motivation appears to be DFT’s reluctance to keep paying for the ‘parliamentary bus’. There are a few other informative little titbits as well, most interestingly that the little-advertised bus between Ealing Broadway and Wandsworth Road via Kensington Olympia is used by between zero and three passengers a week! ( I don’t understand why the bus continues to Wandsworth Road when that stretch is already covered by the replacement train.)

    The report also suggests that the alternative to closure would be a train from Ealing Broadway to London Bridge. While this would clearly be a non-starter if only run once a day it does open up some intriguing possibilities that I haven’t seen discussed before. Could London Overground run a train from Ealing to say, Clapham Junction; it would certainly meet their criteria of trying to encourage people to travel round and not through London. Or could Southern run a train from Reading to Croydon as a counterpart to their Milton Keynes service.

  10. John Bull says:

    It is indeed a good read. I too was amused by the 0-3 average!

  11. Anonymous says:

    If the political will was there, a service from Gatwick to Heathrow could be introduced… (Brighton mainine/West London Line/Heathrow Connect). Tongue in cheek suggestion but as we know, Southern will be running more and longer trains along the WLL to cope with the unprecendented and projected increase in passengers but instead of spending money building a turnback north of Shepherd’s Bush, could that money be spent on extending these trains further on to Ealing Broadway/beyond to Heathrow?

  12. Steven Taylor says:

    Whilst the one train each way per weekday is pretty pointless, I cannot imagine it costs much as the train runs anyway. I have travelled on the services – AM and PM train, and my understanding is that they would run anyway as empty stock workings from Selhurst Depot whether or not passengers are carried.
    By the way, I had an interesting experience a year ago when I was the only passenger – owing to a points failure, the train could not stop at Wandsworth Road as it was routed down the reversable line with no platform. The guard asked me what station I would like to be set down – I selected West Norwood!!!

  13. Paul says:

    They already have, a turnback north of Shepherds Bush, it uses the entrance to North Pole depot, and the extra peak SN services already use it. However the second all day through SN WLL service is planned to go to Watford Jn or beyond…

    I’ve never been convinced about this recurring proposal for a ’round London’ Heathrow to Gatwick rail link, because it will be provided by Crossrail and Thameslink with one change anyway, and potentially just as fast.

    It isn’t a declared ‘gap’ in the London and SE rail plans, so there may not be the perceived demand that people think there is.

  14. timbeau says:

    How many people actually want to transfer between airports anyway – except for a very few passengers transferring between flights and the even fewer who have turned up at the wrong airport? It would be interesting to know the number of tickets sold at Gatwick station for Luton Airport Parkway, and vice versa, as there is a direct service between those two.

    Journey planners give times of between 1h26 and 1h48 between Gatwick and Heathrow, depending on whether you go via Victoria and Paddington, Victoria and Hammersmith, or Clapham Junction and Feltham. The road coach is shown as taking 55 minutes.

  15. swirlythingy says:

    @Whiff: Ealing to Clapham would be a non-starter as the whole point of the Kenny Belle MkII is to avoid Clapham, and instead take the direct route from the WLL to the SLL. So you’d still have to close that section if the train didn’t go on to London Bridge.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Actually i take the bus between gatwick and heathrow occasionally. It’s normally quite full.

    Due to the lack of available slots at heathrow, many european BA flight come in to gatwick. You then have to get the bus up to heathrow to continue your journey on the long hauls to the US, China etc.

  17. rob says:

    Now I know when the bus runs – does anyone know where it actually stops – does it use specific London Buses bus stops? If it does, a specific discription would be good. Also – does it take Oyster (travel card or pay as you go) or do you need to have a NR ticket?

    I’m planning on a day out to tick this off the list before it disappears but want to make sure I get it right (Tuesdays are normally rather busy).

    Thanks in advance!

  18. Whiff says:

    National Express charge 25 pounds for a single coach ticket between Gatwick and Heathrow, so for that reason alone a direct train would be good to provide some competition.

    @swirlythingy – I was thinking of Ealing to Clapham Junction as a possible regular service some time in the future after these stretches of line are officially closed

    @rob – keep us updated on what you find out. I live too far away to be able to ever on this mythical bus but would love to hear more about it

  19. Tupenny Tube says:

    Woodvale: is the line through Greenford still controlled by semaphores? If it is, perhaps this is the last passenger service in London to be subject to semaphore signalling.

  20. Anonymous says:

    There are about 23000 walk up tickets a year sold between Luton and Gatwick, plus about 7000 season tickets

  21. Oliver says:

    With respect to the Heathrow-Gatwick link wouldn’t Airtrack be a better bet (assuming it gets built)? And yes the coach was always busy when I used to use it a few years back, but an hour was always optimistic; I used to wake up from my jet-lag induced snooze to find myself still in a traffic jam on the M25.

    But if you want to connect the airports, route Heathrow Connect through Crossrail and up to Stansted (all you need to do is cross the mains at Stratford for which there will be no paths…). Then you can transfer between any two of London’s main four airports with a maximum of one change at Farringdon. Of course you will be able to achieve the same thing with an extra change at Liverpool St but that adds a distance & time.

  22. timbeau says:

    You could make that six, if
    1. some Crossrail services went to Southend
    2. the proposed extension of the DLR to Farringdon (or City TL) were to happen

  23. IslandDweller says:

    Many DLR services from LCY go to Stratford Regional (and on to Stratford Intl), so once Crossrail is running there will be a “one change” interface between LCY and LHR. Additionally, Poplar DLR and Crossrail CanaryWharf are actually only a few metres apart so that will be a viable crossrail interchange too.

  24. MAG says:

    Don’t know if it is a parlamentary train, but there is one a day service from Streatham Hill to London Bridge via Tulse Hill at 15:56 (the usual service to London Bridge goes through Crystal Palace).

  25. Oliver says:

    If we are digressing into more airports, extend Crossrail to Oxford for London Oxford Airport… Oxford to Stansted there is a tiny market for you.

    Actually I always think of Gatwick as well connected, especially in the days of using the WLL. Given that any service through London will always be packed at commuter time is there a case to be made, based on modal shifts of passengers, of avoiding central London for airport services? Yes you need them for some passengers but a regular (say hourly) service around London would theoretically allow the use of stock more suitable for airport travellers than commuters.

    I even managed to travel on the Anglia Ipswich-Basingstoke service as far as Feltham to get to Heathrow once. Slow and pleasant, except for the final leg from Feltham to Heathrow which was merely slow.

  26. DJB says:

    I seem to remember that Ealing council is keen to extend the Greenford line to CJ once it is cut back to West Ealing in 2017.

  27. Fandroid says:

    Sitting on the SW mainline, I’d be grateful for a one-change connection to just about any airport. The only ones that I can reach direct are Birmingham and Southampton. Gatwick requires a one-change doubling back via Reading, or two-changes at Woking and Guildford. Heathrow can be got at by one change to a bus at Woking or Reading. All of the rest require an intermediate tube journey or some intricate messing about to reach Thameslink. I dread to think how easy (not) it would be to reach Boris Island.

    The cutting back of CrossCountry from the SE (which resulted in this parliamentary nonsense) has meant that some fairly big cities do not get any sort of inter-city services at all. Brighton and Portsmouth are left with a few measly FGW rattletraps connecting them by very slow means to Southampton, Bristol and Cardiff. CrossCountry has a Reading-Newcastle service which it doesn’t know what to do with at the southern end. It really should be extended again by some route or other to Portsmouth and Brighton (perhaps in alternate hours). Currently one of these hourly trains goes down to Southampton, but that’s already got an hourly Crosscountry service going to Manchester via Reading.

  28. Jeremy says:

    Greenford – stns – Ealing Broadway – Shepherd’s Bush – stns – Clapham Junction would be good.
    Greenford – stns – Ealing Broadway – Willesden Jn – stns – Highbury and Islington would be even better. For example, it would cut around 20 minutes’ off my girlfriend’s commute in either direction.

  29. timbeau says:

    @Island Dweller

    Indeed those connections are/will be available once Crossrail is up and running, but to get from LCY with only one change to LGW or Luton you need the DLR to connect with Thameslink somewhere.

  30. Paul says:

    DJB and Jeremy.

    If Ealing Council think that the Greenford Shuttle can be extended once cut back, they must not realise why it is being curtailed at West Ealing. It is being done to remove the conflicting crossing movements by down trains over the up relief, which cannot be accomodated within the Crossrail 10 tph timetable.

    The requirement is to get it out of the way at West Ealing, not out of the way at Paddington and then divert it somewhere else…

  31. Greg Tingey says:

    That’s because of the short-sightedness in not going to 6 tracks out as far as (at least) airport jn …..

  32. Obadiah Goosecreature says:

    It would be a relatively simple job to convert the West Ealing – Greenford branch into an extension of the Central Line and convert the North Acton – West Ruislip line to Crossrail. This should relieve the Central Line and provide a new western destination for all those Crossrail trains that will turn round just after Paddington. I think it would require new stations at Greenford and Ealing Broadway plus two relatively short pieces of tunnelling, between Ealing Broadway and West Ealing and around North Acton (the latter to fit Central, Crossrail and HS2 into the formation). The tunnels could probably be cut and cover. A new grade separated junction would also be needed for Crossrail around Old Oak Common.

  33. Obadiah Goosecreature says:

    What I meant to say in the last post was new stations for Ealing Broadway, West Ealing, Greenford and North Acton.

  34. Lemmo says:

    @ Oliver, nice to hear from someone who actually used one of the short-lived Anglia cross-London services!

    I feel there is great potential for a network of limited-stop services using the orbitals. This diagram of the Anglia Crosslink services shows three routes: Northampton-Ipswich, Watford-Basingstoke, Ipswich-Basingstoke. As a concept it transforms our idea of the orbitals as metro routes, into an inner ring of interchanges offering fast services to regional destinations. If each service was hourly, and there were more routes, it is likely that such a pattern would generate significant demand…

    …as long as the services were fast and reliable. Unfortunately, underinvestment in the orbitals and the difficulty of interweaving services between the timetables on the radial routes meant that Crosslink never proves a viable alternative to the conventional route across the city core. This should not be so.

  35. Greg Tingey says:

    You can’t do anything about it, UNLESS you are prepared to 4-track (& in some places 6-track?) all the way from Willesden Jn to Channelsea Jn.
    Got the money? And the abilty to overcome the objectors to property demolition?
    [ Yes, I know, if it had been a M-way 20 years ago, no problem – but even now, we are not going to get 6 to Airport Jn, and WHEN HS2 gets built, it looks like the morons will close Old Oak – Ruislip ]
    For proper orbitals you need lines further North.
    A double-track Braintree – Stansted & a second tunnel bore there + Northampton-Cambridge is one option.

  36. Oliver says:

    @Lemmo. As you say services like Crosslink aim to use the orbital routes that are currently metros to service the long distance market who want to avoid London. At the moment the use as Metros gives very good service in the peak, but could they be used differently in the off-peak. I.e. is the off-peak traveller needing a different style of service to the peak-time commuter. To me (and based on no evidence) there is a significant Cross-London off-peak market whose needs are not met by metro services.

    It looks to me as though the current decision is that the “London Overground routes” have been ceded to the metro services at the expense of long distance traffic. Similarly the cross-London routes of Thameslink & Crossrail are metro style services thereby ensuring that the through traveller is not well served. Is there a compromise that can be reached where the metro frequency is reduced off-peak and long distance services can use the orbital or through routes at a reasonable speed?

    Yes this will as Greg T suggests require additional tracks for overtaking but the problem with outer orbitals like Witham-Stansted is that the market they can serve is limited. I’ve been convinced of the need for that particular route by the articles here on the freight problems as it is a reasonable alternative to the GOBLIN (not brilliant because of the extra distance). Given they exist for freight then use them for passengers but the opportunities for South-North long distance traffic across London are limited. How about an Edinburgh-Brighton service through Thameslink?

  37. Jeremy says:

    Paul – I know that it wouldn’t be possible with the current track layout. I just wish it were. Personally, I’d be all for a complete re-design of Ealing Broadway and some house demolition along Gordon Road to achieve a fifth (and maybe sixth) track as far as Acton Main Line. But that’s because I live up the hill from the railway. I suspect that those living closer to the railway (and Ealing Council) would not.

  38. Timmy! says:

    I think cutting back Metro services would be a bad idea for London. The frequency of Thameslink rail services should allow more long distance routes with a metro section.

    Is there not a need to out of London crossrail type routes such as the Cambridge-Oxford link? I presume people would like to avoid coming into and out of London if possible and it’s a pity so many lines terminate in London.

    Finally, if a new airport was built, there would need to high speed routes into London and Heathrow-Gatwick. I’m sure there are no flights between Brussels and Paris now due to the high speed lines (although I can’t remember why I think this is case).

  39. Oliver says:


    Yes cutting back metro routes probably would be bad for London, but not having through routes is bad for the region. So it is a balancing act. Also by not having through routes you clog up the central metro with through traffic which has an effect so I’m not sure reducing the metro off-peak is all bad. However I couldn’t attempt to quantify it.

    I’m all for out of London routes, and routes such as Ipswich-Cambridge are such. But they are slow and the further out they are the less market there is for them. They also don’t address the South East who essentially have to go through London.

  40. Anonymous says:


    Brussels Airlines flies to Paris twice a day except on Sundays. In addition, Ethiopian Airlines’ service from Addis Ababa to Paris (5x weekly) also continues to Brussels.

  41. Rational Plan says:

    It is silly to want to prioritise longer distance traffic over metro services on cross london services. Cross london lines should be used by the most passengers. Most of those passengers on Thameslink for example get off in Zone 1, only a small minority are travelling further than that, and I bet very few are going clear through London.

    The biggest boost for cross regional travel would be for reduced crowding at key London train and tube stations, either through rebuilding of key stations or diverting of services into new cross London links. The biggest boost for travel in the South east would be for new orbital links. I imagine there is stonger demand for faster links for nearby towns than between towns on the opposite side of the capital.

    So lines between Watford and Stevenage or Slough and Farnborough for example.

  42. Tony says:

    The morning departure from Kensington Olympia is at 10:02. it now calls additionally at West Brompton and Imperial Wharf. The afternoon departure now starts at Clapham High Street and calls at Wandsworth Road, Imperial Wharf and Kensington Olympia.
    I travelled on the 10:02 today and it was formed of 4 -car 377471. I was the only person on it after it left Imperial Wharf, the other 2 passengers having got off there.

  43. Fandroid says:

    The travel patterns always follow the availability of a good connection, not the other way round. That’s how long-distance car commuting became commonplace. That would have been absurd before a motorway system was built. Significant rail commuter flows come to London from places like Swindon and even South Wales. Neither would have been thinkable without a frequent 125mph service on the GWML.

    If there was such a thing as land-use planning in this country (as opposed to the mythical ‘localism’) then it could be agreed by the planners that the outer London fringe towns should play a greater employment role than they currently do and the infrastructure put in to encourage movement around the centre to allow this to happen. But no, that only happens when visionaries get a go at the money, as when Heseltine (I think!) got behind DLR, and it was built in advance of Docklands really taking off.

    Tunnels are really the best bet for cross city flows. There’s no point in travelling further just to go round the edge. Berlin manages a cross-city line (the Stadtbahn) with both local (S-Bahn) and long-distance trains sharing the route. It could be done in London, but the only likely case will be if HS2 is built together with a connection to HS1.

  44. Greg Tingey says:

    There WERE partial (at least) outer London semi-orbital routes, as well as others further out.
    Some vestiges of them remain – but most were closed, either in the 1950’s or under Marples (so-called “Beeching)
    Want a list? Anti-clockwise from the River,
    Gap. Hertford East – Hertford North – St Albans (reverse) St A – Watford Junction – Rickmansworth (oops no connection ever made) OR Watford West – Ricky (about to be reconnected properly….) GAP Denham/W Ruislip – Uxbridge GAP Uxbridge Vine St – W Drayton (reverse) – Staines (connection put in much too late …
    Most of S London is still there, but connections either face the “wrong” way, or were never put in
    Think of extra “other-way” connections at places like Windmill Bridge Jn or Streatham, or the curve that DID exist, East-to-South at Norwood Jn from the Beckenham line.
    Come to that “wrong-way” junctions at the end of the Shell Haven Branch and no LTS-GE link, as previously discussed.
    Gap – see above. Braintree-Stansted OR Sudbury-Shelford, Hitchin-Bedford OR Cambridge-Bedford, Bedford-Bletchley-Oxford- then exists, apart from the Guildford bottleneck … THIRD SIDE @ Redhill – round to Strood (narrow and twiddly as it is (!) then GAP again back to putative start.

    Now where do you start?
    And do you go for the inner or outer loop-set.
    The inner MIGHT be a lot more useful, but there would be a lot of property-demolition.
    The outer would actually be cheaper – especially if an Eastern X-river link was put in.
    But this requires, you know … forward, constructive thinking and erm investment.

    There is also the problem of existing track capacity – the London Bridge section of the Thameslink programme isn’t going to help that much, because you will still have the Metropolitan-Borough Market 2-track bottleneck, and between Herne Hill and Shortlands, every single station should have a 4-track passing loop, even if the long tunnel is left as 2-track, and there really needs to be a flover @ HH – there IS space, if you were crafty, actually – up-&-over North-to-South, using the space from the “long siding”, and dive sharply from the platform end in the Northely direction, coming “up” alongside the inbound line.
    A third flover track, entirely on railway land between/paralle to Copper Mills-Clapton Junctions, as well as Hall Farm – Lea Bridge.
    SIX tracks Old Oak – Airport Jn.
    Got the money for all this?
    Or much more importantly, the political will?

  45. DJB says:

    I’ve always though the West London Orbital line was the best plan for providing a new outer London route.

  46. c says:

    Only certain destinations have any demand for regional links.

    Ipswich, Basingstoke, Stevenage? It’s not there. They’re big toewns for their area but don’t have big inbound commuting or employers like the Thames Valley or Cambridge for example.

    The only places worth bothering with are:
    Slough, Reading, Oxford, Cambridge, Peterborough, Brighton, St Albans, Luton, Bedford, Watford and Milton Keynes.

    Many of these are already covered by Thameslink, or the upcoming expansion. Crossrail and East/West will cover more off too.

    And of course the airports – again Thameslink and Crossrail.

    Nobody is travelling from Anglia to the SW. They might be going to Gatwick or Brighton – change at Farringdon in future.

  47. Malcolm says:

    Greg asks where do you start?

    In my view, no new or re-opened orbital rail route will compete successfully for scarce funds when there are rival plans like central London schemes or fill-in twiddly bits (Croxley, Crystal palace trams etc). The only exception I can see is if a line is needed mainly for freight (e.g. Purfleet-Harlow-Stevenage or whatever), and a passenger service can be added on at little extra cost. (In a way such logic accounts, at least partially, for the Overground success, although the Overground is now cuckoo-like trying to tip freight out of the nest).

    A problem with reopening any of the Marples closures is that they mostly went through towns. (And any that didn’t probably aren’t crying out for reopening anyway). So expensive demolition will be required, and even if it’s only 5% of the land that has been built on, that will cost big money. And think of the protests from nearby householders. If the line was closed 40 or more years ago, you cannot really tell the neighbours that they should have expected it to be reopened, and it’s all their fault for buying such a house!

  48. Greg Tingey says:

    The ones that NEED re-opening most will have been built over FIRST, because they are in busy areas
    [ Think: 3 Bridges – E Gruntsead – Tunbridge Wells, or the aforementioned St Albans – Hertford ….. ]
    You MIGHT get away with knoocking down one or two buildings (as you would have to if you reopened through from either Braintree or Sudbury, but beyond that it gets REALLY EXPENSIVE.

  49. swirlythingy says:

    Today I finally travelled on the 10:02 from Kensington Olympia. There were two passengers, including myself, on board after the confused tourists got off at Imperial Wharf. As the train lurked behind Stewarts Lane I could see the Goodyear blimp flying over Battersea Power Station.

    But the most interesting thing about my day out came later, when I was changing trains at Peckham Rye. I was trying to get round to Crystal Palace, so I caught the first train going in that direction, which was the 11:12 (or thereabouts) to Beckenham Junction via Birkbeck. Just as the train pulled south out of Peckham, it was suddenly overtaken on the other line by the steam engine Britannia hauling a rake of brown coaches!

  50. Alan Griffiths says:

    Oliver @12:36PM, 16th May 2012

    “I even managed to travel on the Anglia Ipswich-Basingstoke service ”

    Once is about right. I returned to Stratford by catching the Jubilee line from Waterloo.

    Nice idea murdered by a gang of brutal facts.

  51. Alan Griffiths says:

    Oliver @12:36PM, 16th May 2012

    “I even managed to travel on the Anglia Ipswich-Basingstoke service ”

    Once is about right. I returned to Stratford by catching the Jubilee line from Waterloo.

    Nice idea murdered by a gang of brutal facts.

  52. Rational Plan says:

    I used to live in Staines and liked a second hand book shop in Highbury and Islington the Basingstoke service via the North London Line seemed ideal, with a one seat service. Only once it was so slow despite missing most of the stations. I spent most of the service sitting at signals or crawling along at 20mph. I never went again and never used the North London line for my trip because I assumed the line was that terrible all the time.

    I wonder at the plans for a new route via Hounslow, because they will need to sort out that connection to the North London line, it was so slow.

    It may be better to try and figure a way to get more Overground trains to Richmond where there is a good interchange point, Ratther than have diffuse branches everywhere.

  53. Fandroid says:

    Direct services appeal to those with heavy luggage (including bikes I guess), travelling longish distances and those that are not confident about the rail system.

    Otherwise, what Rational Plan suggests about higher Overground frequencies to Richmond would happily suit most people travelling light. That has been the whole philosophy underpinning the Tube since the UndergrounD was invented back in the early twentieth century. High frequency with good, well-signed interchanges cuts out the need for multitudinous service patterns serving everywhere from everywhere else.

    The National Rail part of London’s railways generally fits the latter description, while the Tube fits the former, with TfL pushing the Overground from one category to the other. As we have discussed at length, here and elsewhere, the tricky bit is combining the two on lines which serve both London and the far-flung commuter belt. If there was a clear understanding that in the ideal world the two must co-exist, then some serious infrastructure planning can be done to facilitate it. Not the NR RUS style where ‘sweating assets’ means ever trickier and trickier timetabling to be all things to all men/women, unable to be understood by anyone without a master’s degree in timetable interpretation. The great transport initiatives have always been realised by those people who understood how to make a system comprehensible and attractive to that man on the Clapham omnibus (& Northern Line), not by those who excel in super-cleverness.

  54. Lemmo says:

    “Nice idea murdered by a gang of brutal facts.”
    @ Alan Griffiths and others, I’d appreciate more clarity on these brutal facts: why did Crosslink fail so miserably, and what can it tell us about intensifying the orbital routes?

    In order to maximize capacity on the orbital routes, clearly investment needs to be focused on track, signalling and electrification, to provide speed and headways for a metro service.

    Freight needs to be segregated where possible, but there are few options for this on the existing alignments, so presumably freight paths will always need to be interleaved with passenger services. Perhaps this is not so much of a problem, as the speed of freight and metro passenger services are not that different, but the challenge is providing non-stop freight paths in between stop-start passenger, and perhaps also providing for long 750m freight trains in between short 4-coach metro trains.

    There are also issues with flat junctions from orbitals onto the mainlines, and flat junctions on the orbitals themselves. Any intensification of the orbitals, freight or passenger, will be limited by the junctions at Acton Wells, Gospel Oak, Kew, Stratford and Camden Road. The latter could be four-tracked, and Acton Wells could be bypassed by new alignments built as part of the Old Oak Common redevelopment… more on that in another article. But there’s little that can be done at the others.

    But service patterns like Crosslink also hit difficulties with timetabling between different radial routes, where it is difficult finding paths that match up. This is also a problem with freight, as it is far preferable keeping a freight train moving rather than the slow stop-start of layovers awaiting paths. A laden 750m freight is going to take several paths just getting going from standstill. Even assuming that TfL can resolve some of the infrastructure investment issues above, intensification on the orbitals will require some long-term planning on the radial timetables to provide paths between different parts of the network.

  55. Alan Griffiths says:

    Lemmo @ 07:37AM, 20th May 2012

    ” I’d appreciate more clarity on these brutal facts: why did Crosslink fail so miserably, and what can it tell us about intensifying the orbital routes?”

    1) not much publicity
    2) trains no faster than those stopping at all stations
    3) easier and quicker to get the Jubilee line between Stratford and Waterloo
    4) see 3)

    Unless there is already a considerable length of railway with spare (or cheap-to-provide) train paths, limited-stop orbital services are not a goer. There will always be higher priorities for the train paths and the investment.

    It’s difficult enough to get priority for interchanges, such as West Hampstead.

  56. StephenC says:

    The Crosslink routes strike me as hopeful options rather than sensible ones. The radial routes are great for the Overground metro, but not engineered for long distance. The key is to think in terms of passenger experience. A train from Colchester to Liverpool Street takes less than 50mins. The train from Guildford to Waterloo takes less than 40mins. Any route via the NLL needs to compete with the fast and frequent main London service in order to be viable. I see no way that the NLL, WLL or SLL could be used to make such viable services.

    Note that I think that any such long distance through-London service needs to be frequent as well as fast. The frequent part mandates that it carries at least some traffic for a zone 1/2 destination (otherwise the frequency isn’t justified). This is why Thameslink works – it carries traffic to zone 1/2 as well as providing convenient long-distance through services (which are used as such).

    As “central London” expands to Canary Wharf (already happened) and OOC, some routes become viable which weren’t possible previously. I think the most interesting is linking Stratford with the Brighton Main Line via Canary Wharf and Lewisham. This could connect to the Stratford and Tottenham Hale line, or to my proposed Anglia Relief Line . On the other side, the BML2 proposal looks like an interesting match . That would be a cross-London link that doesn’t go to zone 1, but does link to the Wharf (a big enough London destination for high frequency). Crossrail/Jubilee would provide quick tube links elsewhere, practically as good as Paddington or Victoria are today. I’m definitely starting to believe that this is a distinctly viable cross-London route.

  57. timbeau says:

    Lemmo/Alan Griffiths

    5) Small market
    6) low frequency resulting in it usually being quicker to use the cross-London connections

    (My brother, travelling from Warrington to Kingston, believed from the journey planner that changing at Watford Junction and Clapham Junction was a good plan – which it would have been if the train from Warrington had not been delayed by enough to miss the (then 1tph) southern service. Not knowing any better, he waited at Watford Junction for the next one……..)

  58. Anonymous says:

    ITV London ran a story about this service:

  59. Anonymous says:

    @Alan Griffiths

    Re Speed. I’m not sure I agree with you.

    For the journey I took, Ipswich-Heathrow, the Crosslink service was about half an hour slower than Ipswich – Liv St – Paddington – Heathrow (Express). It was more pleasant than the Underground and was only let down by buses to Heathrow from Feltham. I don’t think Crosslink would have had any greater disadvantage anywhere else on the GEML. I can’t remember why I didn’t do it again, it might have been plane schedules, a lack of desire to fight my way through two buses with luggage or a change in the service.

    A major problem with the service was that I would never consider taking it in the other direction as the frequencies were too low and I couldn’t predict my arrival time at Heathrow well enough. Crossrail is the answer to that particular journey but involves a change at Stratford or Liv St.

    W.r.t. journeys from East Anglia to Gatwick (Essex is East Saxony not East Anglia so I’m talking Ipswich & beyond). I’m not convinced that Crossrail will offer that much greater an advantage. At the moment sensible people go Liv St-Farringdon-Gatwick, this doesn’t change with Crossrail, you just have to walk further at Liv St & Farringdon so I don’t think it offers much advantage (yes the Stratford interchange should be better than Liv St – Tube but Farringdon has to be worse than cross platform). Now put 1tph from Norwich/Ipswich/Colchester – Reading/Bristol/Oxford with intercity style seating and those journeys and many others become much nicer.

  60. Alan Griffiths says:

    Anonymous @ 08:48AM, 21st May 2012

    “Now put 1tph from Norwich/Ipswich/Colchester – Reading/Bristol/Oxford with intercity style seating and those journeys and many others become much nicer.”

    I fear you are expressing hopes that have already been crushed by experience.

    Overground trains leave Stratford every 10 minutes for Willesden Junction and points west. Passenger numbers are rocketing. Where are the NLL train paths for limited stop services to be found?

    When Crossrail opens

    you’ll be able to travel from Stratford to Paddington in 18 minutes

  61. Anonymous says:

    It would be nice to see an hourly off peak through train through Crossrail with Inter City stock from Norwich to Bristol. Not likely though due to platform edge doors making non standard rolling stock impossible

  62. ChrisMitch says:

    Don’t clutter up crossrail with intercity services or trains. There is no room for them. Crossrail is designed for intra-London journeys, with rolling stock to match – ie lots of doors so it is quick to get on and off. Long-distance trains with doors only at the end of each carriage have to stop for 5 mins to allow passengers time to get off and on.
    Trying to make rail lines all-purpose is why we have the mess we have now in south London – a total mishmash of train types and routes. The next generation of rail lines needs to aim for one particular style of service, and do it well – ie HS2 and Crossrail – they cannot all provide services to satisfy everyone, but hopefully they will service a particular travel requirement satisfactorily.

  63. Anonymous says:


    Totally agree. Providing a tube-style service with easy interchanges and sensible ticketing on trains in the London area is a much better way of getting people around. Where a limited and sensible range of services can exist on dedicated tracks, all the better for being able to run more trains with much reduced knock-on delays when there is a problem.

  64. Michael Wadman says:


    The bus stops at:

    Ealing Broadway – bus stop outside station entrance

    Kensington Olympia – opposite station entrance in Olympia Way

    Wandsworth Road – bus stop in Wandsworth Road by station entrance

    As for the fare, on the occassions that I’ve used it it didn’t really matter because no railway staff attended the coach so no revenue protection took place (that is not, of course, part of the driver’s reponsibilities). The coach, of course, hasn’t got an Oyster reader, but just waving an Oyster or Travelcard at the driver seems to be sufficient.

    Incidentally, Southern have made two attempts to actually run a train over the Ealing Broadway – Kensington Olympia section, and the trains have actually featured in the working timetable, but Network Rail have refused to allow them to run for fear, they claim, of the disruption that would be caused to the GWML by the failure of a Southern class 171 unit with a coupling that is incompatible with anything else likely to be in the area. I suspect that it is this intransigence by NR that has brought matters to a head and prompted the DfT to commence closure procedures.

  65. TwopennyTube says:

    From Railway Magazine September 1956:
    “A passenger service of four trains each way daily, including Sundays, was restored on August 7 on the East Grinstead – Lewes line of the Southern Region. […] The restoration results presumably from the citation by a local resident of the Act of 1878, not yet repealed, which enjoins that the L.B.S.C.R., on taking over the line, should run at least four passenger trains each way, daily, stopping at certain stations. […] It may well be that other lines now closed are governed by similar legisaltion which has not been invoked.”

  66. Anonymous says:

    a coupling that is incompatible with anything else likely to be in the area, could be a metaphor for the whole discussion.

  67. The Ghost Station Man says:

    If anybody out there wants to know more about the Fascinating world of parlimentary train services and Ghost Stations that only ever get very limited trains check out my website which has pictures of most of the services and stations around the North West / North East and others my address is

  68. Ryan says:

    @rob @MichaelWadman – the bus leaves from TfL Bus Stop F at Ealing Broadway and stops B&C at Wandsworth Road. At Olympia – there is no dedicated stop – the bus just pulls up outside the station, near the NatWest ATM

    Don’t worry if the bus isn’t there at 9:45 – it is often 10 to 15 minutes late and can be up to an hour late reaching it’s final stop (London traffic).

    As for tickets – as the service is scheduled to leave before 10am, this can affect which type of ticket is accepted. It isn’t an off peak service. And they do check!

  69. swirlythingy says:

    OK, can we please just clear up something which has been bothering me for ages:

    Of the three junctions on the WLL just north of the Waterloo main line, which is Latchmere No. 1 Junction, which is Latchmere No. 2 Junction, and which is Latchmere No. 3 Junction?

    It doesn’t seem to be explained anywhere!

  70. timbeau says:

    According to Carto Metro trains approaching from Imperial Wharf first pass No 2 junction, where WLL trains turn right for Ludgate Junction and Clapham Junction station (Winssor side). If you go straight on you reach No 1 junction, where Southern trains bear right for Clapham Junction (Brighton side). If you go straight on you get to No 3 junction, where the Sheepcote lane curve goes off left to West London Junction and Waterloo, and straight on leads to Longhedge Junction, Factory Junction and the south London Line.

    So No 1 Junction is between the other two. No3 is the new one created when the Sheepcote Lane spur was built for Eurostar empties going to and from North Pole depot.

  71. Slugabed says:

    When I were a lad (not so very long ago) they were called Latchmere South Western and Latchmere Main rather than 2 and 1 junctions respectively.
    Does anyone know when (why?) the names of the junctions were changed?
    A few hundred yards away,on Cabul Road wqas Britain’s longest pub name….The London,Chatham and Dover Railway Tavern…

  72. Lemmo says:

    @ timbeau, No.3 was one of the original junctions, probably used for freight to/from the Nine Elms depot, and shown on the 1912 Railway Clearing House diagram. It was removed by 1970, so was reinstated for Eurostar.

    Who know, if they progress with Crossrail 2 which will relax platform capacity at Waterloo, perhaps it will be used by passenger services, even as a diversionary route for Euston or Paddington trains. If they reinstated the link from the WLL to North Acton it could be used by Chiltern trains to Birmingham… dream on, just such a shame seeing those lovely long Eurostar platforms going to waste.

  73. rogmi says:

    According to, I see that the Parliamentary trains:
    10:02 from Olympia to Wandsworth Road and 16:09 from Clapham High St are still running until December 20:13

    Are they still running? if so, I presume they were given a reprieve

  74. Rogmi says:

    Ignore the last post. I’ve just read through the current article on the opening of the LO extension!

  75. Whiff says:

    It seems the Parliamentary train is finally finishing this week.

    Does anyone know what the delay was in getting the line closed? And I never did work out why the bus goes all the way to Wandsworth when the train already covers the stretch from Olympia.

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