Overground Electrification and Longer Trains


As several spotters have helpfully pointed out, this week saw a rather interesting article appear in Rail Engineer on the topic of Rail Electrification.

The article provides thorough coverage of the discussion of electrification at their recent conference, and is thus well worth a read in itself. Of particular interest to those in London, however, will be the coverage of comments from Nick Elliott, Southern regional director at Network Rail, who in a roundabout way appeared to confirm that GOBLIN electrification will indeed take place in CP5 (bolding ours):

Currently, Network Rail is working on the North West Electrification programme as well as Maidenhead to Cardiff on the Great Western. In 2013 the Welsh valley lines, the Midland Main Line, and Basingstoke to Reading will be added and the DC to AC conversion between Poole and Basingstoke will take place.

However, by the time CP5 starts in April 2014, the work load becomes even greater as TransPennine Electrification will commence, the Cardiff to Swansea element of the Great Western main Line comes into effect and the Oxford to Coventry/Nuneaton and the Gospel Oak to Barking work starts. By this time there will be 11 major electrification projects running at the same time.

The article continues:

In Nick’s own Southern region, he will be responsible for installing new switchgear, rectifiers and transformers as part of the Southern power supply – a project worth £450 million. The 1950’s OLE will be replaced by modern, tensioned electrified lines in the Great Eastern area (£100 million), the Gospel Oak to Barking freight link will be electrified (£50 million), the current DC system to 25kV overhead Line between Basingstoke, Southampton and Poole (£150 million) and there will be an upgrade to some systems as part of a national SCADA programme (£80 million).

The price tag is interesting – £50m – representing approximately half of the £90m figure it was believed that Network Rail quoted for the work earlier this year. Whether this is due to rescoping is difficult to say. If the article is correct though then the important thing is that GOBLIN electrification is at least now likely to take place. Given that Elliot’s comments talk of GOBLIN electrification as a freight upgrade, it seems likely that the money is coming from the budget for Strategic Freight works that we suggested might prove a possible source of funding in the previous article.

Elsewhere on the Overground, sources suggest that the plan to increase ELL and NLL 378s to 5-car units is now underway. Details so far are scarce, although this month’s Project Monitoring – Project Approvals document from TfL suggests an upper budget limit for the project of £250m. That’s unlikely to represent solely the cost of additional carriages, but also to include whatever signals and station work are required to support the scheme as well.

In terms of timescales, sources suggest that the current plan will see the ELL receive 5-car trains first, probably some time in the second quarter of 2014. Longer trains on the NLL would follow in 2015.

Readers with long memories (and those familiar with New Cross Depot) will remember that the current depot at New Cross and Silwood Sidings are not currently designed to take 5-car units. If the above timescales are to be met, and it is indeed South London rather than the likes of Willesden that will receive an upgrade, then the process of attaining planning permission from Lewisham would likely need to begin shortly. Again, it seems likely that the cost of improving facilities, wherever that will ultimately take place, has been factored into the £250m cost.

Written by John Bull
John Bull is the Editor of London Reconnections. A transport journalist and historian, his writing often focuses on the political or strategic challenges facing London's transport network and beyond.