Whilst attention has begun to switch to TfL’s plans for West Anglia (a topic which we will cover in more detail later in the month) it is worth remembering that taking over control of that line and associated stations is not the only project currently underway on the London Overground.
The London Overground Capacity Improvement Programme (LOCIP) aims to address the increasing capacity gap to be found on the existing Overground lines (something we wrote about back in 2011 in The Future of the Overground Part 2: Orange Squash). This means platform extension work, where possible, but more importantly extending the existing rolling stock (the Class 378 “Capitalstars”) to five cars, the maximum length for which they can be configured.
Perhaps unusually for such work, breaking apart the current units and inserting the additional carriage is intended to happen “on site” at New Cross Gate Depot (which we visited back in 2010 before the ELL reopened). This is necessary in order to limit the time that the Overground’s 378s spend out of service, as there is limited spare capacity within the fleet. This is one of the key reasons for the expansion and extension work currently underway at New Cross Gate.
Theoretically, this will allow the timescale for individual conversions to be highly aggressive – taking only two days per train to complete. The extra cars will be hauled down, one at a time, from Bombardier’s works at Derby in a number of special freight formations. Once there, the relevant 378 will be pulled from service and static insertion and testing will be completed on day one. Non-passenger dynamic testing (i.e running the train with the new car in place) will be carried out on day two. Assuming the newly configured five-car train passes testing it will then be returned to service on day three.
Before this process can be carried out, however, the first conversion will take place at Derby in order to allow a greater degree of initial testing to be completed. The first additional fifth car (38401) has already been constructed for this and has been under testing (for wiring or sub-system issues) for a short while.
With this stage now nearing completion, the first unit for conversion (378201) was hauled by locomotive up to Derby last Saturday.
Once this has been converted to a five-car unit, it will undergo extended dynamic testing at Derby on the test track there, during which time series production will begin on further fifth cars. Once the extended testing is completed, 378201 will return south in November (assuming all goes to schedule) and re-enter passenger service.
The process of converting the rest of the 57 Capitalstars will then begin at New Cross Gate Depot, with the plan being to have all units running in five-car formations by the end of 2015.