Freight Incident Causes Major Disruption to North London Line


At 0300 this morning, a freight train running from Lawley Street to Felixstowe derailed just west of Camden Road station on the North London Line. Although the full extent and cause of the accident remains to be seen, the damage appears significant, although no injuries are believed to have been sustained. Network rail indicated earlier that a container had become detached, and that damage had been sustained to track, overhead wires and – importantly – their supporting gantries.


The site of the derailment, courtesy Network Rail

Although we would normally avoid coverage of such an incident until the accident report was available, the extent of the damage means that it will be days, rather than hours, before both passenger and freight services can be resumed on what has become a key part of the London orbital network. It thus seemed worth providing some basic information here. Indeed the TfL travel planner already gives some idea of the delays on the line (although the GOBLIN remains unaffected):

No service between Gospel Oak and Highbury & Islington due to a freight train derailment at Camden Road. Underground, Buses, Docklands Light Railway and South Eastern are accepting tickets via reasonable routes A special timetable operates between between Willesden Junction and Clapham Junction/Richmond and between Highbury & Islington and Stratford.

Even before the accident report is compiled the incident will likely see questions raised once again about the balance between freight and passenger paths on the NLL. With the Overground now effectively providing a “turn up and go” service on the NLL for much of the day, there is certainly an argument that – like TfL’s other “metro” properties – it should not be expected to carry freight as well.

Unfortunately the practicalities of the rail network currently mean that a significant amount of freight traffic must still share tracks with the NLL en-route to the midlands. The question of appropriate balance, therefore, is sadly not one to which there is currently an easy answer.

We will look again at the incident once more information has become available. In the meantime, we feel almost compelled to highlight the coverage of the accident in the Camden New Journal, which rather bizarrely manages to take what is a relatively straightforward incident (if one with particularly unfortunate consequences) and elevate it, with a deft sleight of hand, into B-Movie territory:

The popular North London Line has been shut down in both directions between Gospel Oak and Stratford, heaping misery on commuters.

The line has for years been used for passenger trains and freight trains carrying spent fuel from reactors at Sizewell and Bradwell nuclear power stations. Rail crash investigators were on site today but would not say what cargo was on board when the train derailed.

London Reconnections can both confirm and assure readers that neither Rob Lowe nor Kristin Davis were present on the train at the time of the incident.

Update: TfL have provided an overview statement on the current state of the line from Jonathan Fox, Acting Director of London Rail

A number of London Overground services have been disrupted today following a freight train derailment in the Camden Road area in the early hours of this morning. Network Rail, who operate the track, are currently working to repair the line and they have advised us that this work is expected to take a number of days.

This means that, at present, there is no service between Highbury and Islington and Gospel Oak.

We are currently running a 15 minute service from Gospel Oak to Clapham Junction, a 30 minute shuttle service between Willesden Junction and Richmond, and a 20 minute shuttle service from Highbury and Islington to Stratford. These routes are likely to be very busy and customers are advised to travel via different routes wherever possible.

The East London line service, as well as the lines from Gospel Oak to Barking and Euston to Watford are running normally. Tickets will be accepted on alternative routes and customers are advised to check our website before they travel.

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.