Written by: TrainSim-James
On November 11th, 2007, Transport for London fully took over various worn down commuter routes within the Capital, aiming to re-vitalise key areas and provide a rail orbital network with links both in and surrounding the city. 10 years later, and the state of London’s railways have improved dramatically, transforming routes into clean, efficient, and safe environments for the millions of passengers that use them every year.
To celebrate London Overground’s decade of service, we will showcase the history behind the operator and the railways they traverse, and of course, enjoy the various London Overground routes & traction within Train Simulator!
Prior to the transition between a publicly and privately operated railway network in Britain, a period of sectorisation was set upon the country. Service types would denote the differences between each sector, meaning any express services between major cities became ‘Inter-City’, and most other passenger trains under ‘Regional Railways’.
London, and the surrounding South East of England had evolved into a myriad of commuter and mainline routes connecting border towns and coastlines to the Capital, and beyond that, linked key sections of the London area together. It was decided to incorporate all of these lines into a single ‘London & South East’ (later rebranded to Network SouthEast) sector, serving up to 930 stations across 2350 route miles.
And in the heart of the vast NSE network were the various connecting and suburban lines that were strung throughout London, all built to varying specifications, by different companies, during the Victorian period. It was safe to say that not all the lines were capable of coping with the growing passenger numbers, and some had already been left in a poor state by the pre-sectored British Rail.
While major railway lines got new traction, be that the Networkers which revitalised the Chiltern, Great Western and North Kent Lines, the Class 319s for Thameslink, and the sleek Class 442s for the South West, the dwindling lines in North London were given hand-me-down traction for the most part.
A spiralling descent of disrepair seemed the fate of many lines, and even when privatisation was complete, the situation wasn’t set to improve. Lines in North London were operated by Silverlink, while South London had become part of the Southern suburban network. The East London Line was operated by London Underground, and if re-purposed, could be given a new lease of life.
A plan was soon put in place to unify the inner London lines, converting the existing network into an orbital railway managed by Transport for London; and on this day, 11th November 2007, London Overground assumed control of the North & West London, Gospel Oak to Barking (GOBLIN) and Watford DC Lines.
“London’s New Train Set” was to receive major improvements to all aspects; new, longer trains, staffed stations at all hours, a network-wide deep clean of each station, accessibility improvements, a more frequent service, and more – a new era for London transportation without a doubt. Atop the improvements to the initial ‘take-over’ lines, the East London Line would be closed and converted for Overground use, and a chord would be built linking to the South London Line, reaching Clapham Junction and completing the loop.
The endeavour certainly proved a success, the North London Line today sees a 4-trains-per-hour service, with each of those trains 5 cars long, fully open plan and high capacity. The Gospel Oak to Barking Line has seen the largest improvements, and will soon be ready to accept a brand new fleet of 4-car EMUs in 2018, once electrification is complete. South of the Thames, London Overground plays a key role in linking Britain’s Busiest Station with the rest of the Capital. In all, with the addition of the West Anglia Lines becoming part of the network in 2015, over a billion journeys have been made with London Overground, and it is today the third largest operator in the UK.
With 10 positive years behind them, London Overground still look to the future with the hope of assuming control of even more suburban networks in the London area, bringing the same level of improvements to vital routes into surrounding boroughs. After the GOBLIN electrification, and introduction of the new EMU fleet, the next big change will be an extension to Barking Riverside, giving 10800 new homes a city link by 2021.
Celebrate London Overground’s decade of service this weekend by driving our popular key Capital routes in Train Simulator! ■