Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

On the branch line…from Grove Park to Bromley North

Posted in Commuter, Infrastructure, London, On the branch line, Other general stuff about railways by Chairman Pip on 15 December 2012

Once again a lack of Saturday football, combined with some things that needed doing, led to me heading off on a random rail journey or several. You may recall a few weeks ago I decided to take a trip on the Romford to Upminster line. Well today I thought that, as I needed to go to the bank, and Bromley is as good a place as any to find one, that I would combine this with a trip on the Bromley North line. As it happens, this is more convenient for me to use to get to Bromley, as trains from New Cross don’t go to the town’s main station, Bromley South. That being said though, I did take three trains to get the four stops from New Cross to the line’s northern terminus at Grove Park, though that was due more to my own impatience than anything else. Why wait 20 minutes for a train that will take you to your destination, when you can jump on the train already there that will take you one stop further on? Anyway – just like the Romford line, the Bromley North line is a short branch with just a single intermediate station. Unlike the Romford line, it doesn’t connect two major points. Grove Park is on the South Eastern Main Line, from where trains to London can be picked up – the dedicated platform for the Bromley North line though is physically separated from the remainder of the station (again, much like Romford), with access via a long footbridge from the station’s entrance. The service is a shuttle, trundling back and forth every twenty minutes, although this route is double track throughout. Three minutes after leaving Grove Park, the train arrives at the intermediate station, Sundridge Park. Getting out here shows that it serves a residential area with a high street running through the centre of many streets of houses. The station though is more than a mere halt, as it has its own ticket office, as well as a pair of long platforms. This is because the line has in the past had a direct service to London, and so is fitted to operate trains longer than the two car Class 466s that run the service. This can be seen even more so at Bromley North, another two minutes down the line and the southern terminus (making a five minute end to end running time), where the train is dwarfed by the length of the platforms. This was the first time I’ve been there (having been to Bromley South more times than I care to think about), and the spectacle of it surprised me – it is a marvellously neat little two platform terminus that looks like it should be far busier than it is with the shuttle service.

Unlike other lightly used lines, this line doesn’t seem to have been threatened by Beeching. The fact that it connects one of London’s major suburbs to the main line, which means that it will likely be well used during peak times, would insulate it against any potential threat based on usage. That being said, cost cutting measures have in the past been proposed – the fact that it is a shuttle meant that it was looked at being singled, not by lifting one of the running lines, but converting one to allow preserved London Underground rolling stock to operate on it, turning the line into a potential filming location (always a good source of extra revenue for the railways). Even so, the line was still quite busy, even on a Saturday when I used it; the two-car train was not full certainly, and for the shuttle service is more than adequate. Still, many seats were occupied, and a lot of people did get off at Sundridge Park. Of course, it still means that a Class 466 is still occupied in operating the service, which could be used elsewhere, and so is another one of those types of service where conversion to a PPM type light rail service.

Clearly my second branch line journey does make it a series. More to come.

A Class 466 is dwarfed by the length of the platforms at Bromley North


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