Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Too much is better than not enough

Posted in Commuter, Customer service, Infrastructure, London by Chairman Pip on 21 December 2012

The commissioning of the South London Line as the final part of London Overground’s “Outer Circle” has been met with widespread rejoicing, completing as it does the original initial plan that Chairman Ken had when he first got hold of rail services in London. Boris Johnson has been hailing the new link and, unquestionably, it is a useful addition to the rail network, connecting as it does areas of the city that previously one would have had to go through the centre to reach, while also improving the service frequency in areas that have been underserved in the past. However, in the two weeks that the new link has been open, I have started to notice something. The new SLL service runs from Clapham Junction to Highbury & Islington; once it leaves Queen’s Road Peckham, it runs along a new link to the East London Line, where it joins the trains running from New Cross, Crystal Palace and West Croydon; this makes a total of 16 trains per hour running through the central section. However, the stations on the central section remain much the same as they were during the ELL’s former life as a stub tube line; for example, Canada Water, where the route interchanges with the Jubilee Line, retains just one escalator down on the northbound platform, a legacy of the days when its annual ridership was around 9m (the last year it was open as an Underground line was 2007). In its first year of operation after conversion (May 2010-May 2011), ridership was almost double that to around 16m, and the numbers are only going up. The addition of another four trains every hour from Clapham Junction will see to that. What we have been getting, at Canada Water certainly, is passengers from one train still trying to get down the single escalator to the Jubilee Line when the next train (also full) arrives. That has been bad enough, and is ten times worse if there are problems on the Jubilee Line. But now though we have had trains having to stop on the approach to Surrey Quays to allow trains in the platforms ahead to clear. This could suggest that 16 trains per hour through the Thames Tunnel may be overreaching the capacity of the infrastructure as it is at the moment, and that some stations, most notably those ones that interchange with the Underground, could well need some significant reconstruction to improve passenger flow if the best is to be obtained out of the route.

“‘M25 on rails’ boosts Mayor bid to run commuter lines”
“Peeling the Orange: Usage Stats on the London Overground”

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