Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

On the branch line…from Finchley Central to Mill Hill East

Posted in Commuter, Infrastructure, London, Metro, On the branch line, Other general stuff about railways by Chairman Pip on 26 January 2013

Supporting a Premier League team means that, if you get knocked out of the FA Cup, you have free weekends during the early rounds, of which today was an example. So once again I made a decision to head off on a journey along a branch line. However, unlike my two previous ones on the Romford to Upminster and Bromley North lines, this one was not a National Rail line but rather one on the London Underground, indeed, the only remaining short branch shuttle service left on the Underground network, running between Finchley Central and Mill Hill East. This is an interesting little stub that used to be part of the main service on the Northern Line until 2006, when the service outside of peak hours was altered to a shuttle service (during peak hours trains run through to Central London). Of course, it would have been an awful lot easier for me to actually get to Finchley Central had the Northern Line been running – the bane of weekend travellers’ lives in London is engineering work that closes large parts of the network, and in this case it was virtually the entire central sections of both branches of the Northern Line, leading to replacement buses. Even though I know the work needs doing, it doesn’t make it any less irksome. Oh well, I eventually managed to get to where I needed to be to get the train I wanted to get. However, I was surprised at the fact that it was twelve minutes until the next train to Mill Hill East when I arrived at Finchley Central, given that the line is short (end to end takes around three minutes) with no intermediate stations, and that it is on a metro route. What with it being a Saturday too, the number of people using the service meant that the 1995 Stock train was of course far too big. Unlike National Rail branch lines of course, the trains used aren’t small units that, when used on longer or more intensively used routes can be coupled together.

The Mill Hill service is the last short shuttle service on the Underground, now that the replacement of rolling stock on the Metropolitan Line has led to Chesham gaining a full service to London. Given the capacity issues on the Northern Line, it seems likely that there would not be a full time restoration of a service through the centre of London, which is fair enough, as Mill Hill East is the quietest station on the Northern Line. Of course, you could suggest replacing the trains used on this with something a little more appropriate for a short branch service. But, unlike the other branches I’ve travelled on, this branch not only has a direct, albeit peak time, service to Central London, but also there is very little space to stable and maintain separate trains – the junction is almost right on top of Finchley Central, while the platform used by Mill Hill trains is also used by trains that terminate at Finchley Central from the south.

I seem to have run out of branches that I can get to using my Oystercard, at least until the service on the Greenford Branch is altered with the opening of Crossrail. So, wherever I end up going next will mean a trip outside London.

Mill Hill East is one of only three stations on the Underground to have a single platform


2 Responses

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  1. Claire said, on 28 January 2013 at 4:39 am

    I’m q. surprised to learn that there are any London Underground stations with single platforms actually. I was going to ask whether it was an unmanned station as it’s so small, but I expect all the tube stations have to be manned, do they?

    How far out of London are you thinking of going for your next venture?

  2. […] as a shuttle service between Chalfont & Latimer and Chesham for most of the day (much like the Mill Hill East branch); this would run using a four-car A60/62 Stock train during off-peak hours, with a direct service […]

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