Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Make it Evergreen

Posted in Commuter, Infrastructure, London by Chairman Pip on 30 July 2013

Following on from my recent trip out to Chesham I got to thinking. Earlier this month came confirmation from the Government that the Croxley Rail Link, intended to extend the Metropolitan Line to Watford Junction, is to go ahead. Not only does this extend the Watford branch of the route into the centre of the town itself, but it also allows the potential for direct Watford to Amersham services, utilising the at present rarely used chord that runs between Rickmansworth and the Watford branch. Take this one stage further and it would allow direct services between Watford and Aylesbury, which is on the same route past Amersham, giving Chiltern Railways a foothold in Watford. I mentioned that the Chiltern and Metropolitan services share the route between Amersham and Harrow-on-the-Hill, meaning that Chiltern’s diesel units are running along an electrified line, which in many circles is frowned upon (even more so now given the Government’s massive electrification programme).

Chiltern are currently 9 years from the end of their current franchise, which was awarded in 2002 for a total of twenty years. As part of that, they have instituted a rolling series of infrastructure works entitled “Project Evergreen”, which have seen speed improvements along a significant portion of the Chiltern Main Line, redoubling at various points, a brand new depot, expansion of several stations, including London Marylebone and Birmingham Moor Street, and the introduction of a new route to Oxford. All of this takes us to the end of Evergreen 3, which begs the question “what about Evergreen 4?”, given that there will be several years between the completition of the current programme of work and the end of the franchise. The thought that occured to me involved a measure of collaboration with London Underground. With the approval of the Croxley link potentially adding another route accessible to Chiltern, and not a huge distance between Amersham and Aylesbury, would there not be a benefit therefore of electrifying the route to Aylesbury using the LU system? There would then be the opportunity for Chiltern to purchase a fleet of new electric trains similar to the Metropolitan’s S8 Stock (more of which will be required for the new Watford Junction services anyway), while at the same time being able to cascade the units currently used on Aylesbury trains to their other services. Hell, why not go the whole hog and electrify all the way into Marylebone, which would then offer the potential of a nice Central London diversion for the Metropolitan Line in the event of what I experienced last weekend? While I know that new electrification not using OHLE is frowned upon, the fact is LU ain’t going to go over to overhead lines, and so it makes more sense to do this this way, if electrification is the way to go. Which it should be.

A Chiltern Class 165 runs alongside a Metropolitan S8 Stock at Northwood. Electrifying this route beyond Amersham would allow Chiltern to cascade its diesel trains to other services, and potentially integrate more fully with the upcoming Croxley Rail Link

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