Article date 30 December 2009
Updated 19 November 2013
This article is of historical interest only. Secondary routes, as defined below, are no longer being proposed. Indeed, proposals for a complete London Rail Orbital no longer reflect our thinking.
The primary / principal London Rail Orbital route is via Ebbsfleet International on the High Speed 1 line. In the clockwise direction, after Barking, services run onto the High Speed 1 line to Ebbsfleet International, subsequently leaving the High Speed 1 line on the link to Gravesend. This route is only available for certain trains, that is, suitable rolling stock.
Information on the primary / principal route is to be found in the article London Orbital Services .
Firstly, a note on terminology : we classify Orbital routes that run on to the High Speed 1 line to Ebbsfleet International as primary / principal routes, those that do not as secondary routes. This is a question of terminology. Secondary routes do not access the High Speed 1 line. Secondary routes are envisaged as running from Edmonton Green north of Seven Sisters to Custom House mainline station being built as part of the Crossrail 1 project. From here, trains use the Crossrail line and the Crossrail tunnel under the Thames at Woolwich to emerge at Abbey Wood. It should be noted that this represents a substantial change from current thinking as regards Crossrail.
Capacity on the Crossrail line to Abbey Wood would depend on the extent to which free paths are available. Frequent Crossrail services from Paddington to Abbey Wood limit the availability of paths on this line and thus the capacity of our envisaged secondary Orbital route.
All secondary routes as envisaged would require the line between Stratford Low Level and Cannning Town - currently a DLR line and the Jubilee line alongside - as being upgraded to provide this heavy rail capability. We note that this used to be a heavy rail route. Possible route-sharing with the Jubilee Line from Stratford to Canning Town.
We are no longer proposing that such routes should be studied further, therefore this article is of historical interest only.
There are currently a number of options envisaged for this secondary route. These are subject to uncertainty. None of these options has yet been subject to further investigation. The resolution of these uncertainties largely relates to the existing railway network in this area, which is substantial.
It may be worth referring to the article Hertford to Stansted Airport and Barking (with plan) whilst reading this article.
An option is via Liverpool Street. Trains run to Liverpool Street from Edmonton Green. From Liverpool Street, trains run to Stratford, turning south beside Stratford Low Level using a chord that closed in 1981. Trains then run to West Ham, Canning Town and onto the Crossrail line to Custom House.
A less likely option is similar to the above, differing in that trains do not run to Liverpool Street. From the vicinity of Edmonton Green trains run to Angel Road. A track that provided this alignment closed in 1964 and may have been built on. Trains continue to Tottenham Hale and Stratford Low Level, then as for the above option.
An alternative for the route from the vicinity of Edmonton Green to Stratford Low Level could be by making use of the existing route from Seven Sisters passing on to the Gospel Oak to Barking line briefly to pass through South Tottenham and then turning off the Gospel Oak to Barking line to Stratford Low Level. This is little-utilised currently as a route from Seven Sisters to Stratford, being indicated as such on the London Connections map.
Of these options, it may be that use of the existing route from Seven Sisters to Stratford Low Level is the only option worth considering further.
Options have not yet been subject to further investigation.
Access to Ebbsfleet International is via Barking. As the plan in the article Hertford to Stansted Airport and Barking (with plan) demonstrates, services can run to Barking on the Gospel Oak to Barking line, accessing this line from Seven Sisters. This implies finding paths on the line from Gospel Oak to Barking, then paths from Barking. The Gospel Oak to Barking line has been promoted as a line for passenger use, is now published as part of the London Connections rail map, is subject to overcrowding and to upgrade of its signalling system with a view to providing more frequent services. Also it is used by freight services. The station platforms on this line are short, necessitating more trains not longer trains to provide increased capacity. We cannot be certain that paths will be available for additional services.
If Orbital secondary routes i.e. via Stratford are planned then, as already mentioned, we envisage the line between Stratford Low Level and Cannning Town - currently a DLR line and the Jubilee line alongside - as being upgraded to provide a heavy rail capability for these Orbital secondary routes. We note that this used to be a heavy rail route. Possible route-sharing with the Jubilee Line from Stratford to Canning Town.
Potentially there may be a case for providing a chord from this (new) rail line between Stratford Low Level and Cannning Town on to the line to Barking, in the vicinity of West Ham. This opens up a possible route to Barking without having to find paths on the Gospel Oak to Barking line. Services to Barking would then run via Stratford. This could be useful as an alternative principal route which is otherwise envisaged as running on to the Gospel Oak to Barking line to Barking.
If access to Barking is via Stratford then there is a potential need to provide a reasonably high capacity link from Seven Sisters to Stratford, both for primary routes and for secondary routes. Whether this would be the case depends on which rail link or links are provided, as discussed in the article Hertford to Stansted Airport and Barking (with plan) .
Numbered notes below refer to the article Hertford to Stansted Airport and Barking (with plan) .
A chord from Seven Sisters on to the Gospel Oak to Barking line is note 8. If the chord from Seven Sisters on to the Gospel Oak to Barking line were to be made use of principally as a link from Seven Sisters to Stratford (i.e. note 8 then note 9), there may be a case to be made for separating this connection from the Gospel Oak to Barking line altogether, with a multi-level arrangement. Potentially, therefore, there could be a connection from Seven Sisters to Stratford at a different level from the Gospel Oak to Barking line. A multi-level arrangement would provide for a higher capacity Orbital route, since there would be no requirement to find paths on the Gospel Oak to Barking line. Closure or relocation of South Tottenham station might be required. A combination of factors would be necessary to make this at all likely. It would seem to be unlikely if a chord to Hertford East - note 4 - is provided since the route to Stratford could then be via Tottenham Hale. However in this case such an Orbital route is of no more than limited capacity, since it necessitates finding paths on the line through Tottenham Hale. Services on this route cannot run as express services since the line is occupied by the stopping service from Hertford East to Liverpool Street via Tottenham Hale.
We assume here that it is possible to provide a chord from the hypothesised heavy rail line from Stratford Low Level to Canning Town onto the line to Barking in the vicinity of West Ham.
A high capacity Orbital route could be envisaged as providing a route for services from the ECML and for Orbital services via Watford Junction, also potentially from the WCML via an Apsley link, to Barking for Ebbsfleet International (primary routes) and to Canning Town for Abbey Wood (secondary routes).
To be a route of high capacity, there cannot be a dependance on finding paths on existing railway lines where these are congested. Any coexistence with paths for existing services can only occur where these existing services are infrequent.
We would suggest that such a route of high capacity might be provided by the Enfield Tunnel and by a multi-level arrangement for access from Seven Sisters to Stratford Low Level. Most existing services via Tottenham Hale run to Liverpool Street. The high-capacity Orbital route would therefore need to cross this traffic, which implies by means of bridging.
We welcome informed comments from those who are in a position to provide them.
A caveat relating to all options for Orbital secondary routes is that the relationship between Orbital secondary routes and a possible Lower Thames rail crossing is for further study.
The Orbital principal route is via Ebbsfleet International and is almost certainly unaffected by a possible Lower Thames rail crossing.