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The Gospel Oak to Barking line (sometimes unofficially called the GOBLIN)[1] is part of the Network Rail network of railway lines. It is 13 miles 58 chains (22.1 km) in length from one terminus to the other and carries both through goods trains and London Overground passenger trains, connecting Gospel Oak station in north London and Barking station in east London. The line is part of Network Rail Strategic Route 6, and is classified as a London and South East Commuter line.[2] For much of its existence the line has played a minor role in London's transport system; however, it has received significant investment to increase its capacity, including full 25 kV AC overhead electrification, completed in 2018.[3]

Gospel Oak to Barking line
Unit 710262 at Crouch Hill station.jpg
A London Overground Class 710 Aventra departing Crouch Hill in 2019
TypeSuburban rail and goods
SystemNational Rail
LocaleGreater London
TerminiGospel Oak
OwnerNetwork Rail
Operator(s)London Overground
Rolling stockClass 378 "Capitalstar"
Class 710 "Aventra"
Line length13 miles 58 chains (22.1 km)
Number of tracks2
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
ElectrificationSeries 2 25 kV AC OHLE
Route map

Gospel Oak
Highgate Road (High Level)
Highgate Road (Low Level)
Kentish Town (London Underground)
Junction Road
Upper Holloway
Hornsey Road
Crouch Hill
Harringay Green Lanes
St Ann's Road
South Tottenham
Lea Valley lines
(Temple Mills branch)
Blackhorse Road London Underground
Walthamstow Queen's Road
Leyton Midland Road
Leytonstone High Road
Wanstead Park
Woodgrange Park
London, Tilbury & Southend Rly
to Fenchurch Street
East Ham (London Underground)
Barking London Underground National Rail
London, Tilbury & Southend line
via Upminster
Barking Freightliner Terminal
London, Tilbury & Southend line
via Rainham
Renwick Road
Barking Riverside
Crossrail (under construction)
Abbey Wood (National Rail)



A 1914 map of the Tottenham and Hampstead Junction Railway

Original linesEdit

The line has existed in its current form since 1981, and is mostly an amalgamation of lines built in the 19th century. The main section, between South Tottenham and Woodgrange Park, was built as the Tottenham and Forest Gate Railway, a joint project between the Midland Railway and the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway. This opened on 9 July 1894, linking the Midland and Great Eastern joint line at South Tottenham and the Forest Gate and Barking line at Woodgrange Park. The section west of South Tottenham was built as the Tottenham and Hampstead Junction Railway, which opened in 1868 but had not been commercially successful as a stand-alone railway.

Predecessor routesEdit

Although the route between Upper Holloway and Woodgrange Park has been constant, several stations have been the ends of the line. Kentish Town, St Pancras, Gospel Oak and Moorgate (via St Pancras) have all been the western termini. East Ham was an alternative eastern terminus for some time. Some trains were extended beyond Barking to destinations such as Southend and Tilbury. There was a regular boat train service between St Pancras and Tilbury.

A connection to Gospel Oak was added in 1888, but the routes via Kentish Town remained the primary ones and the Gospel Oak branch was abandoned in 1926. The connection to East Ham was abandoned in 1958.

The Tottenham and Hampstead Junction Railway section of the line had stations that were closed due to proximity to other stations or for other reasons. These include Highgate Road (closed 1918), Junction Road (closed 1943), Hornsey Road (closed 1943) and St Ann's Road (closed 1942).[4]

The line was considered for closure to passengers in 1963 as part of the Beeching Axe,[5] but local users protested and formed an action group to prevent closure. Beeching's proposals for London were not implemented for the most part, and the line remained open. Even so, it was allowed to fall into a poor state of repair and reliability,[6] and by 1980 had been cut back to an hourly service between Kentish Town and Barking. The station canopies were gradually demolished, ticket offices closed and staff withdrawn from stations.

Introduction of the present routeEdit

The situation began to improve in 1981 when electrification and upgrades to the line out of St Pancras (later part of Thameslink) displaced the line from Kentish Town. A new link to Gospel Oak was built and the hourly service from Kentish Town was replaced by the current route from Gospel Oak with two trains per hour. The service remained very unreliable due to the age of the trains, which were initially Class 115 and 108 units, replaced in the early 1990s[citation needed] by class 117 and 121 units.

Private operatorsEdit

A Silverlink Class 150 at Gospel Oak

Initially part of British Rail Network SouthEast, the line was privatised in 1994, the track being owned by Railtrack (subsequently Network Rail) with the passenger service provided by the North London Railways franchise. This passed to National Express in 1997, which operated the line under the brand name Silverlink until November 2007. Under Silverlink, the slam door trains were replaced by Class 150 units in 2000, which improved reliability significantly. There were minor improvements in station facilities (such as CCTV and information points) but no major investment to upgrade the line and boost capacity, and the stations remained unstaffed.

London OvergroundEdit

Early London Overground branded signage at Wanstead Park

Many lines within London were running at full capacity, and as a consequence the line took on a new strategic significance as a by-pass, relieving load on other lines by allowing passengers to travel between north and east London directly.

The Railways Act 2005 abolished the franchise and gave the operation of passenger services to Transport for London (TfL). In 2005, TfL started funding a small number of additional peak time and late evening services to relieve the worst overcrowding.

TfL took full control in November 2007 introducing improved late night and weekend services, and staff, ticket machines and Oyster equipment at all stations. The frequency was increased to three trains per hour during morning and afternoon peaks and the line was included on the Tube map for the first time.

The line was closed throughout most of September 2008 for upgrade work carried out by Network Rail. Capacity was increased from six trains per hour to eight (four each for passenger and goods trains). By replacing the overbridges carrying Sussex Way and Albert Road, and lowering the track in some other locations, it was made possible for W10 loading gauge goods trains to operate. Electrification was not included.[7]

In 2010 eight new Class 172 Turbostar diesel trains replaced the Class 150 units, with two 23-metre coaches and the option to introduce a third coach.[8][9] The service frequency was increased to four trains per hour in January 2011.[10]

Given the completion of electrification in 2018, new electric Class 710 trains were supposed to run from March 2018. The delivery of the trains was delayed by the manufacturer however and it is not known when these units will enter service.[11][12][13]

Due to the class 172 units being needed by West Midlands Trains, three Class 378 units (378 206, 378 209 and 378 232) have been moved from other parts of the London Overground and shortened down from five to four carriages to provide an interim service until the class 710 units enter service. However, 6 trains are needed to be able to run a full service, so from 15 March 2019 (the day the last class 172 units left London Overground) the frequency on the line was halved to two trains per hour.[14]

On 23 May 2019 the first two class 710 units entered service but the existing two trains per hour service is being maintained until the full timetable is anticipated to be restored later in the summer.[15]

Current operationsEdit

The line is owned and maintained by Network Rail as part of Great Britain's national rail network. It carries both goods and passenger traffic.

Passenger services on the line are operated by Arriva Rail London as part of the London Overground network under contract to TfL. There are four trains per hour in each direction Monday to Saturday from about 06:30 to about 2330, and on Sundays until about 22:00.[16][17][18][19] There is also single weekday morning service from Woodgrange Park to Willesden Junction, calling at all intermediate stations except for Gospel Oak.

Freight services are operated by DB Cargo UK, GB Railfreight and Freightliner. The line is heavily used by freight as it provides part of an orbital route around London, connecting with many radial routes and the North London Line at Gospel Oak.

Other services that use parts of the line infrequently and as a diversionary route, but do not call intermediately:

The line has an active users' group, "The Barking – Gospel Oak Rail User Group".[21]


Except at the interchange stations, staffed ticket offices were withdrawn by BR in the late 1980s. Under London Overground, self-service ticket machines were introduced in November 2007. Oyster / contactless card validators (for touching in and out) are at all stations. The ticket machines can be used to load credit onto Oyster cards. Passengers are required to buy tickets or touch in their Oyster/contactless cards, or else face a penalty fare.

Owing to the lack of ticket barriers and the difficulty of ticket verification when trains are crowded, the line has historically had a high level of fare avoidance. Under Silverlink most stations lacked any ticket purchasing facilities. In theory, passengers could purchase tickets from the conductors on the trains, but it was not always possible to do this. Following the introduction of the current ticketing arrangements, ticketless travel fell from an estimated peak of 40% under Silverlink, to 2% in March 2008.[22]

Passenger volumeEdit

The number of paying passengers has increased very significantly since the start of London Overground.

This is the passenger volume for the years beginning April 2002 to April 2018.[23]

Notes: The large increases in the year beginning April 2006 were partly due to travelcards for National Rail journeys being made from stations that have only a London Underground office and also using a different methodology to estimate likely journeys made from National Rail stations in Zone 1. The large increases in the year beginning April 2010 were partly due to Oyster Cards being introduced in January 2010,[24] and new rolling stock. Usage of the Gospel Oak to Barking line on the London Overground reduced as a result of engineering works throughout the year. Work included a full closure between October 2016 and February 2017.


Class 378 at Harringay Green Lanes station
Class 710 standing at Barking

Until 2010 London Overground operated six Class 150 two-coach diesel units on the line. They were replaced by eight Class 172/0 two-coach diesel multiple units (DMUs).

As of 2017, all trains were diesel powered as the line was not fully electrified, with only two short sections having overhead electrification, at South Tottenham, to provide a link from Seven Sisters to Stratford, and from the junction with the Great Eastern Main Line to Barking but excluding the bay platform which this service uses. These sections were used only by occasional electric trains on other routes or by goods trains.

Electrification of the line finished in 2018 but no electric trains were running as there were delays with the new Class 710s.[25] As the leases for the Class 172 came to an end in early 2019, London Overground temporarily shortened three of its Class 378s to run on the line to substitute the Class 172s until the long-delayed Class 710s enter service on 23 May 2019.


Sign advertising the interchange at Gospel Oak

The line has same-station interchange with the North London Line at Gospel Oak, the Victoria line at Blackhorse Road and the Hammersmith & City line, District line and c2c at Barking. There are out-of-station interchanges at:[26]

There are official TfL out-of-station-interchanges,[29] whereby the passenger can continue an unbroken journey between

Two other interchanges are walkable:

Station facilitiesEdit

Walthamstow Queens Road station entrance

Except at the interchange stations, station facilities are very basic. There are small shelters, information points with recorded service information, information screens and CCTV cameras. Typically there are one or two staff members on duty. Where there are no station buildings they operate out of container-sized portable offices.

Step free accessEdit

The line has some stations with step free access, allowing wheelchairs/pushchairs etc. easy access from street level to the platforms, at Gospel Oak, Upper Holloway, Harringay Green Lanes, South Tottenham, Walthamstow Queens Road and Barking.[30]

As the trains do not align exactly with the platform height, wheelchair users will probably require assistance to board or leave them.


Geographical layout of the Gospel Oak to Barking line


Residents in Walthamstow complained that vibrations from goods traffic on the line were causing damage to their houses.[31]


Confirmed changesEdit


The electrified stretch at South Tottenham

In 2008, electrification was ruled out on grounds of cost and difficulty of electrifying a line with so many viaducts and bridges,[32] but the Network Route Utilisation Strategy published by Network Rail in October 2009 showed a benefit–cost ratio for the scheme of 2.4:1.[33] In 2012, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, indicated that funding was "a matter for the Department for Transport".[33]

In 2011, Network Rail proposed electrification in Control Period 5 (CP5), but in July 2012 Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Transport, stated that electrification was not included in the High Level Output Specification for CP5, and that any funds would need to be provided by TfL.[34] In August, the Mayor wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport to seek a way forward, and "she committed her officials to support work with TfL, Network Rail, train operators and other industry parties to see if a viable way can be found to bridge the funding gap."[35]

In November 2012, the magazine Modern Railways reported that the Department for Transport had ruled out the work on the basis of an estimated cost of £90 million, in contrast to an estimate of £40M by TfL.[36]

It was announced in June 2013 that £115M of funding for electrification was being made available as part of upgrades to rail infrastructure included in the government's 2013 spending round.[37] At the same time Transport for London announced that they had obtained a £90M commitment from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Transport.[38]

In September 2015, Network Rail awarded the £56.9M contract to electrify the line to J. Murphy & Sons.[39] There were part closures (at weekends and from South Tottenham to Barking) from June to late September 2016, followed by a full closure from October to February 2017. In February 2017, Network Rail announced that whilst the line would re-open as scheduled, they weren’t able to complete all the work planned due to "incorrect" designs and late delivery of materials.[40] Further evening and weekend works until late June 2017 were already planned, followed by around four months of commissioning work before the electric wires could be turned on so that Class 710 trains could run.[41] Although the line was completely electrified by mid-January 2018,[42] delays have prevented the introduction of new electric trains to 2019.[43][44]

The line has been electrified using the NR Series 2 OLE range.[45]

Longer trainsEdit

Class 710 train entering service on the GOBLIN

Increases in passenger numbers have led to severe overcrowding at peak times, but it is not possible to increase peak frequencies without reducing the number of goods trains, as the line can accommodate only eight trains per hour in each direction. Between 2016 and 2018 the line was electrified by Network Rail; this work was delayed due to a number of design, track works and delivery problems. At the same time, platforms were lengthened to accommodate the new four-coach electric class 710 trains. These trains were intended to be introduced in the spring of 2018, but the delivery was delayed by the manufacturer, the first two entering service on 23 May 2019, with the full fleet anticipated to be in service later in the summer of 2019.[46][47]

Proposed changesEdit

Extension to Barking RiversideEdit

It was announced as part of the 2014 United Kingdom budget that the Gospel Oak to Barking Line of London Overground would be extended to Barking Riverside.[48] In December 2018, a £196m contract was signed to extend the line to the brownfield 10,800-home Barking Riverside housing development,[49] which Barking and Dagenham Council does not believe to be viable without improved transport connections. The developers of the site, Barking Riverside Limited, will provide £172M towards the project with the remainder coming from Transport for London.[50] Construction is expected to be completed by 2021, despite delays over awarding contracts.[50][51][52]

Renwick RoadEdit

As part of the preferred route known as 'Alignment B' it has provision for a stop at Renwick Road on the London, Tilbury & Southend Railway if it is needed in the future. This would allow an interchange between the London Overground and c2c services.[53] In the document it states that provision for a station should be near Alfred's Way or East of Renwick Road; all other options such as the Freight Yards were considered unfeasible. The new station could generate 5,000 homes according to the document.

Thamesmead extensionEdit

In addition to the plan to extend the Gospel Oak to Barking Line to Barking Riverside, there are also proposals in the Thamesmead Extension Scheme to extend it further across the river via a future Belvedere Crossing to a station in Thamesmead, and then on to Abbey Wood to connect with the future Crossrail line.[54]

Other proposed changesEdit

Local residents and users of the line have proposed adding a station between Leytonstone High Road and Wanstead Park to serve the Cann Hall area. The Leyton and Wanstead branch of the Labour Party has expressed an interest in the proposal.[55] The line's user group and Islington Borough Council have been pressing for the reopening of the station at Junction Road, as its proximity to Tufnell Park Underground station would allow interchange with the Northern line.[56]


  1. ^ "GOBLIN commuters get a boost". Barking & Dagenham Yellow Advertiser. 9 May 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
  2. ^ "Route 6 – North London Line and Thameside : 2009 Route Plan" (PDF). Network Rail. 2009. Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  3. ^ "Network Rail has completed the electrification works to the Gospel Oak to Barking line".
  4. ^ "London's Abandoned Stations". Retrieved 11 July 2010.
  5. ^ Map 9A, from The Reshaping of Britain's Railways (Report). British Railways Board. 1963. Archived from the original on 20 March 2014.
  6. ^ "On London Overground's Gospel Oak to Barking line, electric dreams do come true". CityMetric. 11 June 2018. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  7. ^ Transport, The UK Department for. "Barking to Gospel Oak Railway and Freight Capability Enhancements".
  8. ^ "Transport for London signs new train leasing contract | Transport for London". 20 February 2008. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ "Gospel Oak to Barking".
  11. ^ "London Overground receives first new Class 710 EMU | Global Rail News". Global Rail News. 20 June 2018. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  12. ^ "Trains to be halved on troubled 'Goblin' Barking to Gospel Oak line". Evening Standard. 12 March 2019. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  13. ^ "Bombardier Class 710/2s authorised, but wait goes on for entry into traffic". Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  14. ^ "Trains to be halved on troubled 'Goblin' Barking to Gospel Oak line". Evening Standard. 12 March 2019. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  15. ^ Matters, Transport for London | Every Journey. "Gospel Oak to Barking trains". Transport for London. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  16. ^ "Gospel-Oak-Barking-May2011" (PDF). Transport for London. 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
  17. ^ Arriva wins £1.5bn London Overground contract BBC News 18 March 2016
  18. ^ Transport for London announces intention to award London Overground contract to Arriva Arriva 18 March 2016
  19. ^ TfL confirm London Overground contract with Arriva signed Railway Technology Magazine 18 April 2016
  20. ^ "PSUL 2019".
  21. ^ "The Barking – Gospel Oak Rail User Group". Retrieved 11 July 2010.
  22. ^ London Overground Review Archived 4 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine page 5
  23. ^ "Estimates of station usage | Office of Rail and Road". Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  24. ^ "Estimates of station usage | Office of Rail and Road". Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  25. ^ "UK railway news round-up". Railway Gazette. 31 January 2019. Retrieved 2 February 2019.
  26. ^ National Rail Timetable – Page 46. Retrieved 25 October 2013
  27. ^ Geoff Marshall and Matthew Frost. "New Station Entrance, Walthamstow – StationMasterApp". Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  28. ^ Binns, Daniel (25 January 2013). "Link between Walthamstow Central and Queens Road stations 'due this summer'". Waltham Forest Guardian. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  29. ^ "Oyster and National Rail". Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  30. ^ National Rail, Accessibility Maps (London and South East) Archived 15 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ "Residents demand action over 'shaking' homes". BBC News. BBC. 18 August 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
  32. ^ "Mayor answers to London (Question 1541/2008)". London Assembly. 16 July 2008. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2010.
  33. ^ a b "Mayor answers to London: Barking to Gospel Oak line (Question 1158/2012)". London Assembly. 23 May 2012. Archived from the original on 23 August 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  34. ^ "Rail Investment: 16 Jul 2012: House of Commons debates". TheyWorkForYou. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  35. ^ "Mayor answers to London: Diesel trains (Question 2942/2012)". London Assembly. 17 October 2012. Archived from the original on 20 March 2014. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  36. ^ Wallis, Glenn (1 November 2012). "Barking–Gospel Oak Line User Group News eBulletin 1 November 2012" (PDF). Barking–Gospel Oak Line User Group. Retrieved 5 December 2012.[permanent dead link]
  37. ^ HM Treasury (June 2013). "Investing in Britain's future" (PDF). The Stationery Office. p. 26. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  38. ^ "Mayor secures 'unprecedented' transport settlement for London to support long-term economic growth". Greater London Authority. 26 June 2013. Archived from the original on 30 June 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
  39. ^ "J Murphy & Sons to carry out electrification of Gospel Oak-Barking route". 29 September 2015. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  40. ^ "London Overground Gospel Oak to Barking route to reopen on Monday 27 February but further work is required". Network Rail. 7 February 2017. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  41. ^ "TfL tries to reduce line-closure time for GOBLIN electrification". 2 February 2016.
  42. ^ "Beleaguered Barking to Gospel Oak line to reopen". New Civil Engineer. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  43. ^ Gelder, Sam. "New Overground trains for Gospel Oak to Barking line delayed... by three months". Islington Gazette. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  44. ^ "Gospel Oak to Barking electrification works to be complete in time for arrival of new double- length electric trains". Network Rail Media Centre.
  45. ^ "CP5 Enhancements Delivery Plan June 2015" (PDF). Network Rail. June 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 March 2016. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  46. ^ "TfL 'pushing hard' to get new trains for Barking line | Railnews | Today's news for Tomorrow's railway". Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  47. ^ Matters, Transport for London | Every Journey. "Gospel Oak to Barking trains". Transport for London. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  48. ^ Freddy Mayhew. "Budget 2014: Commitment to Overground extension to Barking Riverside announced alongside funding for new homes". Barking and Dagenham Post. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  49. ^
  50. ^ a b "London Overground Barking Riverside extension approved".
  51. ^ "Shortlist of bidders to build Barking Riverside Extension".
  52. ^ "Carillion collapse delays £263m Barking Riverside rail deal". Construction News. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  53. ^ [2]
  54. ^ "Call to bring London Overground to Thamesmead – south east London's largest town with no trains". This is London Local. 22 September 2014.
  55. ^ "WALTHAM FOREST: Campaign for new station in Leytonstone". Waltham Forest Guardian. 29 February 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  56. ^ "BGO History". Retrieved 12 February 2014.

Further readingEdit

  • "London's forgotten railway". RAIL. No. 321. EMAP Apex Publications. 31 December 1997 – 13 January 1998. pp. 18–22. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.

External linksEdit