While the west end of Gospel Oak-Barking line remains open during weekdays, Flying Scotsman passes Gospel Oak station on Friday 10 June 2016.
At the end of the first full week of partial closure of the Gospel Oak-Barking line for platform-lengthening and electrification works, one of the National Railway Museum's prize exhibits was able to use it for a positioning move to the East Coast Main Line via Harringay. Rumours that Flying Scotsman's accompanying carriage was temporarily to bolster passenger capacity on London's outer orbital line quickly proved to be unfounded!
After a prolonged campaign by Railfuture members and many others to get one of London and the South East's last few remaining diesel routes electrified, a funding commitment from government was made in June 2013, and a contract for preliminary works was awarded in September 2015. Following a succession of full or partial closures over an increasing number of weekends, a full closure for eight months between Barking and South Tottenham, and also every weekend between South Tottenham and Gospel Oak, began on Saturday 4 June 2016, with weekday services continuing for four months over the South Tottenham-Gospel Oak section with an enhanced peak and late-evening service frequency.
The entire line will be closed for around four months from Saturday 24 September, reopening for weekday services in February 2017. Although all station platforms will be lengthened to take four-car trains to provide urgently-needed extra passenger capacity, Transport for London cannot currently see a way to fund and resource additional trains to make use of the longer platforms until delivery of the first of the new four-car electric trains on order for early-2018 introduction. Only when the electrification works have been commissioned, expected in mid-2017, will full seven-day services along the whole length of the Gospel Oak-Barking line be restored.
The electrification works are of course intended to benefit freight as well as London Overground's passenger train operations, and the link with the East Coast Main Line used by Flying Scotsman is included in the scope of the current project. Other freight links are not, however, including the connection with the Midland Main Line and connections with ports off the Essex Thameside route, which face only towards the Barking-Gospel Oak and Great Eastern/North London lines. Ports at Tilbury, near Grays, and London Gateway, by Thames Haven near Stanford-le-Hope, will therefore continue to be confined to diesel haulage for their container trains.
The next major development for what was for long a backwater route is expected in 2021 with the extension of passenger services from Gospel Oak eastwards to a new terminus at Barking Riverside, supporting a new development of almost 12,000 homes. Meanwhile the acronym LOROL will pass into history this November when TfL's new operator of their London Overground concession, Arriva London Rail Ltd, takes over. Since November 2007 they and their predecessors have been in a joint venture with the MTR Corporation of Hong Kong running the first concession, transforming the GOBLIN from ugly duckling.
For more background see:
4 June 2016 closures start;
2-minute video What it takes to electrify