The broad tangle of orange lines on the tube map will be decluttered as long-standing plans to break the London Overground up into separately named lines are going ahead. The plan was originally announced in April 2021 as a manifesto commitment by Sadiq Khan if he was reelected as Mayor of London, which indeed he was.

During the launch of his election manifesto, he said that “TfL’s London Overground network has grown considerably over recent years, and to reflect this I’ll launch a programme to name individual routes, giving each its own identity.”

The Overground has become increasingly unwieldy as a single named monolith, and there have been occasional half-hearted calls for the line to be broken up into separate names.

That Transport for London (TfL) was working on the project was confirmed in a Freedom of Information request back in January, where they said that “work on this project is in the first stages of development which includes determining the budget required and potential timescales for delivery.”

TfL’s annual budget, which has just been released, has now reserved £4 million for “LO renaming”, which is the project to rename the London Overground lines. The cost is for printing all the new maps and in-train diagrams, new station signs, and recording new automated voice messages for stations and trains. There will also likely be costs for consultation work to agree on what the new names will be.

A Transport for London spokesperson, said: “The Mayor’s manifesto set out his intention to explore renaming routes on London Overground, to give each individual route its own name and make the network easier to navigate. Following the pandemic we are able to take this work forward and are currently assessing the options. Money has been set aside in the budget to take this work forward.”

At the moment, the TfL style guide for referring to the various bits of the London Overground says:

  • North London line is now ‘Overground Richmond/Clapham Junction – Stratford’
  • West London line is now ‘Overground Willesden Junction – Clapham Junction’
  • DC line/Watford Euston DC is now ‘Overground Watford Junction – Euston’
  • Gospel Oak to Barking is now ‘Overground Gospel Oak – Barking’
  • East London line is now ‘Overground Dalston/Highbury & Islington – West Croydon/Crystal Palace/New Cross’

The style guide hasn’t been updated to include the former Greater Anglia lines added in 2015.

Overground train at Battersea Park station

It’s not that the lines will be physically broken up, more that the Overground will have a naming convention similar to the sub-surface lines on the London Underground, where the same trains can run on the Circle, District and H&C lines showing shared maps, but separate tube line names.

The decision to split the London Overground up does make a lot of sense though, as it has become a victim of its own success, having grown from a small bit of former Silverlink service into a huge part of the London transport network. Although it’s unlikely that each renamed section would be differently coloured, as TfL would quickly run out of colours to use, the breaking up of the lines will make it much easier to know what part of the London Overground is affected by engineering works or disruptions.

No more will people using, for example, the East London line be told there’s disruptions on the London Overground when the problem is over in Watford and doesn’t affect them at all.

Breaking the line up into separate sections also makes it easier to add more lines in the future, say if TfL were to take over more national rail services. Adding, for a random example, a load of Southeastern lines onto the London Overground would have made it even more unwieldy than it currently is. But once the principle that mainline trains can operate as individual lines, bolting more lines on later is less of a headache.

However, renaming anything is always contentious, and you only have to look at the fuss when Marathon become Snickers, or Crossrail became the Elizabeth line to see how entrenched views can become about a brand name.

The splitting of the London Overground into separately named sections is going to be one of those common-sense decisions that will lead to an exceptional amount of heat and bad tempers as people squabble over the names to be chosen.

Most London Overground users will likely just shrug, and get on with the changes as interesting and maybe useful, but not that big an issue in the grand scheme of things.

But some people will HATE whatever is done, and will be exceptionally vocal in making sure as many people as possible know how utterly outraged they are that their personal choice wasn’t used.

It’s going to be the fight over the Sir Nigel Gresley duck statue all over again.

Breaking up the London Overground into separate lines is sensible, wise and long overdue.

But I feel so very sorry for the people who will do it.


Be the first to know what's on in London, and the latest news published on ianVisits.

You can unsubscribe at any time from my weekly emails.

Tagged with: ,

This website has been running now for over a decade, and while advertising revenue contributes to funding the website, it doesn't cover the costs. That is why I have set up a facility with DonorBox where you can contribute to the costs of the website and time invested in writing and research for the news articles.

It's very similar to the way The Guardian and many smaller websites are now seeking to generate an income in the face of rising costs and declining advertising.

Whether it's a one-off donation or a regular giver, every additional support goes a long way to covering the running costs of this website, and keeping you regularly topped up doses of Londony news and facts.

If you like what you read on here, then please support the website here.

Thank you

  1. Brad says:

    It makes a lot of sense, but I do worry that TfL will just sell out to sponsors so we’ll see branded lines – the Oreo Raspberry Twist Line (now stopping at Double Stuffed Renwick Lane), or the Selco Builders Warehouse Line. (other cookies or warehouses are available).
    The Gospel Oak line already is known as the Goblin, so should stay, and isn’t it about time that Harry Beck had a line named after him?

    • DaveH says:

      Like the idea of the ‘Beck Line’ (let’s hope it doesn’t stimulate the sponsored ‘Becks Line’ though) and, prompted by the above, how about the Gresley line too?

    • Colin Newman says:

      Goblin stood for Gospel Oak to Barking Line Improvements Now, but now seems to mean just Gospel Oak to Barking Line, which makes a mockery of “Goblin line”. I like the nickname “chimney pot(s) line”.

    • Clive says:

      I smell a rat

    • Peter Wright says:

      Even more fitting, it would be great if an Underground line named after Harry Beck was extended out to BECKenham. Self-interest declared here.

  2. Dan Coleman says:

    £4 million for a brand issue that doesn’t have a major impact on operations seems like a phenomenal waste of money, at a time where TfL’s finances are chaotic.

    Not saying it shouldn’t be done eventually, but it’s this just seems much higher on the priority list than it should be.

    • Sean says:

      £4m is a drop in the ocean in TfL’s finances. It’s something that should have happened when the service was set up and will be extremely useful for many thousands of passengers. It’s very good news that it’s finally happening and well worth the cost.

    • Ian Wallace says:

      £4 million pounds is not a “drfop in the ocean” in my book. It coulsd put in better disabled access, and even reduce selected ticket prices. I for one wouldnt say no to £4 million or even a small slice of it. to claim otherwise explains why so many publicly funded budgets are bloated.

  3. Kevin Roche says:

    Will they let the public vote on the names? 🙂 I’m looking forward to a trip on the “Trainy McTrain”.

  4. Nigel Harvey says:

    This is well overdue. It is so annoying to see problems on the Overground which is an almost daily occurrence and then find out it is the other side of London and will have no effect on your journey.

  5. Nathan says:

    I do hope the final names have some logical/geographical basis to them, and where there isn’t an obvious precedent that the consultation process gets to platform/showcase something interesting about the area.

    To offer my 2c: I think the two ‘orbital’ routes should simply be West London line and East London line, as they mirror each other nicely (avoiding confusion between NLL and Northern line) and helping differentiate them as a core orbital service vs the terminus / outer orbital routes. Formalising the ‘Goblin’ and maybe bringing back the ‘Harlequin’ on Euston DC could be nice injections of wit with historical precedent. The Emerson Park and Liverpool Street lines could be opportunities to bring in something new.

    • Wembleyboy says:

      I’ve thought of it as the Harlequin line ever since NSE gave it that name

    • Del says:

      Underground Overground, wandering free,
      The commuters of london, pay no congestion charge fee.
      Making good use of the routes that they find,
      Leaving all the carparking, worries behind.

  6. Barry S says:

    The logical solution would be to revert to what they’ve historically been referred to, so of course that won’t happen!

    That would give us North/South/East/West London Lines, Gospel Oak – Barking Line (I’d accept Goblin Line at a push, even though that would be an entry from the Department of Redundancy Department), Romford – Upminster Line, West Anglia Lines, and Watford DC Lines (given Atria Line doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as Harlequin Line.)

    • Colin Newman says:

      Lea Valley lines

    • Graham L says:

      Good ideas. Think the Watford line should revert to the DC – or the Hornet line!
      Being cynical names like No Chance, Stops Short or Severe Delays.

  7. Brian Butterworth says:

    The things is … unless you happen to need to change sub-lines at Willesden Junction, Hackney Downs/Centrl, Highbury/Canonbury, almost no-one who uses the London Overground cares that there are separate sub-lines because most journeys are just Overground+Tube or perhaps Overground+NR.

    99% of the stations have a singe sub-route and that’s why it works as a “single brand”.

    I know it was a “manifesto promise” but if I would personally prefer the extra reverse platform at Camden Road so they could double the Stratford-Camden service that’s packed all the time.

    • Colin Newman says:

      Hmm. Catch a District Line train and you can change at Upminster for the Overground, then at Barking for the Overground (totally separate line) then at Whitechapel for the Overground (another separate line). If you prefer to go round the top of the circle you can change at Liverpool St for the Overground and Euston Square for Euston for the Overground. That’s at leas 5 different (separate) lines all called the Overground. It’s so unhelpful as to be useless.

  8. Richard C. says:

    For the Richmond to Stratford line, how about the North Circular?

    • Colin Newman says:

      There’s clear case for calling RichmondStratford the North London Line (which it already is called, just not for customers).

    • Tony Brereton says:

      An ideal opportunity to: 1) emulate Paris Metro and adopt numbers: OV 1-12; 2) drop eastbound, westbound etc; and 3) put up signs on the approach to and on platforms saying “OV 1 Towards Stratford…” etc.

    • Liz says:

      South Circular would be better as it starts in the South and is not far from South Circular road

  9. Basil Jet says:

    Name them after animals with distinctive coats. Use a stylised representation of the coat as the train livery and as the line on the map. Paint every bridge in the livery as well, acting as an advert for the line, so that when drivers see a zebra-striped bridge in Luton and another in Gospel Oak, they know they could have got a direct train between the two. This will make each line a tourist attraction, with people seeing the red line with black spots on the tube map and travelling out to Romford just to see the ladybird train.

    • Basil Jet says:

      I think I typed Leyton but got autocorrected to Luton.

    • Liz B says:

      Tony we have the same surname. I wonder if we’re related. My in-laws originate from Liverpool, North Wales and Yorkshire.

    • Ian Wallace says:

      Great. We could have Sloth, snail, wombat and worm lines to reflect their speed or failing that we could also have one called Bottomless pit to reflect how much money they absorb and how inefficiently they are run.

  10. Pete says:

    I work across several hospital sites across North London but live in the East and it amazes me how much I have to use the Overground to get to them… so much so that I’ve jokingly called the GO-B and NLL the “Hospital Line(s)” ever since they appeared on the Map.

    Along that idea, couldn’t they all be named in honour of someone/something that isn’t a dead Queen? The NHS Line. The Beck Line as above. The Bowie Line (though no-one will agree on how to pronounce it so maybe go with the Mercury Line…)

    Actually, I think I’ve just convinced myself away from general tributes and name them all after music icons. The Winehouse Line passing through Camden Road seems fitting…

    • Colin Newman says:

      There are two matters here, one of Which is which stretches of line to name separately. Is Stratford-Richmond a different “line” to Stratford-Clapham Junction? Do you distinguish them in the same way as you distinguish the H&C from the Circle, or do you regard them as branches like the District’s branches to Wimbledon and Richmond?

      If the lines aren’t going to have their own colours it will be tricky to show where two lines are sharing tracks.

  11. Richard says:

    Just saved them 4m. Here’s what they were before under BR.

    North London Line
    East London Line
    South London Line
    West London Line
    Gospel Oak – Barking Line
    Romford – Upminster Line
    West Anglia Lines
    Watford DC Line

    • Colin Newman says:

      Not West Anglia Lines but Lea Valley Lines.

    • ianVisits says:

      The £4 million is the cost of printing all the signs, not the cost of deciding what will be on the signs.

    • Colin Newman says:

      But would you call a Stratford to Clapham Jn line train a West London Line train and a Stratford to Richmond a North London Line train?

    • Rosamund says:

      My enthusiast father would insist that the 5th one down was called the Barking-Gospel Oak line, as per the furthest away destination put first, as per The Chingford Line, Cheshunt line, Enfield line etc for the former Great Anglia lines (which I’m sure were called collectively something else when I was growing up) – he never liked the Goblin name. I quite like calling it the GoB line.

  12. Petras409 says:

    Watford DC line could even go back to being called the Silverlink. One word names are usually clearest, although the compass point lines make sense.

    • Charles Ellson says:

      Neither Silverlink (occasionally aka VomitLink because of the trains’ accompanying colour scheme) nor Silverlink have a geographical association/indicator and were widely ignored by local users when referring to the DC line. Plenty of “normals” know it as the DC line, distinguishing it from the adjacent services. “Watford Line” (as in “it doesn’t go past…”) makes more sense.

    • Charles Ellson says:

      Should be “Neither Silverlink… nor Harlequin Line”. 🙁

  13. Petras409 says:

    West Anglia was always a bit convoluted. East Anglia is clear, but logic would suggest that West Anglia ought to be somewhere like the Welsh Marches, or Devon & Cornwall !

  14. Mike says:

    Names should have geographic or local meaning, in my opinion. While they’re about it, perhaps they could get the line maps corrected on Colin’s “Lea Valley Lines”. At present they indicate that Chingford trains call at all stations to Liverpool Street, which, of course they don’t. They all omit London Fields and Cambridge Heath. There are no platforms at these stations for Chingford trains!

    • Coli Newman says:

      You can have some right fun and games with “all stations”. There are platforms alongside the LTS&R tracks at Becontree and and Dagenham East, for example, but they are disused and when c2c say “all stations” they mean all the stations that they might stop at and not ones they never stop at.

    • Liz B says:

      perhaps they should get these stations added in while they’re at it.

  15. timbeau says:

    As I recall, the Harlequin Shopping Centre was named after the line (a portmanteau of HARLEsden and QUEEN’s Park), not vice versa.
    Chingford and Enfiled lines should have separate identities, especially because of the skip-stopping the former does south of Hackney Downs.
    Enfield (includes the Waltham Cross branch as it is in the borough of Enfield)
    Brunel (after the tunnel)
    Premier (the tagline adopted by the comapany that built it, the LNWR) – although it will always be the WhatUse line to me!

    I’m struggling with the North/West London lines. Most of its route is so well connected it’s difficult to come up with an unambiguous name – Brondesbury is just about the only place on the line which isn’t served by another line as well. We could go back to its original name – the East & West India Docks and Birmingham Junction Railway, or Ewidabj for short.

  16. Thomas Day says:

    Personally I’d stick to just letters (Overground A line, Overground B line etc) which avoids any contentious names and also clearly separates the Overground as a separate network from the Underground.

    • Alex says:

      Way too sensible and wouldn’t use up the budget as only one letter need be printed and slapped on the end. Not enough confusion factor either for tourists / nonlondonders

    • Peter Gresswell says:

      Yes, and very Parisian – good idea!

  17. Lionel Ward says:

    Hope they consider the possible anagrams. The GOBLIN sets quite the precedent

  18. Andy T says:

    Brunel line for East London Overground seems reasonable

  19. James D says:

    Bakerloo Line, Euston Branch, anyone?

  20. Marc Ricketts says:

    Talking about London Overground. At Enfield Town Railway Station. It never changes. Its been the same old Train Service to London Liverpool Street. And it’s always been the same. Now I would like to make a Suggestion. I Think There Should be a Brand New Direct Train Service from Enfield Town to Gatwick Airport in the future. Via Seven Sisters, Stratford, Clapham Junction and East Croydon. 1. To Help people get out of their Cars and unto Public Transport. Especially on the A110, A10, M25, M23, A23, A21, M1, M2, M3, M4, M11, A1, A2, A3, A4, A12, A13 and A406 etc. And 2. To Help Reduce overcrowding on London Underground and other Main London Railway Stations as well. Especially London Victoria.

    • John Leeming says:

      There are already similar routes if you change once – e.g. Enfield Chase or Seven Sisters to Gatwick (changing at Finsbury Park).

  21. Peter Gresswell says:

    Any chance the Northern line might also be split now into a Southern Line running via Bank down to Morden, and a Northern Line running via Charing Cross across to Battersea Power Station?

    • ChrisC says:

      IIRC that would require huge changes to the station and track layout at Camden Town and there are other priorities for spending scarce capital funds.

  22. Danny says:

    The Romford to Upminster line is a orphan and should be transferred as a limited service to the Elizabeth Line where a train twice an hour goes via Romford to Upminster. This would greatly improve capacity at Upminster om the C2C and make more sence than a Orphaned line that Overground inherited.

    • MatW says:

      I agree it seems a missed opportunity to send Elizabeth Line trains down the Emerson park branch. Even if the current arrangement remained of two trains per hour.

      Sadly I think to make it work Romford would need track remodelling slightly for the branch to allow EL trains to use the GA platforms 2 & 3 at Romford.
      At present the branch can only be accessed by reserving off Platform 2 (London bound).

      This adds the complexity of slotting EL services regularly up the fast to either a Ilford or Stratford when they could rejoin the local lines for the Crossrail portals, then there’s the question of where do you send this service? Paddington, Heathrow, Maidenhead?

      Same time EL at Upminster would have forced platform 6 to be rebuilt bringing in a lift making it step free.

      I’m sure Thurrock council would have been more justified in their novel idea to extending line through their part of Essex… and under the Thames 😅

      (Same time (in an idea world)I think rebuilding Upminster platform 6 on the west side of the station would then give room for a single track over bridge to connect onto the c2c ockendon line and have an Overground Romford to Grays service, but would require appropriate double tracked sections and improvements at Grays station to turns trains around.

    • ianVisits says:

      To link the Elizabeth line at Romford to the Upminster shuttle would require a huge flyover. That would be exceptionally expensive.

  23. NG says:

    Watford DC
    N London ( Or N London Loop? )
    Thames Tunnel

    There you go ….

  24. Del says:

    So simple, just add a suffix. Overground North, Overground South-Central etc.

    Now a really useful service would be to convert the The Romford to Upminster line into a light-rail/tramway with extra stops at Heathpark Road, The Osbourne Rd/Cranham Rd Link, Wingletye Lane and Dury Falls.

  25. Rosamund says:

    There are plenty of colours left in the spectrum waiting to be used, but I do concede that not everyone can distinguish them, & on screen + printing can be sadly erroneous, leading to confusion.
    They’ve not used any pastels for example, nor a deep teal, nor a dark or light green. They could use white outlined in a colour & with a fine colour stripe.

    • John Leeming says:

      Pastels are already used within the DLR to distinguish separate routes, but not on the main ‘Tube’ map.

    • Rosamund says:

      Can’t reply to John Leeming directly: ah well, now you mention it, I’ve looked the routes up &, OK, they’ve used 1 pastel blue, alongside the main turquoise, & they’ve used a deep teal colour there too, but there’s no pink/lilac/lemon/lime green/apricot/peach, nor other deeper colours, like coral, cerise, or mauve, + they can keep the orange for 1 line.

    • David Winter says:

      It’s already bad enough for colour-vision impaired folk like me. You’re talking a strange, very foreign language to me.

  26. Tom says:

    At this point, I’d probably go with numbering or lettering the individual routes. It’d be useful e.g. at Whitechapel to know where your southbound train was going. I know, waaay too revolutionary.

  27. Charles Hedley says:

    It reminds me of the naming of the Jubilee Line.
    The Fleet Line was renamed in order to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Of course there was argument and Fleet Line supporters turned out with lapel badges saying “Don’t Jubilee’ve it”.

  28. Del says:

    As Duke Ellington once said, “Take the A train”

  29. mikeH says:

    A, B, C, etc seem like sensible notations, but please no naming lines after people that really does cause upset and also keep the name short.

    • Keith says:

      Naming lines after people can also prove problematic if several years later it turns out their past is problematic.

      I’d agree that using letters for the Overground lines would help keep it simple, especially for tourists.

    • ChrisC says:

      Letters may seem simple but the pronounciation of English letters can and will confuse tourists.

    • Tom says:

      Yup, logical and works everywhere else but never seems to be considered here. Or a numerical system with alphabetical suffixes depending on the service. E.g. ELL to West Croydon becomes Overground 1A, service to Crystal Palace becomes 1B, etc…

  30. Adrian says:

    It’s time for each line to have its own name but I don’t care what they’re called. Just get on with it.

  31. Ian says:

    Another name that was used by Network Southeast at one time for the Chingford and Enfield Town lines was the Jazz lines – apparently there was some historical precedent.

    But it would make some sense to provide a thematic link – so if you start with Goblin, why not have a Pixie, Leprechaun, Gnome, Imp, Elf, Sprite, Faery, Kelpie, Puck… Hmm, on second thoughts, perhaps not!

  32. David Winter says:

    Perhaps a useful precedent was set about 120 years ago:

    The problem with naming the NLL/WLL/ELL/SLL now they look so different could be addressed by calling the Richmond-Stratford service OUTER CIRCLE, the Stratford-CLJ service MIDDLE CIRCLE, and the ELL/SLL route the UNDER-RIVER LINE with several services: Crystal Palace, CLJ, etc.

    •WATFORD LOCAL service
    •BARGO service (Gospel Oak-Barking Riverside)
    •Lea Valley lines: Cheshunt Service, Chingford Service, Enfield service.

    My 3.5p’s worth ‼️

  33. James Miller says:

    I wrote to Boris, when the Overground opened, saying that the East London Line should be called the Brunel Line, due to the historic associations with father and son.

    He said no!

    While we’re at it, how about renaming the Waterloo and City Line with the shorter; Drain, that my mother always used!

  34. daveid76 says:

    The obvious thing to do is to give them neutral geographical names in order to avoid accusations of wokeness or antiwokeness. This won’t happen of course because this is 21st century Britain and we simply must put it to the people who always make the best decisions.

  35. Max76 says:

    Fair enough – but basically a decision to revert to what they used to be called when I was a kid.

  36. Geoffrey Riba-Thompson says:

    The “East London” line spends most of its time in south east and south London. I like “Brunel” but I’m sure some bright spark could incorporate Croydon, Crystal Palace and Canonbury in some way.

  37. David Cohen says:

    They could number or alphabetise them (like the Paris RER).

  38. Liz B says:

    Clapham Jct should be added to the East London line with West Croydon/Crystal Pal/New Cross to Dalston/Highbury & Islington and while they are at it they should make all trains go to Highbury & Islington and revert Dalston to just a stop on the line as before. Clapham Jct to Willesden shouldn’t be needed at all as its part of the line from Clapham Jct to Stratford. They haven’t included the line from Liverpool St to Chingford/Cheshunt/Enfield.

    While they are at it they should create more lines on the tube which go to South London and especially South East London whether thats extending tramlink, Overground, Bakerloo or creating new lines. The Bakerloo line should be extended as far as Beckenham as originally proposed which would give more access to the tube for people from Croydon and Wimbledon.

  39. Stephen Locke says:

    Long overdue reform – indeed if TfL had added sensibly from the beginning it would never have been needed. Terms such as North London Line and East London Line were already in regular use – unimaginative maybe, but they did what it said on the tin. TfL’s efforts to squash these labels was hugely counter-productive, leading to confusing maps and useless travel updates. Our local Overground station travel disruption board (Honor Oak Park) still only gives information about other Overground lines many of which are miles away and don’t even intersect with our line.
    While we are at it, the very word Overground is quite confusing too, as it is sometimes used for National Rail Services.

  40. daveid76 says:

    I would go for North London Line, East London Line, Lea Valley Line, Harlequin Line and Barking Line. Much though I like Goblin as a pet name, it loses its appeal when it becomes official. As for the shuttle, just give it over to the District Line.

Home >> News >> Transport News