An old railway line currently used for cargo trains could be converted into passenger use, linking parts of West London currently poorly served by rail services.

The little used railway line runs from just north of Cricklewood on the Thameslink line and loops around West London, ever so slightly just missing aligning with a number of stations on existing lines until it join up with the London Overground at Acton.

Plans to do something to improve the east-west links in this part of London have been around for many years, ranging from a full scale tube train service to a DLR style light rail.

A consortium of local councils, the West London Economic Prosperity Board has now endorsed a plan to convert the freight railway tracks into passenger services and create what could be an extension of the London Overground service.

The Dudding Hill Line is an existing railway line in northwest London running from Acton to Cricklewood. The line itself has had no scheduled passenger service for over a century. It has no stations, no electrification and a 30 miles per hour (48 km/h) speed limit with semaphore signalling, and is lightly used by freight and very occasional passenger charter trains.

A feasibility study found that a scheme to convert it into passenger use is technically feasible with a significant level of latent passenger demand and strong value for money. It also has the potential to unlock in the region of 15,000 – 20,000 new homes across the sub-region.

The cost is put at somewhere in the region of £250 million, although it could reach as much as £400 million according to how the plans are developed.

If built, the service could see a service run from either the already proposed new station at Brent Cross West, or southwards at West Hampstead, then up to Cricklewood, then divert onto the freight line to run, via “new” stations at Gladstone Park and/or Neasden, Harlesden and Old Oak Common, before it joins up with the existing London Overground at Acton Central.

The preferred option has been defined as:

Phase 1: 4 trains per hour from West Hampstead to Hounslow, calling at West Hampstead, Cricklewood, Neasden, Harlesden, OOC, Acton Central, South Acton, Brentford, Syon Lane, Isleworth, Hounslow.

Phase 2: additional 4 trains per hour from Hendon to Kew Bridge, calling at Hendon, Brent Cross/Staples Corner, Neasden, Harlesden, OOC, Acton Central, South Acton, Kew Bridge.

The station at Gladstone Park could see the disused station called Dudding Hill brought back into use, although the likelyhood is that a new station closer to Neasden on the Jubilee line would be favoured for the shorter interchange walk.

There may even be enough space to flip the existing Neasden station southwards and link up with the new Overground line to create a single station linking the two lines.

Whether the funding for that would be available will doubtless depend on getting new housing developers to pick up some of the bill.

The other station, at Harlesden could also see the old station of the same name rebuilt, but again, the freight line runs close to the current Harlesden station, so a combined building would again be likely, this time with just a modest footbridge needed to link the new platforms to the existing station.

A new station at Old Oak Common to tie in with the huge development planned there is self-evident.

The minutes from the West London Economic Prosperity Board earlier this year suggest that the line could be operational by the mid 2020s.


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  1. Melvyn says:

    Until we get a new Secretary of State for Transport then given how Grayling won’t transfer services to Mayor Khan and TFL then schemes like this and the Barking Riverside extension may be the best way to extend TFL services.

    This scheme has the major benefit of using existing underused rail infrastructure and thus may avoid some of the NIMBY problems new lines encounter.

    The plans to upgrade existing stations and provide interchange make a positive addition to this scheme with the likelihood that these stations would become full accessible interchange stations bringing further benefits to north west London.

    While the interchange with HS2 will provide an alternative to travelling to Euston especially if this line makes this a direct journey or a single interchange if above interchange stations are created.

  2. Bob McIntyre says:

    Once again something for London, probably at the expense of improving services in other regions.

    Perhaps you would like the Class 153 single units running every 4 to 5 hours that we have to put up with on the Heart of Wales line?

    • Ian Visits says:

      If you read the report, you’ll find that, as with most London transport upgrades — they are proposed to be funded from local development funds and TfL’s own local revenues.

      Wales doesn’t lose a penny from this.

    • Melvyn says:

      Wales was also due to get electrification of the Valley Lines but this was to be EU funded but Wales said no to this money by voting to Leave the EU but never mind their are a fleet of ex District Line Trains that are being converted to use diesel power for Valley lines !

      As the article mentions this line already exists and is used for freight trains and will thus cost far less than a brand new line and with stations part funded by property development a possibility

    • Mikhail Glushenkov says:

      It’s the other way around actually, it’s London and its surrounding regions that subsidise Wales and the rest of the country. 2/3 of London’s tax revenue goes to regions that spend more than they earn.

  3. Andrew Gwilt says:

    Sounds interesting. Old Oak Common to West Hempstead via Cricklewood and Dudding Hill Line. Along with Class 172’s to operate on the new route. But I think it won’t happen.

    But London Overground could take over the branch line between West Ealing and Greenford and to use some of their Class 172’s. If that does happen.

  4. Bob Ford says:

    Join up your logic Andrew, you could operate along the Acton connection to feed through to Greenford – give Greenford something more than a West Ealing shuttle

    • Phil says:

      No you couldn’t!

      Please remember that the previous Paddington – Greenfod service HAD to be curtailed at West Ealing to free up space for Crossrail trains. Without extra track from Action, through Ealig Broadway then you can forget any ideas of adding yet more services on this section.

      On the subject of the Dudding Hill Line, while it is true the line is relatively lightly used at present, the same is not true of the MML or the Hounslow Loop. While introducing a service linking the two is not impossible by any means neither is it as straightforward as the article assumes as it is quite likely to require significant investment on turnback facilities that don’t currently exist away from the actual Dudding Hill line (which would need a comprehensive upgrade in itself), plus of course run into timetabling issues.

    • Melvyn says:

      While the Greenford Service was curtailed at West Ealing it worth noting that their is a little used route that passes by Greenford Station which currently carries freight trains but could be used to extend West Ealing to Greenford services beyond Greenford with new platforms at Greenford Station replacing the existing terminal platforms which might even be filled in creating a wider island platform.

    • Andrew Gwilt says:

      Thanks Rob. 🙂

  5. Bryan says:

    There are plans for a turnback facility at Hounslow, and Brentford is a big commuting centre, so that seems a feasible option. Biggest problem is likely to be capacity on the Midland Mainline without some additional track.

    • Busy Bee says:

      There is additional track along the Midland Main Line – the hardly-used freight lines, which run from just north of Hendon Thameslink, south as far as Finchley Road (with a bit of work beyond West Hampstead.

      Note that the latest plan is to abandon Crossrail to the West Coast Main Line. Instead, Chiltern Railways will run Banbury – High Wycombe – Greenford – Old Oak Common terminus, between the HS station and the Crossrail one.

  6. Geoff Demprunt says:

    The current penchant for costly grandioise schemes is often at the expense of better utilisation of existing or disused lines.

    The key thing here as rightly predicted is two fold.

    1. Developer money , for instance Brent Cross Shopping Centre , with each new development locally paying a Section 106 levy.

    2.The extra capacity will have to come from making better use of the track in the wide expansive cutting.

    In my opinion this should also extend further than West Hampstead to Blackhorse Road via The GOBLIN and the Carlton Road Junction. This would provide a true east to West Link. It would only require a signalling improvement on the Goblin to provide a metro type service of a train on this network every 3 mins. The journey time Hounslow Blackhorse Road 45 minutes. That’s much quicker than the current Victoria and Picadilly option , without the excellent inclusion of new destinations.

  7. Aleks2cv says:

    A logical development for TfL Overground to plan further if passengers and revenues resume growth.

    The Greenford line is useful for freight, charters, and a possible premium airport francihse for a future incarnation of Heathrow Express. However extending the shuttle offers no return as it parallels the Central, so worth keeping the bay cross-platform interchange.

    The MML and timetabling is not affected as the route is 6 track, and why a Mill Hill extension is inappropriate. The terminus would be a new bay on the available goods lines beyond Hendon Station towards the former Hendon Factory Halt. A new terminating station after Colindeep Lane at Propellor Way on Silkstream junction would serve the housing estates, the RAF Museum, the Metropolitan Police College, the North London Grammar School and Middlesex University campus.

    The speed limit of 30mph is still 6x that of bus routes and upgrade funds should be prioritised to frequent stops in the Overground Metro model.

    Hounslow does not look like it has space for a turnback bay which is why Isleworth has been mentioned instead. Kew Bridge is a good candidate for an alternating service as it doubles the service through the Old Oak core and has plenty of platform space on the curve.

    Once again a lack of safeguarding and asset disposals mean that Chiswick Village development prevents a more efficient loop turnaround through Chiswick Junction.

    The Brent Cross shopping centre station is likely to be privately funded so it would be much cheaper for them to build a local 2 track overground station with onward service to Thameslink at Hendon.

    West Hampstead offers the best interchange. The track south to Finchley Road provides a turnback siding.

    The Carlton Road junction route to Dudding Hill is used by night-time freight. It crosses Thameslink and MML express so not possible for scheduling Borris’s RingRail2050. The Goblin is likely to be extended to Richmond as a long term ambition once HS2 Euston rebuild starts and the Overground is kicked out.

    If this scheme is taken on by the Overground the only way of connecting it to RingRail2050 would be raising the Goods Lines after West End Lane up to the North London overbridge. Just slightly steeper from West Hampstead Thameslink than the parallel West Hampstead Overground. Easier for an EMU than the Victorian tanks. The costs are not justified as it was never intended to run a single Overground train all round the loop just ‘connect’ as at Clapham Junction and just as possible with OSI at West Hampstead.

  8. Adrian Millward says:

    Actually these proposals provide an excellent template for what we should be doing in the regions. The nonesense of HS2 in Yorkshire is that it fails to utilise existing or redundant track beds,mainly old freight lines, of which there are dozens. Imagine what you could do using this approach with the £100 billion that industry insiders say HS2 will cost, in place of setting regions against the capital.

  9. richard Durell says:

    I would’nt describe it as ‘little used’ –it’s quite heavily used also the Acton canal wharf spur and the neasden spur.

    • ianVisits says:

      It averages around 4 train an hour over the day — by London standards that’s practically sleepy.

  10. mike durell says:

    I would’nt describe it as ‘little used’ –it’s quite heavily used also the Acton canal wharf spur and the neasden spur.

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