Transport for London (TfL) is considering extending the London Overground to run into London Bridge station to replace capacity lost when Southern cut services in south London.

Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash

In a series of responses to Lewisham Council officials, TfL said that it is aware that there is overcrowding along the Sydenham corridor, particularly in the morning, which has been made more severe by the halving of the Southern service along the line to two trains per hour.

The changes were introduced last September when Southern cut some services due to lower revenues from fares.

However, the reduction of mainline rail services means more people crowd onto London Overground trains in the morning, which is also making TfL’s services more congested.

TfL has been investigating the issue and whether they can run additional services between Crystal Palace to Dalston Junction / Highbury and Islington via Canada Water. However, they are still analysing the plans to ensure any extra trains on the London Overground don’t affect its other services, especially as about half of the route is shared with the Overground’s service to/from Clapham Junction.

However, as Southern isn’t using two slots per hour to run trains to London Bridge, TfL also outlined an option to use the capacity between New Cross Gate and London Bridge that Southern is no longer using to operate London Overground trains up to London Bridge instead. Apart from reducing overcrowding on the Overground, it could also help reduce overcrowding on the Jubilee line at Canada Water.

That option would also avoid the risk of delays at the rail junction where Overground trains from Clapham Junction join the same track as trains from Crystal Palace, but as TfL notes, would “necessitate significant changes to operational arrangements and driver training”

If the London Bridge extension were created, it would likely need approval from the Department for Transport (DfT) to transfer Southern’s paths to TfL, and a public consultation would probably also need to be carried out before any changes could come into effect.

Extremely rough edit of the Overground map to show a London Bridge spur

TfL added that there are currently no confirmed timescales for implementing any changes due to the further work they require.


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  1. Tim says:

    Love the idea, I can see that route being popular. By the sounds of it there wouldn’t be much ability to expand the capacity of the new line beyond the suggestions above, meaning if could be overcrowded and awful pretty quickly with little chance to improve things short term.

  2. Another Tim says:

    A distinct sense of deja vu here. I recall commuting on the Southern Region service from Brockley to London Bridge 35 years ago on the old slam door trains which ran half-hourly (supposedly), were routinely late and always jam-packed. All these years later and we seem to have come full circle!

    • jJames Miller says:

      It looks to me, that London Bridge and Crystal Palace will take around 24 minutes. So if the round trip could be done in an hour, that would need two trains. There are several 319’s coming off lease soon from London Midland, so could we see two eight-car trains running a shuttle? Capacity would be good and they’ve got bogs too!

  3. BC says:

    Would love to see London Overground re-run the whole route from London Bridge to Coulsdon Town again.

  4. Jason Aaron Thompson says:

    Does this mean LO trains could run Victoria ➔ London Bridge?

  5. Jim says:

    The Overground is much more reliable, frequent and cheaper than Southern. As a CP resident I’d love to see this happen.

  6. Steve Doggett says:

    Just get Southern to put the London Bridge – East Croydon service back! As usual, they don’t care about the metro services (which TFL should be running anyhow), just the longer and more profitable routes.

    • Jason Aaron Thompson says:

      Was that the one that took 12 minutes? If so, I got on it once (not knowing I was embarking upon such a swift journey), I was amazed!

    • Robert Munster says:

      No, that still runs, although I must say your train was doing very well to do it in 12 minutes! But there has “always” been a stopping service between London Bridge and East Croydon (generally continuing to Caterham in the old days) and this link is important for onward connections to Gatwick Airport, Brighton etc.

    • Phil says:

      And where exactly are they going to get the trains to do that with?

      You need to remember that these service cuts were made on the SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS OF THE DfT who think they are spending too much on the railways.

      Southern contribution was to send their 455 fleet off to the scrapyard with NO REPLACEMENTS (they just cut some services and shortened others so they could manage with a much smaller fleet) – an action which the DfT were very happy with.

  7. Marcus says:

    Don’t expect this thoroughly sensible option to get approval until there is a Labour Secretary of State for Transport – this is one of a number of proposals rejected by Failing Greyling years back when for pure political spite it was decided the Mayor couldn’t be allowed any more of the Mainline Network as the Overground was considered a Labour success story and advantageous to any incumbent in future mayoral elections.

  8. Robert Munster says:

    I thought the service cuts (mandated by DfT surely) were temporary due to Covid – many other lines are still running reduced timetables. Not sure why, since passenger numbers are apparently now back up to pre-Covid levels.

    Considering the service was cut from 6tph to 4tph when Overground started, the loss of revenue is because it is cheaper to go via Canada Water than catch a direct train to London Bridge, so the simple answer is to sort the fares out, which would be far cheaper than adding extra Overground and/or Jubilee Line trains. TfL helped introduce a standardised zonal fares structure for all the TOCs, but bizarrely TfL is the only operator that doesn’t conform!

    What is needed on this line is the restoration of direct trains to East Croydon, not yet more trains to Crystal Palace which is a non-destination, or West Croydon. Ideally the Vic-LB service would go up to 4tph too, on 10/20 min intervals to provide as close a regular 10min service as possible on both Syd-LB and Crystal Palace-Vic. The whole Southern timetable is a total shambles since it was re-written when the full Thameslink timetable started.

    Do Overground have any spare trains to run this service anyway? Would need 3 units I expect (or 6 if they take full advantage of the infrastructure and double the trains up, but that in itself would be a new concept for Overground).

    • Peter Gresswell says:

      Some of us live in Crystal Palace. It’s not all about you.

    • Robert Munster says:

      Well it certainly isn’t all about people who live in Crystal Palace, who aren’t even affected by the service cut that this is designed to address.

    • David Shepheard says:

      Re: TfL helped introduce a standardised zonal fares structure for all the TOCs, but bizarrely TfL is the only operator that doesn’t conform!

      The thing here is that the motivation of TfL is to move as many people by public transport as possible. While the motivation of the ToCs is to make as much money as possible.

      This leads to the ToCs wanting to push up the price of the Travelcard, so they have more money for shareholders. Higher fares are not in the interests of Londoners, as making public transport cheaper encourages modal shift from road to rail, cleans up air and makes Londoners less likely to die early from things like COPD. So TfL, unlike the other operators, is supposedly motivated to do things “for the public good” and that is always going to give it a different position to ToC’s who are dropping less profitable services or trying to cram passengers onto tiny trains.

      Probably the main “conflict of interest” here is not pricing (lower is better) but the border of Greater London. Once London Overground (or London Underground) is running trains outside London, you are into a situation where TfL gets zero government funding and central government pressure is for passengers to fund the shortfall created by Johnson cancelling the central government contribution. So, it is politically harder to justify having London voters subsidising TfL fares outside the Greater London border.

      But, with the need to expand the ULEZ, to clean up London’s air, it’s pretty obvious that having lower train fares into London, from outside is going to create modal shift from driving into London to taking a train. So it would be good if London Overground was able to offer better value to non-Londoners too.

      Ultimately, TfL should seize the opportunity to grab some of the platforms at London Bridge. And it should try put up London Overground roundells and try to maximise the number of passengers arriving and leaving from those platforms.

      I doubt it will happen under the current government, as the Minister for Transport is a pro-roads person who doesn’t want to do anything that might make a Labour mayor look good. But, it should happen. And the plans should be looked at to make sure TfL is taking the needs of non-London based passengers into account.

    • Dunworkin2 says:

      It’s more profitable to run fewer services so there’s no incentive to return to former levels. It’ll need to be mandated by HMG.

    • Robert Munster says:

      I agree about fares, although I don’t think people’s travel choices are massively price-sensitive except where time/convenience differences between alternatives are marginal, as in this case.

      But my point was there should be one standardised fare structure across all operators, not a higher one for TOCs and a lower one for TfL. Of course it’s not entirely under TfL’s control but I am sure they could do something.

      For example, if they raised TfL-only fares to be in line with the TOCs fares, but abolished the premium for transferring between TOC and Underground, it would probably be about cost neutral overall, and with little change in revenue to either TfL or the TOCs, but would remove anomalies like this, and encourage travel by simplifying the fares system.

      I would also like to see a train connection bus fare, similar to the bus-bus hopper fare, where you get a greatly discounted bus fare if you catch a train within a certain time before or after.

      I would also like to see zonal PAYG fares scrapped and replaced by a fare based on the distance travelled (crow flies from origin to destination, so use whatever route you like, though maybe still with a central London premium).

      All of this would make public transport more attractive, meaning more revenue and therefore funding lower fares overall, even if a few individual fares might still end up a bit higher. The only real problem is negotiating this between TfL and the TOCs, but that is a bit of a silly problem to have (and not one that will be solved by TfL taking over a few extra routes).

  9. TrainGirl says:

    Excellent idea! Fingers crossed!
    It would also further reduce crowding if Thameslink were to stop at New Cross Gate. The middle platforms were recently rebuilt with step free access, but when the Southern services from London Bridge to Brighton were transferred to Thameslink, the stop at New Cross Gate was removed.

  10. Btondvr says:

    I know it’s at capacity, but to follow the Thameslink route onto the Midland, then onto the Dudding Hill lines would be a good start to an ‘outer circle’ Overground route. I know there’s no juice on the DH lines, yet.

    • Colin says:

      The spur would be able to stop at South Bermondsey too.

      With the Bakerloo Line extension a distant prospect it would add some connectivity to the regeneration areas and existing vast housing areas.

  11. Steve says:

    Read about this on the murky depths site last week. Can’t see it happening. Imagine DfT being shown up even more by LO/TFL?

  12. Obi says:

    Southern is government owned again right? Might be time to just let TFL take it over

    • Robert Munster says:

      Government controlled rather than owned. People asked for nationalisation and they sort of got it, and now this is what happens – same thing replicated all over the country. I doubt most of the cuts would have happened if train operators still kept the revenue, but the Thameslink/Southern franchise was awarded on a cost basis with the government taking the revenue risk, and all others were converted to that basis post-Covid.

      Not sure TfL are much better. They are cutting bus services left right and centre as well. People say the Overground is more reliable, which is true enough, but that’s precisely because it doesn’t go to London Bridge, or Victoria or East Croydon for that matter – nothing to do with the operator.

      And the reason Southern isn’t a TfL franchise is that it extends well beyond London, and it’s not practicable to split out the London area routes. There is, or at least was, a mechanism whereby TfL can ‘buy in’ extra services if they want, but they rarely do so.

    • Obi says:

      Those are some great points Robert.

      I do agree that a franchise system that didn’t prioritise cost above all else could have worked well for Southern & other rail franchises. Nationalisations biggest issue is the state itself, as one government could undo progress by the other.

      I still believe TFL would do a competent job, though dumping the whole franchise may not be the correct way to go about that, given how far out of London Southern reaches. Also can you imagine the map?

      Perhaps a regional operator that isn’t influenced by Westminster would be suitable for long term planning, but how that’s done is a bit beyond me

  13. Paul M says:

    What about restoring the service that stopped at Penge West and Anerley on way to Norwood Junction and beyond? Its disappearance has made journeys to NJ for Palace home games a lot more crowded on the Overground for those of us in Penge who go to games.


      You’re more likely to get a Victoria Line extension to East Croydon than Southern reinstating your route. Southern are just cutting costs to raise their profit margins.

    • ianVisits says:

      GTR (Southern’s parent company) has to cut costs, as it made a loss of £19.2 million in 2021/22 and a loss of £27.6 in 2020/21.

  14. Steve says:

    Or get this, replace all southern suburban services with overground like what was done out of Liverpool st for chingford/Enfield. Wishful thinking I know.

  15. Suraj says:

    Didn’t Crystal Palace get the London Bridge to Victoria service reinstated which means they have the overground every 15 minutes and national rail every thirty? The West Croydon overground service always seems to be almost full in comparison to the Crystal Palace one.

  16. Uche Mick Chinonso says:

    I don’t think this alone will succeed. It will be accompanied by Tube extensions into South London if a Labour central government are serious about improving connectivity for the long term.

  17. Paul says:

    Let’s face it; this is an it’ll-never-happen ruse to shame Southern/DfT into restoring their service back to something sensible

  18. Liz Brereton says:

    Crystal Palace always seems to have more trains than West Croydon from Forest Hill which is a regular route for me. So I wouldn’t favour Crystal Palace. The route from Forest Hill direct to East Croydon onwards to Gatwick should be reinstated as people trying to get to the airport need an efficient regular direct service.

  19. Anon says:

    There is a test run by Overground scheduled to run on Easter Sunday London Bridge to West Croydon. Not sure how many trains are running but they will be driven by an Overground driver and conducted over the route by a Thameslink driver.

  20. Bob Norfolk-Thompson says:

    Wow!!Overground to London Bridge.
    I live in Bromley and 35 years ago we were promised the Bakerloo line down here.
    Why not just use the mid Kent line from New Cross to both Beckenham Junction and Hayes. Cheaper by far!!

  21. A says:

    Whilst 2tph is a good start (and capacity constraints aside) I don’t think its enough to help relieve congestion at Canada Water

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