Delays in delivering new trains to London Overground’s Gospel Oak to Barking line (GOBLIN) means that travellers will be offered a month’s free travel in compensation.
A fleet of new electric four-car walk-through trains were due to be in service nearly a year ago, however the manufacturer, Bombardier is still carrying out software development and mileage testing before the trains can be released for driver training and brought into use on the network.
The delay has been made worse by a previous agreement to release the older trains to be used by West Midlands Trains elsewhere in the UK.
Two of the eight diesel trains have already been sent to West Midlands Trains and another is due to go this month. The line is already seeing delays, and since November the weekend service been reduced. The rest are due to go by the end of March, which could have seen the line closed entirely.
To ensure services can continue running on the line, three of the London Overground’s electric ‘Class 378’ trains are being modified to work on the Goblin line, and will be used as a temporary solution until the new trains are ready. One will join the line next week, followed by two more between now and March when the last of the existing diesel ‘Class 172’ trains are released for use elsewhere in the country.
The modified electric trains will operate alongside the current diesel trains to ensure the line can remain open for customers. This will mean some trains throughout the day will be two-cars (diesel) and some will be four-car (electric) over the coming weeks.
If the fleet of new trains are not ready by the middle of March, then the service on the Goblin line will be reduced to just the modified trains as the diesel units will have to be removed, although TfL noted that as the temporary trains are double the length of the older trains, overall passenger capacity wont be reduced.
Bombardier will also fund the cost of a month’s free travel for passengers once the new trains are fully introduced. The details of this are being developed and will be communicated closer to the time.
Plans to electrify the Gospel Oak to Barking line started back in 2015 when Network Rail awarded a £56.9 million contract for the works. However, a number of setbacks and delays saw the line repeatedly closed, and then the works were not completed on time, resulting in further closures.
The electrification works were eventually completed last January, ahead of an expected delivery of the new trains, but these have themselves been beset with software problems and the deadline for their arrival pushed back several times.
It is still unclear when the new trains will come into service.