Electric fleet and improved infrastructure for London Overground

London Overground is a suburban rail system established in the United Kingdom in 2007. In the five years since its establishment, demand on the Overground has grown by 160% on the ‘original’ network (i.e. from 2.57 million to 6.78 million customers per four-week period). Now that the extended East London line has also been included, demand shows an even greater increase at 280% (i.e. to 9.83 million customers per four-week period). Responding to this growth, London Overground looked to increase capacity through extending the trains from four carriages to five, and undertaking a variety of infrastructure works to match the extended trains.

The project promoter is Transport for London (TfL) which is an integrated transport authority responsible for the day-to-day operation of London’s public transport network and managing the main roads. Every day more than 31 million journeys are made across the TfL network.

The project responded to steadily increasing passenger traffic by enhancing capacity and alleviating severe overcrowding on the London Overground network, particularly at peak times on some sections. It involved the purchase of 57 Electrical Multiple Unit passenger carriages to lengthen the existing fleet, from four to five cars each, and upgrading the related infrastructure to serve longer trains. This included improvements to stabling, depot and maintenance facilities, platform extensions, signalling and powering supplies. Altogether 46 train stations or stops were upgraded.

The financing of the project involved a GBP 130 million loan from the EIB, accounting for 48% of the total project investment cost of GBP 270.3 million. The operation involved two distinct EIB loans to two different borrowers. The first was a GBP 45 million loan to QW Rail Leasing Limited for the acquisition of 57 new train carriages to provide five-carriage train services on the London Overground network. The second was a GBP 85 million loan to TfL to fund the infrastructure improvements of the London Overground network.

The rationale for the EIB intervention was that the project supports economic development and population growth by increasing public transport capacity. It improves quality of life through reduced crowding, improves the journey experience, helps to maintain the current high levels of London Overground performance, and also improves air quality through the modal shift of traffic from private cars to rail. It improves safety, also through the modal shift from highways, and similarly reduces the contribution of transport to climate change. It improves transport opportunities by supporting the regeneration of a number of Opportunity Areas[1] and Areas for Intensification[2] through the provision of extra capacity across the whole London Overground network. The project has met the strategic goals set out in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy.

In terms of outcomes, the project has been a huge success, delivering increased customer satisfaction and supporting the continued strong growth of passenger numbers on London Overground. This success has been recognised by the public, the Mayor and industry. The project won the highest award in 2015, for the “Greatest Contribution to London”, at the Institution of Civil Engineers annual awards.

London Overground's passengers travelling on the lengthened trains are benefiting from the additional capacity provided. Altogether 140 million passengers use the London Overground annually, 20% higher than estimated at the time of project appraisal. On a daily basis, patronage is 12% higher than forecasted at appraisal. The increase in daily demand supports the choice of the trains as the transport mode for the corridors. However, it should be noted, that these figures represent the total passenger volume on the London Overground network and include lines that have not benefited from the project.

Note: the outcome data is based on information as of September 2017.

[1] Brownfield sites identified in the London Plan as having significant capacity for development.

[2] Areas identified in the London Plan as having the capacity to support redevelopment in terms of new jobs and homes at higher densities than at present but below that considered achievable in Opportunity Areas.