LONDON MAYOR Ken Livingstone this week announced plans for a new 'London Overground' rail network to reinstate disused commuter lines with a £400M improvement package.
The new network will revamp rail and rolling stock on the North London Railway (NLR) by 2010 and create a link to the East London Line (ELL), which is already undergoing a £1bn facelift.
Livingstone said that the link was the first step towards a London orbital railway.
'Within 20 years, we'll restore the 40% which has been lost since Beeching, and move away from car use, ' he said.
Richard Beeching is infamous for recommending a huge set of railway closures to government when chairman of the British Railways Board in the early 1960s.
The NLR runs between Richmond and North Woolwich; Euston and Watford Junction; Willesdon Junction and Clapham Junction; and Gospel Oak and Barking.
The £400M package of work on the railway has been funded by borrowing, and will begin in November 2007. It includes a £223M contract for 44 new trains on the NLR, which was awarded to Bombardier last week.
The remaining £177M will be spent on upgrading stations and signalling on the line and introducing shops and closed circuit television.
Crucially, £50M has been earmarked for a 100m length of curved track between Dalston Junction and Highbury & Islington to enable the two lines to run together as a network.
New signalling will reduce train service intervals from 15 to eight minutes.
After 2010, the North London Railway will be maintained and upgraded by Network Rail, although the seven-year operating contract will be led by London Underground.
Four firms have been short listed for 'London Rail Concession': Govia, MTR Laing, National Express Group and Nedrail. The successful bidder will be announced next summer.