London Mayor Ken Livingstone this week announced plans for a new 'London Overground' rail network to reinstate disused commuter lines with a £400M package of improvement.
The new network will revamp rail and rolling stock on the North London Railway (NLR) by 2010 and create a new 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,' said Livingstone. The NLR runs between Richmond and North Woolwich, Euston and Watford Junction, Willesdon Junction to Clapham Junction and Gospel Oak and Barking.The £400M package of work on the has been funded by borrowing and will begin in November 2007. This includes a £223M contract for 44 new trains on the line 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. But 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 Transport for London. Four firms have been shortlisted for 'London Rail Concession': Govia, MTR Laing, National Express Group and Nedrail. The successful bidder will be announced next summer.Ruby Kitching