Rejoice, map geeks of old London town! The capital’s transport authority, TfL, has quietly released a lovely new map showing where it expects its heavy rail London Overground Network to take you by 2026.
The map was released as part of a consultation on its plans to extend the Gospel Oak-Barking line to Barking Riverside, the site of a big new housing estate. (They're planning to put some houses there, and plans to extent the DLR have fallen by the wayside, so the thinking is they might as well send some big trains there instead.) Here’s a map:
But the network map which accompanies this consultation contains all sorts of other interesting factoids about what TfL think the future looks like. You can examine the whole thing here, but it’s a bit on the unwieldy side for a family website like ours, so we’ve plucked out a few of the more interesting details below.
The map shows all the bits of the rail network whose operators will be answerable to the city’s government, rather than the national Department for Transport. That includes the existing Overground network; the West Anglia suburban lines into Liverpool Street (which TfL is taking over some time next year); and Crossrail (which is currently under construction, and which neatly ties the rest of the network together).
Oddly, though, it chops off the outer extremities of Crossrail. That sort of makes sense when it comes to far distant Reading and Maidenhead, but it’s a bit odd that it excludes two stations (Harold Wood and West Drayton) which are actually within the city boundaries.
Just to annoy everyone, the new Overground network crosses the existing one in no fewer than four places, without stopping once.
This is probably why the map has, for the first time, shown interchanges which you can make if you’re happy to walk along at street level for a bit.
More excitingly, it also includes an entirely new station at Old Oak Common, where you’ll be able to change from the Overground to Crossrail (suggested branding: “Old Oak Common: The Stratford of West London”). This could one day be an outer London stop on the High Speed 2 line to the north, too, which would make it easier to get from Heathrow to points north.
Sadly it still doesn't point out that Camden Road is a mere five minute walk from Camden Town tube station. Can’t have everything.
All this is very interesting, if you're into such things (and we obviously are). But it's also oddly unwieldy.
By 2026, if all goes to plan, the Overground network will have six entirely separate lines, some of which have up to four branches. Yet it continues to colour them all in the same shade of Sunny Delight orange.
These lines go to such a wide range of destinations; often cross without interchanging; and one branch right out in the far east never connects with any of the others.
Given all that, could we maybe look into differentiating them through some kind of colour scheme, perhaps? Like, y’know, every other urban rail network in the world?
There's one more oddity. Far out in the wilds of zone 6, where east London drains off into Essex, London Overground is also taking on a three-station, single track branch line on which you can get two trains an hour from Romford and Upminster and back.
There's a long and complicated reason for this, but it basically amounts to "nobody else wants it". It's too small to be part of Crossrail, but doesn't connect to anything else, so TfL are stuck with it.
If you do fancy making a trip to Emerson Park halt, we recommend you do so in December: the giant houses in the neighbouring estate tend to go absolutely nuts with their Christmas lights.