Sadiq Khan has confirmed plans for a new ‘West London Orbital’ rail link between Hounslow and Hendon that will open in the 2030s – as the Mayor faces a backlash over his ridiculed ‘Superloop’ bus route and ULEZ expansion.
The 11-mile rail project would stop at Isleworth, Brentford, Acton, Harlesden, Neasden and Brent Cross.
There would also be a station at Old Oak Common linking with the planned HS2 line to Birmingham, and a branch after Neasden off to West Hampstead via Cricklewood.
Mr Khan has now confirmed that engineering consultants are being chosen to work on a detailed design for the link, which is slated to open sometime in the next decade.
It comes as the Mayor promotes a series of public transport projects, including the mocked ‘Superloop’ express bus network, as he continues to deal with a ferocious and growing backlash among drivers and Tory MPs to his expansion of London’s ultra-low emission zone.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, pictured with a London Overground train in Barking last July
The proposed 11-mile West London Orbital rail project would run from Hounslow to Hendon, stopping at Isleworth, Brentford, Acton, Harlesden, Neasden and Brent Cross
The new rail network, which has been in the planning phase since 2017, would form part of the existing Overground network which was established ten years earlier.
The West London Orbital in numbers
Transport for London has provided the following data for the proposed line:
- Serving a route over 18.5km (11.5 miles) long
- Taking 37 minutes to travel from end to end
- Serving up to 21 stations including 4 new stations (Neasden, Harlesden, Old Oak Common, Lionel Road)
- Running through four West London Boroughs
- Carrying up to 11.9million passengers a year
- Connecting to 10 new and existing rail, Underground and Overground lines
- Up to 15,800 new homes supported
The line would cut journey times from Hounslow to Hendon to 37 minutes – instead of the estimated 90 minutes it currently takes, which involves going into Central London and back out again.
The scheme involves using a little-known freight route called the Dudding Hill Line which has not seen a scheduled passenger service since 1902.
Previous decades have seen a series of proposals for the line including using it for a Crossrail extension or a light railway between Finchley and Ealing. It also still sees the odd passenger charter train.
But these latest proposals suggest a future of regular passenger trains for the Dudding Hill Line, which runs for four miles between North Acton and the Midland Main Line but has no stations.
Further south, there would also be a new station built at Lionel Road next to Brentford Football Club’s Brentford Community Stadium, near the site of the disused Kew station that shut in 1862.
And there would be a spur off South Acton connecting with Kew Bridge, where services could start or finish.
Mr Khan was asked for an update on the project in a question by Labour London Assembly Member Elly Baker last month.
In an answer given on March 28, he said: ‘Following agreement of the feasibility funding last year, several studies, funded primarily by the west London boroughs, are underway or planned.
‘Timetable assessment undertaken by Network Rail is nearing completion and has identified that a viable West London Orbital service is expected to be achievable.
The line would cut journey times from Hounslow to Hendon to 37 minutes – instead of the estimated 90 minutes currently, which involves going into Central London and back out again
A graphic shows where users of the new line could interchange with different rail services
‘A contract for engineering design support is expected to be awarded shortly, following a competitive procurement process. Procurement of consultant teams to support transport modelling and economics/revenue assessment is also ongoing.’
He added that this work ‘will lead to an updated business case for the scheme and confirmation of the stations to be served, train frequency and traction power, and will allow other strategic decisions to be made early next year’.
Mr Khan said: ‘Work will also continue in parallel on funding and finance options for the further development and delivery of the scheme.’
The route would provide the Overground network with interchanges with Thameslink rail services in North London, as well as the Underground’s Jubilee line and existing Overground services on the Richmond/Clapham Junction to Stratford line.
There would also be an interchange with the Bakerloo line and Overground services on the Euston to Watford Junction line at Harlesden.
Old Oak Common would provide a future interchange with the Elizabeth Line, where a station is being built between Acton Main Line and Paddington, as well as the proposed HS2 and the nearby Central line at North Acton.
Further interchanges would be available with South Western Railway services at stations along the southern part of the route, as well as interchanges with existing Overground services on the Richmond to Stratford line at Acton Central and South Acton.
The Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) currently covers the area inside the North and South Circular roads, but the Mayor intends to expand it across all of Greater London on August 29
A ‘Stop the Ulez expansion’ protest is held at Trafalgar Square in London last Saturday
While train frequency has not been confirmed, a proposed service is formed of four trains per hour from Kew Bridge to Hendon, and a further four per hour from Hounslow to West Hampstead.
This would provide a total of eight per hour on the main section between South Acton and Neasden.
The most recent capital cost for the railway was calculated as £273million in 2017/18 prices, but an updated figure has not yet been provided.
Transport for London states on its website: ‘If funding can be identified – and we get all approvals needed for the scheme – then services could start in the early 2030s.
‘All proposals will be subject to future public consultation before any major decisions are made.’
While the City Hall Conservatives would welcome the West London Orbital line if it is delivered, they are still urging Mr Khan to invest far more in buses and trains in the outer parts of the capital.
Nick Rogers, the group’s transport spokesman, told MailOnline today: ‘Sadiq Khan is simply not investing enough in outer London public transport.
‘His Ulez expansion will punish people, charities and businesses who rely on their cars and cannot afford to upgrade. The Mayor needs to scrap his Ulez expansion and start tackling air pollution where it is, instead of taxing where it isn’t.’
Mr Khan has been promoting a series of public transport project as he faces a major backlash over the proposed expansion of the Ulez (Ultra Low Emission Zone).
The London Mayor’s new ‘Superloop’ network will be formed of a series of express buses around the outskirts of the capital – including four existing routes and a range of new routes
Sadiq Khan tweeted a photo last month of a ‘Superloop’-branded bus in Northolt, West London
The Ulez is set to be expanded on August 29 and impose a daily charge of £12.50 on non-compliant cars in all of the capital’s boroughs.
Mr Khan has insisted the scheme will save lives as 4,000 Londoners die from air pollution each year, but former mayor Boris Johnson said last weekend that it was ‘all about Khan’s catastrophic mismanagement of TfL finances’.
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of London in hi-viz jackets over the weekend to campaign against the expanded scheme, and waved placards reading ‘Free Our Streets’ in Trafalgar Square.
The expansion plan has proven hugely controversial amid claims it does little to improve air quality and will have a dire impact on families and tradespeople who need cars.
On March 28, Mr Khan revealed plans for orbital bus network connecting London ‘s suburbs as part of £6million public transport investment as the Ulez zone expands.
The ‘Superloop’ will be formed of a series of express buses around the outskirts of the capital – including four existing routes and six new routes.
The existing routes are the 607 from White City to Uxbridge, X26 from Croydon to Heathrow, X140 from Harrow to Heathrow and X68 from Croydon to Russell Square.
And a series of new routes could link Harrow to Finchley; Finchley to Walthamstow; Walthamstow to the Royal Docks; Bexleyheath to Bromley; and Bromley to Croydon.
But the plans were branded a ‘Superflop’ by the Conservatives who criticised the ‘microscopic level of investment’ and called it a ‘repackaging of existing routes’.
It was also ridiculed by some Twitter users, with one saying: ‘Great, now all the tradesmen can get their tools on the bus to get to jobs in London rather than be charged £12.50 plus congestion zone every day.’