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Better late than never...
Back in January 2018 eight new electric Class 710 trains were supposed to arrive on the Gospel Oak to Barking (Goblin) line section of the Overground. These fancy four car trains trains were to replace the old diesel two-car chuggers on an unloved part of the Overground. Tomorrow, Thursday 23 May, the first two of those trains will finally begin passenger service. That's 16 months late for those of you keeping count.
The Class 710s are so desperately needed on the line because the old trains — Class 172s — are all gone. They were sold off to the Midlands years ago, to be sent off in June 2018. TfL managed to cling onto the 172s for as long as possible, but eventually had to let them go. That led to TfL having to borrow three trains from the London Orbital routes, to maintain any service whatsoever on the Goblin. Because the route only has three trains rather than the usual eight, the service being run currently is rather patchy.
The new trains are a major upgrade on what came before. They're walk through, air-conditioned, have USB points and real-time information screens. Each train can carry nearly 700 people — double the capacity of the old diesel ones. And because they're electric and not diesel, these slick machines are far superior environmentally.
What took so long? Issues with software development used on the trains is the culprit, but these look to have been solved and these trains have been approved by the rail regulator.
The launch of two electric trains is just the first step in getting the line to run at full capacity. Once all the 710s arrive in north London, four trains per hour will run in both directions. TfL expects this to be by September. At that point, TfL will give a month of free travel on the line, as an apology to long-suffering commuters.
Once the Goblin is fully furnished, Class 710s will launch on other Overground routes, such as the Watford Junction to Euston route and Liverpool Street to Cheshunt, Chingford and Enfield.
Heidi Alexander, Deputy Mayor for Transport, said:
When I wrote to Bombardier earlier this year I made our frustrations at the delay clear, so I am pleased that the first two new trains will be in operation from tomorrow, and the full timetable will be restored as soon as possible. The month's free travel, which was requested by the Mayor, is a well-deserved thank you to passengers for their patience.