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|West Anglia Main Line|
Greater Anglia 379021 at Bethnal Green in 2012
|Type||Commuter rail, Suburban rail|
|Termini||Liverpool Street, London|
|Number of tracks||2–4|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Electrification||25 kV 50 Hz AC OHLE|
|Operating speed||100 mph (160 km/h) maximum|
West Anglia Main Line
The West Anglia Main Line is one of the two main lines from Liverpool Street, the other being the Great Eastern Main Line to Ipswich and Norwich. It runs generally north through Cheshunt, Broxbourne, Harlow, Bishop's Stortford and Audley End (near Saffron Walden) to Cambridge, with branches serving Stratford, Hertford and Stansted Airport. The line runs along the boundary between Hertfordshire and Essex for much of its length.
In the early years the line was the main route from London to Cambridge. Now it is primarily a commuter route for stations between Cambridge and London. It was an important goods route for many years as the southern end of a route from coalfields in Yorkshire.
The first section was built for the Northern and Eastern Railway from Stratford to Broxbourne and opened in 1840. It was extended northwards in stages, reaching Spellbrook, 3 miles (5 km) short of Bishops Stortford, in 1842. In 1843 the line reached Bishops Stortford, and in the following year the Northern and Eastern Railway was leased by the Eastern Counties Railway. It was this railway company opened the section from Bishops Stortford to Cambridge as part of its extension to Ely and Brandon in 1845.
By the 1860s the railways in East Anglia were in financial trouble, and most were leased to the Eastern Counties Railway. Although they wished to amalgamate formally, they could not obtain government agreement for this until 1862, when the Great Eastern Railway (GER) was formed by amalgamation.
The opening of the Great Northern and Great Eastern Joint Railway in 1882 saw the Great Eastern open up a direct link with coal-producing areas in Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire joining the line north of Cambridge at Chesterton Junction, generally routed to the large marshalling yards at Temple Mills.
Following the grouping in 1923 the line became part of the London & North Eastern Railway.
In 1952 the branch from Elsenham to Thaxted (known as the "Gin & Toffee Line") closed to passengers, and goods services were withdrawn a year later. The Saffron Walden line closed to passengers on 7 September 1964 and to freight three months later.
Electrification first came in the early 1960s under British Rail in sections. Electrification to Chingford included the Stratford – Lea Bridge – Hall Farm Junction section (although this was never completed), and the line from Liverpool Street to Broxbourne via Seven Sisters and the Southbury Loop was electrified. The route via Tottenham Hale was still operated by diesel traction, the British Rail Class 125 'Lea Valley' DMUs.
The line from Clapton Junction (on the Chingford line) through Tottenham Hale to Cheshunt and from Broxbourne to Bishops Stortford was electrified on 9 March 1969 and from there to Cambridge in 1987. Stratford to Coppermill Junction was electrified in 1989. The power supply is 25 kV AC overhead line.
In 1991 a branch line to Stansted Airport was opened, and services to London Liverpool Street commenced.
The Network Rail Greater Anglia Route Utilisation Strategy, published in December 2007, outlined a number of developments. Proposals for 2009–14 include the extension of remaining non-compliant platforms on the Liverpool Street-Cambridge route and at Stansted Airport to handle 12 cars; the reinstatement of 9-car trains during peak times on the Hertford East, Enfield Town, Cheshunt via Southbury and Chingford branch services, requiring a small amount of infrastructure; stabling and maintenance facilities for the larger, enhanced fleet; removal of the three level crossings between Tottenham Hale and Waltham Cross; and power supply to be enhanced for some of these options and likely future requirements.
In early 2011, ticket barriers were installed at Bishop's Stortford, Harlow Town, Broxbourne, Cheshunt and Hackney Downs, some of the busiest stations on the line, to reduce the need for ticket inspectors on the Stansted Express service and reduce fare evasion. By 2014 selected stations had had their platforms extended to enable 12-car trains to Cambridge.
A station was proposed near Clapton called Queens Road but never opened.
Services from Liverpool Street to Cambridge, Hertford East and Stansted Airport are operated by Greater Anglia.
Express services from Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport are operated by Stansted Express, a brand of Greater Anglia.
In London, the line forms the Tottenham Hale branch of the Lea Valley Lines.
In 2013 the line was double track for most of its length, with small sections of single track on the Stansted branch and at Ware and quadruple track between Hackney Downs and Liverpool Street. The line is electrified at 25 kV AC and has a loading gauge of W8 except for the Stansted branch, which is W6.
Line-side train monitoring equipment includes hot axle box detectors (HABD) on the up main south of Newport (39 miles 48 chains from Liverpool Street) and on the down main north of Shepreth Branch Junction (53 miles 10 chains). There are no wheel impact load detectors (WILD) ‘Wheelchex’ on the line.
Tunnels and viaducts
Major civil engineering structures on the West Anglia Main Line include the following.
|Railway structure||Length||Distance from London Liverpool Street||ELR||Location|
|Littlebury Tunnel||407 yards (372 metres)||43 miles 46 chains – 43 miles 27 chains||BGK||Between Great Chesterford and Audley End stations|
|Audley End Tunnel||456 yards (417 metres)||43 miles 11 chains – 42 miles 70 chains|
|Audley End Viaduct||41 miles 43 chains||South of Audley End station|
|Newport Viaduct||40 miles 36 chains||North of Newport station|
|Stansted Airport Tunnel||1 mile 184 yards (1778 metres)||36 miles 23 chains – 35 miles 15 chains||TLA||Stansted Airport branch|
|Long Bridge Viaduct (River Stort)||19 miles 16 chains (via Clapton)||BGK||South of Roydon station|
|Hoe Street Tunnel||71 yards (65 metres)||6 miles 52 chains – 6 miles 49 chains||CJC||Chingford branch, between Wood Street and Walthamstow Central stations|
|Clapton arches (River Lea)||6 chains (c. 120 metres)||4 miles 35 chains – 4 miles 29 chains||BGK||Clapton line, north of Clapton station|
|Clapton Tunnel||284 yards (260 metres)||3 miles 66 chains – 3 miles 53 chains||Clapton line, between Clapton and Hackney Downs stations|
|Hackney Downs or Queens Road Tunnel||445 yards (407 metres)||3 miles 39 chains – 3 miles 19 chains|
|Theobalds Grove arches||10 chains (c. 200 metres)||13 miles 51 chains – 13 miles 41 chains||HDT||Stoke Newington line, Theobalds Grove station|
|White Hart Lane arches||10 chains (c. 200 metres)||7 miles 03 chains – 6 miles 73 chains||Stoke Newington line, south of White Hart Lane station|
|Stoke Newington Tunnel||60 yards (55 metres)||4 miles 22 chains – 4 miles 19 chains||Stoke Newington line, north of Stoke Newington station|
|Bethnal Green – Hackney viaducts||c. 2.5 miles (3900 metres)||3 miles 43 chains – 1 miles 10 chains||BGK|
|Bishopsgate Tunnel||627 yards (573 metres)||0 miles 56 chains – 0 miles 27 chains||LTN|
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Stratford engine shed had the biggest concentration of steam locomotives (555 in January 1923) supplying the line, the Great Eastern Main Line, extensive suburban services out of Liverpool Street and numerous shunting and freight locomotives.
There was a significant steam shed at Cambridge (178 in January 1923), which supplied the line, a number of cross-country lines and services to King's Cross.
There were smaller sheds at Broxbourne and Bishops Stortford with smaller engines for all-stations trains. In 1923 locomotives were allocated to Stratford but everyday maintenance was the responsibility of the smaller sheds.
Following dieselisation in the 1960s Stratford became the major depot with nearly all the other depots closing. Cambridge became a diesel multiple unit (DMU) depot and maintained a small allocation of shunting locomotives. Most other workings were supplied by March depot on the March to Peterborough line.
Electrification in the 1960s and 1970s saw electric trains generally allocated to Ilford depot on the Great Eastern Main Line. In 2014 there are stabling sidings at Cambridge, Bishops Stortford and Orient Way (between Lea Bridge and Stratford). Other units are stabled at Chingford or Ilford.
Locomotives and rolling stock
Throughout the steam era trains were predominantly hauled by Great Eastern Railway (or its constituent companies') locomotives: when steam ended in East Anglia in the 1960s some of these locomotives were still operated – see Stratford TMD and Great Eastern Railway. After the grouping of 1923 LNER-designed locomotives were used with the B17 4-6-0 class working many main line services. Following nationalisation in 1948 British Railways introduced the Britannia 4-6-2 class on some main line services until succeeded by diesels in the late 1950s.
East Anglia was the first area to be worked completely by diesel trains with Class 31s taking over some express workings. These were succeeded by more powerful Class 37 and Class 47 until full electrification to King's Lynn in the 1980s when Class 86 locomotives took over.
Suburban services from about 1958 were operated by British Rail Class 125 DMUs, and following the 1969 electrification Class 305 and Class 308 units. Other units from the GE section such as Class 302 and 306 also operated services during this period.
These were replaced by Class 317 units and in 2014 mostly Class 317s and new Bombardier Class 379s. Class 170 DMUs operate from Stansted Airport north through Cambridge to Birmingham on Cross Country services only.
If Stansted Airport's expansion is authorised it is planned that the line will see many further changes. Long term proposals include four-tracking between Coppermill Junction and Broxbourne junction; an additional tunnel and platform edge on the Stansted Airport branch; one additional train per hour serving Stansted and up to six further trains per hour at peak times, including four into Stratford as a terminus. More stations, such as Broxbourne, will also have platform extensions to accommodate 12-car trains.
It seems likely that two tracks will be built alongside the line to Cheshunt as part of Crossrail 2. Intermediate stations from Tottenham Hale will transfer to Crossrail 2 releasing capacity on the main line for additional trains. In August 2019, it was announced that funding had been approved for four-tracking and related platform construction work between Tottenham Hale and Meridian Water to enable up to 8 trains per hour to make local stops in this section at peak times.
- Vaughan, Adrian (1997). Railwaymen, Politics and Money. London: John Murray. pp. 134, 135. ISBN 0 7195 5150 1.
- Mitchell, Vic; Dave Brennand (January 2014). Stratford – Cheshunt. Midhurst: Middleton Press. p. 96. ISBN 978 1 908174 53 6.
- Mitchell, Vic; Dave Brennand (January 2014). Stratford – Cheshunt. Midhurst: Middleton Press. p. 3. ISBN 978 1 908174 53 6.
- "Greater Anglia Route Utilisation Strategy" (PDF). Network Rail. Retrieved 8 May 2009.
- Brown, Joe (2006). London Railway Atlas (1st ed.). Ian Allan Publishing. p. 23. ISBN 0-7110-3137-1.
- "Route 5 – West Anglia" (PDF). Network Rail. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
- Brailsford, Martyn (2016). Railway Track Diagrams Book 2: Eastern. Frome: Trackmps. pp. 2, 10, 11. ISBN 978-0-9549866-8-1.
- "Railway Codes: HABD and WILD devices".
- Mitchell, Vic; Dave Brennand (January 2014). Stratford – Cheshunt. Midhurst: Middleton Press. pp. 106, 110, 120. ISBN 978 1 908174 53 6.
- "The Transport Committee: Crossrail and the Overground Talk Shop". London Reconnections. 7 March 2013. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
- Enfield regeneration scheme gets £156m funding boost Enfield Independent: 19 August 2019