New Rail Service

The East London Line opened on Sunday 23 May and Katriona Ogilvy-Webb was on the first train. She describes her journey and looks at the connections the new service opens up for us.

The new service

Keen to be the bearer of good news, I have had my head buried in train timetables for the last week, and am pleased to report as follows. Crystal Palace now has four East London Line (ELL) trains an hour, as do West Croydon, Norwood Junction, Anerley and Penge West. The two branches converge at Sydenham, which, along with Forest Hill, Honor Oak Park, Brockley and New Cross Gate, enjoy eight ELL trains per hour. From Surrey Quays to Dalston Junction, 12 trains run per hour.

Despite concerns, existing services at Crystal Palace (four an hour to London Bridge and four an hour to Victoria) have so far been unaffected, though we still have not made up for the loss 18 months ago of two of our London Bridge trains per hour. This also halved our services to Norwood Junction and Croydon (now two per hour), cut off our only direct link with East Croydon, and halved our services to Tulse Hill (now two per hour).

As feared, Sydenham has just had its London Bridge service reduced from six to four per hour, but has gained eight ELL trains an hour, giving it 12 trains per hour to New Cross Gate and six trains per hour to Norwood Junction. It occurs to me that, as Crystal Palace now has six trains an hour to Sydenham, travellers could easily do the five-minute hop and benefit from Sydenham's more frequent services.

Tim Sharville (bowler hat) organised the bagel run
Tim Sharville (bowler hat) organised the bagel run
Rose hands out stickers
Rose hands out stickers
The early bird catches the train

I decided to get up early on Sunday 23 May and catch the first train of the new service. To mark the occasion, the station had balloons around the entrance and staff were giving away a limited number of free one-day travel cards. Souvenir old-fashioned tickets were also being handed out, though sadly these marked the extension to West Croydon rather than to Crystal Palace, because, I was informed, the Crystal Palace branch is seen as less significant than the West Croydon branch. For that reason Croydon was also due to have mayor Boris Johnson officially open its branch later in the day.

The first train was scheduled to leave Crystal Palace at 7.07; it left a little late at 7.11, from the newly opened up platform 5. A total of 25 people alighted the train at Crystal Palace and I asked my fellow passengers about the purpose of their journey. Some were local people who, like myself, wanted to be on the first train; others were hard-core train enthusiasts who had travelled from further afield. Some were travelling to work or other destinations for leisure purposes; and lastly there was the project manager of the extension scheme.

The train took 37 minutes to get to the brand-new station at Dalston, using a mixture of currently used railway track, brand-new track and disused track that had been brought back to life. I had a pleasant journey and got home in time for a hearty breakfast.

The Brick Lane bagel run

Meanwhile, another Crystal Palace contingent had their breakfast in East London to celebrate the first day of the new service. Tim Sharville, who runs the excellent website, invited people to join him on a Bagel Beano at one of the best bagel houses in London, in Brick Lane. It was a family affair, and his daughter Rose merrily handed out stickers to fellow travellers filing into Crystal Palace station to catch the 11.07 to Shoreditch High Street.

New connections

Brick Lane is one of many destinations the East London Line opens up for us. Liverpool Street Station, for example, is also within walking distance of Shoreditch High Street. The new service connects with the Jubilee Line at Canada Water, just one stop from Canary Wharf. The good news for commuters to the Docklands being that they will only need a Zone 2-3 travel card to get there on this route. The new line also connects with the Docklands Light Railway at Shadwell, and the Hammersmith & City and District Lines at Whitechapel.

The CPCA plans to do further research on the transport links and venues the new service opens up for us. If you would like to help with this, do contact us. We are also planning a guided walk next year to explore the history of the East End of London, an area which is now easily accessible to us thanks to the new rail service.

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