Transport company Arriva have today announced that they will operate the London Overground for an additional two years after their contract was extended.
TfL have now permitted an extension until May 2026, with Arriva first given the contract in 2016.
London Overground is now at 88 per cent of 2019 passenger levels according to Arriva. With the tube and DLR hovering at 90 per cent they’re all doing well to retain lost passengers especially when factoring in the Elizabeth line.
Unlike rail since privatisation, London Overground has been a concession not a franchise since opening in 2010. TfL set pretty much everything and told Arriva to operate. Fail to meet targets and financial penalties are on the cards.
That’s along the lines that Great British Rail was going to take – but that now looks to be kicked into the long grass.
Since the London Overground was operated by Arriva after 2016, the network has expanded to Barking Riverside in 2022. Last year yours truly braved the wilds of distant Barking for a look.
Funny old thing, that extension. Thamesmead is visible from the new station and as the crow flies it’s barely a few hundred metres. An across the river extension had appeared in some transport strategies but the chances are almost zilch it’ll happen. For one, the extension is on a viaduct with an elevated station.
That would need rebuilding if any tunnel was built adding further cost.
And so now the DLR is the favourite – but at current expected costs it’s very hard to ever see it happening.
My money is on nothing happening in terms of a crossing for decades more. Instead a rapid bus transit linking north Thamesmead to Abbey Wood and Woolwich will appear. To be fair it would offer plentiful travel options at either end.
In a dreamland it’d be a tram that’s extended to Charlton and Greenwich in one direction, and Belvedere and Erith the other. After all they’re all towns now designated to see some of the most new homes not only in London but the entire country.
But alas, let’s put the crayons down. Buses will be it for the next 20 years at least.
As for London Overground, it’s been a success story really since 2010 and while funds for much in the way of expansion has dried up it’s likely to keep doing well in years to come.
After all, places like Stratford aren’t getting any quieter anytime soon.
Expansion looks unlikely in the near term as the existing government seeks to retain power over routes like Southeastern Metro while remaining resolute in failing to invest – which goes way back beyond current issues and what’s happened since the pandemic.