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Chiltern Line — London Suburban Services

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Dr_Paul

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Having by chance ended up at Sudbury and Harrow Road station on a Saturday evening and found that catching the next train to Marylebone would mean a 36-hour wait (fortunately, a Piccadilly line station is nearby), I looked at the Chiltern Line timetable for its London suburban services. There seems to be — at least to me — a rather odd pattern.

Some stations have a somewhat sparse service. There are just four up services stopping at Sudbury and Harrow Road, at 0701, 0756, 0858 and 10.41, then nothing for the rest of the day. There are four down services in the late afternoon/early evening.

There are no services which stop at all stations between West Ruislip and Marylebone. The 0742 from West Ruislip stops at them all except Wembley Stadium; the 1105 stops at them all except South Ruislip and Wembley Stadium (followed by a service that stops at South Ruislip at 1141 and Wembley Stadium at 1148, but which does not previously stop at West Ruislip). There is no service from West Ruislip to Marylebone that stops at Wembley Stadium between 0902 and 1105; and only three before that, at 0601, 0704 and 0827.

Perhaps I am too accustomed to suburban services from Waterloo, which run to a far more regular schedule. For example, one can expect a Kingston or Hounslow loop service to stop at all stations; Windsor and Reading services do not stop at Mortlake, North Sheen, etc. Exceptions are normally confined to the early mornings or late evenings.

This regularity means that people know that there are services at regular intervals through the day, stopping at the same stations; this encourages more use. Suburban services to and from Marylebone have little regularity and irregular stopping patterns. These services offer a quicker service both into central London and between places in the area than can be had on the Underground. It does seem to me that Chiltern Lines could develop its London suburban services by offering a more regular and frequent service.
 
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NSEFAN

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Dr_Paul said:
It does seem to me that Chiltern Lines could develop its London suburban services by offering a more regular and frequent service.
There probably is the demand for more services, but I suspect that commuting from further afield makes more money for the franchise. Given the limited capacity, there's not much scope for providing a more frequent service.

If the line into Marylebone was 4 track, there would be more scope to stop more trains at Sudbury. The ability to loop trains at West Ruislip (up) and South Ruislip (down) is already used in the current timetable, but it's clearly not enough to allow stops at Sudbury stations as well. There were once passing loops / small sections of 4 tracking, however these were removed when the Chiltern line was modernised in the 1980s. See for example this picture of Sudbury Hill Harrow in 1986.
 

greatkingrat

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The problem is there isn't time to stop a train at all of the suburban stations without the following fast train catching up, so instead you get the somewhat irregular stopping patterns.

I doubt Chiltern have any interest in improving the service, they would happily close most of them if they could to concentrate on the more lucrative longer distance flows.
 

WestCountry

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North-west London has Underground lines all over the place - none of Chiltern's suburban stations is more than 10 minutes' walk from a tube station, and there's no competing with that service frequency.

Combined with Marylebone's poor connectivity, there's simply no point running services into central London - even with a regular 15-minute service, the Tube would be much more frequent and get people to their actual destinations more easily.

SWT don't have that competition except at a few stations near the District Line.
 

glbotu

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So, the thing you have to look at is what service is it providing?

Ruislip/Northolt/Sudbury/Wembley - Central London is solidly provided by the London Underground throughout the area, with better connectivity and even reasonably fast services with the Met running fast from Wembley - Finchley. While extra capacity is always lovely, that's kind of already being provided for by the SSL upgrade etc. NTfL wil additionally provide more capacity on the Piccadilly and Central lines, which means that all that is going to be done via the tube.

Already, you've limited your service to providing much fewer flows. Ruislip - Wembley is already provided for by the Met. Ruislip - Sudbury is provided for by the Piccadilly.

So, you're really limited to the Northolt/Sudbury - Wembley flow, which is reasonably a short enough distance that buses will take the strain quite successfully. A half-hourly "Chiltern Suburban" just wouldn't be that useful to anyone, without having a pretty high frequency (probably 6tph minimum) to make it competitive with the tube, which isn't going to happen, because of infrastructure issues.
 
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