UK: Some London Overground services on the Gospel Oak – Barking line in north London will be operated using an electric multiple-unit from January 28, Transport for London announced on January 25. Free travel is to be offered at a later date as compensation for the late arrival of the new fleet for the route.

Electrification of the orbital inner-suburban line at 25 kV 50 Hz has been completed, but the launch of electric services has been delayed by problems with the Class 710 EMUs ordered from Bombardier Transportation. These were due to be ready for service last year, but the manufacturer is still carrying out software development and mileage testing before they can be released for driver training.

The leases on the route’s current fleet of two-car Bombardier Class 172 DMUs have been extended twice, but operator London Overground is required to relinquish the diesel fleet by mid-March for use in the West Midlands.

As an interim measure, three existing Bombardier Class 378 EMUs used on other London Overground routes are being reduced from five to four cars to enable them to be used temporarily on the Gospel Oak – Barking route. One will be deployed from January 28, with two more following by March. This will ensure the line can remain open, even if the new Class 710s are still unavailable when the Class 172 are transferred. While the frequency of services would have to be reduced, the longer trains mean overall capacity would be the same or slightly increased.

‘We are very sorry for the continuing delay to the introduction of the new fleet of electric trains’, said Jon Fox, TfL's Director of Rail & Sponsored Services. ‘We share our customers' frustration and continue to push Bombardier to do everything they can to allow us to bring the new trains into service as soon as possible. We had expected the new trains to be in service well before now and are doing all we can to minimise impact on our customers who have been waiting for way too long for the trains they have been promised.’

The Mayor of London has ‘spoken directly with Bombardier’ which has agreed to fund a month of free travel for passengers once the new trains are fully introduced. Details will be announced closer to the time.