Progressing the West London Orbital

The Leaders of the seven West London councils have welcomed the publication of a report which concludes that there is a strong case for further work on proposals for a new orbital rail line – the West London Orbital – which could support delivery of between 8,800 and 29,300 additional homes and space for 23,000 jobs.

The line links key growth areas like Brent Cross, Old Oak and the Great West Corridor, cutting journey times, and giving residents and workers greater choice and convenience when travelling around West London. Cutting orbital travel times will make a huge difference to travel patterns – removing the need to travel in to and back out of central London when going from Brent Cross to Hounslow will open up a wide range of new travel-to-work options, broadening employment pools for West London based companies.

The findings are set out in a detailed strategic outline business case published by Transport for London (TfL).

The proposed West London Orbital (WLO) rail line would form part of the London Overground network, connecting a number of existing lines to create a brand-new route for West and North London that would also return the four mile long Dudding Hill line between Cricklewood and Acton to passenger use. The WLO would run from Hendon and West Hampstead to Kew Bridge and Hounslow, stopping at Brent Cross West, Neasden, Harlesden, Old Oak Common, Acton and Brentford.

Working through the West London Alliance (WLA), boroughs have been collaborating with TfL in examining the strategic case for the WLO and its deliverability since autumn 2017.

The first phase of this work has concluded that it “has the potential to address three critical strategic issues facing west and north west London”; bringing land into use for housing and employment; providing much-needed orbital connectivity; and delivering transport benefits by promoting public transport use and tackling congestion on existing services.

It finds that:

  • The WLO could support delivery of between 8,800 and 29,300 additional homes and space for 23,000 jobs.
  • It would provide orbital transport options in a part of London dominated by radial connections, connecting town centres and growth areas and encouraging use of public transport. At the moment, it takes as long to travel the five kilometres between Harlesden and Brent Cross as it does to go double the distance, to Southfields in Wandsworth south of the Thames.
  • It would enhance West London’s public transport capacity, helping to promote sustainable travel, reduce congestion, improve air quality, and making the area’s transport infrastructure fit for purpose to meet its future growth.

The report concludes that the WLO might be used for 11.5 million passenger journeys each year. It is estimated to cost £281 million and would be value for money, says the report. Examination of technical, engineering and operational issues have shown there are “no showstoppers” for the scheme at this stage.

In light of these findings, the WLA and TfL have decided that the business case for the line should be developed in more detail, focusing on feasibility, financing and technical issues. This work will take place over the next eighteen months.

Councillor Julian Bell, Leader of Ealing Council and Chair of the West London Economic Prosperity Board said: “This is excellent news for West London and really shows what we can achieve when we work together across party and borough boundaries.

“The lack of orbital transport options is a real obstacle to growth here; it’s one of the reasons the North Circular has been identified as the UK’s most congested road. The WLO is vital to the sustainable delivery of the growth in homes and jobs we and the Mayor want to see in west London.

“The work we have done with TfL shows how the WLO would give west Londoners real choices to travel conveniently, safely and sustainably. It would support growth and link deprived communities with places that will see more jobs. It is central to our vision for West London’s growth and wellbeing.

“We appreciate the open and constructive spirit in which TfL have worked with us on the WLO and are pleased that this first stage has come to a successful conclusion. Although we understand that there is still much to do and some real issues that need to be sorted out we look forward to carrying the work forward to the next stage so that this much needed new line can be delivered for our residents and businesses.”

Heidi Alexander, Deputy Mayor for Transport, said: “This report is an important step forward in developing plans for a West London Orbital line. It outlines some of the major benefits it will have in delivering more homes and jobs in a growing part of London, while enabling more people in west London to shift their regular journeys from cars onto new well-connected public transport links.

“TfL continues to work closely with the boroughs, looking at how to take the project to its next stage, including how the project could be funded and how best to deliver plans that would make a big difference to people in west London.”

Alex Williams, TfL’s Director of City Planning, said: “Our early work on the Strategic Outline Business Case has demonstrated that the West London Orbital rail line has the potential to support the delivery of new homes and jobs by providing better public transport connectivity. Further joint work with the West London Alliance will now continue. This will see the business case developed further to help us decide on the next steps, focusing on assessing the feasibility of the scheme and examining options for funding capital costs and balancing operational costs.”

Assuming successful completion of the further work on the project, services could start on the WLO in 2026.