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We are improving the railway in East London and Essex.

Over the next four years, we are carrying out a series of works to improve the Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness line and the Tilbury loop line (which diverges from the main line between Barking and Pitsea).

Our focus is on putting passengers first and we are determined to improve the reliability and punctuality of train services on what is already one of Britain’s best performing railway lines.

Overhead line equipment
Improvements to the overhead line equipment will improve reliability and punctuality

Reducing delays caused by overhead line faults

We’re continuing our work towards improving reliability on this key part of the rail network so passengers can travel confidently. From April 2021, over 50 kilometres of wire will be replaced as part of the work to upgrade the overhead line equipment (OLE) system from Fenchurch Street to Hornchurch and Pitsea, along the Tilbury Loop.

Map showing route of OLE improvements including Barking, Hornchurch, Grays, Tilbury and Pitsea
The red area of the map above shows where the OLE system will be upgraded.

Problems with the OLE such as power failures, wildlife such as birds landing on the equipment and causing a short circuit or extreme heat causing the wires to sag or expand can cause delays to train services. These problems can be complex to resolve, requiring us to either stop or slow down services through the area.

The upgrade work will deliver:

  • A system that can adapt to different weather conditions which is particularly important in hot weather, meaning fewer delays and cancellations
  • A modern infrastructure system in line with 21st century standards
  • A more reliable and sustainable system which will require less maintenance, meaning less cost and disruption
  • Reduced likelihood of equipment failures and power outages

These improvements will help us keep the railway operating reliably and efficiently for the growing number of passengers and freight services using the line for years to come.

When will this be delivered?

This work is planned to start in April 2021 with foundation installation, this is also called piling. Piling work is noisy, but we’ll do everything possible to mitigate the noise and inform local residents before the work starts.

Wiring and structure renewal is expected to start in the Pitsea area in October 2021 and will continue along the line until 2024.  We’ll keep passengers and local residents updated as the programme develops.

BRE bridge installation
Install of viaduct deck spans at Tilbury

Upgrading Reliability

It’s not just the overhead line equipment that keeps the railway running smoothly. Just like road surfaces, track also gets worn from constant use. Our skilled teams of engineers carry out inspections and repairs regularly, but over time the track becomes so worn that a full replacement is the only option to avoid speed restrictions that cause delays and cancellations to services.

Over the next 4 years, we’re replacing track at 11 locations along the line from Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness and at seven locations along the Tilbury Loop line, which diverges from the Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness line at Barking. These vital renewals will reduce the number of track faults and the associated delays or cancellations, creating a better experience for passengers.

We’re also replacing points at Southend Central, Barking, Upminster, East Ham, Grays West and Thameshaven Junction over the next four years. Points are moveable sections of track that guide trains from one track to another and allow them to cross paths.

They have an especially limited lifespan because trains cause wear and deformation when they travel across them. They are regularly maintained but when this becomes too expensive or ineffective, we come up with solutions to refurbish or renew the track.

Once replaced, the track and points are expected to last approx. 25 years resulting in fewer track faults, fewer closures for maintenance and fault finding and increased reliability, meaning fewer delays and cancellations.

Over time, structures become worn and need strengthening or replacing to improve the reliability of passenger and freight services. To reduce the chance of delays, the wheel timbers that support the track on Fenchurch Street bridge and Flamborough bridge are being replaced and strengthened in March 2021.

Sleeper, rail and ballast installation work
Supporting TfL with the install of new sleepers, rail and ballast

At Christmas 2021, our engineers will replace Morris Street bridge and at Christmas 2023, the teams are planning to be back out on the line strengthening the Minories bridges and various other bridges around Fenchurch Street station. This work will improve safety and reliability across the bridge for passengers and freight services.

Exciting Enhancements

Network Rail often works with industry partners to deliver a railway improvement project. Since 2020, we’ve been supporting Transport for London (TfL) with the Barking Riverside Extension project. This extension will add 4.5 kilometres to the London Overground Gospel Oak to Barking line, taking it from Barking to a new station at Barking Riverside.

Network Rail’s Asset Protection and Optimisation (ASPRO) teams are providing expert railway assistance and supporting TfL in delivering its work safely and securely.

More information on the project can be found on TfL’s website.

Will train services be affected?

To allow us to work on the track and overhead lines safely, there will be some disruption to services on selected weekends and bank holidays. We plan to complete the more complex works over the Christmas period in 2021, 2022 and 2023 to minimise disruption where possible.

We urge all passengers to check with their train operator at or at

Contact us about our investment programme

If you’re interested in finding out more about our programme to replace OLE equipment, please contact us by visiting our contact us page or by calling our 24-hour national helpline on 03457 11 41 41.

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