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Acton-Northolt Line

Acton-Northolt Line
Type Suburban rail
System National Rail
Status Operational
Locale Greater London
Stations None open
Opening 1903
Owner Network Rail
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge

The Acton-Northolt Line (ANL), historically known as the New North Main Line (NNML), is a railway line in west London, England. Built between 1903 and 1906, it runs from the Great Western Main Line at Old Oak Common TMD to the Chiltern Main Line at South Ruislip, alongside the West Ruislip branch of the London Underground Central line, for a distance of around 11 miles (18 km). At present, it is little used.


  • History 1
  • Modern usage 2
    • Ruislip Waste Transfer 2.1
  • Future developments 3
  • The line's former stations and sidings 4
    • Ruislip Gardens tube station 4.1
    • Northolt facilities 4.2
    • Greenford facilities 4.3
    • Perivale facilities 4.4
    • Hanger Lane facilities 4.5
    • Park Royal facilities 4.6
    • North Acton tube station 4.7
    • Old Oak Lane Halt railway station 4.8
  • References 5
  • See also 6


It opened in 1903 as part of a joint project by the Great Central Railway (GCR) and the Great Western Railway (GWR) to improve their terminuses' access from London to the Midlands and North of England, especially relative to the London and North Western Railway (LNWR). It begins at Old Oak Junction on the Great Western Main Line from Paddington and runs via Greenford to join what is now the Chiltern Main Line at Northolt Junction, south-east of South Ruislip.

The line joined the Great Western and Great Central Joint Railway between West Ruislip and Denham station in 1906. Its original name was "Denham - Junction for Uxbridge" as it was planned to be a stop on the shuttle service between Gerrards Cross and Uxbridge High Street. The latter was closed in 1964 and later demolished.

Since 1948 the West Ruislip branch of the London Underground Central line has run alongside it.

In the past it carried many trains to the north-west, and it was heavily used in the 1960s when electrification work restricted capacity on the West Coast Main Line (WCML); but when that project was completed, express services from London to Birmingham on the GWR/GCR route were discontinued as part of the Beeching Axe. All local trains on the route were diverted to Marylebone via Sudbury in 1963, and Greenford station on the New North Main Line was closed.

In the early 1990s the New North route was reduced to a single-track layout between Old Oak Common and Park Royal and between Greenford and South Ruislip. No improvement work has been carried out on the line since then.

Plans at this date to do away with Greenford East signal box and its semaphore signals, with upgraded signalling controlled by Slough and Marylebone signalling centres, were postponed indefinitely as decline of rail traffic controlled by Greenford East did not justify the cost.

Modern usage

As described the Central line has largely replaced its business.

Chiltern Railways operates a token Paddington service on weekdays; in some timetable revisions it has been one up or one down train, or one of each way between Gerrards Cross and Paddington via West Ruislip.[1] The line is still used for goods trains carrying refuse from London and for empty coaching stock movements, and it is a diversionary route when the normal lines to Marylebone or Paddington are closed.

For operational reasons such as balancing wheel wear, trains including those of Heathrow Express which were affected by tight track at Heathrow Junction have been turned using the London end of the NNML, its triangular junction with the Greenford Branch Line and the GWML through Ealing. At weekends in 2008 when major engineering works were taking place on the WCML, it was also used by Virgin Trains' Euston-Birmingham International Blockade Buster service, which ran from London Euston via Willesden, Acton Main Line, Ealing Broadway, Greenford, High Wycombe, Banbury and Coventry using pairs of 5-car Voyager sets.

One-off uses

On two Sundays in February 2010, Chiltern and Wrexham & Shropshire trains were diverted to Paddington via the line while engineering work blocked the route to Marylebone. This happened again between 15 and 19 August 2011.

The route is also used for testing out new trains and for the training of new drivers.

The line is now officially known as the Acton-Northolt Line and carries the Engineer's Line Reference code of ANL.[2]

Ruislip Waste Transfer

A siding was built in 1980 to serve the then-new waste transfer station at Victoria Road, South Ruislip.[3] As of 2012, the station and the siding are still operational.

Future developments

In April 2013 a decision by HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport to recommend further bore tunnelling under the 9 km of the 'Northolt Corridor' and most likely directly under or near the New North Main Line in the London Borough of Ealing was announced in an HS2 Ltd press release. An HS2 station is also proposed for the line at Old Oak Common, provisionally known as 'Crossrail interchange', for connections between the proposed high-speed line and Crossrail. The additional tunnelling under the New North Main Line will keep the line free for other potential future passenger services.

The tunnel will minimize blight for residents and businesses in the area and eliminate the substantial impact of traffic which a surface route would otherwise have caused.[4] The further bore tunnelling will link up the tunnels already planned beneath South Ruislip and Ruislip Gardens and Old Oak Common to North Acton. HS2 Ltd found in a study it had undertaken that bore tunnelling this stretch of the HS2 route would take 15 months less than constructing a surface HS2 route through this area, and in addition be at least cost-neutral. The cost neutrality is due to the fact that 20 bridge replacements including 3.5 years to replace both road over rail bridges at the Hanger Lane Gyratory System, amenity disruption, the construction of two tunnel portals and the likelihood of substantial compensation payments would all be avoided.[4][5] The proposed tunnel will be included as the preferred option in the draft Environmental Statement for the first phase of HS2. The tunnelling will mean the New North Main Line is severed in two places. It has not been decided whether the line will be restored once construction is complete.[6]

It has been suggested that the line be utilised as part of domestic services linking High Speed 1 to Heathrow Airport.[7]

The line's former stations and sidings

Ruislip Gardens tube station

The abandoned grey concrete stairwell to the London side platform at the old Ruislip Gardens station. It is in the bushes, behind the tree and above the former station's culvert drain (the grey concrete structure). Until recently the entrance remained in situ at platform level.

The tracks through the station were laid by the Great Western and Great Central Joint Railway with services starting on 2 April 1906, although there was no station at Ruislip Gardens at that time. The station opened on 9 July 1934.[8]

As part of the 1935-40 New Works Programme, Central line services were projected westwards from a new junction, west of North Acton on the line to Ealing Broadway. The original intention was to extend the service as far as Denham, but work was delayed by the Second World War and the terminus of the extension was cut back to West Ruislip, with services starting on 21 November 1948.[8]

Main-line services calling at Ruislip Gardens ceased in 1958 and the main-line station closed, the Central line station remaining open. Until recently the entrance to a passenger stairwell was visible on the London-bound side of the Network Rail tracks.

Northolt facilities

Northolt goods yard and carriage sidings

These served several local businesses and were also used to store spare British Rail and London Underground stock on occasion. They were abandoned in the early 1990s.

Northolt Halt and station

Northolt Halt, located alongside the current Northolt tube station, was opened by the GWR in 1907. It was later renamed "Northolt (for West End) Halt", before gaining station status under its original shorter name. It was closed in 1948 following the extension of the Central line to West Ruislip, the current tube station opening on 21 November 1948.[8]

Greenford facilities

A 1914 Railway Clearing House map of railways in the vicinity of Greenford.
The GWR Greenford station in 2001. The forecourt of the surviving platform and part of the platform itself are now built upon by a 1990s business park.
Semaphore signals at Greenford station in 2002.
A London Underground train entering Greenford station in 2006.

British Bath Company siding[9]

This siding served the British Bath Company factory beside the Paddington Branch of the Grand Union Canal. It was lifted when the factory closed in the late 1970s,[10] and the area is now occupied by Fairway Industrial Estate.

Kelvin Construction siding[9]

This siding served the Kelvin Construction factory, next to that of the British Bath Company. The area is now occupied by Kelvin Industrial Estate.

Aladdin Industries siding[9]

This siding served the Aladdin lamp factory, a short distance south of the British Bath Company and Kelvin factories. It was lifted when the factory closed in the early 1980s (although the main factory building is still extant), and the area is now occupied by a business park.

A Rugby Cement Terminal was immediately to the west of the former Greenford station up platform. This closed in about 1990.

Greenford station

The original Greenford station was opened by the Great Western Railway on 1 October 1904.[8]

The present station, adjacent to the original, was built as part of the Central line extension of the 1935-40 New Works Programme of the London Passenger Transport Board. It opened on 30 June 1947 after delay due to the Second World War.[8] Service at the original station was gradually reduced and it was closed in 1963.

Greenford freight sidings

These served several local businesses, but were closed in the 1990s.

Perivale facilities

Perivale G.P.O. sidings

These served the local Royal Mail distribution centre and sorting office, but were closed in the early 2000s.

Perivale Halt railway station

The Great Western Railway opened "Perivale Halt" on 2 May 1904. It closed on 15 June 1947, after the extension of the Central line to Ruislip. It had long wooden platforms and pagoda shelters, on an embankment reached by sloping paths west of Horsenden Lane South. The steam "push-and-pull" passenger service ran to Bishop's Bridge Paddington; the line (the last main line to be built before HS1) was shared with freight and with express trains to Birmingham (2 hours non-stop). Until the late 1920s, Perivale was entirely rural, despite its proximity to Ealing.

A Lens of Sutton photograph of the station is on page 77 of The forgotten Stations of Greater London by J.E. Connor and B.L. Halford (Connor and Butler) (ISBN 0947699 17 1). There was a similar halt at South Greenford before it was modernised by Network SouthEast.

The current London Underground station was opened on 30 June 1947.

Sanderson & Sons sidings

These sidings served the Perivale factory of wallpaper firm Arthur Sanderson & Sons.[9] They were lifted following the closure of the factory in the early 1970s.[11]

Hanger Lane facilities

Twyford Abbey Halt and Brentham station

Twyford Abbey Halt, located just to the east of the current Hanger Lane tube station, was opened by the GWR on 1 May 1904. It was closed on 1 May 1911 and replaced by Brentham station, located to the west. This station, later renamed "Brentham (for North Ealing)", was closed between 1915 and 1920 due to World War I economies, and closed altogether in 1947 when the Central line was extended to West Ruislip. The current tube station, which opened on 30 June 1947, was called Hanger Lane as it was near that road.

Hanger Lane sidings

These few sidings were used by both London Underground and local businesses. They have now been mostly removed and the remaining one was heavily overgrown as of 2008.

Park Royal facilities

A derelict permanent way hut south of the location of Park Royal West Halt, in 2002.

Park Royal West Halt

This halt was open between 1932 and 1948. It was located just to the east of the bridge carrying the London Underground Piccadilly line.

Park Royal Guinness brewery and sidings[12]

These served the now demolished local Guinness plant, but were closed by the early 1990s.

Three possible transport services have been proposed for the area; the West London Orbital, Fastbus and the North and West London Light railway.[13][14][15]

In 2004, the multinational company Diageo agreed to build extra Central line platforms at Park Royal tube station, as part of its First Central business park, built on the site of the former Guinness brewery. As of 2010, this had not yet happened.

Park Royal station

Park Royal station opened with the line in 1903, and closed in 1937. It should not be confused with the current station of the same name on the Piccadilly line, which opened in 1931.

British Can Company sidings[9]

These sidings served the Acton factory of the British Can Company (later taken over by Metal Box & Printing Industries), as well as the adjacent Walters' Palm Toffee factory.[3] They were lifted in the mid-1960s,[16] although the bridge that carried them over the Central line is still extant.

The Fiat (England) siding[9] Long since closed.

Joseph’s siding[9] Long since closed.

The Marcon Topmix stone terminal sidings[12]

They both served the Marcon Topmix stone works, but were mothballed in the late 2000s (decade).

North Acton tube station

The NNML line at North Acton in 2001. It has now been reduced to freight and diversionary services.
North Acton station looking east. Tracks from the left have been two of the NNML, two GWR freight and the two original Central line track beds. The bridge in the middle distance carries the North London Line.

The joint New North Main Line (NNML) of the Great Central and Great Western opened in 1903, and its North Acton railway station followed in 1904.

The Central London Railway (the precursor of the Central line) opened its adjoining North Acton station in 1923 on its 1920 extension to Ealing Broadway. As Transport for London explains:[17]

North of the Central line tracks were two freight lines, removed in the 1960s, running alongside the Central line as far as White City. To the north of those at a slightly higher level were the two tracks of the NNML. The footbridge to the NNML platforms is on the extreme left of this 1933 photograph.[18]

The NNML platforms closed when the Central line was extended on new track from North Acton to Greenford station in 1947. Between South Ruislip station and Old Oak Junction, the GWR line was progressively run down, and in many places it is now single-track, including the stretch running past the tube station. By May 2008 only freight trains and a token once-daily passenger service provided by Chiltern Railways used this stretch of line.

Old Oak Lane Halt railway station

Old Oak Lane Halt railway station was opened by the Great Western Railway in 1906 within the complex of lines at the south east end of the New North Main Line, a location with low potential for passenger traffic. It closed in 1947 without a replacement when the Central line of London Underground was extended from North Acton to West Ruislip alongside the NNML under the 1935-1940 New Works Programme delayed by World War II.


  1. ^ "Timetable May 2010". Chiltern Railways. 
  2. ^ Quail Track Diagrams, Book 3: Western, 2005.
  3. ^ a b Brown, Joe, London Railway Atlas (Second Edition) (Ian Allan Publishing, 2009). ISBN 978-0-7110-3397-9
  4. ^ a b "HS2 Ltd Recommends Tunnel Under Ealing and Northolt" (Press release). HS2 Ltd. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  5. ^ "HS2 Tunnel Victory for Ealing Residents". London Borough of Ealing. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  6. ^ "Acton cut".  
  7. ^ a b c d e "Central Line, Dates". Clive's Underground Line Guides. Retrieved 11 October 2009. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Railway clearing house atlas of London. Ian Allan. 1935.  
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b S.K. Baker. O.P.C. rail atlas of Great Britain and Ireland. Oxford Publishing.  
  12. ^ North and West London light railway (NWLLR) / Brent Cross Railway (BCR) plan, London Campaign for Better Transport.
  13. ^ "West London Orbital: 2008 Update – a summary". West London Business. April 2008. 
  14. ^ "Wembley—Park Royal Fastbus". Park Royal Partnership. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ Transport for London: Central line facts
  17. ^ North Acton station in 1933, London Transport Museum.

See also

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