The Anonymous Widower

Will The Hertford Loop Line Be Upgraded?

In All Change On Thameslink, I said this about the Hertford Loop Line.

In the future, don’t discount improvements to the Hertford Loop Line, to get more trains through the area.

The Current Hertford Loop Line

So what are the characteristics of the Hertford Loop Line? Wikipedia introduces it like this.

The Hertford Line (also known colloquially as the Hertford Loop) is a branch of the East Coast Main Line, providing a commuter route to London for Hertford and other Hertfordshire towns and an occasional diversion route for the main line. The line is part of the Network Rail Strategic Route 8, SRS 08.03 and is classified as a London and South East Commuter line.

Riding on the line is an experience like many of the commuter lines in North London, that were electrified in the thirty years after the Second World War.

  • It is double track throughout.
  • It is electrified at 25 KVAC using overhead wires.
  • It has a speed limit of 121 kph.
  • It has eleven intermediate stations, most of which have two platforms.
  • Hertford North station has two through platforms and a bay platform.
  • The trains are elderly Class 313 trains, which usually run in six-car formations along the Northern City Line into Moorgate.
  • It is connected to the East Coast Main Line using grade-separated junctions at both ends.
  • According to the History in the Wikipedia entry for the Line, it was built to relieve pressure on the Digswell Viaduct.

I don’t know the condition of the line, the electrification and the signalling, but the line was used for the testing of ERTMS, so it can’t be too bad.

New Class 717 Trains

But changes are happening in that the Class 313 trains are being replaced with new six-car Class 717 trains, which are cousins of the Class 700 trains used by Thameslink.

Yesterday I was at Stevenage station and there were problems on the fast line North of the station, which meant that my train directly into Kings Cross was swapped from the slow to the fast line to get it out of the way and into Kings Cross as soon as possible

Obviously, this is probably not an unusual action, but you wouldn’t be wanting to put 121 kph trains like the Class 313 trains onto the fast lines, as they’d slow everything down.

The speeds of the various local and Cambridge trains that use the East Coast Main Line are.

I would suspect that because of the need to occasionally run on the fast lines, that the Class 717 trains may well be 160 kph units. This would also mean that all the trains running on the Cambridge Line would be 160 kph trains or faster.

There is a factor about the order for the Class 717 trains, that doesn’t seem to have been noticed. At present there are effectively twenty-two six-car elderly Class 313 trains working the suburban services. These are being replaced with a fleet of  twenty-five six-car modern Class 717 trains.


  • The Class 717 trains could be substantially faster.
  • The Class 717 trains will handle stops faster.
  • The Class 717 trains will be more passenger-friendly, probably like the Class 700 train, I wrote about in A First Ride In A Class 700 train.
  • The Class 717 trains will have lots of gizmos and automation to aid staff.

Add all of these factors together and I believe that there is going to be a massive increase in capacity on the services out of Moorgate. Unless of course, they park some of the new trains in sidings.

Local And Cambridge Branch Trains On The East Coast Main Line

What local and Cambridge Branch trains will be running on the East Coast Main Line, between Hitchin and Kings Cross?

  • Thameslink – 2 tph Peterborough to Horsham – |Stopping Pattern Unknown
  • Thameslink – 2 tph Cambridge North to Brighton – Stopping Pattern Unknown
  • Thameslink – 2 tph Cambridge to Maidstone East – Stopping Pattern Unknown
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Peterborough to Kings Cross – Semi-Fast including stop at Welwyn North
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Peterborough to Kings Cross – Stopping including stop at Welwyn North
  • Great Northern – 2 tph Cambridge to Kings Cross – Non-Stop
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Cambridge to Kings Cross – Semi-Fast
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Cambridge to Kings Cross – Stopping
  • Northern City – 3 tph Moorgate to Welwyn Garden City – Stopping
  • Northern City – 2 tph Moorgate to Hertford North – Stopping via Hertford Loop
  • Northern City – 1 tph Moorgate to Letchworth Garden City – Stopping via Hertford Loop

So we get the following totals.

  • 6 tph between St. Pancras and Finsbury Park
  • 6 tph between Kings Cross and Finsbury Park
  • 6 tph between Moorgate and Finsbury Park
  • 18 tph between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace
  • 3 tph between Alexandra Palace and Hertford North via Hertford Loop
  • 15 tph between Alexandra Palace and Welwyn Garden City
  • 12 tph between Welwyn Garden City and Stevenage – 2 stop at Welwyn North
  • 1 tph between Hertford North and Stevenage via Hertfood Loop
  • 13 tph between Stevenage and Hitchin
  • 4 tph bertween Hitchin and Peterborough
  • 9 tph bertween Hitchin and Letchworth Garden City
  • 8 tph between Letchworth Garden City and Cambridge

Obviously on the East Coast Main Line, there is a mixture of fast, semi-fast and stopping trains, but as the whole route is quadruple track between Finsbury Park and Hitchin, this service pattern could probably be easily handled.

Simple Cross-Platform And Same-Platform interchanges

There are three different London end destinations for local services on the Southern section the East Coast Main Line.

  • St. Pancras and the South, through the Canal Tunnels.
  • Kings Cross, using the East Coast Main Line.
  • Moorgate using the Northern City Line.

Passengers to and from these stations, will need to get to and from any station on the following routes.

  • The East Coast Main Line to Peterborough.
  • The Cambridge Line to Cambridge
  • The Hertford Loop Line

Quite a number of stations will be ideal places to change if you can’t get a direct train. These stations and some others might become recommended interchanges.

  • Finsbury Park
  • Alexandra Palace
  • Potters Bar
  • Welwyn Garden City
  • Stevenage
  • Hitchin

Will these stations be given a platform layout, where interchange between different services entails just getting off one train and then getting another train from the same platform face or one at the other side of the platform?

Some stations like Stevenage already have this layout.

But I think it essential, that all recommended interchange stations have simple step-free changes.

Could More Trains Run On The Hertford Loop Line?

It is interesting to compare the 15 tph between Alexandra Palace and Welwyn Garden City and the 3 tph between Alexandra Palace and Hertford North on the Hertford Loop.

As the line is self-contained with grade-separated junctions at both ends and a bay platform at Hertford North and Gordon Hill stations, running 3 tph on the line, must be way under the maximum capacity, when there are double track electrified lines with lots of stations, like the East London Line that can handle 16-20 tph.

I think we’ll see the line improved in the following way.

  • An upgraded speed limit of perhaps 120 kph.
  • Longer platforms if needed
  • Perhaps a couple of reopened or new stations.
  • Better interchange at Alexandra Palace and Stevenage stations.

I am certain, this would enable some extra trains to serve the line to perhaps Stevenage, Peterborough or Cambridge.

Before I look at the train services on the Hertford Loop Line in detail, I’ll look at other issues for local and Cambridge Line trains on the two Northern branches of the Thameslink Great Northern network.

Upgrade Of The Slow Lines Between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace Stations

I found this statement in a Network Rail document posted on the web.

The section is entitled Upgrade to down slow 2 and creation of up slow 2 line between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace.

This is said.

Up slow 2 and down slow 2 lines available for passenger use with increased linespeeds with a new platform provided at Finsbury Park in the up direction. No platform faces are provided at Harringay and Hornsey. The scheme allows some Hertford North/Gordon Hill to Moorgate inner suburban services to operate independently of outer suburban services and long distance high speed (LDHS) services, which removes a timetable constraint.

I would assume it means that there are two slow lines in both directions, one of which leads directly to the Hertford Loop Line. This is also said.

Due to the focus on the off peak timetable, the line upgrades between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace have a smaller impact, as the majority of services call at intermediate stations on this section. However, provision of platform faces on the upgraded lines has the potential to ease timetabling constraints on the busy Alexandra Palace – Welwyn section.

The only stations without platform faces on the upgraded lines in this section are Harringay and Hornsey.

It would appear to me, that this is a half-finished job, the ability to separate Hertford Loop Line services from those on the East Coast Main Line has been enabled, but no provision has been made to allow separated Hertford Loop Line services at Harringay and Hornsey stations.

So for the present time, all passenger services must share the same slow lines between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace.

Network Rail’s suspect and vision-less planning has struck again.

Finsbury Park Station

Three routes come together at Finsbury Park station.

  • Thameslink – 6 tph between St. Pancras  and Finsbury Park
  • Great Northern – 6 tph between Kings Cross and Finsbury Park
  • Northern City – 6 tph between Moorgate and Finsbury Park

I wonder if we’ll see a simple cross- and same-platform interchange, so that Northbound passengers can get off their train from Kings Cross, Moorgate or St. Pancras at Finsbury Park and without changing platforms get a train to any station towards Cambridge or Peterborough, either up the East Coast Main Line or the Hertford Loop Line. Obviously going South, passengers will need to reverse the process.

To complicate matters, Finsbury Park station will be one of the main interchanges between the Thameslink Great Northern network and the Piccadilly and Victoria Lines.

This map from, shows the lines at Finsbury Park station.

Lines At Finsbury Park Station

Lines At Finsbury Park Station

Finsbury Park station certainly has a lot of platforms and crossovers and it strikes me that given the current work at the station, that Network Rail has an acceptable solution.

I took these pictures at the station.

There is plenty of work to do and questions to answer before the station is ready for Thameslink.

  • Will Northern City Line services to use platforms 1 and 8?
  • Will Kings Cross services continue to use platforms 2 and 7?
  • Is the work outside of platform 8, creating two new platforms 9 and 10?
  • Will the spiral staircases to the Underground be adequate?

There has been no indication as to which platforms Thameslink will use. But our French friends at have a map, which shows the routes between the Canal Tunnels and the East Coast Main Line.

It would appear that the lines through the Canal Tunnels connect directly to the slow lines, that go through Finsbury Park.

  • The Canal Tunnel lines are shown at the bottom left of the map.
  • There is even a convenient flyover taking the up slow lines to the correct side of the main lines for Thameslink.

So it would appear that the Thameslink lines South of Finsbury Park will take the same route as local services out of Kings Cross do now.

Remember that between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace stations, there are two slow lines both ways, which will have to accommodate 18 tph, empty stock movements and some freight trains.

I feel this means that at Finsbury Park, there is sufficient capacity to adopt a logical strategy, that will be easily understood by passengers.

I suspect that the platform allocations will be as follows.

  • Platform 1 – Services to Moorgate – 6 tph
  • Platform 2 – Services to Kings Cross and Thameslink – 12 tph
  • Platform 7 – Services up the East Coast Main Line – 15 tph
  • Platform 8 – Services on the Hertford Loop Line – 3 tph

Given all the sdvanced signalling in the area and on the trains, I don’t think these frequencies are unreasonable.

But these are only my speculationj.

Harringay Station

Harringay station has two platforms, with one for each direction.

This Google Map shows Harringay station.

Harringay Station

Harringay Station


  • The bridge across the tracks with steps leading down to the two platforms.
  • The station is not step-free.
  • There is no platform faces on the newly-created second pair of slow lines.

To be fair, Harringay is a dump and one of the worst stations on the line, but an architect with flair could make it work, with cross platform interchange between trains on both pairs of slow lines.

These pictures show Haringay station.


  • The station is a dump.
  • The two down slow lines lie between the platform and the retaining wall.
  • In a couple of pictures, you can see the Harringay Curve that connects the Gospel Oak to Barking and East Coast Main Lines.
  • I didn’t look at the up side of the station.

If in an ideal world, an island platform were to be placed between the two slow lines as I suspect is being done at Finsbury Park, I reckon it would be possible during an obviously-needed station rebuild.

Hornsey Station

Hornsey station has two platforms, with one for each direction.

This Google Map shows Hornsey station.


These pictures show Hornsey station.

Like Harringay, Hornsey can be improved.

Alexandra Palace Station

Alexandra Palace station has four platforms, but the station has the air of a work-in-progress as although there is some easy interchange between services, it’s not perfect or step-free.

This Google Map shows the station.

Alexandra Palace Station

Alexandra Palace Station


  • The Hertford Loop Line curves across the East Coast Main Line.
  • Train stabling for the East Coast Main Line sits to the North of the station.
  • Hertford Loop Line services have to stop at the two outer platforms in the station.
  • Crossrail 2 might serve this station.

Knowing the station well, I feel that a good interchange station can be created here, where Thameslink, Great Northern to Cambridge and Peterborough,  and Hertford Loop Line services have a simple cross- or same-platform interchange in both directions.

The Digswell Viaduct And Welwyn North Station

The two-track section over the Digswell Viaduct and through Welwyn North station is a major bottleneck on the East Coast Main Line.

The Wikipedia entry for the viaduct says this.

The viaduct carries the East Coast Main Line, which has to narrow from four tracks to two to cross the viaduct, making it a bottleneck restraining capacity over this strategic transport route.. This problem is exacerbated by Welwyn North railway station situated at the northern end of the viaduct, which blocks the line while trains are stationary and two tunnels to the north. Several ideas to overcome the limitations of the viaduct and station without damaging the viaduct’s essential historic character and rhythmic design are periodically discussed.

In some ways, the station is more of a problem than the viaduct. Every stop at the station and there are just two trains per hour in both directions, effectively blocks the main line for a few minutes. It’s a bit like having a level crossing on a motorway.

If the viaduct were to be rebuilt to four tracks, which these days with modern construction methods is probably a very expensive possibility, this would still leave the problem of the station, which is on a very restricted site. Wikipedia also says this about the station.

The station is a rare survival of architecture from the early days of the GNR and this is now recognised with listed building status. The main station building, the footbridge, the tunnel portal to the north and Digswell Viaduct to the south are all Grade 2 listed.

This leads me to a very extreme solution to the problem.

Welwyn North station should lose most or all of its train services.

This Google Map shows the station and the viaduct.

Digswell Viaduct And Welwyn North Station

Digswell Viaduct And Welwyn North Station

Perhaps, a better solution would be a mixture of road and rail improvements .

  • Improve the traffic routes from the area to other stations at Knebworth and Welwyn Garden City.
  • Provide more car parking at Welwyn Garden City and Stevenage stations.
  • Provide a free and frequent shuttle bus between Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City stations calling at Welwyn North and Knebworth stations.
  • Build a new station at Stapleford on the Hertford Loop Line.

Perhaps a parkway station could be built in the South of Stevenage on the Hertford Loop Line.

Elimination of the stopping of trains at Welwyn North would lead to the following.

  • Extra paths in both directions through the station.
  • Services like Thameslink and the Great Northern services to Cambridge would save a few minutes.
  • The expresses to and from the North would be able to provide a faster and more reliable service.

In my view, we should go the whole way and close Welwyn North station.




Hitchin To Peterborough

This is a line with capacity problems as there is sections of twin and triple track  in the mainly quadruple track, between Huntingdon and Peterborough.

The trains on this section are.

  • Thameslink – 2 tph Peterborough to Horsham – |Stopping Pattern Unknown
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Peterborough to Kings Cross – Semi-Fast
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Peterborough to Kings Cross – Stopping

If there were continuous slow lines, then you could have an optimised stopping pattern, but as trains have to use the fast lines to progress in places, you can’t interfere with speeding Virgins.

So I suspect that there’s a very unusual pattern of trains, as they sneak through.

The line definitely needs quadrupling where there are only two and three tracks.

You could probably argue that between Hitchin and Peterborough, there needs to be a service with a pattern like this.

  • 2-4 tph stopping at all stations.
  • 2-4 tph stopping at important station with four platforms.

I wouldn’t be surprised that Network Rail and Thameslink have a plan to remove this bottleneck.

Htchin To Cambridge

The trains on this section are.

  • Thameslink – 2 tph Cambridge North to Brighton – Stopping Pattern Unknown
  • Thameslink – 2 tph Cambridge to Maidstone East – Stopping Pattern Unknown
  • Great Northern – 2 tph Cambridge to Kings Cross – Non-Stop
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Cambridge to Kings Cross – Semi-Fast
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Cambridge to Kings Cross – Stopping
  • Northern City – 1 tph Moorgate to Letchworth Garden City – Stopping via Hertford Loop

So this gives  8 tph to Cambridge and an extra one to Letchworth Garden City. All are currently run by Govia Thameslink Railway.

Wikipedia says this about the infrastructure of the Cambridge Line.

The line is double track throughout. Traction current is supplied at 25 kV AC using overhead line equipment overseen by York Electrical Control Room, with Neutral Sections at Cambridge junction, Litlington and Shepreth Branch junction. It has a loading gauge of W8 and a maximum line speed of 90 mph

Some observations.

  • If after all the new 160 kph trains are delivered, it could be an efficient line to run, possibly even at a slightly higher speed.
  • |Stations like Shepreth and Meldreth often only get an hourly service.
  • A Cambridge North to Moorgate service would connect the Cambridge Science Park to Silicon Fen.

I suspect there are others and they will lead to an improved service pattern on this line.


July 28, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

London City Airport Gets Go Ahead For Expansion

Usually, when airports get permission to expand, there are lots of protests and negative copy.

Yesterday, the government gave the go-ahead for expansion of London City Airport.

This article in the Guardian, is generally supportive of the plan and only has one paragraph about protests. The comments from readers seem to be on tha approve side too.

So what will the £344 million, that the airport is spending bring?

  • A bigger terminal with more stands and better taxiways.
  • Bigger and more modern planes will be able to use the airport.
  • 1,600 new jobs.
  • Better bus, taxi and cycle routes.
  • More trains on the DLR.

One of the comments mentioned that the new Bombardier C-series aircraft will be able to fly into the airport. Looking at the specification for this aircraft, it would appear to be designed very much for London City Airport with a 4,350 km range out of the airport.

I shall be trying to use the airport, after my disastrous attempt to fly to Berlin, which resulted in British Airways cancelling the flight the day before at midnight, discouraged me.

July 28, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Meridian Water Gets Its First Planning Permission

This article in the Enfield Independent is entitled Planning permission given to first batch of Meridian Water homes. This is the start of the article.

Work will soon start on the first homes in a £3.5billion development after getting the planning green light.

Enfield Council’s planning committee has given permission for the first phase of Meridian Water, agreeing to the construction of 725 homes, as well as retail space, play areas, a community centre and a new train station which will have the facilities to include the planned Crossrail 2.

The decision follows the announcement last month of Barratt and SEGRO as developers for the scheme, which the council hope will provide 10,000 homes and 6,700 jobs in Edmonton.

London certainly needs this development with all its houses and a replacement for Angel Road station and I doubt that few will mourn the passing of the industrial wasteland that the area is now.

July 28, 2016 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Snot Wars

There is no other title for a post about this article on the BBC, which is entitled Antibiotic resistance: ‘Snot wars’ study yields new class of drugs.

The research has been done at the University of Tübingen, which is one of Germany’s classical universities. Wikipedia says this.

Tübingen is one of five classical “university towns” in Germany; the other four being Marburg, Göttingen, Freiburg and Heidelberg.

It certainly sounds to me that ideas for this research, possibly started after a good academic dinner with lots of food and alcohol, if classical German universities are anything like our’s.

After all the idea has been literally up researchers noses for years.

These last two paragraphs of the BBC report describes how the antibiotic-like action was possibly created in the human body.

Prof Kim Lewis and Dr Philip Strandwitz, from the antimicrobial discovery centre at Northeastern University in the US, commented: “It may seem surprising that a member of the human microbiota – the community of bacteria that inhabits the body – produces an antibiotic.

“However, the microbiota is composed of more than a thousand species, many of which compete for space and nutrients, and the selective pressure to eliminate bacterial neighbours is high.”

So why hasn’t this new class of antibiotics been found before?

Could it be that medical research is too much about Loadsamoney and Big Pharma, rather than about ideas, seriously out-of-the-box thinking and dilligent research?

Brains are a lot easier to throw at a problem, than money. Except that good brains are much more difficult to find than good money.


July 28, 2016 Posted by | Health | , , | Leave a comment

My Mid-Life Crisis

They were talking midlife crises on Radio 5 yesterday, so I sent in a text, which was broadcast.

My mid-life crisis was caused by the death of my wife and our youngest son to cancer smd then my stroke at 63. But I survived and raised money for pancreatic research at mine and my late wife’s University of Liverpool. Yesterday, I visited the unit and left feeling that there is now some hope for people suffering from this awful cancer. My mid-life crisis seemed to be receding as I took the train home.

Hopefully, life can only get better!

Incidentally, since my visit to Liverpool, I’ve spoken to three or four people, who have been affected by pancreatic cancer and I hope my attitude has given them a bit of strength to face the future.

July 27, 2016 Posted by | Health | , , , | Leave a comment

All Change On Thameslink

Wikipedia gives a Provisional Timetable for Thameslink.

  • 4 trains per hour (tph) – Sutton to St. Albans (2 tph via Wimbledon, 2tph via Mitcham)
  • 2tph – Brighton to Bedford
  • 2 tph – Gatwick Airport to Bedford
  • 2 tph – Brighton to Cambridge
  • 2 tph – Horsham to Peterborough
  • 2 tph – Tattenham Corner to Cambridge
  • 2 tph – Sevenoaks to Kentish Town
  • 2 tph – Caterham to Finsbury Park (stopping via Sydenham or semi-fast)
  • 2 tph – Maidstone East to Luton
  • 2 tph – East Grinstead to West Hampstead
  • 2 tph – Littlehampton to West Hampstead

Some services are extended in the Peak to and from Bedford, Luton, Three Bridges and Welwyn Garden City.

According to Modern Railways for August 2016, the new proposal is.

  • 4 trains per hour (tph) – Sutton to St. Albans (2 tph via Wimbledon, 2tph via Mitcham)
  • 2tph – Brighton to Bedford
  • 2 tph – Three Bridges/Gatwick Airport to Bedford
  • 2 tph – Brighton to Cambridge North
  • 2 tph – Horsham to Peterborough
  • 2 tph – Maidstone East to Cambridge
  • 2 tph – Sevenoaks to Blackfriars
  • 2 tph -Orpington to Kentish Town/West Hampstead
  • 2 tph – Rainham to Luton (via Dartford and Greenwich)
  • 2 tph – East Grinstead to Bedford
  • 2 tph – Littlehampton to Bedford

No information on Peak  extensions is given.

I can make the following observations.

More Off Peak Trains Through The Core

According to Modern Railways for August 2016, there will be another 2 tph in the Off Peak, through the core from St. Pancras to London Bridge.

The core section of Thameslink, which effectively goes from West Hampstead/Kentish Town and Finsbury Park in the North to London Bridge and Elephant and Castle in the South.

Thameslink Core

Thameslink Core

This section is getting to look more like a high-capacity Underground Line. The frequency is in the mid-twenty trains per hour, which is better than some Underground lines.

There is also a lot of connections.

  • West Hampstead – Jubilee Line and North London Lines and possibly Chiltern and Metropolitan Lines.
  • Kentish Town – Northern Line
  • Finsbury Park – Great Northern, Piccadillyand Victoria Lines.
  • St. Pancras – Circle, Metropolitan, Northern,Piccadilly and Victoria Lines, and Main Line services out of Kings Croiss and St. Pancras.
  • Blackfriars – Circle and District Lines
  • London Bridge – Northern and Jubilee Lines and Main Line services.
  • Elephant and Castle – Northern and Bakerloo Lines

With this level of connections, it should surely be on the Underground Map.

Changing In The Core

Passengers will have to get more used to changing trains in the core section between St. Pancras and Blackfriars.

Passengers will get off one train at a station they like, wait for hopefully a few minutes, before getting a train to their preferred destination.

I think Thameslink could make this a lot easier, by providing kiosks and coffee shops on the platforms of the station, they would like people to change.

New Routes

Thameslink will open up new routes.

Until I was fifteen, I lived near Oakwood station and getting to and from Gatwick from there is not easy. But after Thameslink opens, the Piccadilly Line takes me to Finsbury Park for Thameslink, where I suspect I’ll be able to get a train to Gatwick.

All the fuss is about Crossrail, but the effect of a full Thameslink could be almost as great.

London Bridge Station

According to a platform layout diagram in Wikipedia of London Bridge station, Thameslink will use the following platforms.

  • Platform 4 to go South.
  • Platform 5 to go North.

Is the design of the island platform 4/5 in the new station, wide enough to have kiosks and/or coffee shops?

It’s certainly an island platform, that will enable passengers to change direction.

Sutton Loop Services

Sutton currently has 2 tph to St. Albans and 2 tph to Luton, so the new proposal might be seen as a cutback, as it doesn’t go all the way to Luton.

Will users of the Sutton Loop Line find this acceptable? According to the Political Developments section in the Wikipedia entry for the Thameslink Programme, this is said.

Network Rail had planned to terminate Sutton Loop Thameslink trains at Blackfriars station, rather than have them continue through central London as at present. This upset many residents in South London and their local politicians, who saw it as a reduction in services rather than an improvement. In response to pressure, government has ordered Network Rail to reverse the decision.

There are powerful interests!


Are some Cambridge services going to Cambridge North station, to give better connections between Thameslink and services to and from Kings Lynn, Norwich, Peterborough and the Midlands?

Cambridge North station is given in Wikipedia as a three platform station.

Is that enough? Especially, if trains arriving at Cambridge North station from the North were to be turned back.

Thameslink will also highlight a real problem at Cambridge.

After Thameslink opens, for many passengers, going to say Ipswich or Norwich via Cambridge could be a better option, than going via Liverpool Street.

At present trains from Cambridge to Ipswich, Norwich and Peterborough do not have enough capacity or frequency. At least a four-car train running every thirty minutes is needed now and, Thameslink will bring more passengers to the routes.

Hopefully, the new East Anglia Franchise will improve these important services across the region.

Midland Main Line

It would seem that services on the Midland Main Line branch of Thameslink, stop a few stations further in with perhaps fewer services going to Luton.

Given that the Midland Main Line is to be electrified and fast trains will be running from St. Pancras to Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield, the interface between the two lines needs to be well thought out.


  • The interchange between Thameslink and Midland Main Line services at St. Pancras is not the best.
  • Will Bedford be upgraded to be a better interchange?
  • Trains on the electrified Midland Main Line will probably be 200 kph trains, as opposed to the 160 kph of the Class 700 train‘s on Thameslink.
  • The trains run on separate pairs of lines, with the slow lines to the East and the fast lines to the West.

In my view, there is a need for a cross platform interchange between Thameslink and long distance services, but on a brief look, this might be difficult, at anywhere other than Bedford station.

As Bedford  will also become the Eastern terminus of the East West Rail Link, and there is space in the area of the station, could we see Bedford developed into an important and efficient interchange?

St. Pancras Station

A lot of this could have been much easier, if St. Pancras station had been designed as a working station, rather than to show off! It may have a fur coat, but it’s certainly got no knickers.

A simple illustration of the bad design of St. Pancras, is to imagine you’re coming from say Flitwick on Thameslink and want to go to anywhere on the Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria Lines.

  • The Piccadilly and Victoria Lines are a long walk from Thameslink and the Midland Main Line platforms at St. Pancras.
  • The Northern Line is better as sensible passengers will use Kentish Town or London Bridge to change.

At least there is a good interchange to the Circle, District and Metropolitan Lines at Farringdon and Blackfriars.

In some ways the easiest way to get from the Thameslink platforms at St. Pancras to the Victoria and Piccadilly Lines, especially if you’re going South, is to get off at Farringdon station and use the cross-platform interchange between the Southbound Thameslink and the Westbound Circle/Metropolitan, which I showed in A Space Too Good To Leave Empty, and then take one stop back to Kings Cross before walking up the stairs to take the escalators to the Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria Lines.

East Coast Main Line

Thameslink’s links to the East Coast Main Line hopefully will be much better, as there are stations, where interchange to local and long-distance services could be excellent.

  • Finsbury Park (At least 6 tph) will hopefully give good interchange to Great Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria Lines and local services.
  • Welwyn Garden City (At least 4 tph) will interchange with local services
  • Stevenage (At least 4 tph) will interchange with local services and some long distance trains.
  • Peterborough (2 tph) will interchange with local services and lots of long distance trains.

As the slow lines are on the outside of the fast lines on the East Coast Main Line, I suspect that there are several good opportunities to create cross- or same platform interchanges between local services, Thameslink and long distance services to the North and Scotland.

Northern City And Hertford Loop Lines

One set of services that will benefit from Thameslink are those on the Northern City Line out of Moorgate and the associated Hertford Loop Line.

  • The service will be connected to Thameslink services at Finsbury Park, Welwyn Garden City, Stevenage and other stations.
  • The lines recently went to seven-day-a-week operation.
  • The lines are getting new Class 717 trains.
  • The Hertford Loop Line is a double-track line with a 120 kph speed limit and stations for six-car trains.
  • The current Southern terminus at Moorgate, is not the easiest to access.

In the future, don’t discount improvements to the Hertford Loop Line, to get more trains through the area.


  • The Hertford Loop Line is the only diversion past the bottleneck of the Digswell Viaduct.
  • Both ends of the line are grade-separated.
  • The fastest trains between Finsbury Park and Stevenage on the main line take 18 minutes with no stops and 31 minutes with five stops.
  • A typical stopping train on the Hertford Loop Line takes around 41-50 minutes.
  • The line can handle long trains and frequently does, when there are problems on the main line.
  • Thameslink Class 700 trains could certainly run on the line, but couldn’t stop unless platforms were extended.
  • After the Great Northern Class 717 trains are delivered, under normal operation only the most modern trains with the latest signalling will use the line.
  • Stevenage station already has  cross platform interchange between main line, Thameslink, local  and Hertford Loop services.

I think we shouldn’t discount the possibility of some Thameslink services going via an uprated Hertford Loop Line to release paths on the congested part of the East Coast Main Line.

Suppose the  Hertford Loop Line was updated to include.

  • 160 kph speed limit.
  • Perhaps longer platforms at Hertford North station.
  • Cross-platform or same platform interchange at Finsbury Park and Stevenage and perhaps Alexandra Palace.
  • Perhaps a new parkway station South of Stevenage which could accept 12-car Thameslink trains.

I suspect Network Rail are updating their book of cunning plans to get more capacity through and around the Digswell Viaduct.

More Routes To Kent

The headline of the article in the August 2016 article in Modern Railways is Thameslink To Medway In Revised Timetable.

So why is Thameslink increasing its presence in Kent?

I could be cynical and say it is to take traffic from their rival company; Southeastern, but I think it is all about managing resources.


  • The core section of Thameslink can handle 24 tph in both directions.
  • North of the Thames, the increased capacity has been used to create a second route out of London to Welwyn Garden City, Cambridge and Peterborough.
  • East Croydon is a bottleneck and can’t take any more trains.
  • The Bermondsey Dive-Under and the new London Bridge station will create more capacity and better routes to South East London and Kent.
  • Thameslink has always served Kent.
  • Many Kent services go right across London to Victoria, whenb perhaps it would be easier if they served London Bridge or went through Thameslink.

So by switching some of the available services through London to Kent, this could be to relieve pressure at Victoria and East Croydon. So perhaps in the long term, this will allow more services from Victoria to Brighton via East Croydon and Gatwick Airport

But obviously, these changes wouldn’t be done if the passengers didn’t need to use the route.

I have to admit, that I hear regular complaints about the quality of the train service in South East London.

The 2 tph between Orpington and West Hampstead certainly looks like a measure to address South East London’s bad connectivity. I know one solicitor who’ll use it to get from home to her office.

The 2 tph between Rainham and Luton is the interesting service, as it goes via the Medway towns, Dartford and Greenwich.

  • It gives the Medway towns an additional route and more capacity to London.
  • It connects to Greenhithe for Bluewater.
  • It connects to Crossrail at Abbey Wood.
  • Could this route release capacity in Victoria?

One thing that surprises me, is that it duplicates the proposed Crossrail extension to Gravesend. Perhaps it is just a better idea.

The other  Kent service which is the 2 tph between Cambridge and Maidstone East, which is extended to Ashford in the peaks, seems to be a replacement for an existing service, but it could be taking the pressure off Victoria services.

Obviously Thameslink have the detailed passenger figures and can plan accordingly.

But surely, if the East Coastway service is extended to Ashford, perhaps by the use of IPEMU-capable Class 377 trains, then does this create another high-class commuter route to the far South-East?

Connecting To East Croydon And Gatwick From East London

For those of us in East London, who live along the East London Line, this is one of the most important sections of Thameslink.

At present, we can get to and from Gatwick Airport and East Croydon stations, by changing at somewhere like New Cross Gate or Norwood Junction stations.

It had been hoped that the improved Thameslink would have laid down a simple rule for getting from the East London Line to Gatwick, but when I asked Thameslink about this, they referred me to Transport for London, who unsurprisingly referred me back to Thameslink. I wrote about it in detail in Searching For What Is Going To Happen On The East London Line After The Thameslink Programme Opens.

Obviously, when Crossrail opens, it will help, as it runs from Whitechapel to Farringdon, but it would still be ideal to be able to get to Gatwick with one change, without making several and going halfway round London.

London Bridge To Caterham And Tattenham Corner via Purley

These destinations were originally to be incorporated into Thameslink, but it now appears, that they will become a shared service from London Bridge that divides at Purley station.

The current service is 2 tph from London Bridge to both Caterham and Tattenham Corner. As each train stops at all stations between New Cross Gate and East Croydon stations, this could appear to be the service that the East London Line needs.

The current London Overground services on the East London Line through New Cross Gate are 4 tph to West Croydon and 4 tph to Crystal Palace. As I said in Increased Frequencies On The East London Line, from 2018 Crystal Palace will receive 6 tph from Dalston Junction station.

So this means that from 2018, every six minutes a London Overground train will travel in both directions between New Cross Gate and Sydenham stations,. The services would run on the slow lines well out of the way of Thameslink on the fast lines.

There would probably be paths on the fast line to run the London Bridge to Purley services, but because Thameslink is such a high-frequency service, I suspect that they would run on the slow lines.

This would of course create a local Metro service to feed passengers to London Bridge and especially East Croydon to access longer distance services.

Let’s hope that there is sufficient capacity on the slow lines between New Cross Gate and East Croydon to incorporate a London Bridge to Purley service of sufficient frequency, so that plebs like me in Dalston wanting to go to East Croydon, can just get the first train to Sydenham and wait for a few minutes for the arrival of an East Croydon train.

In a perfect world, there would be ten trains per hour from London Bridge to East Croydon to match the Overground service. This would mean that the two services would alternate.

But I doubt this will happen, as other trains use the slow lines, like the service from Victoria to Sutton via Crystal Palace and West Croydon.

However, if we have at least a  4 tph service between London Bridge and Purley via East Croydon, that would mean that a reasonable service with one same platform interchange would exist between the East London Line and East Croydon, with all its connections to the South. Thameslink would be providing at least the following services from East Croydon.

  • 4 tph to Brighton
  • 4 tph to Three Bridges
  • 2 tph to Horsham

All 10 tph would serve Gatwick Airport.

I  wonder if the London Bridge to Purley services would share the same platform or island platform at East Croydon with Thameslink services.

If they did, then going to and from Gatwick Airport and Brighton from anywhere on the East London Line, would involve a maximum of two same platform changes.

London Bridge To Uckfield

For several months, I’ve thought that London Bridge to Uckfield will be run by an IPEMU or a train with onboard energy storage. I wrote about this in The Uckfield Branch Is Almost Ready For Longer Trains.

At present this service uses the fast lines between London Bridge and East Croydon and is run by Class 171 trains. An ideal train would be a modified Class 377 train, running in anb 8-, 10- or 12-car formation.

Between London Bridge and South Croydon, it would run using the third rail electrification and could keep up to a Thameslink speed. Only South of Oxted would it use the energy from the onboard storage to power the train.

Will Thameslink really want this interloper on their train superhighway between London Bridge and East Croydon?

Probably not!

But surely, the service could share the slow lines with the London Bridge to Purley services and the London Overground.

The Extended East London Line

Summarising the services that use the East London Line and the slow lines of the Brighton Main Line North of New Cross Gate we get from 2018.

  • 4 tph Dalston Junction to West Croydon (London Overground) – Uses route from New Cross Gate to Norwood Junction
  • 6 tph Highbury and Islington to Crystal Palace (London Overground) – Uses route from New Cross Gate to Sydenham.
  • ? tph London Bridge to Purley (Southern) – Uses route from New Cross Gate to East Croydon
  • ? tph London Bridge to Uckfield (Southern) – Uses route from New Cross Gate to East Croydon
  • 4 tph Crystal Palace to West Croydon (Southern) – Uses route through Norwood Junction.

If say we had 4 tph to Purley and and 2 tph to Uckfield, then that would mean.

  • 16 tph between New Cross Gate and Sydenham
  • 14 tph through Norwood Junction
  • 8 tph through East Croydon
  • 8 tph to West Croydon

I suspect, that people who know about train scheduling could squeeze up to about the same twenty trains per hour along the line, that London Overground will be running through the Thames Tunnel.

If something like this train pattern were to be implemented, it would effectively create an extended East London Line from Highbury and Islington and Dalston Junction in the North to Gatwick Airport, Brighton and Uckfield in the South via East Croydon. All passengers would probably do is change trains, but not platforms once or twice.

The Brighton Main Line 2

There are a lot of commuters and others, who press for a second main line to Brighton, It even has its own web site, which would seem to like to see.

  • Another route to London created using the Uckfield Branch and a reinstated Wealden Line.
  • Better access to the Canary Wharf area of London.

Having looked at what Thameslink are doing, I think I can say the following.

  • The new 12-car Class 700 trains will bring extra seats.
  • Brighton will get 4 tph Thameslink train service through London.
  • Thameslink services will interchange with East London Line services in a more efficient manner to give better access to Canary Wharf, Shoreditch, Whitechapel and East London in general.
  • If the Thameslink services do create capacity at Victoria and East Croydon, then we’ll see more  services from Brighton to Victoria.
  • 10- or 12-car services will run from Uckfield into London Bridge, at 2-4 tph.

Hopefully, it will put off the day, when serious money needs to be spent to build a second line from Brighton to London.


I obviously don’t know, if this logic is right!

But if the following is done.

  • Move services from Surrey to Kent.
  • Provide a new Metro route from London Bridge to Caterham and Tattenham Corner via Purley.
  • Optimise service end-points.
  • Look seriously at the Hertford Loop Line
  • Have a good think about how to serve Cambridge.

The following will happen.

  • Victoria will have some spare capacity.
  • Pressure on East Croydon will be eased.
  • A frequent service can be created between London Bridge and Uckfield.
  • The East London Line gets connected to Gatwick and Brighton.
  • South East London gets much needed connectivity.

But the biggest effect will be the ability to create more services between Victoria and Brighton via East Croydon and Gatwick Airport.

It all illustrates some of the possibilities created by the new Thameslink proposals.

And all without any new infrastructure, other than what is currently being constructed.



July 26, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

Deutsche Bahn’s Idea Of Customer Service

To get back from Leipzig, I had two choices.

  • I could go to Munich and spend the night in a hotel I know by the station and come home in the morning.
  • Or I could go back in one day.

As I had bought a flexible Eurostar ticket for Friday in the early evening, I was thinking about the direct option.

But on Thursday night, I decided to buy my tickets for Brussels with a change at Frankfurt Airport, as I was offered a good value ticket in First Class with reserved seats, for less than it would have cost in Second.

It was probably just as well I bougth the ticket, given what happened in Munich on Friday night.

I ended up with a bundle of tickets on three A4 sheets of paper.

Germany's Idea Of A Ticket To Ride

Germany’s Idea Of A Ticket To Ride

Compare that with my tickets to Liverpool tomorrow.

The UK's Idea Of A Ticket To Ride

The UK’s Idea Of A Ticket To Ride

Just two cards for my wallet with one up and one back.

I should also say, that to buy the German ticket, I had to queue up in a Ticket Office, as the ticket machine wasn’t allowed to sell me the ticket I wanted. Queuing included having to get a compulsory number from a machine, despite the fact there was only a few people waiting.

In the morning, the train left at 06:31, so as I was in First Class, I thought I’d go to the DB Lounge.


But as you can see it wasn’t open. Surely, if trains are running, the lounges should be open.

On the first train, I saw the steward once and didn’t get so much as a complimentary glass of water.

But judging by the emptiness of First Class, it doesn’t appeal to most passengers.

From Frankfurt Airport to Brussels, the second train had more passengers, but I did have to buy myself a Coke.

You get much better service on Chiltern Trains in Standard Class.

And who owns Chiltern?


July 24, 2016 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

I Was Always Told It Was Rude To Point

My mother told me it was rude to point, but it seems Donald Trump does it all the time, as this page from Time points out.

This image is typical.

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 18:  Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gestures to his wife Melania after she delivered a speech on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicks off on July 18.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND, OH – JULY 18: Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gestures to his wife Melania after she delivered a speech on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicks off on July 18. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

I can see it on the cover of Private Eye with a very funny caption.

July 24, 2016 Posted by | World | , , | 1 Comment

Custom House Station – 24th July 2016

I took these pictures at Custom House station.

The pictures also show a work-train entering the tunnel and the Crossrail track alongside the DLR until near the Connaught Tunnel.

July 24, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

A Glimpse Of London’s Future

London will soon be getting Crossrail, but Leipzig already has a cross-city underground railway called the Leipzig City Tunnel, which is the centrepiece of the S-Bahn Mitteldeutschland.

These are a collection of pictures taken of the various stations in the tunnel and on the surface sections of the lines.

Unlike Crossrail, which is considered one line with two branches at both ends,  there are several railways through the tunnel.

Wikiedia has a section on the Operating Schedule.

This is said.

It was planned that each hour and in each direction, there were up to ten S-Bahn, two regional trains and one express (as of July 2007)

There would appear to be seven S-Bahn routes, with intervals of between 30 and 120 minutes. As Crossrail, Thameslink and the East London Line in London, are all planned to or could handle twenty-four trains an hour, it does seem the Germans do things differently.

Note the following.

  • The Seaside Park Hotel, where I stayed was about 200 metres from the trains.
  • The line certainly has some spectacular stations.
  • Central stations in the tunnel appear to be island platforms.
  • Ticket machines were on the platforms, where they are really needed.
  • Bicycles were everywhere underground.
  • There are no platform-edge doors.
  • Leipzig Markt Station was of an older era on the surface.
  • There tended to be two escalators and steps to descend to and ascend from the trains. That is usually, the design-on-the-cheap problem.
  • The one surface station I visited, Liepzig MDR, wasn’t step-free.
  • The frequency through the Leipzig ity Tunnel, is low compared to the sixteen trains per hour through the East London Line and very low compared to that proposed for Crossrail and Thameslink.

I have a feeling that because it was designed a few years before Crossrail and uses older, refurbished rolling-stock, that certain features of the line are not as good as others.

Looking at the three systems; Leipzig, Crossrail and Thameslink, I feel that to get the most out of an expensive tunnel, you must do the following.

  • Use trains designed specially for the tunnel.
  • Design the trains for fast entry and exit.
  • Make access between surface and platforms fast and with a large capacity.
  • Use double-ended stations to ease passenger journeys.
  • Have a large selection of routes through the tunnel, to get a maximum return for the tunnel. It may be that Crossrail needs more destinations.
  • Use island platforms if possible.
  • Make all stations step-free.

I think too that after seeing Leipzig, there are implications for London.


One problem for London, shown up by the Leipzig system, is what to do with bicycles on the train. These seem to be allowed at all times in Leipzig, but this page on the Thameslink web site, says that we do things differently.

More Destinations

As I indicated earlier, I think, that to maximise return on the massive investment of the tunnel, that Crossrail needs more routes and destinations, as Leipzig and Thameslink have.

As things stand, Crossrail intends to run a service like this according to Wikipedia.

The Elizabeth line will run a familiar London Underground all-stops service in the core section, but the western section will have non-stopping stations – like the Metropolitan line. The Eastern section has extra peak hour services that will either not enter the core section or that will be non-stopping at some stations. Similar to the Bakerloo line’s outer sections, the Elizabeth line will share platforms and rails with other services outside the tunnelled sections. About two-thirds of all Elizabeth line westbound trains will loop back after Paddington, about one third of peak-hour Elizabeth line trains to/from the north-east section will start/end at Liverpool Street main line platforms bypassing Whitechapel.

So it looks like if 24 trains per hour go through the centre tunnel, that sixteen of them will turn-back at Paddington.

That looks like a waste of resources to me.

Suggestions have been for services in the West to go.

  • Up the West Coast Main Line to Watford, Tring and Milton Keynes.
  • Along the Chiltern Line to West Ruislip and High Wycombe.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of trains an hour went to Oxford.

The East is more problematic, as the only suitable extension is probably Southend, unless the Great Eastern Main Line is four-tracked, which would be very unlikely.

Kent is more fruitful territory, as an extension to Gravesend has been safeguarded. But surely Ebbsfleet with its Continental links would be better.

The Long Distance Crossrail Train

The Class 345 trains that will be used on Crossrail are Bombardier Aventras. According to serious reports, these trains could have the following features if needed.

  • 200 kph capability.
  • Metro, commuter or long-distance interior.
  • 750 VDC, 25 KVAC or battery power.
  • The ability to fit the platform-edge doors in Central London.

So you might reserve a few paths through Central London for long distance trains, if passenger statistics showed it would be profitable.

Imagine being able to get a train from Cardiff to Ebbsfleet for the Continent or from Birmingham to Southend.

Obviously services would only be provided if there was seen to be a demand.

But Crossrail’s and Bombardier’s engineers have designed the tools, so that many East-West journeys are possible.


July 24, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment


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