The Anonymous Widower

An Ideal Oxted Line

This post was suggested by a comment by Ben H on my post called Untangling The Brighton Main Line. He said this about Oxted Line services.

Cease all services between the Oxted lines and Victoria (fast lines). All Oxted line services should go to London Bridge and (excluding diesels) become part of Thameslink.

Oxted services should operate single-line working between Norwood Junction and Sanderstead, with East Croydon’s easternmost platform island acting as the passing loop.

In one way, what he says is a no-no. If Oxted services were switched from Victoria to London Bridge, all the commuters would be up in arms and would challenge the change of London terminal in every way possible. Remember what happened when Network Rail proposed terminating all Sutton Loop services at Blackfriars. This is from Wikipedia in Political Developments under Thameslink Program.

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.

So Oxted services will have to go into Victoria, until something so much better comes along, they forget about it. Bribery is a powerful tool.

The Current Oxted Line Service

So what services go down the two branches of the Oxted Line?

In the Off Peak the following services run.

  • Two trains per hour go between Victoria and East Grinstead
  • One train per hour between London Bridge and Uckfield.

There are extra trains in the peak, as this Departures display at Oxted station shows.

Trains From Oxted

Trains From Oxted

But compared to say the Chingford Branch into Liverpool Street, which has at least four trains per hour all day, it is a very sick joke of a service. And a lot of the Chingford Branch services are eight cars!

Four Trains Per Hour To East Grinstead And Uckfield?

I strongly believe that services need to be four trains an hour, as they are on the East London Line to the four Southern terminals of Clapham Junction, Crystal Palace, New Cross and West Croydon.

So the question has to be asked if East Grinstead and Uckfield should have a four trains per hour service?

My view is that they do, if you want to have a turn-up-and-go service!

Fifteen minutes may seem a long wait, but if you can get a coffee and a paper, it can be quite a short time.

So what frequencies do other places in Sussex have to and from London?

These are better than Uckfield and just about on a par with East Grinstead.

Thameslink Will Be A Game-Changer

The completion of the Thameslink Programme will bring an increase in capacity all the way from Brighton and Gatwick Airport to London and beyond.

This a map of Thameslink Programme.

ThamesLink Programme Map

ThamesLink Programme Map

Brighton and Gatwick Airport  after the upgrade will have frequencies of upwards of eight and twenty trains per hour respectively and a choice of destinations including.

  • Blackfriars
  • Cambridge
  • Farringdon for Crossrail
  • London Bridge
  • Luton
  • Peterborough
  • St. Pancras
  • Victoria

I also think that if passengers were prepared to change at Brighton, Gatwick or East Croydon, there could be substantial increases in faster services to London and beyond from places on the Coastway Lines like Bognor Regis, Eastbourne, Hastings and Worthing etc.

There is possibly an argument to build some south-facing bay platforms at Gatwick, so that additional services can be run from there down the two Coastways. Thus a passenger from Hastings to London say, would have in addition to the direct service perhaps two or three with a step-free change at Gatwick, where they could choose either a Victoria or a Thameslink service.

What happens in the future will depend on how passengers use the improved Thameslink and what Gatwick decides to do to gain more passengers.

It will be interesting to see how the pattern of commuters changes in the next few years.

Have Thameslink Got Their Act Together?

One thing that puzzles me, is that I can’t find anything on the Internet, which talks about speeded up services on Thameslink after improvement. So am I right to assume that they’re spending all this money to provide more trains with larger capacity to more destinations in the same time as now?

There is no journey time calculator on the Thameslink Programme web site like there is on the Crossrail web site.

Obviously, it isn’t provided as the truth may be at odds with how wonderful the PR guys believe Thameslink is going to be.

Thameslink To Uckfield and East Grinstead

It might seem logical to run Thameslink trains down the Oxted Line to Uckfield and East Grinstead.

In fact, it is planned to run an eight-car service between West Hampstead Thameslink and East Grinstead in the Peak.

So why not run two four-car Class 700 trains that join and split at Oxted?

  • The trains only come in fixed formations of eight and twelve cars.
  • A sixteen-car train would probably be too long for the tunnels and the trains don’t have the end gangways needed for tunnels.
  • The Uckfield Branch is not electrified.
  • It would probably not be a good decision to build four-car trains for one branch of Thameslink.

Given the chequered history of the birth of Thameslink and the design of the trains, I think that four-car trains that could run in pairs, were discarded from the design of the railway. As it’s also common for trains to be split and joined all over southern England, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some shorter trains in the future on Thameslink.

Services Not Serving Gatwick Airport At East Croydon Station

If consolidation of services can take place at Brighton and Gatwick Airport, would it be possible to do the same at East Croydon station. These are the services south from East Croydon, that don’t terminate at Three Bridges and Brighton or pass through Gatwick Airport.

  • 2 trains per hour from Victoria to Caterham
  • 2 trains per hour from London Bridge to Caterham
  • 2 trains per hour from London Bridge to Tattenham Corner, which when the Thameslink Programme is complete will start from Cambridge.
  • 2 trains per our from Victoria to East Grinstead
  • 1 train per hour from London Bridge to Uckfield
  • 1 train per hour from Victoria to Tonbridge via Redhill
  • 1 train per hour from Victoria to Reigate via Redhill

To summarise there are eleven trains an hour of which six go to Victoria and five to London Bridge. I assume it’s all for historic reasons and nothing to do with any serious railway planning.

Thankfully, the Tattenham Corner services are being taken out of the mix and will become part of Thameslink.

Another Gatwick Express Route

An interesting point is that Reigate and Tonbridge are both on the East West Route that connects Reading to Ashford International, via Guildford, Reigate, Redhill, Gatwick Airport and Tonbridge.

I believe that this could be a second Gatwick Express route to link the Airport to Wales and the West, and Continental rail services. So a four trains per hour service from Reading to Ashford international via Gatwick could benefit a lot more than those going to and from the Airport.

Platforms 5 And 6 At East Croydon Station

Intriguingly, all of these non-Gatwick services from London,  seem to go south from Platform 6 at East Croydon station and go North from Platform 5.

There are also some other services like London Bridge to Horsham, that also use these platforms.

So do the savvy passengers coming from the South wanting to go to London Bridge, but from a station served by Victoria , change at East Croydon for the alternative destination?

Interestingly, if you use the National Rail’s Journey Planner to look at services from Victoria to Uckfield or London Bridge to East Grinstead, it sends you via a change at East Croydon.

So I would suspect that regular travellers know how to use East Croydon as an optimal interchange to get to their correct destination.

These pictures show  Platform 5 and 6 at East Croydon station.

It is a well-equipped island platform, with coffee and food stalls, a waiting room, an information booth and toilets. The bridge at the Northern end and the ramp at the Southern end give step-free access to the two entrances and the other platforms.

Compared to some draughty, unwelcoming and scruffy places, where I’ve changed trains, it is one of the best single-platform interchanges.

The only thing that the island platform lacks is an Oyster reader, so that those like me, who need to touch-out and touch-in again, as they are changing from a Zone 6 ticket to contactless for Gatwick Airport, don’t have to walk up and through the barrier. I wrote about this in Contactless Between East Croydon And Gatwick Airport, which showed that at present contactless cards may be cheaper!

Increasing Capacity on the Oxted Line Is Not That Simple

Various factors come into play when providing extra capacity on the Oxted Line and I’ll discuss them in the next few sections.

Extra Services Through Platforms 5 And 6 At East Croydon

I’ve looked at an hour in the rush hour and a dozen trains have travelled South through platforms 5 and 6, with some gaps between trains being as low as two or three minutes.

Many platforms in London handle upwards of sixteen to twenty trains an hour. Londoners and visitors, also know how to use platforms like these as interchanges, by getting off one train and then getting another one a few minutes later.

When Thameslink is fully upgraded, passengers from Peterborough, Cambridge and Bedford, will change to their ultimate southern Thameslink destination at stations like St.Pancras Thameslink, Farringdon, City Thameslink, Blackfriars and London Bridge.

So on a brief analysis, it would appear that Platforms 5 and 6 at East Croydon are not the limiting factor, provided that signalling, track, trains and staff are all working as they should. The platforms also offer valuable interchange opportunities to set up the journey you need.

It gives a simple rule for getting to any of the stations on the various inner branch lines to Caterham, Uckfield, East Grinstead and others not served by Thameslink.

You get any train on either of these branches to East Croydon and then wait on Platform 5/6 for the next train to your ultimate destination.

Thameslink to Tattenham Corner And Horsham

When I went to Gatwick Airport to write about the contactless ticketing, I arrived on Platform 5 at East Croydon on a Horsham train, that had started from London Bridge, that I’d caught at New Cross Gate. These services run twice every hour, as does a service from London Bridge to Tattenham Corner.

When Thameslink is completed, two services to Horsham and two to Tattenham Corner will become all day twelve-car services as follows.

  • Peterborough to Horsham. – Currently this service stops at New Cross Gate and Norwood Junction between London Bridge and East Croydon.
  • Cambridge to Tattenham Corner – Currently some services stop at Norwood Junction between London Bridge and East Croydon.

Incidentally, I do wonder if the person, who devised the Thameslink schedule was a horse racing enthusiast. A twelve car train from Cambridge to Tattenham Corner would be ideal for getting between the two important racing centres of Newmarket and Epsom.

Will these four services continue to use Platforms 5/6 at East Croydon?

I think they should as it would give all of those places like East Grinstead, Purley, Uckfield and all the other stations currently connected to Platform 5/6, a same-platform interchange to a four trains per hour Thameslink service to the East Coast Main Line.

If passengers want the other northern branch to Luton and Bedfird, they would change in the core.

Will these Thameslink services still continue to stop between East Croydon and London Bridge?

Judging by some of the chatter on the Internet, it looks like there’s a good chance they won’t!

Extra Northbound Destinations From Platform 5 And 6 At East Croydon

East Croydon station frustrates me, in that to get there from my closest station at Dalston Junction is not simple.

  • Change at New Cross Gate or Norwood Junction stations.
  • Travel to West Croydon station and get the Tramlink.

So could a third northbound destination be added to platform 5 and 6 at East Croydon?

I believe that the answer is yes, especially as there is spare capacity on the East London Line to the North of Surrey Quays station. Although, I doubt that Southern’s trains could run north of that station.

  • Personally, I would find a Dalston Junction service to East Croydon, much more useful than the current one to West Croydon.
  • Crystal Palace possibly has the space.
  • It would be very handy, if it were possible to have a terminal platform somewhere in the Shoreditch High Street/Whitechapel area.
  • Transport for London are also thinking about a station in the Penge area, where the East London Line and the Chatham Main Line cross.

What is done in the end will depend on the travel statistics. I suspect that the new Penge station and swapping the West Croydon service to East Croydon are the most likely options.

Gatwick Express To Old Oak Common And Milton Keynes

Platform 5/6 At East Croydon is the Southern terminus of a service to Milton Keynes that uses the West London Line.

I believe that this service could be upgraded to be part of Gatwick Express.

  • It would use the same trains as the other Gatwick Expresses.
  • Hopefully, it could run more than once an hour.
  • It would create a simple link from Gatwick Airport to the Midlands and the North.
  • It would serve the new Old Oak Common station for HS2, the West Coast Main Line and the North London Line.
  • It would terminate at Milton Keynes on the East West Rail Link.

I certainly think, that this is a third route for Gatwick Express.

The Tattenham Corner Paths Won’t Always Be Released

After Thameslink is fully open, two of the services from Tattenham Corner to London Bridge, will become Thameslink services to Cambridge.

But as some Caterham and Tattenham Corner services to Victoria join and split at Purley, this might not mean that two extra paths an hour are available to London Bridge.

I have one question about this Thameslink Tatterham Corner to Cambridge service. Which platforms will it use at

Can South Croydon Help Sort Things Out?

South Croydon station could be a key to providing better services through East Croydon. Look at this Google Map of the station and the junction to the South.

South Croydon Station And Junction

South Croydon Station And Junction

Note.

  • The station currently has five platforms, but I don’t think it could be called a modern station in terms of facilities.
  • The junction south of the station, is where the Oxted Line for Uckfield and East Grinstead leaves the Brighton Main Line.
  • The Southern service from Milton Keynes to East Croydon, used to terminate at South Croydon.

Many of the services that use Plstforms 5 and 6 at East Croydon pass through South Croydon and I feel that a properly remodelled station could be an alternative interchange.

I think that South Croydon could also be an alternative terminus for East London Line services that currently go to West Croydon.

Norwood Junction Station

I also find Norwood Junction station frustrating and judging by the calls for some Thameslink services to call at the station, I suspect others do too.

If I’m going south on the East London Line, I can change to various services to places like East Croydon, Horsham and Tattenham Corner, by just walking across the island platform 5/4.

But going north, you have to dive into a subway to get to platform 1, rather than using the other side of the island platform 2/3.

There will be a lot of Thameslink services passing through the station and if some stopped, it would be possible to have simple cross-platform access between the East London Line and Thameslink.

A New Penge Station

Transport for London have proposed a Penge Interchange station in the Transport Infrastructure Plan for 2050, If it were to be built it would link the East London Line and the \Chatham Main Line, where they crossed just North of Penge West station. I wrote about the station in An Exploration At Penge.

This station could be an interchange between the following services.

  • Chatham Main Line
  • East London Line
  • London Bridge to East Croydon Services
  • Thameslink

As the site is quite large, there is also space for some terminal platforms facing South.

Conclusion

I have no idea what will happen, but it would seem to be possible to increase the services on the Oxted Line towards the ultimate aim of one every fifteen minutes to both termini.

The simplest solution would see the Oxted Line relegated to a branch line, where some services terminated at a rebuilt and rejuvenated  South Croydon station with cross-platform access to Victoria, London Bridge and Thameslink services.

But I do doubt that four services an hour on both branches can be accommodated in the main London termini.

I do think though that there is so much flexibility, that what happens in the end will be a pleasant surprise. And probably totally acceptable to everybody except Disgusted in Tunbridge Wells!

 

 

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February 13, 2016 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , ,

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