The Anonymous Widower

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 | Transport/Travel | , , , ,


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