The Anonymous Widower

Could Thameslink Connect To Heathrow?

This may seem an outrageous idea.

But I think it could be possible.

Can Class 345 Trains And Class 700 Trains Use The Same Tracks And Platforms?

Crossrail may use Class 345 trains and Thameslink may use Class 700 trains, but can the two trains use the same tracks and platforms?

Recently, Cambridge North station has opened and it will certainly be compatible with Class 700 trains and Greater Anglia’s Class 720 trains, which are closely related to the Crossrail trains.

Heathrow’s platforms do not have platform-edge doors.

Both trains are designed to work at high frequencies using ERTMS.

So I think the answer to my question is a solid yes!

How Would Thameslink Trains Get To Heathrow?

The original plan for Heathrow Express envisaged using both Paddington and St. Pancras as terminals in Central London.

It would have used the Dudding Hill Line as a connection between the Great Western Main Line and the Midland Main Line.

This Google Map shows the tracks to the East of Acton Main Line station.

Note.

  • The four tracks of the Great Western Main Line run through Acton Main Line station.
  • The most Southerly pair of tracks are the fast lines, whilst the next pair are the slow lines as used by Crossrail.
  • The tracks shown in orange are the North London Line.
  • The two extra lines to the North of Acton Main Line station are the Goods Lines, connect at Acton Wells Junction to the North London Line, so freight trains can go across London between the Great Western Main Line and Stratford.

After crossing over the Central Line, the route splits with the North London Line going East to Stratford and the Dudding Hill Line going North through Acton Canal Wharf Junction.

To get to and from Heathrow, the services would take the same route as Crossrail to the West of Acton Main Line station.

The services would use the existing Cricklewood Curve Junction to connect with the Thameslink route to the North of Cricklewood station.

What New Infrastructure Would Be Required?

The infrastructure needed would not be of the sort of scale needed for Crossrail or Thameslink.

  • The Dudding Hill Line is would need to be electrified.
  • The Dudding Hill Line is double-track throughout.
  • The 30 mph speed limit of the Dudding Hill Line would need to be increased.
  • Would Harlesden and Dudding Hill stations be reopened or other new ones built?
  • The stations at Heathrow could probably handle Class 700 trains without too much difficulty.
  • There might be a need for a flyover to sort out the tangle of lines between Cricklewood and St. Pancras.

But nothing is too complicated or difficult.

What Frequency Of Thameslink Trains Would Serve Heathrow?

Currently, the following services are provided

  • Heathrow Express has four tph to Terminal 5 via Heathrow Central
  • There is a shuttle between Heathrow Central and Terminal 4, run by Heathrow Express.
  • Heathrow Connect run two tph to Heathrow Central.

When Crossrail opens in December 2019, the service to Heathrow will be four trains per hour (tph) to Terminal 5 and two tph to Terminal 4.

Crossrail will also provide the shuttle between Heathrow Central and Terminal 4.

It is certainly not a system designed by any individual or committee with any sense of good design.

At least, both Terminal 4 and Terminal 5 stations have two terminal platforms, so the two stations should each be able to handle up to eight tph.

If they did this would mean up to sixteen tph on the Heathrow spur, which would be well within the capability of the route and trains running using ERTMS, which will handle up to 24 tph on both Crossrail and Thameslink in the few years.

Under current plans, it appears that when Crossrail opens, the stations will get the following services.

  • Heathrow Central – 10 tph
  • Heathrow Terminal 4 – 2 tph plus shuttles
  • Heathrow Terminal 5 – 8 tph

I’m assuming that Heathrow Connect will quietly fade away.

With a bit of reorganisation of the services, it should be possible to squeeze another six tph into the airport, without building any new terminal platforms.

So I feel that say four tph Thameslink trains to Heathrow would be possible.

Could Crossrail Handle The Extra Trains?

The Thameslink trains would have to run on the Crossrail tracks between Acton Main Line station and Heathrow Airport Junction.

Currently Crossrail are proposing running 12 tph on this section, so as ERTMS can handle double this, I suspect there shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Could Thameslink Handle The Extra Trains?

This article on Rail Engineer, which is entitled Thameslink Signalling Update, says this about possible Thameslink frequencies.

To meet the specification of 24 tph through the Thameslink core section, it is necessary to deploy Automatic Train Operation (ATO). This will provide a peak theoretical capacity of 30 tph, thereby creating a reliable 24 tph service with acceptable recovery margins.

So an extra six tph could be possible.

Would A Service Between Heathrow and Gatwick Airports Be Possible?

In my view it would be the logical service.

It would certainly be possible!

And it could also be a journey without any change of train!

Would There Be Any Other Useful Connections?

These are a few thoughts and ideas.

Same Platform Interchanges

Cross-city lines like Crossrail, Merseyrail’s Northern Line and Thameslink, have the advantage, that if you are going in the right direction, but are on a train to the wrong destination, you can just get off the train and wait for the correct train.

So if you leave Heathrow on a Gatwick train and you need to go to Maidstone East, you would get off at any of the stations in the central core and wait until the next Maidstone East train arrives.

Everybody will have their own favourite interchanges. Mine would probably be Blackfriars station, as it is above the Thames, has lots of seats and there is a large coffee shop on both platforms.

The ability to do this will mean that all stations South of West Hampstead  Thameslink station will have a very easy link to and from Heathrow.

Reversing Stations

Crossrail has several stations where you can reverse your direction of travel by just walking across the platform. Whitechapel station will allow passengers to go between Abbey Wood and Shenfield stations without going up or down any steps or escalators.

Thameslink only has one reversing station at London Bridge station, although St. Pancras Thamslink has escalators and lifts to allow passengers to change direction in a short time.

West Hampstead Interchange

If plans for a West Hampstead Interchange materialise, this will link the following lines.

  • Chiltern Railways
  • Jubilee Line
  • Metropolitan Line
  • Midland Main L:ine
  • North London Line

Note.

  1. This could be a very good interchange to be connected to Heathrow.
  2. West Hampstead Interchange would be a good alternative until Old Oak Common station is built.
  3. Passengers going between Heathrow and stations on the Midland Main Line to the North could change here.

Those like me living along the North London Line would find it a convenient way to get to and from Heathrow.

Kings Cross And St. Pancras Stations

The massive complex at Kings Cross and St. Pancras stations currently links the following lines.

  • Eurostar
  • Midland Main Line
  • East Coast Main Line
  • Southeastern Highspeed services
  • Circle Line
  • Hammersmith and City Line
  • Metropolitan Line
  • Northern Line
  • Piccadilly Line
  • Victoria Line

But the only way to get directly to Heathrow is a nearly hour long journey on the Piccadilly Line. Thameslink could be just over half that time, in a less cramped train.

Blackfriars Station

I use Blackfriars station a lot, as it is my the Tate Modern.

But others will use it as a same platform interchage for reasons I outlined erlier.

London Bridge Station

London Bridge station is another important interchange, with links to the following lines.

  • Southeastern services to Kent
  • Southern services to Surrey and Sussex.
  • Jubilee Line
  • Northern Line

Note.

  • This new station is well-equipped and interchange is totally step-free.
  • It is also a short walk to the city across London Bridge.
  • This station will be a very good same platform interchange.
  • The station allows passengers to reverse direction by just walking across the platform.

As with West Hampstead, this could be a very good interchange to be connected to Heathrow.

East Croydon, Orpington and Wimbledon Stations

East Croydon, Orpington and Wimbledon stations, which are important local hubs, would all be well-connected to Heathrow.

Collateral Benefits

Crossrail 2

Crossrail 2 is planning to have a Euston St. Pancras station, which is described like this in Wikipedia.

It would be a “mega station” serving the existing Euston, King’s Cross and St. Pancras main line stations. If funded and completed, it will be one of two such stations on the Crossrail 2 route (the other being Dalston).

If this station is designed properly, I am sure it will have the following.

  • A step-free and convenient link to both Thameslink and Eurostar.
  • Some form of high-capacity hi-tech people-mover, stretching under Euston Road, linking Kings Cross, St. Pancras and Euston stations.

I believe a station design is possible that makes the connection between HS1 and HS2 a no-hassle transfer for all passengers in less than ten minutes.

The people-mover should be in place when HS2 opens in December 2026, so that a credible HS1 to HS2 link opens at the same time.

Gatwick, Heathrow, HS1 And HS2 Will Be On One Rail Line

This could be of tremendous benefit to Londoners, travellers, tourists, rail companies and airlines, but Heathrow might not like it, as it could undermine their dominant position.

If Crossrail 2 opens around 2030, this will bring Stansted into the hub.

The Most Important Railway Station In The World

Eventually, Euston St. Pancras station will become the busiest and most important railway station in the world.

How Will Terminal Development At Heathrow Affect Crossrail And Thameslink?

Heathrow are disclosing a master-plan, for rebuilding a lot of the airport to make it more efficient and up with the best.

  • There will be two main terminals; Heathrow West and Heathrow East with satellites in between handling the actual planes.
  • These two terminals and the satellites will be between the two existing runways, with a passenger and baggage transport system beneath.
  • Terminal Five will become Heathrow West.
  • An extended Terminal Two will become Heathrow East.
  • Crossrail, Heathrow Express and the Underground will serve both main terminals.

I believe that this rebuilding could start in the next few years.

Heathrow will make sure they future-proof rail access, so we could see.

  • More terminal platforms at both Heathrow East and Heathrow West
  • Through platforms at Heathrow West to allow trains to go West from both terminals.
  • Freight shuttles bringing in provisions for the airport, the airlines and the aircraft.

This will allow Crossrail, Thameslink, Heathrow Express and other operators to have as many services as is thought necessary.

The biggest constraint will be the capacity of the Great Western Railway and the two tracks used by Crossrail.

Will Other Operastors Be Allowed Use Heathrow?

This probably depends more on politics than anything else, but technically these facts apply.

Bombardier Aventras

Bombardier have hinted that the design of an Aventra can provide commuter trains like Crossrail’s Class 345 trains and 125 mph expresses.

So it would be likely that a 125 mph Aventra of appropriate length would be able to serve Heathrow, if that were thought necessary!

All Trains Would Be Electric

I suspect that regulations would mean all trains would be electric, as you don’t want diesel or hydrogen fuels in the tunnels under Heathrow.

ERTMS

I also suspect that all trains using the eathrow stations would need to be equipped with ERTMS.

Possible Routes

Who knows what routes will become possible, but as the list of trains grows that are acceptable to Heathrow, various possibilities will arise.

  • Great Western Railway to Bristol
  • Great Western Railway to Cardiff
  • London Overground to Clapham Junction station
  • London Overground to Stratford
  • South Western Railway to Southampton
  • East Midlands Trains to Bedford/Kettering/Corby
  • West Midlands Trains to Watford/Milton Keynes/Birmingham

After Heathrow terminals are updated to East and West, there would be scope for cross country routes going vaguely South-West to North-East calling at both terminals in Heathrow.

 

Will Thameslink And Crossrail Strangle Heathrow Express?

I wonder if a ink to Thameslink will be more valuable to Heathrow, than Heathrow Express.

  • Abandoning Heathrow Express would release valuable platform space at Heathrow and Paddington.
  • Crossrail and Thameslink together would have connections all over London, rather than just Paddington.
  • Crossrail to and from Paddington would only take about five or six minutes longer.
  • Heathrow Express will have to update their trains with ERTMS and to compete with Crossrail.
  • Heathrow Express usually means a taxi to your hotel to and from Paddington.
  • Crossrail will connect the West End, The City and Canary Wharf to Heathrow.

Convenience and cost will eventually strangle Heathrow Express.

Conclusion

The following statements would appear to be true.

  • Class 345 and Class 700 trains can use the same infrastructure.
  • Crossrail and Thameslink both use ERTMS.
  • The stations at Heathrow,the Western section of Crossrail and the Thameslink core have spare capacity.

This means it should be possible to extend Thameslink services to Heathrow with a frequency of at least four tph, using an electrified Dudding Hill Line.

Some new infrastructure would be required, but nothing as comprehensive, as that for Crossrail and Thameslink.

 

 

September 8, 2017 - Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. […] In Could Thameslink Connect To Heathrow?, I show how it would be possible to create a four tph service between Heathrow and Thameslink. […]

    Pingback by Will The Third Runway At Heathrow Be Actually Built In The Near Future? « The Anonymous Widower | September 8, 2017 | Reply

  2. […] In Could Thameslink Connect To Heathrow?, I showed that it would be possible to create a high-capacity link between Heathrow and Gatwick via Thameslink. […]

    Pingback by Doubts Arise About A third Runway At Heathrow « The Anonymous Widower | September 9, 2017 | Reply


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