The Anonymous Widower

Should Thameslink Be Extended To Corby?

I ask this question as someone who created his pension pot from writing the algorithms to allocate resources in the planning of projects and because I know that the number of train paths on the Midland Main Line is very tight for the number of services required.

This document on the Network Rail web site has this paragraph.

Electrification of the MML north of Bedford to Kettering and Corby is scheduled to be completed by December 2019.

The Wikipedia entry for Corby station has a section entitled Future, where this is said.

It is planned that a half-hourly London St Pancras to Corby service will operate from December 2019 using new Class 387 trains, once the Midland Main Line has been electrified beyond Bedford as part of the Electric Spine project. Network Rail has also announced that it plans to re-double the currently singled Glendon Junction to Corby section as part of this scheme.

So how will the second service in each hour be provided?

Bedford To St. Pancras

Looking at Bedford, it would appear the following trains run to London.

  • East Midlands Trains in 39-40 minutes
  • Thameslink in 57-59 minutes at a frequency of four trains per hour (tph).
  • A Limited-Stop Thameslink in 52 minutes.

As Thameslink has now fully introduced an all-Class 700 train service, could we be seeing a faster service?

Bedford To Corby

The current hourly service between St. Pancras and Corby stops at Bedford and takes thirty-four minutes between Bedford and Corby with stops at Wellingborough and Kettering.

A modern electric train like a Class 700 train, might be able to do the return trip from Bedford to Corby in under an hour. If a Class 700 train can’t do it, then a Class 387 train certainly could.

This would mean that one way to provide the extra service between St. Pancras and Corby would be to extend one of the four tph Bedford to Brighton services to Corby.

This approach would give the following advantages

  • No extra train path is needed South of Bedford.
  • Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough would get a choice of service.
  • Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough would have a direct link to Crossrail.

But there would be disadvantages.

  • The Thameslink service would be a few minutes slower.
  • The Class 700 trains don’t have tables, cup-holders, wi-fi and power sockets.
  • The Class 700 trains are only 100 mph trains and probably not fast enough.

The obvious solution is to run the service with a faster electric train, which addresses the deficiencies of the Class 700 trains.

The Ultimate Solution

The Midland Main Line  between Bedford and Glendon Junction for Corby is at least three tracks, with in most places space for a fourth.

I believe the following improvements should be made to the route between Bedford and Glendon Junction.

  • All the tracks between Bedford and Corby should be upgraded to be as fast as possible, so that 110 or 125 mph trains to Corby could make full use of their speed, without using the two Fast Lines.
  • Wellingborough station should have the fourth platform restored.
  • Extra stations, including a Parkway station, could be added if required.

Thameslink would acquire a number of 110 or 125 trains and replace the four tph service between Brighton and Bedford, with a four tph service between Brighton and Corby.

Class 387 trains would probably be acceptable. Especially, as Govia Thameslink Railway uses these trains on Cambridge services.

The consequences of doing this would be.

  • The current one tph path between St. Pancras and Corby on the Fast Lines would be released.
  • Platform needs at St. Pancras would be reduced.
  • No extra Slow Line paths would be needed.
  • Bedford would get the same four tph service to London all day.
  • Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough would get four tph to St. Pancras.

Twelve faster trains would be needed to provide a full four tph service between Corby and St. Pancras.

Alternatively, you could extend just two opf the four tph from Brighton tom Bedford to Corby!

This would mean.

  • Bedford would get the same four tph service to London all day.
  • Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough would get two tph to St. Pancras.

Six faster trains would be needed.


I am led to the conclusion, that by providing some extra 110 or 125 mph trains for Thameslink, that the service on the Midland Main Line can be improved significantly.

It also leads me to believe that the specification of the Class 700 trains was created by someone with worse vision than George Shearing.

The trains lack a lot of features like wi-fi and power sockets.

But more importantly, they lack the 110 mph capability of trains like the |Class 350, Class 387 and Class 379 trains, which enables them to run efficiently with express services cruising at 125 mph.





October 18, 2017 - Posted by | Transport | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Thameslink ‘2000’ was a 1990s scheme for urban commuting after a long decline.
    There was cost cutting that explains the basic spec of the trainsets. They are now talking about retrofitting WiFi and socket upgrades as the sets go for overhaul.
    The route had maximum line speeds of 100mph. Since then some stretches have been reworked for 110mph on the fast lines for expresses that could not really be exploited by stopping services.
    The scheme is now anticipated to fully open in 2020 so the outcome will soon be demonstrated.

    It is unlikely that any further changes will be made in the short term. No one foresaw the doubling of passenger numbers during the lifetime of the project, nor the increase in cost of railway upgrades.

    Electrification is continuing from Bedford to Corby and has been halted from Kettering to Derby. The line quadrupling from Bedford to Wellingborough is part of the route strategy.

    The question posed is ‘Should Thameslink be extended north’?

    If it is the electric service and the other is diesel then possibly as additional trains to the existing fleet are one solution.

    Beyond Wellingborough the two service patterns start to interfere with shared lines. The Corby branch also serves
    Rutland, Oakham and Melton Mowbray. A fully electric national network is unlikely this century.

    The franchising network with distinct boundaries is considered a success delivering ridership and investment. The service boundary at Bedford could be extended to Wellingborough, there are carriage works for additional stabling beyond the Bedford depot. Given that and the current low demand for an 8 carriage train I could see 1 tph being extended to Kettering and 1 tph to Corby.

    East Midlands Trains will be getting a bi-mode fleet so can continue as they are.
    The last two years has seen a decline in train ridership so the boom of the last two decades cannot be projected forward. If ridership doubled again from recent peaks in the next twenty years the current network could not cope and the will and money would be provided for modernisation and expansion.

    The rail future is based around the HS2 hub and a regional economic powerhouse from Wellingborough to Corby, Leicester, Derby and Nottingham. All have lost significant industry and are prime for regeneration and new housing.

    The lack of route safeguarding has constrained future options. If trends continued higher I would rather see the Thameslink Metro Luton terminators being extended off the spine to the Airport in place of the shuttle and onto the GNR underpass to Dunstable in place of the Busway.

    Comment by Aleks2cv | December 23, 2017 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.