The Anonymous Widower

Should Some Thameslink Routes Be Transferred To Transport for London?

Some commentators and politicians advocate the transfer of some Thameslink services to Transport for London (TfL).

Thameslink has been designed as a single solution to multiple needs, with too much input from politicians worried about losing elections.

Split Fleets And Franchises

If you look at Greater Anglia, Great Western Railway and South Western Railway, who have a similar mix of services as do Thameslink, they have opted for split fleets with short-medium and long distance trains,designed for their tasks.

In the North of England, the short-medium routes are run by Northern and the long distance routes by TransPennine.

Transport for Wales has now split their fleet into three; South Wales Metro, North Wales Metro and long distance.

The Consequences Of Thameslink’s Single Fleet

Services with different needs are using one fleet of Class 700 trains.

Effectively, Thameslink are using a train more suitable for services between St. Albans and Wimbledon stations, on long distance services between Bedford, Cambridge and Peterborough, and destinations along the South Coast.

Going between Brighton and Cambridge stations on an ironing-board seat is not a pleasant experience, as I noted in Observations On Thameslink Between Brighton And Cambridge.

I believe that Thameslink could be split into two; short-medium and long distance routes.

Short-Medium Thameslink Routes

Currently of the twenty-four services planned in the Provisional Timetable, just four are short medium services that run all day.

If we apply the London Overground principle of four tph stopping at all stations, then the Sutton Loop services, are already working  to a version of this principle.

Could other services work to the Overground principle?

East Coast Main Line

On the East Coast Main Line, a terminal to the North of Welwyn Garden City station is probably impossible, due to the limited capacity of the Digswell Viaduct.

Welwyn Garden City also has a flyover, so that four tph services to London can reverse in a single platform.

Welwyn Garden City with small modifications should be able to handle four tph on both Moorgate and Thameslink services.

Hertford Loop Line

The Hertford Loop Line services have or could have excellent cross-platform interchanges with Thameslink services at Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace stations, although they could be improved.

The weak interchange is coming South at Alexandra Palace, which means using a bridge, but it is easy to use Finsbury Park instead.

The Hertford Loop Line also gives access to three terminal stations; Gordon Hill, Hertford North and Stevenage, which could handle four tph.

So could we see Thameslink services using the route?

It would probably need some new six-car trains, which could be shortened from Thameslink’s dreadful Class 700 trains.

Finsbury Park Station

These pictures were taken at Finsbury Park station.

Could a bay platform for Thameslink services by added here?

I suspect that one could, but would it be worthwhile?

Midland Main Line

On the Midland Main Line, in addition to St.Albans City, currently, short-medium distance services terminate at Kentish Town and Luton.

It is a pity, that the Midland Main Line doesn’t have a handy branch!

A Balanced Northern Service

I think for balance that both Northern branches will take an equal number of short-medium distance trains. Perhaps, four tph to two destinations on each branch.

I might choose.

  • St. Albans City on the Midland Main Line.
  • Luton on the Midland Main Line.
  • Welwyn Garden City on the East Coast Main Line.
  • Stevenage on the East Coast Main Line via the Hertford Loop.

All services would be four tph.

Southern Destinations

In the South, there are several stations, that could handle four tph.

Traffic will determine which, but I like the claims of Dartford, East Croydon, Orpington and Sutton on the Wimbledon Loop.

Transfer To London Overground

These short-medium distance routes should be transferred to the London Overground.

It should be noted how if the Moorgate services are also transferred to the London Overground, as I outlined in Should The Moorgate Lines Be Transferred To Transport for London?, then the following frequencies would apply.

  • 8 tph – Alexandra Palace to Welwyn Garden City
  • 12 tph – Alexandra Palace to Gordon Hill
  • 8 tph – Gordon Hill to Hertford North
  • 4 tph – Hertford North to Stevenage.

There would be 20 tph between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace.

With ETCS, I don’t think that last frequency would be unrealistic, as there are two separate lines in each direction between the two stations.

Long Thameslink Routes

Class 700 Trains

These are currently, a disaster for passengers, as travelling between say Brighton and Cambridge in the dreadful Class 700 trains, is possibly the worst train journey in the UK in new train. In some ways Pacers are better!

This article in the Express is entitled ‘One Is Not Amused’ The Queen Is Not Happy With Changes To Trains, Claims Rail Boss.

If the Royal Posterior finds them hard in First Class, the seats must be dreadful there too!

But it’s not just the passengers who don’t like them.

I came back to London recently with a group of East Midlands Trains drivers. Their professional view of the Class 700 trains, is that they are not fast enough with an operating speed of 100 mph, as against the 125 mph of the trains run by East Midlands Trains.

It should be noted that on the East and West Coast Main Lines, the semi-fast medium-distance services are generally run by 110 mph trains.

So I feel very strongly, that the Class 700 trains are not only bad from the customers point-of-view, but totally unsuitable to run services on the Midland and East Coast Main Lines, where all other trains can cruise happily at 125 mph.

They must be assigned to more suitable duties!

The Routes

Get some new trains on these routes designed by people with sense and style and the routes would be transformed.

I also think, that the destinations served South of the Thames should be simplified. Thameslink is trying to serve too main destinations in the South, compared to the North, where long distance routes only serve Bedford, Cambridge, Peterborough and the intermediate stations.

Perhaps, there should be more services linking from all along the South Coast to an improved rail station at Gatwick Airport.

An Airport Route

I have travelled to and from Gatwick Airport several times, since Thameslink reopened through London Bridge a few months ago.

Outside of the Peak, these trains may be busy between London Bridge and Gatwick stations, but in the Central Core, passengers are fairly thin on the uncomfortable seats.

Luton Airport have been campaigning for more services and I suspect Gatwick would like more too.

So why not run a four tph service between the two airports, using well-designed airport trains?

An Increased Frequency Through The Core

Thameslink is currently planning twenty-four tph through the core tunnel, but there are statements that thirty tph could be handled.

The destinations to handle the extra trains exist in the South, especially, if routes out of London Bridge are replaced by Thameslink services, but accommodating more services on the East Coast and Midland Main Lines could be tricky.

Conclusion

I believe it is possible to split Thameslink into two sections.

Long distance services with new trains would stay with National Rail, but short-medium services would go to the London Overground and probably be run by six and eight-car versions of the existing trains.

 

July 15, 2018 - Posted by | Travel | , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. How might a 30tph Thameslink look? Where could the extra capacity go? Surely it is almost impossible with the flat junction at Blackfrairs anyway?

    I’ve never quite understood why Southern/Thameslink have no services terminating at Blackfrairs via Elephant and castle. Is it to do with capacity issues at Tulse Hill/Herne Hill, and could these be resolved? There must be the demand to run more commuter lines further into Surrey and Sussex.

    Comment by j m | August 16, 2018 | Reply

  2. My first serious computing in the 1960s, in a section that was automating complicated chemical plants.

    I also grew up in North London and have marvelled at how Dear Old Vicky has grown from about 20 trains per hour (tph) to the thirty-three today.

    I believe that when ERTMS/ETCS is extended over the whole Thameslink network, the trains will be driven automatically and 30 tph through the central core will not be a problem.

    You ask, where the extra capacity will go!

    This will be mainly decided, by traffic statistics showing where it is needed.

    But several of the legs that are planned to handle two tph, already have the terminal capacity to handle four tph.

    Cambridge, Orpington, Peterborough, Rainham and Welwyn Garden City could all handle more trains.

    Other stations like Gatwick Airport, Horsham, Maidstone East, Sevenoaks and St. Albans could probably be expanded.

    But the key will be automation and in ten years, that will hopefully include all of the lines in the UK.

    Comment by AnonW | August 16, 2018 | Reply


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