The Anonymous Widower

Would A Joint Development Of Thameslink And The Elizabeth Line Be A Cost-Effective Way To Improve London’s Rail Network?

The operation of Thameslink and The Elizabeth Line are more similar than many people think.

  • Both have a central tunnel.
  • On the Elizabeth Line, the central tunnel is between Paddington and Whitechapel stations, which always takes thirteen minutes.
  • Trains on the Elizabeth Line run five minutes apart.
  • On Thameslink, the central tunnel is between St. Pancras International and London Blackfriars stations, which always takes nine minutes.
  • Trains on Thameslink run 3-4 minutes apart.
  • There are no branches in the central tunnels.
  • No other regular train services run through the central tunnels.
  • Trains appear to be controlled very accurately to the timetable.
  • Each train on both lines seems to take a similar time through their central tunnel.

I am by training a Control Engineer and this is not surprising, as if you want to get the most number of trains down a tunnel, they should all take the same time and be equally spaced.

  • As there are twelve trains per hour (tph) on the Elizabeth Line, the five minute interval is to be expected.
  • As there are twenty tph on Thameslink, the 3-4 minute interval is to be expected.

It should be noted that the Victoria Line was fully opened in 1971.

  • It has a single central tunnel with no branches.
  • The line is used exclusively by Victoria Line trains.

But when new faster trains and automatic train control (ATO) were introduced, it enabled the train frequency  to be increased from 27 to 33 tph.

By comparison to the Victoria Line, I believe that increased frequencies of trains through Thameslink and The Elizabeth Line should be possible.

The Elizabeth Line Frequency

The Wikipedia entry for the Elizabeth Line gives a central tunnel frequency of 24 tph, consisting of the following services.

  • 12 tph – Shenfield and Paddington
  • , 6 tph – Abbey Wood and Heathrow
  •  6 tph – Abbey Wood and either Reading or Maidenhead

Note, in Extending The Elizabeth Line – High Speed Trains On The Elizabeth Line, I said this.

Because of the current track layout at Abbey Wood, I believe that without track modifications, Abbey Wood station will not be able to handle more than 12 tph.

So will Abbey Wood be restricted to 12 tph for some years?

It does appear to me, that to increase the frequency through the Elizabeth Line’s central tunnel, there will need to be services to new destinations in both the East and the West.

Various destinations have been suggested for the Elizabeth Line.

  • Northfleet, Gravesend and possibly Hoo for Chatham.
  • Billericay, Southend Airport and Southend Victoria.
  • Tring and Milton Keynes
  • Staines

I would also add.

  • Chelmsford and the new station at Beaulieu.
  • Didcot, Oxford and possibly Swindon.

There are a lot of possibilities.

The Thameslink Frequency

The Wikipedia entry for the Thameslink gives a central tunnel frequency of 20 tph, consisting of the following services.

  • 2 tph – Cambridge and Brighton
  • 2 tph – Cambridge and Maidstone East
  • 2 tph – Peterborough and Horsham
  • 2 tph – Bedford and Brighton
  • 2 tph – Bedford and Gatwick Airport via Redhill
  • 2 tph – Luton and Rainham via Greenwich
  • 2 tph – St Albans City and Sutton via Wimbledon (loop)
  • 2 tph – St Albans City and Sutton via Mitcham (loop)
  • 2 tph – Kentish Town and Orpington via Catford

There are few suggestions for extra Thameslink services.

High Speed Trains On The Elizabeth Line

Some suggested destinations for the Elizabeth Line and some existing destinations for Thameslink are on high speed lines, that will be digitally-signalled in the next few years.

These destinations might be better served by an Elizabeth Line or Thameslink train with a better performance.

In Extending The Elizabeth Line – High Speed Trains On The Elizabeth Line, I explained my reasoning in detail.


A comprehensive survey needs to be carried out to identify what destinations should be added to the Elizabeth Line/Thameslink network.

Reasons for a new destination could possibly be employment, housing, leisure, tourism or other factors.

August 14, 2022 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , ,


  1. I really don’t like and understand why Thameslink has to have so many branches/services, as I think more people would like a turn up and go service ie less brach services (ie. Gravesend-Rainham would be served by the Elisabeth line (eventually) but more frequent ie. 4tph on 3-4 services, which also means less conflicts with other services an thus less likely delays on the central section.
    The same would be true for CR2, the latest plans had about 5 branches at one end…
    The other issue I have with Thameslink is its linked up services throught London, but then they don’t serve all stations (like the Elisabeth line does), for example between London Bridge – Norwood Junction and along the Brighton main line… Thameslink should be run by Overground (so as Elisabeth line, i.e.: all rail services bar Underground) and serve all stations within London. That also means services like Caterham, Tattenham Corner, Epson Down & possibly East Grinstead/Uckfiled* stoppers should be on the Thameslink not Maidstone (East 2tph), Sevenoaks (2tph), Rainham 2 tph…
    Another thing should be that all services should be run by 12 car trains, so selective door opening should be enabled as a first step before making sure all stationplatforms are lengthened!
    += with 3rd rail electrification and coupling/uncoupling trains at Hurst Green.

    Comment by Daniel Altmann | August 16, 2022 | Reply

    • I always think that Thameslink is a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. After all, even MPs got involved in the design, by rejecting Network Rail’s plan for stopping the Sutton Loop trains at Blackfriars.

      According to a group of drivers I met on an EMR train from Leicester to St. Pancras, the performance of the Class 700 slows the expresses into St. Pancras as they are only 100 mph trains and not the 110 mph trains needed to share the fast lines with expresses. There is probably a similar set of moans by LNER drivers on the East Coast Main Line.

      When full ERTMS signalling is installed on the ECML and the MML, this will open up more high speed paths between St. Pancras and Bedford and King’s Cross and Hitchin. But it will mean, that trains using these paths must be capable of 125 mph.

      I also believe that ERTMS signalling could solve the problem of the Digswell Viaduct/Welwyn North problem by precise train control.

      Hence my enthusiasm for High Speed Lizzie Line/Thameslink trains.

      Chris Gibb was all for moving the shorter Thameslink services to TfL.

      I would probable separate Thameslink into a suburban Thameslink and an express North-South cross-London service, with all services stopping between St. Pancras and Blackfriars. I suspect that 30 tph could run on this section.

      Some EMR services which now terminate at St. Pancras might even terminate at Gatwick after calling at St. Pancras, Blackfriars, London Bridge and East Croydon.

      Comment by AnonW | August 16, 2022 | Reply

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