The Anonymous Widower

London Has A New Underground Line

On Friday, I went between Brighton and Cambridge stations on one of the first Thameslink services on the route.

I wrote about it in Observations On Thameslink Between Brighton And Cambridge.

That journey took me on London’s new Underground Line between London Bridge and Finsbury Park stations.

The following trains are going North from London Bridge to Finsbury Park.

  • 11:29 – Horsham to Peterborough – Arrives at Finsbury Park at 11:52
  • 12:49 – Brighton to Cambridge – Arrives at Finsbury Park at 13:13
  • 15:04 – Horsham to Peterborough – Arrives at Finsbury Park at 15:27
  • 15:34 – Brighton to Cambridge – Arrives at Finsbury Park at 15:57

And the following trains are going South from Finsbury Park to London Bridge.

  • 10:59 – Peterborough to Horsham – Arrives at London Bridge at 11:24
  • 12:09 -Cambridge to Brighton – Arrives at London Bridge at 12:37
  • 14:29 – Peterborough to Horsham – Arrives at London Bridge at 14:55
  • 15:11 – Cambridge to Brighton – Arrives at London Bridge at 15:37

All journeys take around 23-25 minutes, with stops at Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon and St. Pancras International stations.

It may officially be part of Thameslink, but it will function like a convewntional Underground Line, but with bigger trains.

The Underground Alternative

If you look at Transport for London’s Journey Planner, this give a time of twenty minutes for a journey between London Bridge and Finsbury Park, using the Northern and Victoria lines with a change at Euston.

That is also not a step-free or wheel-chair friendly route.

Obviously, at the moment, most passengers have no choice, as there is only four trains per day in each direction on the new Thameslink route.

But when a Full Service is running, with a train every ten minutes, things will be very different.

My Access To Thameslink

Timings to Thameslink stations from my house are as follows.

  • Finsbury Park – 15 mins by 141 Bus and Piccadilly Line
  • London Bridge – 25 mins by 21 or 141 Bus
  • London Bridge – 31 mins  using Transport for London’s Journey Planner’s recommended route via Dalston Junction and Canada Water.

The latter probably explains why Londoners are generally Grade 1 Duckers-And-Divers!

I suspect, when I go to Gatwick Airport, I’ll go via Finsbury Park, using the mini-cab from around the corner or a black cab, as both will be quicker.

I suspected right. Returning from Finsbury Park station to home this evening, took ten minutes and cost a tenner.

A Preview Service

Thameslink are only running a preview service between London Bridge and Finsbury Park at the current time.

On my Friday trip, it was particularly noticeable, that passengers were thin on the ground between the two stations.

  • But then passengers probably didn’t know about the service and may have been confused seeing a train going to Cambridge.
  • It’s also not shown on the Tube Map.
  • I didn’t notice any advertising for the new route.

So how do you use something that you don’t know about?

The Full Service

This route will have the following characteristics, when Thameslink open it fully.

The Route Will Serve The City of London Well

These factors will help this section of Thameslink serve the City of London.

  • Step-free stations at Farringdon, City Thameslink and London Bridge ring the South and West of the City of London.
  • Crossrail with an interchange with Thameslink at Farringdon also gives a quick route to the East of the City of London and Canary Wharf.
  • The City of London is also planning a lot of pedestrianisation.

Other developments like Crossrail and the expansion of Bank station and the Docklands Light Railway, will make London’s financial district, one of the best connected by public transport in the World.

The Route Will Have Tourist Attractions

The route could have been designed for tourists.

  • London Bridge station has London and Tower Bridges, Southwark Cathedral, Borough Market, HMS Belfast and the Shard.
  • But the most spectacular modern architecture at London Bridge, is the station itself, with its lifts, escalators, fifteen platforms and a shopping centre.
  • Blackfriars is a unique station, as it spans the Thames with entrances on both banks, and it is the world’s largest solar-powered bridge.
  • Blackfriars station is a short walk along the river from the Tate Modern and the Millennium Bridge.
  • Many good walks along the river start from Blackfriars.
  • City Thameslink station dates from 1990 and it shows, but it is close to St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Old Bailey, so it attracts visitors at both ends of the moral spectrum.
  • Farringdon station will be a major interchange, where Crossrail and Thameslink connect, so don’t let unsuitable organisations build all the hotels this area will attract.
  • Farringdon is close to two of London’s iconic markets; Smithfield meat market and the attached wife market.
  • Saint Pancras International station is a fur coat and no knickers station, as although it looks good, it’s practicality is suspect.
  • If they’d given the job to the architect, who updated Kings Cross station next door, they would have got a a more practical station.
  • Finsbury Park station is a place, where you go and explore the local area, which is vibrant and full of history.
  • You may even get as far as Alexandra Palace or Manor House, where I saw John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers with a very drunk Eric Clapton in the 1960s.

It is a line to explore London.

Six Trains Per Hour

There will be six trains per hour (tph), which will run All Day.

  • Two tph – Peterborough to Horsham – twelve-car
  • Two tph – Cambridge to Brighton – twelve-car
  • Two tph – Cambridge to Maidstone East – eight-car

This gives a six tph service between Finsbury Park and London Bridge and also a four tph service to East Croydon and Gatwick Airport.

Two Additional Trains Per Hour In The Peak

In the Peak, there will be two tph, that run from Welwyn Garden City to Sevenoaks.

But they will go via Elephant and Castle rather than London Bridge.

Thameslink must have their reasoning behind this service, but I have some questions.

  • Would commuters in the Peak prefer to go to London Bridge?
  • Would passengers from Sevenoaks and Welwyn Garden City like an All Day service?

These questions and others will be answered in the next few years, as hameslink develops.

Full Step-Free Access At London Bridge Station

London Bridge station has full step-free access for all the following services.

  • Thameslink
  • Services to and from Cannon Street station
  • Services to and from Waterloo East and Charing Cross stations.
  • Jubilee and Northern Lines of the Underground
  • Terminating services at London Bridge
  • Several bus routes, including my bus home!


  1. Passengers will use the escalators to get to the right destination.
  2. Thameslink passengers will use the island platform to reverse direction.
  3. It took me just two minutes to change from Platforms 2/3 to Platforms 8/9.
  4. Going from Platform 6/7 to the bus station was under three minutes and a 141 Bus was just getting ready to leave.
  5. Passengers can walk across London Bridge to the City of London.

There are few stations better than London Bridge anywhere in the world!

Full Step-Free Access at Finsbury Park Station

Finsbury Park station is being updated to have full step-free access for the following services.

  • Thameslink
  • Great Northern Services to Cambridge, Kings Lynn and Peterborough
  • Northern City Line services to and from Moorgate station
  • Piccadilly and Victoria Lines. of the Underground.

There will also be same-platform interchange between Thameslink and Northern City Line services.

The Improved Northern City Line At Finsbury Park Station

The Northern City Line will be substantially improved.

  • New Class 717 trains have been ordered.
  • This could mean an increased All Day service of perhaps 10-12 tph.
  • Moorgate station will be on Crossrail.
  • There will be a same-platform interchange with Thameslink at Finsbury Park station.
  • Hopefully, the terrible stations on the route will be improved.

This line will change from being a crowded, outdated backwater of the UK rail system to an important modern link to the City of London and Crossrail from large parts of North and North-East London.

The Link To Crossrail

The link between Thameslink and Crossrail at Farringdon station will probably be heavily used, if it is well-designed and fully-step free. Which I suspect it will be, until proven otherwise!

Don’t forget too, the link to the Metropolitan and Circle Lines at this key station, which is much better than the link at St. Pancras

Step-Free Access At All The Intermediate Stations Between London Bridge and Finsbury Park

Access at Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon and St. Pancras stations are all fully step-free.

The Fastest Way To Gatwick Airport And Brighton From North London

My friend lives in Walthamstow and always goes to Gatwick Airport by using the Victoria Line and Gatwick Express.

  • This takes twenty-three minutes for the Victoria Line and thirty minutes for the train.
  • The Thameslink route via Finsbury Park, takes nine minutes for the Victoria Line and an hour for the train.


  1. Both trains will run every fifteen minutes, when the full Thameslink service is running.
  2. The Thameslink timing is only the time of the Preview Service. Will the Full Service be faster?
  3. Finsbury Park and Victoria will both be fully step-free within a year or so.
  4. The trains on Gatwick Express will be more comfortable.
  5. The walk at Finsbury Park is shorter than at Victoria.
  6. The Thameslink route will be more affordable.

Everybody will have their own preference.

The biggest winners will be.

  • Those living on the Northern reaches of the Piccadilly Line, who will have a full step-free interchange to Thameslink at Finsbury Park
  • Those living on the Northern City Line, who will have a same-platform interchange to Thameslink at Finsbury Park.
  • Those who walk, cycle or take a bus or cab to Finsbury Park.

Gatwick Airport could be a big winner, as a whole area of North London and Hertfordshire now has a new excellent direct connection to the Airport.

What Still Needs To Be Done?

It is a well-thought out route, but some things still need to be done.

Is Six Tph Enough Trains Between London Bridge And Finsbury Park?

I ask this question, with my scheduling hat on!

At the moment of the 24 tph through the Snow Hill Tunnel, two-thirds of the trains go up the Midland Main Line, with just a third on the East Coast Main Line.

I think that, when Thameslink increase the frequency through the central core, that they will increase the frequency through Finsbury Park.

Could Two Tph From The Sutton Loop Go To Welwyn Garden City?

Curremtly, four tph start at St. Albans City station, go through London, then round the Sutton Loop, before returning to St. Albans City.

Would it be desirable to start two of these services from Welwyn Garden City station?

It will all depend on operational issues and the routes passengers take.

City Thameslink And St. Paul’s Stations Need A Connection

I believe this is possible and I wrote about it in A Pedestrian Connection Between City Thameslink Station And St. Paul’s Tube Station.


Should The Docklands Light Railway Be Extended To City Thameslink, Euston And St. Pancras?

I wrote about this extension in detail in A Connection Between City Thameslink Station And The Docklands Light Railway.

Could Thameslink Connect To The Waterloo And City Line?

I wrote about this connection in Could The Waterloo And City Line Have An Intermediate Station At Blackfriars?

Development of new trains for the Underground, will make this link possible.


Should Thameslink Be On The Tube Map

I wrote about this in Thameslink Should Be On The Tube Map.

All Of Thameslink Should Be In The Oystercard Area

Gatwick Airport is already in the Oystercard area, but it is silly that Oyster cards and contsctless cards can’t be used on all Thameslink services.


The possibilities for Thameslink and the effects it will have will be enormous.


March 11, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Observations On Thameslink Between Brighton And Cambridge

Yesterday, Thameslink opened the first of their services up the East Coast Main Line.

I gave more details in Thameslink Is Now Serving Peterborough And Cambridge.

Today, I did the following trips.

  • Dalston Junction to Brighton, by Overground, tram and Thameslink.
  • Brighton to Cambridge, leaving at 11:32 and arriving at 14:14, which was a journey time of two hours, forty-two minutes.
  • Cambridge to Finsbury Park, leaving at 14:24 and arriving at 15:10, which was a journey time of forty-six minutes.

These are pictures, I took along the Brighton to Cambridge part of the route.

These are some of my observations.

Are The Class 700 Trains Fast Enough?

There didn’t seem to be any problems today, but usually, when an electric train runs with the 125 mph trains on a High Speed Line like the East Coast, West Coast and Great Western Main Lines, they are a little bit faster than the hundred mph of the Class 700 trains.

Both, Class 350 trains and Class 387 trains are 110 mph trains and they have run successfully on High Speed Lines with 125 mph trains.

Interestingly, TransPennine Express has bought Class 397 trains, to work the West Coast Main Line. These are 125 mph trains, but they will have to work with uprated trains at 140mph, when in-cab signalling is installed.

In-Cab Signalling On The Main Lines

When modern in-cab signalling is installed on the Brighton, Midland and East Coast Main Lines will the current in-cab signalling of the Class 700 trains be able to be quickly updated?

I suspect it will not be a difficult project.

The Updating Of The Midland Main Line

In OLE Changes To Boost Midland Main Line Speeds, I said this.

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in Issue 840 of Rail Magazine.

Currently, the overhead line equipment (OLE) between St. Pancras and Bedford is rated at 100 mph.

But the new OLE between Bedford and Corby via Kettering is going to be built to a standard that will allow 125 mph running.

The article goes on to say that to make the best use of  125 mph bi-mode trains, the possibility of upgrading the St. Pancras to Bedford electrification to the 125 mph standard.

This must give advantages.

Are the Class 700 trains able to to take full advantage?

And are they fast enough to work with 125 mph bi-mode trains?

Are The Class 700 Trains Powerful Enough?

I ask this question, as surely changing from a slow line to a fast line, needs some acceleration and acceleration needs power.

The power available divided by the number of cars for the three trains is as follows.

  • Class 387 train – 420 kW/car
  • Class 350 train – 375 kW/car
  • Class 700 train – 417 kW/car

These figures are not that different.

By comparison, the Class 319 trains, which worked Thameslink for many years had just 247.5 kW/car.

The Class 700 Trains Aren’t Passenger Friendly For Long Distances

I regularly use Class 700 trains for short journeys on Thameslink around London. But going between say West Hampstead Thameslink and Blackfriars, is more of the sort of journey you would take on an Underground train.

  • They are perfectly adequate for short journeys in Central London.
  • The trains are generally lightly loaded, with seats often available.
  • There are plenty of hand-holds for safe standing.
  • The on train information is good.
  • I’ve even used the trains for their toilets.

On the other hand, taking an hour’s journey around London, there are several journeys, where you get a train with much better seats and a higher level of comfort.

  • Aldgate to Uxbridge on the Metropolitan Line, riding on a S8 Stock train.
  • Highbury and Islington to West Croydon on the London Overground, riding on a Class 378 train.
  • Liverpool Street to Shenfield, riding on a Class 345 train.
  • Liverpool Street to Bishops Stortford on a Class 317 train.
  • Paddington to Reading, riding on a Class 387 train.
  • Waterloo to Windsor, riding in a Class 455 train.

Note the presence of two seriously-old trains; Classes 317 and 455, and a train designed for the Underground.

Some of these journeys will get better, as new trains are introduced.

If you look at your new car, passenger features are much better than what you had twenty years ago.

The same can be said for some of London’s commuter trains, but can it be said for the Class 700 trains, when compared with the previous Class 319 trains.

  • Standing is a better experience on a Class 700 train.
  • Sitting is a better experience on a Class 319 train.
  • Entry and exit is better on a Class 700 train.
  • The toilets are better on a Class 700 train.
  • There is no wi-fi or power sockets on either train.
  • The Class 700 train is a better train to serve an Airport.
  • The Class 700 train uses the colours of a nuclear submarine, to calm passengers down!

After my trip of two hours forty-two minutes yesterday, between Brighton and Cambridge, I’m convinced the Class 700 train is unsuitable for this length of journey.

  • The seats are not comfortable enough for this distance.
  • By Cambridge, my phone was in desperate need of a re-charge.
  • At least I don’t generally use wi-fi.

The train was not very crowded, so with a more comfortable seat and a power-socket I’d have been a lot happier.

Passenger Loading Of The Train

For most of the journey, the train was virtually empty and I had four seats to myself.

Incidentally, I suspect that a lot of groups travelling all the way, will put their feet on the seats opposite for comfort.

The only time, the train had more than a few passengers was between Gatwick Airport and London Bridge stations, when it was almost completely full.

Various factors probably contribute.

  • Between London and Brighton, you can take one of Southern’s comfortable Class 377 trains.
  • Between London and Bedford, you can still take one of East Midland’s comfortable trains.
  • Between London and Cambridge, you can take one of Great Northern’s comfortable Class 387 trains.
  • Between London and Cambridge, you can take one of Greater Anglia’s comfortable Class 379 trains.

Competition may work in the Off Peak, but surely commuters have no choice.

But it was interesting, that the only crowded part of the route was the section, where there is no competition.

Take the standard grandparents living in Cambridge wanting to go to see their grandchildren in Brighton.

Will they take a two hours forty-two minutes journey in an uncomfortable train, when you can break the journey in a pleasant cafe in Central London?

Regular travellers on long Thameslink routes will work out their best strategies.

I’d love to analyse Thameslink’s passenger statistics.

But then Thameslink didn’t specify the trains.

Summing Up Brighton To Cambridge

These thoughts can probably be applied to Bedford to Brighton as well.

On the plus side, there is the following.

  • The journey time.
  • Entry and exit to the train.
  • Standing space, which makes it an excellent extra Underground Line in Central London.
  • Toilets

On the negative side, there is the following.

  • The seats.
  • The lack of passenger-friendly features like tables, power sockets and wi-fi.

But, I suspect that for Thameslink, these trains will not be welcoming to Off Peak travellers, where the competition is other operators and the car.

Is Thameslink An Extended Underground Line?

Crossrail has been designed as an extended Underground Line from Reading and Heathrow in the West to Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the East.

  • Between Whitechapel and Paddington, the line functions as a high-capacity Underground Line.
  • Crossrail will appear on the Tube Map.
  • Crossrail stations will have excellent connections to the Undeground.
  • By linking services from Paddington and Liverpool Street together back-to-back, platform space is released at two major stations, which can be used to increase capacity on other routes.
  • Crossrail’s stations are seen as locations to create commercial and residential developments.
  • All stations on the route are being improved and made step-free.
  • Crossrail’s trains appear to have been designed to function as both Underground trains and commuter trains, borrowing heavily from the successful S8 Stock of the Metropolitan Line.

So how does Thameslink compare?

  • Thameslink seems to have been designed as a series of main routes across London, that go through a Central Tunnel.
  • Between London Bridge and Finsbury Park/West Hapstead Thameslink, Londonders will use the line as a high-capacity Underground Line.
  • Thameslink will not appear on the Tube Map.
  • Thameslink stations have mixed connections to the Underground, that were designed by that useless designer called Topsy.
  • Platform space has been released at St. Pancras and London Bridge and the latest remodelling has improved matters.
  • Are Thameslink’s stations seen as development hubs?
  • Are Thameslink’s stations being given the right level of improvement and step-free access?
  • Thameslink’s trains were not designed for the job they are doing.

Thameslink is most certainly not an extended Underground Line!

A Comparison With The Great Eastern Main Line

The Great Eastern Main Line is a line I know well.

  • It has a long-distance service from Liverpool Street to Norwich via Colchester and Ipswich.
  • It has an extensive commuter network from Liverpool Street.
  • Crossrail will increase capacity at Liverpool Street.

When Greater Anglia decided to replace the fleet, they could have gone for a unified fleet.

But they decided on a split fleet.


  1. It was a pragmatic decision, that provided the right train for each service.
  2. Particular attention has been paid to the interior design.
  3. The interior design has been shown to passengers, before any trains have been built.
  4. All trains will have toilets.
  5. First Class will be eliminated on the Class 720 trains.
  6. The Class 720 trains could share tracks and platforms with Crossrail’s Class 345 trains.

It looks like Greater Anglia took a lot of care.

Did the Department for Transport take a similar amount of care to get the design for the Thameslink trains?

Obviously not!

What Needs To Be Done

These are my ideas.

Split The Train Fleet

Greater Anglia’s decision to split their fleet is a telling one.

  • Express services between London and Norwich and Stansted Airport services will be run by twelve-car Class 745 trains with First Class seats.
  • London commuter services will be run by five- and ten-car high-capacity Class 720 trains with no First Class.
  • Both trains have 100 mph operating speeds.
  • Both trains appear to have well-designed interiors.
  • Both trains will be compatible with respect to station, track and signalling.

Additionally, their Class 755 trains for secondary routes will have similar performance, opening up the possibility of other direct services to London.

I believe that eventually, Thameslink services will be run by two sets of compatible trains.

If they borrowed from Greater Anglia’s logic, this could see.

  • A sub-fleet suitable for long-distance services with twelve-car trains, First Class, tables and better seats for steerage.
  • A sub-fleet suitable for London commuter services with eight-car trains and no First Class.


  1. The current seats may be acceptable for eight-car trains running short commuter routes.
  2. All trains would be fitted with wi-fi, power-sockets, cup holders, seat-back tables and other passenger-friendly equipment where appropriate.
  3. Of the long-distance routes, only Cambridge to Maidstone East is proposed to be run by an eight-car train.
  4. The long-distance trains would have the ability to run at 110 mph, where possible and needed.

I believe with a bit of sorting and remanufacturing, the current fleet could do a much better job.

  • Passengers would get better seats and other facilities.
  • Thameslink would get faster services on long routes.
  • Would a more passenger-friendly train attract more passengers, especially in the Off Peak?
  • Services on the Brighton, East Coast and Midland Main Lines would allow faster running of other services.

I don’t think I’m talking about anything that is too difficult.

Would It Be Advantageous To Allow Some Twelve-Car Trains To Split And Join?

In Has Thameslink Got The Wrong Length Of Train?, I showed how if the trains were twelve- and six-car units and the latter had the ability to split and join automatically, this would lead to the following.

  • More efficient use of trains.
  • Better operation on the Sutton Loop Line.
  • The creation of extra services by splitting at the ends of a route.

I also showed how it may be possible to adjust the lengths of the current fleet into twelve- and six-car units.



Put Thameslink On The Tube Map

I know it was an initial service, but passenger numbers on my journey from Brighton to Cambridge , must have been well below Thameslink’s forecast for the route.

I doubt more than a handfull did the whole route, like I did.

It was particularly noticeable, that passengers were thin on the ground between London Bridge and Finsbury Park stations.

And yet this route will have the following characteristics, when Thameslink is fully open.

  • Six trains per hour (tph). Running all day.
  • Two extra tph in the Peak.
  • Full step-free access at London Bridge station.
  • Full step-free access at Finsbury Park station, including to the Piccadilly and Victoria Lines.
  • Same platform interchange with services to and from Moorgate on the Northern City Line at Finsbury Park.
  • Step-free access at all the intermediate stations between London Bridge and Finsbury Park.

I think that Finsbury Park could become a well-used interchange for Thameslink passengers.

But like other interchanges, it needs to be shown on the Tube map, so passengers know it’s there.

On the other hand, if you ask National Rail’s timetable, the best route from Brighton to Oakliegh Park at 11:30 on a Monday, it advises using Thameslink to Finsbury Park and then a local train on the Northern City Line.

More And Better Interchanges on Thameslink

Thameslink doesn’t have many interchanges with the Underground.

  • West Hampstead Thameslink
  • Kentish Town
  • Finsbury Park
  • Kings Cross St. Pancras
  • Farringdon
  • London Blackfriars
  • London Bridge
  • Elephant and Castle

Some are fairly rudimentary and involve some walking, that is not easy.

There is also two interchanges with the Overground.

  • Peckham Rye
  • Denmark Hill

But the Thameslink frequency at these stations, is only four tph, with two extra in the Peak.

Various plans have been floated in the last few years.

  • New stations at Camberwell and Loughborough Junction have been proposed.
  • A  new transport hub linking Catford and Catford Bridge stations has been proposed.
  • A pedestrian link between City Tameslink and St. Paul’s stations.
  • An extension to the Docklands Light Railway to City Thameslink and on to Charing Cross, Euston and Victoria.

Thameslink will only get bigger and better.




March 9, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Options For High Speed To Hastings

The May 2017 Edition of Modern Railways has an article entitled Kent Capacity Constraints Highlighted.

One sub-section is entitled High Speed To Hastings and it lists options as to how high-speed services could be run to Hastings via Ashford International station and the Marshlink Line.

Before I list the options, I’ll list a few facts and questions about the current service to Hastings, the various lines and stations.

Ashford International Station

This Google Map shows Ashford International station.

Note the Marshlink Line goes off the map to the East of the two small roundabouts at the bottom.

The biggest factor that needs to be considered is that some form flyover or dive-under may be needed so that trains can run between the Marshlink Line and the two platforms on the North side of the station, where Highspeed services to and from St. Pancras International call.

Will All Highspeed Services Using The Marshlink Line Stop At Ashford International Station?

Consider the following.

  • Passengers might like to go between places on the South Coast, like Hastings and Brighton, and Europe, by changing at Ashford International station
  • If a voltage change were needed, Ashford International station is already used for this purpose.

I would think it unlikely that services would not stop at Ashford International station.

Class 395 and Class 80x Trains

The Class 395 trains and the various forms of Class 800 trains are all members of Hitachi’s A-Train family.

The Class 395 trains have the following features.

  • Dual voltage
  • 6-car sets.
  • 140 mph on HS1
  • 100 mph on DC Lines
  • Automatic coupling and uncoupling.

The Class 800 and Class 802 trains have the following features.

  • Electro-diesel
  • 25 KVAC only.
  • 5- and 9-car sets.
  • 140 mph on HS1 (Stated in Modern Railways)
  • 100 mph on diesel power only.
  • Automatic coupling and uncoupling (assumed)

The only difference between Class 800 and Class 802 appears to be the size of the full tanks and manufacturing site.

I would think it unlikely, that Hitachi could not produce a Class 80x train with the following features.

  • Electro-diesel
  • Dual voltage
  • 6-car sets
  • 140 mph on HS1
  • 100 mph on diesel power only.
  • 100 mph on DC Lines

The trains could even have a Class 395 style interior.

Looking at the Class 395 and Class 80x trains, I suspect that these trains could be built, so that they could automatically couple and uncouple with each other.

This coupling ability would be important.

  • Hastings and Thanet services could couple and uncouple at Ashford International.
  • Class 80x trains could be used instead of Class 395 trains for operational reasons.
  • It would make it easier to rescue a stalled train.

There is also this document on the IEP Trains web site, which is entitled Technical & Build Specifications Of The IEP Trains, contains a lot of useful information.

  • Five-car electro-diesel trains have three power units.
  • Nine-car electro-diesel trains have five power units.
  • Electric trains have a small generator that can be used to slowly move a train stranded by overhead power failure to a safe place for passengers to disembark.

Nothing is said about batteries, but Hitachi have run battery trains in Japan.

I would be very surprised, if the A-train family was not designed, so that it could incorporate batteries, when the technology has been sufficiently developed

The Current London  To Hastings Timings

Fastest timings I can find are as follows.

  • London Cannon Street to Hastings – 1 hour 48 minutes
  • London Charing Cross to Hastings – 1 hour 51 minutes
  • London St. Pancras to Hastings – 1 hour 36 minutes, which a change at Ashford International
  • London Victoria – 2 hours 1 minute.

I think the surprising time is the one with a change at Ashford International.

It takes 37 minutes between St. Pancras and Ashford International and 40 minutes from Ashford International to Hastings, but passengers are allowed nineteen minutes to change trains.

Could Timings On The Marshlink Line Be Improved?

The Marshlink Line has a maximum operating speed of just 60 mph, whereas the East Coastway Line between Hastings and Brighton has an oiperating speed of 90 mph.

Other improvements are needed to improve the timings and oiperation of the line.

  • Removal of a couple of level crossings.
  • Provision of a passing loop at Rye.
  • Some platform lengthening to handle the longest trains that would use the line.

It doesn’t appear impossible to reduce St. Pancras to Hasting timings by several minutes.

Are More Class 395 Trains Needed For Other Routes?

I ask this question, as if they are, then surely a combined order for new trains  would be better value.

The Various Options

I shall now look at the various options mentioned in the article in turn.

Option 1 – Electrify Ashford To Hastings At 25 KVAC

This would cost between £250million and £500million.

It would allow the current Class 395 trains to work through to Hastings and as far as Brighton or even Southampton if required.

Voltage changeover would take place at a convenient station, such as Ore.

But how would various groups react to 25 KVAC catenary being strung up all over Romney Marsh?

Option 2 – Electrify Ashford To Hastings At 750 VDC

This would cost between £100million and £250million.

As with Option 1, it could use the current Class 395 trains.

Option 3 – Use Class 802 Electro-Diesel Trains

Class 802 trains could be an interesting option.


  • According to the Modern Railways article, Class 802 trains would have the same 140 mph performance, as the Class 395 trains on HS1.
  • Both trains are Hitachi A trains.
  • Class 802 trains would run on diesel between Ashford International and Hastings.
  • Class 802 trains would probably be fitted with third-rail equipment to work onward from Hastings.
  • No electrification of the Marshlink Line would be required.
  • St. Pancras to Hastings could be under seventy minutes.
  • Three trains would be needed to provide an hourly service to Hastings.
  • A crude estimate gives that one six-car Class 802 train would cost around £12.5million.

I think this option has a big advantage in that if it were possible to run twelve-car trains from St. Pancras to Brighton via Eastbourne, Hastings, Ebbsfleet International and Stratford International stations, the route might offer valuable alternative routes.

Option 4 – Use Class 395 Or Class 801 Trains With Batteries

Either of Class 395 or Class 801 trains could probably be fitted with batteries with sufficient range to take the train between Ashford and Hastings.


  • Both trains would have 140 mph performance on HS1.
  • Trains would run on batteries between Ashford International and Ore.
  • The Marshlink Line is not the most taxing of railways, with only six stops.
  • Trains would probably be fitted with third-rail equipment to work onward from Hastings.
  • No electrification of the Marshlink Line would be required.
  • St. Pancras to Hastings could be under seventy minutes.
  • To ensure sufficient battery power to bridge Hastings to Ashford, trains could if necessary reverse at Seaford or Brighton.

As with Option 3, it has the advantage of providing an alternative London to Brighton service.


All options require the following to be done.

  • Create an efficient connection between HS1 and the Marshlink Line.
  • Improve the operating speed on the Marshlink Line.
  • Remove a couple of level crossings on the Marshlink Line.
  • Create a passing loop at Rye.
  • Perform some platform lengthening.

As Options 1 and 2 require electrification and cost more, I would feel they are unlikely to proceed.

The choice between Options 3 and 4 would depend on what Hitachi offer and what the required number of trains cost.

Option 3 based on a Class 802 train would definitely work and could probably be proven with a test run of one of the GWR or VTEC Class 800 prototypes.

But these Class 800/801/802 trains are designed so that the diesel engines can be removed, when they are no longer needed. So could Hitachi replace the diesel engine with a battery pack charged at either end of the route on the 25 KVAC of HS1 or the 750 VDC of the East Coastway Line between Hastings and Brighton.

It’s all about selling trains and a company that had a 140 mph or 225 kph high-speed electric train, that could do perhaps 25 miles or 40 kilometres on batteries, would have a valuable addition to their product range.



May 8, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 10 Comments

A Trip To Seaford

This morning, I took a trip to Seaford station on the Seaford Branch in Sussex via Brighton, to see if I could learn more about the East Coastway Line at Brighton.

I took these pictures.


  • The service from Brighton to Seaford is run by 3-car Class 313 trains.
  • The Class 313 trains are elderly, but well-maintained and lacking features that passengers expect these days, like wi-fi, information displays, adequate space for bicycles and fully-accessible toilets.
  • The train was fairly full on a cold but sunny, Sunday morning around Falmer station, where the University of Sussex and The Amex are located.
  • I was surporised at how many people arrived at Brighton on a Thameslink service.
  • Lewes station is being given a full upgrade.
  • Most other stations are simple affairs, that need some refurbishment.
  • It was sad to see the Port of Newhaven  so quiet.
  • I couldn’t identify the place, where the Wealden Line used to join the East Coastway.

Certainly the route has potential, which will probably be driven by traffic at Falmer station, which has already been upgraded to take 8-car trains.

The trains should be replaced by something like a four-car Class 377 or Class 387, that could run in pairs for busy days at the The Amex.

The question also has to be asked, if the new trains had an IPEMU capability, would it be more affordable to run the Seaford Branch, if the electrification were to be removed.


February 7, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Match Twenty-Seven – Brighton 3 – Ipswich 2

I like going to Brighton for a match, as the stadium is one of the best and it is just a short walk from the train station. You get comfortable seats, with good views, which can’t be said for many other stadia.

Brighton's Impressive Stadium

Brighton’s Impressive Stadium

Sadly, Ipswich didn’t put on a display to the quality of some of late and on a bitterly cold night they lost by the odd goal in five.

January 21, 2015 Posted by | Sport | , , , | Leave a comment

Those Seagulls Get Everywhere

Some coastal parts of the UK and other parts of Europe have a seagull problem.

But this story from Brighton must be unique, where one of the birds finished second in the 7:10 race according to the photo finish.

July 11, 2014 Posted by | Sport | , , | Leave a comment

Comfy Seats At The AMEX Stadium

The AMEX Stadium is one of the few in the country, that have comfy seats for all.


Comfy Seats At The AMEX Stadium

Comfy Seats At The AMEX Stadium

As you get free train travel in the price of tickets, surely the attitude of the club and the stadium design, did all this contribute to a full stadium.

Sadly for Brighton, Ipswich spoiled their party.

March 22, 2014 Posted by | Sport | , , | Leave a comment

An Ideal Train Ticket For Football

I went to Brighton to see Ipswich Town play in the town, for the princely sum of £7.95 return.

This was the cost of my Senior Off-Peak ticket from East Croydon to Haywards Heath.

I didn’t need to buy the ticket to East Croydon, as that station is in the Freedom Pass area and from Haywards Heath to Falmer for the AMEX Stadium is covered by the match ticket.

I could have done even better, if there had been a chance the match would have not been played, as Southern offer an interesting offer.

Southern's Money Back Guarantee

Southern’s Money Back Guarantee

But I’ve checked on this Money Back Guarantee and it looks good. For instance, if you book online and elect to pick up your tickets on departure at your outbound station and say the clouds open and you don’t fancy your awful cousin’s barbecue in the pouring rain, you just don’t pick them up and they get refunded.



March 22, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Rail Travel Along The South Coast

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve travelled along most of the South Coast by train in two trips; one to Bexhill and the other to Littlehampton and Yeovil.

Effectively the South Coast is covered by two main rail routes; the East Coastway line from Brighton to Hastings and the West Coastway line from Brighton to Southampton.

The fastest trains from Hastings to Southampton take five minutes over three hours with a change of train at Brighton. But there are twenty-three stops.

So it could be a journey that only a masochist would take, but at least you’d probably be in a comfortable Class 377 with a trolley service.

Even if you go via Clapham Junction, it will still take nearly three and a half hours.

So it is definitely a journey where most people would drive.  But a lot of the roads are dreadful.

So could anything be done to make this journey faster and better?

The Class 377 trains are 100 mph units, but some of the route has a lower speed limit, but as I found on the route, the slow speed is probably more due to the number of stops than the speed of the trains.

The only improvement being talked about is to improve the Marshlink line from Hastings to Ashford, so that high speed services could run between St. Pancras and Eastbourne.

Judging by the troubles that the current Hastings line is suffering from, it would seem that this scheme might be cheaper than sorting out the Jerry-built Hastings line.

If you search the Internet for South Coast Main Line, you find this document from the East Sussex Rail Alliance.

I think we can file that under In Your Dreams.

The Great Eastern Main line has a similar problem of slow speed which is hopefully being solved with the Norwich in Ninety project.

Perhaps a similar approach could be used along the South Coast.

March 14, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Legible Brighton

Like London, Brighton has gone Legible with lots of liths. Legible Brighton is described here. The page contains this statement.

Research has shown that people are more likely to return to a city if they have found it easy to navigate their way around.

So why are some places, slow to follow the lead of London and Glasgow? Here’s one of Brighton’s liths.

One Of Brighton's Liths

One Of Brighton’s Liths

They are generally fairly simple, like most of London’s.

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment