The Anonymous Widower

Heathrow Bid To Duck ‘£40m’ Crossrail Bill

This is the title of a small article in the Business section of today’s Sunday Times

Heathrow is annoyed that the Office of Rail and Road rejected their plan to charge every train that uses the line to the Airport, £597, with a maintenance charge of £138,

So they are going for a judicial review.

This is the last sentence of the article.

It (Heathrow) argues that it is unfair to make air passengers – who may never use Crossrail – subsidise the new line.


  • If passengers use Crossrail, this will mean they won’t have to pay the high prices on the expensive Heathrow Express, which only takes you to the inaccessible-for-many Paddington.
  • Crossrail will be the route of choice of many passengers to and from Heathrow. As an example, three out of four of my closest stations will be a single change via Crossrail to Heathrow.
  • When Crossrail opens, I suspect only unknowing and the rich will use Heathrow Express.
  • Did Crossrail pay for the new Stockley Viaduct, which will increase capacity on the route to Heathrow?
  • Many passengers, who have Freedom Passes (As I do!), won’t put Heathrow on their list of London Airports, unless they get free travel to the Airport on Crossrail. Boris promised it!
  • Will passengers be able to use contactless ticketing to Heathrow Airport, as they can to Gatwick?

With the decision on the next South East runway to be made this week, Heathrow seems to be reinforcing the view that many hold of the Airport – It operates in a selfish culture, that is more about profits, than passengers, the Airport’s many neighbours and the environment.


October 23, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Does Brexit Mean We Need More Runways?

I ask this question, as after I wrote Changing Sides, I’ve had some thoughtful comments.

In 2015, there were seven airports that handled over ten million passengers.

  1. London Heathrow – 74,985,748
  2. London Gatwick – 40,269,087
  3. Manchester – 23,136,047
  4. London Stansted – 22,519,178
  5. London Luton – 12,263,505
  6. Edinburgh – 11,114,587
  7. Birmingham – 10,187,122

In addition, there are airports like Bristol, Cardiff, East Midlands, Glasgow, Leeds-Bradford, Liverpool and Newcastle, that can take a significant portion of regional traffic.

I can add these comments.

  • Manchester is taking traffic from other airports in the North and Scotland.
  • In a decade or so, a very high speed rail link could enable Liverpool to provide extra runway capacity for Manchester.
  • Birmingham will be on HS2 within a decade.
  • Manchester will get HS2 within two decades.
  • Six of the top seven airports are getting improved rail links.
  • Glasgow is just off the list in eighth, but does Scotland need two airports in the Central Belt?
  • Cardiff is not the busiest airport and was in fact 20th.

The Airports Commission said we need another runway in the South East, but will Brexit change matters?

I have this feeling that, Brexit could mean that we actually see more air-routes opening up.


  • The British will always love their holidays in the sun.
  • The UK will always be a destination for tourists and a low pound courtesy of Brexit will help.
  • If the regions of the UK get more independence from London, they’ll probably look to attract more visitors.
  • On past form, the City of London will survive Brexit, just as it did the Great Fire and the Blitz.
  • Brexit could be an excuse for building more runway capacity.
  • People love setting up airlines to lose their fortune and those of others.
  • Infrastructure like railways and trams will make some airports, easier and more affordable to use.
  • Travellers will get more savvy.

On the other hand, the low-cost airlines seem to be saying that traffic to and from the UK will be a lot lower and they are moving aircraft out of the UK.

I have no idea what will actually happen, but we may see some surprising things. I said this earlier.

In a decade or so, a very high speed rail link could enable Liverpool to provide extra runway capacity for Manchester.


  • The Shanghai Maglev Train has a top speed of over 400 kmh and a length of 30 km.
  • Liverpool and Manchester airports are 50 km. apart.
  • Liverpool Airport is alongside the Mersey.

Even if this doesn’t happen, we’ll certainly see many airports expand and be easier to use.

The debate on where the South-East gets extra runway capacity has been enlivened by Gatwick saying that if Heathrow is chosen, then they’ll build a second runway anyway.


  • Building a new runway at Heathrow will need extensive works to the M25
  • Gatwick has the space for a second runway and has already shown possible runway, terminal and rail railway station designs.
  • Gatwick is already a well-connected rail-hub.
  • Both airports will be connected to Farringdon by modern high-capacity rail links.
  • Cameron promised no third runway at Heathrow and his election still defines the make-up of Parliament.
  • Most Londoners don’t like Heathrow.
  • Heathrow probably couldn’t build a third runway, if Gatwick got the Government’s blessing.

We could see the Government give Heathrow their blessing, but Gatwick builds a new runway as well.

Surely two world-class airports for London, would show that a post-Brexit Britain was open for business.

I think many London residents like me, living away from Heathrow, would accept an enlargement at both airports.

You can envisage these scenarios.

Heathrow Gets A Third Runway And A Sixth Terminal

If this was the decision, the following would or could happen.

  • The opposition would be vocal and possibly violent.
  • Every legal experts in the field would keep the Courts going for decades.
  • The moving of the M25 would paralyse the traffic to the West of London for at least a decade. Remember Terminal 5!
  • All of the hassle would frighten investors away from a post-Brexit UK

Gatwick would build a second runway anyway.

Heathrow Hub

Heathrow Hub is the independent proposal shortlisted by the Airports Commission. Wikipedia describes it like this.

Heathrow Hub proposes extending both of the existing runways up to a total length of about 7,000 metres and dividing them into four so that they each provide two, full length, runways, allowing simultaneous take-offs and landings. The aim is to complete the construction within five years and with 100% private funds.

Available capacity would be doubled while keeping a percentage of the slots unused in order to alter noise levels. In addition, early morning flights could land much further west along the extended runways so reducing the noise footprint for a large area of west London.[5] Other noise mitigation techniques include using two-stage approaches, and steeper, curved climb-outs.

The Heathrow Hub concept includes a new multimodal air, rail and road interchange located approximately two miles north of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 to accommodate passenger growth. This includes a new terminal, a new railway station connecting Heathrow to the West Coast Mainline and Crossrail and direct access to the M25 motorway.


This image from the Heathrow Hub web site shows the layout with just the Northern runway extended.

Heathrow Hub Runway Proposal

Heathrow Hub Runway Proposal


  • The M25 would just needed to be put in a tunnel, as has been done at Schipol.
  • The Southern runway could be expanded later to provide even more runway capacity.
  • As aircraft will get smarter and be able to fly more precise paths, more noise will be kept within the larger airport boundary.

With my project management hat on, I believe that the building of the rNorthern Runway extension, a new terminal and all the connecting infrastructure could be built without disrupting the operation of the current Airport.

Heathrow Hub is the joker in the pack and it could be the surprise choice.

But I doubt it.

  • The opposition would still be vocal and possibly violent.
  • Every legal experts in the field would keep the Courts going for decades.
  • Heathrow Airport wouldn’t like it, as they didn’t think of it.

Although, in a post-Brexit world, it could make sense.

Gatwick Gets A Second Runway

In some ways this is the option with the least amount of hassle.

  • The opposition at Gatwick would be much less, than choosing Heathrow.
  • There would be no traffic disruprion at Heathrow.

But Heathrow would probably fight the decision in the Courts.

I also think, that Heathrow will never give up on expansion, as there is just too much investment in the airport.

Both Airports Get An Extra Runway

This could be the Judgement of Theresa!

  • Heathrow would extend the Northern runway, as detailed in the Heathrow Hub proposal, with perhaps another rail-connected terminal between the runways.
  • Gatwick builds a second runway and appropriate terminals.


  • The current two-airport strategy works for London.
  • Heathrow and Gatwick will soon have much-improved rail connections with an interchange in Central London.
  • Both rail journeys to Central London will be around thirty minutes.
  • Both runways could be built without disrupting the existing airports.
  • Once the M25 is covered, Heathrow can extend the runway and gets the space for more terminals.
  • Few properties would be demolished at either Heathrow and Gatwick.
  • Those living around Heathrow would suffer less noise.
  • A second runway fits Gatwick’s plans.
  • Airlines can choose their best location as capacity increases.
  • At least two runways at both airports, surely increases safety.

But the reason, I like this option best, is that it future-proofs, the airports in the South-East for a very long time.

It also creates true competition between the two airports and that can only be to the benefit of the airlines and their passengers.

This article in the Independent is entitled If Gatwick and Heathrow both build extra runways, it could mean the UK becomes future-proofed.

Add future-proofing to my list.


I said we should be prepared for surprises about airports.

I stand by that!




October 9, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 3 Comments

Changing Sides

There is an interesting article in The Sunday Times today, entitled Boris Retreats In Fight Against Third Runway.

Boris is apparently saying he won’t oppose a third runway at Heathrow, so if anything he’s being consistent in changing horses, just as he did with Michael Gove.

But perhaps more surprisingly, Willie Walsh, the Chief Executive of IAG, who own BA, is quoted as calling Heathrow a fantasy project, which has been gold-plated and inflated by the owners to maximise their returns, at the expense of the airlines.

The paper also says that Gatwick will build a new runway anyway.

The latter is confirmed in this article on the Sky News web site, which is entitled Gatwick Airport to plan new runway even if Heathrow wins.

Elsewhere in The Sunday Times, there is a story about lawyers preparing their knives and forks for an expensaive dinner on all the arguments.

On top of all this of course, Londoners generally avoid Heathrow, as they prefer to do business with any Airport that treats passengers how they prefer to be treated.

This article on Get West London is entitled Bookmaker installs Gatwick as clear favourite over Heathrow in battle for new runway.

Could we be seeing something unique in the world of airports? A city with two major two-runway airports!

It will be interesting to see if the smart money is being put into commercial property like hotels and offices at Farringdon, where Crossrail and Thameslink cross.

I think that as passengers are much more flexible these days and even eighty-year-olds know how to work the Internet to their advantage, I think that if the Government makes the sensible choice and chooses Gatwick, we’ll see a marketing war, between the two airports, led by innovative airlines.

The major winners could be the passengers.


October 9, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 3 Comments

Sadiq Khan Backs Gatwick

This article on the BBC is entitled Sadiq Khan urges swift decision on Gatwick expansion.

Doesn’t most of those living and/or working in london and the South East?

This is said in the article.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has urged Theresa May to make a quick decision on airport expansion in the South East.

Mr Khan said the new Prime Minister should make the final decision on whether a new runway should be built at Gatwick or Heathrow a top priority.

This decision has been kicked further into the long grass for years, ever since Harold Wilson cancelled Maplin Airport in 1971.

With Brexit on the near hotizon, what better way to say the UK and London is open for business, than by deciding on the next runway in the South East.

I don’t believe Heathrow should build another runway for the following reasons.

  • Building another runway would cause endless problems as the M25 is diverted., if what happened when it was diverted for Terminal 5 is anything to go by.
  • Gatwick will have better rail connections.
  • Heathrow has annoyed a lot of influential and powerful people and organisations in West London.
  • The site is too small, even after demolishing the odd village.
  • I don’t believe they’ll solve the pollution problem.
  • I don’t like approaching the airport over Central London.
  • It is the more expensive option.

You can probably say similar things for Gatwick.

But at least Gatwick’s owners don’t seem to be as greedy and uncooperative as those at Heathrow.

At least Gatwick’s plans seem well advanced, as this visualisation shows.

Gatwick With Two Runways

Gatwick With Two Runways

This appears to me to be a good efficient design.

  • The new runway is on the left.
  • It looks like the secondary North runway, used when the current main runway is under msaintenance, is still in place.
  • Between the two runways is a massive new terminal.
  • Note the station in the bottom right corner, with the Brighton Main Line going across.
  • The red line is a shuttle, that takes passengers between the current North and Main terminals, the new terminal and the train station.
  • Little demolition seems to have taken place.

But in some ways, where the runway is built is irrelevant, if Crossrail and the improved Thameslink work as they say on their tins.

These two high-capacity railways will give Heathrow and Gatwick a shared terminal called London, that unfortunately for them, they will share with  Stansted, Luton, HS2 and Eurostar.

I feel though, that because of Brexit, we’ll see a decision before the end of the year and possibly in the next few weeks.

British governments have fiddled for far too long!


July 15, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gatwick Express Embrace Contactless Ticketing

I took this screen capture this page on from the Gatwick Express web site.


It does seem they are embracing contactless ticketing to Gatwick. They do add this caveat.

Please note, if you are making a return journey, it will be cheaper to buy a paper return ticket online.

From here in the wilds of Dalston, I shall probably never use Gatwick Express, except to catch an early flight, when I would take one of two night buses; N38 and N73 or a mini-cab to Victoria.

I will probably use Thameslink from London Bridge or use the East London Line to get to Croydon.

I will certainly use a contactless bank card for the last leg to Gatwick, as it is not in Freedom Pass territory. As contactless costs just three pounds between East Croydon and Gatwick, I wouldn’t put it past the Airport to allow Freedom Passes to Gatwick, if Heathrow don’t allow them on Crossrail to the there.

There’s a war out there and the two main protagonists; Helpful Gatwick and Greedy Heathrow are laying out their policies.

April 16, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

The East-Facing Bay Platforms At Reading Station

This picture shows the east-facing bay platforms at Reading station.

Bay Platforms 4, 5 and 6 At Reading Station

Bay Platforms 4, 5 and 6 At Reading Station

Note that they are numbered 4, 5 and 6 from the right. The train on Platform 5 is a Great Western Railway service for Gatwick Airport via Guildford. with a South West Trains service for Waterloo on Platform 6.

Gatwick Via The North Downs Line

Trains go to Gatwick using the North Downs Line, which is a double-track line effectively in five sections.

  • Reading to Wokingham – electrified
  • Wokingham to North Camp – not electrified
  • North Camp to Shalford Junction – electrified
  • Shalford Junction to Reigate – not electrified
  • Reigate to Redhill and Gatwick – electrified.

According to Wikipedia, there needs to be work at Redhill and Gatwick Airport stations, but I believe that is underway.

Wikipedia also states that the line has an operative speed of 70 mph. The journey currently takes 76 minutes.

Once Crossrail and Thameslink are fully open, it would surely be quicker to change at Farringdon.

  • The fastest journey between Farringdon and Gatwick Airport is now 54 minutes.
  • The Crossrail route calculator says that Reading to Farringdon will take 57 minutes.

So that means that at 111 minutes, surprisingly the London route is thirty five minutes slower and needs a change of train.

Note these further points about the North Downs route.

  • A well-driven electric train like a 110 mph Class 387 train might even be able to do the journey a few minutes quicker than the current 76 minutes, if the line were to be electrified.
  • It is my belief, that the current piecemeal nature of the third-rail electrification would enable a Class 387 IPEMU to run between Reading and Gatwick Airport, using the batteries as required.
  • I don’t think the batteries would need charging at the end of the journey, as both ends of the route are electrified.
  • The line has ten level crossings, which must speed the trains, if some were removed.
  • There must be other track improvements.
  • Class 387 trains have also been fitted with an Airport Express interior for Gatwick Express.
  • Can an Airport Express be battery-powered? Engineers like me, would say yes, but Marketing Departments would be sceptical.

I believe that ultimately a Class 387 train or an IPEMU with a similar performance could do Reading to Gatwick Airport in an hour, without further electrification.



March 31, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Searching For What Is Going To Happen On The East London Line After The Thameslink Programme Opens

My E-Mail To Thameslink On The 14th February

On the 14th February, I sent this e-mail to the Thameslink Programme.

At present when I go to Gatwick Airport, I get an East London Line train from Dalston Junction to New Cross Gate or Norwood Junction, from where I pick up a Gatwick Train.

Can you confirm, that the current service will be equally good or even better after the Thameslink Programme is completed?


A Reply From Thameslink On The 17th February

On the 17th February, I got this reply.

Thanks for your email.


The Thameslink Programme is transforming north-south travel through London. This infrastructure and new trains investment programme will increase capacity on one of Europe’s busiest stretches of railway. For more information on the benefits of the programme, you can visit our website here, and an interactive map of our improvement sites here.


We’ve already delivered longer, 12-car trains between Brighton and Bedford, platform lengthening at several stations, track work and upgraded stations including West Hampstead, Farringdon and Blackfriars. The most complex part of the programme is now underway; this includes rebuilding London Bridge station, and laying new track and signalling equipment around the station to create a spacious and better connected transport hub.


We are linking parts of the East Coast Mainline to the Thameslink network, allowing passengers from Cambridge and Peterborough to travel to Blackfrairs and beyond, relieving congestion on the Underground.

There will also be a link with Crossrail at our hub station at Farringdon, giving access to Gatwick, Luton and Heathrow airports and St Pancras International.

Dalston Junction is managed by TfL, and so any enquries about an improved link from this station to Gatwick should be directed to

I hope this is helpful, thanks for getting in touch.

Kind regards,

Jen Pattison, Thameslink Programme


My E-Mail To Overground Info On The 17th February

So I sent off a longer e-mail to Overground Info.

If say you want to go between Dalston Junction and Purley, you will certainly have to change trains.

Currently, it takes between fifty and sixty minutes and you sometimes change at New Cross Gate and at other times the suggested change is Norwood Junction.

It’s alright for me and others who know how to use the various journey calculators or apps, but what about people like my late wife, who never ever owned a smart phone or even sent a text message.

The full simple rule for Dalston Junction to Purley, seems to be something like take a West Croydon train from Dalston Junction to Norwood Junction and then get the first train to Purley from there.

Different rules apply to different stations

Thameslink is going to bring major changes to how we go places along the East London Line and especially, if we venture into any Thameslink territory.

My simple example of Dalston Junction to Purley might get a lot more complicated, as some documents and web pages, say that Thameslink services between London Bridge and East Croydon will not stop. So how do passengers on the East London Line catch these trains to places like Purley, Gatwick and Brighton?

To get to Thameslink, those on the East London Line, will have to go to Whitechapel and get a train to Farringdon or St. Pancras

That will be a pain for anybody, whose local station is anywhere on the East London Line and very much a degradation of the current service.

Those living near Norwood Junction have already lodged a petition with the London Assembly.


My Reply From OvergroundInfo On The 19th February

On the 19th February, I got this reply.

Thank you for contacting London Overground.

I am sorry however I am unable to help with the issue you raise. They will be best addressed by Thameslink.

As a result I have passed your comments to them. I am sure that you will hear from them soon, however if you want to contact them their details are:


You certainly can’t complain about the promptness of the replies but I’m back to square one.

All I want to know, is how the millions of us in East London will get to Gatwick Airport, as conveniently as we do now!

February 19, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | 2 Comments

New Trains On Thameslink

I had breakfast at Kings Cross and then hopped across the city on Thameslink to Blackfriars to go for a walk through the Tate Modern. I came back to Farringdon, as because the East London Line is closed, a bus from Moorgate is the best way to get home.

These were pictures I took of new trains on Thameslink.

Note the following.

  • The red trains with the grey doors are Class 387/2 trains destined for the Gatwick Express later this month.
  • The interior shots were all taken in a Class 387/2 trains.
  • The white train with the sloping front and the light blue doors, is a new Class 700 train, which will run on Thameslink.

The pictures were taken at St. Pancras International, Blackfriars and Farringdon.

The new Class 387/2 trains had a definite feel of the Class 387/1 trains about them, except they had sizeable luggage racks and possibly more tables.

There are better and more luxurious airport trains in the world, including probably the Class 332  trains of Heathrow Express. But as a train to speed you to the Airport in thirty minutes or so, with plenty of space for you and your luggage, they probably pass the first test by a good margin.

They would be very good on other Airport routes in the UK.

  • Routes connecting Manchester Airport to Liverpool, Manchester, Crewe and Blackpool.
  • A possible Gatwick Express route from Reading to Ashford International, which I think could happen, if an IPEMU variant were to be developed.
  • To and from Airports like Cardiff, Stansted and Southend.

An IPEMU variant could be useful in developing spurs to airports like East Midlands, Luton and Glasgow, which would be built without wires from lines with full electrification. Bombardier has the technology, all they need is the orders.

Would this approach be an affordable way to create the much needed airport link at Glasgow Airport?

  • A single-track spur leading from the Inverclyde Line to the Airport to a single platform station would probably have enough capacity for a two or three trains per hour service.
  • No electrification would be needed, which would mean that there would be greater flexibility in the route of the line. It might even go in a single-track tunnel under taxiways.
  • There would be some modification to the signalling.
  • The trains would be bog standard Class 387/2 trains, except for the energy storage.
  • Two trains would probably give a two trains per hour service to the airport, as Glasgow Central to Paisley \st. James takes around twenty minutes.
  • The trains would just be more trains running between Glasgow and Paisley.
  • It would be simpler than a tram-train and require no special rules or modified stations.
  • I can’t think of any new regulatory issues, as it will be a train running on a railway.
  • There would need to be some staff training.

The overall system would be no more complicated than running the demonstration Class 379 IPEMU on the Harwich branch, which seemed to work so well.

How much would it cost?

The creation of the new line to Ebbw Vale Town station and the single platform station is reported to have cost less than twelve million pounds.

According to this article in Railway Technology, Porterbrook have paid £100million for twenty Class 387 trains, so two trains would cost ten million.

I also think that provision of the track and trains in something like the Glasgow Airport Rail Link, is the sort of project that a company would provide and then lease to the train operator.

No wonder, that Bombardier have won an award for the technology and Porterbrook bought some Class 387 trains on spec.

February 18, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Open Letter To The Chief Executive Of Gatwick Airport

I am a sixty-eight year old widower, who has recovered fairly well from a serious stroke and who lives alone, a couple of hundred metres from Dalston Junction station, which is just within my walking range with a small wheelie case.

My passion is travel on both trains and planes and I regularly fly somewhere exotic within the EH 111 area, take the trains back across Europe staying in good hotels in the best cities and then write about it in my blog called The Anonymous Widower.

Gatwick is my airport of choice, as getting to Heathrow is difficult from Dalston, as the Piccadilly Line is only for masochists and Paddington was built in the wrong place for the East End.

As a Freedom Pass holder, to get to Gatwick at the present time, I buy a return ticket at the machine at Dalston Junction from the Zone 6 boundary to Gatwick for under a tenner. I then usually go to the Airport with just a single change at the step-free station of New Cross Gate.

Thameslink when it arrives in 2018 will obviously be good news for Gatwick Airport, as it will put millions more people within an hour of the Airport.

That is unless you live along the East London Line. According to the Thameslink web site, there will be no connection between stations from Norwood Junction to New Cross Gate to Thameslink, so to get to the new sewrvice, passengers will have to take alternative arrangements. For me that will mean taking a bus to London Bridge.

On the other hand, I am looking forward to the expansion of your Airport station, as when it is complete, it will mean that getting to see my friends on the South Coast will be easier and your station will probably be my chosen interchange.

That is provided I can get to the Airport easily from the the East London Line.

Those planning Thameslink seem to have forgotten that East London exists.

February 18, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 5 Comments

An Ideal Oxted Line

This post was suggested by a comment by Ben H on my post called Untangling The Brighton Main Line. He said this about Oxted Line services.

Cease all services between the Oxted lines and Victoria (fast lines). All Oxted line services should go to London Bridge and (excluding diesels) become part of Thameslink.

Oxted services should operate single-line working between Norwood Junction and Sanderstead, with East Croydon’s easternmost platform island acting as the passing loop.

In one way, what he says is a no-no. If Oxted services were switched from Victoria to London Bridge, all the commuters would be up in arms and would challenge the change of London terminal in every way possible. Remember what happened when Network Rail proposed terminating all Sutton Loop services at Blackfriars. This is from Wikipedia in Political Developments under Thameslink Program.

Network Rail had planned to terminate Sutton Loop Thameslink trains at Blackfriars station, rather than have them continue through central London as at present. This upset many residents in South London and their local politicians, who saw it as a reduction in services rather than an improvement. In response to pressure, government has ordered Network Rail to reverse the decision.

So Oxted services will have to go into Victoria, until something so much better comes along, they forget about it. Bribery is a powerful tool.

The Current Oxted Line Service

So what services go down the two branches of the Oxted Line?

In the Off Peak the following services run.

  • Two trains per hour go between Victoria and East Grinstead
  • One train per hour between London Bridge and Uckfield.

There are extra trains in the peak, as this Departures display at Oxted station shows.

Trains From Oxted

Trains From Oxted

But compared to say the Chingford Branch into Liverpool Street, which has at least four trains per hour all day, it is a very sick joke of a service. And a lot of the Chingford Branch services are eight cars!

Four Trains Per Hour To East Grinstead And Uckfield?

I strongly believe that services need to be four trains an hour, as they are on the East London Line to the four Southern terminals of Clapham Junction, Crystal Palace, New Cross and West Croydon.

So the question has to be asked if East Grinstead and Uckfield should have a four trains per hour service?

My view is that they do, if you want to have a turn-up-and-go service!

Fifteen minutes may seem a long wait, but if you can get a coffee and a paper, it can be quite a short time.

So what frequencies do other places in Sussex have to and from London?

These are better than Uckfield and just about on a par with East Grinstead.

Thameslink Will Be A Game-Changer

The completion of the Thameslink Programme will bring an increase in capacity all the way from Brighton and Gatwick Airport to London and beyond.

This a map of Thameslink Programme.

ThamesLink Programme Map

ThamesLink Programme Map

Brighton and Gatwick Airport  after the upgrade will have frequencies of upwards of eight and twenty trains per hour respectively and a choice of destinations including.

  • Blackfriars
  • Cambridge
  • Farringdon for Crossrail
  • London Bridge
  • Luton
  • Peterborough
  • St. Pancras
  • Victoria

I also think that if passengers were prepared to change at Brighton, Gatwick or East Croydon, there could be substantial increases in faster services to London and beyond from places on the Coastway Lines like Bognor Regis, Eastbourne, Hastings and Worthing etc.

There is possibly an argument to build some south-facing bay platforms at Gatwick, so that additional services can be run from there down the two Coastways. Thus a passenger from Hastings to London say, would have in addition to the direct service perhaps two or three with a step-free change at Gatwick, where they could choose either a Victoria or a Thameslink service.

What happens in the future will depend on how passengers use the improved Thameslink and what Gatwick decides to do to gain more passengers.

It will be interesting to see how the pattern of commuters changes in the next few years.

Have Thameslink Got Their Act Together?

One thing that puzzles me, is that I can’t find anything on the Internet, which talks about speeded up services on Thameslink after improvement. So am I right to assume that they’re spending all this money to provide more trains with larger capacity to more destinations in the same time as now?

There is no journey time calculator on the Thameslink Programme web site like there is on the Crossrail web site.

Obviously, it isn’t provided as the truth may be at odds with how wonderful the PR guys believe Thameslink is going to be.

Thameslink To Uckfield and East Grinstead

It might seem logical to run Thameslink trains down the Oxted Line to Uckfield and East Grinstead.

In fact, it is planned to run an eight-car service between West Hampstead Thameslink and East Grinstead in the Peak.

So why not run two four-car Class 700 trains that join and split at Oxted?

  • The trains only come in fixed formations of eight and twelve cars.
  • A sixteen-car train would probably be too long for the tunnels and the trains don’t have the end gangways needed for tunnels.
  • The Uckfield Branch is not electrified.
  • It would probably not be a good decision to build four-car trains for one branch of Thameslink.

Given the chequered history of the birth of Thameslink and the design of the trains, I think that four-car trains that could run in pairs, were discarded from the design of the railway. As it’s also common for trains to be split and joined all over southern England, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some shorter trains in the future on Thameslink.

Services Not Serving Gatwick Airport At East Croydon Station

If consolidation of services can take place at Brighton and Gatwick Airport, would it be possible to do the same at East Croydon station. These are the services south from East Croydon, that don’t terminate at Three Bridges and Brighton or pass through Gatwick Airport.

  • 2 trains per hour from Victoria to Caterham
  • 2 trains per hour from London Bridge to Caterham
  • 2 trains per hour from London Bridge to Tattenham Corner, which when the Thameslink Programme is complete will start from Cambridge.
  • 2 trains per our from Victoria to East Grinstead
  • 1 train per hour from London Bridge to Uckfield
  • 1 train per hour from Victoria to Tonbridge via Redhill
  • 1 train per hour from Victoria to Reigate via Redhill

To summarise there are eleven trains an hour of which six go to Victoria and five to London Bridge. I assume it’s all for historic reasons and nothing to do with any serious railway planning.

Thankfully, the Tattenham Corner services are being taken out of the mix and will become part of Thameslink.

Another Gatwick Express Route

An interesting point is that Reigate and Tonbridge are both on the East West Route that connects Reading to Ashford International, via Guildford, Reigate, Redhill, Gatwick Airport and Tonbridge.

I believe that this could be a second Gatwick Express route to link the Airport to Wales and the West, and Continental rail services. So a four trains per hour service from Reading to Ashford international via Gatwick could benefit a lot more than those going to and from the Airport.

Platforms 5 And 6 At East Croydon Station

Intriguingly, all of these non-Gatwick services from London,  seem to go south from Platform 6 at East Croydon station and go North from Platform 5.

There are also some other services like London Bridge to Horsham, that also use these platforms.

So do the savvy passengers coming from the South wanting to go to London Bridge, but from a station served by Victoria , change at East Croydon for the alternative destination?

Interestingly, if you use the National Rail’s Journey Planner to look at services from Victoria to Uckfield or London Bridge to East Grinstead, it sends you via a change at East Croydon.

So I would suspect that regular travellers know how to use East Croydon as an optimal interchange to get to their correct destination.

These pictures show  Platform 5 and 6 at East Croydon station.

It is a well-equipped island platform, with coffee and food stalls, a waiting room, an information booth and toilets. The bridge at the Northern end and the ramp at the Southern end give step-free access to the two entrances and the other platforms.

Compared to some draughty, unwelcoming and scruffy places, where I’ve changed trains, it is one of the best single-platform interchanges.

The only thing that the island platform lacks is an Oyster reader, so that those like me, who need to touch-out and touch-in again, as they are changing from a Zone 6 ticket to contactless for Gatwick Airport, don’t have to walk up and through the barrier. I wrote about this in Contactless Between East Croydon And Gatwick Airport, which showed that at present contactless cards may be cheaper!

Increasing Capacity on the Oxted Line Is Not That Simple

Various factors come into play when providing extra capacity on the Oxted Line and I’ll discuss them in the next few sections.

Extra Services Through Platforms 5 And 6 At East Croydon

I’ve looked at an hour in the rush hour and a dozen trains have travelled South through platforms 5 and 6, with some gaps between trains being as low as two or three minutes.

Many platforms in London handle upwards of sixteen to twenty trains an hour. Londoners and visitors, also know how to use platforms like these as interchanges, by getting off one train and then getting another one a few minutes later.

When Thameslink is fully upgraded, passengers from Peterborough, Cambridge and Bedford, will change to their ultimate southern Thameslink destination at stations like St.Pancras Thameslink, Farringdon, City Thameslink, Blackfriars and London Bridge.

So on a brief analysis, it would appear that Platforms 5 and 6 at East Croydon are not the limiting factor, provided that signalling, track, trains and staff are all working as they should. The platforms also offer valuable interchange opportunities to set up the journey you need.

It gives a simple rule for getting to any of the stations on the various inner branch lines to Caterham, Uckfield, East Grinstead and others not served by Thameslink.

You get any train on either of these branches to East Croydon and then wait on Platform 5/6 for the next train to your ultimate destination.

Thameslink to Tattenham Corner And Horsham

When I went to Gatwick Airport to write about the contactless ticketing, I arrived on Platform 5 at East Croydon on a Horsham train, that had started from London Bridge, that I’d caught at New Cross Gate. These services run twice every hour, as does a service from London Bridge to Tattenham Corner.

When Thameslink is completed, two services to Horsham and two to Tattenham Corner will become all day twelve-car services as follows.

  • Peterborough to Horsham. – Currently this service stops at New Cross Gate and Norwood Junction between London Bridge and East Croydon.
  • Cambridge to Tattenham Corner – Currently some services stop at Norwood Junction between London Bridge and East Croydon.

Incidentally, I do wonder if the person, who devised the Thameslink schedule was a horse racing enthusiast. A twelve car train from Cambridge to Tattenham Corner would be ideal for getting between the two important racing centres of Newmarket and Epsom.

Will these four services continue to use Platforms 5/6 at East Croydon?

I think they should as it would give all of those places like East Grinstead, Purley, Uckfield and all the other stations currently connected to Platform 5/6, a same-platform interchange to a four trains per hour Thameslink service to the East Coast Main Line.

If passengers want the other northern branch to Luton and Bedfird, they would change in the core.

Will these Thameslink services still continue to stop between East Croydon and London Bridge?

Judging by some of the chatter on the Internet, it looks like there’s a good chance they won’t!

Extra Northbound Destinations From Platform 5 And 6 At East Croydon

East Croydon station frustrates me, in that to get there from my closest station at Dalston Junction is not simple.

  • Change at New Cross Gate or Norwood Junction stations.
  • Travel to West Croydon station and get the Tramlink.

So could a third northbound destination be added to platform 5 and 6 at East Croydon?

I believe that the answer is yes, especially as there is spare capacity on the East London Line to the North of Surrey Quays station. Although, I doubt that Southern’s trains could run north of that station.

  • Personally, I would find a Dalston Junction service to East Croydon, much more useful than the current one to West Croydon.
  • Crystal Palace possibly has the space.
  • It would be very handy, if it were possible to have a terminal platform somewhere in the Shoreditch High Street/Whitechapel area.
  • Transport for London are also thinking about a station in the Penge area, where the East London Line and the Chatham Main Line cross.

What is done in the end will depend on the travel statistics. I suspect that the new Penge station and swapping the West Croydon service to East Croydon are the most likely options.

Gatwick Express To Old Oak Common And Milton Keynes

Platform 5/6 At East Croydon is the Southern terminus of a service to Milton Keynes that uses the West London Line.

I believe that this service could be upgraded to be part of Gatwick Express.

  • It would use the same trains as the other Gatwick Expresses.
  • Hopefully, it could run more than once an hour.
  • It would create a simple link from Gatwick Airport to the Midlands and the North.
  • It would serve the new Old Oak Common station for HS2, the West Coast Main Line and the North London Line.
  • It would terminate at Milton Keynes on the East West Rail Link.

I certainly think, that this is a third route for Gatwick Express.

The Tattenham Corner Paths Won’t Always Be Released

After Thameslink is fully open, two of the services from Tattenham Corner to London Bridge, will become Thameslink services to Cambridge.

But as some Caterham and Tattenham Corner services to Victoria join and split at Purley, this might not mean that two extra paths an hour are available to London Bridge.

I have one question about this Thameslink Tatterham Corner to Cambridge service. Which platforms will it use at

Can South Croydon Help Sort Things Out?

South Croydon station could be a key to providing better services through East Croydon. Look at this Google Map of the station and the junction to the South.

South Croydon Station And Junction

South Croydon Station And Junction


  • The station currently has five platforms, but I don’t think it could be called a modern station in terms of facilities.
  • The junction south of the station, is where the Oxted Line for Uckfield and East Grinstead leaves the Brighton Main Line.
  • The Southern service from Milton Keynes to East Croydon, used to terminate at South Croydon.

Many of the services that use Plstforms 5 and 6 at East Croydon pass through South Croydon and I feel that a properly remodelled station could be an alternative interchange.

I think that South Croydon could also be an alternative terminus for East London Line services that currently go to West Croydon.

Norwood Junction Station

I also find Norwood Junction station frustrating and judging by the calls for some Thameslink services to call at the station, I suspect others do too.

If I’m going south on the East London Line, I can change to various services to places like East Croydon, Horsham and Tattenham Corner, by just walking across the island platform 5/4.

But going north, you have to dive into a subway to get to platform 1, rather than using the other side of the island platform 2/3.

There will be a lot of Thameslink services passing through the station and if some stopped, it would be possible to have simple cross-platform access between the East London Line and Thameslink.

A New Penge Station

Transport for London have proposed a Penge Interchange station in the Transport Infrastructure Plan for 2050, If it were to be built it would link the East London Line and the \Chatham Main Line, where they crossed just North of Penge West station. I wrote about the station in An Exploration At Penge.

This station could be an interchange between the following services.

  • Chatham Main Line
  • East London Line
  • London Bridge to East Croydon Services
  • Thameslink

As the site is quite large, there is also space for some terminal platforms facing South.


I have no idea what will happen, but it would seem to be possible to increase the services on the Oxted Line towards the ultimate aim of one every fifteen minutes to both termini.

The simplest solution would see the Oxted Line relegated to a branch line, where some services terminated at a rebuilt and rejuvenated  South Croydon station with cross-platform access to Victoria, London Bridge and Thameslink services.

But I do doubt that four services an hour on both branches can be accommodated in the main London termini.

I do think though that there is so much flexibility, that what happens in the end will be a pleasant surprise. And probably totally acceptable to everybody except Disgusted in Tunbridge Wells!





February 13, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment