The Anonymous Widower

Thoughts On Faster Trains On Thameslink

The Class 700 trains used by Thameslink only have an operating speed of 100 mph.

I do wonder, if that is a fast enough operating speed for all Thameslink routes.

Sharing The Midland Main Line With 125 mph Trains

A couple of years ago, I travelled back into St. Pancras with a group of East Midlands drivers in a Class 222 train.

They told me several things about the route including that the bridge at the South of Leicester station would be difficult to electrify, as it was low and the track couldn’t be lowered as one of Leicester’s main sewers was under the tracks at the bridge. Perhaps, this is one place, where discontinuous electrification could be used on the Midland Main Line.

They also told me, that sometimes the Thameslink trains were a nuisance, as because of their 100 mph operating speed, the 125 mph Class 222 trains had to slow to 100 mph.

Upgrading Of The Midland Main Line South Of Bedford

The electrification of the Midland Main Line South of Bedford is being updated, so that it is suitable for 125 mph running.

An Analysis Of Services On The Midland Main Line South Of Bedford

The current Class 222 trains are capable of 125 mph and will be replaced by Class 810 trains capable of the same speed on both diesel and electricity.

Currently, a Class 222 train is capable of doing the following on a typical non-stop run between St. Pancras and Leicester.

  • Covering the 30 miles between St. Albans and Bedford in 17 minutes at an average speed of 106 mph.
  • Covering the 50.3 miles between Bedford and Leicester in 30 minutes at an average speed of 100.6 mph.
  • Maintaining 125 mph for long stretches of the route, once the trains is North of London commuter traffic at St. Albans

I can estimate the timings on the 79.2 miles between Leicester and St. Albans, by assuming the train runs at a constant speed.

  • 100 mph – 47.5 minutes
  • 110 mph – 43.2 minutes
  • 125 mph – 38 minutes
  • 140 mph – 34 minutes

Note.

  1. I have done the calculation for 140 mph, as that is the maximum operating speed of the Class 810 train with full in-cab digital signalling.
  2. Trains have been running at 125 mph for a couple of decades on the Midland Main Line.
  3. To get a St. Pancras and Leicester time add another 14 minutes, which is the current time between St. Pancras and St. Albans of a Class 222 train.
  4. Some Off Peak trains are timed at 62-63 minutes between St. Pancras and Leicester.
  5. A time of under an hour between St. Pancras and Leicester might be possible and the Marketing Department would like it.
  6. As Thameslink trains between Bedford and St. Albans stop regularly, they are on the slow lines of the four-track railway, to the North of St. Albans.
  7. South of St. Albans, Thameslink trains often run on the fast lines.

I can expect that East Midlands Railway will want to be running their new Class 810 trains as far as far South as they can at 125 mph, to speed up their services. When the signalling allows it, they’ll want to run at 140 mph.

So they won’t want to see Thameslink’s slow trains on the fast lines.

  • But if you look at the Thameslink trains that do run on the fast lines between St. Albans and St. Pancras, they appear to be the four trains per hour (tph) that run to and from Bedford.
  • Of these trains, two tph terminate at Brighton and two tph terminate at Gatwick Airport.
  • The average speed of a Class 222 train between St. Albans and St. Pancras assuming 14 minutes for the 19.7 miles is 84.4 mph.

So it looks to me that a 100 mph Thameslink train could be able to get away without slowing the East Midland Railway expresses.

But then that is not surprising, as for many years, the Class 222 trains worked happily with 100 mph Class 319 trains.

Is There Scope For Extra And Faster Services Into St. Pancras?

I have only done a simple calculation, but I do wonder if there is scope for the following.

  • Increasing the frequency of trains for both Thameslink and East Midlands Railway.
  • Saving a few minutes on East Midlands Railway services.

Consider.

  • The new Class 810 electric trains will probably have better acceleration and deceleration than the current Class 222 diesel trains, when working using electric power.
  • East Midlands Railway is introducing Class 360 trains that were built as 100 mph trains by Siemens, who are now upgrading them to 110 mph trains.
  • Can Siemens do the same for the Class 700 trains and create a sub-fleet capable of 110 mph running?
  • All trains will be running under full in-cab digital signalling with a large degree of automatic train control.

I feel that if the Class 700 trains had the extra speed, they would make the planning of services South of St. Albans easier and allow the Class 810 trains to both run faster and provide more services.

Sharing The East Coast Main Line With 125 mph Trains

The following Thameslink services run up the East Coast Main Line past Stevenage.

  • Cambridge And Brighton – Two tph – Stops at Royston, Ashwell and Morden (1 tph), Baldock, Letchworth Garden City, Hitchin, Stevenage, Finsbury Park, London St Pancras International, Farringdon, City Thameslink, London Blackfriars, London Bridge, East Croydon, Gatwick Airport, Three Bridges, Balcombe, Haywards Heath and Burgess Hill
  • Cambridge and Kings Cross – Two tph – Stops at Foxton, Shepreth, Meldreth, Royston, Ashwell and Morden, Baldock, Letchworth Garden City, Hitchin, Stevenage, Knebworth, Welwyn North, Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield, Potters Bar and Finsbury Park
  • Peterborough and Horsham – Two tph – Stops at Huntingdon, St Neots, Sandy, Biggleswade, Arlesey, Hitchin, Stevenage, Finsbury Park, London St Pancras International, Farringdon, City Thameslink, London Blackfriars, London Bridge, East Croydon, Coulsdon South, Merstham, Redhill, Horley, Gatwick Airport, Three Bridges, Crawley, Ifield, Faygate (limited) and Littlehaven

Note.

  1. Services are generally run by Class 700 trains, although lately the Kings Cross service seems to use Class 387 trains, which have a maximum speed of 110 mph and a more comfortable interior with tables.
  2. It is intended that the Cambridge and Kings Cross service will be extended to Maidstone East by 2021.

In addition there are two Cambridge Express and Fen Line services.

  • Kings Cross and Ely – One tph – Stops at Cambridge and Cambridge North.
  • Kings Cross and King’s Lynn – One tph – Stops at Cambridge, Cambridge North, Waterbeach, Ely, Littleport, Downham Market and Watlington

Note.

  1. These services are generally run by Class 387 trains.
  2. Cambridge and King’s Cross is timetabled at around fifty minutes.

Adding all of this together means that slower services on the East Coast Main Line are comprised of the following in both directions.

  • Three tph – 110 mph – Class 387 trains
  • Four tph – 100 mph – Class 700 trains

These seven trains will have to be fitted in with the 125 mph trains running services on the East Coast Main Line, for LNER, Grand Central, Hull Trains and East Coast Trains.

There are also the following problems.

  • All trains must navigate the double-track section of the East Coast Main Line over the Digswell Viaduct and through Welwyn North station.
  • The King’s Cross and Cambridge service stops in Welwyn North station.
  • Full in-cab digital signalling is being installed on the East Coast Main Line, which could increase the speed of the expresses through the double-track section.

Could the introduction of the Class 387 trains on the Cambridge and King’s Cross service have been made, as it easier to fit in all the services if this one is run by a 110 mph train?

However, the full in-cab digital signalling with a degree of automatic train control could be the solution to this bottleneck on the East Coast Main Line.

  • Trains could be controlled automatically and with great precision between perhaps Hatfield and Stevenage.
  • Some expresses might be slowed to create gaps for the Cambridge and Peterborough services.
  • The Hertford Loop Line is also getting full in-cab digital signalling, so will some services be sent that way?

In Call For ETCS On King’s Lynn Route, I talked about a proposal to improve services on the Fen Line. This was my first three paragraphs.

The title of this post, is the same as that on an article in Edition 849 of Rail Magazine.

The article is based on this document on the Fen Line Users Aoociation web site, which is entitled Joint Response To Draft East Coast Main Line Route Study.

In addition to ETCS, which could improve capacity on the East Coast Main Line, they would also like to see journey time reductions using trains capable of running at 125 mph or faster on the King’s Lynn to Kings Cross route.

My scheduling experience tells me that a better solution will be found, if all resources are similar.

Hence the proposal to run 125 mph trains between King’s Cross and King’s Lynn and probably Ely as well, could be a very good and logical idea.

If the Class 700 trains were increased in speed to 110 mph, the trains through the double-track section of the East Coast Main Line would be.

  • One tph – 110 mph – Class 387 trains
  • Four tph – 110 mph – Class 700 trains
  • Two tph – 125 mph – New trains

Note.

  1. This would probably be an easier mix of trains to digest with the high speed services, through the double-track section.
  2. I like the idea of extending the Ely service to Norwich to give Thetford, Attleborough and Wymondham an improved service to London, Cambridge and Norwich.

The new trains would probably be a version of Hitachi’s Regional Battery Train.

  • It would need to be capable of 125 mph on the East Coast Main Line.
  • If the Ely service were to be extended to Norwich, this section would be on battery power.

There are certainly a lot of possibilities.

But as with on the Midland Main Line, it looks like for efficient operation, the operating speed of the Class 700 trains on the route needs to be increased to at least 110 mph.

Could Faster Class 700 trains Improve Services To Brighton?

These are the Thameslink services that serve Bedford, Cambridge and Peterborough, that I believe could be run more efficiently with trains capable of at running at speeds of at least 110 mph.

  • Bedford and Brighton – Two tph
  • Bedford and Gatwick Airport – Two tph
  • Cambridge and Brighton – Two tph
  • Cambridge and Maidstone East – Two tph
  • Peterborough and Horsham – Two tph

Note.

  1. I have assumed that the Cambridge and King’s Cross service has been extended to Maidstone East as planned.
  2. Eight tph serve Gatwick Airport.
  3. Four tph serve Brighton.

The Gatwick Express services have a frequency of two tph between London Victoria and Brighton calling at Gatwick Airport is already run by 110 mph Class 387 trains.

It would appear that if the Bedford, Cambridge and Peterborough were run by uprated 110 mph Class 700 trains, then this would mean that more 110 mph trains would be running to Gatwick and Brighton and this must surely improve the service to the South Coast.

But it’s not quite as simple as that, as the Cambridge and Maidstone East services will be run by eight-car trains and all the other services by twelve-car trains.

Conclusion

There would appear to be advantages in uprating some or possibly all of the Class 700 trains, so that they can run at 110 mph, as it will increase capacity on the Brighton Main Line, East Coast Main Line and Midland Main Line.

 

 

April 6, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gatwick Rail Service Could Link Far Reaches Of The South East

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Surrey Live.

Despite being reported on Surrey Live and the fact that Gatwick is in Sussex, the plan has been proposed by Kent County Council’s Rail Project Manager.

The plan would extend the existing Great Western railway line – which runs from Reading to Gatwick via Redhill – to mid and east Kent.

The article suggests the service could go between Reading and Canterbury West stations.

This table sums up the connectivity.

I have a few thoughts.

The Terminal Stations

The suitability of the two proposed terminals can be summed up.

  • Reading has been designed as a terminal station, with five bay platforms, three of which can be used by Gatwick services.
  • Canterbury West has not been designed as a terminal station and has no bay platforms.

Perhaps Ashford International station would be a better Eastern terminal?

  • It has Eurostar services.
  • Trains can terminate in Platform 1 and go to Tonbridge.
  • It has lots of car parking.

Dover Priority and Ramsgate could also be possibilities as they have terminal platforms.

Connecting At Gatwick Airport

It looks like a combined service might get complicated in the Redhill/Gatwick area.

  • Trains between Reading and Gatwick go via Redhill station, where they reverse.
  • There is no direct route between Tonbridge and Gatwick, so trains will probably have to reverse at Redhill, to go between Tonbridge and Gatwick.

Would a service between Reading and Ashford, that reversed twice at Redhill and once at Gatwick, be rather tricky to operate? Or even unpopular with passengers?

This Google Map shows Redhill station and the lines leading South from the station.

Note.

  • Redhill station at the top of the map.
  • The Brighton Main Line running North-South in the middle of the map.
  • The North Downs Line to Guildford and Reading curving West from the station.
  • The Redhill and Tonbridge Line to Tonbridge and Ashford leaving the map in the South-East corner.

I suspect that adding extra tracks in a very crowded area will be very difficult.

What Do The Timings Show?

A quick calculation, which is based on current timings, can give a journey time for between Ashford and Gatwick Airport.

  • Ashford and Tonbridge – Southeastern timing – 38 minutes
  • Tonbridge and Redhill – Southern timing – 35 minutes
  • Reverse at Redhill – GWR timing – 4 minutes
  • Redhill and Gatwick – GWR timing – 8 minutes

This gives a total of eighty-five minutes.

  • Google says that you can drive it in sixty-three minutes.
  • If you took the train today, between Ashford International and Gatwick Airport stations, the fastest rail journey is around 110 minutes with a change at St. Pancras International.

It does look though that a faster train between Kent and Gatwick Airport could be competitive, as going via London certainly isn’t!

Could Simplification And Automation Provide A Solution?

Consider.

  • The Ashford International and Tonbridge timing, that I have used includes five stops.
  • The Tonbridge and Redhill timing, that I have used includes five stops.
  • How much time would be saved by only stopping at Tonbridge between Ashford International and Gatwick?
  • Could automation handle a fast reverse at Redhill, where passengers couldn’t board or leave the train?
  • Would a driver in each cab, allow the reverses to be done faster?

Trains going between Reading and Ashford International, would call at the following stations between Guildford and Tonbridge.

  • Dorking Deepdene
  • Reigate
  • Redhill
  • Gatwick Airport
  • Redhill – A quick Touch-And-Go.
  • Tonbridge
  • Paddock Wood

If two minutes a stop could be saved at each of the nine omitted stops and at each reverse, this would save twenty minutes East of Gatwick, which would give the following timings.

  • Gatwick and Tonbridge – 27 minutes
  • Gatwick and Ashford International – 65 minutes

Timings would be compatible with driving.

West of Gatwick, the service would be as the current GWR service.

  • After arriving at Gatwick from Ashford, the train would reverse.
  • En route it would reverse at Redhill, to continue to Reading.

Passengers wanting to go between say Tonbridge and Redhill, would use this reverse at Redhill to join and leave the train.

It would be an unusual way to operate a train service, but I feel it could be made to work, especially with the right automation and/or a second driver.

Trains For The Service

The service can be split into various legs between Ashford and Reading.

  • Ashford and Tonbridge – Electrified – 26.5 miles – 38 minutes
  • Tonbridge and Redhill – Electrified – 20 miles – 35 minutes
  • Redhill and Gatwick – Electrified – 7 miles – 8 minutes
  • Gatwick and Redhill – Electrified – 7 miles – 8 minutes
  • Redhill and Reigate – Electrified – 2 miles – 4 minutes
  • Reigate and Shalford Junction – Not Electrified – 17 miles – 20 minutes
  • Shalford Junction and North Camp – Electrified – 9 miles – 11 minutes
  • North Camp and Wokingham – Not Electrified – 11 miles – 14 minutes
  • Wokingham and Reading – Electrified – 7 miles and 9 minutes

Note.

  1. Ashford, Tonbridge, Redhill, Gatwick, Guildford, Wokingham and Reading are all fully-electrified main line stations.
  2. Most of the route and the two ends are electrified.
  3. All electrification is 750 VDC third rail.
  4. All sections without electrification are less than twenty miles.

This route would surely be ideal for a battery electric train.

As both the Heathrow and Gatwick Express services are run using Class 387 trains and the Stansted Express has used Class 379 trains for the last few years, similar trains to these might be an ideal choice, if they could be fitted with battery power and the ability to use 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

The facts seem to be on the side of this service.

  • There are spare Class 387 trains and some more will be released by c2c in the next few years.
  • Greater Anglia will be replacing their Class 379 trains with new Class 745 trains.
  • A Class 379 train was used to test the concept of battery electric trains.
  • Both class of trains could be fitted with third-rail gear.

Either of these trains could be used for the service.

As they are 100 or 110 mph trains with good acceleration, they might even save a few minutes on the journey.

Infrastructure Changes

I suspect they could be minimal, once it was worked out how to handle the three reverses in the Gatwick and Redhill area.

Conclusion

I think it would be a feasible plan to run an Ashford and Reading service via Gatwick.

I would also decarbonise the route at the same time, as it must be one of the easiest routes in the country to run using battery electric trains.

  • There is electrification at both ends and in the middle.
  • The longest stretch of track without electrification is just seventeen miles.
  • All charging could be done using existing electrification.
  • There are platforms at both ends, where trains can get a full charge.
  • There are trains available, that are suitable for conversion to battery trains for the route.
  • No extra infrastructure would be needed.
  • Battery electric trains would allow extension of the route to Oxford in the West.

How many extra passengers would be persuaded to take the train to Gatwick, by the novelty of a battery electric Aurport Express?

Marketing men and women would love the last point!

 

 

September 19, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Light At The End Of The Tunnel’ As Gatwick Express Trains Trial Due To Start

The title of this post, is the same as that fn this article on Rail Technology Magazine.

There has been pressure for Gatwick Express trains to stop at Preston Park station.

The trial will now start this month, with two stops in the Peak hours at 0714 and 1744.

I think that the trial sets an interesting precedent.

  • Modern trains like the Class 387 trains used on the Gatwick Express can execute a station stop much faster than earlier trains.
  • This could mean,  that there is a high chance that operationally, the trial will be a success.
  • I can’t imagine a train company agreeing to the trial, if the trains didn’t have the performance to do the extra station stop.

So could ia successful trial at Preston Park station, mean that other groups, start pressing for a stop at their local station?

  • The trains would need to be modern ones.
  • The trains would need to able to stop at the station.
  • The signalling must allow it.

I can also see train companies adding extra station stops to take advantage of changing passenger numbers.

February 1, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

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!

Note.

  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.

Note.

  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.

Conclusion

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

 

March 11, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

An Irresistible Force Attempts To Shift An Immoveable Object

This article in The Guardian is entitled Govia Thameslink takes Aslef union to court over longer trains dispute and the title gives a good précis of the story.

Could this be why new Cl;ass 700 trains have not entered service on time, as I reported in Where Are The Class 700 Train?

After all, some of them will be twelve-cars too!

April 19, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | 3 Comments

Gatwick Express Embrace Contactless Ticketing

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

GatwickExpress

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 | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

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 | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is A Rail War Starting To London’s Airports?

The following sections sum up the rail services to the various London airports.

London City Airport

London City Airport may only be small, but some people use it a lot. I never have, but that’s not for dint of trying. It’s just that if I include all the factors, by which I choose a flight, it hasn’t come out top yet!

London City Airport is only on the Docklands Light Railway, but when Crossrail is open and Bank station has been fully upgraded in 2021, it will be a relatively easy airport through which to travel.

Crossrail passes very close to the Airport and passive provision has been made for a Silvertown station that could be connected to the Airport. At present, the Docklands Light Railway provides enough capacity.

Eurostar

Eurostar is the cuckoo in the nest and should be included, as it will offer rail services to a couple of European Airports.

By the early 2020s, there will be new direct or single-change services to France, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland.

I also suspect that one of the first extensions of Crossrail will serve Ebbsfleet International station, so it will give a lot more passengers easy access to European services.

Gatwick Airport

This year the rail links to Gatwick Airport are getting a major upgrade.

And increasingly, as the next few years roll on, various developments will or could happen.

  • Thameslink and particularly London Bridge station will have greater capacity.
  • Thameslink will add many direct trains to new destinations like Cambridge, Stevenage and Peterborough.
  • Thameslink and other developments, will mean that nearly all stations East of the Midland Main Line, will have access to Gatwick Airport through with only a single change at a convenient interchange like Bedford, Cambridge, Farringdon, Finsbury Park, Luton, Peterborough or Stevenage.
  • The dreadful links to the Thameslink platforms at St. Pancras, from some other lines at Kings Cross and St. Pancras will be improved.
  • An IPEMU variant of the Class 387 Gatwick Express could easily reach Reading on an hourly-basis, to give single-change access between Gatwick Airport and Wales and the West.
  • The East Coastway and West Coastway routes could be extended to Ashford and Bournemouth respectively, improved with more and faster trains and a better interchange to Gatwick services at Brighton.

But I believe that what would transform train services to Gatwick, is when the whole of the area from Weymouth and Reading in the west to Ramsgate in the East becomes part of London’s Oyster and contactless bank card ticketing area.

Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport will have to wait until December 2019 before it gets any more capacity to Central London, in the shape of Crossrail.

Until then, it will have to make do with the current services.

  • The very crowded and slow Piccadilly Line.
  • The infrequent Heathrow Connect.
  • The overpriced and much unloved Heathrow Express.

But there are serious problems.

  • The rail lines into the airport are designed to maximise revenue for Heathrow, rather than the convenience of passengers.
  • Crossrail hasn’t been designed to serve Terminal 5 directly. How daft is that?
  • Links to the West are atrocious and rely on going into London and out again. Gatwick has better links to Reading!
  • As I wrote in Heathrow Express And Crossrail, Heathrow and TfL are still arguing about access for Crossrail into Heathrow.
  • Boris has indicated that Freedom Passes will be allowed on Crossrail to Heathrow.
  • Heathrow Express will be killed by Crossrail, if Heathrow allows it to serve the airport.
  • Gatwick, Luton and Stansted Airports will become part of London’s Oyster and contactless bank card ticketing area. Will Heathrow?
  • Improved rail links and services at Gatwick, Luton and Stansted Airports will make these airports more attractive for a lot of passengers than Heathrow.

On top of all this, Heathrow needs Crossrail to give the Airport connectivity to large parts of the South East, the West Coast Main Line and HS2.

I think all candidates for the next London Mayor, will be playing the anti-Heathrow card frequently and with immense relish.

In the end Heathrow will have to accept the following.

  • The closure of Heathrow Express.
  • Full access of Crossrail directly to all terminals, at an agreed price  with TfL.
  • Oyster and contactless bank card ticketing.
  • A rail link from the West, under probably Network Rail, Great Western and TfL control.

If they don’t like it, then I’m sure Gatwick, Luton and Stansted Airports will take up the slack.

Luton Airport

Luton Airport is in some ways the joker in the pack, but also it has plans to expand, as is reported in this article in the Daily Mail, entitled Luton Airport reveals plans for direct rail line that would cut train journey from central London to just 20 minutes.

In Will Bombardier Develop The Ultimate Airport Train, I discussed Luton Airport in detail and came to the conclusion that if Bombardier Class 387/2 trains as used on the Gatwick Express were fitted with an IPEMU capability, they could easily use terminal platforms without electrification in a tunnel under the Airport.

Whether they will or not, I don’t know, but there is scope for very affordable solutions to providing a fast rail link into Central London.

Luton Airport is closer than Gatwick is to Central London, so I would expect that Oyster and contactless bank card ticketing, would not be a problem.

Southend Airport

Southend Airport is the newest of London’s airports. I know it well from my days as a pilot and occasionally use it on trips to the Netherlands on easyJet.

Operationally for airlines, Southend Airport’s location, close to the Essex Coast is ideal, as it is away from other airports and pilots can get planes in to and out of the airport without too much delay. Also, flights coming in from the East have an uncluttered approach, over the sea and marshland. I once came in to the airport on a flight from  Schipol and was on the train from Southend Airport station to Central London, within an hour of boarding the flight in The Netherlands.

I can understand why the Roskill Commission recommended that London’s new airport should be built on Maplin Sands.

This airline-friendly location could drive growth at the airport, especially if the airport keeps its reputation for fast passenger handling.

The Airport talks about handling two million passengers by 2020 and I can’t feel that this is unreasonable.

What could help passenger growth is that there is plenty of scope for making rail trips to Southend Airport easier, especially for Southend’s typical traveller with just hand-baggage and perhaps a wheeled case.

At present Southend Airport and Southend Victoria have three services to and from Liverpool Street per hour, which stop at all stations between Shenfield and Southend Victoria and then just Stratford and Liverpool Street. This is a recent upgrade, as Wikipedia says one train stops at all stations.

Journey times are as follows.

  • Liverpool Street – 64 minutes – Just four minutes longer than Stansted.
  • Stratford – 57 minutes
  • Shenfield – 27 minutes

Capacity isn’t a problem as all stations can take eight-car trains.

The airport station is very close to the terminal and is fully step-free. Incoming passengers from the London direction, don’t even have to cross the railway to get to the terminal.

Crossrail and the new East Anglia franchise will certainly have effects, some of which have already happened.

  • Between Shenfield and London there will be at least eight high-capacity Crossrail trains per hour.
  • Will Crossrail run on a twenty-four hour basis?
  • Shenfield will have Oyster and contactless card ticketing. Will this go all the way to Southend Victoria?
  • Shenfield will be Freedom Pass territory.
  • Will Norwich-in-Ninety improvements mean that times between Shenfield and London are reduced?
  • Will more of the longer distance services to East Anglia, stop at Shenfield for interchange with Crossrail?

I suspect that the answer to the two last questions, will be yes. This improved connectivity and reduced journey time, would mean that a lot of places in East London, Essex and East Suffolk, would be just one change at Shenfield away from Southend Airport.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see some upmarket trains between Southend Victoria and Liverpool Street, with a four trains per hour frequency. Partly, this will be driven by the airport, but also by the competition for passengers between the two companies running services to Southend.

Stansted Airport

Stansted Airport is currently served by the adequate but slow Stansted Express.

Stansted Airport is owned and operated by the ambitious Manchester Airports Group and I can’t see them sitting idly by, whilst Gatwick and Luton expand into their market. After all, they have resources that other airports in the South East lack; space and spare capacity on the current runway.

The rail links need improvement and these will or could happen in the next few years.

  • The West Anglia Main Line will be developed and given four tracks between at least Broxbourne and Lea Bridge stations, with higher speed limits.
  • There will be a higher frequency for Stansted Express trains into Liverpool Street.
  • Stansted Express will serve Stratford several times an hour.
  • Stansted Airport station will gain a second tunnel and platform.
  • There will be an improved service between Stansted and Cambridge.
  • Stansted Airport will become part of London’s Oyster and contactless bank card ticketing area.

The service between Cambridge and Stansted is a truly inadequate, single train per hour to and from Birmingham via Peterborough and Leicester.

I believe that when the new East Anglian franchise is awarded, the route north from Stansted will see the greatest improvement. Note that Thameslink will have four trains per hour to Cambridge going through London of which two will go all the way to Gatwick Airport and Brighton.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see two half-hourly services added to the airport.

  • Stansted Airport to Peterborough via Cambridge, Cambridge North and Ely.
  • Stansted Airport to Norwich via Cambridge, Cambridge North and Ely.

Even if the current Birmingham service was cut back, this would still give four trains per hour between Stansted Airport and one of its most important catchment areas.

Note how Cambridge North station, which serves the North of the City and the Cambridge Science Park, will be given good rail links.

In Better East-West Train Services Across Suffolk, I wrote about a radical idea of Network Rail to create a much improved service between Peterborough and Ipswich, based on a rebuilt Newmarket station.

But who knows, what will actually happen? I don’t!

But whatever happens to the North of Stansted Airport, the rail links to the airport will be much improved by 2020 or so.

Road Improvements

Road improvements will not be numerous, but one new road will effect the use of airports.

If a new Lower Thames Crossing is built, it could make driving to Gatwick, Stansted and Southend Airports easier and some travellers will shun Heathrow.

On the other hand, if it wasn’t built, it might favour other airports.

Conclusion

All of London’s six airports, except probably London City will be seeing large investments in rail infrastructure, stations and trains in the near future.

Heathrow won’t like it, but I think the political consequences for the major parties of a new runway at Heathrow will make it unlikely that Heathrow gets another runway.

But given the rail infrastructure, I suspect that the other airports will take up the increased traffic for several years.

Gatwick, Luton and Stanstead will get very much improved services and I think Southend could become a Luton in the East.

As passengers will get increasingly savvy as to the routes they use, it will be very difficult to predict how the transport pattern to London’s Airports, will look say in 2025.

I’ll finish by listing some ideas I’ve read over the years.

There’ll be others and some might even be built.

January 9, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Gatwick Express At An Unexpected Location

When I went to Milton Keynes to take the pictures for Platform Space At Milton Keynes Central, I was surprised to see one of the new Class 387/2 trains, replendent in the red Gatwick Express livery going the other way.

As I was drinking a hot chocolate, I didn’t get a picture, but there is a YouTube video of a Class 387/2 at Crewe.

The train is also seen to be wearing pantographs to get its electric power.

This article in Rail Magazine explains the sighting. This is said.

The ‘387s’ being commissioned are 387104 and 387129. They were moved from Derby Litchurch Lane to Bletchley on April 8 and April 20 respectively. They will be tested on the West Coast Main Line, driven by Freightliner Heavy Haul drivers, after which they will move to Brighton Lovers Walk ready for their entry into traffic.

The article refers to the older Class 387/1 trains. But obviously to test an 110 mph train, you need a fast line.

The Class 387/2 seen at Crewe, could of course have been on a sales demonstration, as surely the configuration of a Class 387/2 Gatwick Express, with lots of space for luggage and families, would be ideal for services to and from Manchester Airport.

 

 

December 18, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment