The Anonymous Widower

Harringay Station – 20th November 2022

This article on Rail Advent, is entitled Essential Improvements Programme For Harringay Station Gets Underway!

These two paragraphs outline the work to be done.

Harringay station will see major improvement work carried out including vital work to reinforce the footbridge which is located inside the station, making it fit for purpose into the future. The bridge is also the home of the old ticket office which will also be relocated in order to comply with building regulations.

Both platforms will see brand new waiting shelters and will allow passengers heading to destinations like Welwyn Garden City, Stevenage and Moorgate are able to keep dry in a sheltered location whilst waiting for their train leading to improved passenger experience.

It appears the work will not inconvenience passengers.

So earlier today, I went to have a look at Harringay station.


  1. All trains calling at the station are Class 717 trains.
  2. The old ticket office is on the bridge.
  3. The platforms are rather narrow.
  4. The train-platform access is not good.

The bridge has certainly seen better days, but then it does date from 1885.

I have some thoughts.

Digital Signalling

Digital signalling is being installed on the Great Northern route and the Hertford Loop Line and this could mean up to ten trains per hour (tph) into Moorgate.

The Current Service

At present there seems to be only two tph on these two routes.

  • Moorgate and Stevenage via Hertford North
  • Moorgate and Welwyn Garden City

This is an insult and both routes need at least four tph all day to attract passengers.

The Ultimate Service

It can certainly have a frequency of around eight tph between Moorgate and Alexandra Palace stations.

But no predictions have been made about what frequency will be used once the signalling is complete.


November 20, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ultimate Capacity Of The Moorgate Line

The Moorgate Line is an important commuter line to and from its terminus at Moorgate station within easy walking distance of the City of London.

I use the line regularly to travel between my house and Moorgate station for breakfast at Leon, followed by shopping in Marks & Spencer on Finsbury Pavement.

  • I catch a 38 or 56 bus from close to my house to Essex Road station.
  • I then take the Northern City Line two stops to Moorgate station.

After my breakfast and shopping, I generally get a bus home, as it means less road crossings to get to my house.

A Useful Line That Needs Improvement

It is a useful and well-used line, that needs improvement in various areas, some of which is already being done or is either in planning or fully planned.

The New Class 717 Trains

The new Class 717 trains are now all running up and down without too many problems.

The trains have been designed for the route, so hopefully they have the following features.

  • Fast and automatic voltage changeover between 25 KVAC overhead and 750 VDC third-rail at Drayton Park station.
  • Ready for ERTMS signalling.
  • 100 mph running, so they don’t get in the way of Thameslink trains on the East Coast Main Line (ECML).
  • Fast acceleration and regenerative braking to batteries for fast station stops and train recovery, when power fails.
  • Optimisation for fast entry and exit to the trains.

I am afraid that they don’t fully meet the last three points, but they should!

It will be interesting to compare these trains, with Statdler’s new Class 777 trains for Merseyrail, which are also replacing similar BR units.

I believe that regenerative braking to batteries is important for trains in tunnels, and as far as I can determine, only Bombardier’s Class 345 trains for Crossrail have it fitted.

  • It reduces the power running in the overhead cables or third-rail in the tunnels, which generates less heat.
  • Conventional braking can be avoided in tunnels.
  • In case of power failure, the train can be moved to the next station for passenger evacuation.

If trains, tunnels and power supply are designed as a complete system, then surely there must be cost savings.

It is also probably true to say about these trains, that if the operator needed some more trains, then Siemens would probably oblige.

Upgrading The Route

The complete route consists of three separate parts.

The big upgrade planned for the East Coast Main Line is to install ERTMS digital signalling between Doncaster and Kings Cross.

Network Rail are doing their first digital signalling design in a darkened room with no communication to the real world, but I believe if the project was designed by experienced engineers, the following will happen.

  • Any train that might use the East Coast Main Line will be fitted with ERTMS signalling.
  • This ERTMS roll-out must include all Class 717 trains, as these can use the East Coast Main Loop to Welwyn Garden City and at Stevenage station.
  • As the Hertford Loop Line is used as a diversion for the East Coast Main Line, it would be logical to install ERTMS signalling on this route.
  • Installing ERTMS  signalling into Moorgate station would surely be beneficial and would surely be needed to get the best of ERTMS  on the East Coast Main Line.

The outcome should be that the whole Moorgate Line will become a fully digitally signalled route.

This should increase train frequency and capacity on all the digitally signalled routes.

  • The fast lines of the East Coast Main Line will become a 140 mph race track.
  • The slow lines of the East Coast Main Line will allow extra services.
  • If coupled with track improvements, extra capacity on the Hertford Loop Line could be used to allow services to by-pass the bottleneck of the Digswell Viaduct with its limited pair of tracks.
  • The Northern and City Line could take extra trains to and from Moorgate.

There could be reorganisation of some services.

  • Kings Cross and Cambridge/Ely/Kings Lynn services would be run by 140 mph trains, so they could use the fast lines on the East Coast Main Line. I feel these services could be extended to Norwich, but that’s another matter. What would Alan Partridge think of High Speed Norwich?
  • Thameslink services serving Peterborough would still use the East Coast Main Line, so they could call at Welwyn North and Knebworth stations, but why not divert the four trains per hour (tph) that serve Cambridge onto the Hertford Loop Line at Stevenage, to ease pressure over the Digswell Viaduct.


  • An upgraded Hertford Loop Line with full digital signalling could be able to handle as many as the twenty-four tph of Thameslink and Crossrail,
  • The grade-separated junction with the East Coast Main Line is being improved.
  • There are only infrequent freight trains on the Hertford Loop Line.
  • Various  platform upgrades at Hertford East and Gordon Hill could allow passing and more turnbacks.

My scheduling experience says that with a well-programmed computer calling the shots, that at least twenty tph along the Hertford Loop Line would be a serious possibility.

Improvements At Stevenage

The Stevenage improvements are very comprehensive and are designed so that however many trains run through the Hertford Loop, they can all stop in the station, if required.

Improvements At Alexandra Palace

If you are travelling North from Moorgate and find yourself on an East Coast Main Line service, when you need a Hertford Loop One, there is a cross-platform interchange at Alexandra Palace station, where the two routes are on either side of the platform.

It is convenient, but the platform needs better facilities, like a decent waiting room, better information screens and possibly a coffee stall and toilets.

Going South, there are two separate platforms, but this doesn’t matter, as there is no need to change.

Although surely, if all trains left from the same island, it would be easier for passengers.

The station would be improved with a properly-designed step-free bridge and information screens.

Passengers needing other than Moorgate as a final destination must change at Finsbury Park for Thameslink or the Piccadilly Line

The Knitting At Finsbury Park

This map from shows the tangle of lines at Finsbury Park station.

Note that the blue lines are the Victoria and Piccadilly Lines.

Improvements in the last few years have unlocked some of the station’s potential, but there is still plenty of space on the railway land to add extra tracks and possibly reinstate two more platforms.

If there are any train capacity problems, I believe that they can be solved.

The main passenger interchanges at Finsbury Park station are.

  • An up-and-down interchange with the Piccadilly Line
  • A cross platform interchange with Thameslink

Lifts have been added recently.

Improvements At Drayton Park Station

Drayton Park station is one of those stations, that should be given to developers with a blessing and a very detailed set of objectives and timescales  enthrined in a watertight contract.

  • The station sits very close to the Emirates Stadium.
  • The new trains have increased passenger capacity through the station.
  • It could handle much-more match day traffic.
  • Large amounts of housing could be built on top.

If done well, it could provide a lot of housing and take the pressures off the other stations in the area on match days.

Improvements At Highbury & Islington Station

This map from shows the lines at Highbury & Islington station.

The track layout is basically sound.

The cross-platform interface between the Victoria and Moorgate Line is superb and only needs a good team of builders and lighting specialists to give it a modern finish to make it even better.

The Overground will get better too, as service frequencies increase by up to fifty percent.

The big problem at Highbury & Islington station is that access to the deep level platforms is not fit for purpose.

It is an absolute disgrace that The Mayor and Transport for London have put forward no plan to solve the problem of access to the deep level platforms.

The solution would probably involve opening up the disused station entrance on the on the side of Holloway Road and sinking an escalator and lift shaft to the four platforms. As at Drayton Park station, I believe with the right contract, it could be handed to a developer.

At least Crossrail, when it opens might give a bit of relief in the Peak. Many passengers might avoid Highbury & Islington station altogether by changing between the Overground and Crossrail at Whitechapel.

Like water passengers tend to flow through the widest channels and find their own level.

Improvements At Essex Road Station

Essex Road station is a disgusting station, with all the charm of a Victorian slum.

As with Drayton Park station, it should be given to developers with a blessing and a very detailed set of objectives and timescales  enthrined in a watertight contract.

Improvements At Old Street Station

The access to the existing Old Street station is being improved, but it seems to be taking forever.

I do hope, there is a realistic plan to create a flagship station for Silicon Roundabout.

Improvements At Moorgate Station

This station is being fully upgraded for Crossrail.

Eventually, there will be step-free access between the following lines.

  • Central Line
  • Circle Line
  • Crossrail
  • Hammersmith & City Line
  • Northern Line

In addition all the National Rail  lines out of Liverpool Street will be step and weather-free from all the other lines.

This can only increase the number of passengers using the Moorgate Line.

The Ultimate Frequency

I said earlier that the complete route consists of three separate parts.

  • The Northern City Line between Moorgate and Finsbury Park stations.
  • The slow lines of the East Coast Main Line to the South of Welwyn Garden City station.
  • The Hertford Loop Line between Stevenage and Alexandra Palace stations

These are my thoughts on the capacity of each section.

Frequency Of The Northern City Line

I know Walthamstow Central station on the Victoria Line well and have observed the following.

  • Thirty-six tph come and go for most of the day.
  • From the time the brakes are applied after a train arrives until the time they are release when the train leaves is about two and a half minutes.
  • Drivers use a procedure called stepping-up to speed the turnround. The driver leaves the arrived train and a new driver gets in at the other end, to drive it out.
  • There is a lot of passenger congestion in the Peak, due to bad passenger access.

Surely, if Dear Old Vicky can handle thirty-six tph with the following.

  • Two platforms,
  • Modern trains
  • Modern signalling
  • Well-trained staff
  • Not the best passenger access with just two escalators.

Then the new Class 717 trains at Moorgate with the best passenger access can handle a higher frequency than they do now!

I suspect that around twenty tph can be achieved fairly easily, but that in future , a higher frequency will be achieved.

Frequency Of The Slow Lines Of The East Coast Main Line

London has several commuter lines with frequencies of over 10 tph.

  • Foremost, are Crossrail and Thameslink, which are both planned to run at 24 tph
  • The East London Line is also planned to increase from 16 tph to 20 tph.
  • The North London Line is planned to be increased from its current eight tph
  • Waterloo and Wimbledon is upwards of 8 tph.

In addition most London Underground lines have frequencies in exccess of 16 tph.

The slow lines of the East Coast Main Line to be a railway,  in a few years time with the following characteristics between Finbsbury Park and Welwyn Garden City.

  • At least one track in each direction.
  • An operating speed of over 60 mph
  • ERTMS signalling, which will be fitted to all trains on the lines.

I can’t see any reason, why the lines couldn’t be able to handle up to twenty tph in both directions, based on the experience of other lines in London, that have been operating for over a decade.

But strand on the bridge for an hour at a station like Oakleigh Park, at a busy time of day and you’ll be lucky to see ten trains.

There is a lot more capacity on the slow lines of the East Coast Main Line, to use to add extra services between London and Welwyn Garden City.

Adding services that go further North than  Welwyn Garden City will need a solution to the double-track section over the Digswell Viaduct.

Frequency Of The Hertford Loop Line

I said this earlier.

My scheduling experience says that with a well-programmed computer calling the shots, that at least twenty tph along the Hertford Loop Line would be a serious possibility.

I also think that the slow lines of the East Coast Main Line can handle the same frequency, so I very much stand by my original fugure.

Is There An ERTMS-based Solution To The Digswell Viaduct?


  • Airliners have been flown automatically and safely from airport to airport for perhaps four decades.
  • The Victoria Line has been running automatically and safely at over twenty tph for five decades.
  • I worked with engineers developing a high-frequency sequence control system for a complicated chemical plant in 1970.

We also can’t deny that computers are getting better and more capable.

For these reasons, I believe there could be an ERTMS-based solution to the problem of the Digswell Viaduct, which could be something like this.

  • All trains running on the two track section over the Digswell Viaduct and through Welwyn North station would be under computer control between Welwyn Garden City and Knebworth stations.
  • Fast trains would be slowed as appropriate to create spaces to allow the slow trains to pass through the section.
  • The driver would be monitoring the computer control, just as they do on the Victoria Line.

Much more complicated automated systems have been created in various applications.

The nearest rail application in the UK, is probably the application of digital signalling to London Underground’s Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan Lines.

This is known at the Four Lines Modernisation and it will be completed by 2023 and increase capacity by up to twenty-seven percent.

I don’t think it unreasonable to see the following numbers of services running over the Digswell Viaduct by 2030 in both directions in every hour.

  • Sixteen fast trains
  • Four slow trains

That is one train every three minutes.

Currently, it appears to be about ten fast and two slow.

As someone, who doesn’t like to be on a platform, when a fast train goes through, I believe that some form of advanced safety measures should be installed at Welwyn North station.

Some Questions

Various people over recent months have asked me questions about possible improvements to the Moorgate Line.

Could There Be A Direct Escalator Connection Between Bowes Park Station On The Hertford Loop Line and Bounds Green Station On The Piccadilly Line?

This map from, shows the two stations.

Bounds Green station is one of the Piccadilly Line’s classic stations.

I took the picture, when I walked between the Bowes Park and Bounds Green stations

It is a level walk, that could be better signed and  if the two stations were to be made step-free it would be an easier interchange than that at Finsbury Park.

In my view, improving the two stations and the local environment, would be much better value than an expensive escalator connection.

Should There Be A Second London Terminal?

Kings Cross is used as a London terminal at times, but would there be much of a necessity.

Passengers can use the following connections to get to Kings Cross and other stations along Euston Road.

  • A cross-platform interchange at Finsbury Park with Thameslink
  • A cross-platform interchange at Highbury & Islington with the Victoria Line
  • When Crossrail opens, there will be a step-free connection with the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan Lines at Moorgate.

Passenger numbers will decide.

Could The Moorgate Line Be Extended South To Bank Station?

The original Victorian plans for the Moorgate Line show the line extended to a station at Lothbury, which is just behind the Bank of England. This Google Map shows the area.

These pictures show the area, where Lothbury and Moorgate meet.

Given the difficulty of handling the logistics of all the tunnelling for the Bank station upgrade, I don’t think the City of London would look too kindly on a rail extension between Moorgate and Bank, especially, as there is already the Northern Line and even I can walk it easily.

It could be argued as Moorgate is served by Crossrail and Bank station isn’t, that there will be a high level of passenger traffic between the  two stations.


  • It is only five hundreds to walk.
  • The Northe Line is jammed solid between London Bridge and Kings Cross in the Peak.
  • After the completion of the massive Liverpool Street-Moorgate double-ended Crossrail station and the Bank Station Capacity Upgrade, a one stop on either the Central Line or the Northern Line will be step-free.
  • The Liverpool Street-Moorgate Crossrail station will hopefully have a selection of entrances with good connections to walking routes leading South towards Bank.
  • The City of London is planning to make the streets of the city more friendly to walking and cycling.
  • More and taller towers are increasing employment in the City.

Will the walking routes and the Central and Northern Lines be overwhelmed?

I think they could be, but there could be other solutions.

  • Opening up of more walking routes and improving the already pretty good street maps and signage.
  • A redesign of the bus network with high capacity electric buses taking over the routes between Old Street and London Bridge stations.

I also wonder, if it would be possible to dig a pedestrian tunnel between the two stations under the existing roads and fit it with travelators.

The ingenuity that has been shown in the Bank Station Capacity Upgrade has probably suggested a few ideas.

But I’m absolutely sure there will be no extension of the railway pass Moorgate.

Is The Interchange With Thameslink At Finsbury Park Frequent Enough?

It seems that Thameslink will run four tph through Finsbury Park station.

  • All will have cross-platform interchange with Moorgate Line services.
  • All services will serve London Bridge, East Croydon and Gatwick Airport stations.

Are these enough services?

Passenger numbers will decide.

Should Some Thameslink Services Use The Hertford Loop?

I said this earlier.

Thameslink services serving Peterborough would still use the East Coast Main Line, so they could call at Welwyn North and Knebworth stations, but why not divert the four trains per hour (tph) that serve Cambridge onto the Hertford Loop Line at Stevenage, to ease pressure over the Digswell Viaduct.

It possibly is an idea, but I also believe, that ERTMS signalling could offer an elegant solution to the Digswell Viaduct problem.

Could The Moorgate Line Have Some New Park-An-Ride Stations?

There are two possibilities on the Hertford Loop Line.

This Google Map shows where the Hertford Loop Line crosses the M25, to the North of Crews Hill station.

It would probably be impossible to build a Park-and-Ride station in this area now, but if the M25 had been designed in an holistic and environmentally-sympathetic manner, it could have been a place for such a facility.

There must also be the possibility of building a Park-and-Ride or more likely a Cycle-and-Ride station to the South of Stevenage, as the town develops, as it surely will in the next decade.

From my helicopter, it doesn’t look promising to add more parking except possibly at Hadley Wood station. This page from Hansard is a good summary of GNER’s original proposal in about 2000.

Should The Moorgate Line Be Taken Over By Transport for London?


  • This is certainly a desire of the London Mayor; Saddiq Khan.
  • After the farce of the Metropolitan Line Extension at Watford will Greater London and Hertfordshire be able to work together over the route?
  • There are twelve stations in Hertfordshire and twenty in Greater London.
  • Stations are in four Greater London Boroughs; Barnet, Enfield, Haringey and Islington with Moorgate actually in the City of London.

The line might improve as part of Transport for London, but agreeing the management and development strategy for the line, with all those politicians of different colours, could be a nightmare.


Without doubt all of the parts of the Moorgate Line can handle at least twenty tph and possibly more, once the following conditions are met.

  • Full ERTMS signalling on all lines.
  • The stations are capable of handling the increased number of passengers.
  • There are a few more trains.

Automatic Train Control may need to be used in certain sections, as it will be on Crossrail and Thameslink.

What Would This Mean For Passengers?

The current pattern of train services in the Off Peak is as follows.

  • 4 tph – Welwyn Garden City
  • 2 tph – Hertford North
  • 1 tph – Watton-at-Stone
  • 1 tph – Stevenage


  1. This is well below the future capacity of the section between Moorgate and Alexandra Palace stations
  2. It needs eight trains for each branch or a total of sixteen trains.

The simplest pattern would be twenty tph between Moorgate and Alexandra Palace stations, which would serve the following destinations.

  • 10 tph – Welwyn Garden City
  • 5 tph – Hertford North
  • 5 tph – Stevenage


  • Intermediate stations, like New Barnet and Cuffley would get a train every six minutes.
  • The service would need forty trains.
  • I doubt Great Nortern would want to finance the extra trains.

Cutting the service back to somewhere in between would also work.

  • 6 tph – Welwyn Garden City
  • 3 tph – Hertford North
  • 3 tph – Stevenage


  1. Intermediate stations, like New Barnet and Cuffley would get a train every ten minutes.
  2. The service would need twenty-four trains.

As there are twenty-five Class 717 trains, is this Great Northern’s plan?

It looks to me like a plan designed by Great Northern’s accountants based on the least they can get away with.

An Improved Service For South Hertfordshire


  • The extra platform and remodelling at Stevenage station are ambitious and the new platform could probably handle six tph.
  • Stevenage has an LN|ER service to the North of two tph.
  • East Coast Trains intend to start a service linking Stevenage to Newcastle and Edinburgh.
  • Healthcare in South Hertfordshire sends patients to hospitals at Barnet and Stevenage, neither of which are easy from a station like Cuffley
  • Bus services across are not for the frail, elderly and impatient.
  • There is no rail link between Hertford and Hatfield except with a change at Alexandra Palace station, which is not step-free.

Perhaps the Moorgate train service should be as follows.

  • 8 tph – Welwyn Garden City
  • 4 tph – Hertford North
  • 4 tph – Stevenage


  1. Importantly, there would be four tph to between Alexandra Palace and Stevenage.
  2. The Stevenage services would link up to the improved fast services between Stevenage and the North of England and Scotland.
  3. Intermediate stations, like New Barnet and Cuffley would get a train every seven-eight minutes.
  4. The service would need thirty-two trains, which is probably another eight trains.

I also think, that Alexandra Palace station should be made step-free to ease journeys from one side of Hertfordshire to the other.







December 1, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Thoughts On A 140 mph East Coast Main Line Between London And Doncaster

The East Coast Main Line is being upgraded with digital signalling to allow Azumas and other high speed trains to run at 140 mph for most of the route, starting with the section between London and Doncaster.

There is also a string of projects all along the line to improve operating speed, cut out slow trains and improve junctions and crossings.

Finsbury Park And Stevenage

In The New Fifth Platform At Stevenage Station – 11th October 2019, I talked about the improvements at the Northern end of the Hertford Loop Line, which I believe could allow the fast lines between Stevenage and Finsbury Park stations to be exclusively used by digitally-signalled 140 mph trains.

Currently, these passenger services run between Stevenage and Finsbury Park in a typical hour.

  • LNER – Edinburgh – 2 trains – #
  • LNER – Leeds – 2 trains – #
  • LNER – Newark or York – 1 train – #
  • Great Northern – Cambridge and Ely expresses – 2 trains
  • Thameslink – Cambridge stopping trains – 2 trains.
  • Thameslink – Peterborough and Horsham – 2 trains
  • Thameslink – Cambridge and Brighton – 1 train
  • Hull Trains – 7 trains per day. – #
  • Grand Central – 9 trains per day. – #
  • East Coast Trains – 5 trains per day. – From 2021. – #

The services can be divided into four groups.

140 mph Non-Stop Expresses

Services marked with a hash (#) will probably  be run by versions of Hitachi Class 80x trains or similar, which will be capable of 140 mph running under digital signalling, between Finsbury Park and Stevenage stations.

The twenty-one services run by Hull Trains, Grand Central and East Coast Trains, will probably add up to less than two trains per hour (tph).

This means that there is a need to run seven tph between Finsbury Park and Stevenage.

Kings Cross and Cambridge/Ely Expresses

Currently, these go non-stop between Kings Cross and Cambridge on the fast lines.

Surely, these should be 140 mph-capable trains, so they fit in with all the fast expresses.

After all, Oxford is served by 140 mph-capable trains, so why not Cambridge?

Cambridge Stopping Trains

The half-hourly Cambridge stopping trains have to stop in Welwyn North station,

  • They will have to use the fast lines between Welwyn Garden City and Knebworth stations, as there are only two tracks.
  • Currently, trains are timetabled to take nine minutes to pass through the double-track section.
  • North and South of the double-track section, the services will use the slow lines, as they call at several stations

But these services still leave forty-five minutes in every hour, in which to fit the 140 mph services through the restricting double track section.

These services will be replaced by a two tph Thameslink service between Cambridge and Maidstone East stations.

Thameslink Cross-London Services

The two Thamelink Cross-London services between Peterborough and Horsham and Cambridge and Brighton, go non-stop between Finsbury Park and Stevenage stations.

So could these three services use the Hertford Loop Line?

  • North of Stevenage, they use the slow lines.
  • South of Finsbury Park, they use the slow lines to access the Canal Tunnels for the Thameslink platforms at  St. Pancras.
  • Would calls at perhaps Alexandra Palace, Enfield Chase and Hertford North be worthwhile.

The only disadvantage would be that the route would be a few minutes slower, than using the main line.

Trains Terminating At Kings Cross Station

In each hour, it appears that the following trains will terminate at Kings Cross station.

  • Seven 140 mph expresses, that are going North of Hitchin.
  • Two 140 mph expresses, that are going to Cambridge/Ely.
  • Two stopping services, that are going to Cambridge.

The station has nine platforms in the main station and three in the suburban station at the side.

The Wikipedia entry for Kings Cross station, has a section entitled Future Remodelling, where this is said.

In January 2018, it was announced that half the station would close for 3 months from January to March 2020 for remodelling work to the station and its approach, expected to cost £237 million. This includes rationalisation of the tracks, reopening the third tunnel to the approach of the station and closure of platform 10.

The remodelling must allow an increase in numbers of trains terminating at Kings Cross, especially as the problems in the throat should be sorted.

These points should be noted about the High Speed Two platforms at Euston.

  • There are eleven platforms.
  • They can handle eighteen tph.
  • The trains will be up to four hundred metres long.

Considering that a nine-car Class 801 train is less than 240 metres long, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Kings Cross can handle eighteen tph.

Does that mean that Kings Cross station can accommodate another seven services?

Would The East Coast Main Line Be Able To Handle Eighteen 140 mph Expresses An Hour?

If Kings Cross station can handle eighteen tph, then the two fast lines of the East Coast Main Line must be able to handle this number of trains.

  • The two fast lines of the East Coast Main Line between London and Doncaster could be considered a smaller and slower version of High Speed Two.
  • High Speed Two has a capacity of eighteen tph.
  • High Speed Two trains are almost twice as fast as those on the East Coast Main Line.
  • Signalling on the East Coast Main Line will have to deal with slower trains, where there are less than four tracks, as over the Digswell viaduct and through Welwyn North station.

This is just the sort of challenge, for which digital signalling has been created.

Spare Capacity South Of Hitchin

Suppose in a couple of years the following has been done.

  • Kings Cross station has been remodelled.
  • The Hertford Loop Line has been updated for more and faster trains.
  • Thameslink services can use the Hertford Loop Line.
  • Thameslink is running the full 24 tph service.
  • The Cambridge stopper has been changed into a Thameslink service between Cambridge and Maidstone East.
  • Cambridge and Brighton has become a two tph service.
  • Kings Cross and Cambridge/Ely expresses are run by 140 mph-capable trains.

This would mean the following frequencies, to the South of Hitchin.

  • Seven tph – 140 mph-capable expresses between Kings Cross and the North, with some stopping at Stevenage.
  • Two tph – 140 mph-capable expresses between Kings Cross and Cambridge/Ely.
  • Two tph – 100 mph Thameslink services between Cambridge and Brighton routed via the Hertford Loop Line.
  • Two tph – 100 mph Thameslink services between Peterborough and Horsham routed via the Hertford Loop Line.
  • Two tph – 100 mph Thameslink services between Cambridge and Maidstone East routed via the East Coast Main Line. The slow line will be used except over the Digswell viaduct and through Welwyn North station.


  1. There will also be a two tph Thameslink service in the Peak between Welwyn Garden City and Sevenoaks. This can be discounted as it avoids the tricky bits of the East Coast Main Line.
  2. Thameslink services to Cambridge and Peterborough would be routed via the Hertford Loop ine, at a frequency of four tph.
  3. All Thameslink services would be routed via the Canal Tunnels and St. Pancras station.
  4. Kings Cross would only be handling 140 mph-capable trains, at a frequency of nine tph.

If the capacity of the 140 mph fast lines is the same as the similar High Speed Two, then eighteen tph should be possible.

Planned trains could be as follows.

  • Seven tph – 140 mph-capable expresses between Kings Cross and the North, with some stopping at Stevenage.
  • Two tph – 140 mph-capable expresses between Kings Cross and Cambridge/Ely.
  • Two tph – Thameslink service between Cambridge and Maidstone East.

Does that mean another seven tph can be accommodated between Kings Cross and Hitchin?

As only nine tph would be going into Kings Cross, the station should have no difficulty handling that number of trains. It could possibly handle another nine tph.

Spare Capacity North Of Hitchin

At Hitchin, the following services wukk go to and from Cambridge.

  • Two tph – 140 mph-capable expresses between Kings Cross and Cambridge/Ely.
  • Two tph – Thameslink service between Cambridge and Maidstone East.

The other Thameslink services can be ignored, as they use the slow lines between Stevenage and Hitchin and the Hertford Loop Line, so they are out of the way of the 140 mph services.

Does that mean another ten tph can be accommodated between Hitchin and the North?

What Limits The Number Of Extra Trains?

My crude estimation appears to show the following.

  • Kings Cross station may be able to handle another nine tph.
  • Between Kings Cross and Hitchin may be able to handle another seven trains.
  • North of Hitchin may be able to handle another ten trains.

It would appear that the double track section over the Digswell viaduct and through Welwyn North station, limits the capacity of the whole route.

Estimated Timings

In Changes Signalled For HS2 Route In North, I stated this.

Currently, the fastest non-stop trains between London and Doncaster take a few minutes over ninety minutes. With 140 mph trains, I think the following times are easily possible.

  • London and Doncaster – 80 minutes
  • London and Hull  – A few minutes over two hours, running via Selby.
  • London and Leeds – A few minutes less than two hours, running on the Classic route.

For comparison High Speed Two is quoting 88 minutes for London Euston and Leeds, via Birmingham and East Midlands Hub.

There could be a race to Leeds between High speed Two and Classic services on the East Coast Main Line.

Speculation On Extra Services

It would not be right, if I didn’t have a small speculation.

Cambridge Services


  • Oxford and Cambridge both have two main routes to and from London.
  • Both have a fast service running at a frequency of two tph.
  • Both have other quality, but slower services.

It could be argued that extra fast services are run to Cambridge, but this would use up two valuable paths over the Digswell viaduct.

Perhaps it would be better to copy Greater Anglia’s solution for London and Norwich services and order a high quality purpose-designed train for the route.

  • 140 mph-capability
  • Digitally-signalled
  • 240 metres long
  • High quality interior

There would need to be some platform lengthening between Cambridge and Kings Lynn.

Leeds Services

Leeds currently has two tph from Kings Cross and Manchester Piccadilly has three tph from Euston.

Leeds also has a daily direct service to Aberdeen.

I suspect that there could be a sorting out at Leeds, which would mean it gets a third service from London.


If something similar to what I have proposed is possible, it looks like as many as an extra seven tph can be accommodated between Kings Cross and the North.





October 13, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 5 Comments

The New Fifth Platform At Stevenage Station – 11th October 2019

Stevenage station is getting a fifth platform for the termination of Great Northern services to and from Moorgate station.

  • This platform will be on the down side of the station.
  • A single platform should be able to turnback at least four trains per hour (tph) and possibly as many as six tph, that have used the Hertford Loop Line to come North.
  • Wikipedia says that this will increase the capacity and frequency on the East Coast Main Line and the Hertford Loop Line.

These are a few pictures of the works.

This page on the Network Rail we site is entitled Stevenage Turnback and it gives more details.

  • improved resilience and reliability is claimed.
  • Two kilometres of new track and a set of points will be added.
  • The embankment on the West side of the track will be strengthened.
  • The signalling will be improved.
  • Two bridges will be modified.

Everything should be completed by Summer 2020, so that the four tph from Moorgate to Stevenage can be resumed.

These are my observations.

  • The work on the West side of the East Coast Main Line seems to be to a very high standard.
  • There seems to be enough space for a possible double-track or a passing loop between the new platform and the Hertford Loop Line in future.
  • The embankment on the West side of the track is being strengthened.
  • Will trains still be able to come from the Hertford Loop and continue North?

It certainly appears to me to be built to allow expansion in the future.

What Frequency Will The New Platform Be Able To Handle?

There are several platforms in the UK, where four tph are turned back.

It looks to me, that there is no reason, why this frequency couldn’t be handled in the new platform at Stevenage.

Especially, as there appears to be at least one crossover between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone stations.

But could it handle more trains?

The Hertford Loop Line is scheduled to be updated with digital signalling. So in the future, this may be possible, if the need is there!

The Great Northern Metro

It should also be noted that in 2016, Govia Thameslink Railway published plans for a Great Northern Metro. They seemed to have dropped this idea, but I discussed the plan in The Great Northern Metro.

This is a brief summary of those proposals.

  • Fourteen tph in the High Peak.
  • In the Off Peak, there would be six tph to Hertford North, four tph to Welwyn Garden City and two tph to Stevenage.
  • Sunday services are four tph to both branches and two tph to Stevenage.

I do wonder what is the capacity of the Hertford Loop Line.

  • It has grade-separated junctions at both ends of the route.
  • It is double-track throughout.
  • It has 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • It has a 75 mph operating speed.
  • It has turnback platforms at Gordon Hill and Hertford North stations.
  • It is planned to equip the route with digital signalling.
  • It is planned to upgrade the power supply.
  • It probably handles a maximum of about eight tph, which can include a couple of freight trains.

I suspect that this route can be improved to handle more and longer trains., at a higher speed than now!

Could Thameslink Use The Hertford Loop Line?

Could some Thameslink services to Cambridge and Peterborough use the Hertford Loop Line, rather than the East Coast Main Line?


  • The Hertford Loop Line will have an increased speed limit.
  • Digital signalling is to be introduced on the route.
  • Trains might only stop at Hertford North, Enfield Chase and Alexandra Palace.
  • Some current Thameslink services between London and Cambridge and Peterborough, run non-stop between Finsbury Park and Stevenage.

Diverting some services to the Hertford Loop Line would have the following advantages.

  • It would relrease capacity on the East Coast Main Line.
  • It would reduce the number of trains using the two-track section over the Digswell viaduct.
  • It could give Hertford a direct link to Cambridge and Peterborough.

The disadvantage would be that services would be a few minutes slower.

140 mph Running On The East Coast Main Line

Under Planned Or Proposed Developments the Wikipedia entry for the EastCoast Main Line says this.

Most of the length of the ECML is capable of 140 mph subject to certain infrastructure upgrades. Below is the foreword of the Greengauge 21 report:

“Upgrading the East Coast Main Line to 140 mph operation as a high priority alongside HS2 and to be delivered without delay. Newcastle London timings across a shorter route could closely match those achievable by HS2..

The section then goes on to describe a lot of improvements with the aim of running between London and Edinburgh in four hours.

The project has a code name of L2E4. There is more information at this page on the Network Rail web site.

South of Peterborough, there are infrastructure and rolling stock limitations, that will stop the Hitachi Class 800 trains running at 140 mph.

  • Extra tracks are needed between Huntington and Woodwalton.
  • There is a double-track section over the Digswell viaduct, through Welwyn North station and the Welwyn tunnels.
  • Thameslink’s Class 700 trains that run services to Cambridge and Peterborough are only capable of 100 mph.
  • Great Northern’s Class 387 trains, that run services to Cambridge and Kings Lynn are only capable of 110 mph.
  • Hull Trains and Grand Central run services with trains that are only capable of 125 mph.

I will deal with these in order.

Extra Tracks Between Huntingdon and Woodwalton

The Wikipedia entry for the East Coast Main Line says this about this project.

Re-quadrupling of the route between Huntingdon and Woodwalton (HW4T) which was rationalised in the 1980s during electrification (part of the ECML Connectivity programme). This also involves the closure and diversion of a level crossing at Abbots Ripton which was approved in November 2017.

This improvement, which will mean continuous quadruple tracks between Stevenage and Peterborough will mean.

  • A few minutes for all trains will be saved.
  • Slower stopping services between London and Peterborough, will be kept out of the way of the 140 mph expresses.

What sort of stink would there be, if a motorway closed in the 1980s was now being rebuilt, to provide what existed forty years ago?

But British Rail closed or simplified infrastructure, without properly looking at the consequences, mainly to please or under the direction of the Treasury.

Double-Track Over Digwell Viaduct And Through Welwyn North Station

This is one of the worst rail bottlenecks in the UK.

To make matters worse, a service between Kings Cross and Cambridge with a frequency of two tph stops at the station.

It means a fast train would have to do a pit stop at speeds nor far off those of a racing car.

I think we can say, that adding extra tracks through the area would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

But consider the trains that pass Welwyn North every hour.

  • LNER – 5 trains
  • Thameslink – 3 trains
  • Cambridge and Ely expresses – 2 trains
  • Cambridge stopping trains – 2 trains.
  • Hull Trains – 7 trains per day.
  • Grand Central – 9 trains per day.

If it is assumed that the Hull Trains and Grand Central add up to one train per hour, it looks like about thirteen tph go through the double track section.

If another couple of trains are added for luck, this means that the double track section will be handling a train every four minutes.

The double-track section is less than five miles long, so a 140 mph train will run between the quadruple track sections at Welwyn Garden City and Knebworth stations  in jut over two minutes.

Currently, the trains that stop at Welwyn North station are timetabled to take nine minutes between stops at Welwyn Garden City and Knebworth stations.

Effectively, the stop at Welwyn North station blocks the double-track section for nine minutes..

This means that there are two twenty-one minute periods in an hour where the other trains can pass through.

So how can you maximise the use of these available periods?

  • The trains must arrive precisely at the right time – Digital signalling with automatic train control is probably the best way to ensure this.
  • All through trains must be running as near to 140 mph as possible.
  • Diverting of slower trains to alternative routes should be examined.
  • The stopping train should be able to execute a stop in the shortest possible time.

I believe that if the timetable is efficient, that as many as twenty tph could be handled.

Most would go through the double-track section at 140 mph!

I must add a point about safety.

Trains currently go through these platforms at Welwyn North station at a maximum speed of 125 mph.

Will more trains going through at a faster speed, necessitate the addition of a passenger protection system at the station?

Thameslink’s Class 700 Trains

I have heard East Midlands drivers moan about Class 700 trains on the Midland Main Line, as they are too slow at 100 mph to mix it with the 125 mph expresses.

It looks like the Treasury got the specification wrong again! Surprise! Surprise! Even a 110 mph capability, as is often specified for outer suburban trains would be better.

But these trains run non-stop between Finsbury Park and Stevenage stations, so at 100-110 mph, they will be a bit of a hindrance to the trains running at 140 mph. It would be like granny and grandpa in a Morris Minor in the fast lane of a motorway!

If there is the capacity, then perhaps the Thameslink trains should run on an upgraded Hertfprd Loop Line along with the 100 mph Class 717 trains.

Once they rejoined the East Coast Main Line, they would take to the upgraded slow lines to go Cambridge and Peterborough.

Great Northern’s Class 387 Trains

Cambridge is one of the UK’s world-class cities and it deserves a top quality service from London.

The current Class 387 trains are only 110 mph trains, so wouldn’t fit well with the herds of 140 mph trains running to and from London.

It would probably be best in the long term to replace these trains with 140 mph trains designed for the route.

After all if Oxford can have a commuter service to London using Class 802 trains, then surely these are good enough for Cambridge?

In Call For ETCS On King’s Lynn Route, I discuss the possibility of digital signalling on the London and Kings Lynn route via Cambridge, based on reports in Rail Magazine.

If the Cambridge Line from Hitchin were to be upgraded for faster running, then London and Cambridge times might be reduced significantly.

Hull Trains And Grand Central

Hull Trains and Grand Central will want to participate in the 140 mph action between London and Doncaster.

Hull Trains have already made their move and have leased a fleet of Class 802 trains, which will shortly enter service.

Another Open Access operator; First East Coast Trains has already ordered five Hitachi 140 mph trains.

Will Grand Central replace their fleet of Class 180 trains?

They will either buy 140 mph trains, cease trading or give up!

The other operators won’t want slow trains on the fast lines.

How Many 140 mph Trains Will Be Able To Run Between London And Doncaster?

I finish this section with a question.

I answered this question and a few others in Thoughts On A 140 mph East Coast Main Line Between London And Doncaster.

This was my conclusion.

If something similar to what I have proposed is possible, it looks like as many as an extra seven tph can be accommodated between Kings Cross and the North.

That is certainly worth having.


The new platform at Stevenage station is a well-designed sub-project that enables  the Hertford Loop Line to be used to its full capability.

  • Up to four tph will be able to run between Moorgate and Stevenage stations.
  • The redesigned junction at Stevenage will allow services like Thameslink to use the Hertford Loop Line rather than run at 100 mph on the East Coast Main Line.

It is an important sub-project in turning the East Coast Main Line into a high speed line with a high proportion of 140 mph running.






October 11, 2019 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How Will House Prices Be Affected By The New Trains In Cuffley?

This was a question, that I was asked by someone, who is thinking of buying a house in the area.

It’s funny how people care more about the price of their house, than getting to work easier and in a reliable way in reasonable comfort, which surely must improve their work performance.

So I did a full analysis of the numbers of trains on the lines out of Moorgate to Hertford North, Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth Garden City to see what they showed.

A Numerical Analysis Of Great Northern’s New Class 717 Trains

I think there are enough trains to run four trains per hour on both routes.

So an extra train an hour must have an affect, if the service is increased!

This question led me to write Could Passenger Services Be Run On The Canonbury Curve?

I am convinced that we’ll be seeing lots of changes on the trains out of Moorgate station and linking from Finsbury Park to Canonury and the East London Line will have lots of benefits for everyone in the North and East of London.


September 12, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | Leave a comment

A Numerical Analysis Of Great Northern’s New Class 717 Trains

Great Northern is replacing forty-four Class 313 trains of three-cars with twenty-five Class 717 trains of six-cars to work all services out of Moorgate station and probably some out of Kings Cross station.

So 132 carriages are being replaced with 150, which increases the space by about six percent.

But how many trains are actually needed to work the various routes?

Moorgate To Welwyn Garden City

Moorgate to Welwyn Garden City is a 3 trains per hour (tph) service.

The trip takes 51 minutes, so this means a train can go from Welwyn Garden City to Moorgate and back in under two hours.

We get the number of trains as follows.

  • 3 tph needs 6 trains.
  • 4 tph needs 8 trains.
  • 6 tph needs 12 trains.

Moorgate To Hertford North

Moorgate to Hertford North is a 3 tph service.

,The trip takes 50 minutes, so the needs for the Hertford North are as follows.

  • 3 tph needs 6 trains.
  • 4 tph needs 8 trains.
  • 6 tph needs 12 trains.

Moorgate To Letchworth Garden City

As the extended train to Letrhworth Garden City takes 25 minutes from Hertford North, this probably means that the trains needed for the extended service are as follows.

  • 1 extended tph needs another train.
  • 2 extended tph needs another 2 trains.

Total Trains On The Northern City Line

So this gives the following totals for trains on the Northern City line.

  • 3 tph on each route with 1 tph to Letchworth Garden City needs 13 trains.
  • 4 tph on each route with 1 tph to Letchworth Garden City needs 17 trains.
  • 4 tph on each route with 2 tph to Letchworth Garden City needs 18 trains.
  • 6 tph on each route with 1 tph to Letchworth Garden City needs 25 trains.

I don’t think we’ll see six tph on both routes, as that could be too many trains for the tunnel to Moorgate, which probably has a capacity of less than 10 tph.

Kings Cross To Foxton

In addition, Great Northern run an hourly  service between Kings Cross and Foxton, which could use the new trains.

The service takes 75 minutes.

So as the service actually starts and finishes at Cambridge, this probably means the round trip is three hours, so the service will require the following number of trains.

  • 1 tph would require 3 trains.
  • 2 tph would require 6 trains.


The mathematics say to me, that the number of trains ordered is enough for the following services.

  • 4 tph from Moorgate to Welwyn Garden City – 8 trains
  • 4 tph from Moorgate to Hertford North – 8 trains
  • 2 tph extended from Hertford North to Letchworth Garden City. – 2 trains
  • 2 tph from Kings Cross to Foxton and Cambridge – 6 trains.

Although this doesn’t mean that this will be the service pattern.

It’s just if Great Northern wanted to go from 3 tph to 4 tph on the Northern City routes and increase other services, they have ordered enough trains.

Related Posts

A North London Metro

Could A Reversing Siding Be Built At Alexandra Palace?

Could Passenger Services Be Run On The Canonbury Curve?

Liverpool Street Crossrail Station Disentangled

September 12, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 5 Comments

Will The Hertford Loop Line Be Upgraded?

In All Change On Thameslink, I said this about the Hertford Loop Line.

In the future, don’t discount improvements to the Hertford Loop Line, to get more trains through the area.

The Current Hertford Loop Line

So what are the characteristics of the Hertford Loop Line? Wikipedia introduces it like this.

The Hertford Line (also known colloquially as the Hertford Loop) is a branch of the East Coast Main Line, providing a commuter route to London for Hertford and other Hertfordshire towns and an occasional diversion route for the main line. The line is part of the Network Rail Strategic Route 8, SRS 08.03 and is classified as a London and South East Commuter line.

Riding on the line is an experience like many of the commuter lines in North London, that were electrified in the thirty years after the Second World War.

  • It is double track throughout.
  • It is electrified at 25 KVAC using overhead wires.
  • It has a speed limit of 121 kph.
  • It has eleven intermediate stations, most of which have two platforms.
  • Hertford North station has two through platforms and a bay platform.
  • The trains are elderly Class 313 trains, which usually run in six-car formations along the Northern City Line into Moorgate.
  • It is connected to the East Coast Main Line using grade-separated junctions at both ends.
  • According to the History in the Wikipedia entry for the Line, it was built to relieve pressure on the Digswell Viaduct.

I don’t know the condition of the line, the electrification and the signalling, but the line was used for the testing of ERTMS, so it can’t be too bad.

New Class 717 Trains

But changes are happening in that the Class 313 trains are being replaced with new six-car Class 717 trains, which are cousins of the Class 700 trains used by Thameslink.

Yesterday I was at Stevenage station and there were problems on the fast line North of the station, which meant that my train directly into Kings Cross was swapped from the slow to the fast line to get it out of the way and into Kings Cross as soon as possible

Obviously, this is probably not an unusual action, but you wouldn’t be wanting to put 121 kph trains like the Class 313 trains onto the fast lines, as they’d slow everything down.

The speeds of the various local and Cambridge trains that use the East Coast Main Line are.

I would suspect that because of the need to occasionally run on the fast lines, that the Class 717 trains may well be 160 kph units. This would also mean that all the trains running on the Cambridge Line would be 160 kph trains or faster.

There is a factor about the order for the Class 717 trains, that doesn’t seem to have been noticed. At present there are effectively twenty-two six-car elderly Class 313 trains working the suburban services. These are being replaced with a fleet of  twenty-five six-car modern Class 717 trains.


  • The Class 717 trains could be substantially faster, than the Class 313 trains.
  • The Class 717 trains will handle stops faster.
  • The Class 717 trains will be more passenger-friendly, probably like the Class 700 train, I wrote about in A First Ride In A Class 700 train.
  • The Class 717 trains will have lots of gizmos and automation to aid staff and to inform and entertain passengers.
  • Wi-fi could even be fast and free on the Class 717 trains.

Add all of these factors together and I believe that there is going to be a massive increase in capacity on the services out of Moorgate. Unless of course, they park some of the extra new trains in sidings.

I suspect too, that Govia Thameslink Railway are hoping thast new trains on the Northern City and Hertford Loop ines will increase ridership and poach customers from rival services.

Voltage Changeover At Drayton Park

In the previous section, I noted that automation on the new Class 717 trains will assist staff.

One problem is the AC/DC changeover at Drayton Park. This may not be exactly the same as the similar voltage changeover at Farringdon on Thameslink, that will be performed hundreds of times a day by Class 700 trains. But it surely won’t be much different.

As a Control Engineer, who has experience in industrial automation, I can’t believe that a modern train won’t change power pick-up automatically, much faster and in a more reliable way, than a forty year old train.

As the electrical systems on the two trains must be virtually identical, by the time the Class 717 trains enter service, any power change on the Class 700 trains, will surely be fully debugged.

I’m sure Siemens will get this changeover to work smoothly, but on the Northern City Line, I’ve felt since I rode the of Bombardier’s Class 379 IPEMU prototype at Manningtree, that the line should be run using onboard energy storage, so that the tunnels are electrically dead.

The other alternative would be to use an overhead rail at 25 KVAC, which is what the Germans or Swiss would do.

Local And Cambridge Branch Trains On The East Coast Main Line

What local and Cambridge Branch trains will be running on the East Coast Main Line, between Hitchin and Kings Cross?

  • Thameslink – 2 tph Peterborough to Horsham – |Stopping Pattern Unknown
  • Thameslink – 2 tph Cambridge North to Brighton – Stopping Pattern Unknown
  • Thameslink – 2 tph Cambridge to Maidstone East – Stopping Pattern Unknown
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Peterborough to Kings Cross – Semi-Fast including stop at Welwyn North
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Peterborough to Kings Cross – Stopping including stop at Welwyn North
  • Great Northern – 2 tph Cambridge to Kings Cross – Non-Stop
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Cambridge to Kings Cross – Semi-Fast
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Cambridge to Kings Cross – Stopping
  • Northern City – 3 tph Moorgate to Welwyn Garden City – Stopping
  • Northern City – 2 tph Moorgate to Hertford North – Stopping via Hertford Loop
  • Northern City – 1 tph Moorgate to Letchworth Garden City – Stopping via Hertford Loop

So we get the following totals.

  • 6 tph between St. Pancras and Finsbury Park
  • 6 tph between Kings Cross and Finsbury Park
  • 6 tph between Moorgate and Finsbury Park
  • 18 tph between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace
  • 3 tph between Alexandra Palace and Hertford North via Hertford Loop
  • 15 tph between Alexandra Palace and Welwyn Garden City
  • 12 tph between Welwyn Garden City and Stevenage – 2 stop at Welwyn North
  • 1 tph between Hertford North and Stevenage via Hertfood Loop
  • 13 tph between Stevenage and Hitchin
  • 4 tph bertween Hitchin and Peterborough
  • 9 tph bertween Hitchin and Letchworth Garden City
  • 8 tph between Letchworth Garden City and Cambridge

Obviously on the East Coast Main Line, there is a mixture of fast, semi-fast and stopping trains, but as the whole route is quadruple track between Finsbury Park and Hitchin, this service pattern could probably be easily handled.

Simple Cross-Platform And Same-Platform interchanges

There are three different London end destinations for local services on the Southern section the East Coast Main Line.

  • St. Pancras and the South, through the Canal Tunnels.
  • Kings Cross, using the East Coast Main Line.
  • Moorgate using the Northern City Line.

Passengers to and from these stations, will need to get to and from any station on the following routes.

  • The East Coast Main Line to Peterborough.
  • The Cambridge Line to Cambridge
  • The Hertford Loop Line

Quite a number of stations will be ideal places to change if you can’t get a direct train. These stations and some others might become recommended interchanges.

  • Finsbury Park
  • Alexandra Palace
  • Potters Bar
  • Welwyn Garden City
  • Stevenage
  • Hitchin

Will these stations be given a platform layout, where interchange between different services entails just getting off one train and then getting another train from the same platform face or one at the other side of the platform?

Some stations like Finsbury Park, Alexandra Palace and Stevenage already have this layout or it has been substantially implemented.

But I think it essential, that all recommended interchange stations have simple step-free changes.

Passengers Will Duck And Dive

In a few years time, passengers will be very savvy and armed to the teeth with apps, cards and electronic devices to use the network in the fastest and most cost efficient way possible.

So the passenger wanting to go from say Ashwell and Morden to say Gillingham will be guided through the Thameslink network according to how the trains are running, by their large number of intelligent friends.

I do this now, often using National Rail’s information web site from my phone, to check routes and make sure, I don’t get stuck in Croydon, Scunthorpe or Manchester.

This passenger freedom and flexibility, will not be bad for train companies, as how long before an app is developed, that sends passengers on less crowded routes.

looking at the Hertford Loop Line, no passenger is going to mind being recommended to take a Hertford Loop Line train one day and a main line train another, provided the cost is acceptable for both journeys.

Could More Trains Run On The Hertford Loop Line?

It is interesting to compare the 15 tph between Alexandra Palace and Welwyn Garden City and the 3 tph between Alexandra Palace and Hertford North on the Hertford Loop.

As the line is self-contained with grade-separated junctions at both ends and a bay platform at Hertford North and Gordon Hill stations, running 3 tph on the line, must be way under the maximum capacity, when there are double track electrified lines with lots of stations, like the East London Line that can handle 16-20 tph.

I think we’ll see the line improved in the following way.

  • An upgraded speed limit of perhaps 120 kph.
  • Longer platforms if needed
  • Perhaps a couple of reopened or new stations.
  • Better interchange at Alexandra Palace and Stevenage stations.

I am certain, this would enable some extra trains to serve the line to perhaps Stevenage, Peterborough or Cambridge.

Before I look at the train services on the Hertford Loop Line in detail, I’ll look at other issues for local and Cambridge Line trains on the two Northern branches of the Thameslink Great Northern network.

Upgrade Of The Slow Lines Between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace Stations

I found this statement in a Network Rail document posted on the web.

The section is entitled Upgrade to down slow 2 and creation of up slow 2 line between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace.

This is said.

Up slow 2 and down slow 2 lines available for passenger use with increased linespeeds with a new platform provided at Finsbury Park in the up direction. No platform faces are provided at Harringay and Hornsey. The scheme allows some Hertford North/Gordon Hill to Moorgate inner suburban services to operate independently of outer suburban services and long distance high speed (LDHS) services, which removes a timetable constraint.

I would assume it means that there are two slow lines in both directions, one of which leads directly to the Hertford Loop Line. This is also said.

Due to the focus on the off peak timetable, the line upgrades between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace have a smaller impact, as the majority of services call at intermediate stations on this section. However, provision of platform faces on the upgraded lines has the potential to ease timetabling constraints on the busy Alexandra Palace – Welwyn section.

The only stations without platform faces on the upgraded lines in this section are Harringay and Hornsey.

It would appear to me, that this could be a half-finished job.

The ability to separate Hertford Loop Line services from those on the East Coast Main Line has been enabled, but no provision has been made to allow separated Hertford Loop Line services at Harringay and Hornsey stations. It’s not that the two intermediate stations are lightly used, as these are the usage statistics for 2014-2015.

  • Bowes Park – 0.96 million
  • New Southgate – 0.69 million
  • Alexandra Palace – 1.42 million
  • Hornsey – 1.35 million
  • Harringay – 1.26 million
  • Finsbury Park – 6.26 million

It’s not as though Hornsey and Harringay hardly see any passengers.

So for the present time, all passenger services must share the same slow lines between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace.

Have Network Rail got the planning of this section right?

Finsbury Park Station

Three routes come together at Finsbury Park station.

  • Thameslink – 6 tph between St. Pancras  and Finsbury Park
  • Great Northern – 6 tph between Kings Cross and Finsbury Park
  • Northern City – 6 tph between Moorgate and Finsbury Park

I wonder if we’ll see a simple cross- and same-platform interchange, so that Northbound passengers can get off their train from Kings Cross, Moorgate or St. Pancras at Finsbury Park and without changing platforms get a train to any station towards Cambridge or Peterborough, either up the East Coast Main Line or the Hertford Loop Line. Obviously going South, passengers will need to reverse the process.

To complicate matters, Finsbury Park station will be one of the main interchanges between the Thameslink Great Northern network and the Piccadilly and Victoria Lines.

This map from, shows the lines at Finsbury Park station.

Lines At Finsbury Park Station

Lines At Finsbury Park Station

Finsbury Park station certainly has a lot of platforms and crossovers and it strikes me that given the current work at the station, that Network Rail has an acceptable solution.

I took these pictures at the station.

There is plenty of work to do and questions to answer before the station is ready for Thameslink.

  • Will Northern City Line services to use platforms 1 and 8?
  • Will Kings Cross services continue to use platforms 2 and 7?
  • Platforms 2 and 3 and Platforms 6 and 7 are either side of a single track, although Platforms 3 and 6 don’t seem to be currently used.
  • Is the work outside of platform 8, creating two new platforms 9 and 10?
  • Will the spiral staircases to the Underground be adequate?

There has been no indication as to which platforms Thameslink will use, although all platforms at the stations are probably long enough for the two-hundred metre long Thameslink trains.

But our French friends at have a map, which shows the routes between the Canal Tunnels, that take Thameslink trains between St. Pancras and the East Coast Main Line.

It would appear that the lines through the Canal Tunnels connect directly to the slow lines, that go through Finsbury Park.

  • The Canal Tunnel lines are shown at the bottom left of the map.
  • There is even a convenient flyover taking the up slow lines to the correct side of the main lines for Thameslink.

So it would appear that the Thameslink lines South of Finsbury Park will take the same route as local services out of Kings Cross do now.

Remember that between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace stations, there are two slow lines both ways, which will have to accommodate 18 tph, empty stock movements and some freight trains.

I feel this means that at Finsbury Park, there is sufficient capacity to adopt a logical strategy, that will be easily understood and remembered by passengers.

I suspect that the platform allocations will be as follows.

  • Platform 1 – Services to Moorgate – 6 tph
  • Platform 2 – Services to Kings Cross and Thameslink – 12 tph
  • Platform 7 – Services up the East Coast Main Line – 15 tph
  • Platform 8 – Services on the Hertford Loop Line – 3 tph

Given all the advanced signalling in the area and on the trains, I don’t think these frequencies are unreasonable.

Could we also see Thameslink trains on Platforms 2 and 7 opening doors on both sides?

Possibly, as there may be advantages in this!

Whilst at Finsbury Park this morning, I saw an outer suburban train stop in Platform 4 and quite a few passengers got off to continue their journey on the Underground. After Thameslink opens, would there be any value in having a cross platform interchange to Platform 3, where Thameslink trains would open their doors on both sides, so giving extra connections?

Obviously, if it would work going into London, it would work going out of the capital.

But these are only my speculation.

Moorgate Station

Moorgate station is one of those outposts of the UK rail network, that has had a sorry and tragic history.

At Moorgate, the Northern City Line tunnels are above those of the Northern Line, in an unusual double-decker station design.

This map from shows the two lines.

Lines At Moorgate Station

Lines At Moorgate Station

The caption says this.

Northern Underground and Northern City Line tunnels and stations are superimposed between Old Street and Moorgate.

These are pictures that I took of the Northern City Line station.


  • The two platforms are not spacious by modern standards.
  • Two escalators connect the Northern City Line platforms to the ticket hall.
  • Two fairly long escalators lead between the Northern City Line and Northern Line platforms.
  • The platforms could do with a well-designed makeover.

In addition, the two Northern Line platforms have a pair of escalators connecting them to the booking hall.

The four platforms are certainly well connected to each other and to the surface by escalators. The only thing lacking is a lift for step-free access to connect the booking hall to both levels of platforms.

The current Underground ticket hall will be extended and become the new Western ticket hall for the double-ended Liverpool Street Crossrail station.

On this page of the Crossrail web site, this is said.

The Moorgate worksite also incorporates a 42m deep shaft that provides ventilation and emergency access to the new ticket hall.  The Moorgate shaft is currently being used by our station tunnelling contractor to build an access passage linking the Crossrail platforms to the Northern line.  Later this year our Eastern Running Tunnels contractor will use the shaft to carry out out concrete works to form the foundation slab that will support the trackwork in the tunnels.

I have to ask if this access passage linking the Crossrail platforms to the Northern Line, will link to the Northern City Line as well. If it does it will probably be step-free and have a high-capacity as well.

But even if it doesn’t, access to and from the Northern City Line, will still be by two escalators from the ticket hall and two from the Northern Line platforms.

I suspect that as the Northern City and Northern Lines are superimposed on each other, I do wonder if a large enough corner has been identified, where a lift can serve all levels of the station.

If we have Crossrail going through a short distance away, where forty-eight (2 x 24) massive trains per hour will be stopping, even if only a small proportion of passengers, wanted to use the Northern City services out of Moorgate to explore the delights of North London and Hertfordshire, the current 6 tph out of Moorgate will be seriously inadequate.

But the Northern City Line is getting new Class 717 trains and as I said earlier, these trains will bring in a large increase in capacity.

So how many trains per hour could work the lines into the two-platform terminus at Moorgate?

At present Moorgate handles 6 tph most of the day, but during the peaks the line handles at least 9 tph.

But even 9 tph is very small compared to the upwards of thirty tph handled at both the two-platform Brixton and Walthamstow Central termini on the Victoria Line.

Given that the Class 717 trains are versions of the Class 700 Thameslink trains, that are planned to run at 24 tph under London, with a voltage change at Farringdon, I suspect that the theoretical limit for the number of trains per hour into Moorgate is higher than the 9 tph achieved by the scrapyard specials in the peak.

So is London going to get a new high-capacity route from the City to North London and Hertfordshire, that links to both Crossrail and Thameslink?

You bet it is!


  • Moorgate can probably handle up to fifteen to twenty Class 717 trains per hour, with signalling and operational improvements.
  • The Class 717 trains will hold more passengers than the Class 313 trains.
  • The greater performance of the Class 717 trains will probably speed up the services.
  • Finsbury Park station should be ready to accept the higher frequency and give same platform interchange to Thameslink.
  • The doubling and improvement to the slow lines between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace will allow the increased frequency to be handled.

If twelve trains per hour ran into Moorgate and they split equally between Welwyn Garden City and the Hertford Loop Line as they do now, that would give a ten minute interval on both routes, which is twice as many trains as the current time.

I think the biggest problem will be to persuade the RMT, that running say twelve trains or more per hour into Moorgate, is safe.

Harringay Station

Harringay station has two platforms, with one for each direction.

This Google Map shows Harringay station.

Harringay Station

Harringay Station


  • The bridge across the tracks with steps leading down to the two platforms.
  • The station is not step-free, with steep staircases.
  • There is no platform faces on the newly-created second pair of slow lines.

To be fair, Harringay is a dump and one of the worst stations on the line, but an architect with flair could make it work, with cross platform interchange between trains on both pairs of slow lines.

These pictures show Haringay station.


  • The station certainly is a dump.
  • The two down slow lines lie between platform 2 and the retaining wall.
  • In a couple of pictures, you can see the Harringay Curve that connects the Gospel Oak to Barking and East Coast Main Lines.
  • Platform 1 actually lies between the two slow lines.

The station obviously needs a rebuild.

  • This would incorporate acceptable passenger access and customer services.
  • There appears to be space to create a double-sided up platform 1.
  • Platform 2 is probably easier to move between the two slow lines.

But rebuilding would probably mean complete closure of the lines through the station and a large degree of inconvenience.

I doubt we’ll see little more than a general tidying up in the near future, with the station handling all of the stopping traffic and all other services, like freight and empty stock movements using the two lines without platform faces.

One advantage of the current layout, is that non-passenger services are kept away from the platforms.

Hornsey Station

Hornsey station has two platforms, with one for each direction.

This Google Map shows Hornsey station.

Hornsey Station

Hornsey Station

These pictures show Hornsey station.


  • The two fast lines go between the two platforms.
  • The current down platform is on the inner of the two slow lines and is actually between the two slow lines.

Like Harringay, Hornsey can be improved with respect to passenger access and customer services.

Building an island down platform looks possible, but as at Harringay, the current layout works safely.

Alexandra Palace Station

Alexandra Palace station has four platforms, but the station has the air of a work-in-progress as although there is some easy interchange between services, it’s not perfect or step-free.

This Google Map shows the station.

Alexandra Palace Station

Alexandra Palace Station


  • The Hertford Loop Line curves across the East Coast Main Line.
  • Train stabling for the East Coast Main Line sits to the North of the station.
  • Hertford Loop Line services have to stop at the two outer platforms in the station.
  • Crossrail 2 might serve this station.

Knowing the station well, I feel that a good  station can be created here, where Thameslink, Great Northern to Cambridge and Peterborough,  and Hertford Loop Line services have a simple cross- or same-platform interchange in the Northerly direction.

These are pictures of the station.


  • If you are going North and you’re on the wrong train, you have a cross-platform interchange on Platforms 2 and 4 at Alexandra Palace station.
  • Trains for the South can stop at either platforms 1 or 2.
  • The station is not step-free, but lifts could probably be added to the existing bridge.
  • The Yard cafe at the station is excellent and I had a very good gluten-free frittata.

I never would have thought when I used to use the station in the 1950s and 1960s, that it would grow up to be a very capable station.

Other Stations Between Alexandra Palace And Welwyn Garden City

The stations on the Main Line are a bit of a mixed bunch.

  • Some have four platforms and some have just two.
  • Some are step-free and some are not.
  • Some are modern and some are fairly old and need updating.

These pictures give a flavour of the stations.

Welwyn Garden City station is unique, as it is one corner of a shopping centre, called the Howard Centre

Is it the only station in the UK, with a Boots, a large proper Marks and Spencer, a Next and a Monsoon, with John Lewis not far away?

Trains terminating at Welwyn Grden City seem to use platforms 3 and 4 by the Howard Centre, using the sidings to the North of the station if required. On leaving the station, the trains cross the main lines and get to the up slow line using a flyover.

Welwyn Garden City is certainly a well-designed station to return trains to London.

Gordon Hill Station

Gordon Hill station must be the only station with the same name as a footballer.

I’d never been until I visited a few days ago and I’d rather expected a typical bog-standard, rather poor two-platform suburban station.

This Google Map of the station gives a few clues about the station.


Note that it appears that the station could have once had four platform faces and these could easily be long enough for eight car trains.

What I did find was a charming early twentieth-century station as these pictures show.


  • The station has three working platform faces; two through and a bay one on the Eastern side.
  • There would appear to be space on the Western side to create a fourth platform.
  • The bridge is of no architectural merit and probably should be replaced by one giving full step free access.

I believe that the station could play a major port in an upgraded Hertford Loop Line, in that if the station was to be converted to a full four-through platform station, then it would create a passing loop that the line needs to increase capacity.

In some ways Gordon Hill station, shows how truly bad our planning was in the first half of the twentieth century. The station opened in 1910, so was well established when Chase Farm Hospital opened just after the Second World War, just a short distance to the North. Hopefully, these days, it would be hoped that when a new hospital is built, that it is connected properly to the local transport network. Since it was built the hospital has had a chequered history and with the way healthcare is changing and perhaps requiring smaller and more specialised hospitals, I can see a time, when the hospital site becomes housing, which to increase its green credentials could be connected by a footpath and cycleway to Gordon Hill station.

If the hospital stays operational, it should surely have a sensible modern connection to the station and not just the odd bus every hour or so.

This Google Map shows the hospital and the station.

Chase Farm Hospital And Gordon Hill Station

Chase Farm Hospital And Gordon Hill Station

We should think more holistically and not assume that everybody has a car.

Hertford North Station

Hertford North station is one of the busiest stations on the Hertford Loop Line and one of only two stations with more than two platforms.

This Google Map shows the station.

Hertford North Station

Hertford North Station

These are some pictures of the station.

I feel that with some clever engineering that Hertford North station can be upgraded into a four-platform station with two passing loops.

Other Stations On The Hertford Loop Line

All the other stations seem to be two platform stations, with minimal facilities and little or no parking.

With more and better trains, increased links to the stations and perhaps some better parking, I wouldn’t think it unfeasible to increase the passengers using the stations on the loop.

There might possibly be a case for reopening Stapleford station.

The Digswell Viaduct And Welwyn North Station

The two-track section over the Digswell Viaduct and through Welwyn North station is a major bottleneck on the East Coast Main Line.

The Wikipedia entry for the viaduct says this.

The viaduct carries the East Coast Main Line, which has to narrow from four tracks to two to cross the viaduct, making it a bottleneck restraining capacity over this strategic transport route.. This problem is exacerbated by Welwyn North railway station situated at the northern end of the viaduct, which blocks the line while trains are stationary and two tunnels to the north. Several ideas to overcome the limitations of the viaduct and station without damaging the viaduct’s essential historic character and rhythmic design are periodically discussed.

In some ways, the station is more of a problem than the viaduct. Every stop at the station and there are just two trains per hour in both directions, effectively blocks the main line for a few minutes. It’s a bit like having a level crossing on a motorway.

If the viaduct were to be rebuilt to four tracks, which these days with modern construction methods is probably a very expensive possibility, this would still leave the problem of the station, which is on a very restricted site. Wikipedia also says this about the station.

The station is a rare survival of architecture from the early days of the GNR and this is now recognised with listed building status. The main station building, the footbridge, the tunnel portal to the north and Digswell Viaduct to the south are all Grade 2 listed.

This leads me to a very extreme solution to the problem.

Welwyn North station should lose most or all of its train services.

This Google Map shows the station and the viaduct.

Digswell Viaduct And Welwyn North Station

Digswell Viaduct And Welwyn North Station

Perhaps, a better solution would be a mixture of road and rail improvements .

  • Improve the traffic routes from the area to other stations at Knebworth and Welwyn Garden City.
  • Provide more car parking at Welwyn Garden City and Stevenage stations.
  • Provide a free and frequent shuttle bus between Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City stations calling at Welwyn North and Knebworth stations.
  • Build a new station at Stapleford on the Hertford Loop Line.

Perhaps a parkway station could be built in the South of Stevenage on the Hertford Loop Line.

Elimination of the stopping of trains at Welwyn North would lead to the following.

  • Extra paths in both directions through the station.
  • Services like Thameslink and the Great Northern services to Cambridge would save a few minutes.
  • The expresses to and from the North would be able to provide a faster and more reliable service.

In my view, we should go the whole way and close Welwyn North station.

A South Stevenage Parkway Station

This Google Map shows the area between Stevenage and Watton-At-Stone stations.

South Stevenage

South Stevenage

If Stevenage expands southwards, I wonder if a South Stevenage Parkway station could be built on the Hertford Loop Line with good connections to the A1M and lots of parking.

I would estimate the station would be around six kilometres from Welwyn North station.

It would be another carrot for the closure of Welwyn North station.

Stevenage Station

Stevenage station is a modern station, but it could probably be extended and improved.

  • The station has four platforms and is step-free.
  • Some long-distance services to the North and Scotland stop at the station.
  • The station is the only one between Kings Cross and Peterborough, where long distance trains stop.
  • It is first station, North of where the Northern end of the Hertford Loop Line joins the East Coast Main Line in grade-separated junction.
  • There are also plans to upgrade the station with extra platforms.

I think it is true to say, that the station is not a bottleneck on the East Coast Main Line, but that an improved Stevenage station could do the following.

  • Improve the flow of fast expresses, by ending the practice of trains stopping on the fast lines.
  • Give better services to the North and Scotland for passengers living between Stevenage and Kings Cross.
  • The station will probably be served by six Thameslink trains per hour.
  • Provide a better interchange for those coming South needing to go on the Hertford Loop Line.
  • The station could turnback some trains on the Hertford Loop Line.
  • Note that Hertford North to Stevenage takes just 13 minutes in the current Class 313 trains.

The question has to be asked if  Stevenage would be a better terminus for the Hertford Loop line, than Hertford North?

Operationally, this would probably be easier than turning the trains at Hertford North, especially, if other fast services were to be diverted to the Hertford Loop Line.

Assuming 12 trains per hour, were going into Moorgate and these split equally between the main line and Hertford Loop routes, turning trains at Stevenage wsould give a service with a ten minute interval to Moorgate.

As this is the same as the Thameslink frequency I believe a pattern of trains could be developed

At present one-in-three trains on the Hertford Loop Line, go on to Letchworth Garden City, so if the current policy prevailed Letchworth would get 2 tph to Moorgate.

There are certainly lots of ways to use an upgraded Stevenage station.

Hitchin To Peterborough

This is a line with capacity problems as there is sections of twin and triple track  in the mainly quadruple track, between Huntingdon and Peterborough.

The trains on this section are.

  • Thameslink – 2 tph Peterborough to Horsham – Stopping Pattern Unknown
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Peterborough to Kings Cross – Semi-Fast – London King’s Cross and Peterborough calling at Finsbury Park, Stevenage and then all stations.
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Peterborough to Kings Cross – Stopping – London King’s Cross and Peterborough calling at Finsbury Park, Potters Bar, Hatfield, Welwyn Garden City and then all stations.

If there were continuous slow lines, then you could have an optimised stopping pattern, but as trains have to use the fast lines to progress in places, you can’t interfere with speeding Virgins.

I suspect that there’s a very unusual pattern of trains, as they sneak through.

The line definitely needs quadrupling where there are only two and three tracks.

You could probably argue that between Stevenage and Peterborough, there needs to be a service with a pattern like this.

  • 2-4 tph stopping at all stations.
  • 2-4 tph stopping at important stations with four platforms.

I wouldn’t be surprised that Network Rail and Thameslink have a plan to remove this bottleneck.

Htchin To Cambridge

The trains on this section are.

  • Thameslink – 2 tph Cambridge North to Brighton – Stopping Pattern Unknown
  • Thameslink – 2 tph Cambridge to Maidstone East – Stopping Pattern Unknown
  • Great Northern – 2 tph Cambridge to Kings Cross – Non-Stop
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Cambridge to Kings Cross – Semi-Fast -London King’s Cross and Cambridge calling at Finsbury Park, Stevenage, Hitchin, Letchworth, Baldock and Royston.
  • Great Northern – 1 tph Cambridge to Kings Cross – Stopping – London King’s Cross and Cambridge calling at Finsbury Park, Potters Bar, Hatfield, Welwyn Garden City and then all stations
  • Northern City – 1 tph Moorgate to Letchworth Garden City – Stopping via Hertford Loop

So this gives  8 tph to Cambridge and an extra one to Letchworth Garden City. All are currently run by various parts of Govia Thameslink Railway.

Wikipedia says this about the infrastructure of the Cambridge Line.

The line is double track throughout. Traction current is supplied at 25 kV AC using overhead line equipment overseen by York Electrical Control Room, with Neutral Sections at Cambridge junction, Litlington and Shepreth Branch junction. It has a loading gauge of W8 and a maximum line speed of 90 mph


  • If after all the new 160 kph trains are delivered, it could be an efficient line to run, possibly even at a slightly higher speed.
  • At present, stations like Shepreth and Meldreth often only get an hourly service.
  • In a few years time, a new station will possibly be built for the East West Rail Link near Addenbrookes Hospital.

The big problem on the Cambridge Line was solved by the Hitchin Flyover, which allowed trains for Cambridge to leave the East Coast Main Line without delaying fast trains.

I think extending the Letchworth Garden City service to Cambridge North would give a lot of benefits.

  • Cambridge would now have three destinations in London; Kings Cross, Liverpool Street and Moorgate.
  • It would connect with the Kings Cross stopping train,  a 2 tph, high class local service into both Cambridge stations.
  • A Cambridge North to Moorgate service would connect the Cambridge Science Park to Silicon Rundabout.
  • If the service connected to a 2 tph service across Suffolk to Bury St. Edmunds, it would greatly improve Suffolk’s links to London.

I suspect there are other factors and they will lead to an improved service pattern on this line and the other ones radiating from Cambridge.

The Kings Cross To Peterborough Fast Lines

If as I believe, you can do the following.

  • Eliminate stopping at Welwyn North station, by enticing passengers to use other means.
  • Remodel Stevenage station, so that trains do not stop on the fast lines.
  • Create a four-track railway between Huntingdon and Peterborough.

You would then create an unbroken pair of fast lines from between Kings Cross and Peterborough, with slow lines on either side and two slow lines as far as Alexandra Palace.

The limiting factor of the number of trains on the line would probably be determined, by the number of platforms at Kings Cross.

It would be some railway for one mostly built in the mid-nineteenth century.

The Thameslink Trains To Cambridge And Peterborough

There are of four of these to Cambridge and two to Peterborough in each hour.

The stopping pattern has not been announced, except that they will be semi-fast.

So could they have a pattern similar to the current semi-fast trains of only stops at Finsbury Park, Stevenage and Hitchin, South of where the Cambridge Line joins at Hitchin?

The other major stations, where they might stop are Alexandra Palace, Potters Bar, Hstfield and Welwyn Garden City.

They would probably swap between fast and slow lines as they progressed, as there are restrictions, due to the platform and track layout.

  • The trains would be on the slow lines at Finsbury Park to access the Canal Tunnels.
  • Alexandra Palace station has no fast line platform.
  • Over the Digswell Viaduct and through Welwyn North station, trains would be on the fast lines.
  • Hitchin station has no fast line platform.
  • Trains need to be on the slow line through Hitchin, to access the Cambridge Line.

If it was desired, that there was no fast line stopping, this would mean trains would be on the slow lines, except through Digswell and Welwyn North.

Surely, that would be one preferred scenario, as it has advantages.

  • Stopping trains fit in well and would deliver extra passengers to Finsbury Park, Welwyn Garden City and Stevenage.
  • Stops at other stations with slow line platforms could be easily added.

It should be noted, that step-free access at some of the important stations isn’t perfect.

The Non-Stop Kings Cross To Cambridge Trains

If they continue after Thameslink starts, these would probably be run by 175 kph Class 387 trains, so they would be totally capable of running with the expresses, which would use the fast lines between Kings Cross and Hitchin.

As the new trains are generally faster than those currently on the line past Hitchin, we may even see a few seconds off the current forty-five minutes.

So it looks like these services would require two paths in every hour on the fast lines.

The Semi-Fast Trains To Cambridge And Peterborough

These trains, which would probably be run using 175 kph Class 387 trains, seem to stop at only Finsbury Park, Stevenage and Hitchin, South of where the Cambridge Line joins at Hitchin.

Although the Cambridge Line is only double-track, as all trains will be capable of at least 160 kmh, if the line was upgraded to run at this speed, with perhaps the removal of the level crossings, I suspect an efficient and fast service could be run to Cambridge.

On the route to Peterborough, it would be much better, if the line were to be four-tracked.

Again, it looks like these services would require two paths in every hour on the fast lines.

But after Thameslink opens, would these services be needed?

The Stopping Trains To Cambridge And Peterborough

Both services have similar patterns calling at Finsbury Park, Potters Bar, Hatfield, Welwyn Garden City and then all stations.

These trains are the two troublemakers that currently call at Welwyn North.

If the decision is made to stop most services at Welwyn North, then there are various possibilities.

  • The stopping train could just use the fast lines between the Southern end of the Digswell Viaduct and Knebworth station.
  • The stopping trains go via the Hertford Loop and rejoin their current route at Stevenage.
  • The stopping trains are replaced by another semi-fast service.
  • The stopping trains are discontinued South of Stevenage.

There might even be a case to put these stopping trains into Moorgate rather than Kings Cross, thus separating Thameslink, fast and slow services.

It should also be born in mind that there will be six Thameslink services on the route, which will probably stop at Finsbury Park, Potters Bar, Hatfield, Welwyn Garden City, Stevenage and Hitchin, so the stopping train won’t be as important as it is now, unless you want to go to an intermediate station.

How Would Times On The Hertford Loop Line Compare With The Main Line?

Currently the fastest Finsbury Park to Stevenage trains take eighteen minutes without a stop on the main line and fifty minutes on the Hertford Loop Line.

That is quite a difference.

I wouldn’t speculate on how much a Class 717 train would knock off the current time, but.

  • They are faster than the Class 313 trains.
  • There are eleven stations on the loop and modern trains are good at stopping and getting going again.
  • We must assume the line is improved.

I also think that increasing the number of trains on the Hertford Loop Line, would not be a bad thing, for passengers, the areas served by the line and train operators.


As I write this I’m getting more and more convinced, that the best solution to the problem of the two track section of the East Coast Main Line over the Digswell Viaduct and through Welwyn North station, is the following.

  • Close Welwyn North station to nost if not all trains.
  • Improve road connections in the Welwyn North area, as a more affordable and easier alternative to rebuilding the viaduct and station.
  • Improve the Hertford Loop Line with higher speeds and passing loops at Gordon Hill and Hertford North.
  • Possibly build a parkway station on the Hertford Loop Line, South of Stevenage.

Other improvements are also likely and would help services.

  • Improvements to Stevenage station.
  • Four-tracking between Hitchin and Peterborough.
  • Upgrading the Cambridge Line to a 160 kph line.
  • Full step-free access at all stations. Or at least where Thameslink calls.

This would give the operator a railway that could provide the services passengers want.

I can see a Thameslink Great Northern network that looks like this.

  • Thameslink services from St. Pancras and the South serving destinations of Cambridge, Peterborough and possibly Welwyn Garden City.
  • A possible fast Kings Cross to Cambridge/Kings Lynn service.
  • Suburban services from Moorgate serving the Hertford Loop Line and Welwyn Garden City, with possible extensions to Cambridge, Peterborough and Stevenage.

This would certainly free up platforms at Kings Cross and high speed paths on the fast line.




July 28, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 4 Comments

All Change On Thameslink

Wikipedia gives a Provisional Timetable for Thameslink.

  • 4 trains per hour (tph) – Sutton to St. Albans (2 tph via Wimbledon, 2tph via Mitcham)
  • 2tph – Brighton to Bedford
  • 2 tph – Gatwick Airport to Bedford
  • 2 tph – Brighton to Cambridge
  • 2 tph – Horsham to Peterborough
  • 2 tph – Tattenham Corner to Cambridge
  • 2 tph – Sevenoaks to Kentish Town
  • 2 tph – Caterham to Finsbury Park (stopping via Sydenham or semi-fast)
  • 2 tph – Maidstone East to Luton
  • 2 tph – East Grinstead to West Hampstead
  • 2 tph – Littlehampton to West Hampstead

Some services are extended in the Peak to and from Bedford, Luton, Three Bridges and Welwyn Garden City.

According to Modern Railways for August 2016, the new proposal is.

  • 4 trains per hour (tph) – Sutton to St. Albans (2 tph via Wimbledon, 2tph via Mitcham)
  • 2tph – Brighton to Bedford
  • 2 tph – Three Bridges/Gatwick Airport to Bedford
  • 2 tph – Brighton to Cambridge North
  • 2 tph – Horsham to Peterborough
  • 2 tph – Maidstone East to Cambridge
  • 2 tph – Sevenoaks to Blackfriars
  • 2 tph -Orpington to Kentish Town/West Hampstead
  • 2 tph – Rainham to Luton (via Dartford and Greenwich)
  • 2 tph – East Grinstead to Bedford
  • 2 tph – Littlehampton to Bedford

No information on Peak  extensions is given.

I can make the following observations.

More Off Peak Trains Through The Core

According to Modern Railways for August 2016, there will be another 2 tph in the Off Peak, through the core from St. Pancras to London Bridge.

The core section of Thameslink, which effectively goes from West Hampstead/Kentish Town and Finsbury Park in the North to London Bridge and Elephant and Castle in the South.

Thameslink Core

Thameslink Core

This section is getting to look more like a high-capacity Underground Line. The frequency is in the mid-twenty trains per hour, which is better than some Underground lines.

There is also a lot of connections.

  • West Hampstead – Jubilee Line and North London Lines and possibly Chiltern and Metropolitan Lines.
  • Kentish Town – Northern Line
  • Finsbury Park – Great Northern, Piccadillyand Victoria Lines.
  • St. Pancras – Circle, Metropolitan, Northern,Piccadilly and Victoria Lines, and Main Line services out of Kings Croiss and St. Pancras.
  • Blackfriars – Circle and District Lines
  • London Bridge – Northern and Jubilee Lines and Main Line services.
  • Elephant and Castle – Northern and Bakerloo Lines

With this level of connections, it should surely be on the Underground Map.

Changing In The Core

Passengers will have to get more used to changing trains in the core section between St. Pancras and Blackfriars.

Passengers will get off one train at a station they like, wait for hopefully a few minutes, before getting a train to their preferred destination.

I think Thameslink could make this a lot easier, by providing kiosks and coffee shops on the platforms of the station, they would like people to change.

New Routes

Thameslink will open up new routes.

Until I was fifteen, I lived near Oakwood station and getting to and from Gatwick from there is not easy. But after Thameslink opens, the Piccadilly Line takes me to Finsbury Park for Thameslink, where I suspect I’ll be able to get a train to Gatwick.

All the fuss is about Crossrail, but the effect of a full Thameslink could be almost as great.

London Bridge Station

According to a platform layout diagram in Wikipedia of London Bridge station, Thameslink will use the following platforms.

  • Platform 4 to go South.
  • Platform 5 to go North.

Is the design of the island platform 4/5 in the new station, wide enough to have kiosks and/or coffee shops?

It’s certainly an island platform, that will enable passengers to change direction.

Sutton Loop Services

Sutton currently has 2 tph to St. Albans and 2 tph to Luton, so the new proposal might be seen as a cutback, as it doesn’t go all the way to Luton.

Will users of the Sutton Loop Line find this acceptable? According to the Political Developments section in the Wikipedia entry for the Thameslink Programme, this is said.

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.

There are powerful interests!


Are some Cambridge services going to Cambridge North station, to give better connections between Thameslink and services to and from Kings Lynn, Norwich, Peterborough and the Midlands?

Cambridge North station is given in Wikipedia as a three platform station.

Is that enough? Especially, if trains arriving at Cambridge North station from the North were to be turned back.

Thameslink will also highlight a real problem at Cambridge.

After Thameslink opens, for many passengers, going to say Ipswich or Norwich via Cambridge could be a better option, than going via Liverpool Street.

At present trains from Cambridge to Ipswich, Norwich and Peterborough do not have enough capacity or frequency. At least a four-car train running every thirty minutes is needed now and, Thameslink will bring more passengers to the routes.

Hopefully, the new East Anglia Franchise will improve these important services across the region.

Midland Main Line

It would seem that services on the Midland Main Line branch of Thameslink, stop a few stations further in with perhaps fewer services going to Luton.

Given that the Midland Main Line is to be electrified and fast trains will be running from St. Pancras to Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield, the interface between the two lines needs to be well thought out.


  • The interchange between Thameslink and Midland Main Line services at St. Pancras is not the best.
  • Will Bedford be upgraded to be a better interchange?
  • Trains on the electrified Midland Main Line will probably be 200 kph trains, as opposed to the 160 kph of the Class 700 train‘s on Thameslink.
  • The trains run on separate pairs of lines, with the slow lines to the East and the fast lines to the West.

In my view, there is a need for a cross platform interchange between Thameslink and long distance services, but on a brief look, this might be difficult, at anywhere other than Bedford station.

As Bedford  will also become the Eastern terminus of the East West Rail Link, and there is space in the area of the station, could we see Bedford developed into an important and efficient interchange?

St. Pancras Station

A lot of this could have been much easier, if St. Pancras station had been designed as a working station, rather than to show off! It may have a fur coat, but it’s certainly got no knickers.

A simple illustration of the bad design of St. Pancras, is to imagine you’re coming from say Flitwick on Thameslink and want to go to anywhere on the Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria Lines.

  • The Piccadilly and Victoria Lines are a long walk from Thameslink and the Midland Main Line platforms at St. Pancras.
  • The Northern Line is better as sensible passengers will use Kentish Town or London Bridge to change.

At least there is a good interchange to the Circle, District and Metropolitan Lines at Farringdon and Blackfriars.

In some ways the easiest way to get from the Thameslink platforms at St. Pancras to the Victoria and Piccadilly Lines, especially if you’re going South, is to get off at Farringdon station and use the cross-platform interchange between the Southbound Thameslink and the Westbound Circle/Metropolitan, which I showed in A Space Too Good To Leave Empty, and then take one stop back to Kings Cross before walking up the stairs to take the escalators to the Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria Lines.

East Coast Main Line

Thameslink’s links to the East Coast Main Line hopefully will be much better, as there are stations, where interchange to local and long-distance services could be excellent.

  • Finsbury Park (At least 6 tph) will hopefully give good interchange to Great Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria Lines and local services.
  • Welwyn Garden City (At least 4 tph) will interchange with local services
  • Stevenage (At least 4 tph) will interchange with local services and some long distance trains.
  • Peterborough (2 tph) will interchange with local services and lots of long distance trains.

As the slow lines are on the outside of the fast lines on the East Coast Main Line, I suspect that there are several good opportunities to create cross- or same platform interchanges between local services, Thameslink and long distance services to the North and Scotland.

Northern City And Hertford Loop Lines

One set of services that will benefit from Thameslink are those on the Northern City Line out of Moorgate and the associated Hertford Loop Line.

  • The service will be connected to Thameslink services at Finsbury Park, Welwyn Garden City, Stevenage and other stations.
  • The lines recently went to seven-day-a-week operation.
  • The lines are getting new Class 717 trains.
  • The Hertford Loop Line is a double-track line with a 120 kph speed limit and stations for six-car trains.
  • The current Southern terminus at Moorgate, is not the easiest to access.

In the future, don’t discount improvements to the Hertford Loop Line, to get more trains through the area.


  • The Hertford Loop Line is the only diversion past the bottleneck of the Digswell Viaduct.
  • Both ends of the line are grade-separated.
  • The fastest trains between Finsbury Park and Stevenage on the main line take 18 minutes with no stops and 31 minutes with five stops.
  • A typical stopping train on the Hertford Loop Line takes around 41-50 minutes.
  • The line can handle long trains and frequently does, when there are problems on the main line.
  • Thameslink Class 700 trains could certainly run on the line, but couldn’t stop unless platforms were extended.
  • After the Great Northern Class 717 trains are delivered, under normal operation only the most modern trains with the latest signalling will use the line.
  • Stevenage station already has  cross platform interchange between main line, Thameslink, local  and Hertford Loop services.

I think we shouldn’t discount the possibility of some Thameslink services going via an uprated Hertford Loop Line to release paths on the congested part of the East Coast Main Line.

Suppose the  Hertford Loop Line was updated to include.

  • 160 kph speed limit.
  • Perhaps longer platforms at Hertford North station.
  • Cross-platform or same platform interchange at Finsbury Park and Stevenage and perhaps Alexandra Palace.
  • Perhaps a new parkway station South of Stevenage which could accept 12-car Thameslink trains.

I suspect Network Rail are updating their book of cunning plans to get more capacity through and around the Digswell Viaduct.

More Routes To Kent

The headline of the article in the August 2016 article in Modern Railways is Thameslink To Medway In Revised Timetable.

So why is Thameslink increasing its presence in Kent?

I could be cynical and say it is to take traffic from their rival company; Southeastern, but I think it is all about managing resources.


  • The core section of Thameslink can handle 24 tph in both directions.
  • North of the Thames, the increased capacity has been used to create a second route out of London to Welwyn Garden City, Cambridge and Peterborough.
  • East Croydon is a bottleneck and can’t take any more trains.
  • The Bermondsey Dive-Under and the new London Bridge station will create more capacity and better routes to South East London and Kent.
  • Thameslink has always served Kent.
  • Many Kent services go right across London to Victoria, whenb perhaps it would be easier if they served London Bridge or went through Thameslink.

So by switching some of the available services through London to Kent, this could be to relieve pressure at Victoria and East Croydon. So perhaps in the long term, this will allow more services from Victoria to Brighton via East Croydon and Gatwick Airport

But obviously, these changes wouldn’t be done if the passengers didn’t need to use the route.

I have to admit, that I hear regular complaints about the quality of the train service in South East London.

The 2 tph between Orpington and West Hampstead certainly looks like a measure to address South East London’s bad connectivity. I know one solicitor who’ll use it to get from home to her office.

The 2 tph between Rainham and Luton is the interesting service, as it goes via the Medway towns, Dartford and Greenwich.

  • It gives the Medway towns an additional route and more capacity to London.
  • It connects to Greenhithe for Bluewater.
  • It connects to Crossrail at Abbey Wood.
  • Could this route release capacity in Victoria?

One thing that surprises me, is that it duplicates the proposed Crossrail extension to Gravesend. Perhaps it is just a better idea.

The other  Kent service which is the 2 tph between Cambridge and Maidstone East, which is extended to Ashford in the peaks, seems to be a replacement for an existing service, but it could be taking the pressure off Victoria services.

Obviously Thameslink have the detailed passenger figures and can plan accordingly.

But surely, if the East Coastway service is extended to Ashford, perhaps by the use of IPEMU-capable Class 377 trains, then does this create another high-class commuter route to the far South-East?

Connecting To East Croydon And Gatwick From East London

For those of us in East London, who live along the East London Line, this is one of the most important sections of Thameslink.

At present, we can get to and from Gatwick Airport and East Croydon stations, by changing at somewhere like New Cross Gate or Norwood Junction stations.

It had been hoped that the improved Thameslink would have laid down a simple rule for getting from the East London Line to Gatwick, but when I asked Thameslink about this, they referred me to Transport for London, who unsurprisingly referred me back to Thameslink. I wrote about it in detail in Searching For What Is Going To Happen On The East London Line After The Thameslink Programme Opens.

Obviously, when Crossrail opens, it will help, as it runs from Whitechapel to Farringdon, but it would still be ideal to be able to get to Gatwick with one change, without making several and going halfway round London.

London Bridge To Caterham And Tattenham Corner via Purley

These destinations were originally to be incorporated into Thameslink, but it now appears, that they will become a shared service from London Bridge that divides at Purley station.

The current service is 2 tph from London Bridge to both Caterham and Tattenham Corner. As each train stops at all stations between New Cross Gate and East Croydon stations, this could appear to be the service that the East London Line needs.

The current London Overground services on the East London Line through New Cross Gate are 4 tph to West Croydon and 4 tph to Crystal Palace. As I said in Increased Frequencies On The East London Line, from 2018 Crystal Palace will receive 6 tph from Dalston Junction station.

So this means that from 2018, every six minutes a London Overground train will travel in both directions between New Cross Gate and Sydenham stations,. The services would run on the slow lines well out of the way of Thameslink on the fast lines.

There would probably be paths on the fast line to run the London Bridge to Purley services, but because Thameslink is such a high-frequency service, I suspect that they would run on the slow lines.

This would of course create a local Metro service to feed passengers to London Bridge and especially East Croydon to access longer distance services.

Let’s hope that there is sufficient capacity on the slow lines between New Cross Gate and East Croydon to incorporate a London Bridge to Purley service of sufficient frequency, so that plebs like me in Dalston wanting to go to East Croydon, can just get the first train to Sydenham and wait for a few minutes for the arrival of an East Croydon train.

In a perfect world, there would be ten trains per hour from London Bridge to East Croydon to match the Overground service. This would mean that the two services would alternate.

But I doubt this will happen, as other trains use the slow lines, like the service from Victoria to Sutton via Crystal Palace and West Croydon.

However, if we have at least a  4 tph service between London Bridge and Purley via East Croydon, that would mean that a reasonable service with one same platform interchange would exist between the East London Line and East Croydon, with all its connections to the South. Thameslink would be providing at least the following services from East Croydon.

  • 4 tph to Brighton
  • 4 tph to Three Bridges
  • 2 tph to Horsham

All 10 tph would serve Gatwick Airport.

I  wonder if the London Bridge to Purley services would share the same platform or island platform at East Croydon with Thameslink services.

If they did, then going to and from Gatwick Airport and Brighton from anywhere on the East London Line, would involve a maximum of two same platform changes.

London Bridge To Uckfield

For several months, I’ve thought that London Bridge to Uckfield will be run by an IPEMU or a train with onboard energy storage. I wrote about this in The Uckfield Branch Is Almost Ready For Longer Trains.

At present this service uses the fast lines between London Bridge and East Croydon and is run by Class 171 trains. An ideal train would be a modified Class 377 train, running in anb 8-, 10- or 12-car formation.

Between London Bridge and South Croydon, it would run using the third rail electrification and could keep up to a Thameslink speed. Only South of Oxted would it use the energy from the onboard storage to power the train.

Will Thameslink really want this interloper on their train superhighway between London Bridge and East Croydon?

Probably not!

But surely, the service could share the slow lines with the London Bridge to Purley services and the London Overground.

The Extended East London Line

Summarising the services that use the East London Line and the slow lines of the Brighton Main Line North of New Cross Gate we get from 2018.

  • 4 tph Dalston Junction to West Croydon (London Overground) – Uses route from New Cross Gate to Norwood Junction
  • 6 tph Highbury and Islington to Crystal Palace (London Overground) – Uses route from New Cross Gate to Sydenham.
  • ? tph London Bridge to Purley (Southern) – Uses route from New Cross Gate to East Croydon
  • ? tph London Bridge to Uckfield (Southern) – Uses route from New Cross Gate to East Croydon
  • 4 tph Crystal Palace to West Croydon (Southern) – Uses route through Norwood Junction.

If say we had 4 tph to Purley and and 2 tph to Uckfield, then that would mean.

  • 16 tph between New Cross Gate and Sydenham
  • 14 tph through Norwood Junction
  • 8 tph through East Croydon
  • 8 tph to West Croydon

I suspect, that people who know about train scheduling could squeeze up to about the same twenty trains per hour along the line, that London Overground will be running through the Thames Tunnel.

If something like this train pattern were to be implemented, it would effectively create an extended East London Line from Highbury and Islington and Dalston Junction in the North to Gatwick Airport, Brighton and Uckfield in the South via East Croydon. All passengers would probably do is change trains, but not platforms once or twice.

The Brighton Main Line 2

There are a lot of commuters and others, who press for a second main line to Brighton, It even has its own web site, which would seem to like to see.

  • Another route to London created using the Uckfield Branch and a reinstated Wealden Line.
  • Better access to the Canary Wharf area of London.

Having looked at what Thameslink are doing, I think I can say the following.

  • The new 12-car Class 700 trains will bring extra seats.
  • Brighton will get 4 tph Thameslink train service through London.
  • Thameslink services will interchange with East London Line services in a more efficient manner to give better access to Canary Wharf, Shoreditch, Whitechapel and East London in general.
  • If the Thameslink services do create capacity at Victoria and East Croydon, then we’ll see more  services from Brighton to Victoria.
  • 10- or 12-car services will run from Uckfield into London Bridge, at 2-4 tph.

Hopefully, it will put off the day, when serious money needs to be spent to build a second line from Brighton to London.


I obviously don’t know, if this logic is right!

But if the following is done.

  • Move services from Surrey to Kent.
  • Provide a new Metro route from London Bridge to Caterham and Tattenham Corner via Purley.
  • Optimise service end-points.
  • Look seriously at the Hertford Loop Line
  • Have a good think about how to serve Cambridge.

The following will happen.

  • Victoria will have some spare capacity.
  • Pressure on East Croydon will be eased.
  • A frequent service can be created between London Bridge and Uckfield.
  • The East London Line gets connected to Gatwick and Brighton.
  • South East London gets much needed connectivity.

But the biggest effect will be the ability to create more services between Victoria and Brighton via East Croydon and Gatwick Airport.

It all illustrates some of the possibilities created by the new Thameslink proposals.

And all without any new infrastructure, other than what is currently being constructed.



July 26, 2016 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 3 Comments

One of North London’s Forgotten Lines Is Awakening

Four of the nearest stations to my house are Moorgate, Old Street, Essex Road and Highbury and Islington. which all lie in an arc on the Northern City Line to Finsbury Park and on to North London and Hertfordshire, where it terminates at Hertford North, Letchworth, Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City.

Traditionally, the line has always only run on a five day-a-week basis, with no service at weekends. As it serves Arsenal’s past and future stadia, I’ve always thought this was a bit short-sighted.

But then I’ve always felt that British  Rail considered it was a railway, that they didn’t really want after they acquired it from London Underground following the Moorgate Tube Crash.

So when this month, when they decided to run a weekend service and the weekday service until 23:59, I did not notice any announcement. I use Highbury and Islington station several times a week and I certainly didn’t see a poster.

This is one of those things that should be filed under At Last! Especially, as the southern end of the line in a few years time will connect a large number of lines together.

  • Moorgate – Northern, Metropolitan and District Lines and Crossrail (2019)
  • Old Street – Northern Line
  • Essex Road
  • Highbury and Islington – East London, North London and Victoria Lines
  • Drayton Park
  • Finsbury Park – Piccadilly and Victoria Lines and Thameslink (2019)

If Crossrail 2 ever gets built, it will connect to this line too!

The forgotten nature of the Northern City Line is illustrated, by the elderly Class 313 trains on the line. There are currently forty-four three-car sets on the line, usually working as six car services, so giving effectively twenty-two trains.

But the days of the Class 313 are numbered as according to this article on Rail Magazine, the operator; Govia Thameslink Railway has just ordered twenty-five six car Class 700 trains from Siemens. This is said about the trains.

The new trains will be Class 700s, and will be a variant of the 1,140 vehicles currently being delivered by Siemens to GTR for Thameslink. They will run on routes from Moorgate and London King’s Cross to Welwyn, Hertford, Stevenage and Letchworth. They will be fixed length with full width inter-vehicle gangways, air-conditioning, real time information and power points.

Of all the lines in London that could benefit from a fleet of new trains, this must be one of those routes, where they will give the greatest improvement.

Especially, as for the operator, it is just more of the same trains, they will be using on Thameslink.

But will they be exactly the same?

This is said in the Wikipedia entry for Class 313 trains.

Since they were designed for use on Great Northern Suburban Inner Suburban services from Moorgate to Welwyn Garden City or Hertford North, Letchworth Garden City which included a section of ‘tube’ line built to take standard size trains between Drayton Park and Moorgate, they are built to a slightly smaller loading gauge than conventional trains. They are standard length and width, but the roof is lower, most noticeable due to the lack of a “well” for the Stone Faiveley AMBR pantograph on the centre coach. They have to comply with regulations for underground trains, such as having doors at each end of the train for evacuation onto the tracks, and when on 750 V DC supply the traction supply for each motor coach is separate, whereas on conventional 750 V DC trains each coach in a unit is linked by a 750 V bus line. Due to this, each motor coach has shoe gear on both bogies, whereas normally it would only be on the leading bogie. They are fitted with trip-cocks that are struck by a raised train-stop arm at red signals and will apply the brakes if the train passes one.

I suspect there will be some intensive work to make the Class 700 trains meet the regulations for underground trains.

To say some of the stations at the southern end of the route are tired and/or difficult for those who need step-free access, would be an understatement.

Moorgate is getting improved for Crossrail and Finsbury Park is getting a much-needed redevelopment. This will only increase the pressure to rebuild stations like Old Street, Essex Road, Highbury and Islington and Drayton Park.

As it goes further north, I do wonder if we’ll see new stations to serve future housing developments, especially on the Hertford Loop Line.

The other possibility of improving services from Moorgate is that the top speed of the new Class 700 trains is 100 mph, whereas the speed limit on the Hertford Loop is only 75 mph.

So will we see the extra three trains available used to move services off the crowded section of the East Coast Main Line over the Digswell Viaduct onto the Hertford Loop Line.

With some clever rescheduling, this might create a path or two on the East Coast Main Line.

The operator is not going to spend those millions on a new set of trains and not make them sweat!

I certainly think, that we’ll see good connectivity between trains on the Northern City and Hertford Loop Lines with Thameslink services to Peterborough and Cambridge.

It will be interesting to see their plans, when they are revealed.

My one worry is that all those new trains will tempt a lot of passengers out of the woodwork!

But one of London’s railways will not be forgotten for very long!

December 22, 2015 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 8 Comments

Could Tram-Trains Jump The Gap In Hertford?

One of the problems in the UK’s network is towns with two stations, that are badly connected. Often this is because two companies built competing rail lines to the town.

I went to Hertford to see how the town was laid out with respect to the stations.

These pictures were taken as I arrived in Hertford North station and walked through the town centre to Hertford East station.

Apart from a nice walk, there was a serious point to my visit in that as part of the East-West Rail Link, the two stations could be connected. This section on the Hertford East station Wikipedia entry explains.

Some options of the proposed East West Rail Link involve reopening a route between Hertford East railway station and Hertford North railway station; however a 2009 discussion paper noted that while “the new connection appears technically feasible, doubts must be cast over its public acceptability and deliverability.

I don’t think it will happen, as it will stop all the development of expensive flats and houses at Hertford East station.

It is worthwhile looking at the Google Earth image of the town.

Hertford And Its Two Stations

Hertford And Its Two Stations

The town centre is indicated by the red arrow and the rail icons can be seen at Hertford North on the Hertford Loop Line going north-south at the left of the image, and Hertford East at the right.

To answer my original question, I can’t imagine tram-trains ever be given permission to either run through the town-centre or across Hartham Common, but surely creating a connection to go north at Hertford North station, would need a rail engineer, with all the skills of Harry Potter, to lift the trains onto the viaduct.

At the east of the town, the train travelled under the A10 road as it crossed the Lea Valley on the Kingsmead Viaduct, which had to be built due to the nature of the terrain in the area. Any new rail line would have the same problem of both turning north and getting up the escarpment, which is heavily populated.

There used to be an extension of the Hertford East Branch, that appears to have left the branch before Hertford East station and then went across country to join the Hertford Loop Line north of Hertford. The line has been so built on, that Google Earth shows no trace. This is the Google Earth image of the land to the north of Hertford.

Across Hertford

Across Hertford

You can see the Hertford Loop at the left of the image and you can also see the Hertford East Branch crossing under the A10 road at the right.

As the report says it would appear to be technically feasible to thread a railway between the two railways, but you can see why doubts on public acceptibility and deliverability have been raised. The only thing in the enginers’ favour is that you already have the ugly Kingsmead Viaduct across the Lea Valley, so perhaps  you might be able to create a better solution.

Probably the only other way a connection could be made, would be to have a tunnel under Hartham Common, which then turned north underground before surfacing along the Hertford Loop Line north of the town. Even with advances in tunnelling technology and affordability, it would still be a very expensive project.


March 6, 2015 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | Leave a comment