|Type||Commuter rail, Suburban rail|
|Locale||East of England
South East England
|Operator(s)||First Capital Connect|
|Rolling stock||Class 319
Class 377 Electrostar
|No. of tracks||2-4|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Electrification||25 kV 50hz AC
750 V DC third rail
|Operating speed||100 mph (160 km/h) maximum|
Thameslink is a 50-station main-line route in the British railway system running 225 km (140 mi) north to south through London from Bedford to Brighton, serving both London Gatwick Airport and London Luton Airport. It also incorporates a suburban loop serving Sutton and Wimbledon. It opened as a through service in 1988 and by 1998 was severely overcrowded, carrying more than 28,000 passengers in the morning peak. The Thameslink Programme is a major £5.5 billion scheme to extend the service to a further 100 stations and to greatly increase capacity on the central London section to accommodate more frequent and longer trains. This scheme, scheduled for completion in 2018, is well under way.
The route through central London is via St Pancras International for connections to Eurostar and the East Midlands; Farringdon, for London Underground's Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City lines, and Crossrail from 2018; City Thameslink, which replaced the demolished Holborn Viaduct station and also has a southern entrance serving Ludgate Circus; Blackfriars, for other rail services and the Underground District and Circle lines; and London Bridge for mainline links into Kent and Sussex and connections to the Northern and Jubilee Underground lines. King's Cross Thameslink on Pentonville Road closed on 8 December 2007.
Trains operating the "main line" service (Bedford to Brighton) usually include first-class accommodation. Those serving the "suburban loop" are standard class only. The previous franchisee designated these services "Thameslink CityFlier" and "Thameslink CityMetro" respectively, but the present operator has dropped this branding.
The majority of fast trains run between Brighton and Bedford via London Bridge. Suburban stopping trains start at either Wimbledon or Sutton and call at all stations to Luton through the centre of London.
There are also stopping trains from Sevenoaks calling at all stations via Swanley and the Catford Loop Line and terminating at Kentish Town, and peak-only Southeastern services between Rochester, Ashford International or Bearsted and Bedford.
- There is no northbound peak morning service midweek from London Bridge after 7.24 a.m and before 9.09 a.m.
- Brighton to Bedford (fast from St Pancras International to St Albans), 4 trains per hour (tph) non-stop between East Croydon and London Bridge (this section between East Croydon and London Bridge is served regularly by the East London line and Southern trains) .
- Orpington to Bedford via Beckenham Jnc, Penge East and Herne Hill (semi-fast) (peak-time, weekdays only), calls at all stations to St Pancras International then West Hampstead Thameslink then fast to St Albans (this service may become permanent from 2016)
- Wimbledon or Sutton to St Albans or Luton (stopping) 4tph
- Sevenoaks to Kentish Town via Catford (stopping) 2tph (weekdays only)
- Rochester to Bedford (fast) (peak-time, weekdays only)
- Ashford International to Bedford (semi-fast) (peak-time, weekdays only)
Passenger services operated across London through the Snow Hill Tunnel from mid-Victorian times until World War I, from when services terminated at Moorgate from the Midland line to the north, and at Holborn Viaduct from the south, at a time when most inner cross-London traffic had been lost to buses and trams. There were separate lower-level platforms under the main part of Holborn Viaduct station known as the Snow Hill platforms, and these can still be seen when leaving City Thameslink station travelling northwards.
On 14 June 1941 railwayman George Dow proposed, in an article in the London evening newspaper The Star, that new routes, in tunnel, be built from Marylebone south to Victoria, and from King's Cross south to Charing Cross. Both were to connect with a Paddington-Liverpool Street that he proposed, anticipating Crossrail by forty years. He also proposed a north east-south west route from Liverpool Street to Charing Cross: all of these routes were designed to give London a comprehensive main-line network of connections.
The Snow Hill Tunnel route remained operational for cross-London freight trains until 1970, just lasting into the diesel era, when the short section between Farringdon and Holborn Viaduct was closed.
Overhead electrification, completed in 1982, allowed the northern section to run as the Midland City Line from Bedford via the Midland Main Line to St Pancras, and via the City Widened Lines to Moorgate. From the south, services terminated at Holborn Viaduct.
The Snow Hill tunnel was re-opened to passenger trains after 72 years, allowing passenger services to begin on the full Thameslink network in May 1988. On 29 January 1990 the section between Blackfriars and Farringdon was temporarily closed to permit the construction of a new alignment. The old route carrying the line through the site of the long-closed Ludgate Hill station and over Ludgate Hill was abandoned and demolished. The replacement route under Ludgate Hill was opened on 29 May 1990 concurrently with City Thameslink station, which was initially called St Paul's Thameslink but was renamed in 1991 to avoid confusion with St. Paul's station on the London Underground (Central Line), about 500 m (550 yd) away.
In the south the services divide. Main-line trains run through London Bridge to East Croydon and Brighton. The diverging route has a more convoluted history. To begin with (1988–91), trains went via Bromley to Orpington and Sevenoaks, and via Herne Hill and East Croydon to Purley (off peak only). Later, non-Brighton trains ran via Elephant & Castle and Streatham to West Croydon, Carshalton Beeches, Sutton, Epsom, Leatherhead and Effingham Junction, terminating at Guildford.
Around 1994 the second branch was cut back to West Croydon as this route crossed the commuter networks of what were to become several different rail companies and the onset of rail privatisation made the route increasingly difficult to maintain.
Around 1995 the route was changed completely, with a new route to Sutton via Mitcham Junction continuing on a loop to Wimbledon rejoining itself south of Streatham replacing the West Croydon service. Morning peak trains ran only clockwise, a major source of inconvenience for commuters.
By late 1998, more than 28,000 passengers were carried at morning peak times.
From 1 April 2006 the franchise was taken over by First Capital Connect along with some services previously operated by WAGN. The branding of most trains, stations, and signs has been changed to match the name of the new company, but City Thameslink and West Hampstead Thameslink stations keep the word Thameslink as it refers to the route. After criticism of the loss of the apt name for this group of routes, First Capital Connect's publicity now calls this set of services its "Thameslink route" to distinguish it from the former WAGN services.
The Moorgate branch closed in March 2009 when major work on the Thameslink programme started along with various other changes. This was in order to lengthen platforms at Farringdon (which would have cut across the Moorgate junction) and also to improve service. The tracks are still extant, but disconnected and de-electrified, with barriers at the end of each station, and the Thameslink platforms at Moorgate and Barbican closed.
Following the success of the original scheme, plans were drawn up to upgrade the Thameslink network to cope with increasing passenger numbers which have led to severe peak-time overcrowding. Network Rail obtained planning permission and legal powers in 2006, funding was secured in July 2007 and construction began in October 2007. Some of the work, notably platform lengthening, has now been completed, with further work programmed for the period from 2012 to 2018.
The London and South East Route Utilisation Strategy published in July 2011 lays out a provisional 24tph timetable. South of London it would provide four trains to Brighton (one semi-fast, one stopping) and two trains per hour each to Three Bridges, Horsham, East Grinstead, Caterham, Tattenham Corner, Tunbridge Wells, Ashford International, Maidstone East, Sevenoaks and Bellingham. North of London there would be eight semi-fast trains to Bedford, four stopping trains to St Albans, two stopping and two semi-fast trains to Luton, two semi-fast trains to Peterborough, two semi-fast trains to Cambridge and four stopping trains to Welwyn Garden City - see Thameslink Programme article for table and details.
Thameslink rolling stock is mainly the 86 Class 319 trains built by BREL between 1987 and 1990. These are electrically powered dual-voltage four-car units rated to carry 289, 308 or 319 passengers. They use 25 kV AC overhead power north of Farringdon and 750 V DC third rail to the south. Four Class 319 trains had been transferred from Southern in December 2008 and the last four followed in March 2009, from which point all Class 319 sets were available for use on Thameslink.
First Capital Connect acquired 23 new four-coach Class 377 sets during 2009, on sublease from Southern, to be used on the Thameslink route for additional capacity and also to allow some of the Class 319 trains to be released for use on the Catford Loop service to Sevenoaks, now jointly operated with Southeastern under Key Output 0 of the Thameslink Programme.
Class 317 units built in the early 1980s were still in use when services into Moorgate ceased in March 2009 under the Thameslink Programme. The last timetabled service using a Class 317 unit ran from Farringdon to Bedford on 9 October 2009.
New energy-efficient trains will provide an additional 14,500 seats on the Thameslink route and will be delivered from 2015 to 2018. Siemens Mobility was named preferred bidder on 16 June 2011, with the Desiro City train family. The contract was finally signed on the 27 June 2013.
Due to the ongoing delays in the new Class 700 fleet of Desiro Cities for Thameslink, the DfT and Southern  announced that proposals for 116 electric dual voltage 110 mph carriages (29 trains) with another 140 carriages (35 trains) was being developed to "accelerate their procurement process for up to 256 carriages because our ambitious electrification plans requires additional rolling stock on the network" (Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin). The DfT expected that these trains will initially be used on the Thameslink Network and once the new fleet of Desiro Cities are operation to be moved to Midland Main Line services from St Pancras towards Leicester and also on the Transpennine North routes once electrification was completed. The tender for these trains was won by Siemens with a contract volume of £1.4bn.
The invitation to tender for the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern was expected to be issued in October 2012, with the contract commencing in September 2013. The pre-qualified bidders announced by the Department for Transport on 29 March 2012 are:
- Abellio Thameslink Limited (NV Nederlandse Spoorwegen)
- First Thameslink Limited (FirstGroup plc)
- Govia Thameslink Railway Limited (Go-Ahead Group plc and Keolis SA)
- MTR Corporation (Thameslink) Limited (MTR Corporation Limited)
- Stagecoach Thameslink Trains Limited (Stagecoach Group plc)
However, due to problems with the InterCity West Coast franchise tendering process, the start of the franchise is expected in September 2014. The new franchise is expected to be merged with the South Central franchise currently operated by Southern and certain routes from the Integrated Kent franchise, currently operated by Southeastern.
With the franchise change being pushed back, First Capital Connect has a franchise extension: "The franchise will continue beyond the current planned end date of 14 September 2013. The contract includes an option to extend this for 28 weeks, which the Department for Transport (DfT) says it intends to exercise. We are also in discussions with the Government to put in place an agreement for the franchise to continue for a further period of up to two extra years."
Footnotes and References
- "Train times: Thameslink Route". First Capital Connect. December 2011. pp. 95, 98.
- Telling the Passenger Where to Get Off, Andrew Dow, 2009, pages 52-55.
- This service was colloquially known as the Bedpan Line from the contracted names of the terminal stations, as had happened with the Bakerloo line. In general, limited-stop trains served St Pancras, and all-station services terminated at Moorgate.
- "Station Name: Snow Hill/Holborn Viaduct Low Level". Disused Stations News. Subterranea Britannica. 8 December 2007. Retrieved 17 June 2008.
- "Sustained Passenger Growth in London" (Press release). Strategic Rail Authority. 29 March 1999. Retrieved 17 June 2008.
- "Department of Transport announces winner of Thameslink/GN franchise" (Press release). Central Office of Information News Distribution Service. 13 December 2005. Retrieved 17 June 2008.
- King’s Cross Thameslink kept the Thameslink suffix until it closed on 8 December 2007.
- "Thameslink Key Output Zero - Blackfriars Terminus Platforms Closure". southernelectric.org.uk.
- Network Rail. "Thameslink Programme". Retrieved 18 October 2006.
- "The £3.5bn Thameslink Project clears major hurdle" (Press release). Network Rail. 18 October 2006. Archived from the original on 4 March 2007. Retrieved 16 June 2011.
- Coward, Andy (15 August 2007). "Cross-river rail to boost Capital". Rail (Peterborough) (572): 40–43.
- "Work begins on Thameslink project". BBC News. 24 October 2007. Retrieved 24 October 2007.
- "Meet the Directors". First Capital Connect. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
- London and South East Route Utilisation Strategy page 72
- The Class 377 units also operate the peak-hour Bedford to Ashford/Medway town services as 8-car trains. The first of the class 377/5 trains started running on the Thameslink route on 24 March 2009. "Do we really have to wait until 2012 and 2015 for some relief to the overcrowding?". First Capital Connect. 20 October 2008. Retrieved 28 October 2008.
- "Thameslink gets 14,500 more seats". BBC News. 9 April 2008. Retrieved 1 June 2008. "The deal, announced by Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly, will mean the current 720-carriage Thameslink fleet increasing by 380 carriages. A contract for the new carriages is expected to be awarded in summer 2009, with the first train in service by 2012."
- "Siemens beats Bombardier to Thameslink train order". Railway Gazette International (London). 16 June 2011.
- "Siemens Thameslink deal to create up to 2,000 new jobs". Department of Transport, UK (London). 27 June 2013.
- [ https://www.gov.uk/government/news/department-for-transports-boost-to-train-builders Boost to train builders]
- Procurement of New Rolling Stock - (press release) The potential competition for 116 electric (dual voltage) new rolling stock vehicles, with an option for a further 100 vehicles, would be openly tendered via the rail Link-Up system. The new rolling stock will be of dual voltage configuration and is required to operate up to 110 mph. Any rolling stock manufacturer registered on the rail Link-Up system would be able to compete for this opportunity.
- "UK franchise pre-qualified bidders announced". Railway Gazette International. 29 March 2012.
- Thameslink Southern & Great Northern Invitation to Tender Department for Transport 26 September 2013
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Thameslink.|
- Official Thameslink Programme website
- Thameslink Programme - Network Rail
- Thameslink 2000 Public Inquiry 2005 - official website for the second public inquiry
- Strategic Rail Authority Strategic Plan, 30 January 2003, page 101 and route descriptions page 27.
- alwaystouchout.com - information and news on the Thameslink Programme
- Brent Cross Thameslink station - Planning application for new Thameslink station at Brent Cross.
-  - Plan to cut Thameslink from Sutton/Carshalton