Passengers at the heart of Thameslink

Source: RTM June/July 2018

As Thameslink launches a new timetable, Richard Freeston-Clough, operations and communications officer at London TravelWatch, looks back at the watchdog’s crucial involvement in helping to shape the programme since its early days.

The new Thameslink timetable is one  of the biggest changes to London rail servic es for decades, and London TravelWatch has worked hard to support the £7bn Thameslink Programme to ensure that passengers’ needs have been taken into account.

In 1999 the railway closures associated with the Thameslink Programme were advertised. London TravelWatch undertook a statutory examination into the impact of the closures on rail passengers. Almost 20 years on, it is pleasing to see the project being delivered now with significant improvement following our involvement.

At Farringdon station, we secured a big win with the installation of an additional interchange bridge and much done to increase the station capacity. South of Blackfriars station, the Metropolitan junction between Blackfriars and London Bridge was signalled in both directions, allowing trains to be easily reversed at times of disruption. The secretary of  state also agreed with us that   a passenger management plan should be developed for the period Blackfriars station was completely closed.

At St Pancras, we ensured that the station concourse remained open during operational hours and that the Pentonville Road entrance to the Underground remained open to passengers. Throughout the project we continued to stand up for passengers, particularly when they were affected by poor performance due to the impact of engineering works – securing improved compensation and a general commitment to Delay Repay for delays of more than 15 minutes. Jointly with Passenger Focus, as it then was called, we also did a major piece of research on the design of the rolling stock and passenger needs arising from this, much of which is incorporated in the Class 700 design.

In 2014 we did a survey of actual journey times on peak trains over the Thameslink route, which were found to be wanting. As  a result, GTR, other operators and Network Rail embarked on a wholesale revamp of sectional running times and dwell times at stations to ensure that any new timetable reflected modern operating conditions and passenger needs. This then led to the introduction of the ‘pit stop’ method of operating, which is essential for this type of intense frequent service operation to function.

On 20 May, the new Thameslink timetable came into operation with the intention that 18 eight- and 12-carriage trains an hour will use the core Thameslink route through central London. The historic Thameslink Bedford to Brighton service has been joined by new services including Peterborough to Horsham, Cambridge to Brighton, and St Albans to Gatwick Airport.

Unfortunately, there have been problems with the implementation of the new timetable, with large-scale cancellations and service alterations following its implementation. These have particularly affected those travelling on the Great Northern and Thameslink routes into London. However, we are confident that once the new timetable has bedded down and the number of fully route-trained drivers increases, passengers will benefit from the changes.


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