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Thameslink certain that infrastructure will finish on time despite project delays

The director behind the Thameslink Programme has today defended the project and reassured passengers that the infrastructure will be completed to schedule, despite the roll-out of other parts of the project being delayed.

In an exclusive interview with RTM, Mark Somers, rail systems project director for Thameslink, explained the revised schedule for the rest of the works and went into more detail about the reason why the launch of the 24 trains per hour at peak time had been pushed to December 2019.

A National Audit Office report in December warned that the rail network “cannot reliably support” new Thameslink services, and also found that the roll-out of the new trains was behind schedule – although the auditor did say that pushing services back was a “sensible step.”

“There’s been a decision in the joint industry boards that it would not be the best thing to try and introduce the full GTR Thameslink service at the very beginning,” Somers told RTM.

“In May we will introduce a level of service, then in December 2018 that service pattern will change again and more services will be introduced. Then in May 2019 there will be a further step up until the full 24 per hour train per hour service is introduced in December 2019.

“You have to try and look at it from an industry-wide basis. You have several depots coming into operation and you have to get trains into their maintenance cycles, make sure that the driver rosters work, and make sure the stations work.

“The history and experience has been that if you try and go for one huge great big timetable change in one hit, then you can end up having one very difficult period of train running where we can’t get the right level of reliability and operation.

“But the infrastructure that we have built for Thameslink will be completed on time.”

‘Hard lessons’ to be learned

Somers’ statement also come the day before MPs on the Public Accounts Committee launch their inquiry into Thameslink, taking evidence from the DfT and Network Rail to try and find solutions to the issues that have come up about the scheme.

Speaking to us, the Thameslink manager added that there had been some “hard lessons” for NR and the wider industry to learn from the project around how to better manage similar schemes in the future.

“There’s been a lot of hard lessons learned around the fact that you need to step the whole of business up around you to make it effective,” he continued.

“How you deal with maintenance and delivering everyday activities while you’re still trying to build a new railway is difficult.

“It doesn’t come as any surprise to us in the project, but I think it has come as quite a difficult thing for the routes to manage in terms of their normal day to day.”

You can read the full interview with Somers in the Dec/Jan edition of RTM, which you can get by subscribing here.

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Simon Eames1990   05/12/2017 at 22:39

Well, the 24 trains per hour is not until Dec 2019 but at least the expansion is on target for May 2018.

Tim Witcomb   08/12/2017 at 12:42

As a regular user of London Bridge, I've been really impressed at the ability of this project to essentially rebuild a central London transport hub whilst maintaining good levels of passenger services

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