Thameslink improvements coming in stages

Project derisked: 24tph not till December 2019

A phased introduction is planned for the Thameslink Programme improvements to ensure operational robustness when the extra services are introduced. ‘A “Big Bang” is a bad idea’ Chris Gibb, independent chair of the Thameslink Industry Readiness Board, told Modern Railways. The former Virgin boss added: ‘I still bear the scars of “Operation Princess” and I am determined to avoid the same mistakes again’, referring to the upsets when Virgin reshaped the CrossCountry timetable in 2002.

Network Rail is on target to complete the remodelling of London Bridge in January 2018 and now the focus is on operating the new timetable. The idea behind the Industry Readiness Board’s plan is that operating staff should be made familiar with the new arrangements in stages, to allow new services to be bedded in gradually before additional changes are introduced. This will include running a small number of trains from the Great Northern route into the Thameslink core from April 2018 to build up driver and station familiarisation.

Around 70% of the capacity benefits will still be delivered in May 2018 when 18 trains per hour (tph) will operate through the core section between Blackfriars and St Pancras at peak times. In addition to the Thameslink changes, the full introduction of the new Southern timetable at the same time promises greater reliability, in particular on the metro routes.

Thameslink frequency will then be progressively ramped up, with 20tph introduced in December 2018, 22tph in May 2019 and finally the full 24tph service in December 2019. Traffic Management (TM), European Train Control System (ETCS) and Automatic Train Operation (ATO) for passenger trains will come in during 2018 as planned, but Mr Gibb says these are not essential until May 2019.

Mr Gibb praised industry partners who have co-operated on the Thameslink Industry Readiness Board, saying the Thameslink Programme was in a better place thanks to the constructive attitude displayed by all the operators concerned, along with Network Rail.

For full details of how the Thameslink service will be phased, plus a FREE 16-page supplement on the Thameslink Programme, see the December issue of Modern Railways, on sale on 23 November

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