Thameslink Programme - FAQ

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Thameslink Programme FAQ




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What is the Thameslink Programme?

Good question. It’s a government-funded £5.5bn programme of work to introduce new and improved stations, new track, new cross-London routes and new longer and more frequent trains with the express purpose of reducing overcrowding. It will transform the Thameslink route.

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Who’s involved?

Network Rail will build new track, new stations, extend platforms and improve signalling. First Capital Connect will bring in a new fleet of trains and run the train service, parts of which will be jointly run with train operator Southeastern.

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What’s in it for me?

A more comfortable ride! That’s thanks to more space on more frequent, longer, brand new trains running to and through London from better stations across an extended rail network. There are already more rush hour seats thanks to 92 new carriages (that's 23 four-carriage trains) introduced in 2009 and new direct connections from Kent and south London to St Pancras International and beyond. Blackfriars and Farringdon stations will be upgraded significantly in time for the Olympics and London Bridge will be rebuilt by December 2016. Check out the new destinations that may be on offer from December 2016.

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When's it happening?

22 March 2009 - completed!

· Preparatory work finished ready for stations at Farringdon and Blackfriars to be redesigned/redeveloped.

· Moorgate branch closed.

· New timetable in place offering new direct destinations from north Thameslink route stations to Kent and south east London
· Double the number of trains (up to 15 per hour) arriving at Blackfriars and City Thameslink stations in the rush hour, matching that of St Pancras and Farringdon

· New fleet of 23 four-carriage Electrostars (delivery completed January 2010)


December 2011:

· Farringdon, Blackfriars and most stations on the Thameslink route main line capable of taking 50% longer, 12-carriage trains plus the capability for these to leave central London stations up to 16 times an hour at peak times.


From December 2016:

· London Bridge station redeveloped

· New fleet of trains

· Up to 24 trains per hour at peak times through central London

· An expanded network

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Will trains be more frequent?

There’ll be many more trains per hour and more destinations to choose from on trains across the heart of London. The main goal is to reduce overcrowding.

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What impact will this have on my day?

Let’s be honest: while we think you’ll like the end result, the work might well disrupt your journey in the short- term. We’re working closely with Network Rail to keep aggravation to a minimum and doing our level best to keep you updated with what’s going on. We’ll also offer advice on the best way around bottlenecks and station works – a job made much easier if you sign up to our email alerts.


On top of this, we’re working with Network Rail to maintain and in some cases improve train services before the main work begins by making changes to the network.


Network Rail is also investing £40million in Thameslink route infrastructure to ensure it is reliable enough for us to deliver the service our customers expect and deserve during the delivery of the Programme. This includes:


· Investing in spare switch and crossing parts to reduce the time it takes to replace these components when they fail.


· Improving overhead lines in the Bedford area to reduce delays resulting from overhead line problems.


· Reducing the length of the electric section in the West Hampstead area to give more flexibility of where trains can turn around if there are problems with the overhead lines in the area.


· Putting in a turnback at Herne Hill to allow trains to turn around and go back in the direction they have come from. This is very useful in times of disruption and has been installed following a request by FCC.


· Investing in additional resources to better manage incidents when disruption occurs in the core section between St Pancras International and Blackfriars.

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How is the £5.5bn being spent?

The £5.5bn will be spent on new track, new stations, longer platforms, better signalling and new trains. A significant portion will be spent on track improvement work, as well as redesigning Farringdon and redeveloping Blackfriars and London Bridge stations.

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Will there be new trains?

Yes! New trains have already been delivered.


Now in service

A new fleet of 23 air-conditioned Class 377/5 Electrostar trains (that's 92 carriages) are in service right now. They have a smoother ride, with CCTV and panels showing information about your route.

They are running on the main Bedford to Brighton route, fast between St Albans and St Pancras, and in the rush hour between Bedford and Ashford, Rochester, Gillingham and Bearsted (operated jointly with Southeastern). However, because late night and early morning services between Bedford / London / Three Bridges / Brighton call at all stations between St Albans and St Pancras (including places like Cricklewood, Radlett, Mill Hill etc) there are a few trains formed of Class 377 carriages which call at Radlett, Elstree, Mill Hill, Hendon, Cricklewood, West Hampstead and Kentish Town.


377 with new livery

One of the new Thameslink route Electrostars


First Capital Connect has also brought in more of the existing 319 trains boosting the size of the fleet and reducing overcrowding.


All this means that all but 12 of the Thameslink route rush hour services are the maximum eight carriages in length.


December 2011

From December 2011, the first 12-carriage services will begin to operate using existing trains.



And brand new eight and 12-carriage trains are being designed and built too - these will be next-generation trains, entering service between 2014 and 2016.


They will have the effect of significantly increasing capacity - and they'll be more frequent through central London. In fact, from the end of 2016 there will be trains every 2-3 minutes running into and out of central London on the Thameslink route.

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Are you building new depots for the trains?

The new generation of crowd-cutting 12-carriage trains will be maintained at new depots. Plans for base schemes at two sites have been published. One is a new depot south of London, near Three Bridges station. The other is close to Hornsey depot in north London. You can find out more about this here.

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Will trains be longer?

All but 10 peak hour services will be made eight carriages long in 2009 (see FAQ Do we really have to wait?). By 2012 most stations will be capable of taking 50% longer 12-carriage trains. A full 12-carriage timetable will be in operation by the end of 2016.

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Where are the new trains for 2014-2016 coming from?

The Department for Transport is working on rolling stock plans for this period and we will update you when they are finalised.

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But what are you doing to relieve overcrowding today?!

It's true that the biggest improvements won't happen until the new 12-carriage service is introduced, starting in December 2011.


However, First Capital Connect is painfully aware how much you hate packed trains so is doing its level best to do something about overcrowding right now. There's real progress too.


Until new track and stations allow First Capital Connect to run more and longer trains on the Thameslink route, every effort's being made to run as many carriages as possible on the existing line to ease your journey.


Believe it or not this was accomplished with the timetable of December 2009 in which all but 12 rush hour trains are now scheduled to run at the maximum eight carriages in length.


Finding more of the existing trains

It's tough finding more carriages. The problem is they have to be 'dual voltage' to run on the two different types of Thameslink route power supplies, north and south of London. The 20-year-old Class 319 carriages that run on the Thameslink route today obviously have this feature and First Capital Connect has successfully acquired every one of them in existence.


Sourcing new air-conditioned Electrostars

To make up the shortfall, and provide enough trains to operate the new timetable into south-east London and Kent that was introduced in March 2009, First Capital Connect has taken delivery of a further 23 new four-carriage trains (that's 92 new carriages), known as Class 377/5 Electrostars. These air-conditioned trains which are used widely in the south-east have a smoother ride, with CCTV and panels showing information about your route.


These trains are running on the main Bedford to Brighton route and in the peaks between Bedford and Ashford, Rochester, Gillingham and Bearsted (operated jointly with Southeastern).


That gives you longer trains right now!

There were, in January 2009, 25 rush hour trains four carriages in length. Now there are timetabled to be just 12 services that are four carriages long - two in the morning peak and 10 in the evening.


The new Electrostar trains have helped create (approximately) almost 3,400 extra seats in the rush hour - some 970 more in the morning and 2,430 more in the evening. Together with extra changes due to be made in the December 2009 timetable, there will be a total of almost 5,000 extra rush hour seats on the Thameslink route since before the March 2009 timetable change.


Furthermore, the frequency of trains arriving at Blackfriars and City Thameslink stations has now risen from 7-8 trains per hour to up to 15 trains per hour in the rush hour, matching that of St Pancras and Farringdon.

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Where else will I be able to travel?

Since 22 March 2009, there are now direct connections from north Thameslink route stations to Kent and south east London. By the end of 2016 the Great Northern route will be linked in. The final route map has yet to be finalised but check out the new destinations that may be on offer.

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Do you have more station staff?

From Monday to Friday, First Capital Connect stations within central London now have more Customer Information staff available on the platforms to help you.

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Will the Thameslink Programme be paid for by big fare increases?

No - there will not be any direct link between the investment in new trains and infrastructure and the fares charged to customers on the route. The investment is being funded by the Department for Transport.

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Will the longer trains mean FCC will lift its policy of restricting passengers with off-peak tickets returning home in the peak (evening period restrictions)?

First Capital Connect has committed to monitor passenger numbers on trains as additional carriages are introduced and review the policy accordingly.

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Crikey! That tone's a bit flippant, isn't it?

The Thameslink Programme is extremely important and one of the biggest rail projects in the UK for a number of years. It will impact different people in different ways.


From the beginning it was recognised that clear communication would be key to the success of the project - passengers have to understand what is happening, and in some cases need to plan ahead and make alternative travel plans.


Many options were examined for how to communicate with customers. The winning solution was a unique style aimed at grabbing people's attention. It is direct, totally honest, accessible and straight talking.


The full campaign, from the tone of the language to the design of the multicoloured stripes, was tested with a number of customer groups. The feedback was very positive but there was a small percentage of people who did not like the approach. Research will be carried out continuously to monitor people's views and the effectiveness of the campaign.

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When will the Thameslink Programme be completed? I've heard 2015 is not possible.

The Department for Transport remains committed to investing at least £5.5bn to modernise one of Britain's busiest rail routes to deliver a dramatic increase in capacity, with longer trains running up to 24 times an hour through central London, meaning more seats and improved reliability for passengers.


After further detailed planning, Network Rail has revised the infrastructure work planned at London Bridge for a solution that improves access through the station, reduces disruption to passengers during the construction phase and provides a better value for money solution. As such the Thameslink Programme outputs will be delivered from 2016.

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What’s happening at Blackfriars?


By the end of 2011 Blackfriars will be capable of taking longer, 12-carriage trains and, and in 2012, the full brand new station will be complete - and there’ll be far more frequent trains; a brand new station spanning the Thames (the first ever) with a South Bank entrance handy for Tate Modern and other places south of the river, and easier access to a much better Tube station. Read 'It's all change at Blackfriars' for more information.


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Barbican & Moorgate

Why did you have to close the branch line to Barbican and Moorgate Thameslink?

The Moorgate Thameslink route branch line had to close on 22 March 2009 so that a new timetable could be brought in that allowed Network Rail to close the three terminating 'bay' platforms at Blackfriars in order to start rebuilding the station to take longer 12-carriage trains.


This timetable provides a new cross-London service by joining up the north Thameslink route services which previously went into Moorgate with those Southeastern services from Kent which had been terminating in those Blackfriars 'bay' platforms and effectively needed somewhere to go - they could not just be withdrawn from service.


The branch line to Moorgate also had to close for Network Rail to extend the Farringdon station platforms later in 2009. The longer platforms will let First Capital Connect use longer 12-carriage trains instead of eight on the mainline from December 2011, which will reduce overcrowding.


Unfortunately the platforms can’t be lengthened very far northwards because the track drops down a gradient. The only option is to extend southwards which will take the platforms across the junction for Moorgate, cutting off the branch line from the mainline for good.


There is a good interchange with London Underground services to Barbican and Moorgate at Farringdon but the station is likely to be very congested and you could be delayed here. View other suggested alternative travel arrangements.


First Capital Connect Great Northern route services are unaffected and will continue to call at Moorgate.

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What compensation will you give me now Thameslink route trains have stopped serving Barbican and Moorgate?

We know Moorgate passengers are concerned about this. It's a Government requirement that passengers using the Tube to get to Barbican or Moorgate from Bedford and stations north of London on the First Capital Connect Thameslink route won't have to pay any more than they usually would had they been able to catch the Thameslink route train. This is guaranteed for 24 months after the Moorgate Thameslink route branch closes. This means tickets will not be sold with validity beyond the 24-month period (March 2011). For example, First Capital Connect will stop selling annual season tickets to Barbican and Moorgate when there is less than 12 months left to go of the 24-month period (March 2011). Instead, First Capital Connect will sell shorter length season tickets up to the 24-month date (March 2011) at the usual discounted rates for such lengths of time.

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City Thameslink

What's going on at City Thameslink?

Looking after City

City Thameslink gets upgraded as part of the programme to increase capacity and reduce overcrowding on the busy Thameslink route.


Network Rail’s contractors start work this summer. By the time they’re finished, in mid 2010, the station will be safer, brighter and – crucially – ready to accommodate 50% longer 12-carriage trains as they enter service from December 2011.


The good news is that all this work can be done out of hours or during existing overnight and weekend track closures so there won’t be any further impact on your services – all you’ll notice is a gradual improvement as work progresses!


And the detail?

We’re working on the platforms

Both platforms at the station are already long enough for 12-carriage trains but need work to extend them about 15-20 metres at the northern ends to make their full length fit for purpose. The floors and walls here need new surfaces, and lighting and passenger information systems have to be installed.


Better info and security

Good information is really essential when you’re on the move. So City Thameslink will get new customer information displays throughout the station, with four instead of two on each platform and a new, clearer public address system and new passenger help points.


The closed-circuit television cameras will also be replaced and there’ll be an upgraded fire safety system.


The entire system will be controlled from a newly-equipped control room ensuring passengers are given the best possible information, help and advice.


Brighter feel

There will be brighter, more energy-efficient lights to further improve the feeling of safety at the station as well as cut carbon emissions.


More seats

All six benches will be replaced to make them compliant with the latest disability regulations and another four will be installed, providing over 20 more seats.



The two lifts on each platform at the Ludgate Hill end have been renewed. The upgrade will add audible announcements for the visually impaired, CCTV cameras and a help point.


Powered up

As part of the project, overhead power lines have been extended from neighbouring Farringdon station to City Thameslink. This, coupled with a section of rail that allows trains to switch from one track to another, now lets First Capital Connect turn southbound trains at City Thameslink if there’s a problem up ahead on the line. It also gives FCC the flexibility to operate new timetable patterns.


You can also read this news release

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What’s happening at Farringdon?

Farringdon station is being remodelled: find out more.

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London Bridge

What’s the plan for London Bridge station?

Network Rail is redeveloping London Bridge in phases after the Olympics. There will be changes to the way the track is laid out as well to reduce the bottlenecks that plague the area. By the time work is completed, from December 2016, 50% more passengers will be able to pass through in the peak (that’s 60,000 people an hour).

The station won't have to close during this work but plans suggest First Capital Connect services will not be able to call there after the Olympics, from October 2012 to make space for building works which require a number of platforms to be taken out of use. Instead they would be diverted via Herne Hill. We'll keep you updated!

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Wimbledon Loop

Why won’t we get 12 carriage trains on the Wimbledon loop and the stations up to and including Elephant & Castle?

There will be extra room in the rush hour on the Wimbledon loop brought in during 2009 when we will be able to run more longer, eight-carriage trains. However, we can’t run 12-carriage trains, it’s just too expensive and in many cases it is not possible to lengthen the platforms. For example, at Tulse Hill there are complex sections of track at each end of the station and a large bridge which cannot be moved.

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I have read that trains from the Wimbledon Loop are going to terminate at Blackfriars station from December 2016. Is that true?

Nothing has yet been decided. The idea of terminating the Wimbledon Loop trains at Blackfriars is a recommendation on the table from Network Rail in its South London Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS).


A final decision on timetable patterns will only follow consultation by the Government with stakeholders such as rail user groups and councils in 2012/13 as part of the wider consultation for the new Thameslink route franchise. It will ensure that when decisions are finally made they will be made with the benefit of the most relevant and contemporary analysis possible.

Why is there a proposal that suggests terminating Wimbledon Loop trains at Blackfriars?

Put simply it is a measure designed to simplify train movements, keeping trains from crossing one another's paths, helping to reduce delay and improve reliability. It would also help to achieve the target of up to 24 trains per hour from Blackfriars through central London to St Pancras and beyond.

Thirty-two trains per peak hour are currently planned to approach Blackfriars from the south when the Thameslink Programme is complete, from December 2016. In total, 24 trains per hour will go through to St Pancras and beyond, and eight per hour will terminate in new bay platforms on the western side of the layout at Blackfriars.
The view of the team that compiled the South London Route RUS was that the success of the 24 trains per hour operation will depend upon a very high level of operating performance. To give it the best chance of success, train paths should therefore cross one another as little as possible - because if one train is held up it will affect another.

This suggests the best arrangement is therefore for the 18 trains per hour from London Bridge that approach on the eastern side of the tracks into Blackfriars, and the six that come from the Denmark Hill direction ''up the middle'' should be the 24 trains per hour to go through to St Pancras and beyond, while the eight trains per hour that approach from Herne Hill on the western side (which includes the Wimbledon Loop trains) should be the ones to terminate in the bay platforms.

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East Coast Mainline

Why hasn’t the East Coast mainline been joined to the Thameslink route when a tunnel to link the two was finished in 2005?

The simple reason is that London Bridge station won’t be able to cope with the extra trains from the East Coast mainline until it has been rebuilt and its track upgraded, by the end of 2016. This is when the routes will be linked.

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Cross-London Services

Will I be able to get to central London at weekends?

Yes, you can still get into London easily on First Capital Connect trains but to get across the city you’ll need to use the Tube. See suggested alternative travel arrangements.

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Great Northern route

What about the Cambridge and Peterborough routes?

Making more space on the Cambridge and Peterborough routes


This website is all about the Thameslink Programme and the massive changes that £5.5bn worth of work will bring to bear on overcrowding and your choice of destinations. We make no apologies for that. However, we thought you’d like to hear about what First Capital Connect is doing to relieve overcrowding on the Cambridge and Peterborough routes into London, on the Great Northern route.


The Cambridge and Peterborough Capacity Scheme (also known as Seats For You) approved by the Government has delivered three things:


1) A new timetable.

2) Longer platforms and an upgraded power supply.

3) More train carriages.


The study’s findings was approved by the Department for Transport and FCC consulted with MPs, rail user groups, local authorities and – of course – everyday members of the public – the passengers.


A timetable was introduced on 17 May 2009 that increased the number of seats available year-on-year by approximately 5,500 across the morning and evening peaks combined. This is in large part thanks to five additional trains secured for the Great Northern route. FCC sees this as the first step in adding capacity to the Peterborough and Cambridge routes.

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Kentish Town and Cricklewood

Why aren't Kentish Town, Cricklewood platforms being extended?

Platforms cannot be extended at Kentish Town because of road bridges at each end which cannot be moved. The platforms at Cricklewood are not being extended because there is insufficient demand to warrant 12-carriage trains calling there. Furthermore, there is a proposal to build a new station at Brent Cross as part of a large residential development and this will be able to take 12-carriage trains.


Brighton to Bedford trains rarely call at Kentish Town and Cricklewood other than in the late evening or early morning. Instead they are served by the Wimbledon loop trains that will remain a maximum eight carriages in length due to the road bridge at Tulse Hill and complex track layouts near other station platforms. The proposal would be that from 2016 Kentish Town and Cricklewood would be served by the proposed St Albans to Sevenoaks or Orpington service. Therefore there will not be a reduction in service for these two stations.

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