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Govia Thameslink Railway, the company that runs trains through Palmers Green, has published details of its plans for improved services on all its lines due to come into operation in 2018.  For Palmers Green the off-peak service will be six trains an hour to and from Moorgate on Mondays to Saturdays (with additional trains on M-F peaks) and four trains an hour on Sundays.

This more frequent service on the "Great Northern Metro" will be operated by new fully accessible six-car trains with air conditioning and station information displays, making it much easier to know where you are.  They will have full-width inter-carriage gangways, as fitted on London Overground trains.  Hopefully, they will not have Tube-style longitudinal seating, which makes it difficult to look at the passing scenery.

Once the new tunnel linking Finsbury Park to the Thameslink station at St Pancras is complete, Great Northern Mainline trains (eg from Cambridge or Peterborough) and semi-fast trains from Welwyn will be diverted away from Kings Cross and instead join Thameslink routes running through the St Pancras-Farringdon-Blackfriars tunnel and on to various destinations south of the river, including Gatwick Airport and Brighton.  They will be rebadged as "Thameslink Mainline" or "Thameslink Metro" services and many of them will call at Finsbury Park, meaning that Great Northern passengers will be able to change there for direct trains to a large number of destinations on the former BR Southern Region.

proposed thameslink service from 2018This map shows the wealth of connections that will be available when changing at Finsbury Park (with in some cases a second change at St Pancras - but without having to change platforms)

Consultation

Information about the planned service changes is available in various formats and levels of detail from this page on the Govia website.  This is provided as part of a public consultation running up until 8 December.  There are questions to answer about the proposed routes, stopping arrangements and frequencies.  These are contained in the main consultation document.

The planned frequencies for the Moorgate services are even higher than previously quoted and it seems highly unlikely that any current users would object to the proposals, representing as they do a huge improvement.  This is less true for services running south of the river.  Govia has come up with some unexpected proposals there - described with their usual level of detail by London Reconnections.

However, Question 14 is relevant to users of all the lines.  This relates to arrangements for engineering works - when to give access to Network Rail for them to carry out maintenance work.  Govia would like to know what days and times would most suit passengers.  Options include

  • reduced frequency after 2300 on some routes weekdays and Saturdays
  • earlier last trains on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when demand is lower, with later trains on Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays when demand is higher
  • later first trains on Sundays on some routes
  • reduced frequency on some routes on Sunday mornings.

More questions

One thing that's unclear so far is what platforms trains would be using at Finsbury Park.  I assume that our southbound trains will continue to use platforms 1 and 2,  but what about the Thameslink trains?  If you're travelling to or from Gatwick Airport will it be possible to change from one to the other without lugging suitcases up and down stairs and going through multiple ticket gates?  There are a couple of tracks at Finsbury Park with platforms on both sides - so might it be possible for drivers to open the doors on both sides, as happens on the Central Line at Stratford?  Platforms 1 and 2 have lifts, what about the others?

Finally, what about drivers?

It's all very well to draw up a timetable with many more trains than at present, but will Govia really be able to run all these new services?  It's now more than two years since they took over the Great Northern routes and I have yet to detect the slightest reduction in the number of cancellations caused by the unavailability of a driver, despite their claim to be running a driver training programme so big it can be seen from outer space.  One theory is that as quickly as they train new drivers, they are snapped up by other rail companies.  I don't know whether this is true, but if it is it just shows that the kind of "competition" that exists on our privatised railway lines doesn't necessarily work to the benefit of the travelling public.

 

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