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great northen logoGovia Thameslink Railway has published a report on the third phase of its Monday-to-Friday fugture timetables consultation, along with complete Monday-to-Friday timetables.  The first improvements to service frequency will be introduced on Sunday 20th May, but it appears that we will now have to wait until December 2019 before frequencies reach those promised in the consultations:

"The timetables we consulted on are the “end position” – originally this was December 2018 but due to the phasing, announced in late 2017, the final timetable will be introduced by December 2019."

The new timetables come with a caveat:  they are only "intended as a guide and we may need to make changes".

Four trains an hour off peak

From May the off peak daytime and evening service to and from Palmers Green will be increased to four trains an hour, at 15 minute intervals.  Two of of these will be all stations Moorgate to Hertford North, the other two will be Moorgate to Watton at Stone, missing out Crews Hill and Bayford - thus those two stations will actually see a decrease in offpeak trains.  One train an hour will run as far as Stevenage until December, when it will be replaced by a bus service from Watton at Stone.

New connections at Finsbury Park

From May it will be possible to change at Finsbury Park onto Thameslink services serving St Pancras, Farringdon, City Thameslink, Blackfriars and London Bridge.  If the National Rail journey planner is to be believed, these trains will run from Platform 2 at Finsbury Park, while Moorgate trains will call at Platform 1 - therefore, changing trains will be very easy.  However, the service will not be particularly frequent - two to three trains an hour.  There will be easy connections (same platform) at St Pancras, Farringdon, City Thamelink and Blackfriars) to Thameslink services to various south London destinations and to Gatwick Airport and the South Coast.

Grange Park services

A controversial issue during the consultations has been the proposed frequency of trains serving Grange Park.  The consultation report includes the following:

"You said:  Campaign to increase services at Grange Park

"We're doing:  Unfortunately this is not possible at this stage. The current level of service will be maintained during the peak. Off peak there will be an increase from 3 tph to 4 tph."

New trains

class 717 trainWe'll have to put up with the current very scruffy trains for some months yet.

"The new 717 trains will provide a metro-style layout with more capacity, improved reliability, air conditioning and passenger information systems that can be remotely updated to provide real-time travel information. These trains will be introduced towards the end of 2018 and by May 2019 will provide much needed capacity on the route."

Word is that the new trains are likely to have rather hard, longitudinal seats, but in other ways they will clearly be a big improvement.  And they will certainly be much smarter externally.  (I really don't think it's good enough for Govia not to have repainted the trains that they inherited from First Capital Connect.  Just compare them with the smartly refurbished trains dating from the same time that London Overground run between Liverpool Street and Cheshunt/Chingford.)

What's next?

The newly publshed timetables carry a prominent warning on every page:  "Major changes during this timetable, check before you travel".  So they may not be an entirely reliable guide to what will actually happen.  As anyone using Palmers Green station will be only too aware, there are still frequent cancellations - mainly at weekends - due to a shortage of drivers and in spite of GTR's claim to be running the largest ever driver training programme.  So four trains an hour off peak might turn out to be overambitious at this stage - let's hope not.

GTR are promising to publish an "update on the feedback on the weekend consultation" in June.  In early September they will be reviewing the May 2018 timetable and updating on "any changes required", and at the end of September they promise to have the new December 2018 timetable included in National Rail Enquiries journey planners.

A couple of months ago GTR were promising us four trains an hour on Saturdays from May.  There's no sign of that in the Journey Planner as yet, so we'll have to wait and see...


Timetables page on Rail Plan 2020 website - with links to the Consultation Report, Route Info Sheets and Monday-to-Friday timetables

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N Morris's Avatar
N Morris posted a reply #3762 05 Apr 2018 10:35
Thanks for the info update. I've done a quick comparison of the current v proposed Monday - Friday departures from PG to central London between 7am - 9am and there has been no improvement to frequency as yet. There are still only 12 trains for commuters to catch in this 2 hour window. Not quite a metro service yet! Hopefully the future timetable changes will increase frequencies further and reduce some of the long wait times between trains.

I've listed the departure times below along with the waiting time until the next train.

Karl Brown's Avatar
Karl Brown posted a reply #3777 05 Apr 2018 17:13
Neil Morris’ analysis suggests an odd approach by the train co: ultimately double the midday service to 6 trains and hour yet keep the crammed peak morning rush hours service at 6 trains per hour. Perhaps they hope the move to all six car trains will help safely fit in the majority who are not supporting “baby on board” badges. Getting so many trains (remember plus Welwyn line) in and out again of dead-end Moorgate always struck me as some challenge.

I’m curious about the 12 month training programme to produce all the drivers for the original planned 6 trains per hour from May 18, now to be December 19. Did they ever exist; will they now drive trains elsewhere or merely drink tea in some glass case for drivers waiting for trains? Let’s see if there’s ever a “train cancelled due to lack of drivers” post May. As if.
Basil Clarke's Avatar
Basil Clarke posted a reply #3778 05 Apr 2018 22:36
The rush hour service uses all the trains currently available, they can't increase it until the new fleet arrives, which will have more trains. But the date for these new trains appears to have slipped somewhat.

As regards drivers, I've heard that some train operating companies are infamous for poaching drivers that have been trained at the expense of another company. They can afford to pay higher salaries because they haven't had to fork out for the training. It's a dog-eat-dog world in the exciting land of privatised railways.
Karl Brown's Avatar
Karl Brown posted a reply #3779 06 Apr 2018 09:14
Thanks Basil. Good to know that the next time I miss a connection / meeting / concert / some other due to a duff service, I can be heartened in the knowledge that the market is never wrong.
James Brown's Avatar
James Brown posted a reply #3822 10 May 2018 12:27
Looking at the new PG timetable, it looks like we'll be getting the same number of peak trains, but there are fewer that will miss out any stations en route to London – which means we'll be facing longer journeys on busier trains. Does this tally with other people's interpretation?
Karl Brown's Avatar
Karl Brown posted a reply #3824 10 May 2018 16:56
I reckon the journeys will not be any longer.

There’s an excellent link on Bowes and Bounds supplied by Richard Matz on May 7 which highlights the new trains being built in Germany, all 25 of them, each with more space than the current stock, but with less of it being seated. Air con and wi fi! Just have to hope they are also building some drivers at the same time.
N Morris's Avatar
N Morris posted a reply #3832 16 May 2018 14:38
I've checked the new timetable during morning hours of 7am - 9am. Journeys from Palmers Green to Finsbury Park (for the sake of argument) will take 12 - 14 minutes.
1 out of 4 trains skips Hornsey and Harringay which takes 13 minutes.
1 out of 4 trains skips Bowes Park and that journey is 12 minutes.

Currently the journey from PG to Finsbury takes between 10 - 13 minutes, with 2 trains early in the period taking 6 and 7 minutes respectively by virtue of going straight to Finsbury Park from PG.

So there is a slight extension on the journey time under the new timetable.

Here is the link to the blog Karl referred to in his earlier post

Note the new trains can travel at higher speed, have quicker acceleration and better braking and GTR said that will allow some minutes to shaved off the present timetable in the future.
Colin Younger's Avatar
Colin Younger posted a reply #3833 16 May 2018 18:41
It's just be drawn to my attention that assuming I've read it correctly from 28 Oct to 2 December PG will be on the Sunday bus replacement "service" between Stevenage and Ally Pally and vice-versa. I don't recall an explanation for this. Inset days for driver training? Leaves on the line? Trees being felled?

See also...

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  • 12 September 2019

Great Northern: 'A great deal of focus on reliability and punctuality'

The managing director of Thameslink & Great Northern Railways has written to London Assembly Member Joanne McCartney apologising for poor service and disruption to her constituents and assuring her that 'there is a great deal of focus by our operations teams on reliability and punctuality'. Meanwhile, in the Twittersphere arguments have been raging about whether or not the new trains are better than the old units Read more

  • 31 July 2019

MP demands better train service amid rising passenger anger and frustration

In response to a flood of tweets from angry and frustrated rail passengers, Enfield Southgate MP Bambos Charalambous has written to the managing director of Govia Thameslink Railway to complain about the continuing high incidence of cancellations due to driver unavailability on routes serving stations in his constituency. Read more