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Thameslink New Livery (2014).png
A Thameslink train at Blackfriars
Type Commuter rail, Suburban rail
System National Rail
Status Operational
Locale East of England
Greater London
South East England
Termini Bedford/Luton/St Albans
Stations 68 (additional stations at peaks)
Services 5
Opened 1988
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) Thameslink
Depot(s) Bedford
Three Bridges
Rolling stock Class 319
Class 377 Electrostar
Class 387 Electrostar
Class 700 Desiro City (from 2016)
No. of tracks 2-4
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification 25 kV 50hz AC
750 V DC third rail
Operating speed 100 mph (160 km/h) maximum

Thameslink is a 68-station main-line route in the British railway system running 225 km (140 mi) north to south through London from Bedford to Brighton, serving both London Gatwick Airport and London Luton Airport, with a suburban loop serving Sutton, Mitcham and Wimbledon and a suburban line via Catford and Bromley South to Sevenoaks. It opened as a through service in 1988 and by 1998 was severely overcrowded, carrying more than 28,000 passengers in the morning peak. Almost all the services are currently operated by Thameslink.

The Thameslink Programme is a major £5.5 billion scheme to extend the service to a further 100 stations and to greatly increase capacity on the central London section to accommodate more frequent and longer trains, scheduled for completion in 2018.


Much of the route is over the Brighton Main Line (London Bridge branch) and the southern part of the Midland Main Line. There are also a suburban loop through Sutton and Wimbledon and a branch over the Catford Loop Line to Sevenoaks.

The route through central London is via St Pancras International for connections to Eurostar and the East Midlands; Farringdon, for London Underground Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City lines, and Crossrail from 2018; City Thameslink, which replaced the demolished Holborn Viaduct station and has a southern entrance serving Ludgate Circus; Blackfriars, for main-line rail services and the Underground District and Circle lines; and London Bridge for main-line links into Kent and Sussex and the Underground Northern and Jubilee lines. King's Cross Thameslink on Pentonville Road closed on 8 December 2007.

Trains operating the "main line" service (Bedford to Brighton) include first-class accommodation, those operating from Luton and St Albans to Sutton and Wimbledon are usually standard class only.[1] When Govia operated the original Thameslink franchise these services were designated "Thameslink CityFlier" and "Thameslink CityMetro" respectively, but First Capital Connect dropped this branding. Govia Thameslink Railway now refers to these services as Route TL1 (formerly Route 6) and Route TL2/TL3 (formerly Route 7/8) respectively.


The majority of fast trains run between Brighton and Bedford via London Bridge. Suburban Loop trains start at either Wimbledon or Sutton and call at all stations to Luton. Suburban trains from Sevenoaks call at all stations via Swanley and Bromley South, Catford and Peckham Rye, terminating at West Hampstead on weekdays, Blackfriars at weekends. Additional services to/from Bedford or Luton or St Albans start or terminate at St Pancras. There are also peak-only jointly operated Thameslink/Southeastern services between Rochester, Ashford International or Bearsted and Bedford. A 24/6 (there isn't service overnight between Sunday and Monday) service operates between Bedford and Three Bridges serving Luton Airport Parkway and Gatwick Airport.[2]

In trains per hour:

  • Bedford-Brighton - 4, all stations to St Albans, then West Hampstead Thameslink (2tph), St Pancras International, Farringdon, City Thameslink, London Blackfriars, London Bridge, East Croydon, Gatwick Airport, Three Bridges, Balcombe (1), Haywards Heath, Wivlesfield (2), Burgess Hill, Hassocks (3), Preston Park (2).
  • St Albans-Sutton via Mitcham - 2, all stations clockwise round loop, then via Wimbledon to Luton
  • Luton-Sutton via Wimbledon - 2, all stations anti-clockwise round loop, then via Mitcham Junction to St Albans
  • West Hampstead Thameslink-Sevenoaks - 2, all stations via Catford and Bromley South, weekdays only

Peak Services:

  • Bedford-Orpington/Beckenham Jnc via Penge East and Herne Hill (semi-fast), all stations then St Pancras International, West Hampstead Thameslink, St Albans, then all stations to Bedford
  • Bedford-Rochester (fast)
  • Bedford-Ashford International (semi-fast)


  • Bedford-Three Bridges - 1, all stations then St Pancras International, London Blackfriars, East Croydon and Gatwick Airport


86 Class 319s have worked the Thameslink route since its opening in 1987
Class 319s currently still operate on the Thameslink route but with refreshed interiors and new Thameslink livery

Passenger services operated across London through the Snow Hill Tunnel from mid-Victorian times until World War I, when services terminated at Moorgate from the Midland line to the north, and at Holborn Viaduct from the south, at a time when most inner cross-London traffic had been lost to buses and trams. There were low-level platforms under the main part of Holborn Viaduct station known as the Snow Hill platforms: these can still be seen when leaving City Thameslink station travelling northwards.

On 14 June 1941 railwayman George Dow proposed in an article in the London evening newspaper The Star that new routes, in tunnel, be built from Marylebone south to Victoria, and from King's Cross south to Charing Cross. Both were to connect with a Paddington-Liverpool Street tunnel that he proposed, anticipating Crossrail by 40 years. He also proposed a north-east/south- west route from Liverpool Street to Charing Cross, all designed to give London a comprehensive main-line network of connections.[3]

The Snow Hill Tunnel route remained open for cross-London freight trains until 1970, when the short section between Farringdon and Holborn Viaduct was closed.

Overhead electrification, completed in 1982, allowed the northern section to run as the Midland City Line from Bedford via the Midland Main Line to St Pancras, and via the City Widened Lines to Moorgate.[4]

The Snow Hill tunnel was re-opened by British Rail to passenger trains after 72 years, with Thameslink beginning in May 1988.[5] On 29 January 1990 the section between Blackfriars and Farringdon was temporarily closed to permit the construction of a new alignment. The old route through the site of the long-closed Ludgate Hill station and over Ludgate Hill was abandoned and demolished. The replacement route under Ludgate Hill was opened on 29 May 1990 by the Network SouthEast (sector of British Rail) concurrently with City Thameslink station, which was initially called St Paul's Thameslink but was renamed in 1991 to avoid confusion with St. Paul's station on the Underground (Central line), about 500 m (550 yd) away.

King's Cross Thameslink on Pentonville Road closed on 8 December 2007 when the Thameslink platforms at nearby St Pancras opened.

In the south the services divide: main-line trains run through London Bridge to East Croydon and Brighton, but the other route has a more convoluted history. In 1988–91 trains went via Bromley to Orpington and Sevenoaks, and via Herne Hill and East Croydon to Purley (off peak only). Later, non-Brighton trains ran via Elephant & Castle and Streatham to West Croydon, Carshalton Beeches, Sutton, Epsom, Leatherhead and Effingham Junction, to Guildford.

On the privatisation of British Rail, Thameslink was franchised to Thameslink, a subsidiary of Govia.

Around 1994 the second branch was cut back to West Croydon as this route crossed the commuter networks of what were to become several different rail companies, and rail privatisation made the route increasingly difficult to maintain.

Around 1995 the route was changed completely, with a route to Sutton via Mitcham Junction continuing on a loop to Wimbledon rejoining itself south of Streatham replacing the West Croydon service.

By late 1998, more than 28,000 passengers were carried at morning peak times.[6]

From 1 April 2006 the franchise was taken over by First Capital Connect along with some services previously operated by WAGN.[7] The branding of most trains, stations, and signs has been changed to match the name of the new company, but City Thameslink and West Hampstead Thameslink were not renamed as Thameslink refers to the route.[8] After criticism of the loss of the apt name for this group of routes,[9] First Capital Connect's publicity began calling this set of services its "Thameslink route" to distinguish it from the former WAGN services.

On 14 September 2014, Govia Thameslink Railway took over operations from First Capital Connect with routes now branded as Thameslink and Great Northern.[10]

Thameslink Programme

St Pancras International Thameslink platforms opened in 2007

Following the success of the original scheme, plans were drawn up to upgrade the network to cope with the increasing passenger numbers that have led to severe peak-time overcrowding.[11] Network Rail obtained planning permission and legal powers in 2006,[12] funding was secured in July 2007[13] and construction began in October 2007.[14] Plans included rebuilding the station buildings at Farringdon (in conjunction with the Crossrail project) and West Hampstead Thameslink, total rebuild of London Bridge and Blackfriars stations, two new underground platforms at St Pancras International, a new tunnel north of St Pancras International to the East Coast Main Line to allow through services to Peterborough and Cambridge in 2017, and platform lengthening, now been completed. A new 8 and 12 carriage fleet is planned for entering service in 2016.

The London and South East Route Utilisation Strategy published in July 2011 lays out a provisional 24tph timetable. South of London it would provide four trains to Brighton (one semi-fast, one stopping) and two each to Three Bridges, Horsham, East Grinstead, Caterham, Tattenham Corner, Tunbridge Wells, Ashford International, Maidstone East, Sevenoaks and Bellingham. North of London there would be eight semi-fast trains to Bedford, four stopping trains to St Albans, two stopping and two semi-fast trains to Luton, two semi-fast trains to Peterborough, two semi-fast trains to Cambridge and four stopping trains to Welwyn Garden City.[15]

Below is a provisional timetable for Thameslink once the upgrade is complete.

No. North of London South of London Length Times
1 Bedford semi-fast Brighton semi-fast 12-car All day
3 Bedford semi-fast Gatwick Airport
(Three Bridges at peaks, in peak direction only)
via Redhill 12-car All day
5 Cambridge semi-fast Brighton semi-fast 12-car All day
7 Peterborough semi-fast Horsham via Redhill 12-car All day
9 Cambridge semi-fast
via Welwyn Garden City
Tattenham Corner semi-fast 12-car All day
11 St Albans City (Luton in morning peak) stopping Sutton via Wimbledon stopping 8-car All day
13 St Albans City (Luton in morning peak) stopping Sutton via Mitcham stopping 8-car All day
15 Kentish Town (Luton in evening peak) stopping Sevenoaks stopping 8-car All day
17 Finsbury Park
(Welwyn Garden City, in peak direction only)
stopping or semi-fast Caterham stopping via Sydenham
or semi-fast
8-car Peaks only
19 Luton stopping Maidstone East semi-fast via Bromley South 8-car Peaks only
21 West Hampstead Thameslink
(Bedford in peak direction only)
semi-fast Three Bridges
(Littlehampton in peak direction only)
semi-fast 8-car Peaks only
23 West Hampstead Thameslink
(Bedford in peak direction)
semi-fast London Bridge
(East Grinstead in peak direction)
semi-fast via Oxted 8-car Peaks only

Rolling stock

Class 700 Desiro City mock up at the Excel, London
Interior of new Class 387 trains operating on Thameslink route until introduction of new Class 700 trains from 2016-2018

Thameslink rolling stock is mainly the 86 Class 319 trains built by BREL between 1987-1988 and 1990. These are electrically powered dual-voltage four-car units rated to carry 289, 308 or 319 passengers. They use 25 kV AC overhead power north of Farringdon and 750 V DC third rail to the south. Four Class 319 trains had been transferred from Southern in December 2008 and the last four followed in March 2009, from which point they were all on Thameslink.

First Capital Connect acquired 23 four-coach Class 377 sets during 2009 on sublease from Southern, for the Thameslink route for additional capacity and to allow some of the Class 319 trains to be released for the Catford Loop service to Sevenoaks, now jointly operated with Southeastern under Key Output 0 of the Thameslink Programme.[16]

Class 317 units built in the early 1980s were still in use when services into Moorgate ceased in March 2009: the last timetabled service ran from Farringdon to Bedford on 9 October 2009.

New energy-efficient Class 700 trains will provide an additional 14,500 seats and will be delivered from 2015 to 2018.[17] Siemens Mobility was named preferred bidder on 16 June 2011, with the Desiro City train family.[18] The contract was signed in June 2013.[19] The depots will be at Hornsey and Three Bridges.[18] The Three Bridges depot opened in October 2015 and the first trains will be in service from spring 2016.

Due to delays in the new Class 700 fleet, the DfT[20] and Southern[21] announced that proposals for 116 electric dual-voltage 110-mile-per-hour (180 km/h) carriages (29 trains) with another 140 carriages (35 trains) were being developed to "accelerate their procurement process for up to 256 carriages because our ambitious electrification plans requires additional rolling stock on the network" (Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin). The tender for the new trains, known as Class 387, was won by Bombardier and the first set entered service in December 2014 with all in service by May 2015. These trains will move to the Great Western Railway franchise once the Class 700 is delivered.[22]

2014 franchise

The invitation to tender for the Thameslink Southern & Great Northern franchise was expected to be issued in October 2012, with the contract commencing in September 2013. On 29 March 2012, the Department for Transport announced Abellio, FirstGroup, Govia, MTR Corporation and Stagecoach Group had pre-qualified to bid for the franchise.[23]

Due to problems with the InterCity West Coast tendering process, the process was delayed, with the new franchise delayed until September 2014. The new franchise includes the South Central franchise currently operated by Southern and certain routes from the Integrated Kent Franchise currently operated by Southeastern.[24]

On 23 May 2014, it was announced that the franchise has been awarded to Govia Thameslink Railway.[25] The new Thameslink Southern & Great Northern franchise[26] will include both the Thameslink Great Northern and South Central franchises.

Govia Thameslink Railway commenced operations on 14 September 2014, with the former First Capital Connect routes branded as Thameslink and Great Northern.

See also


  1. "Train times: Thameslink Route" (PDF). First Capital Connect. December 2011. pp. 95, 98.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Telling the Passenger Where to Get Off, Andrew Dow, 2009, pages 52-55.
  3. This service was colloquially known as the Bedpan Line from the contracted names of the terminal stations, as had happened with the Bakerloo line. In general limited-stop trains served St Pancras, and all-stations trains Moorgate.
  4. "Station Name: Snow Hill/Holborn Viaduct Low Level". Disused Stations News. Subterranea Britannica. 8 December 2007. Retrieved 17 June 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Sustained Passenger Growth in London" (Press release). Strategic Rail Authority. 29 March 1999. Retrieved 17 June 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Department of Transport announces winner of Thameslink/GN franchise" (Press release). Central Office of Information News Distribution Service. 13 December 2005. Retrieved 17 June 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. King’s Cross Thameslink kept the Thameslink suffix until it closed on 8 December 2007.
  8. Letter from TfL to FCC
  9. Department for Transport. "New rail franchising deal set to transform passenger services across London and south east - Press releases". GOV.UK. Retrieved 11 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Network Rail. "Thameslink Programme". Retrieved 18 October 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "The £3.5bn Thameslink Project clears major hurdle" (Press release). Network Rail. 18 October 2006. Archived from the original on 4 March 2007. Retrieved 16 June 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Coward, Andy (15 August 2007). "Cross-river rail to boost Capital". Rail. Peterborough (572): 40–43.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Work begins on Thameslink project". BBC News. 24 October 2007. Retrieved 24 October 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. London and South East Route Utilisation Strategy page 72
  15. The Class 377 units also operate the peak-hour Bedford to Ashford/Medway towns services as 8-car trains. The first class 377/5 trains started running on 24 March 2009. "Do we really have to wait until 2012 and 2015 for some relief to the overcrowding?". First Capital Connect. 20 October 2008. Retrieved 28 October 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Thameslink gets 14,500 more seats". BBC News. 9 April 2008. Retrieved 1 June 2008. The deal, announced by Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly, will mean the current 720-carriage Thameslink fleet increasing by 380 carriages. A contract for the new carriages is expected to be awarded in summer 2009, with the first train in service by 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. 18.0 18.1 "Siemens beats Bombardier to Thameslink train order". Railway Gazette International. London. 16 June 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Siemens Thameslink deal to create up to 2,000 new jobs". Department for Transport, UK. London. 27 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Department for Transport (21 December 2012). "Boost to train builders". Retrieved 23 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Procurement of New Rolling Stock - (press release) The potential competition for 116 electric (dual voltage) new rolling stock vehicles, with an option for a further 100 vehicles, would be openly tendered via the rail Link-Up system. The new rolling stock will be of dual voltage configuration and is required to operate up to 110 mph. Any rolling stock manufacturer registered on the rail Link-Up system would be able to compete for this opportunity.
  21. First Great Western plans AT300s to Cornwall Railway Gazette 23 March 2015
  22. "UK franchise pre-qualified bidders announced". Railway Gazette International. 29 March 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Thameslink Southern & Great Northern Invitation to Tender Department for Transport 26 September 2013
  24. "BBC News - Govia wins Thameslink rail franchise". 28 January 2014. Retrieved 23 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Department for Transport. "New rail franchising deal set to transform passenger services across London and south east - Press releases". GOV.UK. Retrieved 24 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links