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£6 billion spent on Thameslink…and Greenwich line services are slower than ever in new timetable

Image courtesy of Network Rail. London Bridge was completed on time.

Timetables for May’s Thameslink services on the Woolwich and Greenwich line have been uploaded to online planners and confirm that Thameslink services along the route will be slower than those operated by Southeastern before work begun on “speeding up journeys”.

And that’s despite calling at fewer stations.

Before 2015 a slow all-stopping service from Abbey Wood to London Bridge via Greenwich which stopped at all stations was timetabled at 27 minutes.

The online planners, as seen here, show Thameslinks services will now take 30 minutes for the same trip even off-peak and yet still skip Woolwich Dockyard station. This is despite train services being only eight carriages on planned Thameslink services.

The peak time spacings of Thameslink and Southeastern services result in some odd gaps too. In the morning peak a 17 minute gap for Erith and Belvedere stations for services towards central London occurs, with a train at 08:12 then nothing till 08:29. Woolwich Dockyard gets an 18 minute gap.

A service from Dartford to London takes 43 minutes versus 39 minutes previously and that is despite the planned Thameslink service skipping THREE stations that the previous service called at – Belvedere, Erith and Woolwich Dockyard.

And all this with brand new trains that are supposed to accelerate faster. Despite this Abbey Wood to Woolwich is slowed down from four to six minutes, to give one example. Progress from London Bridge to St Pancras is also sluggish.



Skipping stations

A reason for this could be due to real doubts the service through the core section will hold up as services ramp up. As a result padded timetables and skipping stations seem to be an answer.

Skipping stations (in area of high housing growth) will possibly make performance statistics appear better for Thameslink.

Where was the campaign for better?

It must also be said that Bexley and Greenwich councils did a lementable job fighting for this service to stop at Belvedere, Erith and Woolwich Dockyard.

Bexley are obsessed with a Crossrail extension which is years off and ignored this easy win under their nose.

Greenwich likewise seem hapless on pushing for better rail services and didn’t ever highlight that this service skips Woolwich Dockyard, which is near the eastern half of the Charlton Riverside masterplan area of 7,500+ homes.

MPs such as Teresa Pearce and Matt Pennycook did a better job and raised issues which appear to have fallen on deaf ears with Chris Grayling and the Department for Transport.

It’s true that Southeastern plan to stop more services at these stations from May (only to possibly be cut again in future under the franchise consultation) yet the more that stop the better. It’s still a two train per hour service going begging and users at those stations will have to change to go to the Thameslink core.

It’s not as if faster journeys are the result or users of others stations benefit. As said above, there’s no speed advantage gained from skipping those stops.

Thameslink is a great addition for those along the line that benefit and the penalty isn’t huge, but for all the money spent this is not exactly impressive.

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8 Comments

  1. 30 years ago with under powered slam door stock calling at all stations off peak from Abbey Wood to London Bridge was only 26 minutes.

  2. Ndog

    Is this possibly a ploy to avoid coughing up on the delay repay? Perhaps that extra 5 or so minutes could save them a few quid in the long run.

  3. Plumstead Resident

    Great find.

    If the extra minutes stabilise the timetable and improves punctuality then I don’t mind.

    Unrelated to the topic I know, I took the 18:13 from Cannon Street to Dartford via Greenwich. I haven’t taken that train in a few weeks but it was 10 coaches! The train was crowded when it left London Bridge but was not overcrowded as the service previously used to me. It’s pleasing that the service has increased from six coaches mid last year to now 10. Someone is listening!

  4. Mike Pellatt

    Remember – Thameslink was never meant to go this way. The Bermondsey dive under was meant to get rid of conflicting moves, but this service creates them. It was only added at the last minute because it was realised that Windmill Bridge junction, north of East Croydon, lacked capacity to deliver the planned frequency. So 2 trains per hour were dumped this way, screwing everything up.
    The “service pollution” between the 2 routes is going to be horrendous.

  5. Edmond Rose

    The Thameslink service also has a negative impact on the existing Greenwich line service to Cannon Street. For the last three years we’ve had a regular interval service of six trains per hour to and from the City which made the service convenient to use. Now there will be only four trains an hour from Cannon Street making us wait longer for a train there. Thameslink also brings greater potential for importing disruption from other lines, adds back trains crossing other lines between North Kent Junction and London Bridge (another possible cause of delays) and gives us the delight of trains with uncomfortable, hard seats. The benefit of direct access to the Thameslink core and Luton twice an hour doesn’t look to me to outweigh the disadvantages caused to the majority of Greenwich line travellers. Adding the new trains onto the existing 6/hour service would have brought real benefits.

  6. Coolunderpressure

    One of the reasons why we only get 4 trains per hour into Cannon Street is that the works to increase capacity through the London Bridge area has resulted in fewer trains being able to terminate at Cannon Street. So now we have 4 services to Cannon Street plus 2 Charing Cross via Lewisham services which I think will stop at more stations than previously seen on that service. Whilst commuters at Abbey Wood, Plumstead and Woolwich will be ok, it is concerning that potentially we will see large and uneven gaps in service at other stations during peak times.

  7. Jay

    As a Medway resident I’m dreading this service, its way too slow and it means no direct services to Lewisham, Waterloo East & Charing Cross, Kent County Council did push for this to have fewer stations and calling only at the major stations (ie Gravesend, Greenhithe, Dartford, Abbey Wood, Woolwich Arsenal, Charlton & Greenwich) but for some bizarre reason we’re expected to have longer journey times.

    This also renders the Bermondsey dive under as pointless since the whole point of the works around London Bridge, was to have four separate lines, never to cross over one another via a flat junction, this was why Charing Cross trains will.never again serve Greenwich line stations.

    It would’ve been better to have ran this via Sidcup, bypassing Lewisham, it seems senseless In how:

    1: Basically undoing the works around London Bridge

    2: Replacing a useful semi fast service with what I will imagine to be a very underused all stations service to Luton.

    3: Keeping trains from Medway to Abbey Wood for Crossrail at 2tph.

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