There were recent strong rumours about the possibility of a delay to the introduction of Thameslink services through Greenwich, Charlton, Woolwich and Abbey Wood into Kent which will replace some Southeastern services.
Since then Thameslink have conceded there are issues and published a timetable with some cancellations throughout the day. Given that Thameslink are replacing two trains per hour at stations on the Greenwich line, any issues could see a reduction from six to four trains an hour.
As the starting date draws closer more whispers are appearing of cuts including Thameslink running just one train an hour for much of the day. Driver training is still running behind schedule.
In addition there’s word that due to driver shortages on Thameslink, some Southeastern drivers will switch over to the other franchise. Will that mean cancellations on Southeastern if they lack drivers?
The service will offer new direct links to stations in London such as Farringdon and St Pancras, yet on the flip side will be slower than all-sopping services it replaces despite skipping Belvedere, Erith and Woolwich Dockyard stations.
Driver training has been a major issue and known for quite some time. It takes years to train each train driver so planning needs to begin years in advance. It hasn’t happened to sufficient degree.
The issue of drivers is closely linked to depots that will accommodate new stock and the report stressed an urgent need to rectify these issues.
Remember when Chris Grayling blocked TfL taking over the running of Southeastern in London? One reason given was a desire to reduce conflict between TfL and Southeastern services on the same tracks.
Months later the Department for Transport then announced two operators running on the same tracks.
The DfT’s handling of the entire program doesn’t see much credit from any quarter. And now here we are, 18 years after Thameslink 2000 was supposed to begin, and the big day is approaching. It seems to have hit bump after bump.
Much good work has been achieved. London Bridge opened on time and was a fantastic engineering achievement yet many questions remain. Will it provide much of a service in south east London (at least initially) and just what impact will it have on Southeastern? We shall soon see.
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