Will Thameslink services start as planned next week?

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.

And this now appears on the Thameslink website asking passengers to check back just one day before services are due to commence:

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 Gibb report into Thameslink issues from late 2016 highlighted this critical issue. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling sat on it for seven months.

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.

Image courtesy of Network Rail

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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J Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

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