Thameslink week one: A disaster?

The first week of the £6.5 billion Thameslink program is almost over and how did it do? Ahem. Try to be diplomatic. Not very well.

This post will focus on the Rainham to Luton route via Woolwich and Greenwich and issues raised over the past week. Other routes have had plenty of issues too, but lets focus on just this one for now.

Thameslink started last Sunday. And it started badly. Almost all trains were cancelled. But it was a Sunday and engineering works didn’t make it the easiest of starts.

But the working week would be better right?

Well, not really. Monday actually didn’t start too badly. The morning peak saw most trains running. By midday however cancellations were appearing. It seems the few drivers actually trained on new stock and new routes were working peak time services, which made sense.

It didn’t explain why a project known about for many years still lacked so many trained drivers to operate all day.

By Wednesday the evening peak was a complete no-show.

Day three

As the week has continued cancellations continued until the vast majority have not run on Friday morning.


Lets look at Greenwich. Two out of six trains an hour have been taken over by Thameslink. This morning the first three peak trains to central London were cancelled (7:17, 7:47, 8:17) and then the fourth passed through without stopping as it was 13 minutes late leaving Dartford:

This is a worrying prospect. On Wednesday a train passed along the line without stopping as it was only seven minutes late leaving London Bridge.

It didn’t even stop at a major station like Abbey Wood despite running early.

Consider that a full 33% of trains to stations like Greenwich are now Thameslink operated, so if they are going to fun fast if slightly delayed passengers are getting a far inferior service.

New trains

When Thameslink does run people have complimented the access to various central London stations, as well as the new trains.

The new trains are nice (though anything would appear to be compared to Southeastern scuzz boxes) but not that great compared to many other franchises. A 90 minute journey from Medway isn’t the most pleasant with a bizarre design choice of panels intruding into footspace if sitting on a window seat.

The big questions now are just how long will it take to train up all drivers? Six months? The silence from Thameslink and owners GoVia (who also operate Southeastern) and MD Charles Horton (who came from Southeastern) is deafening.

How could such an expensive project be introduced seemingly on the fly with such a lack of planning?

And what about Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. Much of these issues come from the DfT and pre-date his reign, yet he has been Transport Minister for a year now. What’s he doing?

I’ve also noticed a few cancellations of Southeastern services cropping up due to lacking drivers. It’s believed they are having to assist Thameslink affecting their own services.

And even if that is sorted, if trains are passing through all stations from London Bridge to Slade Green when just seven minutes late what service can the line expect in coming years?

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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.

8 thoughts on “Thameslink week one: A disaster?

  • The mother of all timetable changes was bound to be messy. It will take a few weeks for it all to bed in, so I will reserve final judgement until then. I was actually surprised when I was able to catch the Thameslink service on time on Monday morning, but this was overshadowed by the mass cancellations throughout the week.

    The service a hit major problem this morning when a Southeastern train accidentally alighted at the wrong platform at Blackfriars (Network Rail’s fault?) resulting in a queue of Thameslink trains from Blackfriars all the way down to Bermondsey. The TL train that should have stopped on the Greenwich instead went fast from Dartford to London Bridge. The irony is that the Southeastern train that was behind actually ended-up overtaking the train and got to London Bridge ten minutes earlier than the TL train.

    When the service runs, it actually saves me more than 30 minutes on my daily commute as I avoid connections from Cannon St.

    The trains are nicer than the Southeastern stock and have air-con too. The digital displays inside are helpful too. However, I got the impression the TL trains have fewer seats than the Southeastern Networkers, but I don’t know for sure.

    Hope the service reliability does improve and stabilise.

  • At least this has coincided with quite nice weather. I’m now cycling into town down Quietway 1 every day and not bothering with the train. No stress with cancelled trains, no overpriced fares and I’m a little fitter and thinner. Winner.

  • Kinda hope they do away with this service, it’s all well and good having a nice shiny train that goes to North London, but in truth it’s made traveling from Medway hellish, Crossrail on the other hand is very welcome, Thameslink is a swear word in Rochester, I’ve even had people in Abbey Wood and Woolwich say they miss the fasts already.

    It’s fine reserving judgment but they’ve had years to prepare for this, it’s shambolic in this day and age

  • I won’t be giving up using the 53 bus to Central London anytime soon !!

  • Sounds a bit of a shambles. How can they be allowed to pass by the stations just because they’re a bit late, it would be better to just have all southeastern trains.

    I caught one of them to St Pancras, it was quite slow approaching and leaving London Bridge but other than that was a good journey. I agree about the window seats, you have to put your leg up onto the panel or have your legs shifted away from the window – totally rubbish design.

  • There were no trains today on the Thameslink? I’m sorry but if they said an “enhanced” timetable with”vast journey opportunities” by a particular date, then I and many others would expect this to happen on thus date straight away! No faults, no kinks, everything working hunky dory, I sincerely hope GTR are stripped off their franchise and are withdrawn from Medway!

  • I was able to get the advertised 16:11 from Blackfriars to Plumstead just once last week. The maddest thing that occurred on one of the days was the train turning up at Blackfriars only 4 mins late and the driver announcing its gonna be stopping at London Bridge then fast to Dartford missing all the Greenwich line stops…when I jumped off at London Bridge the platform announcement was stating the service and calling out all the stations that the train was gonna be stopping at (all the Greenwich line stations) only for the driver to repeat his plan of going fast to Dartford. So passengers are jumping on then mass jumping off again…I suspect a few were on that train who wanted intermediate stations but went all the way to Dartford instead. After years of us all putting up with the disruption of the Thameslink project and the promise of a better service at the end I am sad to say the people on the Greenwich line will have a poorer service. Luton to Rainham is a lot of stops and a very long line, basically a lot can go wrong to make trains late and the tactic seems to be Not to stop at a big bunch of station, not even the Key ones like Greenwich, Woolwich Arsenal or Abbeywood.

  • Optimistically booked a eurostar with hoping to have a smooth change in St Pancras; i.e. when it would run this service would be a great improvement.

    Because of the unreliable direct service choose the earlier service with interchange in London bridge, however from there the connections were canceled as well so had to take the tube anyway.

    Also for commute was hoping to switch to the train instead of dlr/jubilee combination but thameslink doesn’t look a viable option as it stands now.


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