Sunday, 8 April 2018

The Grand Tour (four)

Thameslink Not Quite Yet?
The current London Rail map (Underground plus National Rail) shows "Southern" services (GREEN) terminating at London Bridge, South Eastern trains (BLUE) running through to Cannon Street and Charing Cross. Thameslink (PURPLE) is operating via Elephant and Castle and Blackfriars as normal but the rest of the service stops short of the tunnels at London Bridge.

Now that the London Bridge work is (almost?) complete, SOME trains have started linking via the Thames. But how frequently do they run?

The answer is, not very! fbb wanted a journey planner (JP) departure at 1230-ish to allow plenty of time for wonder and amazement at the new station. This was what the JP had on offer:-
The departure screen at the entrance (Joiner Street) only managed a selection from 1127 to 1154 ...
... but this did include the 1129 to Peterborough which would have left before fbb had even begun to explore.
The full departure screen by the ticket office offered little encouragement with nothing going via the Thameslink tunnels. Had fbb AND the JP got it all wrong? Had there been some unannounced problem at Farringdon?

What was going on?

The ONLY train on offer was a 1249 to Cambridge, a bit tight for fbb's foray northwards. By now the old fellow had poked his Saver ticket (marked for cross-London inclusive travel) into the gates and he was wandering aimlessly at the foot of those escalators.
Hey ho! Nothing for it but to ascend to the platform and wait. Armed with a Crunchie to sustain the inner man, fbb escalated, sat and waited.

One problem was a simple mathematical challenge.
Ir was 1159 and the Cambridge train was due at 1249 - a wait of 50 minutes in conventional arithmetic terms. But the deep throat computer said the train was due in 34 minutes.


One thing was certain; sitting on a deserted platform at London Bridge watching a succession of identical South Eastern trains trundle through on their way to and from Charing Cross could never be called a trainspotter's delight.
And fbb is not really a trainspotter anyway.

Only short term excitment could be derived from eating the Crunchie!

Then, as fbb was nodding off intellectually if not physically, at about 1230 a class 700 (like this one) ...
... crept into the platform. It had a Thameslink logo (part of GoAhead) on the side ...
... and a very nice young dayglo vested lady, speaking into her portable speaking spout electronic thingey, told us it was going the Bedford. There were probably 12 people on the 12 coach train. Nothing appeared on the screens except the time-warped 1249 to Cambridge.

The very nice young lady explained to fbb that the 1249 was a scheduled train but this one wasn't scheduled, it was an extra being "phased in". fbb had visions of the lads at Selhurst depot finishing their cocoa and saying, "Hey, there's not much going on, let's have a run up to Bedford for the pure hellish fun of it and  to confuse the passengers.

Well, it worked, fbb was confused. But he boarded.

The class 700 seems the wrong sort of train for journeys from the South Coast to places like Peterborough and Cambridge. Its ambiance was very "inner suburban" with the slight bonus of 2 x 2 seating rather than 3 x 2.

No "corridor connections", just a very long 12 coach commuter tube was what you got.
But there are some electronic on-board goodies to while away the very slow progress through the tunnels.
"See it, Say it, Sorted" drove fbb bananas on his three day Grand Tour - it is the craze of the moment and definitely loses its impact with universal overkill.

Is it helpful to know which coach you are on?
Maybe for clandestine assignations? "Se you in coach 7 of the 1230 to somewhwre!"
Knowing if parts of the train were less full might be of use on a 12 coach train.
Sorry about the errant arrow!

It is difficult to peer into all 12 at a typically brief station stop; but, surely, that information should be displayed on the platform as the train approaches. Then sprightly passengers (fbb NOT included) can sprint along, spraying other passengers hither and thither, to find an empty bit.

Not here's a thought.
You see a toilet is "vacant" and you nip swiftly along, only to see someone beat you to it and to watch the display turn red before you have made it to the door! Not a pleasant experience especially at fbb's unstable embladdered age!!
By the time fbb's train had crawled to Farringdon, the platform screens were showing its Bedford destination and stopping pattern. The train itself, however, was less communicative.
There were NO announcements!

The question remains; was this the 1227 departure as "planned" by the JP? Unlikely, as the driver announced (at 1230) that he would be waiting there (at London Bridge) for seven minutes!

Despite this aura of mystery and/or incompetence, your confused blogger arrived happily at St Pancras International in good time to make his was to Euston for the passage northwards to Leicester.


For Leicester?

Has the old man flipped?

P.S. fbb much preferred one of the early Thameslink logos. It actually had a link with the Thames!

 Next Haymarket (Grand Tour) blog : Monday 9th April 


  1. A wee bitie critical there, fbb! A 12 coach train with plenty of toilets and their status clearly displayed . . . . on your class 159 you could still get to the toilet just to be beaten to it!
    Regular commuters will board the train and see where the less-used areas are and move along through the capacious corridor connections. Similar trains are used on Overground and the sub-surface lines of the Underground, and loadings do get spread out along the train, so it does work!
    I daresay the "bums on seats" data "could" be communicated to stations as well, but tbat would require very whizzy data transmissions, and if that failed then imagine the panic on the platform!!

    GRT are (as recommended by Chris Gibb) going for a "soft" launch of trains via London Bridge and the revitalised Canal Tunnels by operating unscheduled extras up to May 2018. This has several benefits . . . . route-training for drivers and making sure everything works properly before the full service starts being the headlines.

    If a soft launch fails then you have a soft landing!!

  2. To add to that, most trains from Brighton through the tunnel are still scheduled non stop via Elephant, but if the driver has had the necessary training then it will go via London Bridge instead, which is a shorter journey hence the waiting for its original path from Blackfriars.

  3. It probably said 34 mins because the train will arrive in 34 mins then wait until 1249 to depart

    1. I'm not sure that service frequency at Farringdon would permit a train to dwell for 15 minutes.

  4. Wondering which type of passenger will benefit from these cross London services, will longer distance ones gain time as well as no need to change enough to make lesser stock attractive?
    Will those travelling beyond the outer termini wish to join an occupied train, rather than a starter from London with seats to choose?

    I know it will take some pressure off London termini, but hopefully that won't be all. Yet....