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Thameslink is a fifty-station route in the British railway system running north to south from Bedfordmarker to Brightonmarker through the Snow Hill tunnelmarker in Central London. It is an important commuter route and serves the airports at London Gatwickmarker and London Lutonmarker. No other only main line traverses central London within which it resembles a local underground line, with stations similar to those of the sub-surface Circle line, and peak-hour trains between St. Pancras and Blackfriars at four minute intervals. In late 1998, more than 28,000 passengers were carried at morning peak times. Most of the route is over the Brighton Main Line and the southern part of the Midland Main Line. There is also a suburban loop through Sutton and Wimbledon.

Upon the privatisation of British Rail the operation of Thameslink services was franchised to a subsidiary of Govia, the train operating company Thameslink. From 1 April 2006 it was taken over by First Capital Connect along with other services previously operated by WAGN. The branding of most trains, stations, and signs has been changed to match the name of the new company, but City Thameslinkmarker and West Hampstead Thameslinkmarker stations keep the word Thameslink in their names as it refers to the route itself. After criticism of the loss of the apt name for this group of routes, First Capital Connect's publicity now calls this set of services as its "Thameslink route" to distinguish it from the former WAGN services which the company also operates.


The route across London existed since mid-Victorian times. Passenger services were cut back during World War 1 to terminate at Moorgate from the Midland line to the north, and at Holborn Viaduct for SE&C trains from the south, as most of the inner cross-London traffic had been lost to buses and trams. However the route remained operational for cross-London freight trains until 1970, just lasting into the diesel era, when the short section between Farringdon and Holborn Viaduct was closed. There were separate lower level platforms under the main part of Holborn Viaduct station known as the Snow Hill platforms, and these gave the name to the route.

The Snow Hill tunnelmarker was re-opened to passenger trains after 72 years in 1988 and this allowed timetabled cross-London services to begin on the full Thameslink network in May 1988.

Before that, overhead electrification completed in 1982 allowed the northern section to run as the Midland City Line service from Bedfordmarker via the Midland Main Line to London St Pancrasmarker. and via the City Widened Lines to Moorgatemarker. From the south, services terminated at Holborn Viaductmarker.

From north to south the central London stations are: St Pancras International for connections to Eurostar and the East Midlands; Farringdonmarker, which links into the London Underground’s Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City lines; City Thameslinkmarker which replaced the demolished Holborn Viaduct but also has a southern entrance serving Ludgate Circus; Blackfriarsmarker, which links to a number of other rail services and the District and Circle lines on the Underground; and London Bridgemarker, which also links to a number of other lines. King's Cross Thameslinkmarker on Pentonville Road closed on 8 December 2007.

In the south there are two branches. The main line runs through London Bridgemarker to East Croydonmarker, then to Brightonmarker. A second branch has a more convoluted history.

To begin with, trains went via Bromley to Orpington and Sevenoaks. Some time after that, the non-Brighton trains ran via Elephant & Castlemarker and Streathammarker to West Croydonmarker. Although this route, still used by other train services, comes close to the "main line", it never relinks with it. After West Croydon the line ran through Carshalton Beechesmarker to Suttonmarker then to Epsommarker, Leatherheadmarker, and Effingham Junctionmarker, finally terminating at Guildfordmarker. However, this route crossed the commuter networks of what were to become several different rail companies and the onset of rail privatisation made the route increasingly difficult to maintain. Around 1994 the second branch was cut back to West Croydon. Then around 1995 a major overhaul occurred when the route was changed completely. Thameslink no longer served the West Croydon route and instead a new route to Suttonmarker was opened up over existing track through Mitcham Junctionmarker with the line then continuing on a loop up to Wimbledonmarker and then rejoining itself south of Streatham. It should be noted, however, that morning peak trains only run in a clockwise direction around this loop, which is a major source of inconvenience for commuters in this area.

Thameslink Programme (Thameslink 2000)

From 1991 successive railway authorities (British Rail, Railtrack, Network Rail) proposed to upgrade the Thameslink network to cope with increasing passenger numbers which in recent years have led to severe peak overcrowding. Initially called Thameslink 2000, the project is known as the Thameslink Programme. After a planning process which began in November 1997 Network Rail obtained planning permission and legal powers on 18 October 2006, and funding for the work was approved on 24 July 2007. Construction began on 24 October 2007, with Luton Airport Parkwaymarker the first station to be extended. The provisional completion date is 2015.

Rolling stock

The Thameslink rolling stock is mainly the entire fleet of 86 Class 319 trains built by BREL between 1987 and 1990. These are electrically powered dual-voltage four-car units rated to carry 289, 308 or 319 passengers. They use 25 kV AC overhead power north of Farringdon and 750 V DC third rail to the south. Four Class 319 trains had been transferred from Southern in December 2008 and the last four followed in March 2009, from which point all 86 Class 319 trains were available for use on Thameslink.

First Capital Connect will acquire 23 new-build four-coach Class 377 trains during 2009, on sublease from Southern to be used on the Thameslink route for additional capacity and also to allow cascading Class 319 trains for other routes of the same operator.

Class 317 units built in the early 1980s were still in use when services into Moorgate (25 kV AC) ceased in March 2009 under the Thameslink Programme. The last timetabled service consisting of a single Class 317 unit operating the 18:19 service from Farringdon to Bedford on week days only, ended on Friday 09/10/2009.

New energy-efficient trains will provide an additional 14,500 seats on the Thameslink route and will be delivered from 2012 to 2015.

In July 2009, the Department for Transportmarker announced that depots for the new rolling stock would be built at Hornseymarker and Three Bridgesmarker.

See also

  • Crossrail, a Under Construction East–West line, also through central London

Footnotes and References

  1. King’s Cross Thameslink also kept the Thameslink suffix until it closed on 8 December 2007.
  2. This service was colloquially known as the Bedpan Line from the contracted names of the terminal stations, as had happened with the Bakerloo line. In general, limited-stop trains served St Pancras, and all-station services terminated at Moorgate.
  3. City Thameslink was called St. Paul's Thameslink when it opened on 29 May 1990. It was renamed in 1991 to avoid confusion with St. Paul's station on the London Underground (Central Line), which is about away on the opposite side of St Paul's Cathedral.
  4. They will also run the peak hour Bedford to Ashford/Medway town trains as 8 car trains. The first of the new class 377/5 trains started running on the Thameslink route on 24 March 2009.

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