Transport for London was today accused of failing to inform passengers about a “second Northern line” through central London because it will be operated by a rival firm.
Thameslink services are to expand in May when trains from Cambridge and Peterborough, currently part of its sister Great Northern franchise, will continue south of King’s Cross and across the Thames to Brighton or Horsham via Gatwick airport for the first time.
This is part of a £7 billion taxpayer-funded modernisation of a north-south line said to be as important as Crossrail.
It includes a key section – Finsbury Park, St Pancras, Farringdon, City Thameslink and Blackfriars – where services will run at “metro” frequencies of eight trains an hour, creating an alternative to the overcrowded Northern line to and from London Bridge.
This means there will be 24 trains an hour between St Pancras and Blackfriars, once the Bedford/Luton trains are included – equal to Crossrail’s peak frequency.
See here for a map of the expanded Thameslink services:Thameslink future service
Existing Thameslink services, which run between Bedford and Brighton, will also be expanded, including a new route linking Luton and the Medway towns via Greenwich and Abbey Wood. An extra 80 stations will join the Thameslink network.
The Standard has learned that TfL had refused to add the new Thameslink services in central London to its Tube map – despite reprinting it to include its own Crossrail, or Elizabeth line, services, which start in December.
One rail source told the Standard: “It’s a high-frequency service that is meant to complement the Tube but nobody is going to know about it.”
Rail expert Barry Doe said the decision was probably because TfL, which saw Tube passenger numbers drop by 13 million last year, “fears an income loss” if passengers switched to Thameslink.
Writing in RAIL magazine, he called on Mayor Sadiq Khan to “overrule this parochialism, and allow visitors and Londoners alike to see all the benefits of recent public investment”.
The Thameslink expansion has been made possible by a new rail tunnel linking King’s Cross and St Pancras, and Network Rail’s rebuilding of London Bridge station.
New 100mph German-built trains, costing £1.4bn to lease and dubbed the “Hoover” because of their ability to suck-up 1,750 passengers, are being introduced. The 12-carriage units have 666 seats – fewer than the trains they replace – but more standing room, wider doors and indicators showing which carriages have space. Unlike Crossrail trains, they also have lavatories.
The improvements will add extra capacity to a franchise found by the National Audit Office last week to have suffered the most delays and cancellations in the country for the last three years. This was mainly caused by industrial action on Southern and driver shortages on Great Northern.
TfL said Thameslink services were shown on the London Tube and Rail map, which can be seen at most Tube stations, and on the TfL website and app.
However, copies are not available for passengers at TfL stations to take away – unlike the pocket Tube map.
A TfL spokesman said: “The London Tube and Rail map is produced in partnership with the Rail Delivery Group, who print these maps for distribution at national rail stations.
“We review leaflets available in our station on a regular basis and are happy to consider the possibility of stocking these in central London in the future.”