This is the moment that GTR’s first Thameslink train, on a test run, makes history as it pulls into the newly-built platform 5 at London Bridge on New Year's Day.
The eight-carriage Class 700 (known as a reduced length unit, ‘RLU’) was the first passenger stock to cross over the new Bermondsey Dive-Under before it arrived in the through platform from New Cross Gate, at 19.24.
The train stopped for a short while for platform and signal interface checks before carrying on to Blackfriars via the newly-commissioned Metropolitan and Blackfriars junctions.
Cross-London Thameslink services stopped running via London Bridge in January 2015 and will resume after further testing and an intensive period of driver training in order to enable the major timetable change in May this year.
Network Rail successfully completed the five new platforms and final section of the massive new concourse at London Bridge on 2 January. Platforms 4 & 5 will be dedicated to the new Thameslink service which will have a clear run from Blackfriars through to London Bridge and beyond thanks to the new dive-under at Bermondsey and a new viaduct built over Borough Market and Borough High Street (the latter now used by Charing Cross services).
GTR project manager Gwyn Jones has been working on the Thameslink Programme since 2008 and was on the first test train. “It was a big moment to be on the first Class 700 train travelling on the new infrastructure into London Bridge and Blackfriars. The work will bring Thameslink back into London Bridge with dedicated routes, unblocking a bottleneck that will allow us to massively expand the Thameslink network this May.”
Simon Blanchflower, Network Rail programme director for the Thameslink Programme, said: “This has already been a year of ‘firsts’ and this test train was a key moment for Thameslink. From this May trains will run from platform 5 at London Bridge, offering new journeys and destinations from what has become one of the biggest and best stations in the country.”
Govia Thameslink Railway
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) operates Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express services as follows:
- Thameslink – services between Bedford and Brighton, Luton/St Albans and Sutton, Wimbledon and Sevenoaks
- Great Northern – services between London and Welwyn, Hertford, Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn
- Southern – services between London and the Sussex coast (Brighton, Worthing, Eastbourne, Bognor Regis, Hastings) and parts of Surrey, Kent and Hampshire (Ashford International, Southampton, Portsmouth)
- Gatwick Express – fast, non-stop direct services between Gatwick Airport and London Victoria
GTR is the largest rail franchise in the UK in terms of passenger numbers, trains, revenue and staff. The operator carries about 326 million passenger journeys per year, and employs around 6,500 people. Its aim is to improve services across all four networks.
Ticket revenue is passed to the government, which pays GTR a fee to operate the franchise. The fee is adjusted according to how well the train service is performing.
Southern has the fastest passenger growth in the UK with numbers into London having doubled in 12 years - compared with the industry as a whole doubling over the past 20 years. To meet this growth and to future-proof the network, GTR is modernising the rail service for passengers.
GTR has introduced more new trains in the past year than all other franchises put together, with 500 new carriages so far.
The transformative £7bn Thameslink Programme will bring hundreds more daily services from 2018, increasing the number of trains though the central London core from up to 15 to 24 trains per hour. Network Rail has also launched a £300m programme to improve resilience across the GTR network.
GTR is modernising how it works, with new technology in use at our stations and on our trains, smartcard ticketing and a new, flexible on-board role on many Southern services. This ensures fewer cancellations, and with more staff on board our trains now than ever before, passengers are enjoying a much better level of on-board customer service.
The GTR investment programme for stations includes funding for more CCTV, toilet refurbishments, new retail facilities, help points and car park improvements – as well as plans for increased motorcycle storage and improved transport integration.