- £7bn Thameslink programme delivers transformational timetable change in May 2018
- Over 2,100 extra peak-time Thameslink seats at Bedford and over 3,000 from Luton each morning, rising to over 3,400 in December 2018
- Changes on East Midlands Trains services to/from Bedford and Luton to enable successful introduction of new Thameslink timetable
- New fast peak-time GTR services for Bedford and Luton from May 2018
- £7bn is being invested in transforming the Thameslink programme, alongside the biggest upgrade of the Midland Main Line since it was completed in 1870.
As part of the Government-sponsored Thameslink programme, a brand new timetable will be introduced in May 2018. This represents one of the biggest timetable recasts in recent railway history. It will provide many extra peak-time seats, improved journey times and better connections on GTR (Govia Thameslink) services from Bedford to Farringdon, for Crossrail when it opens, as well as to London Bridge and further south.
Work has also started on the transformation of the Midland Main Line which will deliver the biggest upgrade of this line in almost 150 years, bringing better journeys for customers and representing an investment of over £1billion. The Department for Transport has proposed in its consultation on the next East Midlands franchise that this extra capacity is used to deliver more seats on fast, direct services between Corby, Kettering, Wellingborough, Bedford, Luton, Luton Airport Parkway and London St Pancras with longer, quieter, comfortable and more efficient trains.
Detailed planning has been taking place over several months across the rail industry to ensure the new Thameslink timetable can be successfully introduced. East Midlands Trains and GTR have therefore today (11 December 2017) announced some changes needed to the May 2018 East Midlands Trains timetable due to the increased number of GTR trains needing to operate on the shared network between Bedford and London. These changes will be in place until the completion of the Midland Main Line upgrade programme in 2020.
From the timetable change on 20 May 2018 until the completion of the Midland Main Line Upgrade in 2020, East Midlands Trains peak-time services will no longer call at Bedford or Luton*. Direct East Midlands Trains rail services will continue to run from Leicestershire and Northamptonshire to London, and will continue to call at Luton Airport Parkway throughout the day. Off-peak and weekend services will continue to call at Bedford and Luton.
Seven GTR services per hour will continue to run between Bedford, Luton and London during the three-hour morning and evening peaks. To ensure that passengers from Bedford continue to benefit from faster trains, two of these GTR trains each hour will become fast services calling only at Bedford, Luton, St Albans and London St Pancras, with a journey time of around 45 minutes. From May 2018, many GTR trains will be longer with over 2,100 more seats at Bedford and over 3,000 at Luton in the morning peak, rising to over 3,400 by December 2018.
In addition to the new GTR fast services and as part of its longer term plans, East Midlands Trains is working with the Department for Transport to explore the feasibility of securing extra trains which could allow the future introduction of a dedicated peak-time service for Bedford customers.
Customers using East Midlands Trains services to commute from Leicestershire and Northamptonshire to Bedford during peak hours will be provided with an alternative, fully accessible coach service that will connect with rail services at Wellingborough. This will run hourly between Wellingborough and Bedford and any monthly or annual season ticket holders using the replacement coach service will be eligible for a 50% discount on their season ticket.
Jake Kelly, Managing Director for East Midlands Trains, said: “Major investment is being made to improve the railway in Bedford and the surrounding areas, with the £7bn Thameslink programme and the transformation of the Midland Main Line which will deliver the biggest upgrade of this line in almost 150 years, bringing better journeys for customers and representing an investment of over £1bn.
“To enable these major projects to be successfully completed, there will have to be some changes to our services and we appreciate that this will mean inconvenience for some customers.
“Our priority has been to ensure that these customers have alternative transport connections in place with the additional fast GTR services being introduced from May and the replacement coach service from Wellingborough. We will also keep working with the Department for Transport to explore the feasibility of securing extra trains which could allow the future introduction of a dedicated peak-time service for Bedford customers.
“In the longer term, we will continue to work with the Department for Transport and Network Rail to deliver the improvements needed for the Midland Main Line which will provide greater capacity on this network and therefore enable future timetable improvements.”
Charles Horton, Chief Executive Officer for Govia Thameslink Railway that operates Thameslink services, said: “At the Department for Transport’s request, we have changed our timetable to deliver a continued, fast service into London for Bedford and Luton customers in the peak. There will be six fast trains in each peak at 30-minute intervals which provide better spacing than the fast East Midlands Trains services they replace.
“We will still be giving passengers more peak time seats on the new, cutting-edge, longer trains we are adding to the route. Thanks to the massive £7bn Thameslink Programme, there will be thousands more seats each morning at Bedford and Luton into London and, at many other stations on the north Thameslink route, there will be a significant increase in seats and capacity.”
Rob McIntosh, Managing Director for Network Rail’s London North Eastern and East Midlands route, added: “We are currently carrying out the biggest upgrade of the Midland Main Line since it was first built in 1870 with an investment of over £1billion that will create a bigger, faster, more reliable network which will bring significant, long term benefits the economies and communities our railway serves.”
A copy of the new timetable will be available during February 2018.
Notes to editors
*From 20 May 2018, no East Midlands Trains services arriving into St Pancras between 07.00 and 10.00 will call at Bedford or Luton, and no East Midlands Trains services leaving St Pancras between 16.00 and 19.00 will stop at Luton or Bedford. Off-peak East Midlands Trains services and Luton Airport Parkway services will not be affected by the changes.