Friday, 18 September 2015

Thameslink: The missing railway line from the Tube Map

Thameslink is a National Rail route that starts North of London, going from Bedford/Luton/St Albans; it goes via Central London serving Kentish Town, (Kings Cross) St Pancras, Farringdon, City Thameslink, Blackfriars and then ends South at Brighton/Sutton/Sevenoaks.

During the early to late 1990s, part of the Thameslink route was featured on the Tube Map from North to South, going from Kentish Town to where it splits to London Bridge and Elephant & Castle stations.
1990 Tube Map
Currently, the only National Rail lines available on the Tube Map are London Overground and TFL Rail as it's part of TFL Metro network. So if you want to see more National Rail lines including the Northern City Line (or known as the Great Northern Line which is a branch that used to be part of London Underground prior to 1975) which runs South from Moorgate to Finsbury Park and beyond then you can view the Tube and Rail map from TFL website.

1999 Tube map
The Thameslink route goes briefly parallel to the Eastern side of the London Underground Northern Line between Kentish Town and London Bridge/Elephant and Castle.

So what are the journey times between Elephant & Castle to Kentish Town? Well, with the Thameslink route, between the times of 10am to 11am on weekdays, the timetable serves 6tph (Trains per hour) during that hour. However, the journey times stated in the National Rail pocket timetable are between 18-20 minutes.

With the Northern Line, according to the timetable, there is only one direct train from Elephant and Castle to Kentish town (the one which goes direct to High Barnet). There are 3tph and the departure times are 10:45, 10:51 and 10:57. The journey from the timetable would have taken 21 minutes.

According to the TFL Journey planner it requires me (with the fastest routes possible set as default) to travel south to Kennington station and change trains to the northbound platform where it goes via Charing Cross, then wait for the train where it says “High Barnet” which then takes you 18 minutes to reach Kentish Town. The total time taken using that route is 21 minutes.

Now if I change the preferences on the journey planner to 'least walking' it requires me to go northbound from Elephant and Castle and change trains at Camden Town to the High Barnet platforms which then takes me 1 minute for one stop to Kentish Town. The time it takes to travel that route is 23 minutes. So for the fastest journey it’s best to take the Thameslink train line.

What are the fares for the route between Elephant & Castle to Kentish Town? As the route is part of the Transport for London Pay As You Go Oyster Contactless fare zones,  TFL fares apply. Stations like Kentish Town and West Hampstead Thameslink station is in Zone 2, but going south, the Zone 1 stations on the Thameslink route are between St Pancras International to Elephant & Castle/London Bridge station.

The Pay As You Go fares between Kentish Town (or West Hampstead Thameslink) to Elephant and Castle (or any Zone 1 station) are £2.90 for Peak Fare (Monday to Friday from 0630 to 0930 and from 1600 to 1900) and Off Peak £2.30 (At all other times including public holidays).

As I saw from the National Rail website, the standard cash fare (for a paper ticket) is £3.20 which is valid at any times. The National Rail fare within Zone 1 of the Thameslink route costs £2.80 whilst the Pay As You Go TFL Oyster and Contactless fare for Zone 1 is £2.30 (Peak and Off Peak). Please note, the fares are valid during 2015 so it's best to visit National Rail, Oyster Calculator and TFL website for more information including discounts.

The holders of TFL's Staff, retired or nominee pass can travel free between Kentish Town to Elephant & Castle/London Bridge served by Thameslink National Rail service.  Holders of the London Freedom Pass (Disabled or Elderly) can travel at any time on the Thameslink line between West Hampstead Thameslink and Elephant & Castle station. The same applies to Veterans Oyster Card and 60+ London Oyster photocard.

Here are some facts about the Thameslink line:
·         What is the length of the Thameslink route? The length of the route is 140 miles (225 km) long.
·         How many stations does Thameslink serve? The number of stations Thameslink serves is 68, which also serve additional stations at peaks.
·         Who owns the Thameslink infrastructure? Network Rail does, which is owned by the Department for Transport.
·         Who operates the Thameslink franchise? The operator of Thameslink is 'Thameslink and Great Northern' which is owned by Govia. The entire franchise is known as Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN).
·         What rolling stock trains operates on the Thameslink line? Currently the trains are Class 319, Class 377 Electrostar and Class 387 Electrostar. The Class 700 "Desiro" will be rolled out by 2016 as part of the Thameslink programme.
·         What is the disused station between St Pancras International and Farringdon station? The station in question is King's Cross Thameslink on Pentonville Road which was closed on 8 December 2007.
·         When was the Thameslink first opened? Thameslink first opened in May 1988 when the Snow Hill tunnel was re-opened to passenger trains after 72 years.

Also, I would like to point out that between 1st April 2006 to 13th September 2014, First Group operated the Thameslink and Great Northern franchise; their branding for the service was First Capital Connect (FCC) instead of carrying the Thameslink brand.

My conclusion:
I think TFL should add the Thameslink and Northern City Line back on to the standard Tube Maps, but the problem is that the map is too overcrowded as it has TFLs non-Tube lines such as TFL Rail and London Overground lines which are part of the National Rail network. But hopefully once the Thameslink programme is finished by 2018, we will also see the new Crossrail line which will interchange with Thameslink at Farringdon station.

I have also captured a journey on the Thameslink line which I travelled on from Elephant & Castle to West Hampstead Thameslink station. The rolling stock train I travelled on in the video is Class 319. 

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Related article

Other links of interest
Thameslink Railway (operating company)

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