The train arriving seven months late: Thameslink belatedly boosts weekday service at Charlton

Thameslink class 700 trains
A slightly less unusual sight from December – but don’t go banking on weekend trains

Charlton is due to get its full weekday train service back in December – seven months after the botched introduction of Thameslink services resulted in many trains to Kent being deleted from the timetable.

Changes to rail services in May saw the long-established Charing Cross to Gillingham trains operated by Southeastern replaced by two Thameslink trains per hour from Luton, St Pancras, Farringdon, Blackfriars and London Bridge to Rainham, one stop further down the line.

This followed the huge project to revamp London Bridge station to allow for extra services between north and south London.

While the service provided new links to north London and beyond, poor planning meant that many of the new trains did actually materialise. In July the service was cut back to to hourly to allow Thameslink to train drivers on the new routes – slashing the links to Dartford and beyond and leaving gaps in the timetable to central London.

Now the company, which operates a contract on behalf of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, says the full weekday service will now be introduced in its winter timetable from 9 December – meaning Charlton should be up to its full complement of eight trains each hour once again.

Thameslink trains will run half-hourly to Rainham between 0604 and 2234, with two final trains at 2304 and 2334 terminating at Gillingham. Trains call at Westcombe Park two minutes earlier.

Heading to central London and beyond, Thameslink trains to London Bridge, Blackfriars, Farringdon, St Pancras and West Hampstead Thameslink will run half-hourly from 0540 to 2310, stopping at Westcombe Park two minutes later.

Most will run onto Luton – handy for the airport – although many will be skipping the useful north London stop at Kentish Town.

Weekend rail woe

However, the weekend trains remain at a miserly hourly frequency for the time being, mostly only running as far north as Kentish Town.

Thameslink says: “The weekend timetable will continue in its current format for now, with more services planned by May 2019.

“Our current simplified weekend timetable means engineering work alterations can be overlaid in a shorter than usual timeframe. There is every intention of returning to normal industry agreed timescales and both planning teams in Thameslink Railway and Network Rail continue to work to achieve this as quickly as possible.”

Full timetables – for Thameslink trains only – can be found at thameslinkrailway.com.


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Charlton and Woolwich Arsenal set to lose Charing Cross trains from 2022

Southeastern train at Charlton
The new Southeastern franchise begins in April 2019

Charlton and Woolwich Arsenal stations will lose direct trains to Charing Cross from December 2022, according to the Department for Transport’s plans for the new Southeastern franchise, which have been published today.

The invitation to tender sets out what the Government expects of the firm which wins the new franchise, which due to begin in April 2019. It sets out the basic service the winning operator is expected to provide.

Currently, six trains per hour run from Charlton to Cannon Street via Greenwich, with two running to Charing Cross via Lewisham.

From next year, this will become four trains via Greenwich to Cannon Street, two to Charing Cross via Lewisham, plus two new Greenwich line trains that will run via Blackfriars to Luton on the Thameslink route.

But from 2022, those Charing Cross services would be rerouted to Cannon Street, calling additionally at New Cross and St John’s. Passengers who want Waterloo East and Charing Cross will have to change at London Bridge.

Southeastern invitation to tender
Part of the specification being given to bidders for the new franchise. Thameslink trains not shown.

Looking in the other direction, there is also an option given for bidders to extend one set of Greenwich line trains to Maidstone West, while Belvedere and Erith may see a cut in services, with bidders asked to provide only a minimum of four trains per hour. The planned Thameslink trains are not set to call at those stops.

There are also changes planned for elsewhere on the network, with more trains to Victoria from Lewisham, although these will no longer run through Blackheath.

Last year, transport secretary Chris Grayling refused permission for Transport for London to take on Southeastern’s metro services. The new franchise is due to last until 2027.

Charlton Lane level crossing: What’s happened to the footbridge?

Charlton Lane level crossing
Where’s it gone?

A few weeks back, Network Rail workers moved in on the level crossing in Charlton Lane. And took away the footbridge.

Arthur asked The Charlton Champion what was going on. So we asked Network Rail.

A very nice spokesperson told us: “The footbridge at Charlton Lane has been taken away for major refurbishment and re-painting. We aim to get it back in position before Spring 2018 and in the meantime if people could use the level crossing we would appreciate their patience and understanding.”

A bit inconvenient if you come at a time when there are multiple trains coming, but hopefully a brighter and less creaky bridge will be back in place soon.