• Go-Away from Bexleyheath

    Arriva at Dartford give Go-Ahead and Stagecoach a run for their money in Bexleyheath. Read more by clicking the slide title.

  • Know Your Routes

    We select a variety of routes to boast our credentials as bus enthusiasts. The series returns with route 18 from Euston to Sudbury.

  • About Us!

    Get to know the team who have been fuelling the blogging community for 5 years.

  • Electric Buses

    London is a leader for low-emission vehicles and we closely follow how well the growing electric bus market meets our demands for cleaner and greener transport.

  • Borismaster Watch

    The London Bus Breh and EastLondoner catch up with all the Borismaster-related service changes of the past two years in the latest articles of the series.

  • Major Model Change

    Go Ahead start introducing a new batch of over 100 MMCs for the year, starting off with a new win from New Cross

  • Back On Track

    LondonBuses72 switches attention to Greater Anglia, who are giving some trains a makeover.

  • Service changes

    You can always check out the Tenders page or our individual Flickr photostreams for additional content.

  • Busy Bus Buzz

    Everyone's welcome to join and share their opinions on London's transport scene on our chatbox. All the news, views and more can be found here daily!

Going around and around

After a couple of losses two weeks ago in Bexleyheath, Go Ahead on February the 3rd gained two routes, the 153 and 343 however all was not good news they lost three more, the 299, B14 and W4. Today's post will focus on Go Ahead's takeover of route 343 which operates between New Cross Gate and City Hall.





9047 seen on stand at City Hall
© EastLondoner
Route 343 as a route in itself is relatively young, only starting operation in 2001. However its roots date back to a route known as the P3 which started in 1970 which was a circular route in Peckham originating from Peckham bus garage running via Nunhead and East Dulwich. In 1978 route P3 was extended to London Bridge Station, no longer making it a circular route and in 1987 it was rerouted away from Nunhead and extended to New Cross Bus garage. The route remained in this form until the 2nd of February 2001 when it was renumbered route 343 from the next day. In September 2002 the route was rerouted in the London Bridge area and extended down to St Thomas' Street in Tooley Street. In 2006 the stand at St Thomas' Street was replaced by a new stand at City Hall, making the 343 what we know today. 

Route 343 gained fame in London among the public and enthusiasts when it was highlighted in the 2013 documentary "The Routemasters: Running London's Roads" due to severe overcrowding on the stretch between Peckham and Elephant & Castle. Route 136 has since been extended to Elephant & Castle to combat this, however since then the patronage levels on route 136 exceed those on route 343 so it can be wondered how long this fix will actually last. 


9554 seen at London Bridge on the last day of Abellio
© EastLondoner
Route 343 since 2001 has only been operated by two operators out of two garages, starting at New Cross (NX) from 2001 to 2006 when it passed to Abellio out of Walworth (WL) where it remained since until the most recent tender which has seen it revert back to operating out of New Cross garage. Abellio operated the route with Volvo B7TL buses on the Wright Eclipse Gemini body, although these buses may not have had the best reputation among the public and enthusiasts alike. Other types that were commonly found on the route included ALX400 bodied Dennis Tridents, Enviro400s and E40H Hybrid Enviro400s as well as the E40H Enviro400 MMC buses which were ordered for routes 45 and 415. 


2520 is seen on the 343 at Elephant and Castle
© EastLondoner
Abellio wrapped up their phase on route 343 with Enviro400 9557 being the last bus. Go Ahead started operation on route N343 shortly afterwards with EH189 being the first bus. I decided to catch up with the route on the first day to see how Go Ahead were doing on it. I made my way to New Cross Gate on the Overground and was met with EH176 sat on stand, however despite this it wouldn't end up being the bus I would get as it was suffering from technical faults and so the decision was taken to drive the bus back to the garage. It wasn't long until the bus behind turned up, and this was in the form of EH188. 


EH176 at New Cross Gate
© EastLondoner
After a short driver changeover the driver allowed us to board and wait on board the bus until departure time, although when departure time came the driver that had just taken over the bus didn't know how to start it. Thankfully another bus had turned up behind and the driver of that bus helped start EH188. It wasn't long until we had driven past New Cross Bus Garage, where EH176 was parked at the entrance, and we were heading towards East Dulwich. The bus was pretty crowded by this point, much to my surprise. It wasn't much longer until we reached Peckham Rye and the bus was very full, almost close to capacity. However most of the passengers alighted in Peckham and it wasn't long until we were on our way towards Elephant and Castle. This bus was also being followed by a 136 from this point, so most of the crowd between Peckham and Elephant & Castle was shared between the two buses. 


EH188 on stand at City Hall
© EastLondoner
It wasn't long until we were at Elephant & Castle and most of the people on the bus got off here, luckily being a Saturday afternoon the traffic in the area wasn't too bad and it wasn't long until we were at London Bridge. At this point the bus took a right turn and headed down Great Dover Street towards Bricklayers Arms, this was due to the fact Tooley Street is currently closed in the long term to facilitate works at London Bridge Station related to the Thameslink Project. At around this point the driver also started to drag the bus, stopping at every bus stop despite nobody wanted to get on or off. I was confused as to why he was doing this when the last stop was effectively just around the corner, not to mention another bus was just a few minutes behind us. However we did eventually reach City Hall, despite being caught in traffic from Bricklayers Arms to Tower Bridge. 

Upon arrival at City Hall EH176 was waiting at the bus stand with City Hall displayed on the blinds, no doubt showing that whatever issue it was facing earlier was a quick fix and that it entered service somewhere mid-route. 


EH176 seen after reappearing at City Hall
© EastLondoner
Overall the service was not great with me noticing many bunchings along the route, however with a central London route that's affected by roadworks and busy town centres, as well as high demand. No doubt Go Ahead will eventually improve on the route and hopefully the service will remain in good hands for the next 5 or maybe even 7 years!

Go-Away from Bexleyheath

Go Ahead are arguably the most established operator in Bexleyheath, however on the 20th of January many dents were made into their established operation in the area, notably by Arriva London and Stagecoach London. The results to the much awaited tranche of routes which contained routes 99, 269, 401, 422, B14 and B16 were announced on the 21st of July 2017. Routes 99, 269 and 401 were all announced as passing to Arriva London while routes 422 and B14 were both announced as passing to Stagecoach London with only the B16 retained by the current operator. 




No doubt this would mean many changes to all three operators involved in the change, Dartford (DT) garage would get three new double-decker routes to operate, all using spare Wright Pulsar Gemini bodied DB300 buses made free from contract retentions in North London. Stagecoach London were letting go route 99 from Plumstead (PD) and route 269 from Bromley (TB) however to replace them route 422 would go into Plumstead garage while route B14 would go into Bromley garage. Bexleyheath (BX) garage were seen to be the biggest loser this time around, losing three routes and not getting any routes in replacement. This post will focus on routes 99, 269, 401 and 422.


12355 seen at Woolwich Arsenal
© EastLondoner
As you regular readers probably know by now, I will go through a bit of history on the routes involved before moving onto details about the service change. Starting off with route 99. The route initially started back in 1934, running from Woolwich to Erith and it remained in this form for many years until 1979, when it was extended from Erith to Slade Green. However this extension was then backtracked in 1985 when the route was once again cut back to Erith. The route then remained in this form until 2009 when the route was extended to Bexleyheath following the withdrawal of route 469 from the area. The route also has a history of being with many different operators starting off at an older Plumstead (AM) garage, later this was reallocated to today's Plumstead (PD) in 1981. In 1982 the route was partially reallocated to Bexleyheath (BX) garage. The route continued to switch between the two garages until privatisation when Bexleybus took it from Bexleyheath (BX) garage in 1988, this then moved to London Central ownership in 1991. In 1999 the route was retendered and it returned to Plumstead (PD) garage, this time under the ownership of Stagecoach London where it remained ever since. 

During the 99s time at Stagecoach it initially started off as a single decker route in 1999 operating with Alexander Dennis ALX200 buses, it was fully converted to Double Decker operation in 2004 using Alexander Dennis ALX400 bodied Tridents. In 2011 this route had its contract renewed and the Tridents were replaced with Alexander Dennis Enviro400s. These Enviro400s have since moved on from Plumstead (PD) to Romford (NS) to make up the allocation on route 86, meaning the 99 for the last year of its contract has primarily been using Hybrid buses.


17967 seen at Bromley North
© GloriousWater
Another route going from Stagecoach over to Arriva is route 269, which currently operates between Bromley North and Bexleyheath Shopping Centre. This route is slightly younger than the 99, starting in 1977. However its routing was very different to the 269 that we know today, it operated between Sidcup garage and Woolwich via Bexleyheath and Erith. Two years later its Sidcup terminus was altered to be Queen Mary's Hospital. In 1985 the route was extended from Sidcup to Bromley North, and in 1988 the route was withdrawn between Woolwich and Bexleyheath which was replaced by route 469 forming the 269 that we know today. The route was at Bromley garage since 1999 and since 2004 the route was allocated with ALX400 bodied Dennis Trident 2 buses. The route had the honour of becoming Stagecoach Selkent's last fully allocated ALX400 route, however a few Tridents do linger on at Plumstead (PD) and Catford (TL), and some are expected to stay back at Bromley (TB) to help top up allocations on other routes. 


A PVL seen in Bexleyheath
© LondonBuses72
Along with the two routes from Stagecoach, Arriva are also taking over the contract to route 401 which operates between Thamesmead and Bexleyheath Shopping Centre. Originally starting service in 1988 the route ran between Woolwich and Dartford Heath. However this very long route didn't last very long and in 1991 the route was withdrawn between Woolwich and Thamesmead with the withdrawn section being replaced by route 244. In 1999 the section between Bexleyheath and Dartford Heath was withdrawn, being replaced by route 601, this formed the 401 that operates in the same form today. The route was operated out of Bexleyheath bus garage since inception and this service change marks the first time it has been operated out of a different garage. Go Ahead London used a mix of Plaxton President bodied Volvo B7TL buses and Alexander Dennis Enviro400 buses during their time on the route. 

WVL455 seen at Woolwich Arsenal Station
© EastLondoner
Despite the losses of the 99 and 269, all is not lost for Stagecoach this time around. Route 422 which operates between Bexleyheath and North Greenwich was won from Go Ahead. This route, like route 401, started operations in 1988. It started operating between Bexleyheath and Woolwich, with some Bexleyheath journeys at different times of day running to Bexleyheath, Bus Garage. Later in the year the route was cut back fully to Bexleyheath, Shopping Centre due to the contract being re-assigned to Boroline Maidstone, in 1992 the contract was reassigned to Kentishbus from Crayford and in 1993 the route was moved to Dartford garage which was now under ownership of Arriva. In 1999 the route changed operator yet again and returned back to Bexleyheath garage now under the ownership of London Central, the route was also extended from Woolwich to North Greenwich to co-incide with the opening of the Millennium Dome and the Jubilee Line Extension opening. Contract renewal in 2004 saw the route re-extended to Bexleyheath bus garage, however at all times of day. The route has now once again been cut to Bexleyheath, Shopping Centre with the new contract under Stagecoach.

Go Ahead and Stagecoach both wrapped up on the 99, 269, 401 and 422 with the last buses being 12344, 19800, E242 and E42 respectively. I went out on the first day to see how Stagecoach and Arriva were doing with their new routes. My first point of call was the 422 from North Greenwich. Upon arrival I noticed 12355 leaving, displaying the blinds for the revised terminus of Bexleyheath, Shopping Centre. No longer serving the garage.


12355 passes WVL375 at North Greenwich
© EastLondoner
10196 on stand at Woolwich Road, Bexleyheath
© EastLondoner
The change of terminus means that there are now three routes which run from Bexleyheath, Shopping Centre to North Greenwich station. Not everywhere you see that! On its first day route 422 was using a variety of vehicles, as is probably to be expected from Plumstead garage. The main allocation on the route was predominantly made out of 64reg Enviro400 bodied E40Hs, however a few Enviro400 bodied E40Ds as well as a few Enviro400 MMC bodied E40Hs were also out on the route. I had a ride on the 422 until Woolwich, where I decided to bail for a 96 that had turned up behind in an attempt to save some time, as I didn't have a lot available. However in the end that proved to waste even more time as we got beaten by the 12355 to Bexleyheath anyway. Upon arrival I made my way to get a quite bite of lunch before coming out to check out on how all the other routes were doing. I first went out to check where the 422 was standing. The answer was that they were standing on Woolwich Road, which is quite residential. This was usually used as an overflow stand previously. 


DW441 seen on stand at Friswell Place, Bexleyheath
© EastLondoner
After investigating the 422s stand arrangements I made my way to see how the 269 was doing, unfortunately this would also be the only route that changed operator that I would not be able to take a ride on due to time constraints. All of the 269 drivers that I saw were in Stagecoach uniform, probably to be expected as similar happens with many other changeovers. Operation on the route seemed to be alright in general with no extremely large gaps in service. Although a quick look on the LVF later in the day showed that the service had deteriorated a bit since I saw it. However this is to be expected of an operator on the first day while both the controllers and drivers get used to the new route and the challenges that it presents.


DW441 picks up people at Bexleyheath Clock Tower
© EastLondoner
A 401 and 132 stand at Bexleyheath
© East Londoner
After seeing how the 269 was doing I turned my attention to route 401. This route seemed to be the best operating route out of the four routes to change operator. I didn't have to wait long for a 401 to turn up at the bus stop and this was in the form of DW439. Those of you who know me well know that I do not like DW class buses at all. However DW439 was not as bad, certainly not as bad as the examples that were found in East London at DX. The route was well loaded throughout my journey from Bexleyheah to Nuxley Village, for most of the journey every seat was taken with only standing room available. The route is one of the shorter routes in the area, as well as being a very residential route. I was later quite shocked to find out that this route runs only once every 15 minutes, I would suggest that this route needed a frequency increase to go with the new contract, however going by TfL's recent trend I should probably be grateful that its frequency didn't go down instead.


DW439 seen at the Eardley Arms
© EastLondoner
DW435 seen at Bexleyheath
© EastLondoner
Routes 99 and 401 both cross at Nuxley village, so I used the opportunity to take a ride on route 99. This route was not having a great day, with gaps throughout the route and bunchings of buses. However luckily I didn't have to wait very long for my bus to turn up, DW444 was going to be my ride and it was also bunched with another DW. The bus was pretty lightly loaded for most of the journey despite there being a sizeable gap in the service ahead of us. However to my surprise a massive crowd of people boarded the bus at Plumstead heading towards Woolwich. The bus itself exceeded my expectations despite my expectations not being very high. The bus was nice and warm, something that was most welcome on a cold winters day. It wasn't long until I had to get off at Woolwich.


DW433 seen picking up passengers outside Woolwich Arsenal Station
© EastLondoner
Overall there's a mixed bag with changes. Many routes have ended a long history with their previous garage, however now they have 5 years with a brand new one. Go Ahead have lost two routes out of Bexleyheath garage, with a third route leaving two weeks after this set of changes however Dartford garage get new routes. It's hard to tell after just a few days how the services will manage for the next 5 years however to both Arriva and Stagecoach this has been a reasonable start and no doubt they will improve their performance in time.


I would like to thank GloriousWater for allowing his picture to be used in this post, please check out his Flickr stream and YouTube channel. I would also like to credit LondonBuses.co.uk by Ian Armstrong as a reliable source of information during the writing of this post

Our 5th Year: A Cinderella Story

It's fair to say that the rail industry has been really interesting as of late. To celebrate the 5th year, we take a look at one of the biggest rail projects of the decade.

ThamesLink 700010 at London St. Pancras.

If I was to ask you what London rail project is to unveil later this year that has been in the works since the turn of the millennium, chances are you'd say Crossrail (or the Elizabeth line). But how many of you actually said the ThamesLink programme? But why does this project keep being side-stepped, particularly in reference to Crossrail when it's just as big, if not bigger?

Let's talk trains
Due to officially and gradually open later this year, the ThamesLink programme is a massive rail project to connect more towns and cities in the West Anglia and Bedfordshire, through the heart of London and to spawn out the other end in Kent and Sussex in a north to south format. There will be an array of regional commuter and metro trains involved, providing a first time direct link from Cambridge to Brighton and Maidstone, and Luton to Rainham (not our one, the one in Kent) via Bluewater, Dartford and Gravesend.

As a regular traveler on the ThamesLink and Great Northern rail routes, the difference over the last few years is black and white. Although whilst the companies have been constantly named and shamed for their poor reliability and other issues within that field, we have to remember the much more grim days of First Capital Connect. That said, I'm pretty sure that along with sister company Southern, that whole TSGN franchise is up there again for the worst train operating company (TOC) in the country award again by Which? for the 3rd year running.

The stations were often grotty and were slowly falling apart, not maintained well, dirty and lack of staff presence across the network. Now that's flipped around with the grey and pink being dashed out everywhere (and grey and blue, but not as much). But ThamesLink, maybe not Great Northern as much, has come quite a long way and I've always believed that credit does need to be given where its due.





So what is the final result of the ThamesLink programme?
On the internet, the exact answer to that has always been quite difficult to find, especially when it comes to finding out service frequencies and destinations as these keep changing over the years during several consultation periods.

ThamesLink 700018 at Streatham.
From what I've gathered, the services that have always stayed on each consultation period for ThamesLink:

  • The current Bedford to Brighton service via St Pancras, London Blackfriars, London Bridge and Gatwick Airport.
  • The Sevenoaks to London Blackfriars service, also dubbed 'The Cinderella line', will be extended to Kentish Town (or truncated from West Hampstead Thameslink, depends how you see it) for most of the day. It gets a much needed frequency increase to 4 trains per hour. The Orpington service will complement this as well.
  • The Luton to Sutton via Wimbledon 'Metro' service will be cut back to terminate at St. Alban's City. The current St. Alban's City to Sutton via Mitcham will continue to terminate here. 
With Great Northern, through the soon to be opened Canal tunnel from St. Pancras to Finsbury Park, it connects the ThamesLink line and the East Coast Main Line. This will allow trains every few minutes to run through here allowing the direct connection from the Anglia region to Sussex.

Great Northern:
  • The current Peterborough to London King's Cross service will be re-routed to London St. Pancras International, then continues via London Bridge and Redhill to terminate at Horsham.
  • The current Cambridge stopping and semi-fast services to London King's Cross will be re-routed to London St. Pancras International, then continues via London Bridge to either Brighton or Maidstone East*.
  • The King's Lynn to London King's Cross 'fast' services, that run non-stop from Cambridge will not run via the ThamesLink core. It will be one of the few, if only, remaining regular service at London King's Cross during the day**.
  • The Welwyn Garden City Metro service will, during the peak, be extended to Sevenoaks.
*First small print is that this had originally been planned to be two trains an hour to Brighton, and two trains an hour to Tattenham Corner. However, many stakeholders saw this as a waste of resources (the choice was random, even we have to say) and available paths, and decided to send the trains to the much bigger town (and as a destination too), Maidstone East. 

Interestingly, ThamesLink has taken a short-term decision to not run trains beyond Finsbury Park to Maidstone East on Sundays, where trains, as now, will run into London King's Cross at an hourly frequency instead. The Brighton variant of the service will continue to still run through the core.

**The second small print is that it was intended for the ThamesLink programme to make it all the way to King's Lynn. However, due to infrastructure issues, particularly relating to the platform lengths (a few stations on the line can only hold 4-cars) and power supply restrictions that would not be able to handle 8 or 12-car trains, it's put a dead end to what was a promising view for the Fen Line passengers. In the short run anyways, we can only hope.

As a result, the London King's Cross to King's Lynn train will continue to be operated by the class 387 'Electrostar' trains that have just been introduced last year.

Another interesting addition is a brand new route from ThamesLink. As aforementioned, a new metro train service from Luton to Rainham in Kent calling at all stations (it runs fast Mill Hill Broadway to West Hampstead ThamesLink) every half-hour using brand new dual-voltage trains. This service would run through North, Central and South London before making its way out via Bluewater [Greenhithe], Gravesend, Gillingham (Kent, not Dorset - but you should have figured that out by now) before terminating at Rainham. 

This replaces the London Charing Cross to Gillingham semi-fast service currently operated by Southeastern using class 465 Networkers and also the Sutton loop trains north of St. Alban's City. 
Moorgate station, rather grim.

Did we mention it runs at night too?
ThamesLink is one of very few operating companies to run trains throughout the night. The only other ones I can think of whilst writing this is sister company Southern (who withdrew half of their services late last year anyways), Transpennine Express (does this really count when it's once every 3 or so hours?) and the newly introduced night London Overground which only runs weekends. Oh, and of course the Caledonian Sleeper franchise too.

Trains will continue to run hourly, with the option to pursue a half hourly service in the future, calling at all ThamesLink stations between Bedford and London Bridge, followed by East Croydon, Gatwick Airport and Three Bridges.

Give them credit, they were here before the night tube, 7 days a week too.

Improvements to stations
Bar the broken promise with King's Lynn and the Fen Line, all stations will see an improvement in reflection of the fact that their rail services are majorly improving. Some of the flagship work has taken place around the biggest stations in Central London, a headlining one being Network Rail's London Bridge station. Others include the relatively new (2007) London St. Pancras International, London Blackfriars (2012) and City ThamesLink (1990s - but it still looks the part nearly 25 years later). 

The platforms at London Blackfriars station
A futuristic look has been given to them, but when I say that, it's not like the dull metal display that you'd find on the Jubilee line extension. Maybe St. Pancras' is to an extent but otherwise it's a carefully thought, well-designed, light, airy and modern design that even has a reflective vibe surrounding this. I still argue to this day that the renovated London Blackfriars station has to be one of the best stations you can find in London. The shell is mostly made of glass, with the platforms hovering above the River Thames (possibly the only station in the country to do so) spanning the full width of the river. It allows for an undisputed view of London's biggest waterway, bridges and myriads of well identified office buildings and of course the South Bank. 

The grade listed station at Farringdon, together with the London Underground, has had its original engine shed roof from when the Metropolitan Railway first started restored to its former glory. Mass expansion, particularly of the platforms, has allowed for more capacity during the rush hour and when the programme fully opens up (blocking off access to the City Widened lines to Moorgate - that explains the abandoned platforms at Barbican and Moorgate). What's more important is that Farringdon has lately seen an overhaul on the London Underground side, but now the ThamesLink Programme and Elizabeth line are planned to interchange here. In over a year's time you can get a train to Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton Airports from here!

The new entrance at London Bridge.

Part of the station forecourt at London Bridge.

The new London Bridge station had in fact opened another entrance following the New Year's, being the final leg of the station renovation project. Whilst some platforms remain closed until May as no trains will operate from [them], it has adopted an airport style concourse. Yes, it's equipped with gates that have lit arrows and crosses above them to show what gate you can go through and can't. The new arcade as well is quite grand and has quickly caught the attention of enthusiasts and passengers alike, no doubt that Network Rail really took pride in this particular station - the 4th busiest in the whole country.

GONE: Repainted ThamesLink 319444 'City of St. Albans' at Farringdon.
A full fleet of new trains
To help maximise and modernise the extent of this revolutionsed rail network, the Department for Transport (DfT) commissioned for a fleet of 115 brand new dual-voltage electric trains to be ordered. Dual voltage, because the ThamesLink line is one of few unique railways in the UK where trains in passenger service have to switch between overhead lines and third rail to obtain their power at Farringdon.

German manufacturer Siemens had won the contract to do this, building two new depots at Three Bridges in Sussex (that's just south of Gatwick Airport) and Hornsey in North London to station this huge fleet out of. A promise was made to hire more people into the engineering aspect of this company expansion with apprenticeships making up a percentage of their work fleet. 

These new trains are essentially the rivals to the class 345 Aventra trains, were classified as the class 700 Desiro City. This 'variant' of the series - the more appropriate way to put it - was its debut in the United Kingdom based on the success of the much-loved Desiro trains that have been in service since the early 2000s. They come fitted in either 8 or 12 coach fixed formations, walk-through, fully air-conditioned, toilets, charging points and at-seat tables and a first class section. The trains were built in two batches, with the 700/0s being 8-cars and found on the Metro services via Sutton and to Sevenoaks and Orpington, and the new service to Rainham and Maidstone East. They are currently found during the day working the Bedford to Brighton route as well however this won't be the case as much when the programme is in full swing, as this line, alongside Cambridge to Brighton will use the 12-car trains. 

ThamesLink 377510 in repainted neutral purple and sporting the
newer ThamesLink/ logo at Farringdon.
[These] replace the 30 year old class 319 trains that were withdrawn last summer from ThamesLink, which came in a 4-car formation. Enthusiasts find this particular class to be like marmite, either you love it or you hate it, so their farewell saw mixed reviews. It's not just the 319s they replace though, they also replace the class 377 'Electrostar' trains built by Bombardier as these move to Kent and work with Southeastern on their mainline routes as part of an enhancement programme. 

The first of the two depots to be opened was Three Bridges, and subsequently the first train was sent there and in early summer 2016, the first class 700 started service after a public exhibition to showcase the new design to the public was unveiled months earlier, 12-car 700108 ran a service from Brighton to London Bridge. Subsequently, after few teething issues, more quickly entered service and within about a year the whole ThamesLink fleet had been converted to class 700s including on the Metro services.

Passengers praise the trains for their more comfortable seats in comparison to the Aventra ones. The 700 is a train with more facilities doing the same distance as a typical Crossrail train on a Metro service. The passenger information system (PIS) has been noted for temporarily fuzzing out and being out of sync from time to time, however it tells you how busy the train is, live tube updates, the status of the toilets, safety notices and the calling pattern of the train. 

The displaced class 319s have now either gone to storage, or are being converted into class 769 Flex bi-mode trains for use up north on partially electrified lines (similar to the class 230 D train from our old D-stock). Some 319s are also getting a new lease of life as increasing more and more are coming to new operator London Northwestern Railway (West Midlands Trains) to enhance capacity on the southern stretch of the West Coast Main Line between Northampton and London Euston, particularly when a new, revised and higher frequency timetable is introduced this December.

Brand new 700031 at London St. Pancras.

ThamesLink to Horsham and Littlehampton
In the last timetable change during December 2017, ThamesLink took over, using class 700s, some of Southern's diagrams from London Bridge to Horsham via Redhill and to Littlehampton, a spur off the West Coastway line.

Two trains, via Redhill, runs approximately every 60-90 minutes all day Monday to Fridays between London Bridge and Horsham as ThamesLink. This allows for a smoother transition when this service becomes more high frequency and is extended to Peterborough via Finsbury Park. 

The service to Littlehampton runs just twice a weekday under the ThamesLink flag in each direction in the peak direction of travel. Majority of services, and all stations continue to be operated by Southern. 

Some trains are currently stored on the East Coastway as well down at Eastbourne, providing a useful berthing facility overnight.

The Northern City line to Moorgate
A separate line to the rest of the programme but happens to be getting its upgrade right now and does interwork its way into this, as it's operated by Great Northern. There are two lines right now, from Moorgate to Welwyn Garden City and Moorgate to Letchworth Garden City via Hertford North. Majority of trains terminate at Hertford North.

Great Northern 313123 at Finsbury Park bound for Moorgate.
However, due to the sheer intensity of the ThamesLink programme, track and capacity space is being utilised to its breaking point around the Stevenage area and a proposal set forward to relieve this issue is to cut the Letchworth services back to Watton-at-Stone and provide a reverse enabling facility (i.e. crossover). A bus would then run the rail replacement service until further notice between Watton-at-Stone and Stevenage where passengers can connect to rail transport once again. 

More capacity is being provided with an additional 30 Siemens Desiro City trains being ordered for the Moorgate services, all of them to a fixed six-car length and of similar design. However, they will be equipped with cab door exits in the event of an emergency in the Moorgate tunnels and will be standard class throughout. These will also be stationed at Hornsey. These variants are called the class 717s and will mainly be confined to this line replacing the class 313s, the oldest EMU mainline trains still in service. 

The ThamesLink, Northern City and Northern lines
An interesting conflict arose this week between ThamesLink, the press and Transport for London (TfL) for not showing or advertising the ThamesLink programme throughout the duration of the works, or displaying this on pocket tube maps. Several parties who had commented on the matter stated that it was 'secretly' in interest to protect their revenue, which had been falling over the last year, and did not want to lose London based competition to a rival company, even though ThamesLink is considered the second 'Northern line' essentially. It does go from Tooting to Mill Hill, though.

So far, this is the story of a Cinderella line. After billions of investment, and station upgrades, new trains and better connectivity, this one ugly duckling will be sure to turn heads when it rolls out later this year.

We would like to send a huge thanks to all our half a million and counting readers who have kept the blog alive for the last 5 years to this day! 

And now that you've read this post, why not visit the amazing London Buses: On The Go who also turned 5 today!

Know Your Routes: Route 18

Know Your Routes is back again with route 18, which recently lost its First London heritage in a shock £10.2m move to the RATP Group.

© Steven Hughes.