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Would you use a trans-London service?

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MG11

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I have always wondered why there has never been a trans London express service from long distances. I wonder if customers would appreciate not having to navigate the tube system to continue their journey. I know in some cases it isn't possible to run a through service, Euston is a dead end for example, but in some places it is possible. For example, you could have a Southampton Central - Stansted Airport direct service, reversing at Waterloo and using the line through Kensington Olympia, Highbury and Stratford, calling only at principal stations like Winchester, Waterloo and Harlow Town. If services like this were available, would you make use of them?
 
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Bletchleyite

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I think we could do with an hourly express WLL IC service dedicated to getting people *past* rather than *to* London, say something like Birmingham to Gatwick calling at Birmingham Intl, Cov, Rugby, MKC, Watford Jn, Clapham Jn and East Croydon (i.e. not stopping on the WLL). But I can see there would be pathing issues.
 

DanNCL

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Personally I would use trans London express services if they were ever provided; though seeing as Thameslink and the North London line are both near full capacity, I can't see there being many routes where such a service would actually be possible
 

NSE

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Half the time it just isn’t fast enough. And that’s not talking split second, I’ll take a route if it saves me five seconds according to journey planner type time savings, to do the route you mentioned above would take ages.
 

Jordeh

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Strangely enough a service quite similar to what you proposed did operate from 2000-2002. London Crosslink by Anglia Railways running between Norwich and Basingstoke on the North London Line (amongst others).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Crosslink

Lack of capacity is the main issue, there simply isn't room for more services on the heavily used London Overground lines. This then leads to reliability and punctuality issues which I understand was the downfall of London Crosslink.

Lack of demand is the other issue, it is easier to provide services to/from central London as many passengers either want to go to central London, or can easily connect to another train service. Whereas there simply isn't much demand for matching up every single journey possibility.
 

MedwayValiant

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If we accept that the demand for travel across rather than to and from London is not there, then why spend bazillions of pounds on the Thameslink project? People from Haywards Heath don't want to go to Harpenden in huge numbers, and people from Ashwell and Morden want to go to Borough Green and Wrotham in even smaller numbers - so there must be some other reason for making it easier for them to do it.

If we were building the railway system for the first time, would we have one "London Hauptbahnhof", or would that one station just be too busy ever to be workable?
 

NSE

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The whole point of Thameslink is more that instead of terminating the trains from Bedford and Brighton, why not connect them so they don’t take up valuable platform space while they turn round and carry on the other side of London, allowing through journeys like Hayward’s Heath to Luton as an added bonus. This way you don’t need big nineteen platform termini but rather the two through tracks of Blackfriars.

However, I do agree with you, I don’t see the point. I prefer a terminus as I generally don’t have to rush and can take one or two minutes to pack and gather my things. Something that is virtually impossible on a train through the Core. And as a frequent backpacker travelling to and from airports, I don’t find travelling with luggage very difficult. I appreciate I’m a healthy young person, but I don’t find it hard.
 

Doctor Fegg

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I have always wondered why there has never been a trans London express service from long distances.

"Never"? As well as the Anglia Crosslink service mentioned by Jordeh, CrossCountry used to run services from the North to the South Coast via Kensington Olympia (see http://www.1s76.com/).
 

MG11

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Strangely enough a service quite similar to what you proposed did operate from 2000-2002. London Crosslink by Anglia Railways running between Norwich and Basingstoke on the North London Line (amongst others).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Crosslink

Lack of capacity is the main issue, there simply isn't room for more services on the heavily used London Overground lines. This then leads to reliability and punctuality issues which I understand was the downfall of London Crosslink.

Lack of demand is the other issue, it is easier to provide services to/from central London as many passengers either want to go to central London, or can easily connect to another train service. Whereas there simply isn't much demand for matching up every single journey possibility.
Oooh thank you! I never knew of this service! It can't be that much of a Lucy In The Sky idea if Anglia Railways did a similar route. A three coach 170 looks ideal, it would be too short to warrant a Voyager/Meridian, but it would definitely warrant more than 2 coaches, with high backed seating and all the comforts the 170 offers. An at seat trolley service would do well too, especially with those transferrring from a flight in need of a snack.
 

MG11

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"Never"? As well as the Anglia Crosslink service mentioned by Jordeh, CrossCountry used to run services from the North to the South Coast via Kensington Olympia (see http://www.1s76.com/).
I've never really seen the XC Brightons as via London per say, as Kensington is a suburb of London, rather than central London itself.
 

MedwayValiant

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I prefer a terminus as I generally don’t have to rush and can take one or two minutes to pack and gather my things. Something that is virtually impossible on a train through the Core.

Absolutely! Although I don't allow it to affect my everyday life I'm just a little bit claustrophobic, and so I prefer not to be one train for very much more than one hour.

If I were actually travelling from Haywards Heath to Harpenden I'd be fairly likely to go via Victoria, just to break up the journey a bit. (What's more, it's probably quite often quicker too.)
 

MidnightFlyer

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Oooh thank you! I never knew of this service! It can't be that much of a Lucy In The Sky idea if Anglia Railways did a similar route. A three coach 170 looks ideal, it would be too short to warrant a Voyager/Meridian, but it would definitely warrant more than 2 coaches, with high backed seating and all the comforts the 170 offers. An at seat trolley service would do well too, especially with those transferrring from a flight in need of a snack.

Out of interest, if we take your initial proposal of Southampton to Stansted Airport calling at Winchester, Waterloo and Harlow Town only, how many punters are you expecting?

The old XC Brighton services and I suspect the Anglia Railways example bit the dust because they loaded poorly, and ate precious line capacity on busy stretches of railway where demand was to other places, offering very little loaded capacity for the paths they took. What lines like the Brighton Main Line and its South Western equivalent need is a solid, standard, repeat for all eternity tmetable that maximises getting people on the move, and providing as much capacity as possible between the places people need to get between. 12-car Thameslink units between Brighton and London Bridge and 10-car formations on SWR to here, there and everywhere do exactly that. Running half-empty 170s between seemingly random places doesn't.
 

MG11

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Out of interest, if we take your initial proposal of Southampton to Stansted Airport calling at Winchester, Waterloo and Harlow Town only, how many punters are you expecting?

The old XC Brighton services and I suspect the Anglia Railways example bit the dust because they loaded poorly, and ate precious line capacity on busy stretches of railway where demand was to other places, offering very little loaded capacity for the paths they took. What lines like the Brighton Main Line and its South Western equivalent need is a solid, standard, repeat for all eternity tmetable that maximises getting people on the move, and providing as much capacity as possible between the places people need to get between. 12-car Thameslink units between Brighton and London Bridge and 10-car formations on SWR to here, there and everywhere do exactly that. Running half-empty 170s between seemingly random places doesn't.
I never said only those stations, they were examples of principal stations, obviously places like Basingstoke, Woking and Southampton Airport Parkway would generate good footfall.
 

MidnightFlyer

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I never said only those stations, they were examples of principal stations, obviously places like Basingstoke, Woking and Southampton Airport Parkway would generate good footfall.

Fair enough. I will ask aagin though, what numbers would you expect and is that the best use of the somewhat limited capacity on the South Western, North London and West Anglia / Lea Valley lines?
 

MG11

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Fair enough. I will ask aagin though, what numbers would you expect and is that the best use of the somewhat limited capacity on the South Western, North London and West Anglia / Lea Valley lines?
I would expect each journey end to end, would carry at least 300 passengers. A service linking two airports and major towns and cities is likely to be popular. It would probably be an Open Access service, given the structural limitations of franchises. As many members on here have responded positively to the suggestion, and direct services proving a key demand for operators, hence Hull Trains extending to Beverley, I think it would make good use of my capacity, but my question though is would people use it, not how would rolling stock, pathing, staff be sourced.
 

Ianno87

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If we accept that the demand for travel across rather than to and from London is not there, then why spend bazillions of pounds on the Thameslink project? People from Haywards Heath don't want to go to Harpenden in huge numbers, and people from Ashwell and Morden want to go to Borough Green and Wrotham in even smaller numbers - so there must be some other reason for making it easier for them to do it.

If we were building the railway system for the first time, would we have one "London Hauptbahnhof", or would that one station just be too busy ever to be workable?

Ah the old "let's disprove a concept by picking the silliest examples"!

There will be some strong cross-London demand catered for in full and in part by Thameslink, such as connecting Gatwick Airport, Brighton directly to the likes of Cambridge and Stevenage for the first time. And many more places become accessible to Canary Wharf and Heathrow via a single quick change at Farringdon for the first time.

Other benefits of Thameslink:
-Tube crowding relief through effectively providing an alternative to the Northern Line between London Bridge and Kings Cross, as well as feeding into the Elizabeth Line at Farringdon (rather than the tube from traditional terminal)
-The accessibility benefits from the southern entrances at Blackfriars and London Bridge.

As a Cambridge resident, I can see myself as a very regular user of Thameslink services for this reason.

-----------------------

The basic problems with most services (like Crosslink and Brighton XC) that connect places either side of London by skirting around the edge are that:
-From a given route, the proportion of passengers specifically wanting a particular route on the other side of London is miniscule compared to the general number of people wanting to access Central London, or other radial routes via Central London. So such trains are in the round a poor use of the limited spare capacity of busy lines into Central London
-Pathing is invariably slow and tortuous, and 'feels' slow to normal passengers (e.g. stopping in odd places for pathing) even if its faster in practice than going via Zone 1, so is a poor journey experience.
-Alot of passengers do genuinely value the opportunity for a leg stretch/coffee break when passing through London.

I think RER style cross-London Lines are the way to go (Thameslink, Elizabeth Line, Crossrail 2), that have dual purposes of connecting to central London, and across it (as a secondary benefit), that then connect into each other to give other cross-London opportunities too.

The only longish distance 'orbital' service that I think would have legs (inwards of East West Rail) would be some sort of WCML-WLL-Gatwick/BML fast service. But doing it without protracted journey times is an operational non-starter.
 

ChiefPlanner

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Anglia Crosslink should have been killed earlier - it carried very few passengers for it's purpose - though those it did loved it , despite the slowness of the journey. Subsidy heavy.

BR (yes - sorry) , did run odd cross London services - daily Manchester to Dover (often completely empty Ashford - Dover) , Brighton - Manchester via Clapham and Willesden (average load about 30 north of Clapham) - basically not worth doing.

Virgin XC planned hourly Brighton - West Midlands but were somewhat stymied by not enough Voyagers available for more than 1 + a few marginals.
 

Ianno87

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I would expect each journey end to end, would carry at least 300 passengers. A service linking two airports and major towns and cities is likely to be popular. It would probably be an Open Access service, given the structural limitations of franchises. As many members on here have responded positively to the suggestion, and direct services proving a key demand for operators, hence Hull Trains extending to Beverley, I think it would make good use of my capacity, but my question though is would people use it, not how would rolling stock, pathing, staff be sourced.

How have you come up with that 300 number? How many people seriously use (or would be inclined to use) Southampton Airport from Harlow?! Ditto Stansted from Winchester (well endowed with Southampton, Heathrow and Gatwick already)?!

Yes, there'll be occasional people that find it handy (and can tolerate a mystery tour of the North London Line), but 300 is optimistic to say the least. An existing 8 car Stansted Express on the Lea Valley line can easily carry double that of passengers where they actually want to go.

Open Access operators universally serve London flows. Not one has even ever proposed any kind of orbital service (posdibly with the exception of that GoCo whatever Birmingham-Oxford-Swindon-Westbury service, and we see how far that got...)
 

LNW-GW Joint

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When Crossrail was first mooted (by BR), there were ambitions to run (eg) Bristol-Norwich and other inter-regional destinations through it, much like Thameslink.
But at every design iteration (with TfL taking ever greater control) it turned into a more localised network until we have the glorified tube/RER of today.
 

ChiefPlanner

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When Crossrail was first mooted (by BR), there were ambitions to run (eg) Bristol-Norwich and other inter-regional destinations through it, much like Thameslink.
But at every design iteration (with TfL taking ever greater control) it turned into a more localised network until we have the glorified tube/RER of today.

Having been closely aligned with the NSE team at Crossrail from 1990 to 1996 (when made redundant) , I can assure you that Norwich to Bristol was never considered.

Towards the end , and before John Major and his mates binned the scheme - we did seriously look at adding in Southend Victoria , as well as Milton Keynes as a concept of "Greater Crossrail" - which in theory showed promise , but failed to make the (political) cut. All history now.

BR looked at "Greater Thameslink with Oxford / Liverpool ?Manchester to Brighton and Dover - but this was a paper excercise (I may have the files somewhere .....) - this was circa 1985.
 

edwin_m

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If we accept that the demand for travel across rather than to and from London is not there, then why spend bazillions of pounds on the Thameslink project? People from Haywards Heath don't want to go to Harpenden in huge numbers, and people from Ashwell and Morden want to go to Borough Green and Wrotham in even smaller numbers - so there must be some other reason for making it easier for them to do it.

The whole point of Thameslink is more that instead of terminating the trains from Bedford and Brighton, why not connect them so they don’t take up valuable platform space while they turn round and carry on the other side of London, allowing through journeys like Hayward’s Heath to Luton as an added bonus. This way you don’t need big nineteen platform termini but rather the two through tracks of Blackfriars.

However, I do agree with you, I don’t see the point. I prefer a terminus as I generally don’t have to rush and can take one or two minutes to pack and gather my things. Something that is virtually impossible on a train through the Core. And as a frequent backpacker travelling to and from airports, I don’t find travelling with luggage very difficult. I appreciate I’m a healthy young person, but I don’t find it hard.
The likes of Thameslink and Crossrail give people arriving from either side of London a choice of stations in the central area, rather than having to change to the Tube which is fairly inconvenient at most of the main termini. This probably far outweighs the number of people using them to cross London, for whom it is useful but they are not the reason for the investment. It also relieves the busiest parts of the Underground.
 

NorthKent1989

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In 2004 the now defunct SRA looked into a cross South London rail service running between Clapham Junction to Sidcup and Plumstead
It would've ran non stop between Clapham Junction and Lewisham with a stop at Peckham Rye, then after Lewisham it would've been all stations to Sidcup and skip stop to Plumstead, however the logistics of running such a service made it impossible with pathing issues and what rolling stock would've been used, Networkers cannon operate to Clapham or anywhere on the South Western region.

I have thought of a hypothetical Crossrail 3 which in my head would run from Gillingham (Kent) to Windsor and Reading via a tunnel west of Blackheath to serve London Bridge and Waterloo then running onto the Windsor and Reading lines, of course this will take alot of funding and crayons.
 

swt_passenger

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I've never really seen the XC Brightons as via London per say, as Kensington is a suburb of London, rather than central London itself.
They could only ever route where the tracks actually go. Without using Thameslink (already at capacity) that's as near as you were ever going to get...
 

NSEFAN

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They could only ever route where the tracks actually go. Without using Thameslink (already at capacity) that's as near as you were ever going to get...
Which seems to be the answer as to why there's basically no cross-London intercity services. The few routes which permit it are full with more useful trains serving commuter flows (Thameslink, London Overground).

Heck, even the Metropolitan Railway once had grand aspirations for its tunnels to be used for trains from the North to the Channel Tunnel! No chance of that kind of operation today.
 

Ianno87

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Another factor is that journeys through London start to get less competitive with a road journey via the motorway network.

Dunno. The act of driving on the M25 is an unpleasant enough experience for many at most times of day, especially if you're having to do a full semi-orbit! (e.g. Stevenage to Gatwick).

Shorter journeys (say) a quarter to a third of the way round, you're probably right.
 

mallard

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It's long been acknowledged that having large numbers of passengers transit London via the Underground is less than ideal, both for Underground congestion and journey times, that's what lead to Thameslink and CrossRail.

BR did a studies on exactly this idea (having trans-London express services, via new tunnels connecting lines approaching Southern and Northern/Western terminals) in the late 1970s, the final proposal from 1980 is available here: http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/documents/BR_CrossLondonRailLink1980.pdf (I also find it interesting that the graphics used in that document show variously; an APT at East Croydon, presumably running on the 3rd rail, what appears to be an electric APT end-power-car, non-articulated APT carriages, and what appears to be an APT-derived design for a Mk1 repacement for SR commuter units. Whether these represent anything that BR was actually considering is another matter...)

The limited attempts that have been made to run such services (various InterCity XC services via Kensington Olympia, the Rugby - Gatwick/Brighton service that's been steadily cut back to MK-Croydon, Anglia's London Crosslink, etc.) have all suffered from the difficulty of fitting them around commuter services, leading to poor punctuality and/or inconvenient timings and a service nowadays would have even more traffic to contend with.
 
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dk1

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Oooh thank you! I never knew of this service! It can't be that much of a Lucy In The Sky idea if Anglia Railways did a similar route. A three coach 170 looks ideal, it would be too short to warrant a Voyager/Meridian, but it would definitely warrant more than 2 coaches, with high backed seating and all the comforts the 170 offers. An at seat trolley service would do well too, especially with those transferrring from a flight in need of a snack.

An at seat trolley service did not do well. Practically every service had one & many staff struggled to take £25 on an 10hr shift. CrossLink was finally killed off after Hatfield when passenger numbers where struggling & journey times extended. Brentford was a particular success but the lack of through destinations on all services (some terminated Stratford or Witham) due to unit requirements was its downfall along with a basic 2-hourly service. The aspirations to run through to Southampton & even a triangular Milton Keynes-Ipswich/Southampton never stood a chance.
 

tsr

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Not so long ago, the predecessors of the current Southern operation ran a service from Rugby to Brighton (or various terminating points in between). Many of the more senior crew on the present-day MK - East Croydon services used to work these trains; by railway standards, it wasn't that long ago at all. A lot of the current Southern services on the West London Line are now so full that they are a) clearly desperately needed, so you couldn't reasonably remove any of their stops; b) unable to be supplemented by faster longer distance trains due to capacity constraints in the Metro area; and c) full enough to pay their way at any time of day, without needing to attract any more passengers from further afield.

It's also important to remember that many London suburban orbital and through services (including swathes of the current London Overground network, as well as the WLL and Thameslink) were once almost derelict, very unloved and nowhere near as well served or used as they are now. Through services called at as few or many stations as was the flavour of the SRA*'s decisions that year (* et al). Various historic timetabling website show the fluctuations, which were only really finally ironed out in the last 5-10 years.

Finally, a lot of the Overground and Southern Metro routes around London, especially the WLL itself, started off with ambitious longer-distance routes, with trains from as far afield as places like Liverpool, heading to the likes of Balham and Crystal Palace. Gradually, this has boiled down to Milton Keynes Central - East Croydon, with forays to Coulsdon Town and Purley in the peaks. I suggest you take an hour or two to read up on the original railway companies who operated on the WLL and their evolution, as well as the curious impacts into other surrounding areas, whether it be the goods routes around Ealing or the broad gauge Great Western freight into London Victoria. It's fascinating stuff.
 
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