Whilst the new track layout and signalling at London Bridge is complete, the introduction of the enhanced Thameslink service across central London will begin incrementally from May 2018. However, it won’t reach its intended full capacity until two further elements of technology are completed. These are the Traffic Management System (TMS) and Automatic Train Operation (ATO).


With Thameslink trains eventually converging on London Bridge/Blackfriars from three directions in the south and two directions in the north, Traffic Management is required to support operational staff in managing the increased complexity of the train services and optimise the train sequences through the central core should any late running occur.

A contract is let with Hitachi to provide its TMS product, which will be installed at Three Bridges ROC. The TMS will view the train services within a broadly 20-minute region around the central core, identify any conflicts arising from late running against the timetable and recommend to the user possible options to reduce delay. This will allow operational staff to re-plan the train service on the day so as to improve performance and to keep as near as possible to the timetabled path of each train.

The new Thameslink signalling work stations are now installed at Three Bridges, paving the way for TMS introduction that will ultimately be linked to ARS (Automatic Route Setting) to set routes for train progression automatically. The signaller will be able to intervene if any change of plan comes about. Traffic Management facilities will start to be deployed over the Thameslink routes during 2018.


It has been well publicised that the central core frequency of 24 trains per hour (tph) cannot be achieved without automatic train operation. It is also well known that ETCS, the European Train Control System (the signalling element of the European Rail Traffic Management System – ERTMS) will be adopted for the central core with ATO ‘bolted on’.

Trials of the system have taken place on the Hertford test track and, during the night, through central London to prove its operation. Provision of the ETCS infrastructure through the core was completed over Christmas 2017 and work will now commence in earnest on the extension of ETCS to the Thameslink platforms at London Bridge, with completion planned for May 2019.

With the complexity of the work, and the need to integrate a number of new facilities, it is clear as to why Network Rail and GTR, the train operator, have decided to only slowly increase the restored train service through London Bridge.

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The Thameslink Timetable

Currently, all Thameslink trains are routed via Elephant & Castle and consist of Bedford to Brighton, Luton to Sevenoaks and St Albans to Sutton services. A peak hour maximum of only 12tph in each direction is possible. From January 2018, driver training commenced for services that will use the re-opened route via London Bridge.

A gradual build-up of services will begin at the May 2018 timetable change which, as well as reintroducing Thameslink services through London Bridge, will also see the opening of the Canal tunnels. This will bring trains from the East Coast main line onto Thameslink, opening up the possibility of services from Peterborough and Cambridge.

The ultimate peak hour service of 24tph in 2019 will offer the following:

  • 2tph Bedford to Brighton via London Bridge;
  • 2tph Bedford to Gatwick via London Bridge;
  • 2tph Bedford to East Grinstead via London Bridge;
  • 2tph Bedford to Littlehampton via London Bridge;
  • 2tph Luton to Rainham via London Bridge;
  • 2tph Luton to Orpington via Elephant & Castle;
  • 4tph St Albans to Sutton via Elephant & Castle and Wimbledon Loop;
  • 2tph Welwyn Garden City to Sevenoaks via Elephant & Castle;
  • 2tph Cambridge North to Brighton via London Bridge;
  • 2tph Cambridge to Maidstone East via London Bridge;
  • 2tph Peterborough to Horsham via London Bridge.

None of the above is set in stone and adjustments may be made to both places of origin and frequencies. What is certain is that, by 2019, London will have a north-south inter-urban line, plus, of course, the long anticipated Crossrail east-west link, which can match the RER networks of Paris.

This article was written by Clive Kessell. 

Read more: London Bridge – The Final Countdown, Christmas 2017