In Touch November 2022

Welcome to your November issue of In-Touch, bringing you some of the latest news and updates from across Govia Thameslink Railway.

This edition contains updates on:

  • Timetable update for December 2022
  • Gatwick Airport Upgrade Programme update
  • A train load of Christmas activities coming down the tracks
  • New scheme to help assistance dogs travel on our network
  • Govia Thameslink Railways signs the Armed Forces Covenant
  • The first Great Northern train gets ready for a digital future

Timetable update for December 2022

The timetables on our network will change from 11 December with the aim of introducing a more punctual and reliable service where stations have more consistent arrival and departure times.

The bulk of these changes will be to services which pass-through Gatwick Airport. This is because upgrades at the station, explained in detail later in this newsletter, mean we have been able to increase the speed that trains pass through the station and reduce the time they wait at its platforms.

As a result, trains which pass-through Gatwick should run more punctually and more reliably. In some cases, such as to Brighton, these changes will also deliver a 10-14% peak journey time improvement, benefitting hundreds of thousands of passengers every day.

To capitalise on the upgrades at Gatwick, we will be changing the order in which trains approach and exit the station. As a result, most services connected to the Airport will see slight changes to departure and arrival times, often only by a few minutes.

This will also mean that stations will have more consistent arrival, departure times and connections which then repeat each hour. The aim is to make it easier for customers to plan their journeys as services will have consistent timings throughout the day.

We will also be adding in two additional Thameslink services between East Grinstead and central London in the morning and evening peaks. This is responding to increased demand and will also create additional space for customers between East Croydon and London Bridge.

Looking north of London, there also will be some minor timetable changes to prepare Thameslink services on the Midland Main Line for the opening of the new station at Brent Cross West.

Brent Cross West will the first major mainline station in London in over a decade and by preparing our timetables now, we will be able to introduce a full service as soon as it opens.

We are also adding in longer trains during the busiest periods as well, so passengers have more room on our services.

This means that, in peak hours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays when they are busiest, more services between London King’s Cross and Peterborough and Cambridge will run with twelve, rather than eight carriages.

As we do with all our timetables, we will keep our services under review based on stakeholder and passenger feedback.

Gatwick Airport Upgrade Programme update

The track and platform upgrades which are being carried out as part of the Gatwick Airport Station Upgrade programme are progressing well and are nearing completion.

From Tuesday 3 January, Platforms 5 and 6 are planned to reopen, meaning all seven platforms will be back in use for the first time in two years. The platforms have also been widened as well, meaning it will be easier for passengers to board and disembark the trains.

The layout of the tracks serving Platforms 4 – 7 have also been upgraded as well, meaning trains will approach and leave the station at higher average speeds.

For Platform 6 for instance, an additional crossing has been installed so trains approaching Platform 6 can now access it from the approach into Platform 7, rather than the previous approach which branched off from the route into Platform 5.

This new route can be used at 60mph, vs 30mph for the previous approach, meaning services using Platform 6 will be able to approach the station at higher speeds. This also benefits services still using Platform 5 as they will not need to slow behind services using Platform 6.

Additionally, by alternating the platforms of services heading in the same direction, we will be able to reduce passenger crowding on the platforms.

This will help to reduce the time trains need to wait at the platform as passengers disembark and board, which frequently resulted in difficulties with trains leaving on time.

Overall, the upgrades at Gatwick Airport will help to remove the single largest cause of sub three-minute delays on our network.

As a result, services which pass through the station will be more reliable and more punctual, benefitting the hundreds of thousands of passengers each day.

Photo showing construction of new escalators and concourse at Gatwick Airport

Photo showing construction of new escalators and concourse at Gatwick Airport

A train load of Christmas activities coming down the tracks

Our Christmas campaign starts this week to encourage people to make use of our discount fares and go for a day out by train and visit one of the many Christmas events happening on our network.

We have teamed up with organisations across our network, from Brighton to a very Christmassy Cambridge, who are offering festive activities, from family theatre tickets to meeting Father Christmas, with something to suit everyone.

We have also just made some of our cheapest fares available, with customers being able to take advantage of discount advance fares as well as our GroupSave and weekend Super Off-Peak tickets to travel to all the events happening this Christmas.

Our five-week online, email and poster campaign will also be supported by a weekly social media competition with our regional partners offering prizes including tickets for ice-skating, as well as museum and exhibition visits.

We hope that everyone on our network is able to have a merry Christmas and you will be able to find more details about the attractions, events and fares available here:

Digital campaign image of an advent calendar with eTicket

Image of an advent calendar with eTicket

New scheme to support assistance dog users on our network

Govia Thameslink Railway is pleased to introduce the Assisted Dogs Travel scheme across our services, supported by Assistance Dogs UK.

This new scheme will help assistance dogs and their owners travel comfortably and safely on our trains by giving them a ‘protected space’.

Customers can now get free and reusable ’Assistance dog under seat’ cards free of charge from National Rail Enquiries which will tell other passengers that what looks like a spare seat is taken by an assistance dog which needs that space.

We volunteered to help the Rail Delivery Group develop the new UK-wide scheme, and asked for help from Fiona Bower, who is a member of our Access Advisory Panel, a voluntary group of customers who represent a range of different disabilities and access needs.

Fiona, who lives in East Sussex, has been using a wheelchair full-time for 11 years and is supported by her assistance dog, Mr Wiz. She emphasised the importance of having space for assistance dogs on trains so they can perform their role, settle and be comfortable away from other customers.

For further information on the new scheme, please let us know.

Photo of Fiona with her assistance dog

Photo of Fiona with her assistance dog

Govia Thameslink Railway signs the Armed Forces Covenant

Govia Thameslink Railway signed the Armed Forces Covenant in a ceremony at London Bridge station on 18 October.

Our Chief Executive Officer, Patrick Verwer, and Rear Admiral Phil Hally MBE, from the Ministry of Defence, signed the pledge watched by colleagues from across the railway who have served in the armed forces.

The covenant supports Armed Forces leavers, who have a unique set of transferable skills and qualities, back into employment in a civilian workplace and ensures that those who serve, or who have served in the Forces, are treated fairly.

The railway has a longstanding history with the military, dating as far back as the 19th Century, and Govia Thameslink already benefits from a wealth of military experience among its staff. Ex-Forces personnel who have since joined GTR already carry out a wide variety of roles in the business – from train driving and station management, to network operations and engineering.

At the public ceremony, Patrick said: “We recognise the great value that serving personnel, reservists, veterans and military families bring to our business and to our country. We’re committed to attracting and retaining the best talent and signing the Armed Forces Covenant will help us welcome new colleagues to join the railway, whilst supporting the vibrant ex-Forces community who already work at GTR.”

Patrick Verwer and Rear Admiral Phil Hally MBE sign the pledge

Patrick Verwer and Rear Admiral Phil Hally MBE sign the pledge

The first Great Northern train gets ready for a digital future

A historic moment has been reached as the first of Great Northern’s Class 387/1 fleet has headed into the depot as part of the UK’s first major commuter fleet retrofit for European Train Control System (ETCS) in-cab signalling.

The train will be retrofitted by our partners at Alstom who will install the new systems and equipment. This includes a new digital driver’s dashboard, a new Automatic Warning System, a new radar and communications system, and a new computer and train monitoring system.

The ‘first-in-class’ unit is set to return to us in July 2023, after which we will refit the remaining 28 Class 387/1 units in our in-house depot in Hornsey, north London, to get the fleet ready for the East Coast Digital Programme.

The new in-cab signalling system will supply continual speed and signalling information to the driver via a computer screen in the driver’s cab, rather than relying on more traditional fixed lineside equipment.

The East Coast Digital Programme will see the traditional signals replaced on the Northern City Line to London Moorgate and the East Coast Mainline from London to Peterborough with state-of-the-art digital signalling technology.

This will improve the reliability of services using these routes, meaning a better-performing rail service for passengers using these routes.

Class 387 train in the depot

Class 387 train in the depot