Well, that headline clearly isn’t totally true. Expansion plans need slots, so the demise of Monarch last Autumn was clearly one of the catalysts for BA’s renewed push at Gatwick.
Slots needs passengers, however. Getting to Gatwick has, for many people who live or work in Central London, always been a key issue. If you have ever taken a taxi from Gatwick into London you will soon realise – as you crawl through the suburbs – that it is about 10% as convenient as getting a taxi from Heathrow which drops you immediately onto the M4.
We are now getting very close to the launch of the new Thameslink rail programme. The reopening of London Bridge station recently (see here) is another milestone.
If you are over 40 years old and live in London you will probably remember that this programme was originally called Thameslink 2000, because the year 2000 was the original completion date. Bless Network Rail.
Another set of delays (see BBC report here) means that it will be December 2019 and not December 2018 before the full Thameslink timetable is in effect. However, the route from Brighton via Gatwick to Central London will increase to 18 trains per hour in May 2018 and 20 trains per hour in December 2018.
Here is what it means in practice. This screenshot, from transformingrail.com, shows the current Thameslink timetable with the proposed new one (click to enlarge):
This is the timetable from Gatwick to London Bridge. There will be eight Thameslink trains an hour into the centre. Four of these trains will go up the Thameslink line and the other four will head up the Great Northern line via Finsbury Park, Potters Bar, Welwyn Garden City and Stevenage. Two will terminate in Cambridge and two in Peterborough.
The key thing to remember is that the existing Gatwick Express and Southern services are planned to remain. This means you will be looking at 20 trains per hour into Central London from Gatwick. Getting to the airport will be a little harder since no single station will see all 20 trains stop at it. However, eight per hour out of the core Thameslink stations is impressive and makes it a ‘turn up and go’ service.
BA’s major investment in Gatwick may turn out to be a smart one.
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