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This new Thameslink rail timetable is the reason that British Airways is expanding at Gatwick

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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:

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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Comments (66)

  • Andrew says:

    This does make Gatwick far more convenient for people like me living in Hertfordshire (or Cambridgeshire/Peterborough etc) as the new timetable means 4 direct trains from the current Great Northern route to LGW, up from the current diddly-squat. Good news as far as I can tell (apart from if you work in London and the trains get messed up where you’ll have to guess whether the train you need will go from St Pancras or Kings Cross – not really an issue in the daytime/at weekends in the new timetable).

  • Frenske says:

    True taking a taxi to and from central London LHR beats LGW. But regarding getting a train to central London LGW beats LHR easily. It is much more convenient with direct trains to Victoria, London Bridge, Black Friars, St Pancreas which to me are more central London than Paddington. Plus tickets are normal priced, still a rip-off but than Heathrow Express.

    • sarahluv says:

      exactly. Gatwick is far more convenient if you work in the City,

    • Fenny says:

      Living north of London, I found it far easier getting to Gatwick via train than to Heathrow. If I fly from LHR, the quickest and cheapest way is to drive. Going from Gatwick, I can get a train from Rugby and arrive at Gatwick with a much easier connection from Euston to St Pancras. If only Long Buckby station would sort out their parking, life would be a breeze.

  • Andy Miller says:

    For anybody travelling from the East Midlands or Sheffield LGW is more convenient than LHR as you just change platforms at St Pancras. No changing stations like to Paddington. Four trains per hour from St Pancras to LGW.

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      If you’re arriving into STP to Heathrow, you might as well just hop on the Picadilly line. It’s only about ten minutes quicker to take Heathrow Express, but more effort and much more expensive.

      • Trevor Tonian says:

        56 minutes to Heathrow on the Picadilly line

        15 mins on the Heathrow express and five minutes on the tube to get there

        Thats not 10 minutes difference in travel time

        • Leo says:

          Thing is I’ve never had less than a 14 minute wait either end for the HEX! I do however use HEX just out of preference, the tube whilst relatively cheap, is very hard going sometimes especially at peak hours, even on a Sunday night it’s been hellish with a roll-along.

        • GB74 says:

          Probably not possible to get from Kings Cross to Piccadilly on the tube in 5 minutes. Also the above does not take into account the time/inconvenience of getting luggage and family from tube to HEX platforms, and assumes HEX will depart immediately without any hanging about.

          Only way to make HEX worthwhile arriving into Kings Cross is by taking a cab – even then, its marginal and far more expensive.

        • RussellH says:

          Apart from the TFL site stating 10 mins from St Pancras to Padd, which seems much more likely, and makes no allowance for being held at Edware Road, which often happens, you also have a fair trek from one of the Paddington stations (Circle or H+C, NOT tube) to the Heathrow Ex platforms, plus the waiting time for the next train. If you have much luggage, I would want to allow 10 mins at Padd for the change at least. If you are lucky you would save 20 mins over the time taken by Picc, but I would reckon 10 mins as an average is fair comment.

        • Lady London says:

          You forgot the 15mins+ within Heathrow actually getting to the Hex? Underground accesses are more widely spread within Heathrow.

  • Umberto says:

    It takes one issue on the line and good luck getting to Gatwick in time for your flight.

    • Frenske says:

      How is different from taking the Heathrow Express or Picadilly line? You know there are multiple train routes to Gatwick as well bus routes from Victoria.

    • Leo says:

      Absolutely. This is not an uncommon occurrence.

      • Nick says:

        In theory, the works are supposed to have made reliability less of an issue, and having trains from multiple termini helps in case one is blocked. Why not give it the benefit of the doubt and only complain later, if the problems of old do remain, rather than before anyone has even tried it?

        • Leo says:

          Yeah well I travel on the line to and from the South Coast most days from both VIC and LBG so forgive my scepticism.

  • Graham Walsh says:

    One of the reasons I stopped using Gatwick is because of Thamestink. I live in Borehamwood so all I need to do is change at a London station for the Gatwick line. Very simple right.

    Well when a train breaks down between City Thameslink and Blackfriars, then you miss your flight to Toronto and have to buy a new flight for cash from LHR (and get a bus from LGW to LHR). Not an experience I want to do again.

    • Leo says:

      Living in central London and commuting to the South Coast most days I will fly from Gatwick – but only if I stay over the night before in a hotel. I’ve seen too many people miss their flights. Only takes a signal failure at East Croydon and you’re done for.

    • Mikeact says:

      There will always be occasions when travel delays cause flight problems. I missed a flight to the US last year as I was caught up in the back log of a multi vehicle accident on the M23. The replacement flight I had to purchase was sorted out by my travel insurance.

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      As a Radlett resident, I long ago concluded that an uber to Heathrow was much quicker, less stressful and only slightly more expensive (if there’s two of you).

  • Tony says:

    BA growing in Gatwick alienates regional customers like myself (near Manchester) even more. Given BA apparently have bought Monarch’s slots, how about a few flights to the regions please British Airways…

    • Go says:

      I was about to raise the same point. As soon as BA bought Aer Lingus they immediately cancelled their flights from Belfast to Gatwick. Whilst changes in RFS means connecting flights from the regions are less attractive, it would make a big difference during holiday periods. European flights can be in excess of £300pp during summer periods which would make connecting destinations from Gatwick very attractive.

      • Nick says:

        IAG had to cancel the Belfast flights, it was a condition of the Lingus purchase and it was done to free up remedy slots. Your real beef should be with Ryanair, who took them and pulled out later.

        • Anthony Burns says:

          What are Ryanair doing with the slots instead?

        • Michael says:

          Well, they had to make up to five slot pairs at Gatwick available for flights to Belfast and / or Dublin. They could have come from BA’s portfolio if they wished.

          As it happened Aer Lingus were engaged in an ongoing fare war with Easyjet on Belfast to Gatwick, and flybe had just started LCY. Both Aer Lingus and BA we’re flying (in competition at the time) to Heathrow. Despite carrying network connections for all carriers at Gatwick, Aer Lingus just weren’t making enough money in the route. So it was canned and BA’s Belfast flights from Heathrow have been trimmed and retimed around the Aer Lingus flights.

          The result? Ryanair get slots, start a fare war of insane proportions with Easyjet at one of Easyjet’s fortress bases, then decide to can the route for the winter season as they aren’t making any money. Easyjet have Gatwick to themselves to charge crazy fares again, and there are no network connections to Gatwick. Fares to Heathrow rise and overall choice and availability are limited!

        • sarahluv says:

          Michael, tbf, easyjet from gatwick to belfast hasn’t gone back to pre-ryanair prices just yet. i’m flying for £50 return soon. I always found the aer lingus flights to gatwick to be stupidly expensive too.

        • ECR says:

          As far as I understand when Ryanair gave up the Belfast route the 5 slot pairs would have to have been returned to IAG unless another carrier wanted to fly the route. I would expect these to be used by BA, and they could use them on any route. I would love BA to fly Belfast to Gatwick as I think it would be much more successful than Aer Lingus, but unfortunately it won’t happen.

    • Anna says:

      +1. Would love to be able to use Gatwick again.

  • Sapiens says:

    From central London, Gatwick is simply too risky for me, the rail link is unacceptably unreliable, and there’s no other fast option of getting there.

    Lhr – 1) tube, if there’s a problem with that then 2) heathrow express, if there’s somehow a problem with that too then 3) taxi… All can replace each other at a moments notice and all can get you there in an hour.

  • Cheshire Pete says:

    It’s the same reason I rarely use BA now from LGW from MAN. BA could take this opportunity to reinstate the 3 lost daily flights they pulled a few years ago. It would open up so much traffic for them again. The LHR flights are constantly rammed so there must be a good new business case to reinstate those again.

    • Anna says:

      +1. We used to use Gatwick to fly to the Caribbean, Bermuda and Florida and I’m sure plenty of other people did as well!

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