Looking at the next few years on the railway in West Norfolk and beyond...

With less than a month to go until Govia take over the current First Capital Connect rail franchise on the 14th September 2014 numerous articles have recently appeared in local newspapers about the new operator’s plans for the railway, in this article, using information from Govia’s various online documents we look at how the change of operator is expected to affect the passengers who use the service to travel to/from West Norfolk and beyond.

2014-15 New franchisee, new names…

365 517
Refurbished Class 365 trains will continue to enter service prior to their replacement, photo © Hugh Llewelyn (creative commons licence)

The official name of the new franchise holder is Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) although separate brands will be used on the trains, Great Northern (GN) for the King’s Lynn/Cambridge/Peterborough to London routes and of course Thameslink (TL) for the cross London routes (currently Bedford to Brighton) that are part of the TL programme, current Govia brands in the South - Gatwick Express and Southern will join the GTR franchise in January 2015, details of the changes planned for those networks can be found on the Govia website.

On the Great Northern network which we are mainly focusing on in this article passengers will continue to notice the entrance into service of refurbished Class 365 units on the route, although not for long…

2016-17 ‘Newer trains’ for Great Northern and twice as many trains to King’s Lynn…

377 517
Class 377 similar to those expected to be used on the King’s Lynn/Cambridge route from 2016, photo © Hugh Llewelyn (creative commons licence)

An interesting part of Govia’s franchise plan reveals that the Class 365 units dating from the mid-nineties that are currently used on the King’s Lynn/Cambridge GN routes are planned to be replaced by newer trains from 2016, these will be Class 377 units displaced from the Southern and Thameslink networks, at around a decade newer than the Class 365s this will be an improvement for passengers who will benefit from the air conditioning and improved on board experience that these trains will offer, elsewhere the older Class 317 and 321 units used on the services, mainly at peak times will also be replaced. Most other services between Cambridge/Peterborough and London (and beyond!) will see the phasing in of new Class 700 trains as part of the TL programme between 2016-18.

From May 2017 the number of trains serving King’s Lynn are expected to double from 1 per hour to 2 per hour during the off peak thanks to the enhancement of Ely junction which is scheduled to take place in the next few years, this will be a huge improvement on a route where overcrowding can be a real problem during both peak and off peak hours, the increased frequency does though have an unusual caveat, the improved frequency will vary at times when freight trains are scheduled to pass through King’s Lynn.

2018 The new Thameslink begins…

Mock-up of the new Class 700 trains due to be used on the new Thameslink services including those from Cambridge to Brighton and Tattenham Corner, photo © Matt Buck (creative commons license)

A major revision of routes and timetables will see the much anticipated new TL services introduced during 2018, although King’s Lynn/Cambridge to London ‘express’ services under the GN name will remain (with improved journey times) the other routes from Peterborough/Cambridge will change offering new and improved journey opportunities under the Thameslink brand on the following routes which will serve a number of London stations including St Pancras, Farringdon, City Thameslink, Blackfriars, London Bridge and East Croydon;

• 2 per hour Cambridge to Brighton via Gatwick Airport (around 1hr40 mins to Gatwick, 2hr10 mins to Brighton – up to 30 mins faster than today)

• 2 per hour Cambridge to Tattenham Corner

• 2 per hour Peterborough to Horsham via Gatwick Airport

As a result nearly 3,000 extra seats from Cambridge to London in the morning peak will be provided and overall capacity will be more than doubled - in total 2 extra trains per hour will operate between Cambridge to London (6 up from the current 4 per hour) whilst trains on the GN Cambridge express services operating to/from London Kings Cross will benefit from improved journey times – approximately 50 minutes from Cambridge to London Kings Cross.

Other interesting plans for the new franchise include the roll out of smartcard ticketing (The Key) across the GRT franchise during 2015 and plans for Super off-peak fares to become available during the week in the GN part of franchise (currently only at weekends) from 2018.

This article has been produced using various documents available on the Govia website, visit their website to view the documents, the franchise timetable is particularly useful!