Passengers travelling between London Bridge, Gatwick Airport and Brighton now have brand new Thameslink trains that are up to three times longer giving more space and more seats.
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has withdrawn the last of its older trains from this off-peak service, replacing them with cutting-edge Siemens Class 700 carriages.
The 12-carriage trains replace the mostly four-carriage (weekdays) and eight-carriage (Saturdays) twice-hourly service, creating 9,000 extra seats each weekday and much more space for passengers at Gatwick and families heading for the coast.
All the trains across Thameslink’s entire network are now new Class 700s. These travel between Brighton, St Albans and Bedford, Sevenoaks, Wimbledon and Sutton crossing central London via Blackfriars.
Trains on the wider network run with 8 carriages and 12 carriages. More 12-carriage trains will be introduced early next year as additional stabling facilities are built in Bedford.
GTR Engineering Director Gerry McFadden said: “Thameslink is now a Class 700-only route marking a significant milestone in our journey of modernisation towards a new high-frequency service through central London.
“Right now it means trains up to three times longer on the off-peak services between Brighton, Gatwick Airport and London Bridge and from May next year hundreds of thousands of new passengers from east Kent, Sussex, Cambridge and Peterborough will be plugged into the cross-London route when the Thameslink network expands.”
The trains have a spacious design and cutting-edge information systems that will tell passengers how London’s Tube trains are running and even which direction to walk to find more space on the train.
The new Class 700 trains have:
Wider doors and aisles to make getting on and off easier
Spacious walkways between carriages to make it easier to move through the train to give a greater sense of security
Two-by-two seating to create more room
Lots of luggage space – essential for airport travellers
Adaptive climate-controlled air conditioning
Electronic signs showing which carriages have more space to sit or stand
Screens with real time service information from London Underground
Fully accessible toilets for disabled passengers and those with pushchairs or needing baby changing facilities
Spaces for full sized bikes in the off-peak; storage for fold-up bikes in the peak
During the summer holidays, 3.4 million journeys were made with GTR to and from Gatwick airport, on Thameslink, Gatwick Express and Southern.
Paul Maynard, Rail Minister said: “I am delighted we have reached this significant milestone for the multi-billion pound Thameslink Programme. It shows how our investment in the railways is delivering better journeys for passengers across the network, as well as supporting jobs and growth.
“This new fleet of hi-tech trains is now making a real difference for passengers, giving them more space and more comfort. This investment will transform north-south travel across London and the south east by a providing a modern, accessible service in time for the expanded Thameslink network from 2018.”
Vernon Barker, Managing Director of the Rail Systems business at Siemens UK which manufactures and maintains the Class 700 trains, said: “We are really pleased to mark this major milestone in the introduction of the state-of-the-art Class 700, which is one of the largest and most technologically advanced fleets of trains ever introduced in the UK. With almost half* of the high-tech fleet now in service, passengers will really start to experience the full benefits of these modern and innovative trains through more comfortable and reliable journeys in and out of London.”
Guy Stephenson, Chief Commercial Officer, Gatwick Airport, said: “Gatwick continues to grow with record numbers of passengers travelling through the airport every month. These new carriages are ideally suited for air travellers and the longer trains will make a real difference to the increasing number of passengers using the airport and travelling by rail.
“The new Thameslink trains also form part of the exciting transformation of rail services at Gatwick. By 2018, rail capacity through Gatwick will have doubled in just 10 years and our passengers will start to see the benefit of trains leaving the airport for London with Tube-like frequency every three minutes.”
Passenger numbers on parts of the GTR network have doubled in as little as 12 years. GTR is addressing this by modernising the railway, much of it through the government-sponsored £7bn Thameslink Programme, introducing new trains to run over new infrastructure, often using new working practices.