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£7bn is being invested in transforming the Thameslink programme, alongside the biggest upgrade of the Midland Main Line since it was completed in 1870.
As part of the Government-sponsored Thameslink programme, a brand new timetable will be introduced in May 2018. This represents one of the biggest timetable recasts in recent railway history. It will provide thousands of extra peak-time seats, improved journey times and better connections on GTR (Govia Thameslink) services from Bedford to Farringdon, for Crossrail when it opens, as well as to London Bridge and further south.
Work has also started on the transformation of the Midland Main Line which will deliver the biggest upgrade of this line in almost 150 years, bringing better journeys for customers and representing an investment of over £1billion. The Department for Transport has proposed in its consultation on the next East Midlands franchise that this extra capacity is used to deliver more seats on fast, direct services between Corby, Kettering, Wellingborough, Bedford, Luton and Luton Airport Parkway and London St Pancras with longer, quieter, comfortable and more efficient trains.
Detailed planning has been taking place over several months across the rail industry to ensure the new Thameslink timetable can be successfully introduced. East Midlands Trains has today (11 December 2017) announced some changes needed to its timetable from May 2018 due to the increased number of GTR trains needing to operate on the shared network between Bedford and London. These changes will be in place until the completion of the Midland Main Line upgrade programme in 2020.
From the timetable change on 20 May 2018 until the completion of theMidland Main Line Upgrade in 2020, East Midlands Trains morning peak timetrains to London will not call at Bedford and Luton and evening peak timetrains from London will not call at Luton and BedfordDirect East Midlands Trains rail services will continue to run from Leicestershire and Northamptonshire to London, and will continue to call at Luton Airport Parkway throughout the day. Off-peak and weekend serviceswill continue to call at Bedford and Luton.Customers using East Midlands Trains services to commute from the north to Bedford during peak hours will be provided with an alternative, fullyaccessible coach service that will connect with rail services at Wellingborough. This will run every 30 minutes between Wellingborough and Bedford and any monthly or annual season ticket holders using the replacement coach service will be eligible for a 50% discount on their season ticket.
Jake Kelly, Managing Director for East Midlands Trains, said: “Major investment is being made to improve the railway in Bedford and the surrounding areas, with the £7bn Thameslink programme and the transformation of the Midland Main Line which will deliver the biggest upgrade of this line in almost 150 years, bringing better journeys for customers and representing an investment of over £1billion.
“To enable these major projects to be successfully completed, there will have to be some changes to our timetable and we appreciate that this will mean inconvenience for some of our customers.
“Our priority has been to ensure that these customers have alternative transport connections in place with the replacement coach service from Wellingborough and season ticket discounts for those using the coach.
“In the longer term, we will continue to work with the Department for Transport and Network Rail to deliver the improvements needed for the Midland Main Line which will provide greater capacity on the network and therefore enable future timetable improvements.”
Rob McIntosh, Managing Director for Network Rail’s London North Eastern and East Midlands route, said: “We are currently carrying out the biggest upgrade of the Midland Main Line since it was first built in 1870 with an investment of over £1billion that will create a bigger, faster, more reliable network which will bring significant, long term benefits the economies and communities our railway serves.”