Monday 6th April 2020
With the continued absence of travel, I thought I’d have a browse online at public consultations for various transport plans and projects.
There’s one closing today which is part of Network Rail’s continuing Brighton Main Line (BML) upgrade project: a proposal to build a new 12-car ‘turn back’ platform at Reigate so the station can be added to the Thameslink network.
The idea is to provide greater capacity from this busy Surrey station which by a quirk of topography and railway history lies inconveniently a couple of miles off the BML on the branch towards Guildford.
Reigate is currently restricted to only accommodating four car trains with passengers having the inconvenience of protracted journey times to and from Victoria as many trains have to split and join at Redhill. Direct trains between Reigate and London Bridge were severed in the great May 2018 Thameslink revolution when new links were added to Horsham from Three Bridges.
There are also power supply problems preventing more and longer trains running in the area, so the proposals include boosting the power too.
The plan involves a significant extension and widening of Platform 2 which is on the southern side of the station towards Guildford (where GWR trains continue on to Reading) and create a turn back siding for a 12-car train to terminate on the southern face of this, as a new Platform 3.
Parking spaces will be lost to accommodate the track into the new siding but will be relocated as disabled spaces on the north side of the station.
This natty little video produced by Network Rail extols the benefits of new direct Thameslink trains between Reigate and London Bridge and St Pancras International but, the fine print of the consultation of necessity waters that commitment down with Network Rail Southern region managing Director, John Halsall explaining the plans “could also create the potential for direct connections to London Bridge”. Elsewhere, that cautious wording continues when it states “this would, subject to consultation, give a train operator the potential to introduce direct London Bridge services”.
Delving further into the consultation unearths a suggested new train service pattern, but it adds this is just “one possible service pattern and we would like to hear your views”.
Commuters still smarting over the loss of direct trains to London Bridge will no doubt be delighted to see a direct train to the City return, but the use of the cautionary words “could”, “potential” and “possible” (my highlighting above) are reminders that running extra Thameslink trains on the already busy Brighton Main Line is out of the question until the major bottleneck at East Croydon is sorted.
There are plans for this but they come with a huge price tag and in a post corona worldwide recession, maybe even a global depression, who can say what will be affordable, let alone whether commuter traffic to expensive offices in central London will have recovered to the extent it justifies extra trains running on the network.
These Reigate proposals made a huge amount of sense in a crammed commuter train travel world on a packed Brighton Main Line when the public consultation launched on 24th February; but the world appertaining on today’s closing date of 6th April is a completely different one, let alone what the world will be like when any work on pursuing the BML upgrade gets back on track.
Interestingly the consultation admits “our proposals for Reigate station are currently unfunded, as are the wider proposals to upgrade the Brighton Main Line. Over the months and years ahead we will continue to make the case for investment in the Brighton Main Line railway”.
And on the theme of a changed world, it’s interesting to observe how renowned congested pinch points that have been bedevilling Train Operating Companies running a reliable right time railway have suddenly become paragons of punctuality. The notorious Castlefield Corridor between Manchester Piccadilly, Oxford Road and Deansgate, where normally you’d find many trains arriving and departing well awry from the schedule due to too many trains being squeezed into this two track section together with extended dwell times at packed platforms, has been running like a clockwork dream during Lockdown Britain.
I’m not sure whether LNER’s managing director David Horne’s boastful tweet yesterday that his company had achieved a 100% reliability PPM (public performance measure) record for two days running was a wise move.
All the more so when some respondents observed “amazing what you can do without customers” and “on a Saturday, with a 40% timetable, with no customers”. Perhaps more pertinently and constructively another noted “while these are strange and difficult times for the industry, hopefully achieving this performance now will allow lessons and experience to be applied in happier times?”.
And in that context, people of Reigate, a new platform 3 makes a lot of sense, but only if an additional 12-car train to London Bridge and northwards can run reliably and those extra seats are going to be needed post corona.
If you fancy completing the online survey – which only involves saying whether you agree or disagree with (a) the upgrade proposals and (b) the changes to services (and you’re reading this on 6th April 2020), then click here.