EAST MIDLANDS Trains has announced timetable changes on the Midland main line, which will see its peak services cease to call at Bedford and Luton from May, when the first phase of the enhanced Thameslink timetable is introduced.

The change is one of the mitigations introduced by Thameslink Industry Readiness Board chair Chris Gibb as part of his derisking strategy for the project (p10, last month). The chief element of Mr Gibb’s strategy is deferring the full 24 trains per hour Thameslink timetable by a year to December 2019. However, even under the phased introduction, the May timetable this year will see 15 Thameslink services per hour on the MML at peak times, with the sixteenth following in December; the remaining services to be phased in will operate into the Thameslink core from the East Coast main line.

EMT says the change is needed ‘due to the increased number of GTR (Govia Thameslink Railway) trains needing to operate on the shared network between Bedford and London’. The change will remain in place until 2020, when the upgrade of the MML, including electrification to Corby and delivery of a sixth long-distance path out of St Pancras, is due to be completed. The move affects only peak services, with off-peak and weekend services continuing as now; services will continue to call at Luton Airport Parkway throughout the day. To mitigate the loss of faster trains at Bedford and Luton, two GTR services each hour will call only at Bedford, Luton and St Albans, achieving a journey time from Bedford to St Pancras of around 45 minutes.

For passengers travelling to Bedford from destinations north of the town, a fully accessible coach service will run hourly to Wellingborough, with monthly or annual season ticket holders using the coach service eligible for a 50% discount on their season ticket. EMT says in addition to the new fast services it is working with the Department for Transport to explore the feasibility of securing extra trains that could allow the future introduction of a dedicated peak-time service for Bedford customers.

The operator highlighted that more capacity would be available on its longer-distance services, and while the Thameslink timetable will result in some journey times being lengthened other headline journey times will be improved. The impact of the Thameslink timetable is also seeing EMT take on the three HSTs released by Grand Central in the New Year, enabling the operator to lengthen some short layover times which will no longer be feasible alongside the enhanced Thameslink service. A copy of the new timetable will be made available in February.

First masts up: progress on Bedford – Corby electrification is evident in this shot, with No 66075 nearing the site of the former Storefield sidings between Kettering North Junction and Corby with an aggregates service on 18 November 2017. Mick Alderman


THE DEPARTMENT for Transport has formally rejected the proposal from Transport for Greater Manchester that it should take control of all stations in its area. In a letter to Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham on 28 November, Secretary of State Chris Grayling says ‘I firmly believe that… benefits for users… can best be realised by considering stations policy at a national level’. Mr Grayling adds: ‘I am concerned that the separating of control of stations from the rail industry has the potential to create difficulties and delay to enhancements. I am convinced that working together in partnership as “one team” will deliver better outcomes for customers and communities more quickly.’ Tony Miles