All-day Maidstone East to Cambridge “Thameslink” service from 2018

From 2018 there will be an all-day “Thameslink” service from Maidstone East to Cambridge. There will be two trains an hour of 8 cars, calling at West Malling, Borough Green, Otford and Swanley, then fast to London Bridge, Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon and St Pancras, and then on to Cambridge. The journey time from Maidstone to London Bridge will be around 52 minutes.

This is great news. We had been expecting peak-only services, but GTR said at today’s Stakeholder Conference that their plans are that this service will be both peak and off-peak, extending into the evenings, on Monday to Fridays and Saturdays. 

The trains will apparently be routed via Chislehurst and London Bridge. That a faster route than via Bromley South, which is an advantage. However it will mean that they cannot call at Denmark Hill for Kings College Hospital. That’s disappointing given the number of medical staff and patients who need to travel from our area to that leading hospital. The routing is apparently to make room for the new Orpington Thameslink service (see below). However the proposed routing seems to involve on-the-flat crossings from the Kent fast lines onto the Thameslink lines: these introduce operational complexity in themselves. Eliminating conflicting train movements was the case for spending squillions on the new Bermondsey “dive-under”, but the way it has been designed means that it will give no help improving the connections between the Kent Mainline and Thameslink services.

GTR have also said that there are going to be additional trains from Orpington via Catford to the Thameslink core stations, strengthening the Catford Loop service to 4 trains an hour. (2 from Sevenoaks via Bat & Ball as now and 2 new ones from Orpington).

GTR have also confirmed that Sevenoaks via Bat & Ball Thameslink services will continue unchanged after 2018. The extra capacity on the Catford Loop will also lessen overcrowding on these trains in the London area. That’s also good news.

GTR will be consulting on the detailed timetable starting in July.

(Updated 16 June to confirm stopping at Borough Green and to add trains from Orpington, and with further information on operational considerations and on journey times kindly supplied by Thameslink.)


All-day Maidstone East to Cambridge “Thameslink” service from 2018 — 81 Comments

  1. This sounds like good news, as long as it does stop at Borough Green (as that’s where I get on!!). I wonder at what time in the morning this service is likely to start (and how late into the evening it will run)?

  2. @adrian

    We’d expect the service to stop at Borough Green since it is stopping at Swanley and St Mary Cray, but our representative at the conference didn’t catch the full stopping pattern. We’re checking with GTR just to make sure.

  3. As this is being routed via Chislehurst, couldn’t it stop at Chislehurst? (when I get on 🙂 )

    Do we know roughly the journey time to Cambridge?

  4. @susan

    That’s something that we can suggest when we see the detailed timetable. The speeds through Chislehurst station for trains connecting to/from the Swanley line are very slow so a stop should not introduce much disruption.

    We don’t know the journey time to Cambridge yet, but it will surely be less than the current option of going into Charing Cross or London Bridge, catching the tube, and then catching a train from Kings Cross.

  5. Was anything mentioned about Thameslink trains from Tonbridge or when the Sevenoaks via BBL passengers will see the Class 700s?

  6. @matthew I only have a flash summary of what was said. We will check and get back to you.

  7. That is great news providing it does stop at Borough Green. Fingers crossed.

  8. @matthew

    There will be no Thameslink services on the Southeast Main Line. GTR expect that Sevenoaks and Tonbridge etc passengers will use their existing fast services to London Bridge and then change to the Thamesink core there.

    We understood that Class 700s are already being used for driver training. Nothing was said about when they would be seen in service.

  9. @karen Borough Green and West Malling stops are now confirmed!

  10. @adrian Borough Green and West Malling stops are now confirmed! We will see the proposed train times when the draft timetable consultation starts in July.

  11. Excellent news. It will be interesting to see the train times, particularly the morning and evening peak, and to see how late it will run in the evening. Only point of concern is the routing through London Bridge in view of how many problems they have there, but time will tell. Just a shame we’ve got to wait until 2018, but you can’t have everything!

  12. @karen London Bridge has been particularly bad during the building works, but they are supposed to end in 2018 and the new track layout is supposed to be more reliable. One of the advantages is to separate out the Thameslink trains, but unfortunately the design of the Bermondsey “Dive Under” does not seem to envisaged trains switching between the fast Southeast Mainline and the Thameslink tracks, so it seems that the new service could reintroduce some operational complexity and risk.

  13. Rumour out now From The Murky Depths that they’re considering the Woolwich line too. Said that this was from a stakeholders meeting. Did you hear that?

  14. Difficult to see the sense in it. Likely to be 2x the journey time Abbey Wood to Farringdon via Crossrail – 20 mins longer and 2tph vs 6/12 tph and all TL destinations available at Farringdon. TfL takeover spoiler??

  15. Does this mean Maidstone East services will no longer run to Victoria? Or are these services additional?

  16. @jonno The existing Maidstone East services are run by another rail company (Southeastern) and they have not made a statement. In any case they won’t be able to make commitments because this will be a matter for the new post-2018 franchise.

    We expect the new Thameslink services to replace the current three morning peak direct fast services to Blackfriars from Maidstone East (some from Ashford) and the corresponding evening peak services direct from Blackfriars. The net effect would effectively be over double the current peak fast service to Blackfriars. Part of the case for the new Thameslink service is to free the metro-style rolling stock used in peaks for the Southeastern (perhaps from 2018 TfL) metro services.

    We do not expect the current Ashford to Victoria via Maidstone East services to be affected, but we will of course be watching for any threat to them.

  17. @Jonno as far as I’m aware Southeastern will still operate the Victoria to Ashford / Canterbury services via Bromley South because the proposed Thameslink line will go via Chislehurst.

  18. Hi, is this officially confirmed information for trains running from west malling to london bridge from 2018? We have been waiting for this for a long time! Thanks!

  19. @Teddy

    These are plans announced by Thameslink. They are subject to a consultation period on the detail later in the year and to approval by the Department for Transport.

  20. Well done for getting this – at the expense of my line – caterham/tattenham corner – not impressed with GTR at the best of times – this is the icing on the cake!

  21. @james

    We understand your point of view.

    However seen from here the “Southern” territory will still get 16 out of the possible 24 trains an hour, compared to the 8 that will now be going to “Southeastern/Kent” territory. And the new service will mean that our area sees at least some real benefit from the years of disruption we have suffered during the Blackfriars and London Bridge rebuilds.

  22. Thameslink are opening drivers depots, not at maidstone, but at Ashford, and also at Rainham, where thei Greenwich line services will terminate/start.

  23. @bert Thanks for this update. Ashford would make sense if peak hour services are going to start from there rather than Maidstone East – although Ashford is considerably more vulnerable to severe winter weather than the Maidstone East to London section.

  24. Just found this thread and its a very interesting read. Please keep me updated

  25. @Danny

    Thanks. Thameslink will be coming to our AGM at 7.30pm on Thursday 20 October to talk about this new service, and the new timetable should be out for consultation by then. You would be very welcome to attend. Details on

  26. Hi there, has their been any new information about this new line from Maidstone East and when it will be likely to start please?

  27. @john We are expecting a further consultation from Thameslink confirming the routing and consulting on the precise timetable, but it has not emerged yet.

    The start date for the Maidstone East to Cambridge is 2018, but it is not clear whether it will start in June when the Thameslink engineering is complete: there has been some talk of introducing the full Thameslink timetable in stages. This is because achieving the full 24 trains an hour on the Blackfriars to St Pancras section is operationally demanding and the train company may want to work up to that goal in stages.

  28. Hi there, currently there is an Ashford to Blackfriars service at 703(from east malling which is my station) is there plans to cancel this service as it would seem none of the new trains stop at east malling which is a very busy station in the morning and therefore would mean going to west each day which I don’t think could handle the extra people i.e. Car park spaces. How is it decided what stations are selected?
    Thank you

  29. Hi there
    Is this route still going ahead as planned and would this train be stopping at Otford as originally suggested. Many thanks


  30. @ali The second round of consultation, with a proposed detailed timetable, has just finished. It included the Maidstone East to London service with stops at Otford and Swanley.

  31. Will the current Blackfriars service stopping at east malling at 703 continue or not?

  32. @mairead The current Southeastern service is in the May 2018 timetable (0702 from East Malling). But it appears that the Thameslink service from December 2018 will only stop at Maidstone East (0713), West Malling (0720), Borough Green (0727), Otford (0735) and Swanley (0744), and then London Bridge (0808) and Blackfriars (0814) and then on to St Pancras.

    The Southeastern timetable for December 2018 is not yet available, but it may be that the Thameslink service is immediately preceded by the Southeastern service to Victoria, which would (on May 2018) timings the possibility of getting the 0713 Victoria train from East Malling, getting off at West Malling at 0716 and, with a same platform interchange, getting the 0720 Thameslink train from there to Blackfriars. (In practice the Southeastern train will have to run a couple of minutes ahead of these times, to allow time for a stop at Kemsing.)

  33. Thanks Secretary. I just looked up the proposed timetable following your comment. Very helpful. Thanks

  34. Will the new Maidstone East to Cambridge service call at St Mary Cray. It would be frustrating if it doesn’t. It would be great to be able to use London bridge rather than travelling all the way to Orpington.

  35. @Craig

    The Maidstone East to Cambridge service will *not* stop at St Mary Cray. Apparently the timetabling for the turn-round at Maidstone East is too tight to allow the extra stop. (This may be over-cautious, so it could be reviewed once the new Thameslink timetable is fully introduced and ‘bedded in’.

  36. I might have a solution. Could the trains run alternatively as there are 2tph. One calls at West Malling, Borough Green, Otford, St Mary Cray and London bridge, the other calls at West Malling, Borough Green, Otford, Swanley and London bridge.

  37. @craig

    Perhaps, but there was a lot of political backing for improving the Swanley to City services.

  38. Hello,

    Is there a West Malling to Cannon Street line in the offering? Commuting through Victoria Station is highly inconvenient.

    Also, given the increasing developments in the area (Kings Hill Phase 3 etc), the existing service (2 trains per hour) is grossly inadequate. We need a more frequent service as well as a faster commute.

  39. @Sola The new Thameslink service from December 2018 will provide two trains an hour to London Bridge, Blackfriars, City Thameslink and Farringdon; it will not directly serve Cannon Street, although you will be able to change at London Bridge to get there. We are expecting the existing service to Victoria to continue, so this will give a basic 4 trains an hour to London destinations rather than the 2 an hour now. (However note that the new Thameslink service will replace the existing peak hour services to Blackfriars.)

  40. Apparently the Luton to Rainham GTR service which is apparently going to be all stations be replacing the semi fast Charing Cross to Gillingham service, why cant this GTR be semi fast too? I don’t fancy having a slower journey time into London, why doesn’t the stopping pattern be Gravesend-Greenhithe-Dartford-Abbey Wood-Woolwich Arsenal-Greenwich-London Bridge then onto the Thameslink core? I don’t see the benefits of a oversized metro service replacing a well used semi fast service.

  41. @nick: TBH we have not focussed on the Rainham service. Presumably it is a trade-off between the attraction of speed and the attraction of customers from less busy stations. Bear in mind also that there is a fast HS1 service from Gravesend to St Pancras and there will shortly be a fast-ish Crossrail service from Abbey Wood direct to the parts of central London where many people actually want to go. So serving these stations and trying to compete on speed is probably not going to be a successful strategy for GTR.

  42. @Katy In December 2018. The revised Thameslink services start to be introduced in May 2018, but that is just largely existing routes. Completely new services, like the Maidstone East one, are being delayed until December so the new infrastructure and operating procedures can “bed in” first.

  43. So does that mean no further city services until Dec 2018 with everything remains as is?

  44. @Mairead

    Apparently so. The May 2018 draft Southeastern timetable shows them running three services to Blackfriars in the morning, departing Borough Green at 0616, 0712 and 0906 (the last one for the “Late Late Crowd” in the words of the old Bristow cartoon).

  45. I keep hearing different start dates for the new train from Otford to London Bridge, can you confirm when this will be?

  46. @Scott The latest version of the plan from DfT postpones the start of the weekday service until December 2019. SRTA, and a number of other Kent stakeholders, are fighting this.

    There are some suggestions that the Saturday service might start earlier – we are investigating this

  47. Hi, I am purchasing a property in Wrotham, and the direct train to London Bridge via Otford would be helpful. Is it still posted as Dec 19 ? And how certain is this? As originally I understood it was planned for early 2018.

  48. So when can we expect direct trains from borough green to London Bridge ? December 2018 or 2019 ? Thanks

  49. @Jbee Officially the date for any of these services has been put back by the Rail Minister to December 2019 (except, perhaps, for Saturdays). We are arguing that, if services need to be phased in, then the Maidstone East service should start at 1 train an hour in 2018 – in the same way that some Sussex services are being phased in.

  50. @Tom The new service was originally planned as 2 trains an hour from December 2018. Officially this has now been postponed until December 2019 by the Rail Minister. We are arguing that, if services need to be phased in, then the Maidstone East service should start at 1 train an hour in 2018 – in the same way that some Sussex services are being phased in.

  51. Would st Mary cray be included with the new service. Our trains are busy all the time. They are too infrequent.

  52. @Katy A number of local MPs have written to the Rail Minister about this, and there should be a meeting shortly. We will keep you posted.

  53. @Craig This was considered by Thameslink but rejected because the time for the stop could not be fitted into the timetable, because it would endanger the tight-ish turnround time at Maidstone East. However it is possible that, in the light of operational experience, Thameslink will decide that their view was overly cautious and will add the stop. This won’t be done until the service has been running for a year, so the sooner the service starts the sooner the St Mary Cray stop can be reconsidered!

  54. They have built so many new houses around borough green and seven oaks that the roads into Sevenoaks station can’t cope. More trains from borough green, with better links to the ‘city’ part of London are essential in 2018 for any further housing development

  55. @Cath We agree. However the Department for Transport (trains) and Department for Communities and Local Government (housing) do not seem to be joined up. DCLG are setting demanding targets for housebuilding in Kent, but DfT are not investing in the trains to move the new residents to their places of work.

  56. What is the latest please on the Thameslink service from Borough Green to London?
    I have read that this is now going to be delayed by one year until Dec 2019.
    Do you know the route yet and what the journey time into London would be?
    I am considering buying a house in Borough Green and it is imperative to have a good fast service into London.
    Thank you

  57. @Viviene Sorry for the delay in replying. The latest plan is that the new Thameslink Maidstone East to Blackfriars service will be delayed until December 2019. The Secretary of State told our local MP on 8 February that this is still “on track” (see here). However the Invitation to Tender for the new Southeastern Franchise from April 2019 asks bidders to provide an alternative costing on the basis that the new service would be delayed indefinitely, which suggests that this is still a possibility.

  58. Is there any update on the proposed service?

  59. As far as we have heard this is still postponed until December 2019.

  60. I don’t think I can wait until December 2019. I’m definitely not enjoying the new timetable.

  61. It’s an absolute joke, the train is even more packed, and the now earlier service from Blackfriars to Ashford Intl is a nightmare with being overcrowded. We need more carriages for a start and more trains. Unfortunately I am not confident this will ever happen.

  62. Would anyone have any further update on this proposed service? I fear it will be quietly shelved. Is there anywhere we can apply pressure to ensure that it isn’t?

    I’ve read from which I gather Fran Wilson is someone who should be contacted and my local MP Tom Tugendhat are individuals, but are there any groups? Come someone recommend a contact at Thameslink?

  63. @secretary – any news on this ? I also fear this would be shelved, as has been continually pushed back. Is there any way we can apply pressure? I think there would be many that would support.

  64. There’s been no announcement of further postponement beyond December 2019, and we had a chance to check with other stakeholders in Kent yesterday and they had not heard of any further delay. However the start of the Maidstone East service had been postponed well before the May timetable issues became apparent, and Thameslink are still not operating the services already planned for May. With an even more risk-averse approach now, We doubt the Maidstone East service will start unless and until there is confidence that the other Thameslink services are running properly and that there is sufficient robustness to complete the programme.

  65. Hi, is there any update on this. From what I can gather the May thameslink timetable is starting to improve. So hopefully we can have some confirmation soon that this will happen in Dec 2019. I’m a borough green resident who travels to canary wharf daily and the London bridge link would save me an hour a day! Any update would be appreciated. Thank you

  66. @Billy There has been no definitive statement about the December 2019 services since before the May timetable problems. A recent letter from the Department for Transport to some KCC councillors suggested that the services were still planned for December 2109, but the text did not explicitly say that this had been reviewed and confirmed since the May timetable problems came to light.

  67. Kendal Parking has submitted a planning application for an additional 204 car parking spaces. The leaflet I have states: “The new railway franchise commences in 2019 and there will be an extra 2 trains per hour to the city of London in addition to the existing service to Victoria. This will draw a lot more customers from the local area to the train station”. It’d appear that they are expecting the trains to start.

  68. Is this still planned to be introduced by December 2019. It’s now June 2019, so according to the most recent timetable outlined, some of the services should have started by now. Where can I get more information on the latest plans ?

  69. We have sought confirmation that this service is still planned for introduction in December 2019, but it has not yet been forthcoming. One of our members has been told informally that it is to be postponed but that GTR are not being allowed to make an announcement, and there are other rumours that Network Rail and driver training will not be ready for December 2019 (even though it was supposed to be ready for December 2018!).

  70. @Katy

    We saw this “reassurance” at the time. In fact it’s carefully drafted and just repeated the original assurance at the time of the first rescheduling. That was before the May 2018 meltdown. Some local politicians seem to have accepted it at face value.

    We have seen more recent reports that Network Rail work on signalling and on changes to depots at Ashford may not be ready in time.

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