Greenwich and Woolwich could get Luton Airport trains from 2018

Ryanair EI-DPC landing at Luton airport by David Precious, used under CC BY 2.0

Greenwich, Charlton and Woolwich could get direct trains to Luton Airport under plans that are about to go out to consultation.

The plans would see trains seven days a week from Luton to Rainham, Kent, via Blackfriars, London Bridge, Greenwich and Dartford.

More services through London Bridge to north London and beyond will be possible when the Thameslink works are completed in 2018.

It would give passengers at Deptford,  Greenwich, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park – who currently rely on trains to Cannon Street – a choice of London terminals after trains to Charing Cross permanently ended in January 2015.

The new lines through London Bridge to Blackfriars will run in between those to Charing Cross and Cannon Street, severing the old connection between Greenwich and the Charing Cross lines (although trains can still run in emergencies).

Trains would also stop at Charlton, Woolwich Arsenal, Plumstead, Abbey Wood and Dartford, but not at Woolwich Dockyard, Belvedere or Erith.


It’s not clear whether existing Southeastern services to Cannon Street will be altered to make room for the trains (there are currently six per hour, not four as stated in the document above).

As well as connections to Luton Airport, passengers would also have direct links to Eurostar at St Pancras and Crossrail at Abbey Wood, as well as north-west London destinations at West Hampstead.

The trains would be operated by Thameslink rather than Southeastern, and the consultation is now on its website.

Elsewhere in south east London, Govia Thameslink Railway’s proposals also include increasing the miserly train service through Crofton Park and Catford from two to four trains per hour.

Meanwhile, local MPs have been pressing goverment ministers on the state of Southeastern with little success. Transport minister Paul Maynard couldn’t be bothered to answer a question from Lewisham East’s Heidi Alexander on whether Southeastern would be given new rolling stock in a debate on Thursday morning, although he was more forthcoming when asked for a meeting about Southeastern by the Conservative MP for Bromley, Bob Neill. Pressed by Eltham’s MP Clive Efford, he confirmed all local MPs would be able to attend.

But asked by Greenwich and Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook if he backed plans to devolve SE London’s rail services to TfL, transport secretary Chris Grayling was non-committal, saying he wanted to see proposals from mayor Sadiq Khan first.

1.15pm update: What gets given can also be taken away, and buried away in the full proposals are plans to cut little-advertised direct trains from New Cross Gate to Gatwick Airport and other destinations in Surrey and Sussex, with passengers expected to take slow Overground trains and change at Norwood Junction.

There’s a huge consultation survey, which covers a vast number of changes and makes some peculiar assumptions, available to fill in. The new Greenwich line trains are covered by questions 15, 16 and 31, Catford line in questions 17, 29 and 30 and New Cross Gate cuts in questions 45 and 56.

Ryanair EI-DPC landing at Luton airport by David Precious, used under CC BY 2.0. Thanks to @politic_animal for the spot, and to commenters below for filling in some of the gaps in this story.

16 comments

  1. Emily Norton

    Representatives of the Greenwich Line User Group and the Westcombe Society were told at a stakeholder meeting that the Thames Link trains will definitely stop at Deptford, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park.

  2. Jon

    From reading the consultation paper it looks like there are plans to stop the Thameslink service at every station except Woolwich Dockyard, Belvedere and Erith.

  3. maryorelse

    You – and most of your readers – will be too young to remember those far off days when we sold something called ‘Thameslink2000’ which meant that we only had to put up with a bad service on the Greenwich line for a measured number of years until – in many years time – but eventually in the dawn of the millennium – we would have trains which went to Bedford ‘at District Line frequencies’.
    Ah happy days of my youth – when I believed what transport authorities said!

  4. Political Animal

    What could be an interesting under-current of this proposal is whether it is aimed at paving the way for devolution of Southeastern metro services to TfL (admittedly, these proposals will have been drawn up when the mood music from government was a lot more favorable towards such devolution than it is now). By serving the Medway towns via the Thameslink route, this potentially means that the current Charing Cross-Gillingham services can be terminated at Dartford (or possibly Gravesend), meaning that the reasonably self-contained group of Southeastern metro services (Dartford lines/Hayes/Orpington/Sevenoaks) will no longer extend very far outside Greater London. This would make separating off this set of routes for placing under TfL oversight much easier, both operationally and politically. Admittedly, the Greenwich line would then have a mix of devolved and non-devolved trains, but similar things already happen on the most recent routes to join the Overground out of Liverpool Street.

    Well, that’s me trying to be optimistic, anyway. And even if this isn’t the case, the improved links to the northern edge of the City and to Kings Cross would definitely be welcome – and St Albans is lovely for a day out…

  5. Chris

    I don’t want to go direct to Luton bloody Airport.

    I want to go direct to Charing Cross. I used to be able to and now the fact I can’t is being sold to me as an improvement.

  6. Darian Thomson

    The problem with Charing Cross from the Greenwich line is that all of the Southeastern tracks get blocked. I’d rather have more frequent trains to either Cannon Street/Blackfriars and if changing at London Bridge is the price I pay for a higher frequency then so be it.

    Also St. Pancras is so much better for access to the many tube lines that are a bit difficult to get to from SE London like the Piccadilly line.

  7. Darryl

    Political Animal – good point. I always assumed the Gillingham trains would stay with the remaining Southeastern – although I expect that as these trains are expected to call at Stone Crossing, etc, people from Gravesend heading for the City won’t be happy with their trains slowing down. Seems a bit harsh on Woolwich Dockyard (yes, short platforms, but this can be worked around), Belvedere and Erith for trains to whizz through when they stop at Stone Crossing…

    I think the thing people need to be vigilant about is whether the existing Southeastern trains will be cut back to accommodate this – there should be room to fit them all in, giving Deptford-Westcombe Park a handy 8 trains per hour (but Charing Cross, eh?) and Charlton, Woolwich Arsenal and Abbey Wood a super 10 trains per hour. I can remember when there were just two trains to Charing Cross…

  8. fromthemurkydepths

    Not stopping at Erith would be odd. Massive housing plans there. Belvedere too as Bexley has deemed it an area for mass housebuilding. presumably at the expense of industry which is also being shunted out of Charlton.

  9. fromthemurkydepths

    Agree Darryl about being vigilant about cuts. They may think Abbey Wood Crossrail will reduce demand, but as seen Charlton Riverside will see many thousands of homes, as will Deptford. Any reduction in passengers due to Crossrail could well be very short lived.

    It’s clear that many planning permissions pay little attention to rail services in their transport statements. And likewise, Network Rail aren’t often too aware of future housing plans. Things like Charlton Riverside and the 5k homes it could bring should be on their radar but sometimes it seems there’s some ignorance.

  10. Darryl

    There are other cuts in the broader document too – such as axeing trains from New Cross Gate to Gatwick and Surrey/Sussex destinations, which are bloody handy if you’re heading out that way (and cheaper).

  11. Ned

    An immediate question is how the average passenger on the Greenwich line was supposed to find out about this. All the information is linked to through the Southern website and there appears to be no intention to add it to Southeastern’s. The Kent Thameslink information sheet map misses the line off altogether. You have to go looking for this stuff or hope someone else will.

    As for the plans, there are pluses and minuses. On the plus side, a link through to Kings Cross & St Pancras will be very useful and Blackfriars does offer some useful National Rail connections. On the minus side, Blackfriars is not as useful as Waterloo was, but that game was lost many years ago. When coming back from London, the service is now split between Blackfriars and Cannon Street, leaving a decision to be made about where to catch your train (answer – London Bridge). Potentially the bigger minus is the risk of delay contagion. There are enough troublespots as it is, without adding in a panda on the line at Mill Hill (or something less outlandish anyway)

  12. fromthemurkydepths

    Ned – Blackfriars would only offer 2 trains an hour to the Greenwich/Woolwich line whilst Cannon St would be around 6, so that would be the choice for many I’d expect. Also, being the departure point would help with getting a seat. London Bridge would be best though if not too inconvenient to reach as it could have up to 10 to the Greenwich/Woolwich line, though 2 of those could be via Lewisham and Blackheath so only for people going past Charlton.

  13. Pingback: Will Erith, Belvedere and Woolwich see rail service cuts due to Thameslink? | fromthemurkydepths
  14. Mike Pellatt (@mpellatt)

    I understand the main driver for this isn’t connected with TfL takeovers, changing Southeastern services or anything like that, but is the capacity constraints at Windmill Bridge Junction (to the north of East and West Croydon stations) which have led GTR to conclude that the originally planned timetable wouldn’t work. So they needed to find somewhere else to the south to send some of their services, and this was it. Especially since the Dartford route was in the original plans.

  15. nate

    I’m worried that the CX-Gillingham via Lewisham and Woolwich will be axed, if they plan on having Thameslink trains run to Rainham, or will the CX-Gillingham service be extended to Ramsgate (this used service used to run as far as Ramsgate until the early 1990s when it was cut back to Gillingham)

    With the Sidcup, Bexleyheath and Cannon Street via Greenwich lines being taken over by the overground line and the Greenwich line having additional services from the Thameslink route, will this leave
    The CX-Gillingham route the last remaining South Eastern line? Surely they wouldn’t axe this service, it’s still popular and heavily used!

    They tried to remodel the route in the early to mid 2000s by diverting the Gillingham trains via Greenwich, as a semi fast service and having a Plumstead to Victoria/Cannon Street semi fast train but they revised because it wasn’t working

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