Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Gatwick Express extended to Brighton

The Gatwick Express has been a thorny issue for a while. They take up an enormous amount of track capacity on one of London's busiest commuter routes, yet even at peak times are at best half-full. Meanwhile, pressure from BAA and the airlines make scrapping them politically impossible.

The DfT today announced a plan that does a shockingly good job of pleasing everyone. The Gatwick Express service itself will be essentially unchanged, but 6 trains each rush hour will double as commuter services to Brighton. To pull this off, the separate franchise will be scrapped and operations transferred to Southern. The enhanced service will need extra trains, so Southern will be getting some of the Class 442 units that were controversially withdrawn by South West Trains last year.

Also announced is the repatriation of 12 trains from Southern back to the Thameslink route they were built for, which should increase capacity there. Southern will in turn get a new fleet of Electrostars.

The DfT's full briefing is here, and the Brighton Main Line Route Utilisation Strategy that prompted this is here.