Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Too many is often better than too few

Posted in Customer service, High Speed, Infrastructure, London by Chairman Pip on 23 August 2011

As I was sat on the train home from Nottingham yesterday, something got me thinking. My route up the previous Thursday had seen me go from Kings Cross (changing at Grantham), while the way back was a direct train to St Pancras. In terms of those two major termini, there is not that much to choose between them in overall size – Kings Cross has a total of twelve platforms (all terminal), with nine in the main train shed and another three in the adjacent shed (generally used for local services); St Pancras has fifteen platforms in total, with thirteen of those as terminal platforms in the main trainshed (the other two are the sub-surface Thameslink platforms). Taking the Thameslink platforms at St Pancras and the three local platforms at Kings Cross out of the equation, St Pancras therefore has four more platforms than its next door neighbour. But, because there is a single route out of Kings Cross, any train coming into the station can pretty much serve any platform, whether it is one of East Coast’s long distance services, or a train up to East Anglia run by First Capital Connect, or even one of the open access operators. St Pancras on the other hand is served by two distinct routes – the Midland Main Line that runs to Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield, and High Speed 1. Further, because the UK is not part of the Schengen Area, platforms 5-10, which are the ones used by Eurostar (and would be used by any other prospective international operators) are physically isolated to maintain border controls. Therefore, platforms 1-4 and 11-13 are used for domestic services. But here is the crux of the issue. The East Midlands is regarded as potentially a major economic centre, one of the central reasons why the towns that form it are pushing so hard for a stop on High Speed 2, and yet the trains that connect it to London have the use of just four platforms, which is seen as simply too few, especially in the event that East Midlands Trains seek to increase their services. So, one has to ask oneself, why when the rebuild was being undertaken was some way of connecting platforms 1-4 with platforms 11-13 not sought? During the initial stages of the station’s rebuild, platforms 11-13 were used by Midland Mainline (EMT’s predecessor) prior to the current location being made ready, before they were turned over for Southeastern. During this process, could not some sort of diveunder be put in place that would have enabled trains from the Midland Main Line to access the Southeastern platforms (and perhaps vice versa) to allow for overload situations, such as the weekend closure of the Thameslink route that sees all trains from Bedford terminating at St Pancras – these have to use the Midland Main Line platforms. How much easier to have access to the Southeastern platforms, while similarly allowing access for Southeastern’s trains in the event that they have to temporarily vacate for engineering work?

A Southeastern Class 395 occupies a platform next to an East Midlands Trains InterCity 125 - by increasing the number of available platforms for domestic use, you could reduce the potential for delays

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2 Responses

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  1. The Fact Compiler said, on 24 August 2011 at 11:05 am

    You are quite right about the shocking lack of domestic platforms at Agincourt International.

    Hopefully the recession will put paid to the Champagne bar that occupies a space where an additional platform could go.

    Although of course were this to occur then travel to the East Midlands would be that little bit less enjoyable…


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