Coronavirus Update from Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR)

Coronavirus Update from Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR)

Following this morning’s announcement by the Department for Transport, we are writing with an update on the planning underway at Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Network Rail to support a step up in train services.

From Sunday 17 May 2020, the rail industry will introduce a new timetable.

The rail industry is committed to providing a train service that supports key workers to be able to get to work.

While the Government advice remains that anyone who can, should continue to work entirely from home, there are people who will need to go to their place of work.  The Government has published guidance for people who cannot work from home and must use public transport.

As a starting point, passengers are being encouraged to avoid public transport where they have alternatives, this is to protect as much space as possible for those who must use it. This is because even as public transport begins to return to a full service, the 2-metre social distancing rule will leave effective capacity for one in ten passengers on many parts of the UK network. For those travelling, the guidance recommends that passengers:

  • keep 2 metres apart from others wherever possible
  • wear a face covering if they can
  • use contactless or smartcard payments where possible
  • avoid rush hour travel wherever feasible
  • wash or sanitise their hands before and after travel
  • follow advice from staff

This guidance can be found at:

It is important to emphasise that the times of most trains will change, and we are asking customers to plan before travelling. The timetable is available in journey planners such a from today, 12 May 2020.

This is a temporary timetable designed to provide more space on board for key workers. As a result, and because of the impact of coronavirus, the rail industry will not introduce the full Summer timetable change on Sunday 17 May 2020 as originally planned, however, the industry is going ahead with the £150m upgrade of Gatwick Airport railway station, which will provide much needed improvements in the future, and our timetable is designed to support this upgrade. It is our intention, that when it is the right time to introduce more train services, we will scale-up gradually into the full Summer 2020 timetable.

We are scrutinising our train planning and adapting our operations to comply with the government’s social distancing guidelines for customers and to ensure the safety of our colleagues whether working at stations, on services, in depots or out across the network.

Over the next few days more information will be released, helping to manage passenger flow and social distancing at stations. 

Briefing: Step-up Temporary Timetable, effective Sunday 17 May 2020

From 17 May 2020, the UK rail industry will introduce a new timetable, to support the United Kingdom’s efforts to tackle coronavirus. The focus is on increasing space for key workers, safely and reliably. The timetable will operate until further notice.

The timetable restores some additional train services with earlier start and later finish times, adds more cross-London Thameslink services and increases frequencies across the network to create more space for customers on-board.

The new timetable is an adapted version of the plan for the Saturday timetable in the original Summer 2020 plan, now operating on a Monday-Saturday basis. These adaptions are focused on matching where possible early and late-night services and uplifts in train frequencies to cover peak travel periods.

It is different to the timetable that is currently operating, so it is important that passengers check before travelling because the times of trains and station calling patterns will change.  

Designing the step-up temporary timetable

The base of the new timetable is the plan for the Saturday Summer 2020 timetable, this is because it supports the £150m upgrade of Gatwick Airport railway station. This is a vitally important project that will be transformative in terms of improving accessibility and reducing platform crowding and delays. It will be delivered between May 2020 and 2023, with two years of intensive platform works between May 2020 and May 2022. You can find out more about the upgrade at  

The platform works affect the number of trains that can stop at Gatwick and slightly reduces the number of trains that can operate per hour across the entire Brighton Main Line. While this important work is underway, there will be sixteen trains per hour in each direction through the station for the majority of the day, two fewer than could otherwise operate. This has created changes to Southern and Thameslink services as we make the most of the available capacity on the railway and run longer trains wherever possible.

Most importantly, the Saturday 2020 plan involved the addition of a second per hour Thameslink service operating between Brighton and Cambridge, and the extension of Southern Coastway services to eight carriages on the routes between London Victoria and Littlehampton or Eastbourne. These plans have been maintained, as has the extension of Rainham Thameslink services to Luton, both of which will create more passenger space and will match the weekday service.

However, there are other important changes to be aware of. Coronavirus has unfortunately delayed the works to complete Stevenage Platform 5 until later this Summer. While the new platform and turnback will be used by train services as soon as it is available, in the short term it means that the rail replacement service between Stevenage and Watton-at-Stone / Hertford North will be reinstated, now on a Monday to Saturday basis.

Gatwick Express as a brand will remain suspended, because of changes of demand for the airport. However, Gatwick Express trains and crew will continue to support their Southern and Thameslink colleagues by operating 12 carriage trains between Brighton and London Victoria, as an adaption of the original Saturday plan. These trains will call at Haywards Heath, Gatwick Airport and East Croydon to provide as much passenger capacity within the constraints of the Gatwick station platform works and to use these stations as hubs. These trains will be shown in the timetable and journey planners as Southern services.

In addition, we have sought to maintain special-request key worker trains added during the initial coronavirus revised timetable and looked to increase train frequency and capacity wherever possible, such as by adding Peterborough services during the peaks, or increasing the frequency of GN Metro services to 4TPH during the two busiest hours of the day.

However, we are working with limitations to ensure that services remain resilient at a time when staff will be ill or in self-isolation. As a result, for now the Southern Milton Keynes service can only operate between Watford Junction and Clapham Junction and some Southern Metro routes will operate as two trains per hour services.