After all the delivery issues in 2018 (Crossrail and the failed May 2018 timetable launch to name but two) most in the rail industry will be hoping for a more positive year in 2019. In this post I just want to briefly outline a few of my predictions – time will tell if these come true!
Prediction 1 – Crossrail will have a limited service by the end of 2019
My personal view is that, despite the recent indications the project will be further delayed past the end of 2019, we’ll at least have a limited service through the core section from Abbey Wood to Paddington at the December 2019 timetable change – I’m less convinced that there’ll be a full launch as there’s still major unresolved issues outside of the central core (which is certainly less than a year from being ready for full services to run) – I’ve written more detail on this in my previous article.
Prediction 2 – We’ll finally get a launch date for the first stage of East West Rail
East West Rail (a new line that’s due to open its first stage in 2023 between Oxford and Bedford, before continuing to Cambridge later in the decade) construction is scheduled to break ground on construction of what they’re calling Phase 2 (between Bicester and Bletchley) this year. I’m hoping that by the end of the year we’ll have the year – at the very least, and possibly a quarter too – nailed down as a target launch date.
Prediction 3 – Thameslink’s full December 2019 timetable will be delayed
As we’ve only just got to where we were supposed to be in May, I can’t see the DfT/Network Rail wanting to take any risks with this one. The final piece of the puzzle (a new service between Cambridge and Maidstone East) creating the full 24 trains an hour through the Core (between St Pancras and Blackfriars) is due to start in December but I will be surprised to see this before December 2020 – a train every 2 minutes during peak hours is going to require further testing of the new ATO system, and I just can’t see that happening fully this year. (Incidentally, the Thameslink Programme site seems to have been abandoned, and still thinks Crossrail has already launched!)
Prediction 4 – The new Vivarail trains will actually launch this year on my local branch line!
A little bit of a personal-interest one here, admittedly, but I’m really looking forward to the new Vivarail-built 2 car trains running on the Marston Vale line between Bedford and Bletchley. These Class 230 units have been converted from old District line trains on the London Underground, and will be a huge improvement on the Class 150/153 diesel services running now on a line that’s in need of modernisation in places but yet has a distinct amount of charm! I’m hoping to do a feature on this blog about these trains, around the time of launch.
Prediction 5 – Launch of the new Caledonian Sleeper trains
After delays in the construction and testing of the new CAF-built Caledonian Sleeper trains, these should finally be making their debut in the first half of this year – you can see a preview of these new trains here (though as with Thameslink’s site above, ignore the dates!). Again, I hope to experience the new trains for myself and feature these in their own article around the time of launch.
Prediction 6 – at least one of the above is wrong!
To conclude: I’m fully prepared for at least one of the above predictions being wrong. I’d like to think these are all realistic but the rail industry, as we saw in 2018, is an unpredictable beast at times!
What would you like to see in 2019? I’d also be interested to hear what you’d like to see me feature on this blog – is there anything transport related I haven’t covered that you’d like to read about? Do let me know in the comments.