"Vital" rail service is safeguarded
The future of the 'Wimbledon Loop' on the Thameslink rail has been safeguarded ahead of a major overhaul of the network, Rail Minister Simon Burns announced.
Passengers travelling to central London on the Wimbledon Loop had faced the prospect of having to change trains at Blackfriars Station from 2018 under proposals put forward under the Thameslink Programme.
However, after a cross-party campaign from local politicians, as well as rail users, and following an official consultation, the Government announced today (Monday January 21) that the route will continue to operate as part of Thameslink's core services.
Mr Burns said: "The Wimbledon Loop provides a vital service for thousands of Londoners every day, and we have worked hard to safeguard its future after listening to the concerns of local people and stakeholders.
"The Thameslink Programme is having a huge impact on improving rail services across London and beyond, but the department was always concerned that the initial proposals for this route were not quite right.
"I am therefore extremely pleased that Network Rail have relooked at the plans and am confident this decision will provide benefits to rail users for years to come."
Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond has been campaigning to preserve the link. He said: "When I first read the proposals some six years ago I recognised the threat for local commuters.
"The proposals for the new Thameslink service was that all Wimbledon Loop train would terminate at Blackfriars and travellers from Wimbledon would then have to disembark and change. This would cause considerable inconvenience and disruption to all simply because it would allow Network Rail some marginal seconds efficiency gain. I immediately met Lord Adonis who was then Rail Minister and since then have met every Rail Minister. And last November I organised for a delegation to meet the current Rail Minister Simon Burns.
"Last July there was a station wide campaign to inform local people of the dangers to their service. Many people followed my request and contributed to the consultation. Undoubtedly this impressed the Minister as it was one of the biggest responses seen.
"I am delighted by this announcement which is great news for Wimbledon commuters who use the Loop and great news for Wimbledon as it underlines our importance as a local transport hub. The daily disruption would have been tremendous and unnecessary so I am glad this will now not happen."
Councillor Jill Whitehead, chair of Sutton Council's 'Save the Thameslink' group said: "This is wonderful news. When I met the Minister before Christmas with our local MPs Paul Burstow and Tom Brake, we stressed how important this line was. Sutton needs to be connected beyond Blackfriars, and not just for commuters. Holidaymakers and businesses also benefit directly, and we are all helped by the economic boost that this connection gives us.
"All those using Thameslink services in the borough can now be reassured that trains will continue to go beyond Blackfriars rather than stop there. This is a victory for common sense!"
Currently, four trains run every hour from Wimbledon Loop stations serving Merton, Morden, Sutton, Carshalton, Mitcham, Streatham and Tulse Hill, through to St Pancras International and beyond.
Under the new proposals eight Thameslink trains will run per hour via Elephant and Castle, including the four Wimbledon Loop trains, two from Sevenoaks via Bromley South and Catford, and two (peak only) from Maidstone East via Bromley South.
GLA member Dick Tracey and Councillor Chris Edge also expressed their delight. They said: "There were times when we thought we wouldn’t see this day but it is great news for Wimbledon and Merton. Undoubtedly the fact that Stephen recognised the danger six years ago and has consistently raised the issue has been a huge deciding factor in this victory."
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January 21, 2013