Thursday, 13 July 2017

Exploring the Wimbledon Loop

The pioneer of the class 319's, built from 1987 for Thameslink services, 319001 arrives into St Helier with a Sutton service on a hot 21st June 2017. 
Thameslink's Wimbledon Loop is one of those railways on the border between London and Suburbia that can often seem to be forgotten. Conceived as the Wimbledon & Sutton Railway it was a fairly late addition to the South London rail network opening between 1929 and 1930. It was originally planned that trains to Sutton via Morden would run as an extension of the District Railway branch to Wimbledon though in the event the link was never built and electric services were operated from the outset by the Southern Railway. When built the line served a largely rural area- particularly between the towns of Wimbledon and Carshalton with housing developers keen to extend the London suburbs promoting it's construction. Housing developments did indeed spring up along the route and the population in the area rocketed- however competition from the City & South London Railway (today's Northern Line) which had extended to Morden meant that passenger levels never reached the levels which were hoped for.
The future for the Wimbledon Loop - Siemens class 700's are now being delivered and entering service in ever increasing numbers. The 700 fleet is set to displace all class 319s' before the end of 2017. 700005 approaches Tooting. 21/06/2017
319443 arrives at West Sutton bound for Sutton. 21/06/2017
The service today is operated by Thameslink (part of Govia Thameslink Railway) to much the same pattern that was begun in 1995 when 'Wimbledon Loop' services began running through the Snow Hill Tunnel from Luton. Two trains per hour run around the loop in each direction before heading through Central London to Luton. A recent threat to the cross-London service came prior to the introduction of new trains to the route when it was proposed to curtail the service at Blackfriars in order to prevent shorter 8 car trains (the maximum length permitted on the Wimbledon Loop) from reducing capacity through the Thameslink core- after a campaign however the through route was saved. From the inception of Thameslink the route has been almost exclusively served by the dual voltage class 319's. As part of the 'Thameslink Program' these units are all being replaced by new fixed 8 car 700/0 trains from Siemens which should oust the remaining 319's during 2017. During the transition period class 377's have also appeared on the route. In addition to the all day Thameslink service a limited peak hours only service is operated by Southern using class 455's which run a service to/from London Bridge.
455843 leads a classmate into South Merton with a Southern
peak service from London Bridge. 21/06/2017
Many stations on the route are unstaffed and platform design is notable for the Island platforms on the section form Wimbledon to Sutton, many of which feature grassed central areas between the two running rails such is their width. The route is double tracked throughout with the notable exception of Wimbledon station where the down line through platform 10 has been converted for use by Tramlink over the former Wimbledon - West Croydon route leaving just the reversible platform 9 for Wimbledon Loop services.
One further notable feature of the route is the  'The Wall of Death' - a distinctive deep curved concrete cutting between Sutton and West Sutton which has gained its colloquial name form its likeness to motorcycle stunt fairground ride.

The familiar face of the BREL class 319 will soon be disappearing from Wimbledon. 319437 enters the single track section through platform 9 with an evening service towards Sutton. 21/06/2017

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