Class: First (kind of)
Date: Wednesday 24th February 2021
With services from Bedford, Cambridge and Peterborough in the north, through Central London, to Kent, East & West Sussex and some of the south London suburbs, Thameslink connects London’s northern and southern commuter belts and was the controversial winner of the 2020 ‘World Cup of Tube Lines’. I’ll admit this one is a bit of a cheat given that one, I was travelling in declassified first-class, however, if we’re completely honest, Thameslink’s first-class is no different to sitting in the declassified first section (as we’ll see in this post) I feel its fair to include it as a first-class review.
I started my journey at Peterborough, the most northern terminus of the Thameslink network, and was travelling down to City Thameslink, a station in the heart of London and the middle of the ‘Thameslink Core’. Whilst it may seem unfair to compare what is essentially a commuter service to the likes of LNER’s ‘Highland Chieftain’, this train covers a distance of over 116 miles on its journey south to Horsham, a journey which takes just under three hours.
From London, this is about the same as the journey to Newark in terms of distance, whilst I’d get to at least Darlington in about the same timeframe. Given ultimately this post is comparing the comfort and service during the journey, I feel its fair to look at the service you’d get if you were travelling all the way from Peterborough to Horsham, or Bedford to Brighton.
Thameslink operates a fleet of dual voltage class 700s, with both 8-car 700/0s and 12-car 700/1s operating services across the network. 700/1s are assigned to the Peterborough route, and 700116 was the unit for my journey south. Given the nature of the Thameslink network, operating on both the third rail powered former Southern region, and the overhead lines of the Midland & East Coast Mainlines, the class 700s are fairly unique in they can operate on both of these power sources.
All of the class 700s have two first-class sections, one each at the front and rear, which take up about half of the first and last carriages. Despite this, the rear fist-class section on all Thameslink services are declassified, as is the front section on some services (mainly the Sutton loop). Because of this, you can travel in a first-class seat from Peterborough to London, only having the pay the price of a standard class ticket.
Thameslink doesn’t have first-class lounges at any station on its network, and first-class ‘Thameslink only’ tickets don’t allow access to the lounges of long-distance operators such as LNER or East Midlands Railway at stations Thameslink serve. Due to Thameslink being a commuter operator, there is also no on-board catering on their services, including in first-class and so realistically the only benefit of first-class is a slightly comfier seat (this is relative given how uncomfortable the ironing board seats in standard are) and proper tables.
Given an off-peak single ticket from Peterborough to ‘London Terminals’ valid on Thameslink and Great Northern only is just shy of £50, you would essentially be paying an extra £20 for a more padded seat at the front of the train. At St. Pancras the exit from the southbound platform is towards the rear of the train and so being at the front of the train is actually a hindrance.
So, with no catering, no first-class lounge, and the same seats available in a more convenient location on the train, is buying a first-class ticket on Thameslink worth it? Definitely not! Just head to the back of the train and sit in the declassified first-class section and get exactly the same for the price of a standard ticket.
Overall Rating 10/25 (read about my rating system here!)