28 April 1996 – 22 June 2008
Part of the South Central franchise
22 June 2008 – 19 September 2009
20 September 2009 – 25 July 2015
Part of the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise
26 July 2015 – September 2021
|Main Route(s):||London Victoria - Gatwick Airport|
|Fleet size:||24 Class 442 Wessex Electric
1 Class 73
|Stations called at:||8|
|Route km operated:||43.3|
|National Rail abbreviation:||GX|
|Parent company:||Govia Thameslink Railway|
|Gatwick Express Route Map|
Gatwick Express is a high-frequency rail passenger service between London Victoria and Gatwick Airport in South East England. It is the brand name used by the Govia Thameslink Railway train operating company on the Gatwick Express route of the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise.
The service began in May 1984 with air-conditioned InterCity carriages operated by British Rail. When it was privatised in April 1996, National Express took over the franchise. In June 2008, Gatwick Express ceased to exist as a separate franchise, when it was merged into the Southern train operating company, although it continues to maintain its own identity. In July 2015, Southern and Gatwick Express were merged into Govia Thameslink Railway. Alternate off-peak Gatwick Express services now continue non-stop beyond Gatwick Airport to Brighton.
Gatwick Airport railway station opened in June 1958. Initially the rail service was provided entirely by London to Brighton stopping services, but more trains began to call with the introduction of the summer timetable in June 1958. One of the key elements of this was the extension of Three Bridges to Bognor Regis stopping services to start and terminate at London Victoria. These trains would run through a reversible platform at Gatwick where a portion would detach and wait in the platform for passengers until the next up train from Bognor Regis was attached and the train would depart for Victoria. For this service British Rail used a small batch of seven Class 402 2HALs in order to work with the trains used on the Bognor Regis services, suitable for airport link use because of their larger luggage space.
This situation lasted until the early 1970s, when increased passenger and luggage travel to the station was rendering the old system obsolete. British Rail therefore decided to adapt a number of Class 423 4VEPs with increased luggage capacity (at the expense of fewer second class seats) and were redesignated as Class 427 4VEGs. The service however remained much the same, with the units attaching and detaching from Bognor Regis bound services running via Redhill. This led to somewhat extended journey times which meant the service lacked any real purpose, as the faster services began calling at Gatwick Airport from the early 1970s, and made the option of travelling to Gatwick from London on the service lack appeal to those who knew better.
In 1975 British Airports Authority airport director John Mulkern, British Caledonian Airways chairman Adam Thomson and British Rail's Southern Region regional manager Bob Reid, formed the Gatwick Liaison Group to discuss matters of mutual interest.
As a subsidiary of this, the Gatwick Promotion Group, under the chairmanship of the airport public relations manager David Hurst, was formed to market the airport. One of the first successes of the group was to persuade the British Rail board to redevelop Gatwick station by building a raft over the platforms, and this was opened by British Rail chairman Peter Parker in 1980. It was a long-term aim of the group to have a non-stop service between the airport and central London in order to counter the perceived distance from the capital both to the UK market and to potential passengers at the overseas destinations.
At first the service from Bognor Regis, which by this stage only stopped at East Croydon, was branded Rapid City Link.
In May 1984 the non-stop Gatwick Express service began, using Mark 2 stock. A 30-minute journey time was advertised, although some journeys would take nearer 35 minutes, especially during peak hours.
Gatwick Express was the first portion of British Rail's InterCity sector to be converted into a separate train operating unit, ready for franchising as a private business with the assets transferred to Gatwick Express Limited in March 1994. The Gatwick Express franchise was awarded by the Director of Passenger Rail Franchising to National Express with the franchise starting on 28 April 1996.
Operated by Southern
In April 2007 the Department for Transport announced that the Gatwick Express franchise was to be incorporated into the South Central franchise and the services transferred to Southern on 22 June 2008.
On 20 August 2008 the Department for Transport announced that Abellio, Govia, National Express and Stagecoach had been shortlisted to bid for the new South Central franchise. On 9 June 2009 the Department for Transport announced that Govia had retained the franchise beginning on 20 September 2009.
The Department for Transport has announced that, at the conclusion of the Southern franchise in July 2015, the South Central franchise will be merged into the proposed new Thameslink Southern Great Northern franchise.
In March 2012 the Department for Transport announced that Abellio, FirstGroup, Govia, MTR and Stagecoach had been shortlisted to bid for the new franchise. The Invitation to Tender was to have been issued in October 2012, and the successful bidder announced in Spring 2013. However, in the wake of the InterCity West Coast refranchising process collapsing, the Secretary of State for Transport announced in October 2012 that the process would be put on hold pending the results of a review.
With the last franchise expiring on 25 July 2015, the South Central franchise merged with the Thameslink Great Northern franchise to create Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern. This is operated by Govia Thameslink Railway, which is also owned by Southern's parent company, Govia. The Gatwick Express brand identity has been retained.
The main service operates every 15 minutes, taking 30 minutes to cover the 27-mile journey from London Victoria to Gatwick.
In April 2007 the Department for Transport announced that the Gatwick Express franchise was to be incorporated into the South Central franchise. This was part of a plan to increase capacity on the Brighton Main Line by extending peak-hour services from Gatwick to Brighton from December 2008. This doubled the number of London to Brighton express trains during those periods.
Since December 2015, alternate Gatwick Express services have been extended to Brighton.
Tickets and fares
London - Gatwick is one of the few journeys on the UK National Rail network for which passengers are required to choose between different operators when buying tickets — on all other flows shared by different National Rail operators tickets for immediate travel are inter-available, although some restrictions may apply on cheaper tickets. Through tickets for which the London-Gatwick line is part of a permitted route are valid on the Gatwick Express, provided they are not endorsed Not Gatwick Express. Tickets from London to stations south of Gatwick generally bear this restriction. Southern tickets to Redhill can be used in emergencies, as the train stops there during such times.
Historically, standard Gatwick Express services did not charge penalty fares and permitted tickets to be purchased on board at no extra charge. Journeys to or from stations south of Gatwick were subject to penalty fares as normal. This rule applied to the six weekday services each way that start or end at Brighton. However, in December 2011 electronic ticket gates were installed at Gatwick Airport and London Victoria platforms 13 and 14 (where the Gatwick Express arrives and departs), meaning that tickets can no longer be bought on the train and must be purchased either in advance or at the station before boarding.
In May 2013 the Chairman of Gatwick Airport, Roy McNulty, criticised Gatwick Express for its overcrowding and old rolling stock. He said that the train service sometimes "at times veers towards Third World conditions" and that it gives air passengers arriving in the United Kingdom a bad first impression of the UK, and called for major improvements. Southern responded by stating that it had provided some 20,000 extra peak-hour seats every week on the London-Brighton line.
Until 1984 the service was operated by Class 423 slam-door stock, coded 4-VEG (G for Gatwick).
A franchise commitment by National Express was the replacement of these with new stock, and eight Class 460 Junipers started to be delivered from January 1999. Because of reliability problems, some of the old stock remained in service until 2005.
To replace the last of the old stock, a pair of Class 458 Junipers were transferred from South West Trains for use as spares. They remained in their existing livery but with Gatwick Express branding. Their seating was modified from high density 3+2 seating configuration to 2+2 configuration, some seating being replaced with luggage racks. However, these units were never called into service and returned to SouthWest Trains.
To provide extra capacity on the services extended to Brighton, from December 2008 seventeen refurbished Class 442 Wessex Electrics, last used by South West Trains, began to enter service. After retaining the franchise in 2009, Southern leased the remaining seven Class 442s.
The Class 460s were withdrawn from service in September 2012. The Class 460s have been merged with the mechanically similar British Rail Class 458 units used by South West Trains in order to provide more stock at peak times.
Gatwick Express's fleet is maintained at Stewarts Lane depot.
|Class 73||electro-diesel locomotive||90||145||1||1962||73202, painted in current Southern livery, used as a Thunderbird (a railway locomotive that provides replacement power in the event of failure of the booked locomotive)|
|Class 442 formerly Wessex Electric||Electric multiple unit||100||160||24||1988–1989||Transferred from South West Trains in exchange for the Class 460s enabling them to be merged with the Class 458s in order to increase capacity, also used on Southern Brighton Main Line services.|
|Class||Image||Type||Number||Cars per set||Built||Withdrawn||Notes|
|Class 488/2||Converted Mark 2 carriages||10||2||1983–1984||2005|
|Class 489 (GLV)||electric multiple unit||10||1||1983–1984||2005|
|Class 460 (8GAT) Juniper||electric multiple unit||8||8||2000–2001||2012||These were merged with the Class 458 units used by South West Trains to form Class 458/5.|
In May 2014 the franchise was awarded to Govia Thameslink Railway. Govia have also announced in addition to the new Thameslink trains they will order new trains for the Brighton and Gatwick Express routes; 108 carriages are expected. A franchise commitment is to replace the Class 442 in 2016.
|Class||Image||Type||Top speed||Number||Cars per set||Seat layout||Routes operated||Built||Years operated||Notes|
|Class 387/2||EMU||110||177||27||4||2+2||Brighton & Gatwick Express route||2015||From 2016||Due to replace the Class 442|
- Gatwick Express company no 2912338. Companies House.
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- Rail Magazine (520): 6, 17 August 2005 Missing or empty
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As part of British Rail
|Operator of Gatwick Express franchise
South Central franchise
Gatwick Express franchise
|Sub-brand of South Central franchise
2008 - 2015
Govia Thameslink Railway
Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise
South Central (incl Gatwick Express) franchise
|Sub-brand of Thameslink Southern Great Northern Franchise
2015 - present