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Changes to Southern services – GTR announce biggest ever timetable shake-up

The timetable which will operate as from next month will mean changes to trains running through Gatwick and to the Brighton mainline as a whole.

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Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which includes Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express, has advised passengers to plan ahead for the biggest timetable shake-up in UK rail history in a month’s time.

Ahead of the new schedule, which will operate from 02.00 on Sunday 20 May, the UK’s largest rail franchise, GTR has published the new details of train services that will affect almost a million rail journeys a day in the southern half of the UK and includes changes to trains running along the Brighton mainline.

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GTR runs up to 3,200 trains a day – one every 27 seconds – and the times of all of these will change under the improved timetable.

GTR passengers will benefit from more frequent services and the shake-up will mean changes to the Brighton mainline too.

A new all day direct service between Brighton, Gatwick Airport, Central London, Stevenage and Cambridge will be introduced. This will be phased in as 1 train per hour until Dec 2018 when the frequency will increase to 2 trains per hour.

The full timetable changes can be seen here.

Space for 40,000 more passengers into London at peak times will be added next month, a weekly capacity boost equivalent to the population of Bristol.

Expansion of service is a major step forward in the Government-sponsored £7bn Thameslink Programme, the upgrade project which includes the recently-completed £1bn upgrade of London Bridge station by Network Rail.

Over more than a decade, platforms have been extended, stations rebuilt, and power supplies boosted for longer trains. Signalling has been upgraded and track reworked to improve reliability and allow trains to travel at high-frequency through central London in “self-drive” mode. GTR has also undertaken the UK’s biggest driver recruitment and training campaign.

Charles Horton, GTR Chief Executive, said:

“A huge number of passengers will notice the benefits in terms of new journeys, better intervals between trains, improved reliability, and more capacity across a wide region.

“We are redeploying trains and crew and there may be some disruption, so we ask passengers for their understanding during the transition period of several weeks during which time a very small number of trains will not run.

“Almost a quarter of all rail journeys are taken on the GTR network and because of the necessary scale of the change we strongly urge passengers to check ahead as to how their journeys will be affected.

“Introduction of the new timetables is a major milestone in the delivery of RailPlan 20/20, our programme to modernise rail services, taking advantage of the new infrastructure and trains provided by the Thameslink Programme.

“These changes followed the biggest and most effective consultation of its kind during which we made hundreds of amendments, some substantial, in response to 28,000 responses.”

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Crime

Two jailed after attempt to smuggle 8.5kgs of cocaine through Gatwick

“This was a deliberate, if unsophisticated attempt to smuggle dangerous Class A drugs into the UK”, says Chris Capel, Assistant Director of Border Force South.

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The drugs, which had been wrapped in plastic and hidden inside boxes marked ‘rum’, weighed approximately 8.5kgs.

Two men from Barbados are facing a total of 13 years in jail after pleading guilty to attempting to smuggle an estimated 8.5kgs of cocaine into the UK.

On 1 September, Border Force officers stopped 62-year-old Grantley Herbert Thompson, and 30-year-old Jamal Ricardo Walcott, in the customs channels at Gatwick Airport’s North Terminal. Both had arrived on a flight from Barbados.

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During a search of their baggage officers discovered a white powder, wrapped in green plastic, and hidden inside boxes marked rum. The powder was subsequently tested and gave a positive reaction to the field test for cocaine. The cocaine had an estimated street value of £535,000.

Chris Capel, Assistant Director of Border Force South said:

“This was a deliberate, if unsophisticated attempt to smuggle dangerous Class A drugs into the UK and I commend the Border Force officers whose work ensured that Thompson and Walcott are now behind bars.

“Illegal drugs have a significant impact on our society, being the root cause behind countless burglaries, thefts and robberies. They are also used as a commodity by organised criminals linked to violence and exploitation of the vulnerable.

“We continue to work with our colleagues from the National Crime Agency (NCA) to do all we can to stamp out this despicable trade and bring those responsible to justice.”

The case was referred to the NCA and Thompson and Walcott were charged with importation of a class A drug.

62-year-old Grantley Thompson.

On Thursday, 11 October the pair appeared at Croydon Crown Court where they admitted the smuggling attempt. Both were sentenced to six years and six months imprisonment immediately.

30-year-old Jamal Walcott.

The Government’s Serious Violence Strategy, which was launched in April, aims to combat the devastating impact drugs have on levels of serious violence.

It also highlights a strong link between drugs and serious violence and the related harm and exploitation from county lines. The Government has set out the action it will take to tackle this violent and exploitative criminal activity. The action of Border Force to stop drugs before they get into the country forms a key part of this work.

Border Force officers use hi-tech search equipment to combat immigration crime and detect banned and restricted goods that smugglers attempt to bring into the country.

Nationally, they use an array of search techniques including sniffer dogs, carbon dioxide detectors, heartbeat monitors and scanners – as well as visual searches – to find well-hidden stowaways, illegal drugs, firearms and tobacco which would otherwise end up causing harm to local people, businesses and communities.

Anyone with information about activity they suspect may be linked to smuggling should call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or go to https://www.gov.uk/report-smuggling

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