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Expected Southeastern train delays next year

It’s a little over two months now until major service changes begin for trains serving London Bridge station. Changes are scheduled to start on 22 December when trains to Charing Cross will be unable to stop at London Bridge in the morning rush hour. This becomes permanent at all times from January.

Southeastern have just begun releasing a magazine which reveals expected performance targets in April 2015 (page 17), and it shows a sharp drop from the levels previous to rebuilding beginning. This seems to indicate they expect a difficult start when service changes kick in. The Greenwich line between Deptford and Westcombe Park sees two morning peak services cut along with four evening peak services – almost 20%.  The rest of the Woolwich line has one train running from Charlton to Lewisham.

The targets are broken down for each line. The London to Gillingham via Charlton line has a target of just 74.9% in January which is down from 87.1% in December. This is the biggest drop, and curious as the service runs almost always off-peak and has a lot of padding already built into its timetable. It could be that they expect many people on the Greenwich line to specifically use it in addition to commuters from other lines changing at Lewisham, as passengers can no longer change at London Bridge for trains to Charing Cross, and also some taking the DLR from Greenwich to Lewisham for Charing Cross trains. Lewisham could well be a real pressure point.

London to Dartford via Woolwich Arsenal sees a drop from 88.9% to 81.9%. All lines can be seen below. The big drops only seem to impact lines to Dartford –

Southeastern Targets 2015

The performance targets pick up pretty quickly after January. At first I thought the large drops may in part be due to line closures, but I don’t think that counts, as performance stats only measure trains that are scheduled to run. If that’s the case it must be because a difficult beginning and transition period is predicted. There has also been no word on what sanctions will be taken against southeastern if they miss their targets.

One other thing to note is that existing stats are already quite unreliable and easy to manipulate. This is done by adding on excessive time at the end of journeys between the penultimate and last stop. The image below shows the excessive time added on from Barnehurst to Crayford which allows lateness to drop below 5 minutes. Under 5 minutes does not count as late in the stats.

CAN - CrayfordIt works the other way too. I’ve noticed over the years checking on phone apps that trains from London Bridge to Charing Cross are timetabled at 8 minutes most of the time, but some are given 10 minutes. The extra two minutes allows some to sneak in under 5 minutes late and show as on time on stats.

As for the promised 12 car trains running by January (already years late) there’s still no word on whether these will run. In addition there is still no confirmation passengers will be able to use the tube or bus to reach Charing Cross, London Bridge or Cannon Street when services are re-directed or unable to stop at London Bridge. This was supposed to be made public in early October.

An intruiging line in that link is this –

“After the Thameslink Programme is complete Plumstead, Woolwich Dockyard, Belvedere and Erith will resume running to Charing Cross”

Presumably this means existing fast trains from Gillingham via Lewisham will stop at these stations in future instead of passing through as they do now. This will end fast trains on the line. As they call at Woolwich Dockyard this presumably means all trains on the line will do so in future, and as the station cannot take trains longer than 10 coaches then no trains on the line will be able to run with 12 coaches. This is despite millions being spent extending platforms to take them. Clarification is needed here.

I have suggested in the past moving Woolwich Dockyard station slightly west away from the cutting to open land where Morris Walk estate is. The estate is shortly to be demolished and rebuilt with a greater number of houses, and close by is land earmarked for mass house building in the Charlton masterplan. Funding could come from those developerments and 12 car running achieved.

EDIT : Just seen another particularly good example of southeastern stat manipulation. Giving themselves 10 minutes from Slade Green to Dartford. This takes about 3 minutes. Train arrives at the second to last stop late. Give timetable padding and then it arrives ‘on time’ at final stop. See below –

Woolwich - dartford

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2 Comments

  1. It is worth pointing out that Period 1 2015/16 commences in April 2015! Period 13 2013/14 was in March 2014. The railway accounting year runs from April to March with 13 4-weekly periods. I assume there is some form of blockade or interruption in and around Easter 2015 that will affect the Greenwich line.

    It is bizarre that South Eastern have not explained what a “reporting period” is or what dates the periods in the table refer to. I also struggle to see the relevance of comparing last March with next April. Seems a very odd set of data to present without context or linking to planned works on the railway. While there are clearly big changes in January 2015 I am not convinced that the perf targets relate to that period at all. Sorry to “drop a bomb” on your article but as a former railway person I can spot the disconnect between reporting periods and the calendar dates for upcoming changes. Might be worth challenging South Eastern to be clear about what they are saying!

    • Thanks for the comment. Yes it seems pretty strange to compare April 2015 will a seemingly arbitrary month. I will amend the article. I do wonder how they anticipate Jan 2015 to be as it will clearly be a difficult period of transition. Couple that to the inevitable weather problems that occur in January and it’s a bad recipe!

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