Southeastern to be taken over by TfL in 2018 – initial thoughts


So it’s finally happened, and not a day too soon. Much has been written elsewhere. I won’t parrot much of it. Here’s some initial thoughts. No great insights or anything.

  • The endless churn of painting trains and station in different colours will end (for a bit) when they turn orange. Much investment when franchises are let is actually spent on branding. Southeastern spent about three years having the exterior colour changed. It’s just finished, but in two years it’ll change again, and that should be the last time for awhile.
  • Fares. Hopefully a move to equilibrium will be made with the rest of London. Many aren’t aware just how much more oyster users are charged in south east London. A perfect example is how just north of the river, where c2c operate under TfL pricing, any trip that doesn’t go into zone 1 is £1.50, and saw no rise in January. That means travelling from, say, Rainham in zone 6 all the way to Limehouse in zone 2 is £1.50 off peak or £2.80 in the peak. Cross a couple of miles south and a Southeastern journey from Erith (zone 6) to Deptford (zone 2) costs £2.70 off peak and £4.10 at rush hour. And to add insult they put that up by 10p this month, whilst fares were frozen north of the river. Its the same with onward journeys by tube. Get to zone 1 on London Overground or c2c train, for example, and a tube trip is no extra within zone 1. With Southeastern another £1.50 is added on top of an already higher train fare.
  • More and longer trains. This cannot deflect from the need for the Department for Transport to approve additional trains arriving by the end of 2016. Only they can make that decision. The DfT are still calling the shots until 2018. Southeastern submitted a report to them in June 2015, and the DfT still havn’t decided.
  • London Overground will be a big ‘ol network. Will they number each line or area of London? Cities like Berlin do, with S-Bahn lines being named S1, S2 etc.
  • TfL will capitalise on surrounding land for housing and commercial development. We saw a glimpse of that in SE London when TfL and NR submitted a scoping report for a 20 storey tower just north of Kidbrooke station last year. There’s much underused land by NR stations. TfL will be looking to push on there. Just hope it’s not like Woolwich DLR station.
  • Staffing should be much better. Even very busy stations in SE London become empty after about 8pm. Barely any staff are seen during the day at off-peak times. Trains in SE London are often not nice places to be at certain times due to this. Contrast with the feel of much of the DLR, London Overground and tube and the impact of more staff is clear. I’ve usually found Southeastern staff friendly, particularity at stations away from the centre, but there’s not enough of them.
  • Devolution works. If London didn’t have a Mayor would this have happened? Scotland wouldn’t have seen its huge improvements without devolution. Other UK cities badly need strong local mayors, as happens in just about every other city in the developed world, to push through change and allow them to thrive. Leave it to Whitehall and little happens.
  • Finally, this is massive news for South London. The fact some London-wide media are treating it as a secondary story will not change the prevailing thought that some outlets are north London centric. But anyway, sod that, things will get better. A warning though, don’t expect changes from day 1 in 2018. It will take a good couple of years as we’ve seen elsewhere.

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J Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

0 thoughts on “Southeastern to be taken over by TfL in 2018 – initial thoughts

  • Just the fact that we should be able to get info on timetables changes, engineering works, etc from one place, should improve things – never mind the rest. Hopefully no more downloading PDFs of multiple timetables.

    • National rail app is pretty good for this, no need to download any PDF’s just search for live trains on the day or use journey planner. This service also shows information on London Overground services since it is part of the National Rail network

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  • I’m not sure I’m as positive as you are. Reading the “consultation” document I can see a lot of political traps, constraints and the ultimate say stays with the DfT. There are no financial commitments on investment whatsoever. The document makes clear that passengers will continue to contribute more to funding the railway. That means ongoing fares increases. Don’t expect your fares to fall other than perhaps losing the Z1 add on. Rather I expect the tube and Overground fares will rise to meet the TOC tariff given the stated desire to “work towards” an unified farescale “which may take a long time”. The document restates the DfT “handcuffs” over not creating “cliff edge” effects on fares either side of the Greater London boundary. That resulted in minimal changes when TfL took on the Shenfield and West Anglia routes.

    You are right to urge caution over improvements. The fact that the Partnership talks about common standards for long and short distances trains means there is a risk that TfL’s current spec will be watered down to match what the Dft thinks it can afford for more rural lines and smaller towns. I don’t think that’s the right way to do it but all the talk about “common standards” doesn’t necessarily mean higher standards. The SoS retains the final say over everything here including when and if services transfer, what the fares etc.

    I am also sceptical about allowing quite so much political involvement from so many bodies over the train service specification. TfL doesn’t have that now but will be lumbered with it in future. There’s an enormous risk of “who shouts loudest and waves the biggest wad of money” gets their favoured initiative done rather than what is actually best in transport terms for the most people. The monent one of the stakeholders feels marginalised they can start moaning and throwing spanners in the works. We’ve already seen how that sort of response stopped TfL getting hold of South Eastern last year. How does that give us more frequent, longer trains which run on time and are clean and safe to use?

    I’d love all this to work but I see many problems ahead and existing TOC users are really not getting the same scale of TfL leadership that existing Overground, Tube and DLR services get.

  • This can only be a good thing. I currently use Southeastern from Westcombe Park and prior to living around here, lived near, and used, the Overground – the difference in reliability, frequency, stations etc. is huge.

    Could they somehow create an direct interchange between the Greenwich line and the northbound Overground? That would be really useful. I appreciate you can get the DLR to Shadwell, but a direct interchange would be excellent.

  • They’ve timed this well. From 2018 the service should improve regardless of the operators because London Bridge would have been rebuilt (so removing the major source of disruption and delay across the network) and Crossrail will begin running services (so alleviating the cattle truck conditions in the morning peak – I hope!).

    I saw the Shenfield lines trains switch from Abelio to TFL last year and apart from more obliging apologies when the trains are delayed the services hasn’t improved much. The trains are still stuffed and the doors still close before everyone has managed to disembark and board.

  • TFL have a proposal to take over from the DFT in the Metro area after Southeastern’s franchise has ended along with other TOCs when their frachises end too. Who ever the TOC will be after 2018 will have two bosses if they still operate outside the metro area. How will that work? Thankfully this is a proposal at the moment.

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  • successfully Blocked by the government. This crazy idea giving the railways to TFL is beyond a joke when the London Underground is under staffed and has no ticket offices and always going on strike. Sort out your own failing underground system before touching National Rail services!

    As for TFL Rail and London Overground, these are NOT operated by TFL but by Arriva Rail London and the service is terrible, plagued with delays and cancellations and they shut the doors before people even get on!


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