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.