FromTheMurkyDepths

Housing and Development in London

Dartford, Greenwich, Transport

Revealed: the scale of forthcoming Greenwich line train cuts

southeastern-train

As many will now know, extensive and much-needed work to rebuild London Bridge station is to cause extensive changes to rail services across south east London from August. The first stage of work last year caused a big drop in peak time capacity on the Greenwich line. Further changes will see even bigger cuts. Unfortunately a lack of mitigating work (providing more carriages, inadequate stations etc) will cause further hardship.

The next stage of work kicks off at the end of August. Here’s what we will see:

  • During the period from 5-7pm in the evening rush hour, current  service levels of 13 trains from London Cannon Street to Greenwich reduces to 8 trains. That’s a 38% cut in trains.
  • Just 1 of the remaining 8 trains on the line from Cannon Street skips Woolwich Dockyard station, reducing the ability to provide 12 carriages on remaining trains to mitigate the cuts. Woolwich Dockyard has short platforms. With most current trains in the evening peak already at maximum lengths, the scope to make up for the cuts is very limited.
  • The cuts for Deptford, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park stations see 11 trains down to 8 (27%) from 5-7pm as two out of 13 currently run fast through those stations.

This shows all departures from Cannon Street on the Greenwich line from 5-7pm:

trains

It clearly shows the reduction in trains to Deptford (passenger numbers up 6% last year), Greenwich (up 5%), Maze Hill (up 6%) and Westcombe Park (up 6%) and the long gaps that will exist. Deptford has seen large growth over the past decade with passenger numbers quadrupling from 311k in 2004/5 to 1.24 million in 2014/15.

There’s a 22 minute gap from 17:28 to 17:50 from Cannon Street, then a 24 minute gap until 18:14. And that train in between, which is likely to be extremely busy, cannot be 12 carriages long as it stops at Woolwich Dockyard.

When looking at journey planners the changes initially doesn’t look this bad, but that’s because they also shows trains departing from London terminals heading out onto other lines that loop back onto the Greenwich line after they reach the outer extremities of London. In reality, these are no good for commuters.

It’s of course essential that the work at London Bridge is carried out and is much needed, but to not ensure extensive 12-car running to compensate for service cuts reveals a failure of planning, mainly from the Department for Transport and Network Rail. Southeastern are at their mercy.

It all comes back to long standing problems, and not rebuilding or moving Woolwich Dockyard station is one of the main ones. It compromises services across not only the Greenwich line, but all other Metro lines as trains loop around near Dartford from one line to another, or head to London terminals via Greenwich, then head out to Hayes or the Bexleyheath line etc.

It goes without saying that the area from Deptford to Westcombe Park seeing big cuts are also seeing large increases in population and many new housing developments.

Other options for travel aren’t too promising. Sending people onto other lines to then change onto the DLR at Lewisham will see them using trains already at capacity. Lewisham itself is seeing rapid growth. Incidentally, the 410 bed student block by the station will open in September and the adjacent housing block named Flora Villas is now rising.

13-storey Flora Villas

13-storey Flora Villas

The DLR itself is seeing very fast growth (8% a year) and its ability to take many more passengers is limited. Buses from central London are hopeless. Even from Deptford it’s an extremely slow and unreliable journey. 10 minutes to Cannon Street if you’re lucky or 90+ minutes by bus.

And whatever happened to that ‘imminent’ announcement of more trains for the area? The rail minister Claire Perry stated back in January an announcement would happen within a couple or months. Six months later and silence.

I don’t want to come across as someone complaining about the London Bridge project. It’s badly needed. The issue is how plans were drawn up to cope during the work, or not as it seems. There have been few additional trains for south east London and Kent’s Metro over the past 10 years, despite large growth, which has hampered the area and passengers.

Even if more do now appear, other work such as train stabling facilities which are needed alongside appear to be years behind. Simply put, provision for large population increases, plus working and leisure changes, are years behind as a succession of Governments and Ministers failed to adequately plan.

To those living further along the line past Charlton, there will be three trains from Charing Cross an hour which lessens the strain there. But those living from Deptford to Westcombe Park will have a rough time.

11 Comments

  1. Plumstead Resident

    I suspect they are counting on passengers heading to Charlton and beyond catching one of the new services from Charing Cross that go via London Bridge and Lewisham. This should relieve the pressure on the Greenwich line services that depart from Cannon Street. Plus, if the Cannon Street trains aren’t stopping at London Bridge would they really need as many trains departing?

    • Yep, many will find a way and struggle through, especially past Charlton, – tube to Charing Cross/Embankment, buses, walking to London Bridge, DLR from Bank etc but it wont be easy. Especially for those in the Deptford to Westcombe Park stretch.

      The failure to plan for the long term hits hard now but it will persist from 2018 even with Crossrail at Abbey Wood and Woolwich.

  2. GavinM

    What can we do to lobby on moving/improving Woolwich Dockyard?

    • Its the kind of thing Greenwich council councillors and local GLA members should lobby for, as well as MPs. I can add some email addresses to contact in a bit

  3. You can contact council leader at denise.hyland@royalgreenwich.gov.uk and council cabinet member for regeneration at danny.thorpe@royalgreenwich.gov.uk

    The GLA member’s email is len.duvall@london.gov.uk

    The MP is Matt Pennycook and his contact page is here https://www.matthewpennycook.com/i-need-to-get-in-touch-with-matt/

    • GavinM

      Thanks, I will email them.

      I’m not in Twitter though so it won’t be public but I’ll still raise the issues.

  4. Ned

    The 1739 is shown in green but it isn’t fast, it stops at Deptford, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park. Getting rid of it is mad – if the 1750 gets cancelled, the 1814 will be hideous.

  5. I think the solution is clearly to either extend the platform of Woolwich Dockyard or to move the station to a new site nearby. Extending the platform is problematic because there are tunnels at both end of the platform. However, given what has been managed with Crossrail, this is not an insurmountable problem and simply requires the funding.The station warrants the expenditure as it is well used at peak times.
    The only other option would be to move the station, and the only site you could move it to where there is room for 12 carriages would be on the open section at Pett Street (next the The Albion pub). The problem with this is would disrupt the plans for the re-development of the area as some of the land otherwise committed for flats would have to be taken back. With all permissions for the housing developments already in place this would be a planning nightmare for the Council.
    So, if anything happens to sort this out it is likely to be extending the existing platform, although that’s not going to help with things this autumn.

    • Walt

      Or you just don’t open the train doors of the last carriages. I understand this is only possible with the newer trains but come on..such technology is not that difficult, if there was a serious desire it would have been implemented..

      For now I’m just happy i don’t regularly commute using SE anymore..At some point, it just don’t fit in anymore, however configuration you want to stack the livestock (ehm, people)…

  6. Lee Cutmore

    Thanks for the excellent post. In terms of the upcoming reduced PM peak frequencies (to be every 20-25 mins), I would note that the other suburban lines operating out of Cannon Street (Sidcup, Hayes etc) have been running at those frequencies since the dawn of time. Residents of the Greenwich line have just been very lucky to have trains every 10-12 mins leave Cannon Street in the peak.

    How does the planned new AM peak timetable compare to the current one? Less impact?

    It seems that Southeastern have decided that in order to reduce the risk of congestion around London Bridge, the answer is simple: run less trains. And the Greenwich line seems to be obvious victim given its frequency is higher than the other lines.

    The question is.. in 18 months time when all the work is done, will the lost services return?

    • I havn’t got the figures to hand but I think the Greenwich line is busier than Sidcup and Hayes. Maybe not so with Bexleyheath but that does have even more trains in the peak but they go to different terminals – Cannon Street, Charing Cross and Victoria. Good question about 18 months time. Cannon Street sees a permanent reduction in the amount of trains it can accommodate due to the London Bridge rebuild. Some trains used to go to Blackfriars out of service to free up space. This cannot now be done to the same extent. Maybe a factor in now proposing to run Thameslink trains from north London through to the Woolwich line.

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