Southeastern rail cuts beginning soon – the details


The bridge is to close shortly and be demolished
The bridge is to close shortly and be demolished

Large changes across the whole Southeastern network begin in less than a week. It’s fair to say that the Greenwich line will suffer the most disruption of any southeastern line over the next three years. The large scale cuts in services and capacity has gone under-reported, and what happens there will also impact on other lines.

In recent months much of the publicity surrounding major changes to Southeastern rail services has focused on the fact that no Charing Cross trains will be stopping at London Bridge for 18 months, and that all trains from New Cross, and on the Greenwich line, will be permanently diverted to Cannon Street. Exceptions are those that run Charlton to Blackheath/Lewisham (off-peak only) and the very last train of the night, which runs from Charing Cross to Cannon Street then onto London Bridge.

I’ve covered it before, but across the media there has been almost no coverage of large cuts in the number of trains serving the Greenwich line in the evening rush hour. Southeastern have been pumping out information on twitter about changes but no mention of this at all. With big changes quickly approaching here is a round up of what’s to happen on the line through Greenwich:

  • Four evening peak trains are cut in total. One morning peak train is cut.
  • Between 5:30pm to 6:30pm, nine trains heading out from central London on the Greenwich line will be reduced to six.
  • Passenger capacity out from Central London drops from 9500 to 7500 during that time at London Bridge – a 20% cut. That’s the best case scenario if all remaining trains run at maximum length – 10 carriages. Click here to see how that figure was calculated. Hopes of maintaining capacity by lengthening remaining trains to 12 carriages will not be met. The money spent on extending platforms, upgrading power, and lengthening train sidings on the Greenwich line seems to have been in vain, at least for now. Woolwich Dockyard station prevents any 12-car running and no solution to that problem has been found, despite years to do so.
  • Available seats on remaining trains drop by almost 50% compared to now. This is because all remaining trains should be high capacity units with more standing space and less seats. Using these trains is needed to even reach a 20% capacity cut. If they use trains (eg Networkers like in the image below) with more seats and less standing space that 20% capacity cut increases.

This is a hefty cut as passenger numbers on the line are rising quickly and a large number of new homes are built along the line. Deptford station, for example, had 12% growth in passenger numbers last year, and over 300% the past 10 years. Much more housing is to be built nearby, and a large number of projects complete a couple of years before 2018, when Crossrail opens and London Bridge rebuilding completes which should alleviate the pressure. The gap between could be a real squeeze.

Still waiting for 12 car trains. 25 years and counting
Still waiting for 12 car trains. 25 years and counting

The hope is that some passengers will switch to using Lewisham station, which will mean additional pressure at the station and other lines serving it. Alternatively some will switch to the DLR on the Greenwich and Woolwich branches, which are also very busy. Lastly, some may switch to the Jubilee line, and TfL have announced extra buses will run from Charlton station to the tube station. This is quite a lengthy detour for most and more expensive, as like the DLR options, a travelcard will be needed.

In Dartford a rail group has been set up to pressure Southeastern and other relevant parties like Network Rail. Details can be found by clicking here. There is also a Charlton group here and a Greenwich group here which covers Westcombe Park, Maze Hill, Greenwich and Deptford.

It seems there’s very little that can be done in the next couple of years to help with the cuts. It’s too late now to sort out Woolwich Dockyard station or alter existing trains to allow longer trains to stop there, let alone order new ones. I’ve said it before but want to make clear that I support the London Bridge rebuild. It is essential. My issue is that mitigating work to maintain capacity has not been carried out.

Large fare increases

As if to add insult to injury, Southeastern fares increased way above what most other Londoners have had to pay, with most of SE London having a high reliance on non-TfL services. Users of Southeastern trains taking an off-peak oyster single from zone 3 to zone 1 will pay 4.3% more. A single from zone 2 to zone 1 increased by 5%.

TfL have frozen all single fares outside of zone 1. Southeastern have not. An off-peak single from Charlton to Greenwich has thus risen 6.25%. A single from Abbey Wood to Woolwich rises the same – 6.25%. It’s hardly fare to treat some of the most deprived parts of London like this, which also have the worst public transport services.

Something else to annoy SE London passengers is the refusal by the DfT to allow TfL to take over Southeastern services, and instead the franchise was renewed four more years. Just over the Thames, TfL are taking over most Greater Anglia services in London in May 2015. They have already begun the process of ordering new trains and increasing the fleet, plus have plans to increase frequencies. As it takes a couple of years to procure and manufacture trains TfL have secured additional older stock to bolster services until then.

Now, it wouldn’t be as easy to do so for SE services at short notice, but it does show the gulf in attitude. TfL plan ahead, and have a can-do attitude with rail since London Overground was established. Southeastern, Network Rail and particularly the Department for Transport seem to have lethargy and disinterest at their core.

The Charlton Champion site along with Se13ure have covered closures of London Bridge, Waterloo East, Charing Cross and Cannon Street this coming weekend, of 10/11 January , as well as Sunday 18th January. Trains will be running to Victoria or Blackfriars.

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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.

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