Trains to Cannon Street will cease stopping at London Bridge from August 2016 for 18 months. Trains for Charing Cross, which currently sail through London Bridge without stopping as platforms 4-6 are closed, will once again be able to stop.
Details on how Southeastern propose to run services with such large changes can be seen here. The Greenwich line will see reductions in services at Westcombe Park, Maze Hill, Greenwich and Deptford as some peak trains are diverted from Charlton towards Blackheath and Lewisham. Stations like Plumstead get some lengthy gaps in peak time services. Not great with growth levels of 5-10% a year at many stations along the line.
This also mean some trains on other lines such as those on the Bexleyheath and Sidcup lines will be unable to stop at Lewisham as capacity is reduced. The diversion of trains on the Woolwich line to Lewisham then allows passengers to access London Bridge, but only three trains an hour in the peak:
“An approximate 20 minute interval in the high peak on the North Kent Line to and from Charing Cross calling at London Bridge and Waterloo East, giving a service from Slade Green and all stations to Charlton (except Woolwich Dockyard) to Charing Cross via Lewisham and London Bridge)”
The lack of a stop at Woolwich Dockyard suggests that these will be 12-car trains, and given just three an hour in the peaks will be stopping at London Bridge that length will be needed.
The timetable covers the period from August 2016 to January 2018, but states that more trains will head to Abbey Wood from Kent and the Medway Towns to connect with the new Crossrail station at the expense of the Sidcup line. As this timetable change is due to end before Crossrail services begin, this alteration is likely to be establishing long term changes we will see from the end of 2018, as more demand is expected from Kent commuters changing to Crossrail at Abbey Wood.
Many working at Canary Wharf and heading in from Kent will change trains at Abbey Wood for Crossrail, but I think the numbers of people changing who work in the City may not be as high as some expect. Abbey Wood to Cannon Street could be possible in 25 minutes after 2018 with Southeastern, on a fast train, as congestion is reduced on London Bridge approaches due to its expensive rebuild. It’s currently 27 minutes. Abbey Wood to Liverpool Street on Crossrail will be 18 minutes. Will many people coming from Kent on a Southeastern train, comofrtable in a seat, want to change given that quick and easy cross-platform changes at Abbey Wood have been removed in a design change? This necessitates crossing over footbridges onto another train, with less seats, and then waiting for it to leave. The 5-10 minute quicker journey to the City on Crossrail could be lost by that change, as is the chance of a seat.
Of course many will change, but I’m not sure it will be a mass exodus leaving Southeastern metro trains empty to pick up people further along the line. With many moving into new developments further along the line, pressure on capacity and rolling stock will likely continue post-Crossrail.
But even before Crossrail commences the capacity squeeze on Southeastern metro routes will continue to become more pronounced. A great deal of new housing developments will open from 2016-2018 along the various metro lines, as well as many along DLR routes on the Lewisham and Woolwich branches, which offer alternative options to central London. The period from 2017 until Crossrail’s opening in 2018 is when pressure becomes most acute, with many homes becoming occupied at sites such as Royal Arsenal, months and years before the new line opens. Many developments are being built with Crossrail capacity firmly at the fore, yet complete a year before it commences.
With no additional trains coming to the Southeastern metro area (almost alone in London), that particular period before Crossrail commences will be the hardest yet to provide sufficient capacity.
Comments on the initial draft timetable should be sent to TimetableManagement@southeasternrailway.co.uk by Friday 26th June 2015.
UPDATE: A follow on post is here. It looks at some of the lengthy gaps in peak service at certain stations eg 16 minutes around 8am at Plumstead and 14 minutes at Deptford, plus a reduction in morning peak trains from 7-9am at Greenwich towards central London – down from 13 to 9 . All those stations are seeing pretty strong growth in passenger numbers. London Bridge upgrade work is essential but years of failure to ensure the Southeastern franchise has sufficient carriages to cater for these changes and passenger growth has badly affected capacity provision.