The new year is here and we should finally find out who takes over the next Southeastern franchise in coming months after endless delays. Whoever it is, they’re likely to end up running less capacity into central London in one years time than they do now. Why?
Well, at the end of this year a rule kicks in that does not permit carriages to operate unless modifications occur for disabled access. One of the last short-term extensions to Southeastern’s franchise (the first was in 2012) required these modifications on some trains. But not all. And it appears two-carriage trains (the 466 class) that Southeastern operate will not be having suitable toilets installed. So they can’t run unless coupled to four carriage trains (class 465).
This means future loss of capacity isn’t huge. Most two-carriage 466s always run alongside four carriage stock except on branch lines. But it does mean four carriage stock will have to run on the Bromley North and Sheerness branches. The current two-carriage trains will transfer to mainline running couple to stock with modifications.
In total it’s a net loss of four carriages able to run on trains into central London in the peaks. That’s about 460 passengers. Not huge in the grand scheme of things but more than a little annoying if on a packed train.
And some other franchises have far more stock than that which is not compatible and will not be by 31/12/2019. In fact, some franchises would see available carriages cut in half. Speculation abounds that a derogation will be announced by the DfT to allow them to run past the deadline.
But this is the DfT under Chris Grayling, so who knows. The deadline has long been known but franchising has been a mess in recent years with court cases, franchises failing and much else.