Murky Depths

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Abbey Wood, Transport

Big growth in passenger numbers at Abbey Wood station since TfL takeover

Abbey Wood station from flyover is the focus to detriment of nearby streets

Figures obtained from a Freedom of Information request to TfL show a large jump in passengers tapping in at Abbey Wood station since TfL took over operation of the station in October 2017.

Growth was strong even before Crossrail services’ planned (and then postponed) introduction in December 2018.

In the first month TfL begun operating the station in October 2017 189k people tapped in. In October 2018 that had climbed to 285k – an increase of 51%. There have been fluctuations but increases every single comparable month.

New Abbey Wood station now managed by TfL

November 2018 was up 18 per cent compared to November 2017. December 2018 up 73 per cent on the year (!) with the new year continuing the theme though with smaller increases. January 2019 saw a rise of 14 per cent compared to January 2018 and February this year was up 16 per cent compared to the year before.

Demolition incoming

These large increases coincide with the introduction of Thameslink in May 2018 – though it was pretty disastrous and only in January 2019 did the planned two trains an hour service begin, and even then not at weekends.

TfL figures since taking over Abbey Wood station

There has also been no new housing developments completing nearby over the past year. If anything the local population dropped as more people moved out from Thamesmead estates in advance of demolition.

Some properties in Thamesmead soon to be demolished

The growth contradicts a belief amongst some of stagnant or even falling rail numbers in London (though over the past year decent growth has again been seen across both the tube and Southeastern). Fewer weekend closures may account for some of the change but far from all.

Forthcoming Abbey Wood development near station

For many years it was suspected that fare evasion was high at the station (and line) with passenger numbers inaccurately counted. Abbey Wood is now the only line that is now barriered from opening until closure. TfL wanted to expand that to stations along the line if they took over Southeastern Metro yet were blocked by Chris Grayling.

Could some fare evaders have initially tried buses or other forms of transport (explaining low numbers in late 2017) then returned to rail and started paying? A comparison with Southeastern’s final year would be useful but as a private franchise they do not disclose Freedom of Information requests regarding monthly data.

Southeastern do provide annual numbers through the ORR but it’s hard to compare like-with-like as Southeastern figures were for all types of ticket (including paper) whereas TfL’s data is only Oyster and contactless bank cards

That could be another factor as more people move to contactless and away from paper. TfL’s data shows contactless card tap-ins over a year of management almost as high as Southeastern recorded using every form of ticket including paper in their final year.

Another forthcoming Abbey Wood development

This also raises a question; if passenger numbers were being accurately counted on Southeastern would the region have received more carriages long ago? And how many other stations are underestimating usage given most have open entrances and even those without – such as Woolwich Arsenal – often have them open during the day and every evening after 8pm?

Since January fares from Abbey Wood to certain destinations such as Stratford and St Pancras have fallen in cost as the TfL fare scale replaced National Rail – which further incentives travel from the station. In coming years many substantial new developments will complete within a mile radius and Crossrail should finally begin, bringing further strong increases.

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13 Comments

  1. Ian

    I don’t think passenger numbers have increased dramatically at ABW. Obviously the gate line has incentivised more people to pay. How much revenue does Tfl keep?
    Watch for the really big jump in numbers when ABX eventually opens.
    As for Grayling, when May goes he hopefully goes.

    • fromthemurkydepths

      Agreed, at this point I’d put this almost entirely down to barriers and extra staff to monitor them from first to last train. I don’t think TfL keep any revenue 9anyone know more) as no services are operated by them. If so then very galling especially given financial difficulties.

      If TfL had been allowed to operate SE Metro routes to Dartford (or even Gillingham) then they planned to do that at most if not all stations. The new franchise (if there is one) may do it but there’s no commitment.

      • Carl

        I doubt Gillingham would ever have been given the LO Orange treatment sadly, was that ever planned for?, Gravesend is probably as far as they would have gone I guess, but that said rather TfL than Thameslink, LO is very successful, who knows maybe SE London, Dartford, Sevenoaks, Gravesend, & Medway mighy become orange yet!

        • Chris Nash

          Wholesale rebranding of the SE Metro routes to London Overground seemed unlikely, in my opinion. It would hopelessly clutter the LO route map – the whole point of colour-coding lines is to show which trains go where, and the only crossover points between the wider LO network and SE Metro are at New Cross, Denmark Hill and Peckham Rye towards Victoria or Clapham Junction. Tacking SE Metro onto the eastern edge of the Tube map would cause passenger confusion.

          It would make more sense for TfL to use their “TfL Rail” branding on SE Metro instead, as they have been doing on the lines into Liverpool Street from Essex.

          • Carl

            Using the brand TfL Rail for the SE Metro routes is a good shout, I see the London Overground routes as being generally inner suburban routes only.

            The SE Metro area is far too complicated to be ran so simply as being lumped in with the LO network.

            Plus it gives a TfL identity for South East London to completely own on its own.

            TfL Rail could run all the routes except for the Thameslink Route which personally I would divert it to run via Lewisham rather than Greenwich to complete the long term aim of route simplification of three distinct lines to Dartford/Gravesend (Greenwich, Bexleyheath & Sidcup) leaving the longer distance Woolwich/Lewisham line as a bonus route left with National Rail

          • Gabriel

            The 3 Dartford routes will become OG, I can guarantee. Why ‘guarantee’? Because they’ve been busy on it for a few years and being it inner M25 TfL can size control when SouthEastern contracts end.

            The SE Metro would indeed be best to use the TfL Rail brand and colours, I like that idea,

  2. SG

    SE retain the fees for their services – it could just be people more willing to use tap cards and additional infrastructure added to the station to encourage it.

  3. Jon

    With crossrail and the redevelopment do people believe this will be a new growth area – better to live in and a good investment with rising house prices or not? Not a speculator but a family man but choosing an area that will thrive is important ?

    • I wouldn’t recommend moving to an area on the basis of what you think it *might* look like in several years time. To my mind nothing significant other than the new station has happened in the last 20+ years. The area is struggling, isn’t in great shape, and Greenwich council have little interest (or idea) about how to improve things. Redevelopment of Wilton Road by both Bexley and Greenwich councils in recent years has been laughable. Same crap different store fronts. Problems with persistent loitering and drinking outside the two large betting shops remains. No local entertainment, or variety of places to eat and drink. Sorry Plumstead, but you’re looking at Woolwich as your “local” place for that sort of thing. Local schools are very average, so think seriously about that too. Crossrail services are highly unlikely to start running this year, probably not even next year either, so worth bearing that in mind. When it does finally start will it change much? Perhaps, but it will take many years. Anyway, come visit and make your own mind up.

    • Chris Nash

      I largely agree with nevermindthebollards – as a resident living along Abbey Road (which is technically in Belvedere / Bexley borough but is more or less a continuation of Abbey Wood), the only benefit as a homeowner is the increasing property prices caused by the incoming Crossrail route – and delays to that project means that prices are starting to fall back in line with the rest of the area. The uncertainty over when the route is going to open means that “Close proximity to Crossrail” just isn’t the selling point that it used to be.

      The area itself is more or less a dormitory for London workers. There is no town centre to speak of; grocery shopping is done via the retail barns of Sainsbury’s or Lidl by Abbey Wood Station, or Asda next to Belvedere Station. Erith town centre was stripped of its heart and soul back in the 60s and never truly recovered even after its concrete monstrosity of a shopping centre was dealt with, so to see a wide range of shops and amenities you have to look to Woolwich or Bexleyheath. It’s fine if you travel by car, but relying on public transport can be awkward – especially as TfL are cutting bus routes from the area.

  4. Jo

    Charlton, Plumstead, Greenwich, Deptford, Erith and many, many more stations would all see similar massive spikes if staffed with barriers like Abbey Wood now is. TfL know what they are doing.

    Funny thing is in Abbey Wood loads still tailgate or jump. It’s the “casual” evader that now has to pay.

  5. Marie

    They need to completely barrier another station such as Charlton. I am sure they would see the same increase and then it would be so obvious it is due to previous fare evasion.
    Charlton is a popular station and is used even more so at weekends with football too.

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