New figures from the Rail Regulator show crowding on Southeastern increasing this year with passenger growth from April to June up despite operating fewer trains.
Signs that Southeastern were seeing high demand for services have been seen in parent company Go-Ahead’s trading statements, and at a more localised level with Abbey Wood station’s strong growth.
Now figures out show a 3.7 per cent increase from April to June in 2019 above 2018 levels despite the franchise operating 300,000 fewer train kilometres per year. Transferring two out of eight Woolwich line trains to Thameslink is an example of why operated services have reduced.
These figures only go up to June. At Abbey Wood (in August at least) usage grew by over 10 per cent in 2019 above 2018.
Despite more people travelling on fewer trains capacity cuts could be happening in coming months. Two-carriage Networker trains operating on branch lines will no longer be able to run due to disability regulations. They must be attached to four carriage trains in service. They lack numerous features required by law to operate alone after December 31st 2019 despite having a recent refurbishment.
Ironically some trains that meet now meet new regulations still contain dangerous features for the partially sighted such as bubbling flooring.
The new rules will mean branch lines needing other trains to operate – with either three or four carriage stock – and thus there will be a reduction in capacity on routes into London as four carriage trains are removed to be replaced with two-car stock.
This is another example of the somewhat shambolic state of the franchise as a result of the Department for Transport awarding continual short term extensions since 2014. Strategic forward planning is minimal.
It was long expected trains would be replaced in time for the disability regulations. That has not happened hence a last-minute basic refurbishment which still doesn’t permit operation on branch lines.
Even when the future of the franchise is decided and new stock arranged there are no sidings to store them as yet – so they need to be built. Improvements could be years off despite massive developments near stations such as Kidbrooke.
Remember when the DfT blocked devolution to TfL and some said they would want to show what they could do? Well, they did that alright.