This week has seen small steps to restore certain services by rail companies as people return to work. However sharp cuts to rail services continue with up to 30 minute intervals between Charlton and London Bridge via Greenwich throughout the day.
Greenwich and nearby towns are not just areas of employment but also major areas of housing growth, the site of numerous leisure and tourist attractions plus the site of large education facilities such as the University campus at the Old Naval College. In other words, not the place where 30 minute service intervals suffice.
Peak time isn’t much better. There’s 20 minute gaps at times and yesterday morning one train was running late, so that turned into a 26 minute gap. That’s a major issue with such low frequencies; an already poor service level from Zone 2 into central London becomes abysmal with even slight delays.
Despite also seeing severe issues with funds, TfL have managed to run the DLR at the usual five minute interval. The DLR however is far slower to areas of central London than from Greenwich railway station, with Southeastern services seeing London Bridge just eight minutes away, Waterloo in 12 minutes and the West End in 16 minutes.
Central London attractions are impacted to boot if people face poor service levels to reach the centre, particularly when heading home late at night. Buses are extremely slow and not a great alternative. Over an hour is likely compared to a 10 minute train ride.
Despite being told to travel sustainably and use public transport, severe reductions mean little will do so with such long waits. Car travel becomes ever more enticing despite heavy congestion.
The Treasury under Chancellor Rishi Sunak have made no secret of huge cuts demanded of rail before seeing what level of service returns. Last year Government were pushing for bus passenger analysis while lockdown hadn’t even finished, and the agenda appeared pretty clear to cut before normality returns.
Of course it’s likely peak time commuting will be down for some time, but conversely leisure travel has been strong and such long service gaps to tourist destinations such as Greenwich a mistake. It’s hurting other areas of the economy.
We’ve all heard about the regular battles between Government and TfL over funding (the latest deadline is next week with no discussions yet underway) though cuts to London rail has been quieter as the Treasury and Department for Transport have increased their grip and micro-management. Southeastern was taken in-house at the end of 2021, with the Treasury calling the shots since and so far it doesn’t present a pretty picture for what lay in store for TfL.
Heavy services cuts on rail and possible cuts on the DLR will not be music to the ears of many hotels in Greenwich and those working in the tourism sector, including some hotels which have only just opened and other with planning approval.
It also seems crazy that funding pots has been allocated to entice people to areas such as Greenwich market, while public transport levels have been reduced greatly.
Service levels long term are still an unknown – and there’s little faith in the DfT keeping on top of housing numbers.
In Deptford, for example, work is now finally underway on an eventual 3,500 homes at Convoys Wharf.
There’s also over 300 homes now rising a few minutes walk from the station.
That includes the former Tidemill school site:
What happens when people move in, attempt to travel by trains, see how poor it is and leave it? More congestion.
With the Treasury now apparently seeking a cuts-at-all-cost agenda, the impact on existing and future residents – let alone tourist industries and commuters – will be great. If they can do it in a major area of growth in the capital, what will happen elsewhere? Levelling down still seems to be the main thrust from government, despite a levelling up rhetoric in public.