Southern are to retire a large fleet of trains serving metro routes next month – which may see a substantial number of carriages in use with Southeastern moved to plug the gap.
Class 455s have been the backbone of Southern Metro for decades and are now set to be removed in their entirety at short notice.
A mixture of service cuts, shorter trains and truncated routes are expected to somewhat cover the shortfall.
One such example is the Croydon to Milton Keynes service truncated to Watford, alongside other services removed or reduced serving numerous areas of south London.
Busy one on the Caterham/Tattenham Corner service tonight…(ex London Bridge/East Croydon) – thanks to government-imposed rail service cuts this particular services is expected to see a 20% drop in capacity from next month as it'll go from 10 to 8 carriage formations🙄 pic.twitter.com/Z3us0ct2uI
— Tom Bowell (@thomasbowell) April 5, 2022
The Treasury’s demand for substantial rail cuts – in turn pushed by the Department for Transport – lies behind the move.
Cuts will hit inner London and attempts to be a blow to those seeking to encourage public transport usage in areas of high traffic congestion.
That still sees a reduction in overall Southern rolling stock with a net reduction of 21 trains, and also leaves Southeastern with fewer trains than now.
Around 20 Networker trains are currently parked up in sidings awaiting scrap. One idea was to remove around the same number of carriages as provided by Class 707 City Beam trains. There’s 30 of those, and each are five-car, so around 150 Networker carriages would go with 150 City beams coming in.
It could well be that the remaining Networkers due to leave for scrap will now stay. That however doesn’t plug the gap of losing 25 trains.
It also causes other issues, as Networkers lack Selective Door Operation to serve platforms shorter than the train, and that will necessitate shorter trains being used on some routes currently serviced by trains that are able to use SDO.
Then there’s the issue of comfort. Many Networkers are grotty and tired. not great places to be for an hour or 90 minutes.
Of course all of this may be fine if demand stays low, though recently passenger numbers returned to 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
True, it’s the peaks where the real squeeze often is and overall numbers mean little if they’re now staggered throughout the day.
The issue is in part whether numerous new builds near stations cause spikes alongside a slow increase in commuters.
Kidbrooke is one example of thousands of homes being built within 5-10 minutes walk of the station. Over 300 more were approved last night.
Will Southern services and rolling stock be up to the required level to serve thousands of new homes? There is also due to be a new London Overground station built to serve the development, though the Treasury also seek heavy cuts to TfL.
Once trains are gone and being cut up for scrap, it’ll be tricky to magic up dozens of stock to meet any increase in demand.
The short to mid term spectre of fewer services, shorter trains and a railway network that doesn’t see investment may please the Treasury, but can London with growing population and congestion bear that?
It’s certainly not good for wider business for ever-more gridlocked roads, let alone health aspects.
Main image courtesy Huge Llewelyn under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)