Forthcoming Southeastern rail cuts: MP’s line up to complain but to what end?

Southeastern’s recent announcement of forthcoming timetable cuts coming this December has seen a succession of MPs criticise changes over recent days.

This site first covered changes three weeks weeks ago based upon both public information and information coming in from those who work within the railway.

In the past week official announcements have finally been made. Changes impact all lines across south east London will reductions in services, destinations and crucially large service gaps set to be introduced.

How does 20+ minute service gaps sound at busy inner London stations such as Greenwich during both peak and off-peak time?

Many MPs are calling out Southeastern though we shouldn’t forget the role of the Department for Transport and Treasury in these cuts.

They’ve long sought cuts in services and funding which has previously impacted routes across the country.

Southeastern is the handy whipping boy situated between those who make decisions and passengers who rely on services.

A useful deflection

Woolwich and Greenwich MP Matt Pennycook for example has published his letter to Southeastern.

It criticises a lack of consultation and references the 2017 consultation into service changes.

Around that time the Department for Transport put out its tender documents after then-Transport Secretary Chris Grayling blocked a prior agreement made by his predecessor Patrick McGoughlin to devolve SE Metro service to TfL.

McGoughlin was a pragmatist. His successor wasn’t.

While the DfT seek to cut rail TfL have increased DLR frequencies

Grayling embarked upon his plan with a DfT document riddled with errors. Most notably about future housebuilding.

At the time I highlighted how the DfT had badly underestimated housing growth in south east London and Kent according to both what was actually approved and various projections and local plans. The former MP for Erith & Thamesmead Teresa Pearce contacted the DfT after those odd numbers, and the DfT accepted a “mistake”.

The DfT made a pig’s ear of that process and again little happened. No new franchise was ever awarded.

Fast forward

Since the pandemic Southeastern’s parent company Go-Ahead were found to be responsible for financial mismanagement and the DfT took even further control.

Now forthcoming cuts are apparently based on current passenger numbers – though these plans also seem keen to choke off any post-pandemic recovery with long gaps between services.

Greenwich station serving tourists, students, residents at ever more new builds AND local employees. Why not cut services?

It’s notable for example that cuts on the Woolwich line to Lewisham (where thousands of homes, shops and a cinema are now being built) also include off-peak times such as Sundays.

The argument about simplifying routes may hold up during peak times if overall trains weren’t being cut but they are, and even during the weekend?

CGI of new Lewisham cinema. Structure now complete and opening due next year

We also need factor in that most Southeastern Metro stations are barely staffed and barriers left open all hours so accurate calculation of passengers is hard to come by.

I mean really, who actually pays to travel? It’s a free railway.

Open stations even at busy stations like Woolwich Arsenal

Also many of the Networkers – the bulk of the Metro fleet – lack the ability to measure passenger using on-train measuring tools. Only one if four Networkers across the whole fleet have it.

30 years old Networkers. Tired, unloved and lacking modern passenger monitoring equipment in bulk of fleet

Letters and complaints

Needless to say, I doubt local MPs and local councillors such as the head of Greenwich Conservatives’ protestations will achieve too much. Southeastern are hardly the ultimate decision makers after all.

To compound the issue, cuts would have been drawn up before the latest Tory leader and chancellor were in place. Incidentally both new Tory leader and chancellor live in Greenwich but I really doubt they know or care about what the average Joe is doing on their commute.

Greenwich station

Now both Truss and Kwarteng have embarked upon huge uncosted tax cuts there will inevitably follow huge spending cuts to plug the gap.

That could mean even bigger rail cuts to come next year, and what we see proposed for December will be a walk in the park before the axe falls further in 2023.

It’ll be a tall order not only to reverse forthcoming cuts but ensure further reductions don’t swiftly follow.

After all that’ll certainly get the economy moving.



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J Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

4 thoughts on “Forthcoming Southeastern rail cuts: MP’s line up to complain but to what end?

  • I think there will still be cuts in the mean time, however short sighted considering much of the entire North Kent line traverses a region that is booming, with developments from Lewisham & Deptford right down to Gravesend pretty much with Greenwich Peninsula, Kidbrooke and Thamesmead included.

    I think what is hoped to bring achieved here is keeping Charing Cross trains on the Woolwich and Bexleyheath lines, Southeastern have basically reheated it’s proposed 2017 timetable and it was resoundingly rejected then, and hopefully they can cancel the December timetable and create a new one, no one wants Cannon Street, even post the opening of the Elizabeth line (which is fantastic) Charing Cross trains from both lines are still busy, busier than either Cannon Street, Thameslink or Victoria train.

    There will be fewer trains because let’s be honest, Southeastern is in a state of managed decline at this point, but that doesn’t mean we should accept a worse timetable.

    I find it sinister how this went without any consultation period.

  • I will be interested to see the reply to Matthew Pennycook’s letter – it’s a perfect summary of so many questions that have been rumbling on. This is all from a train company who are introducing trains with no toilet facilities on board and no way they claim of advertising opening times of toilets at each station they run (!) and also it seems to always go unnoticed that SE’s pay as you go Oyster fare (unless you reach a daily cap when it becomes the same as TfL) is staggeringly higher than TfL’s fare for the same zones. eg off peak I believe SE Lewisham into Charing Cross is £4.40, whereas take the DLR from Lewisham and Jubilee Line at Canary Wharf or Jubilee from N Greenwich directly into Westminster and it’s only £2.60….

  • It was a well written letter by Pennycook, but SE Railway aren’t going to change anything.

    SE Railway lose so much in fare evasion that it adversely distorts the whole economics of the railway.

  • I agree the cuts will still go ahead but I think there’ll be a rewrite of the December timetable, it’s resoundingly unpopular and the petitions are getting thousands of signatures, plus lobby groups and MPs have questioned as to why there wasn’t a consultation, and we’re being fobbed off, I think those on the Woolwich line would cope with 6tph if it meant still keeping Charing Cross trains


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