Southeastern services remain poor in December timetable change

It looks like few improvements for Southeastern Metro passengers are on the way a year after cuts and poorly-spaced service intervals were introduced.

In particular, uneven service spacing and the longest peak time service gaps on the Woolwich line for decades remain ensuring poor connections with the Elizabeth line for passengers.

Busy Abbey Wood station as people wait 20 for a Southeastern train after departing Elizabeth line

Last December Southeastern reduced services by a further two trains per hour through Greenwich, Charlton and Abbey Wood after cuts were demanded by the Department for Transport at the behest of the Treasury.

That could have been justified if remaining services split between Thameslink and Southeastern were evenly spaced – but they weren’t after those 2022 reductions. Two trains would be timetabled close together followed by a lengthy wait.

Then the May 2023 timetable failed to improve matters, and now a full year on and the December 2023 again doesn’t rectify the issue.

Up to three train loads of Elizabeth line passengers can arrive before a single SE or TL service to Kent

As such those arriving at Abbey Wood on the Elizabeth line hoping to connect to Kent-bound Southeastern services still face gaps the like of which havn’t been seen for many decades.

It’s bafflingly short sited to introduce such reductions almost as soon as the new £18 bn line opened alongside thereby hampering journey potential and connections for those coming or going to Kent.

Courtesy realtimetrains.

Heading to Kent after alighting from the Elizabeth line at Abbey Wood sees two trains within three minutes then a 27 minute gap.

After a year this still hasn’t been improved.

Weak recovery

What’s happening on Southeastern Metro under the Department for Transport is a quest for cuts apparently no matter what. In contrast TfL restored service frequency on routes and lines such as the DLR since 2021 – and have seen strong recovery.

Services like the DLR are doing very well even with the Elizabeth line running. SE Metro too has routes that the new line doesn’t service (eg quick links to London Bridge) as well as acting as a feeder to Crossrail – yet the timetable squanders it.

Southeastern under the DfT have also seen employee reductions with many stations now left unstaffed all day plus service cuts and in turn a very poor recovery. Open goals such as good connections from Kent to Abbey Wood for the Elizabeth line just aren’t taken. They’re actively made worse.

DLR has seen improvements back to pre-pandemic levels unlike SE Metro

Further up the line it’s a similar story. Deptford has new housing developments completing yet cuts meant services gaps through Deptford and Greenwich increased and in the new timetable are still over 20 minutes.

A well-planned and funded network would look to have frequent services to capture some of the large number of new residents (in car-free homes) as potential customers. Yet not on a network which the DfT cannot apparently envisage trying to grow.

As such it’ll be no surprise that when London Overground, DLR and the tube all reach pre-pandemic numbers Southeastern is floundering.

So where are people going instead? Well, see the cars around Abbey Wood station and congestion elsewhere. Ever more traffic. Perhaps that’s what the DfT want.


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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.

    5 thoughts on “Southeastern services remain poor in December timetable change

    • If only Failing Grayling tearing up the heads of agreement between DfT and TfL to transfer Southeastern metro services to TfL. Agreed during Johnson’s tenure as Mayor of London, but once that role went to a Labour party candidate, the transfer just couldn’t go ahead. Gotta just dump the unpopular stuff on him, like ULEZ, eh?

      Everything Grayling touched has turned to s**t.

    • I’ve seen four train loads of passengers disembark at Abbey Wood before a Thameslink/Southeastern train arrives given the nonsensical gaps now in place. It’s never been as long as 27 minute gaps like now since the 1970s and even post-covid there’s still loads more people travelling than most of the past 40 years when services weren’t this bad.

      This government is a busted flush but they’ll destroy all they can before being kicked out. Ministers seem intent to actively make it hard to use the new line for those in Kent – and that’s a Tory area! What absolute idiots are in charge.

    • Funny how the Kent Messenger are reporting the wonderful new 8.47am arrival into Charing Cross as a “Tory win” for the well-heeled voter in Swanley, Otford and stations east thereof towards Maidstone (East).

      No ticket offices closures or service cuts in outer Kent, yet?! Or TfL land, or Merseyside, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland……

    • KentOnline and most other old sites like that just rehash press releases from companies directly or from political parties. No scrutiny.

      It’s why many companies and politicians love them. They just repeat what they’re told.

    • I know the cuts are treasury-driven, but I wonder if the decision to focus those cuts on the Woolwich line is because Southeastern fear revenue loss from Kentish passengers buying tickets to Abbey Wood and then switching to Oyster or contactless for onward travel? Rather than buying London Terminals tickets or Travelcards where Southeastern’s revenue would reflect them carrying the passenger all the way into zone 1?


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