Timetables across the country will see the regular December timetable changes tomorrow with a number of changes coming to Southeastern.
The vast majority of service improvements are for long distance routes into Kent with Metro services seeing minimal service increases.
High Speed 1 services will return to every half an hour for most of the day rather than hourly but for those in London and areas such as Dartford it’s slim pickings right now with just one single extra train in the mornings into central London on the Sidcup line and one rounder train helping people reach Elizabeth line services at Abbey Wood.
Southeastern Changes in 2024
In welcome news however Southeastern state extensive gaps between trains on the Greenwich line will be improved but not until June 2024.
Sizeable intervals between trains on the Greenwich and Woolwich line remain for now after cuts last December with Thameslink and Southeastern trains bunched closely together.
Each day we see hundreds of people disembark the Elizabeth line at Abbey Wood while switching to Southeastern. What was a 10 minute wait to travel onto Kent for decades is now 27 minutes – and often longer. Pretty poor for a Metro service serving highly populated and fast-growing urban areas.
Today highlights the reality for the past year with a half an hour interval between trains from Abbey Wood to north west Kent and areas of high housing growth.
It’s a Saturday in December and many people may want to use the Elizabeth line to reach sporting events, shopping, visit attractions in London or meet up with friends for Christmas events yet there’s 30 minute gaps between trains connecting to and from Abbey Wood.
It’s not much better from Monday. All day there’s gaps of 27 minutes then two trains within three minutes.
These are the longest service intervals in 50 years introduced as soon as a brand new line commenced that many do want to reach.
Thus driving or pick ups became more appealing – and heavy congestion around Abbey Wood each night is far from helped by rail changes.
Southeastern have argued that cuts were due to reduced demand and in fairness there was reduced numbers of course post 2020 but failing to adjust timetables to improve intervals post-cuts has hardly helped retain or encourage people to SE.
Keeping reduced services but spacing them at “turn-up-and-go” Metro levels (i.e. gaps at 15 minutes tops) probably would have sufficed and it’s a shame it’ll take 17 months from cuts being undertaken until that happens.
Cutting due to reduced numbers is also questionable in terms of any kind of strategy to recover passengers. A common theme has been to hear that reduced services were due to the Elizabeth line now running, but SE cut services acting as a feeder to the Elizabeth line from SE London and Kent harming their own passenger recovery.
If we look at the Docklands Light Railway, TfL took the opposite approach and restored and improved services back to pre-pandemic levels including increasing those acting as a feeder such as services towards Custom House up to every five minutes along the Beckton branch.
And what happened with the DLR? It’s bounced back strongly and in a Finance Report before next week’s TfL Board meeting show the highest increase of any TfL mode compared to predictions.
The report states “LU and DLR journeys are higher than expected as the assumed impact of Elizabeth line new services to these modes is less than expected.”
Southeastern Metro could – and should – have seen stronger growth if not for short-term cuts that’s hampered services for a substantial period of time.
Still, at least we now have word that services – if not frequencies – will be better from mid 2024.