Yesterday this site looked at plans to alter trains from north west Kent towns from Abbey Wood and connections with the Elizabeth line from June 2024.
Trains from Central London to Gravesend will head via Bexleyheath. Trains from Central London to Abbey Wood will terminate at Dartford instead or Gravesend.
This is to benefit the Woolwich line and even out services where 2022 cuts saw the longest intervals for decades introduced at busy stations and will benefit many.
However not all are winners as those beyond Dartford lose a direct train to the Elizabeth line. But how many will be impacted?
Stations between Dartford and Gravesend are Stone Crossing, Swanscombe and Northfleet. Many are seeing some sizeable housing development.
But all the towns along here in north west Kent are expected to see substantial changes. If we start at Dartford, one of the biggest now underway being Copperhouse Green with nearly 800 homes planned.
Over 200 have been built and work is underway on the next 71.
Access to Liverpool Street via the Elizabeth line from Abbey Wood is used by developer Bellway as a selling point. From Abbey Wood, Canary Wharf is nine minutes away. The City is 15 minutes. Stratford less than 20 while the West End is just over 20 minutes.
Regardless of alterations beyond Dartford these residents won’t lose any direct links to the Elizabeth line and should benefit from more evenly-spaced services.
One stop along from Dartford and Stone Crossing is seeing a development of 258 homes now underway. Sleepy Stone was almost a ghost town for years and while the station is still hardly the busiest it is outperforming many others.
Passenger numbers here are almost now back to 2018 levels and will surely grow when those new homes complete. They will lose a direct train to the Elizabeth line.
Other sites earmarked for development in the town also include 763 homes approved this year. Taylor Wimpey have named it Knights Reach. However access to Stone station isn’t the best so it’s more likely people will head to Dartford.
The next stop is Greenhithe where plans for 47 flats beside the station were approved on appeal in April 2023.
Then comes Swanscombe where 333 homes are now being built a short walk from the station at Ebbsfleet Cross.
Despite the name it’s far closer to Swanscombe station compared to Ebbsfleet. A 10 minute walk versus 30 minutes or a 10-15 minute drive and paying for parking.
Swanscombe station is another that has seen passenger numbers quickly bounce back and is now higher than pre-pandemic – though from a low base.
Then we have Northfleet. Yet another station that has bounced back in terms of journeys post-pandemic though again from a pretty low level.
The first new homes are just completing at a site just five minutes away from the station which is a good deal easier and quicker to reach than Ebbsfleet. There’s 500 homes at Harbour Village planned with the first residents having moved in during summer 2023.
Marketing states it’s in Ebbsfleet Garden Village though in reality it’s some way from the main Ebbsfleet Village site most think of. It’s actually beside the Thames.
I’d wager they’ll also be some demand for services heading to Abbey Wood and the Elizabeth line from the Keepmoat Cable Wharf 598-home site which is between Northfleet and Gravesend but now we’re reaching stations with HS1 so we’ll stop.
There’s plenty more sites to mention such as the vast Northfleet Harbourside plan with an 8,000-capacity stadium and 3,500 homes but that is some way off.
This will be a game-changer and given how close it is to Northfleet station it’s very likely many residents will head to Northfleet to connect to the Elizabeth line from here.
Elizabeth line extension
There have of course been murmurings of extending the Elizabeth line to around this area but that seems decades off. Many of these homes will be in place some time before.
Above when looking at sites I’ve kept focus on developments underway or already approved and now seeing homes for sale. Either way, demand for rail should be healthy and many will see marketing about reaching the Elizabeth line for onward connections hoping to do just that.
The issue now is how to ensure that happens with a decent service. In the short term people in those areas either existing residents or those moving in soon will have got used to four trains per hour to Abbey Wood. If no more trains are added in June 2024 that’s down to two.
Will a regular four trains per hour (ie Metro-level service) service make it from north west Kent to the Elizabeth line in coming years?
I expect Southeastern and the DfT may want people to use HS1 but it’s simply not any quicker to reach many destinations across London let alone the fact Ebbsfleet station can be hassle to reach for many of these new developments sited close to the old line.
HS1 fares are also pretty expensive high and car parking costs are also needed. When it’s a short walk to stations between Dartford and Gravesend people will use them.
It’s a tricky balancing act for Southeastern if the Department for Transport refuse to allow sufficient funding for extra services as seen in the past. In the near term improving the Woolwich line is a must given how poorly-space services are at many stations, yet in time demand for more direct trains from north Kent west of Dartford to the Elizabeth line will only grow.