New Southeastern timetable begins today

The press releases went out. Many dutiful media outlets dutifully copy and pasted them and sure enough services on Southeastern railway have changed today as a new timetable takes effect.

One of the most welcome changes will be better spacing of services along the Woolwich line linking passengers to central London, the DLR and Elizabeth line.

Abbey Wood an interchange between Southeastern and the Elizabeth line

Back in 2022 the Department for Transport ordered cuts on Metro services which saw service intervals increase up to 27 minutes at times along the north Kent line, including from north Kent feeding to the Elizabeth line at Abbey Wood. It was an impressive feat to cut services linking to a line that’d only just opened and was proving a spectacular success. Business nous? Not a bit of it.

What’s happening now is services are altered so spacings reduce from 27/28 minutes to 17 minutes. There’s no extra trains but what does run will no longer stop two minutes apart before a 27/28 minute gap. Still, it’s not turn up and go, but better that the last 17 months.

Current services are a long way from previous levels given it used to be at least every 10 mins all day a long the Woolwich line, with Southeastern running eight trains per hour before continual chipping away seen in the recent past.

Short sighted

If cuts had to be made back in 2022, a timetable that better spaced Thameslink and Southeastern services should have happened in advance of implementation rather than the rush job seen for short term “savings” 17 months ago.

Those rushed service reductions may well have cost more than they ever saved, as such long waits certainly didn’t make using Southeastern Metro any more appealing. Nearly tripling service intervals certainly wasn’t going to attract custom and grow passenger numbers.

Today though shows many problems remain. There’s 30 minute gaps through Abbey Wood for services to central London while the Elizabeth line is closed for engineering work.

North Kent to Abbey Wood services are down to one train per hour. A service level akin to a rural service rather than a built up urban areas.

Thameslink are seeing engineering works out in Medway and north of London today so services are down to just one an hour between north Kent and London Bridge.

Southeastern have not attempted to mitigate with additional services to compensate for reduced Thameslink trains and no Elizabeth line services. It would cost in overtime but given the demand and impact upon other lines they may well reap the rewards. But that isn’t how the DfT and Treasury operate.

Maybe it wouldn’t be possible due to the dispute drivers are in, but so little about how the Department for Transport run the operator gives much faith they’d even attempt to even without that factor.

And like so much else, these issues stem back to inept DfT management of rail and Southeastern, with the hand of the Treasury over it.

Cuts, cuts, cuts now rule and have done for some time.

The June 2024 timetable changes are welcome but still far less than optimum and as seen today, go nowhere near what is required for a Metro service serving one of the world’s biggest cities.

Southeastern will state the advent of the Elizabeth line meant cuts were needed. Maybe so, but how those cuts were enacted was just about as bad as they could be. And even today, we see they are in no way able to capitalise on the potential of extra custom despite serving areas seeing the highest population and housing growth in the UK.

 

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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.

    2 thoughts on “New Southeastern timetable begins today

    • The last 2 remaining Class 707s that are with South Western Railway should be transferred to Southeastern so that SWR can start allowing the Class 701 Arterio units on other services.

      Reply
    • Went for the 1246 from Woolwich Arsenal to London Bridge today. Shocked to find that it was only 4 carriages. The new timetable is the reason.

      In the past split and join trains in service caused problems when the couplers failed.

      Common sense prevailed and standard train lengths introduced.

      Will the problems return?

      Reply

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