Southeasterns’ 2015 timetable released

Southeastern’s draft timetable for services from January 2015 has been released today. Half the platforms will be closed at London Bridge meaning alterations are needed. The bad news is the removal of 1 train to central London in the morning peak and 3 heading out in the evening on the Greenwich line. The good news today is the long awaited extension of Victoria to Dartford via Lewisham from its current last train at 20:39 to 00:09.

The three trains cut at London Bridge are the 17:37, 17:58 and 18:21. The 18:57 also doesn’t stop at London Bridge as it starts at Charing Cross so is unable with the platform reductions. The 17:14 is no longer running, as shown in the consultation, but this actually results in an improvement. It is replaced with one two minutes earlier at 17:12 making the gaps slightly more even.

The last train from Victoria to Dartford will stop at Lewisham at 00.33. This is 2 minutes before the last train from central London to Charlton, Woolwich, Plumstead, Abbey Wood, Erith, Dartford etc so a quick connection will be possible. This is very good news for those who are in Victoria, Peckham, Denmark Hill etc late in the evening. This benefits those coming on a late southern train to Victoria who then want to head to SE London, as well as people arriving at Victoria on late coaches, and hospital users at the two big hospitals at Denmark Hill. This is a great improvement and well done for extending this service.

Train lengthening is a pressing issue and needed on many services as it is, without less trains and 3 years of future route growth. A 10% rise in passengers on the line over the next 3 years is not an excessive estimate with many new developments along the line. Last years growth was 2.8%. With three services cut from 5:30 to 7pm, and one not stopping at London Bridge, the pressure will be even greater up to 2018. It is to be hoped that a substantial amount of fast trains are 12 carriages and slow trains are 10 on the Greenwich line – the maximum possible due to short platforms at Woolwich Dockyard.

Off the top of my head there are large developments along the line at Slade Green (Howbury), Erith Park on the site of Larner Road estate, Cross Quarter in Abbey Wood, Peabody’s £200m ‘garden city’ at Thamesmead South, Woolwich Arsenal, Woolwich Dockyard estate demolition and rebuild, Victoria Way in Charlton, Convoys Wharf at Deptford and the development by the station. Merely maintaining capacity with longer, yet fewer trains, may not be enough. If those longer trains are not the maximum possible length then new stock to extend them may be needed before confirmed new trains in 2018.

Here’s an excellent and comprehensive overview from London Reconnections of why 12 carriage trains have not been introduced so far and the difficulties involced. It is well worth a read to explain the problems and slipped dates over the past few years. They should have been introduced 20 years ago. Then the plan was scrapped after much work was done due to lack of foresight in the early ’90s recession as well as impending privatisation before resurrection of the idea 10 years later, with work starting again a couple of years ago. There was some hope 12 carriages could be up and running by the Olympics which didn’t happen. Then the plan was for January 2014. Hasn’t happened. Southeastern boasted of thousands of extra seats from January and longer trains. No word on why it hasn’t happened though. Southeastern famed communications are in evidence again. There have apparently been issues with union agreement, driver rotas and trains going to be re-painted in Doncaster.

One comment on the site raises an interesting suggestion. It is to close the existing Woolwich Dockyard station which is in a cutting making platform extensions expensive. Every other station can accommodate 12 car trains on the Greenwich line except Woolwich Dockyard. An idea is to move the station slightly west to the open ground by Morris Walk estate. This would put it at a more even distance between Woolwich Arsenal and Charlton. The station is the least used on the line and saw the biggest decline in passenger numbers last year.

The estate is to be demolished soon and rebuilt to a greater density, though it loses some social housing which is unacceptable. Not only should there be more social housing, but money from the developers could be used to partly or wholly fund a new station and increase permeability between the two sides which the railway slices through. This would then allow 12 carriage trains on all-stopping trains.

On the subject of new trains, maybe one reason the powers that be havn’t prioritised new stock as they look at southeastern usage figures and see the lowest growth of rail franchises serving London. But one wonders how accurate that is when riding without a ticket is so easy – few staffed stations, no staff on trains, few barriers and those in operation open most of the time. London Overground’s predecessor was Silverlink on part of its route (North and West London line). It ran at poor frequencies, had no barriers and much unpaid travel. London Overground took it over, staffed many stations from open to close with barriers, put staff on some trains, upped frequencies and passenger growth has been phenomenal. London Overground now goes deep into south London, west London, North London, and east London. Next year it takes over Greater Anglia routes in North East London. SE London gets a couple of stations and only close to central London which are difficult for connections. The Greenwich line trains does not interchange with New Cross.

South west London doesn’t have many London Overground services but are getting hundreds of new carriages currently to extend suburban stock and that’s without cuts and major disruption to services.

The tube has seen billions invested. Many new trains. In 2015 it will run all night over the weekend. SE Londoners and people heading to Kent will still have to rush for a packed midnight train. Fair enough up to 2018 with substantial building works. After that though hopefully some later trains at weekends.

Southern and Thameslink are also seeing hundreds of new carriages coming into operation currently. The orders for these trains have an option for additional extra trains. Shouldn’t these options be taken up, or extended, and go to southeastern? The options have been there for years. If taken up some new stock could perhaps have been introduced in time for January 2015, or on a rolling program after.

The next few years will be difficult for many. It’s not all bad and in some cases an improvement. New trains are needed though. The options on the table for extending current train orders should be taken up as soon as possible to make the next 4 years more tolerable and cater for the coming growth.

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9 Responses to Southeasterns’ 2015 timetable released

  1. Stephen C says:

    I’ve always thought that the solution to the Greenwich area is an extension of the Metropolitan line. No one tends to consider this, but it consists of full size trains (not tubes) and could serve the area well (via Bermondsey for cross-platform Jubilee line change to the West End, and Surrey Quays for the Overground). It even offers an option for Woolwich Dockyard, as the Metropolitan line trains would fit in to the platforms, with the shorter trains offset by a higher frequency. FWIW, I’d terminate the Metropolitan at Abbey Wood and let Crossrail takeover the existing tracks to Dartford and beyond. Victoria to Charlton would complete the picture. Just a thought anyway…

    • It seems a good idea linking up various lines. The government would never fund it though given delays to schemes in planning for decades. Takes forever to get improvements in infrastructure in the UK.

  2. Plumstead Resident says:

    Great post. Thanks.

    London bound packed morning services on the Greenwich line are running with only six or eight cars, so they can add between 25% and 66% more capacity without encountering any issues around platform length. I find it really annoying that this hasn’t already been done and that commuters face horrid conditions especially when the trains crawls between Deptford and London Bridge.

    Woolwich Dockyard station is a grim station. It would be interesting to see what happens to it, I can easily see it becoming a St John’s Wood station that few trains actually alight at it but can’t be closed for social political reasons.

    • On the capacity issue there are ample opportunities to lengthen as you say with 6/8/10 carriage trains running.

      Here’s a rough calculation – there will be 3 trains cut. Say each averages 8 carriages. It would be good to know exact numbers if anyone uses them trains?

      So that’s 24 carriages on those 3 trains. After January there will be 13 evening PM rush hour trains instead of 16. If some of the 24 carriages from the 3 cut trains aren’t going elsewhere to other lines and all used to lengthen other Greenwich trains, then every train except one could have 2 added carriages added. That’s a pretty crude calculation mind.

      So 6 carriage trains will become 8, 8 will become 10 and who knows if they sort out the problems then some 10 will become 12. It will still mean though that even with all post-2015 trains extended that some will not be using the optimum amount of carriages (10 for stopping trains and 12 for fast). This is unless they can get some more in from elsewhere – either within southeastern (tricky) or new build.

      It looks as though the provisions will be fine initially with less but longer trains. I just wonder though in a years time, and then two years time, whether things will become extremely squeezed. Plus any disruption could really make things difficult eg if one train is cancelled.

      As for Woolwich Dockyard it’s likely political considerations will stop any move of the station further along the line. If that stops longer trains in the future that’d be a real shame. In coming years there could be a one-off chance to get substantial funding from developers to move it and expand capacity, providing it is technically feasible.

      • Plumstead Resident says:

        It would be good if they can keep the carriage numbers the same if they really must drop services.

        This isn’t very scientific I know, but I often see half empty trains pull into London Bridge in the morning whilst my train is bursting. Maybe it’s just sods law, but it does feel like they could reduce capacity on some services to expand on others. Another point, I would prefer capacity to increase on the morning peak rather than the evening because I find the morning journey a slower one because the train inevitably gets stuck in congestion in the London Bridge area.

        The Southeastern franchise is due to expire in 2018 and it would be interesting to see whether the tender of the franchise creates any innovation to improve the passenger experience.

        That said, by 2018/19 Crossrail should be running from Woolwich and Abbey Wood so that should take pressure off the Greenwich line as it would be quicker to get into central London on Crossrail than Southeastern? Also, by then, London Bridge will have been rebuilt.

  3. Neil Clasper says:

    Presumably the changes will prompt some Westcombe Park/Maze Hill train users to switch to the Jubilee line, taking a bit of pressure off the trains. Can’t say I’d be over the moon to add the bus journey to N Greenwich to my daily commute, mind.

    • That may do if things are bad enough and they struggle to board but that would cost many a fair bit more for some as they’d need an TfL annual ticket. There’s also the thousands moving into the developments on the peninsula in the coming years which will also be using the the jubilee line and make it less palatable. The Jubilee has had its upgrade but how long until it fills up it the question. Ultimately more stock will be needed for all the SE metro lines and the sooner it’s ordered the better to run all trains at maximum lengths.

  4. dan0rak says:

    On the Woolwich Dockyard question, there are examples of overlong trains in use on SouthEastern. For example Tunbridge Wells takes only 10 carriages, but many of the trains calling there are 12 coaches long. The end doors are locked and there are warning announcements. TW has a tunnel at each end of the platform. It’s also very busy. Further down the line the 12 coach trains have four end carriages locked out at some stations that can take only 8 coaches! Admittedly the longer runs give people time to move inside the train to the right bit, but then again the run to Woolwich Dockyard isn’t exactly fast!

  5. Pingback: Southeastern draft 2015 timetables: lucky Lewisham? | SE13URE

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