Despite Southeastern lines being a core link connecting towns across south east London, both with each other and to the centre of the city, the routes seem almost invisible to a number of organisations and authorities in the capital.
Last month a report was released, which was backed by the Greater London Authority. It looked at how, and where, 600k people (about five years population growth at the moment) can be accommodated, and transport links to get them about. The glossy maps drawn up showing areas of development, and public transport lines, showed every TfL service – Underground, DLR, Crossrail, London Overground and even the bloody cable car. Over the river in the east, c2c rail lines were also shown. But the Southeastern line connecting many areas of major growth shown on the map such as Erith, Thamesmead, Abbey Wood, Woolwich and Greenwich, was notable by its absence.
This week I saw that Len Duvall, who represents Greenwich and Lewisham at the Greater London Authority, wrote to the Evening Standard about population growth and the pressure on services. He mentioned buses and tubes. Nothing about the train service which are growing quickly, and a core method of transport in his constituency. Perhaps he did and the Evening Standard cut it. It wouldn’t be a surprise – they often seem oblivious to transport in the south east.
I’ve wrote before about how stations like Deptford have seen 11% more passengers over the past year alone. At Kidbrooke it’s 19%. With the towers beside the station now underway, that level of growth could become the norm over the next five years. In addition, TfL and Network Rail are looking at a 20 storey tower the other side of the station. But TfL and NR aren’t in charge of securing more trains – the Department for Transport are, and they seem resolute in doing little for the area.
Local Conservative MP’s like to put out press releases bemoaning the service, conveniently ignoring it’s their colleagues that run the DfT and make the decisions on what trains go where. Southeastern themselves have little to do with it. If the DfT decided to, SE would have more stock to lengthen trains in 2016. I’m not letting Labour off though – they re-privatised the lines in 2006, enforced the nation’s highest fares increases for four years and did not allocate any extra trains.
Just yesterday a news story came out of an order of 80 new carriages. It follows various over the past few years. It’s very unlikely they will head to Southeastern, just like all the previous orders. Just about every other train company serving London has seen a fair bit of new stock the past five years, or confirmed orders for the next few years. Much new or additional stock is coming to Southern, Thameslink, South West Trains, London Overground, First Great Western, c2c, Chiltern and London Midland. Only Greater Anglia havn’t, but most of their suburban services passed to London Overground in May, and TfL have already ordered dozens of trains for those routes.
Southeastern’s services seem absent from the consciousness of various authorities and decision makers. Who is fighting the areas corner? There’s a couple of good MP’s, such as Labour’s Teresa Pearce who has been meeting the DfT and ministers, but she seems the exception. It could well be that chances of more stock arriving next year, which Southeastern is in competition for with various other regions of the country, will be lost. They are 30 year old trains being displaced as Thameslink receives thousands of shiny new carriages, but even a handful could allow many services to be lengthened. But will it happen with the area’s rail network seemingly overlooked?