Southern service cuts - Department for Transport responds

BC regular Monkeyboy wrote to the Department for Transport, demanding answers, damnit, concerning the proposed reduction in Southern services to London Bridge, reported here.

Today, he received a response, which attributes responsibility for these changes to TfL, rather than Southern and says that "it has simply not been possible to fit the additional 8 trains per hour that London Overground will be operating into the existing timetable without changes to Southern services."

The letter points out that there will be a dramatic increase in train services on the line and that there are reasons to suppose that overcrowding in the evening may not be as bad as initially feared (we will not have to share trains with long-distance commuters any more). Nonetheless, the plans mean a reduction in London Bridge services, meaning longer waits between trains or choosing to re-route via the East London Line, replacing a cheaper rail ticket, with a more expensive tube journey. It also means that the initial promises that the ELL would not lead to a reduction in London Bridge services have been broken.

Here are the salient parts of the letter:

As part of the introduction of High Speed Services on the Southeastern network in December 2009, a full recast of the Southeastern timetable is being carried out. As part of this new timetable Southeastern is increasing frequencies on some metro routes in South East London and additional services will be stopping at London Bridge. For example, off peak frequencies on the Bexleyheath route are being increased by 2 trains per hour to Charing Cross.

Alongside this it has not proved possible to link any available paths through London Bridge with the available paths south of New Cross Gate, which are limited by the new East London Line services (that will begin operation next year).

Given the capacity limitations in the congested London Bridge area and the impacts of the new East London Line services it has not been possible for the industry to derive a timetable that allows the Southern services to continue to operate to Charing Cross from the Reigate corridor during the day or from the Sydenham corridor during the evening.

The Department has stated that if the train operators – Southern, Southeastern, First Capital Connect and London Overground - can identify a timetable solution that allows Southern to operate services through the high level platforms at London Bridge we would not stand in their way of delivering this.

The off peak train services frequencies from Brockley double in May 2010 compared to December 2009 with a train operating every 5 minutes. In the peak 3 hours services increase by nearly 150%, and by over 200% in the peak hour. These changes will increase the accessibility of this area of South East London and act as a driver for significant regeneration as you highlight in your letter.

These services changes have not been driven by train operator Southern – and they cannot be described as cherry picking services. The changes have been driven particularly by Transport for London’s investment in the East London Line Extension, and by TfL’s specification for services on this route (TfL is the specification body for London Overground services).

The timetable that results from TfL’s specification has been developed in cross industry discussions involving operators, Network Rail, and ORR to derive the optimum timetable for both East London Line and Southern services.

In the evening peak service frequencies from London Bridge will reduce to 4 trains per hour (from 6 today) as it has not been possible to match the paths available south of New Cross Gate (given the additional 8 East London Line services) with those available from London Bridge.

However these services will now be purely local services terminating at West Croydon and will thus have lower passenger levels from London Bridge, because the services to Sutton, Epsom and Guildford that currently call at the local stations will now use the fast lines due to the lack of available paths (because of the East London Line additional services), so that longer distance passengers will no longer congest the local trains.

In preparation for the extended ELL services, management of stations on the line transferred to London Overground on September 20th 2009 and TfL have already started a programme of station investments on the route, such as the installation of ticket gates with further investments due in the coming months.


Matt-Z said...

So the DfT are blaming TfL. I'm sure I recall TfL blaming Southern / the DfT. Like the station steps it seems nobody want sto take responsibility.

Bobblekin said...

For what its worth I have sent a letter to Ruddock and copied in Pidgeon and Adonis complaining about the reduction in services and asking for an explanation and whether any action will be taken up.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, I think most people in their heart of hearts knew this would happen. We are still left with a situation better than we have now.

ppp said...

"I think most people in their heart of hearts knew this would happen. " Well we did but people who spoke out, were branded doom mongers.

Lou Baker said...

Indeed. I always thought the ELL was bad.

Still have heart.

Although it'll be much harder to get to the City, impossible to go direct to the West End and you'll need to go via zone 1 (or walk through Croydon) to get to Gatwick at least you can get to Hackney 8 times an hour without changing.

It might be no good for work but it'll be much easier to spend an evening out in Hoodie Central.

The Labour run DFT has shown itself to be lying and duplicitous. Let's not forgot that come election time..

Anonymous said...

Not great but I still believe that overall Brockley will be better connected. The world does not start and stop at London Bridge. I have to decend in to the depths of London Bridge tube so not so different from changing at Canada water.

At the peak there will be 14 trains an hour heading into London from Brockley.

Headhunter said...

I got the same response as published here from Lord Adonis, I pasted it into comments on the other thread yesterday.

I'm afraid I have lost interest completely in the ELL extension because of this. It's no longer an enhancement to accessibility in Brockley but a way to shunt us off into the back of beyond. We already have convenient access to the Dockland along the DLR which for those in northern Brockley is a stones throw away (Deptford Bridge an Lewisham) and I really have little need to go to Hackney.

It seems that Southern, TfL and local officials have known all along that we would lose trains to London Bridge and Charing X but have hushed this up, with Southern even going as far as issuing statements about a year ago promising that there would be no reduction in trains to London Bridge.

One of the (main?) reasons for the reduction in the number of trains to central London for us seems to be to allow Southern to run more profitable fast link trains to London Bridge from the depths of Kent where people pay 4 figures for annual travel passes.

Concerned said...

I wonder what this will do for house prices?

Yes we'll be on the tube map?

But the inconvenience of getting home from central London.

And there's risk if the decision making bodies have been so 'reckless with the truth' about train services before might they be so again. Might they cut morning trains too?

Headhunter said...

Anon - Yes of course if you're heading elsewhere in London and are changing to the Tube at London Bridge anyway, then it's probably fine to do the same at Canada Water, but for many people London Bridge, Waterloo East and Charing X were ultimate destinations. I barely ever use the Tube at the moment - literally once or twice a month - because once you get to one of the 3 mainline, Central London stations you can walk or take a short bus trip to most other central destinations.

Tamsin said...

Posted yesterday on thehill website forums

"The Mayor of Lewisham has sent a strongly worded letter to the Managing Director of Southern Railways asking for him to reconsider the decisions made. This has been copied into a number of relevant parties including Lord Adonis, the Transport Minister.

The matter is on tonight's Lewisham Council Meeting agenda although it was one of the last items and I could not wait to the end. I'll post a report when I hear back from the others there.

Representatives of the Sydenham, Forest Hill and Telegraph Hill Societies were present at the start of the meeting to present a copy of the petition to date to Councillors. Some 700 signatures have been collected in the first week - but obviously we need more - so if you haven't signed, or you know anybody who hasn't signed, now is the time. If you can volunteer any time to help with the campaign, it would now be a good time to do so (via ths

We had a meeting with Southern Railways last week - basically they put the blame on the Department for Transport (although given that the issue is one of timetabling between Southern and SouthEastern and both companies are owned by Govia, there are probably things they could do to alleviate the problem without having to suffer a large public campaign!

The local amenity societies are now seeking a meeting with the Department for Transport."

@ Anon. 9.54 The world may not begin or end at London Bridge - but quite a lot of it starts at Gatwick and the loss of the East Croydon connection is a serious one.

Headhunter said...

Concerned - They already are cutting morning trains. The cuts affect peak and off peak trains.

Headhunter said...

I wasn't aware that we were losing the connection to Gatwick as well! Brockley really is going from a relatively well connected if lesser known location to a backwater on the edge of the Tube map with links to nowhere...

Brockley Nick said...

@hh what morning services are they cutting?

dude said...

It might be no good for work but it'll be much easier to spend an evening out in Hoodie Central.

Are you referring to Hackney here Lou Baker?

I often find that Hackney shares a similar problem to South East London. Those that are critical of it rarely know what they are talking about.

Headhunter said...

I thought there was a reduction in peak trains as well? To be honest I am personally less interested in peak time trains as I never use them, so I haven't paid as much attention to that.

Headhunter said...

Hackney may or may not be "hoodie central" however I doubt wouldn't count it as such an attractive destination that we need 8 trains an hour up there!

Anonymous said...

What also concerns me and granted this is a nighmare scenario. But it's this connectivity with Hackney. Like many other inner city boroughs Hackey has a problem with drug users and suppliers. A police crackdown a few months -
Operation Dominix resulted in about 15 people being arrested.

We in Brockley have a similiar but less developed situation, there's been crack houses closed down(google SLP for more). With this new connectivity we could find these too areas hooking up on that front.

There's lots of new affordable housing being built and a recession happening. We could find this area rapidly changing in character.

Anonymous said...

Dude Hackney and Brockley have a lot similiarites but that is THE problem. Plus it'll be easier for drug dealers to get down to New Cross to get at the Goldsmiths Freshers.

I think people need to prepare themselves.

fabhat said...

HH: the cutting of trains to London Bridge is a real problem - as well as the added blow of losing the East Croydon/Gatwick connection. It's classic train company profit minded behaviour and I hope with all this protest we can do something to stop it, or at least reduce the damage...

But behaving as if the the ELL just connects to Hackney is daft. Okay you're not interested in going to Hoxton, but getting to Liverpool St will be much easier and that IS a bonus and opens up another part of the city. It will also mean you can go to places like Bond St without having to go on both the train and tube which will save money.

Anonymous said...

Surely we can change at Norwood Junction for the Gatwick connection instead?

dude said...

If you work on Bishops Gate, around Old Street, Fenchurch St etc then that service is quite handy, quicker than going via London Bridge. The area itself has a lot to offer and Brockley shares many qualities with it in terms of the arts and creative industries.

Portraying it as a ghetto is not only lame but slightly hypocritical because to some, Brockley is considered a bit of a ghetto too.

Would you take offence if someone from Hackney questioned the need for a train every 7 minutes to Brockley because it was a dodgy area?

dude said...

Anon 10:37, that is a seriously daft assumption to make.

When was the last time you physically left your home?

Anonymous said...

Free and fair trade of drugs is what Brockley needs. Half the conservation area are on coke - and it's expensive, artisan coke at that. A more ethical market that benefits the supplier and the user would be most welcome.

Anonymous said...

Most people in London don't even know where Brockley is. If pushed they think it's a place in Bristol.

Real politics said...

What's saddening about this is the sense of mistrust it creates.
1.No dept (govt, tfl or train company) is taking responsibility for the decision.

2. No one is taking responsibility for how the apparently implicit/inevitable decision to cut trains was presented.

Which was to say the exact opposite of what was going to happen.

People (Forest Hill society and others) suspected they'd be cuts but others read official pr statements and said "no you're worrying too much...look it says no're be reactionary". People don't want to be seen as negative so the critical mass that could have formed to lobby against any potential cuts didn't form. Now it appears its too late.

Being reasonable and fairminded (not Daft) when conversing with dissemblers doesn't seem to you very far.

Headhunter said...

Fabhat - OK I accept that getting to Liverpool St will be easier but getting to Bond Street won't! Previously I would have take the train to Charing X (4 stops) and walked there at the other end! It's about a 10 minute walk through the side streets. I bet I could make it there faster than using 2 Tube lines!

This is what I mentioned earlier, the link to London Br, Waterloo and Ch X basically gave us access to many central London destinations without having to make a single change and without having to set foot on the overpriced Tube system.

Headhunter said...

"Most people in London don't even know where Brockley is. If pushed they think it's a place in Bristol."

IME most people assume I mean Bromley...

Brockley Nick said...

@Real Politics - I totally agree with you that this is one of the worst aspects to the whole thing - I dislike combative, reactionary politics, but this is a kick in the nuts for reasonable politics.

@HH you're being daft. Brockley to Bond Street would take you 45 minutes by that route. Via ELL, it's maybe six mins on the ELL and then 20 mins on the Jubilee Line.

Plus, with the ELL, waiting times for trains to / from Brockley will be much shorter.

Brockley Nick said...

@HH - there is no reduction in morning services. There is a reduction in evening services, from 6 to 4.

That is the main issue, IMO.

Anonymous said...

It is really difficult to get on Jubilee trains to canary wharf from canada water.sometimes It takes 2-3 trains before I can get on because they are so packed (from people getting on at London bridge).I am sorry everyone. This sucks!

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon - you are referring to morning journeys from London Bridge to Canary Wharf. There is no change in morning services to London Bridge, so this is not going to be an issue.

Also worth noting that it regularly takes 2-3 trains to get on at London Bridge, where they often close the gates temporarily due to over crowding.

Finally, in terms of the general problem of overcrowding, the Jubilee Line capacity is increasing by about 50% (work was due to be completed before the end of this year and although it is running a few months late, it should be ready before the ELL opens).

Suggestion said...

Re-open Brockley Lane station for off peak and particularly evening travel from London, as compensation.

Matt-Z said...

High Level platforms at Brockley would certainly sort this problem out. I wonder how much it would cost to reinstate them? Seeing as some steps and a ramp have come to £330000 I'm guessing at least £5m.

Anonymous said...

There is no Brockley Lane station. A few rotting old brick walls full of weeds, smashed glass and dog shit does not make it easier to (re)open a station there than anywhere else.

drakefell debaser said...

£5 million and and probably 2 parliaments.

Pete said...

At least South Londoner La Roux has the right idea;
"Move to Kensington?" she muses. "I'd rather live in a bin"

Headhunter said...

I got a response from Southern. They blame Souther Eastern and the fast link to Kent and the DoT

Thank you for your email.

I note the concerns you have raised and can fully appreciate your disappointment. Alas we are not in a position currently to alter the upcoming changes as they have already been specified to operate. However, timetables are constantly under review, and feedback is warmly welcomed and not disregarded out of hand.

The forthcoming timetable changes, precipitating the withdrawal of Southern services to Charing Cross, are rooted in Southeastern’s December 2009 timetable, (including the new high-speed link between Kent and London), and the new South Central franchise – operated under the name Southern – from September 20 this year.
During the development of the Southeastern’s December timetable, it was identified that in order to make it workable, there would be significant limitations on the ‘through London Bridge’ pathways available for other Train Operating Companies. There were seen to be implications for First Capital Connect services during peak-time at London Bridge, and Southern off-peak services to Charing Cross and Waterloo East.
Subsequently, the Department for Transport did not specify that South Central franchise services should operate through to Charing Cross from December 2009. Further scrutiny of the timetable by ourselves, has confirmed that it is not possible to run Southern services through London Bridge into Charing Cross given Southeastern’s timetable specification from December. The service levels between these stations will be maintained by Southeastern.

I hope this explains clearly what the reasons behind what is happening in December. We would of course be happy to offer further clarification and assistance where necessary.

Thank you for taking the time to contact us.


William Henry
Southern Customer Services

You can send us emails and reply to us directly at: comments@southernrailway.or click on the following link if you would like to submit a webform:

Dumbo said...

Thanks HH, but it's too complicated for me to understand.

Headhunter said...

Exactly, The obfuscation and general web of confusion is being maintained as all parties involved try to blame each other.

Matt-Z said...

Aaargh! Southern say "it's Southeastern's fault and anyway the DfT didn't ask us to run trains between London Bridge and Charing Cross".

Why do Southeastern get special treatment? If they've already been given a whole bunch of new paths into St Pancras along HS1, surely there should be some spare paths into Charing Cross?

Anonymous said...

As for La Roux she's lives in Herne Hill /brixton and they don't take the kinda sh*t we put up with here and besides her mum is a celeb (June Ackland the Bill) she can pull in the press.

Anonymous said...

As for La Roux she lives in Herne Hill /brixton and they don't take the kinda stuff we put up with here and besides her mum is a celeb (June Ackland the Bill) so can pull in the press when in need.

Anonymous said...

She'd fit in quite well in Brockley as a ginger

drakefell debaser said...

Brockley has a few celebs too. Perhaps we should set up commutercamp on Hilly fields and get the press in.

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