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31 January 2007

Area Forum last night, TfL this afternoon

Darien Goodwin, Head of Transport for Lewisham Council, last night told hundreds of people at the area forum that there will be six trains per hour throughout the day going to London Bridge from Forest Hill. Everybody was pleased to hear this reassurance that the services would not be cut to 4 tph at off-peak times (including the evening services from London Bridge to Forest Hill).

Jim Dowd MP gave further information, predicting that the rumours of cuts in the service would be proved to be unfounded when the official consultation is published later in the year.

The news today was less promising. First we got a copy of the letter from Ian Brown (Managing Director or London Rail) to Deputy Mayor, Councillor Heidi Alexander. I will quote a couple of paragraphs:
"This service frequency [the East London Railway] combined with 6 trains per hour to London Bridge will provide passengers with a total of 14 trains per hour between Sydenham and New Cross Gate"

"TfL's analysis of the demand shows that the East London Railway will:
  • generate 21% boarding increase in the northbound direction, whilst the most significant growth rate of 31% will be in the southbound direction;
  • attract over 55% of passengers currently travelling in a northbound direction will use East London Railway services, compared to 44% using the Southern railway services to London Bridge. In the Southbound direction, 54% of passengers are predicted to use the East London Railway, whilst 46% will use Southern services."

"The level of boarding at Forest Hill station is expected to increase by approximately 27% in the morning peak, with a significant increase of trips to Canary Wharf via Canada Water. Therefore, there will be less congestion at London Bridge station, due to the direct connection on the Jubilee Line at Canada Water station."

Importantly this letter does not claim the 14 trains per hour will continue throughout the day, and current proposals only show 14 tph at peak times, with just 4 tph travelling between London Bridge and Forest Hill at off-peak times (including the evening peak).

TfL analysis suggests that ELR will be preferable for 55% of passenger in Forest Hill. Our own survey suggests that currently only 35% of passengers would benefit from the improved connections with the Jubilee Line, while the remaining 65% of passengers need to use the connections at London Bridge. While it is inevitable that there will be more passengers travelling to Canary Wharf and other areas of growth in East London, these growth predictions are quite remarkable considering new office space is still being built, and is still popular, in the centre of London and this does not look like changing in the next three years.

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At the meeting with TfL this afternoon we handed over the petition with 700 signatures and 30 pages of comments! (Many thanks to everybody who signed the on-line petition)
TfL were adamant that their modelling of travel patterns are accurate and have undertaken to give us more details on the results of the models.

They support plans to increase the length of trains to 10 carriages per train on Southern services on our line. This project would apparently cost £12million and is one of the best value for money transport projects in London! They are still waiting for approval of funding from the DfT / Treasury later this year but expect this to go ahead. This is good news. The bad news is that we will have to wait until 2016, six years after the reduction in Southern service trains on our line.

Despite a clear difference of opinion between Forest Hill/Sydenham Societies and TfL there were some interesting options that we hope TfL will consider further:
  • Longer trains by 2010, with at least 8 carriages per train on all Southern services through Forest Hill
  • Increasing the number of Southern service trains in the evening peak to match the morning peak of 6 tph (no reduction from current levels)
  • Implementation of the increase to 10 carriages per train earlier than 2016 and preferably by 2010. This would make sense if TfL is taking ownership of the stations in 2009/2010 and need to bring them up to London Underground standard
  • We continue to oppose cuts to both our peak and non-peak services to London Bridge and believe that TfL modelling does not take full account of customer preferences for an interchange at London Bridge (to any transport service other than Jubilee Line) rather than the slow train to Bishopsgate or an extra interchange at Canada Water.

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