28 July 2008

Victory in Oystergate!

Mayor Steve Bullock has received the following letter from Southern Railways:

Dear Sir Steve Bullock

Firstly, I must apologise for the delay in sending you this letter following the meeting with John Oliver, our Acting Commercial Director last week.


We have now reviewed our operations since the gates went live and taken into account the views expressed at last week’s meeting. As a result we have decided to revise the operations at both stations as follows:


Forest Hill
As from Monday 28 July we will be providing access to both platforms while the gates are in operation between 0600 and 2000 on Mondays to Saturdays. The access point from Perry Vale onto platform 2 will have a member of staff checking and collecting tickets during these hours.


Sydenham

As from Monday 28 July we will provide access to platform 1 for all passengers with a valid ticket from 0630 to 0930 and then from 1600 to 2000 on Mondays to Fridays. There will be a member of staff present to check and collect tickets. Outside of these times during the day (0930-1600) entry and exit will still be available via buzzer entry for those requiring level access on platform 1.


I hope that this new arrangement is seen as a positive move on this issue.


This means that after the campaigning by the Forest Hill Society, Sydenham Society, Steve Bullock, Jim Dowd, Len Duvall, London Passenger Watch, and local councillors we have succeeded in having access to the station during all hours of train operation (I am assuming that the gate will continue to be open after 8pm). Many thanks to all the residents and politicians who helped make this possible.

We will continue to campaign for level access from the Perry Vale side of the station but this is a significant change by Southern Railways which we welcome.

Hat tip: Love Perry Vale

27 July 2008

Let's improve Honor Oak Park

A new group is formed called the Honor Oak Park Action Group (HOPAG) with their own website / blog. Their first aim is improvements to the environment around Honor Oak Park station.

The Forest Hill Society wish them the best of luck and look forward to working with them on a range of issues.

23 July 2008

Jim Dowd talks in Parliament about Gates at Forest Hill Station

Jim Dowd MP yesterday spoke in parliament about the issue of gates at Forest Hill and Sydenham. His recommendation is in line with the proposals from the Forest Hill Society. See extract below:

With change comes difficulty, as everybody knows. New stations are being fitted with the Oyster card system, which has been hugely successful on the underground network and on London buses. Extending it to the national rail network will be to the advantage of passengers throughout the area and the country, wherever it is adopted. Bringing in the Oyster card service means bringing in gates, which is where the current problem exists. There is a plan at Sydenham and Forest Hill stations to introduce over two phases and by the end of this year automatic gates, which will be brought on line while the Southern Trains franchise is still in existence.

Unfortunately, this is causing many of my constituents considerable inconvenience and has made their lives difficult because of restrictions on the up service from Sydenham and the down service from Forest Hill, requiring people to go to the other side of the station and back over footbridge to get to the service they want. For people with buggies or luggage or with mobility difficulties, that is extremely inconvenient. Everybody understands why the new system is being brought in, but it cannot be right to inconvenience the law-abiding and ticket-buying majority in the hope of catching the fare-evading minority. My constituents certainly do not see it that way.

Fortunately, the elected mayor of Lewisham, Sir Steve Bullock, arranged for me and him to meet senior Southern Trains managers at Forest Hill and Sydenham stations last Friday and, more particularly, for the managers to meet a number of constituents—their customers, passengers, or whatever they are called these days—and to hear from them first hand precisely how difficult their lives have been made by the lack of co-ordination in introducing the programme. As I say, nobody disputes the need to reduce fare evasion and to improve security by ensuring that only genuine passengers have access to both trains and stations. My constituents would agree with that proposition.

However, as the full scheme can be implemented by the end of this year, we are asking Southern Trains—it has agreed to consider this—to revert to the original position of unguarded gates until such time as it can bring in the whole scheme. My constituents will then be able to have access to both the up and down platforms at all times of the day with minimum inconvenience. I hope and expect Southern Trains to respond positively in a short space of time.

21 July 2008

South Central Network Franchise Consultation

On behalf of the Forest Hill Society, which represents passengers in the Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park areas, I would like to respond to the South Central Franchise Consultation document. Overall we are pleased with the recommendations of this document which recognises the high level of demand for services from our area and the need to increase the length of trains prior to any rebuilding at London Bridge station related to Thameslink services.


Summary of Recommendations:

  1. 12 car trains by the end of 2011
  2. Off-peak services to Charing Cross
  3. Improved access at Forest Hill station from both sides of the railway
  4. No more 2 car trains on the Crystal Palace loop
  5. Longer trains on evening and weekend services from London Bridge to Forest Hill
  6. Improved off-peak access to Gatwick and Brighton

Length of trains during peak hours

Page 5 refers to 10 car trains running through Sydenham (Forest Hill) from late 2011, whilst page 38 talks about 10 car trains from 2015 with reference to the possibility of 12 car trains being further investigated.

With the expected reduction in services to London Bridge on this line in 2012 it is vital that the 2011 date is confirmed in the final version of the franchise document and we believe that it would be best to introduce 12 car trains at this time rather than just 10 car trains. There are two reasons why this is the best course of action:

  1. Extending platforms to 12 car rather than 10 car will add little extra cost and avoid further extensions in the future, required for the Thameslink service and to meet ever increasing demand on the Forest Hill route. For this reason it makes economic sense to upgrade the platforms to 12 car trains rather than only to 10 car trains.
  2. The RUS recommends in sections 7.2.5 and 8.3.3 that services are increased to 12 car trains to account for passenger demand when train numbers are reduced in 2012.

We hope that the franchise agreement will take account of the recommendations of the South London RUS and provide 12 car services through Forest Hill at the earliest possible opportunity.

Off peak services to central London

Currently passengers in Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park benefit from direct services from Charing Cross during evenings and weekends. This service was recognised in the draft RUS as being a well utilised off-peak service and provides significant benefits from passengers travelling home from the West End during evenings and weekend.

At present plans are in place to stop running these off-peak services from the beginning of the new franchise. Whilst we understand that this may be the most convenient option for considering the franchising process, it is at the expense of passengers on this line who today benefit from this well utilised off-peak service.

The South London RUS does not go into details of off-peak services, but option 20.4 referred to continuing this off-peak service. Option 20.4 is not dealt with in chapter 5, but in appendix A (page 145) ‘Further investigation recommend regarding off peak services’. These investigations should be regarded as part of the franchising agreement if there is any hope to keep this well utilised service. Our recommendation is to keep this half-hourly service running to Charing Cross off-peak but not at peak times. During peak times we recognise that there is not capacity to take this service but at off-peak times there is capacity today and there will continue to be capacity for the full duration of the franchise period.

With or without the continued service from Charing Cross, the services from London Bridge are often overcrowded at weekends due to short trains (often 4 car). Accurate figures are hard for us to judge regarding the length of trains or the overcrowding on these services, but we would ask that the franchising process look at this issue and consider running longer trains during the off-peak periods – evenings and weekends.

Station Management and gating policy

We welcome the transfer of management for the stations at Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park to Transport for London and hope that this will result in improvements to the station.

In recent months Southern Railways, under instruction form TfL, have begun a gating programme that has already impeded access to stations at Sydenham and Forest Hill. It is an unhappy irony that these changes are being made at the same time as the rail industry is working to improve access to stations throughout the network, including Forest Hill station in 2009-2011.

In the case of Forest Hill station the southbound platform no longer has a direct entrance or exit before 3pm, forcing all passengers to cross over the footbridge. For customers with limited mobility living on the east side of the station they are now forced to use 4 sets of stairs (under the underpass and then over the footbridge) rather than the single set of stairs which they needed to negotiate until June 2008. For many people with limited mobility or with pushchairs this has significantly reduced accessibility at Forest Hill station and many now drive to Sydenham or Honor Oak Park with better accessibility.

We have asked for a number of different options to be considered, however, Southern Railways whilst recognising the value of these proposals have failed to take advantage of these suggestions. We hope that this attitude to customer service and public consultation will be reflected when considering any bid from this company.

Moving forward, this responsibility will pass directly to TfL rather than the franchise holder but we hope that in assigning this responsibility that the access to stations is made clear to TfL who have been complicit in the gating scheme that has been implemented. In the case of Forest Hill the importance of the Perry Vale exit must be recognised, an exit that is used by more customers in the evening peak than the main station. It has been recognised that an entrance in the Perry Vale car park would be the best solution to accessibility issues at Forest Hill, but until that can be implemented we believe that the gate must be available (either open or on a buzzer) at all times that trains are running.

Crystal Palace - Victoria Loop

We welcome morning peak services from London Bridge via Forest Hill to Victoria as bringing an important route into better use whilst avoiding the centre of London and congestion on the Jubilee and District Line.

At present some of the off-peak services from Victoria to London Bridge via Crystal Palace run as 2 car trains, but these can be very busy during early evenings. We would like to see a minimum of 4 car trains on this route during off-peak times, with a minimum of 8 car trains during peak period (rising to 10 or 12 car trains by 2012).

Services to Brighton and Gatwick from Forest Hill

Changes planned to services from Forest Hill will mean that there are no longer direct trains to East Croydon making travelling to Gatwick and Brighton from South London significantly harder. Passengers will have to change at Norwood Junction and again at East Croydon for trains south.

We would welcome solutions that would allow for some off-peak services to take customers to Gatwick airport without 2 changes of train, possibly by stopping more Gatwick services at Norwood Junction to allow for interchange or alternatively running services from Forest Hill to East Croydon during off-peak times. Without improvements to connections from South London to Gatwick airport, there will be more people travelling by road to Gatwick airport rather than by train. With the potential of the South Central and Gatwick Express franchise being run by a single company, it should be possible to provide better connections between various services.

For Gatwick the priority would be daytime, off-peak services, when most of the flights are leaving and arriving. For Brighton we would like to see weekend services that allow South Londoners to travel directly to the coast by train. With more flats in London being built car free, the rising cost of petrol, and warmer summers, a day out to the sea by train could become popular once again. However, it is important that these are fast/semi-fast services from Croydon to Brighton. These services would be popular with families, students, and anybody else looking for a chance to escape the city for a day or a weekend. Ticket deals including overnight accommodation, similar to those available to Eurostar customer would also make it easy for people to spend a night and benefit further from the extent of the South Central franchise area.

14 July 2008

Pools Consultation Begins

Lewisham Council has begun the consultation on the pools redevelopment and are presenting three options for your consideration. To take part in the consultation go to the Council website.

Please take a look at the different layouts proposed for the three options and complete the feedback form at the end. It is very important that pool users and local residents have their say in this important site in Forest Hill town centre.

The Forest Hill Society does not, at this stage, have a preferred option as the consultation should provide every individual an opportunity to express his/her own opinion. However, a few issues to consider when looking at all three options:
  • How many pools do you want?
  • What other leisure facilities do you want and is there enough room?
  • Is the mass and height of the buildings right for the site?
  • What is your opinion of the design of the building? How might it be improved?
  • Does the proposal include the right amount of residential property?
  • Is there the right amount of public space in the area?
As well as taking part in the consultation we would encourage you to express your views on se23.com.

11 July 2008

Urban Garden Party in Stanstead Road

After lots of hard work by local residents, the Stanstead Road community garden is almost ready for it's official opening. To celebrate the occasion there will be a party on Sunday 27th July, 2-5pm with a special guest appearance by local celebrity, Sarah-Jane Honeywell from CBeebies. There will be face-painting, balloon-art, stalls, games, food and drink, a tombola and guided planting sessions led by Groundwork. It's all happening outside Travis Perkins' main entrance, next to Shannons Garden Centre on Stanstead Road, SE23 1BS Sarah-Jane will unveil the plaque at 3.30pm

Bird's Eye view from Multimap showing the site prior to any work taking place.

09 July 2008

Forest Hill Pools Exhibition and Consultation

From the Lewisham website:

On 12 July, there will be an exhibition of the design options for Forest Hill Pools on display at Peoples Day in Mountsfield Park, SE6.

On Friday 18 July 3pm – 7pm and Saturday 19 July 9am – 2pm there will be displays of the proposed options and designs for the new pool facility staffed by Architects and Council Officers who will be able to answer questions by local residents about the new development proposals. Feedback forms will also be available for residents to make comments and suggestions. The displays will be sited outside WH Smiths/Forest Hill Station on Devonshire Road/end of Dartmouth Road, SE23.

From Monday 21 July until Friday 8 August there will be an exhibition at Forest Hill Library, Dartmouth Road, SE23 3HZ (0208 699 2065). Feedback forms will be available at the exhibition.

There is also an online survey for residents and users of the pool to register their views from Monday 14 July to 8 August.

A range of other consultation will be taking place through specific focus groups throughout this period.


Historical features

A range of historical features from the fa├žade and the building will be used within the new design to reflect the heritage of the area. An Historical Surveyor will be appointed to identify items of interest and the items will be isolated and stored for the build programme.

Demolition

Demolition of the site including Louise House, is scheduled for early Autumn.
More information is available regarding the pools consultation at www.lewisham.gov.uk/foresthillpools

The barriers go up in Forest Hill

This week has seen the new system of ticket barriers and shut gates at Forest Hill. Passengers at Sydenham have been suffering now for a month from limited access to platform 1 at the station and now Forest Hill has limited access to platform 2. The ticket barriers themselves are not a big problem, although they can lead to congestion getting into the station, the real problem is the 'secondary' gates which, at certain times of day, can be used more than the main entrance/exit.

Southern Rail have listened to some of the concerns of the Forest Hill Society (most notably leaving the Perry Vale exit open after 8pm) but the introduction of these barriers has been done with little consideration of how it affects passengers in the local area.

Mayor Steve Bullock has invited the Managing Directors of Southern Railways and London Rail to Forest Hill station at 5:30pm on Friday 18th July. In his words "...you must be aware of the anger that is being expressed by your fare paying customers who use Forest Hill and Sydenham stations. The installation of barriers is causing delays and inconvenience of a large scale as well as putting those individuals who have mobility problems of any kind in a very difficult position."

Why should commuters have to queue for up to 8 minutes(*) in the rain to show a damp piece of card to ticket inspectors?
Why should the Perry Vale exit be shut before 3pm but open after 8pm?
Why rush ahead with ticket barriers when there are better solutions?

The Forest Hill Society recommends the following course of action:
  1. The Perry Vale gate should be open 24 hours a day, either manned or unmanned. It should not be closed again unless a buzzer is installed for passengers with limited mobility
  2. Southern and TfL need to install automatic ticket barriers on the Perry Vale side of the station either at the foot of the stair or at a new entrance at the Perry Vale car park
  3. Long term the Perry Vale exit needs to be fully accessible and the easiest way to achieve this is to create a new exit in the car park in Perry Vale, just a few metres from the existing platform
If you are around Forest Hill station next Friday at 5:30pm look out for Steve Bullock and possibly some railway officials and tell them what you think of what they have done to Forest Hill station. Recommended train to Forest Hill from London Bridge 17:25 - a service that is always busy and the majority of people are travelling to Forest Hill or Sydenham.

Please post comments regarding the changes at Forest Hill and we can pass them on to Steve Bullock and the rail authorities.

* Reference Sydenham Town Forum