The following article has just appeared on East London Lines
Funeral for last direct train to Charing Cross
Last Saturday commuters marched through Charing Cross station laden with an empty coffin to mark the end of Southern railway’s Charing Cross service.
The protesters, many dressed in funereal black, had travelled into the West End on the last direct Sydenham to Charing Cross train.
From here on Southern services will terminate at London Bridge, forcing commuters who board at Brockley, New Cross Gate, Honor Oak Park, Sydenham and Forest Hill to change trains for Charing Cross.
Commuters opposed to the cut argue Southern’s Charing Cross service was vital to residents of southeast London, a claim supported by figures from the Office of Rail Regulation which show nearly 11 million people used that stretch of line in the 2007/8 financial year.
Dan Woods, 31, played the accordian during Saturday’s memorial. He said: “The train service has been getting increasingly worse and increasingly crowded. Now I take my bike into town. They’re doing a great job of promoting cycling by making the train service worse.”
His partner, Amy Ip, 30, added: “We’re both actors. If we’re working in town, we depend on the Charing Cross service, especially at night.”
The weekend’s protest was organisd by a collection of Lewisham civic groups angry at the service cuts. A petition for their campaign NoToTrainCuts has attracted 3,000 signatures so far.
Southern’s Charing Cross service was axed to make way for Britain’s fastest commuter train, SouthEastern’s Javelin, which shuttles between London and Kent at 140mph and began full service on Saturday.
Despite the cessation of the Southern service campaigners do not believe the battle is lost. Barry Milton, Chair of the Sydenham Society, said: “We believe we can still get the service resurrected.
“We’re trying to get the mayor of Lewisham and our MPs to go to the Department of Transport. If they want to get themselves reelected they need to get in and make them change their minds.”
Southern also plans to cut the number of trains traveling to London Bridge in the afternoons and evenings from six an hour to four to allow for the East London Line overground service due in May 2010. The ELL will run eight trains an hour.
A Transport for London (TfL) spokesman said: “TfL is not cutting any services. We are in fact extending the East London Line and it is because of this Southern has decided it can afford to cut their trains as fewer people will be using them.”
Mr Milton disagreed: “We love the East London Line, it’s the best thing to happen to us for years, but it’s only going to serve 30 per cent of commuters. We believe the core service must be retained.”
Southern say the cuts are out of their hands.