17 November 2009

No To Train Cuts! - The Campaign moves up a gear

Our train services are under threat again from multiple fronts.

With the cross-party support of local politicians, the Forest Hill and Sydenham Societies have been running a campaign against proposed cuts to our service on one of Southern's busiest passenger routes. We have written to the Minister of Transport, both privately and in an open letter, requesting a meeting to discuss our concerns, but while we have had a reply, he has not yet agreed to a meeting. Over 1500 people have already signed our petition.

As a result, all the civic societies along the line will be leafletting their local stations demanding action. Brockley Central, Forest Hill and Sydenham Societies handed thousands of leaflets out today and HOPRA and the Telegraph Hill Society will leaflet Honor Oak Park and New Cross Gate tomorrow. We will be encouraging all the affected commuters to sign our petition at http://nototraincuts.notlong.com/ and write to their MP (either Joan Ruddock or Jim Dowd) asking them to raise this matter with the Minister for Transport.

What are the cuts?

In December, Southern Railways plans to cease service into Charing Cross station, terminating all services at London Bridge.. This is as a result of the DfT and SouthEastern Railways agreeing to exclusive access by SouthEastern Railways (also operated by Southern Railways' parent company GoVia). Southern have tried to smuggle this change in without any announcement; there is nothing on their website regarding this change in service despite the fact that they claim to have consulted widely in their official submission to ORR, the rail regulator. This off-peak service on one of south London's busiest lines has significant demand and there was supposed to be further investigation before the service to Charing Cross was altered.

As if this wasn't bad enough, Southern Railways plan to reduce the number of trains in the afternoon and off peak which serve the Sydenham line by making the Caterham and Sutton trains fast to Norwood Junction. This means that the number of trains will be reduced from six trains an hour to four trains an hour once the East London Line starts operation in May 2010.

Southern have previously argued that the Sydenham line requires eight trains an hour formed of 12 coaches in order to have sufficient capacity to take commuters to Central London, which is where the majority wish to travel. How can a reduction from six trains an hour to four be justified (regardless of the number of coaches)? They claim that we will have additional capacity, but official modelling of demand for the East London Line service predicts severe high peak crowding from day one.

The third threat to our services comes from the possible reinstatement of the South London Line service from Victoria to either Bellingham or London Bridge. One of the options currently being considered by TfL and Passenger Focus is to cancel our loop service from London Bridge to Victoria via Crystal Palace and replace it with one via Peckham Rye instead.

02 November 2009

Letter to South London Press

Below is the text of a letter published in the South London Press from the Forest Hill Society, other local civic societies, and local councillors.

Dear Sir,
We are deeply concerned by the proposed deep cuts to already overcrowded train services run by Southern Railways via Sydenham, Forest Hill, Honor Oak Park, Brockley and New Cross Gate. Passengers are rightly outraged by these cuts and concerned that an already overcrowded and unpleasant commute will turn into a daily nightmare.
We welcome the introduction of the East London Line extension which is due to start in May 2010, but local residents were promised by Transport for London that existing services would not be cut once the East London Line became operational. These promises have been broken. From December all direct evening services to and from Charing Cross will be stopped. From May 2010 Southern intend to cut 1/3 of all main line services during the day and most importantly during the evening rush hours.
Over 11 million people used this train service in the years 2007/8 and Department for Transport figures and Transport for London figures all show that this line has suppressed capacity of up to 40%. In other words, were train services to improve the numbers of people using this line would increase significantly. The argument put forward by rail bosses that passengers will immediately transfer to the East London Line do not stack up. Improved services will create extra demand for all services, not less.
As representatives of Local Residents Groups, Locally elected politicians and as Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee we have written to the Minister at the Department of Transport requesting an urgent meeting on these issues. The Department of Transport sets the requirements of the Train contracts that train operators have to run. It is the Department of Transport who can resolve this problem. Both TFL and Southern have made it clear that solutions must come from the Government Department. We have asked the Minster to travel on an evening peak time train service with us to see for himself how overcrowded it is. The Department must take responsibility for this issue, engage with local residents, and provide solutions to their concerns.
Kind Regards
Lewisham Councillors:
John Russell; Philip Peake and Alex Feakes - Liberal Democrat Councillors Forest Hill Ward.
Dean Walton; Romayne Phoenix and Darren Johnson - Green Councillors Brockley Ward.
Chris Best, Marion Nisbet and Seamus McDermott - Labour Councillors Sydenham Ward
Susan Wise, John Paschoud, -Labour Councillors Perry Vale Ward
Local Residents Groups:
Richard Hibbert, Chair; Michael Abrahams; Tony Petim - Forest Hill Society
Tim Lund, Chair - Sydenham Society Executive Committee
Malcolm Bacchus- Telegraph Hill Society
London Assembly Members:
Caroline Pidgeon AM - Chair, London Assembly Transport Committee.