17 April 2010

DfT Replies to Petition

We have received a disappointing reply from the Department of Transport acknowledging our petition. Few of our concerns have been addressed and rather than providing the leadership we called for, the DfT will merely 'not stand in the way of the operators'.

A fuller rebuttal will follow in due course.

Train Services on the Sydenham Corridor

Thank you for your letter and petition of 23rd March 2010 to Chris Mole MP regarding changes to train services on the Sydenham corridor. I have been asked to reply on behalf of the Department of Transport.

As the Minister stated in the recent Parliamentary Debate on this issue, any changes to train services, however small, are often unpopular but he restated the view that overall the package of changes to be introduced this May will significantly enhance the service provided in this area of South East London.

When discussing these changes it is important that both East London Line and Southern services are considered together. The provision of an extra 8 East London Line trains an hour on this route, and the improved interchange opportunities this will bring will significantly alter the demand patterns seen today.

From most stations on the route train frequencies will double with many stations receiving 14 trains per hour in the morning peak compared to 6 or 7 today. This will reduce demand levels on existing services to London Bridge.

It will take some time for demand patterns to stabilise after the new services are introduced as passengers alter their travel habits to take account of the new journey opportunities that the line will bring.

We expect the ability to easily interchange with the Jubilee line at Canada Water to significantly alter current demand patterns. It is also very unlikely that the suppressed demand that you refer to from the RUS will emerge straight away. Such demand would normally materialise over a number of years that would accord with the extra train capacity delivered by 10 car trains that are to be introduced in 2012.

You raise a number of other points and I will seek to address each in turn

Charing Cross Services

As you are aware the withdrawal of late evening services to Charing Cross was necessitated by the complete rewrite of the Southeastern timetable as a result of the introduction of High Speed Services. Timetable planners at Network Rail, Southeaster, Southern, First Capital Connect and London Overground attempted for a number of years to develop a timetable that allowed these services to continue to operate, but it was not possible to find appropriate train paths that would allow these services to continue.

If in the future a way of timetabling these services to Charing Cross can be found the Department of Transport would not stand in the way of the operators of doing this.

However it is also important to note that the Jubilee line serves large areas of the West End and passengers may choose to travel via Canada Water interchanging with the 8 trains per hour service toward Sydenham.

Sydenham Services and the East London Line

As stated earlier it is important that the combined Southern and East London Line timetables are looked at together, alongside the improved interchange opportunities that the East London Line will offer.

We expect journey patterns in this part of London to alter significantly when extended East London Line services are introduced. For example passengers travelling to Canary Wharf from Sydenham are likely to travel via Canary Wharf [sic] rather than London Bridge, especially as the journey will be cheaper (avoiding Zone One). For passengers travelling to other stations on the Jubilee line we expect the significantly quicker interchange at Canada Water will mean a number of passengers will divert via this route. Other similar changes are also likely.

Given this we expect a reduction in the number of passengers using London Bridge services.

You suggest that Southern are reducing capacity from London Bridge in the evening peak. Southern will be operating the same number of services from London Bridge although two of those trains will operate fast from London Bridge to Norwood Junction. This has been necessitated by the difficulties in timetabling East London Line and Southern services together on the corridor. For passengers travelling to Norwood Junction and West Croydon we expect these faster services to be an attractive option and many passengers to use these fast trains, reducing demand levels on the remaining 4 slow line services.

Again this timetable has taken a number of years to develop and has involved Network Rail, Southern, First Capital Connect and London Overground. However, it has not proved possible to match all the available paths from London Bridge with those on the East London Line and through key bottlenecks such as Windmill Bridge junction.

We believe that a combination of
  • Some Norwood Junction (and beyond) passengers diverting to 'fast line' services
  • Some West End and most Canary Wharf passengers diverting to East London Line services via Canada Water
  • Additional East London Line services south of New Cross Gate
will reduce demand on evening peak Southern services from London Bridge.

The combined evening peak capacity on the 'slow lines' south of New Cross Gate will increase by around one third when the new timetable is introduced.

Southern are committed to keep this situation under review after the introduction of the new services and officials will liaise with Southern and London Overground on demand levels later this year. Again demand patterns on the revised services will take some time to stabilise as people try out the new journey opportunities.

If additional services or stops can be accommodated within the timetable in future the Department would not stand in the way of these being introduced.

Platform Lengthening

Network Rail are committed to a programme of platform lengthening on the Sydenham route (and across South London) that will allow trains with 25% more capacity - an additional 2 carriages - to stop at all station son the corridor, with works to be completed by 2012, in advance of the start of planned works at London Bridge.

Yours sincerely,
Matthew Lodge, Franchise Sponsor

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