27 September 2015

Coming Down the Line

Network chaos
Since the last newsletter in the spring, train services have improved considerably — well, they really couldn’t have gotten much worse, after half of the evening peak services from London Bridge were cancelled between January and May of this year due to poor planning of services around London Bridge station’s improvements. Since May’s timetable changes, Southern trains have managed to run on a relatively reliable schedule, although there still continues to be more cancellations than anyone would like to see.

As a result of the appalling service at the beginning of the year, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) severely criticised Network Rail for their inadequacies in planning for the impact of Thameslink’s engineering work and timetabling. The ORR subsequently fined them £2m, which is not a great deal for a company that receives a £10m per day subsidy from the taxpayer; no doubt, any higher a fine would only have made it harder to achieve passenger improvements. In addition, the chairman of Network Rail was sacked and Sir Peter Hendy, one of the most respected managers in UK transportation and who had been head of Transport for London (TfL), was appointed as his successor this summer. We can only hope that Network Rail will now improve services.

The Forest Hill Society had been asking questions about changes to ticketing and timetabling — which would occur during Thameslink’s planned upgrade work at London Bridge station — for the four preceding years. Despite our continued expressions of concern, Network Rail and train operators proved that they had not adequately planned for the chaos that was to result from the temporary removal of so many tracks into or out of the station.

On a positive note, work around Bermondsey appears to be progressing well; and, this time next year, train services should be running to and from Charing Cross again albeit without direct services to and from Forest Hill (as was once the case).

Bakerloo line
You may remember, at the end of last year, TfL consulted about plans for a Bakerloo line extension to Lewisham and Hayes; and, possibly, Bromley. Not surprisingly, 96% of 15,000 respondents were in favour of such plans. Notable amongst the 4% who opposed TfL’s plans was Bromley Council, which was concerned about slower connections to London for people who would use the proposed extension to Hayes. Despite the objections, the idea of extending the Bakerloo line seems to be gaining traction, with many candidates for 2016’s London mayoral election expressing their support for the concept.

Recently, mutterings have been heard from Croydon Council about a different route for the Bakerloo line that would run to Croydon. Why this is necessary, when there are fast services from Croydon to most main line stations in London, is not clear at this stage. The location for such a route is also not clear but, given the congestion around Norwood, it is possible that tunnelling close to Croydon is being considered rather than taking over busy tracks and junctions - but all of this is speculation.

The Forest Hill Society continues to support the concept of extending the Bakerloo line. Our belief is that almost any route would be advantageous to large areas of South London, and the sooner an extension is started the better!

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