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.

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