On behalf of the Forest Hill Society, which represents passengers in the Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park areas, I would like to respond to the South Central Franchise Consultation document. Overall we are pleased with the recommendations of this document which recognises the high level of demand for services from our area and the need to increase the length of trains prior to any rebuilding at
Summary of Recommendations:
- 12 car trains by the end of 2011
- Off-peak services to
- Improved access at Forest Hill station from both sides of the railway
- No more 2 car trains on the
loop Crystal Palace
- Longer trains on evening and weekend services from
to Forest Hill London Bridge
- Improved off-peak access to Gatwick and
Length of trains during peak hours
Page 5 refers to 10 car trains running through Sydenham (Forest Hill) from late 2011, whilst page 38 talks about 10 car trains from 2015 with reference to the possibility of 12 car trains being further investigated.
With the expected reduction in services to
- Extending platforms to 12 car rather than 10 car will add little extra cost and avoid further extensions in the future, required for the Thameslink service and to meet ever increasing demand on the Forest Hill route. For this reason it makes economic sense to upgrade the platforms to 12 car trains rather than only to 10 car trains.
- The RUS recommends in sections 7.2.5 and 8.3.3 that services are increased to 12 car trains to account for passenger demand when train numbers are reduced in 2012.
We hope that the franchise agreement will take account of the recommendations of the South London RUS and provide 12 car services through Forest Hill at the earliest possible opportunity.
Off peak services to central
Currently passengers in Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park benefit from direct services from
At present plans are in place to stop running these off-peak services from the beginning of the new franchise. Whilst we understand that this may be the most convenient option for considering the franchising process, it is at the expense of passengers on this line who today benefit from this well utilised off-peak service.
The South London RUS does not go into details of off-peak services, but option 20.4 referred to continuing this off-peak service. Option 20.4 is not dealt with in chapter 5, but in appendix A (page 145) ‘Further investigation recommend regarding off peak services’. These investigations should be regarded as part of the franchising agreement if there is any hope to keep this well utilised service. Our recommendation is to keep this half-hourly service running to
With or without the continued service from Charing Cross, the services from
Station Management and gating policy
We welcome the transfer of management for the stations at Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park to Transport for
In recent months Southern Railways, under instruction form TfL, have begun a gating programme that has already impeded access to stations at Sydenham and Forest Hill. It is an unhappy irony that these changes are being made at the same time as the rail industry is working to improve access to stations throughout the network, including Forest Hill station in 2009-2011.
In the case of Forest Hill station the southbound platform no longer has a direct entrance or exit before 3pm, forcing all passengers to cross over the footbridge. For customers with limited mobility living on the east side of the station they are now forced to use 4 sets of stairs (under the underpass and then over the footbridge) rather than the single set of stairs which they needed to negotiate until June 2008. For many people with limited mobility or with pushchairs this has significantly reduced accessibility at Forest Hill station and many now drive to Sydenham or Honor Oak Park with better accessibility.
We have asked for a number of different options to be considered, however, Southern Railways whilst recognising the value of these proposals have failed to take advantage of these suggestions. We hope that this attitude to customer service and public consultation will be reflected when considering any bid from this company.
Moving forward, this responsibility will pass directly to TfL rather than the franchise holder but we hope that in assigning this responsibility that the access to stations is made clear to TfL who have been complicit in the gating scheme that has been implemented. In the case of Forest Hill the importance of the Perry Vale exit must be recognised, an exit that is used by more customers in the evening peak than the main station. It has been recognised that an entrance in the Perry Vale car park would be the best solution to accessibility issues at Forest Hill, but until that can be implemented we believe that the gate must be available (either open or on a buzzer) at all times that trains are running.
We welcome morning peak services from
At present some of the off-peak services from
Changes planned to services from Forest Hill will mean that there are no longer direct trains to East Croydon making travelling to Gatwick and Brighton from
We would welcome solutions that would allow for some off-peak services to take customers to Gatwick airport without 2 changes of train, possibly by stopping more Gatwick services at Norwood Junction to allow for interchange or alternatively running services from Forest Hill to
For Gatwick the priority would be daytime, off-peak services, when most of the flights are leaving and arriving. For
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