26 July 2009

Loss of Charing Cross Services

Below is the text of a letter sent on behalf of the Forest Hill Society to Southern Railways:

Dear Yvonne,

I read in the Southern Stakeholder Briefing that Southern now intend to stop running direct services between Charing Cross and Forest Hill. On behalf of the Forest Hill Society I wish to express my disappointment at this decision and ask Southern to find ways to reverse this decision before December 2009 when we will lose these services.

In the 2007 draft version of the South London RUS which stated in option 20.4 (p176):
“At present 2 tph direct services operate from Charing Cross to the Sydenham line between around 19:30 and shortly after midnight. These services are very well utilised. On Sundays they operate all day.
Retaining or running additional direct trains to Charing Cross would provide improved journey opportunities for all stations on the Sydenham route and alleviate crowding at London Bridge.”

The final version of the RUS concluded that regarding this option (p145)
“Not recommended for peak services. Further investigation recommended regarding off peak services.”

It is clear that this service, which transports passengers from the West End to South London suburbs, is a well used service at off-peak times. Removing this half-hourly evening service has no practical benefit in reducing congestion or improving journeys for other rail users.

It is recognised that most evening travel in the South London area originates from the West End, not from the London Bridge area. The link from Waterloo East and Charing Cross to Forest Hill provides a convenient service that matches passengers’ travelling patterns. Rather than scrapping these services you should be considering running them all day on Saturday as well as the current Sunday timetable.

The Forest Hill Society is aware that it would not be possible to run these services during peak times, but there is capacity between London Bridge and Charing Cross for the evening and weekend services, as demonstrated by their existence today. Even with the introduction of new services on the South Eastern timetable from Charing Cross, there is still off-peak capacity from Charing Cross that Southern should be utilising for the services via Sydenham.

I would like to ask what further investigations have been carried out into maintaining these off-peak services, as recommended in the RUS? Why have stakeholders not been consulted about this decision prior to the announcement by Southern? And how we can now get Southern to reverse this position before this important service is lost?

I would also like to ask what length the planned services will be from London Bridge in comparison to the services from Charing Cross, as the reduction in the number of carriages on these off-peak services would be another blow to passengers from Forest Hill and our neighbouring areas.

I hope that you will give this issue your urgent and serious consideration so that you can avoid a big disappointment for a large section of your passenger base.

Michael Abrahams
Vice-chair, Forest Hill Society

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