11 September 2009

Cuts to Southern Railways Services to Forest Hill

The East London Line is creeping closer to Forest Hill and changes are already underway. From 20th September TfL will take over management of the stations on our line including Honor Oak Park and Forest Hill. Already at Forest Hill we are seeing the footbridge replaced by a new, disabled accessible, footbridge with lifts to both platforms. Passengers with limited mobility will still need to access the station through the main entrance, rather than the Perry Vale entrance, but from there both platforms will be accessible with or without stairs.

Most importantly we are expecting East London Line trains to start running to Forest Hill from June 2010, or possibly a bit earlier.

But on the railway system every silver lining appears to have a cloud and we have learnt that Southern intend to cut some services from Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park from December this year. This is despite intense lobbying by the Forest Hill Society and Sydenham Society over the last two years.

From December 2009 we will no longer have any services to or from Charing Cross. All trains to Forest Hill will start or terminate at London Bridge. This is a real shame as, in the evenings when these trains run, most passengers are coming from the West End. The Route Utilisation Strategy of 2008 described this service as 'well utilised' (meaning that there are usually people standing on most evening trains). Southern claim that their sister company South Eastern require the tracks between Charing Cross and London Bridge for Kent services, but at off-peak evening times there is clearly spare capacity on these lines, just as there is today for our direct services from Charing Cross.

From May next year Southern are planning to reduce daytime off-peak services to Forest Hill from 6 trains per hour to 4 trains per hour. This is not good, but it is not a disaster, as it is relatively recently that these services were increased to 6 per hour, and at off peak they are not always entirely full. However, in the last month we have confirmed with Southern that it is not just the off-peak services that will be effected - THEY ARE PLANNING TO CUT PEAK EVENING SERVICES AS WELL. This decrease to 4 trains per hour will hit passengers travelling all day after 9am, right through the evening peak. Frequent users of these evenings services will confirm that they are already running at maximum capacity, and the removal of 30% of trains is likely to be a real problem for passengers from London Bridge.

This cut in peak services will take effect from May 2010, before the East London Line is scheduled to be running, and even when the East London Line is running it is unlikely to be carrying 30% of existing passengers at peak times - even if everything works perfectly from day one. We know that there is 'surpress demand' on our line, meaning that if there were more carriages and trains then 40% more people would be travelling on our line.

The Forest Hill Society has asked Southern to reconsider these cuts to our services and we have been speaking to politicians to see what can be done before the all important date of May 2010, when we lose 30% of our trains.

Other sites commenting on this issue:

24 August 2009

Forest Hill Conservation Area Consultation

Lewisham Council are consulting regarding extending the Forest Hill Conservation Area.

There will be a Public meeting and exhibition to discuss the conservation area with council officers and the consultants who have prepared the appraisal and its recommendations.
Saturday 5 September 2009, 12noon - 3pm
Forest Hill Library, Dartmouth Road

More information about the Forest Hill Conservation Area and the proposals can be read on the council web site.

20 August 2009

Honor Oak Road Traffic Lights

We received news today that, following representations made by the Forest Hill Society to Transport for London regarding the junction between Honor Oak Road and London Road, the traffic lights and traffic management system have been adjusted to allow a more responsive green time for Honor Oak Road, allowing more time if needed for this road. Hopefully this should remove the excessive queuing on Honor Oak Road.

They have also adjusted the overall amount of green time given to each set of traffic signals which are linked along the South Circular in Forest Hill. This has been increased allowing the signals in Forest Hill to automatically increase the overall green time in the area when needed.

Hopefully these changes will have a positive effect on traffic coming through Forest Hill. Let us have your feedback on whether these changes have the necessary improvement, especially as we go into September with more traffic on the roads.

15 August 2009

Tyson Road Planning Application 2009

The Forest Hill Society has written an objection to the latest proposal for 69-74 flats on a backland site behind Tyson Road and Honor Oak Road.

You can view the planning application on the Lewisham website and can view the details of our objection here.

In summary:
1. Poor design
2. Poor access
3. Over-development
4. Reduction of green space
5. Does not fit with the character of the area

More photos of the site on Flickr

You can sign the petition that local residents have set up. Alternatively send your own objection to planning@lewisham.gov.uk

04 August 2009

Jerk Cookout Festival

Date: Sun 9 August
Times: 1 - 6pm
Venue: Horniman Gardens

Come to the biggest and best Jerk Cookout competition live from the Horniman Gardens. Relax in our award-winning green oasis, listen to sizzling live music, sample the finest Jerk in south London from the many stalls competing, and buy fantastic gifts.

The Forest Hill Society will have a stall, so look out for us and buy an SE23 fairy cake or our special gingerbread people!

31 July 2009

Response from Southern Railway

Below is the response from Southern Railway to the letter concerning trains to Charing Cross:

The recommendation from the South London RUS – for further investigation around off-peak services to Charing Cross - was done in the context of the new Southeastern timetable for December 2009 (incorporating the high speed service) and the new South Central franchise.

During the development of the Southeastern December timetable it was identified that in order to make it workable there would be significant limitations on the ‘through London Bridge’ pathways available for other TOCs. There are implications for the First Capital Connect service particularly in the peak at London Bridge, and for Southern off peak services to Charing Cross and Waterloo East.

As a result, the Department for Transport did not specify that South Central franchise services should operate through to Charing Cross from December 2009. Subsequent scrutiny of the off peak timetable by Southern has confirmed that it is not possible to run Southern services through London Bridge into Charing Cross given Southeastern’s timetable specification from December.

As you know we use our passenger loading equipment to help specify how many carriages should go on each train and if carriages should be moved to better cover passenger demand. This we did during the current franchise deploying additional carriages to the Sydenham line in the morning peaks for example. We will continue to do this as normal but in general terms there is no reason for us to reduce the number of carriages on this route simply because the service will start and finish at London Bridge rather than Charing Cross.

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

15 July 2009


We are pleased to report that Mayor Steve Bullock has taken the decision to put the extra money into swimming in Forest Hill. We are now on track to have swimming on the Dartmouth Road site before the 2012 Olympics. The frontage will be retained with a great two pool leisure centre behind.

The Mayor admitted at the meeting that there could have been significant planning problems in building a new leisure centre on Willow Way, a fact that was never mentioned during the consultation. He felt that the additional cost of a pool on the existing site was worth the expenditure compared with the risk of a development on Willow Way being delayed by planning problems. It was also mentioned that if funds were not committed now, a new leisure centre might never be built – public expenditure cuts in the future were a near certainty.

The design is expected to be based on that drawn up by Allies and Morrison and first shown to stakeholders in February this year. A copy of the relevant pictures from the stakeholder presentation is attached. This design really impressed the stakeholders when it was first revealed and it was a major disappointment when it was then revealed that it was unaffordable.

Whilst making the decision, the Mayor agreed to extend the time that the Council would wait for funded proposals from the community for a civic use for Louise House beyond the previous date of November 2009. He also instructed Council Officers to provide some assistance in preparing such proposals. With the Library and Pools site in Civic use, it would be a real shame for Louise House, the building in between, to be converted into housing which has been the Council’s intention. A major effort to develop proposals for Louise House is expected to be the next focus for local community groups now the Pools battle has been won.

The Mayor also said that he had been impressed by the Forest Hill Society proposals that live / work units should be built on the Willow Way site and he instructed the Council’s planners to consider such a use for the site along with any other proposals that might come forward. Any revenues from such a development would offset the additional cost of the new pools on Dartmouth Road. At the moment, the Council is effectively putting a value of zero on the Willow Way site but the Forest Hill Society’s advisors feel that a value of £1.5m is realistic.

This is the best possible result for Forest Hill town centre and for the people of Forest Hill.

This has been a hard fought campaign by the Forest Hill Society and other local groups including Keep Swimming in Forest Hill, Sydenham Society, Tewkesbury Lodge Estate Residents Association, and local councillors.

Particular thanks to Hilary, Penelope, Jeff, Quetta, and Michael from the Forest Hill Society committee who have put a huge amount of effort to getting this result. Without their hard work and dedication it is likely the outcome could have been very different.

07 July 2009

Forest Hill Pools - The Third Option

Over the last few years the Forest Hill Society has consistently campaigned for a return for swimming on the site of Forest Hill pools at the earliest possible opportunity.

In May 2009 local residents were given two options to either move swimming into Willow Way, or wait for at least six years to see swimming return to the current site. The Forest Hill Society continued to support the Dartmouth Road site as the best option, whilst recognising that an early return of swimming for vital for the health of Forest Hill residents and Forest Hill town centre.

The report to Mayor and Cabinet now contains a third option which would provide exactly what we ask for; a pool on Dartmouth Road in the timescale of the Willow Way site. We strongly support this option and call on the mayor to support this option when he makes his decision on the 15th July 2009.

We believe that this option would not have been considered without the work of the Forest Hill Society working with other local groups, councillors, council officers, and the mayor. It may be premature, but we would like to thank all those who have worked to return swimming to Forest Hill.