17 November 2009

No To Train Cuts! - The Campaign moves up a gear

Our train services are under threat again from multiple fronts.

With the cross-party support of local politicians, the Forest Hill and Sydenham Societies have been running a campaign against proposed cuts to our service on one of Southern's busiest passenger routes. We have written to the Minister of Transport, both privately and in an open letter, requesting a meeting to discuss our concerns, but while we have had a reply, he has not yet agreed to a meeting. Over 1500 people have already signed our petition.

As a result, all the civic societies along the line will be leafletting their local stations demanding action. Brockley Central, Forest Hill and Sydenham Societies handed thousands of leaflets out today and HOPRA and the Telegraph Hill Society will leaflet Honor Oak Park and New Cross Gate tomorrow. We will be encouraging all the affected commuters to sign our petition at http://nototraincuts.notlong.com/ and write to their MP (either Joan Ruddock or Jim Dowd) asking them to raise this matter with the Minister for Transport.

What are the cuts?

In December, Southern Railways plans to cease service into Charing Cross station, terminating all services at London Bridge.. This is as a result of the DfT and SouthEastern Railways agreeing to exclusive access by SouthEastern Railways (also operated by Southern Railways' parent company GoVia). Southern have tried to smuggle this change in without any announcement; there is nothing on their website regarding this change in service despite the fact that they claim to have consulted widely in their official submission to ORR, the rail regulator. This off-peak service on one of south London's busiest lines has significant demand and there was supposed to be further investigation before the service to Charing Cross was altered.

As if this wasn't bad enough, Southern Railways plan to reduce the number of trains in the afternoon and off peak which serve the Sydenham line by making the Caterham and Sutton trains fast to Norwood Junction. This means that the number of trains will be reduced from six trains an hour to four trains an hour once the East London Line starts operation in May 2010.

Southern have previously argued that the Sydenham line requires eight trains an hour formed of 12 coaches in order to have sufficient capacity to take commuters to Central London, which is where the majority wish to travel. How can a reduction from six trains an hour to four be justified (regardless of the number of coaches)? They claim that we will have additional capacity, but official modelling of demand for the East London Line service predicts severe high peak crowding from day one.

The third threat to our services comes from the possible reinstatement of the South London Line service from Victoria to either Bellingham or London Bridge. One of the options currently being considered by TfL and Passenger Focus is to cancel our loop service from London Bridge to Victoria via Crystal Palace and replace it with one via Peckham Rye instead.

02 November 2009

Letter to South London Press

Below is the text of a letter published in the South London Press from the Forest Hill Society, other local civic societies, and local councillors.

Dear Sir,
We are deeply concerned by the proposed deep cuts to already overcrowded train services run by Southern Railways via Sydenham, Forest Hill, Honor Oak Park, Brockley and New Cross Gate. Passengers are rightly outraged by these cuts and concerned that an already overcrowded and unpleasant commute will turn into a daily nightmare.
We welcome the introduction of the East London Line extension which is due to start in May 2010, but local residents were promised by Transport for London that existing services would not be cut once the East London Line became operational. These promises have been broken. From December all direct evening services to and from Charing Cross will be stopped. From May 2010 Southern intend to cut 1/3 of all main line services during the day and most importantly during the evening rush hours.
Over 11 million people used this train service in the years 2007/8 and Department for Transport figures and Transport for London figures all show that this line has suppressed capacity of up to 40%. In other words, were train services to improve the numbers of people using this line would increase significantly. The argument put forward by rail bosses that passengers will immediately transfer to the East London Line do not stack up. Improved services will create extra demand for all services, not less.
As representatives of Local Residents Groups, Locally elected politicians and as Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee we have written to the Minister at the Department of Transport requesting an urgent meeting on these issues. The Department of Transport sets the requirements of the Train contracts that train operators have to run. It is the Department of Transport who can resolve this problem. Both TFL and Southern have made it clear that solutions must come from the Government Department. We have asked the Minster to travel on an evening peak time train service with us to see for himself how overcrowded it is. The Department must take responsibility for this issue, engage with local residents, and provide solutions to their concerns.
Kind Regards
Lewisham Councillors:
John Russell; Philip Peake and Alex Feakes - Liberal Democrat Councillors Forest Hill Ward.
Dean Walton; Romayne Phoenix and Darren Johnson - Green Councillors Brockley Ward.
Chris Best, Marion Nisbet and Seamus McDermott - Labour Councillors Sydenham Ward
Susan Wise, John Paschoud, -Labour Councillors Perry Vale Ward
Local Residents Groups:
Richard Hibbert, Chair; Michael Abrahams; Tony Petim - Forest Hill Society
Tim Lund, Chair - Sydenham Society Executive Committee
Malcolm Bacchus- Telegraph Hill Society
London Assembly Members:
Caroline Pidgeon AM - Chair, London Assembly Transport Committee.

24 October 2009

200th Anniversary of the Croydon Canal

Over 120 people from the Forest Hill Society and Sydenham Society celebrated the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Croydon Canal with a walk from Sydenham station to Forest Hill station, via the last remaining section of the canal in the area in Dacres Wood.

Steve Grindlay provided the historical details with stops along the route and a talk and slide show at the Hob.

We had traditional bargeman's songs along the route provided by Andrew King, including a special song composed for the opening of the Canal 200 years ago!

After the walk many of us went to the Dartmouth Arms, where a traditional bargeman's lunch had been prepared of beef or vegetable stew with beer.

If you have other good photos from the day, please send them in for us to include on the website, and we hope to make the slide show available soon. In the meantime, you can read the article on the history of the Canal from our latest newsletter.

16 October 2009

Introducing the new Chairman

Last night's AGM saw the election of the new chair of the Forest Hill Society, Richard Hibbert.

Richard has been on the Executive committee for the last year and is also on the Forest Hill Ward Assembly Coordinating Group.

We wish him congratulations and a successful year ahead.

TfL Presentation to the Forest Hill Society

12 October 2009

Meet the Manager - Southern Railways

This Thursday, 15th October, Southern Railway are organising one of their regular 'Meet the Manager' sessions on the London Bridge station concourse from 7:30am - 9:30am. We would like as many people as possible to join us to explain to them why cuts to services is unacceptable. We hope that a large number turn up so that Southern Railway management will see the strength of feeling from their passengers. Additionally we have invited the press and local politicians to join us to hear the views of passengers.

Please join us on Thursday in opposing these cuts.

In December 2009 Southern Railways plan to cut our direct evening service (and Sunday service) from Charing Cross, running all trains from London Bridge. This is a well used service and provides a direct connection from the West End after 7:30pm. As this is an off-peak service we reject Southern Railway's claims that there is no capacity through London Bridge.

In May 2010 Southern Railways plan to reduce evening peak services and daytime services from London Bridge by over 30%, from 6 trains per hour to just 4 trains per hour. They will continue to run 6 trains per hour in the morning, meeting the demands on the line, but will not provide a similar service in the evenings, hoping that customers will switch to East London Line services or put up with serious overcrowding.

You can also join over 1,200 other people and sign the petition at http://nototraincuts.notlong.com

09 October 2009

Horniman Gardens Redevelopment

Below is the Forest Hill Society response to the planning application submitted by Horniman Gardens:

Members of the executive committee of the Forest Hill Society met with representatives from the Horniman to discuss their plans. As a result we would like to provide some feedback on the planning application.

We generally welcome the the planning application for Horniman Gardens which will improve many aspects of the gardens. The changes to the bandstand and the surrounding area will substantially improve the views across London which make the gardens so special. The improved access and integration of the animal enclosure will also enhance the gardens particularly for visitors with young children.

However there are some comments that we would like to make that may further improve the plans for redeveloping the gardens.

1. The positioning of the new community education building appears to leave a narrow path to the west which leads to the entrance to the animal enclosure and to the meadow field. Due to the topography of the area and the trees and shrubbery this narrow path may look as if it goes nowhere, despite being a major route around the park. This could present some safety and security concerns, as well as obscuring the entrance to the enhanced animal enclosure. We would recommend adjusting the positioning of the education building so that it is slightly higher up the hill (to the east), leaving more space for this path.

2. The sunken garden is an important feature of the park and is enjoyed by older members of the community, who are able to sit on the many benches available and enjoy the flowers. It is important to continue to provide a bright, well planted, space in this section of the park that can be enjoyed throughout the spring and summer. A water feature in the centre of the sunken garden is most welcome but should not be to the detriment of the high quality planting that has long been a feature of the gardens.

3. There are some concerns about the number of trees and lampposts positioned around the bandstand which may obstruct views of the bandstands from the avenue leading from the museum and London Road, the trees may also limit the views of the bandstand during concerts. Some trees in this space will help break up the large empty space, but putting lamppost between them seems to turn the area into an obstacle course. A better solution would be to provide lighting incorporated into the branches of the trees together with less obtrusive lighting around the edges of the area.

We hope that Lewisham planning department, together with the Horniman Gardens, can consider these issues and whether the implementation of this development may be further improved in line with our suggestions. Subject to these points, we recommend that the planning department approve this planning application and we wish the Horniman great success in raising funds to make these enhancements to the gardens, which are well loved by all in Forest Hill.