The St. John’s Society wrote to Southeastern regarding the loss of services from St John’s Station following the new timetable brought in on 11th December 2022. You can read the letter from our chair here.
We are expecting to lose 19 services per day thanks to the rerouting of the Hayes line trains to Charing Cross and other timetable revisions. Passengers were not consulted acting under the legislation brought in during the pandemic to allow rail operators to bring in changes more quickly.
Support from all three Brockley Councillors and our local MP has been given to our complaint. Representation by our local MP Vicky Foxcroft was made in Parliament on 6th December 2022. You can view the full speech below:
The campaign has also been covered in two articles by EastLondonLines, one of which our chair Litsa was invited to take part in an interview. You can read them here:
We have received a written response from Southeastern in December following our letter of complaint. Key points below:
- We developed the new timetable to match the reduced demand for our services since the COVID-19 pandemic better and submitted it to the Department for Transport. They approved it without public consultation, agreeing that it’ll deliver operational changes that will improve our overall punctuality (more trains on time) and reliability (fewer cancellations). It’ll be a simpler and have the ability to grow in the future, so we can quickly adapt should demand increase – currently peak-time passenger numbers are still considerably lower than they were before the pandemic, even if off-peak numbers have recovered.
- One of the key elements of the timetable was the removal of many crossing movements through the Lewisham Vale junction. The New Cross and Greenwich Lines were separated from Charing Cross after the rebuild at London Bridge, as it was part of the untangling of lines in order to improve performance. While this worked to an extent, we’ve found over the last few years that the delays we used to see on the London Bridge approach have migrated back down the line to Lewisham. It’s here, at such a major junction, that many different lines all converge, intersect and diverge.
- Currently, of the trains that move through the junction, 24 make crossing movements each hour. This is where a train moves from one line, over another, and onto a different route. For example, for a train to get from Blackheath to Charing Cross, when it leaves Lewisham platform 3, it has to cross the lines from platforms 1 and 2. As it goes over the bridge and down the hill, it crosses both the lines for Nunhead. At the bottom of the hill, it then has to cross onto the Charing Cross Up Fast. That’s three opportunities for the train either to get held for another train and incur delays, or to hold up other trains and pass on any delay it had.
- So, this timetable is changing it so only eight trains make crossing movements, and only during the peak. This will limit the opportunities for delays to spread and proliferate. Of course, the intent is that there wouldn’t be any delays, but the reality is that any number of different things can delay a train by just a few minutes – be it a speed restriction set by Network Rail, slow despatch at one of our stations, or a passenger getting taken ill on board, for example. Restricting these various losses of time to just one line will make sure the timetable is more robust overall.
- We do appreciate that Lewisham isn’t in such a great position, though. As part of the redevelopment of the area (the resignalling, etc), Network Rail is also looking into upgrading Lewisham station itself. This is a multi-year programme, and work is still focused on bringing the 1970s signals up to the 2020s! It will be key for New Cross connections, though, so there’s improved access to Overground services, as well as the DLR.
- Please be assured that this timetable is not our final goal or end state. We normally make two changes to the timetable every year (May and December), and we always take passenger feedback into account for these adjustments.
We appreciate the explanation from Southeastern as to the justification for the changes, though we are not content with the overall reduction in services. Although the most recent timetable changes have already been implemented, we will continue to push for more frequent services from our Zone 2 station and for additional services when the timetable is next up for review. We feel it’s imperative we have a regular ‘turn up and go’ service to multiple destinations so people rely on the trains, not on their cars. We note that Southeastern acknowledge that since the rebuild of London Bridge, the bottleneck is now at Lewisham station. This station is long overdue an overhall and until it is, will have knock-on effects on the quality of the services up and down the lines. We will be campaigning for Southeastern, Network Rail and Lewisham Council to rebuild Lewisham station as current and planned residential developments in central Lewisham are already adding pressure on this key transport hub.
The petition set up by Councillor Ayesha Lahai-Taylor is still live and needs more signatures. Please click the link below and sign the Petition: https://www.change.org/p/stop-the-cuts-to-st-johns-train-services?recruiter=70794042&utm_source=share_petition&utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_message&utm_medium=whatsapp&utm_content=washarecopy_35085310_en-GB%3A8&recruited_by_id=859ac9c6-5e2b-4d27-92a2-f066813abf76&share_bandit_exp=message-35085310-en-GB
We’ll keep you updated as we know more.