Southeastern Rail Franchise Update

The Department for transport published the results of the SE Rail Franchise consultation on 28 November 2017 which included a number of proposals to reduce train crossings at Lewisham. The Department has dropped the single London destination suggestion in the consultation document but is proposing a lesser rationalisation of services on all the lines through Lewisham to improve the operation of the Lewisham crossing. These changes are scheduled for December 2022 and will be subject to public consultation on the detailed timetable changes proposed.

We very much hope the new timetable will offer more evenly spaced services, and we look forward greatly to the introduction of 12 car trains (expected to be through carriage trains as the Overground and other recent new Underground trains).

The proposed off peak timetable for Blackheath will be 4 trains per hour (tph) to Charing Cross on the Bexleyheath Line and 4 tph to Cannon Street (2 Bexleyheath Line and 2 North Kent Line (from Charlton)), with 4 tph to Victoria from Lewisham. At peak times there will be additionally 2 tph to Charing Cross and 2 tph to Cannon Street (all on the Bexleyheath Line).

8 trains per hour evenly spaced will be every 7½ minutes with average waiting time of less than 4 minutes, but half of these will require a change at London Bridge for Charing Cross bound travellers.

The Department’s own explanation of the proposed changes is below, with some additional clarification by the Society (shown in italics)

Extract from DfT Stakeholder Briefing document (page 36)

The Department’s response:

“The Department has listened carefully to all passengers, taking fully into account their views including around reducing the choice of London terminals from individual stations to increase the overall reliability and frequency of the train service. A significant majority were opposed to the concept of moving to a single London terminal, and we will not proceed with this change.

However, we do need to make some more limited changes to services to both facilitate new Thameslink services to Woolwich, Dartford and North Kent and Maidstone East, as well as ensure we can operate a much more reliable, resilient and higher capacity service to benefit all passengers.

If we do not make these minor changes, the service is likely to become more congested with more delays, as passenger numbers increase over the life of the next franchise.

We will therefore require bidders to make the following  changes by (December) 2022, subject to a successful future public consultation on detailed timetable proposals:

−− Bexleyheath Line services would in future run to London Bridge, Waterloo East, Charing Cross and Cannon Street, with longer 10-12 car trains (which cannot fit into a number of stations on the route into Victoria). The small minority of passengers (around 1,100 in the peak) who currently travel directly to Victoria and Denmark Hill would change at Lewisham, where they would connect with more frequent services to Victoria (from Sidcup and Hayes).

−− Hayes Line services would in future run to London Bridge, Waterloo East, Charing Cross and Victoria (2 trains/hour). The small minority of passengers (around 700 in the peak) who currently travel directly to Cannon Street would change at London Bridge.

−− North Kent Line services to Charing Cross via Lewisham would in future run to London Bridge and Cannon Street (via Lewisham 2 trains/hour), to facilitate new Thameslink services to London Bridge, Blackfriars, Farringdon and London St Pancras.

−− Sidcup Line services will continue to run to Charing Cross, with Cannon Street services moving to peak times, reflecting the principal demand for these services is commuters. Outside peak hours, the small number of passengers for Cannon Street would change at London Bridge. (Plus 2 trains/hour to Victoria via Lewisham). All Metro stations would retain a range of London station destinations. No passengers would have to pay more for their journey if they are required to interchange on South Eastern services, and journey times would be similar to today.

What are the benefits of these changes?

Reducing the number of trains that are required to cross each other’s paths will mean that services via Lewisham can be much more reliable, resilient and faster. Simplifying the timetable will improve the performance and resilience of all services (not simply Suburban services), as well as Thameslink, allow more trains to operate, and allow them to run at more convenient, regular intervals. More than 80,000 passengers will benefit from these changes during peak hours.

−− Bexleyheath Line passengers will benefit from an increased frequency to London Bridge, and Charing Cross, and increased capacity to Cannon Street. More frequent 12-car trains will be introduced, providing space for more than 10,000 additional passengers in the morning high peak hour, doubling the capacity provided.

−− Hayes Line passengers will benefit from increased services in the shoulder peak, as well as more 10 and 12-car trains, with space for more than 7,000 additional passengers in the morning high peak hour, more than doubling the  capacity provided. Passengers will also benefit from a new direct service to Victoria (2 trains/hour via Lewisham)..

−− Sidcup Line passengers will benefit from a new half-hourly all-day service between Crayford and Victoria (via Lewisham), in addition to those currently operating to Charing Cross and Cannon Street. The Sidcup Line is one of the busiest lines, requiring additional services since longer trains alone would not meet growing demand.

−− Passengers between Lewisham, Denmark Hill, and Victoria will benefit from an additional two trains per hour all-day, doubling the frequency from two to four trains per hour, increasing capacity into London and accessibility. to Kings College Hospital (at Denmark Hill). ‘Turn-up-and-go’ travellers will no longer have to check the timetable prior to travelling, or experience long waiting times.  

None of these benefits would be possible without these modest changes to London terminal destinations. These changes will enable us to deliver the modern, reliable, efficient service that passengers expect, and will transform the South Eastern network into the 21st century railway system passengers deserve.”

The full South Eastern Rail Franchise Stakeholder Briefing Document is at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/future-of-south-eastern-rail-services

Services proposed for each line (and station) are shown in the Train Service Requirement tables at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/662871/sef-itt-attachment-a-train-service-specification.pdf