Blackheath/Lewisham rail signalling upgrade causes service disruption

Regular commuters will have noticed the new signaling box on the London bound platform at Blackheath. Signalling work in the area of Blackheath/Lewisham has been going on for a  while and will continue for some time, causing frequent temporary disruption to services.

Updating of signalling and control is underway out of Charing Cross and Cannon Street, through London Bridge and on down various lines.

It is complete as far as Maze Hill, New Cross/New Cross Gate, Denmark Hill, Crofton Park and Beckenham but still ongoing through St John’s to Lewisham and down the Hayes line. It involves transferring all signal control from London Bridge to Three Bridges (down near Gatwick). Inevitably, it will continue to cause short-term unreliability and disruption to services.

Andrew Jones, Rail Minister stated ‘ More than £130 million of upgrade work will take place between now and Easter 2020. This Easter, £55 million will be invested in the Lewisham, Woolwich and Charlton area. In Easter 2020, £81 million will be invested in the Hither Green area. All of that will upgrade the signalling to provide a more robust service.’             

New Southeastern train timetable from May 2018

Thameslink services return to London Bridge from 20 May 2018, including a new half hourly service on the Greenwich line from Rainham to Luton which will enable through journeys from stations on that line to Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon and St Pancras International. Blackheath and Lewisham passengers will be able to change at London Bridge to access the restored Thameslink services.

Blackheath services have also been revised, most changes are minor, with the basic off-peak service of 4 trains per hour to Charing Cross, 2 to Cannon Street and 2 to Victoria maintained. However, the times and intervals have changed – for example, the Charing Cross off peak is currently at 15, 22, 45 and 52 minutes past the hour and will be slightly improved to 11, 21, 41 and 51 minutes past the hour – reducing the 23 minute gap to 20 minutes.

In the morning peak there are two extra Charing Cross trains between 07:30 and 08:30, but one less between 06:00 and 06:30 and two less between 08:30 and 09:30. There are also minor timing changes to the evening peak service.

The off peak return “clock face” service from Charing Cross to Blackheath is maintained. Currently services leave at 09, 26, 39 and 56 minutes past the hour – and this is amended to 12, 24, 42 and 52 minutes past the hour – a very small deterioration as the maximum gap now increases to 18 minutes as opposed to 17 minutes.

Saturday services are based on the weekday off-peak timetable of 8 trains per hour. On Sundays, Blackheath will be served by half hourly Victoria trains and Charing Cross trains as at present. There are likely to be changes to this service pattern on many weekends though as engineering works will still affect weekend services, so as always, please check the weekend services before travelling.

Further details are available on the Southeastern trains website

The Society would be interested to hear from members on their experiences with the new timetable when it is introduced.

20 May 2018 to 8 December 2018

Summary of Blackheath train services TO London : Monday to Friday


Charing Cross (calling at Lewisham, London Bridge and Waterloo East)

05:46, 05:52, 06:15, 06:22, 06:40, 06:46

07:04, 07:08, 07:27, 07:36, 07:47, 07:55*, 07:58, 08:07, 08:15*, 08:18, 08:27, 08:47, 08:52

(* = the 07:55 and 08:15 not calling at Lewisham)

09:11, 09:22, 09:41, 09:51 then at 11, 21, 41 and 51 each hour

Cannon Street (calling at Lewisham, St Johns (some), New Cross and London Bridge)

05:59, 06:29, 06:55, 07:19, 07:31, 07:51, 08:11, 08:32, 09:00, 09:38 then at 08 and 38.

Victoria (via Denmark Hill)

06:06, 06:32, 07:11, 07:42, 08:02, 08:23, 08:42, 09:03 then at 28 and 58.

Summary of Blackheath train services FROM London : Monday to Friday

Charing Cross (calling at Waterloo East, London Bridge and Lewisham)

05:26, 05:42, 05:54, 06:12, 06:25, 06:41, 06:56, 07:12, 07:25, 07:39, 07:56

and then at 12, 24, 42, 54 until 15:54, then 16:12, 16:24, 16:53

17:06, 17:13, 17:32*, 17:34, 17:36, 17:49*, 17:51, 17:55, 18:11, 18:17, 18:38, 18:43, 18:56, then at 12, 24, 42 and 54 until 00:12, then 00:26 (last train – except Thu and Fri when there is also a 00:42)

(*= not calling at Lewisham)

Cannon Street (calling at London Bridge, New Cross, St Johns (some) and Lewisham)

07:22, 08:00, 08:19, 09:17, 09:47 then at 17 and 47 until 15:47, 16:15, 16:45, 17:03, 17:27, 17:47, 18:09, 18:33, 18:53, 19:16, 19:47, 20:17 and 20:47 (last train)

Victoria (via Denmark Hill)

06:15, 06:42, 07:08, 08:06, 08:38 then at 06 and 36 until 16:36, 17:06, 17:34, 17:55, 18:21, 18:42 then 06 and 36 to 00:06 (last train)

Please check train times before travelling especially at weekends.


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:

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


Good and bad news on Blackheath train services

The Department for Transport has finally published the results of the Southeastern rail franchise consultation and the good news is that the Bexleyheath Line will retain services to both Charing Cross and Cannon Street.

The bad news is the direct Victoria service will operate only on the Hayes line, requiring Bexleyheath line users to change at Lewisham, but the Victoria service will be increased to four services an hour all day.

The changes are proposed to start from 2022 and are subject to a successful future public consultation on detailed timetable proposals. More good news is a proposal to increase the frequency to Charing Cross and the capacity to Cannon Street by running more 10 and 12 car trains.

More bad news is that the North Kent Line service via Blackheath to Charing Cross will be redirected to Cannon Street. This line will gain some Thameslink services.

In the public consultation this summer, 89% of 10,500 respondents opposed reducing the choice of London termini, most of them along the Bexleyheath Line.

We will try and investigate improvements in signalling at Lewisham that can increase capacity without reducing the choice of London destinations. You can read further details about the choices for London termini on pages 35 and 36 of this document:

Transport: decision awaited on trains threat

We are still waiting for a decision on the threat to limit Blackheath train services to Canon Street trains only under the new rail franchise - two months after this was due to be announced.

The Society again asked Southeastern in mid-November when its Rail Franchise Consultation report would be published, but we have heard nothing so far.

The report will form the basis for the new franchise from December next year. Southeastern earlier said it had been delayed partly because the consultation period had been extended, but it gave no further details.

At a June public meeting, DfT officials acknowledged the strength of public opposition to the idea and said they thought it was unlikely it would be taken forward.

Buried in the text of Southeastern consultation document was the highly disturbing suggestion that all North Kent and Bexleyheath line services should only serve Cannon Street station, as this would reduce the crossover of trains at Lewisham and improve service reliability.

The Society mounted a vigorous campaign to oppose this. We distributed 40,000 leaflets and encouraged people in the residential areas affected to email the Department for Transport to voice their opposition.

There was also a Parliamentary petition which gathered nearly 29,000 signatures before its premature closure when Parliament rose for the June general election.