Interchange opportunities for Cannon Street passengers…

British Rail hat by flickr user Geshmally
I’ve always wondered what it was called… You know the sensation of squeezing through the enormous 1980s style public toilet that is London Bridge train station on a wet weekday morning at around 9am? Apparently it is an interchange opportunity. So now you know.

The Stop the Rail Cuts email elicited a response. Unfortunately, Mike is the Public Affairs manager, which presumably means he’s not actually in charge of the timetables. Unfortunately for me, I don’t actually use the DLR much, so won’t be making use of the additional interchange opportunities generously afforded to me at Greenwich and Lewisham stations.

As he pointed out at the end of his email, Southeastern is a wholly owned subsidiary of Govia Ltd, which is part of The Go-Ahead Group plc and Keolis. Which may sound like the tail-end of an advert for life-insurance, but is actually very instructive.

According to the FT, the Go-Ahead group paid out 81p per share as a dividend in the last 12 months. Which is wonderful if you own shares in the train companies, but not so great if you never get a damn seat on the train that you purchased a ticket for! Nationalise the lot of them… At least when it was BR it had some (albeit grim) sense of public service. Now it’s just a group of French shareholders squeezing each penny out of our sweaty overcrowded little palms.

Photo by flickr user Geshmally.  The full post has the email below.

Thank you for your recent email concerning proposed services to London Cannon Street from Blackheath in our December timetable which have been forwarded to our timetable team.

By way of background our draft timetable is based upon the Integrated Kent Franchise (IKF) draft service specification we inherited as a contractual commitment from the Department of Transport (DfT) when awarded the franchise in 2006. The draft service specification was itself the outcome of a consultation exercise carried out by the DfT and the former Strategic Rail Authority in 2003/04 and consultees included the former London Transport Users Committee, (now London TravelWatch), Transport for London and the London boroughs of Greenwich and Lewisham.

Part of this specification was to operate an all day Orpington to London Service via Lewisham. Lewisham is an interchange with the Docklands Light Railway and there is a demand for more stops at stations offering a DLR connection to meet the needs of those travelling on to Canary Wharf.

However Lewisham station is at its maximum capacity for train movements during peak periods and the only way for the DfT’s specification for more peak DLR connecting services to be achieved is for some services to be re-routed away from Lewisham to Greenwich. We looked at all the routes which serve Lewisham, and the only trains which could be re-routed away are the North Kent semi fast trains from Charlton. So the plan is for these trains to run via Greenwich, so passengers for Lewisham can change onto the DLR. Blackheath passengers can either do the same interchange as the Lewisham people or alight at Charlton and catch a bus to Blackheath.

Meeting this DfT specification obviously impacts on the number of North Kent line trains stopping at Blackheath. At present during the morning peak period there are six North Kent trains and these are being reduced to three. However we are offering two additional Charing Cross trains at Blackheath which at present run past Blackheath non stop, these trains will be calling at London Bridge, thereby offering interchange opportunities for Cannon Street passengers. Therefore the actual reduction in trains at Blackheath during this period is just one.

This was explained to the DfT nearly two years ago when we set out the operational implications of the IKF draft service speciation and all parties agreed this was a necessary consequence of meeting the DfT’s aspiration for operating the Orpington service via Lewisham.

I accept that for Blackheath passengers travelling to Cannon Street, the new timetable may be inconvenient (although for Blackheath passengers commuting to Charing Cross, Waterloo East and Victoria the new timetable will be an improvement, off peak passengers travelling to London will see an increase from four to six trains an hour, and positive comments have already been received

All timetables are a compromise between the franchise specification set by the DfT, the differing, but equally legitimate demands of different groups of rail users and the infrastructure and rolling stock resources available, and I’m afraid that no timetable will please every rail user. Within the commercial, operational and contractual constraints before us we do our best to meet our passengers’ service and timetable aspirations, but sometimes this may not be possible.

Thank you for taking the trouble to write and if you have any further comments on this or any other rail issue please contact Southeastern Customer Services PO Box 63428, London SE1P 5FD, Tel: 0845 000 2222, Fax: 0845 678 6976 or via our website

Mike Gibson

Yours sincerely
Public Affairs Manager
Friars Bridge Court
41-45 Blackfriars Road


Filed under blackheath, transport

10 responses to “Interchange opportunities for Cannon Street passengers…

  1. Anonymous

    Not to mention the additional cost of having to use DLR or bus to change. Are Southeastern paying for DLR and bus tickets now?

    • Martin

      I agree that any change is a pain, but I think you must think of all passengers not just those from Blackheath.
      For example the plans mean that there are less peak trains direct to Charing Cross from Greenwich and during daytime there will no longer be ANY direct trains to Charing Cross from Greenwich.
      In consequence everyone will have to change at London Bridge more often, but at least the number of trains overall isn’t being reduced.

  2. Pingback: Blackheath stuffed by new rail times « 853

  3. darryl853

    Has anyone *ever* changed at Charlton to get to Blackheath? It’s fairly easy to do the other way around, but the 380 stops at Charlton Church Lane and Priolo Road aren’t exactly handy for the station.

    I presume he means the 108 from Westcombe Park, but that’s already creaking at the seams. Joined-up thinking? Of course not.

  4. “Nationalise the lot of them”, you say. Actually, Southeastern/Govia is partly nationalised — by the French. SNCF, the wonderful French railway, owns 45.5% of Keolis. The majority owner is the Québec provincial pension fund, but SNCF is there because, in theory at least, it can contribute its management expertise.

  5. I knew I should have left that phrase out :)

    I try to avoid politics in this blog, but it creeps in occasionally. I find it so odd that both NuLab and the Tories have consistently told us that privatisation is the way forward, and yet here we are with the UK’s railways being held by nationalised French companies.

    If you really want to read about an insane variation on this story, check this out. £6.2billion being spent to upgrade the M25 with 4 extra lanes, using a PfI scheme owned by a load of banks that have just been nationalised by the government! £6.2bn?!

    Anyway, to get back to Blackheath, if I had any artistic skill at all, I would take some chalk and draw a piece of pavement art outside the station to alert the Blackheath commuters that their mornings are about to become even more sweaty and crowded than before.

    But I don’t, so I’ll just imagine the swirling plumes of smoke billowing from the train careering towards the hapless commuters tied to the railway lines.

  6. Anonymous

    Perhaps the local press need alerting to start forming some backlash to the changes.

    I suspect most are blissfully unaware that their Cannon St services are about to get a hell of a lot worse from Balckheath and to from other Bexleyheath line stations.

  7. SNCF isn’t the only European railway company that runs bits of BR — Chiltern Railways, the company that runs trains from Marylebone to Birmingham, is owned by Deutsche Bahn. And Netherlands Railways runs Northern Rail and Merseyrail in a venture with Serco (which operates the DLR for TfL).

    Meanwhile, it’s odd — or not — that SE hasn’t been handing out copies of its draft timetable at stations. Consultation, but only if we’re alert enough to spot the fact it’s going on.

  8. darryl853

    What local press? The plans have been knocking around for some time – apart from Nick Raynsford wanting a better interchange at London Bridge (Mercury in January), the limp rags which serve this area have ignored them, and clearly couldn’t be arsed to scrutinise the plans when Raynsford said something about them several months back.

  9. Pingback: Dear Southeastern Trains. You Suck. « The Blackheath Bugle

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