Thank you to all of you that attended our second public meeting. Yet again, over 100 local residents and business owners came to voice their concerns about the current rail service.
The meeting was chaired by local MP for Lewisham Vicky Foxcroft, and was also attended by Larry Heyman, one of the senior managers from Thameslink.
Despite agreeing to attend in March, Network Rail pulled out of attending the meeting at the last minute, which was disappointing as in the last year, they have caused 59% of the delays on the Thameslink route, and they need to take some accountability for this.
After Vicky had introduced everyone, Michael Woodhead from A Cinderella Line gave a brief update on what the campaign has been doing since the last public meeting about the service.
What has the campaign team been doing:
Pushing Thameslink to look at when we will get the new trains on our route, and if we can't have the new trains in the short term, can we have the old trains from the Bedford - Brighton route as these are better designed for more passengers
Making contact with local councilors and rail groups from other boroughs that are affected by the service so that we can join together
Making contact with Southeastern Railways about reintroducing Victoria services to our part of the network
Working with Thameslink to stop other services at Crofton Park when there has been a service disruption
Larry then gave a brief update on some of the things that Thameslink are doing to improve the route, including rolling out the new trains, improving communication and improvements to stations along the route.
We then opened the meeting to questions from the public as the key point of the meeting was to give local people the chance to voice their concerns about the service.
If you attended the meeting and you don't see the answer to your question, please email us: email@example.com and we will get this for you from Thameslink or Network Rail:
When are we getting the new trains?
This was a question that was asked by several people, and the short answer is that we don't know. What we do know is that unfortunately we are last on the list to get these.
They will be rolled out to the Bedford - Brighton part of the Thameslink route first, then the Wimbledon loop, and then finally the Catford Loop.
They have to go to Bedford - Brighton first, as the first trains being delivered are 12 cars long and we can only support 8 car trains on our routes. Then the reason why they are going to the Wimbledon Loop next is because their overcrowding is worse than ours.
The new trains have 30% more capacity? If we are 30% over capacity now, wont we just have new but full trains with no room for growth?
The plan is that from May 2018 there will be a new timetable in place, where there will be 20 trains an hour that run through the core route through Blackfriars.
This will be a mixture of Sevenoaks, Wimbledon and Brighton trains. Thameslink will achieve the space for growth by running more trains an hour.
Will our route be disrupted by platform extensions and alterations?
No, all of the necessary work to do lengthen platforms on the Catford Loop has already been completed.
Will we have all trains go to Kentish Town?
Yes, once the new timetable comes in, in May 2018
Will we have more peak time services in 2018?
This is part of the timetable consultation that is happening. In Summer this year, the first draft proposals for the new timetable will come into place. At this point we will see what the Department for Transport has proposed for each route.
If they have not proposed more services for us, then the campaign will be fighting hard to make sure the plan is to provide at least four trains an hour in the peak time.
Can you really run 20/24 trains an hour through the core route when you cant seem to manage the current service?
Its a massive challenge for Thameslink and one that they don't take lightly.
The new trains that are coming onto the route have in car signalling, so there will be less issues with signal failures. The trains have automatic operation and better acceleration and breaking than the current trains.
All these factors combined should mean that Thameslink can run 20 trains an hour initially and eventually up to 24 trains an hour through the core route.
We seem to have ongoing problems, which are simply down to bad management - driver shortages, maintenance problems with old trains, skipping stations to make up time, and then the process to get compensation when there is a delay is too much hassle?
The driver shortage is an ongoing issue and drivers currently have to work rest days (Sunday) in order to offer a full service. Thameslink have brought in 53 drivers since January 2015 and currently have 90 drivers in training. It takes a year to train a driver and they are still going through this process. From 2017, season ticket holders should get automatic compensation for delays, and the government are looking at reducing the delay time to 15 minutes (where currently you only receive compensation if the train is 30 minutes late or more)
Station skipping is done to recover the service but this is not done to meet targets and make the train appear to be on time. If Thameslink skip stations, they automatically fail their PPM target (set by the government) for that particular service. Station skipping is to get back to the scheduled timetable as quickly as possible to prevent knock on delays.
Using the service is horrible, and the mental and physical effects of this have a real impact on peoples lives and put them off using the service.
Larry made a personal apology for this - no one wants to be put into this situation and he advised that sadly the conditions are like this on most commuter services, not just on Thameslink routes.
Are there any plans for station improvements on the route?
Crofton Park is due to have toilets and a waiting room installed on platform one, and a waiting room installed on platform two.
There are also plans to improve other stations:
Beckenham Hill – create a waiting room on platform 1
Bellingham – renovate former waiting room on platform 1, create a waiting room on platform 2 and refurbish Gents and Ladies toilets
Catford – create an enclosed waiting shelter on platform 1 and refurbish booking hall
Ravensbourne – renovate waiting room on platform 1
A question was asked to Vicky, more about the longer term plans for the route:
What is the longer term plan for the route? Will this be taken over by TfL?
Vicky advised that there is a plan for TfL to look at all of the rail commuter routes to see if they will take these on and become Transport for London services. TfL are in the early stages of scoping this out at the moment to see what this could look like but initially they are looking at routes run by Southeastern trains.
Summary of the meeting
So, there are some good things happening but not until 2018, which is a long way off. The number of people that took the time to attend the meeting shows that there is an urgent need to improve the service now, not in 2018.
The campaign will continue to push for:
The old Bedford - Brighton trains to be moved over on to our route in the interim period until we get the new trains
Southeastern Railways to introduce Victoria services for us
Thameslink to commit to other services stopping at Crofton Park when there is a service disruption
Making links with other boroughs so we can start to work together on some of these collective issues and all push for a better service
Huge thanks to everyone that gave up their time to attend the meeting and for your continued support of the campaign.