Why aren't we feeling better?
The Cinderella Line campaign is run by a group of volunteers who want to help our community get better rail services. We're commuters too, with commitments like work and families and...well...lives to get on and live.
Together, we have all worked long and hard to get improvements and we saw, and still see, the new timetable as a huge opportunity to do just that.
With such a massive change, teething troubles are to be expected. But last week, as we all got squashed on the same short trains, delayed by the same endless list of cancellations, we feel it's gone way beyond that.
The message we have been feeding back to Thameslink, based on our experience – which is the same as yours - is that this is simply unacceptable and cannot continue.
As always, it's the pressure from all our supporters that allow us to keep holding Thameslink to task so please continue to stand with us so we can do this. Our MP Vicky Foxcroft has already been in touch with Thameslink because Vicky, like the Cinderella Line, stands for everyone who uses transport in our area.
Why do services keep getting cancelled?
The national timetable planning process across the entire national rail network has been significantly delayed. Railway timetables are normally published 12 weeks in advance, however, rewriting the timetable from scratch across such a huge network is a massive undertaking and was not completed until a few weeks ago.
In addition to running passenger services, the timetable changes define the scope of engineering work to the track. This, in turn, affects the deployment of trains and train crew and the access they have to train maintenance depots. Less time than usual has been available to re-plan the driver allocations as well as the train stabling and maintenance requirements.
On top of all of this, there simply arent enough drivers trained to drive all of the new routes. Train drivers can’t simply turn up and drive any train – they need to understand and be cleared for, the routes that they drive.
You may have heard announcements that a service has been cancelled because of lack of crew availability or engineering issues and this is why.
We anticipate that it will get better as time goes on, however right now, Thameslink have been unwilling or unable to confirm how long this disruption might last so check before travelling and have a plan B.
Why are some of our services back to 4 carriages after being told they would always be 8 carriages?
Due to the implementation of the new timetables, SouthEastern have been drafted in by Thameslink to run some of our services on a temporary basis.
SouthEastern use older trains that can be split in two, and as they have a shortage of trains on their own network it means that some of our services may run short.
Why aren't there any more fast services from Catford? Our journey times have now increased for some services?
On the Cinderella Line, there is limited capacity for our Thameslink passenger services to run. The only way for us to have more services overall is for all our trains to stop at all stations, so they move in unison – exactly like they do on the tube.
This gives us consistency because passengers can be confident they can get on any train and know where it will be calling.
So why are we so short on capacity for our services?
For all of the trains that pass through our stations, only 45% of these actually stop. It's a busy line and it's not all about passenger trains.
As the graph above illustrates, a lot of the trains using on our line are not useful for us.
Nearly 30% of our capacity on our route is taken up by UK freight trains
A further 10% is taken up by EU Freight – believe it or not, freight trains that come from France and other European destinations all use the Cinderella Line route to bring goods into the UK
20% goes on fast passenger services like those that run from places like Ashford, Dover and Rochester taking commuters from further afield directly to central London
We're then left with about 45% capacity for our passenger services. Of these, around 3% are SouthEastern and the rest are Thameslink.
Freight service capacity is protected whether they use it or not. What's frustrating is, the freight trains don't necessarily use every slot they have reserved for them and those spaces in the timetable could be used for more passenger trains, if that weren't the case.
All of that said, none of the above will come as news to any train operator and should have been taken into account when delivering the new services.
So what's being done to improve things?
The issues that we are facing are happening across the network, with commuters in Bedford, Brighton and Wimbledon also subject to short notice cancellations and delays.
Since Thameslink either can't or won't be clear about how long we might have to endure the current issues, thinking up alternative routes and checking before you travel are about the only things we can do.
As Southeastern are running some of Thameslinks services, they are looking at options to stop some of their Fast Passenger services at our stations if our regular services are cancelled.
It's not perfect and it's not what we'd hoped and worked for but it ain't over till it's over and we're going to keep on fighting for the service our area deserves.