One of GLUG’s key concerns over the last few years was the rebuilding of London Bridge station and the consequent disruption to train services. Whilst GLUG supported the re-build, there was huge disruption, with frequent bank holiday/weekend closures, a reduction in peak services of 50%, and the loss of direct services to Charing Cross.
Work was completed in January 2018, but the disruption did not end there. Southeastern did not honour its commitment to restore the service to its pre-2015 level. As a result of GLUG’s protests, two peak time services were lengthened to 10 coaches. We were also told that it would improve in May 2018, when Thameslink services were due to begin on the Greenwich line. This would be an all day service and would provide more trains and additional capacity at peak times. It did not turn out like that, and disruption continued.
Thameslink trains on the Greenwich line
The £6.5bn cost of the Thameslink Programme is designed to allow 24 trains per hour (tph) through the central Blackfriars – St. Pancras section. 16 of these trains also run through London Bridge, and 2 of them run along the Greenwich line to Rainham.
Greenwich did not feature in the original plans, but when it was proposed in 2016 that 2tph would run between Luton and Rainham, calling at all stations on the Greenwich line, GLUG welcomed it. The service would:
- restore the number of peak trains to/from London bridge to the 2015/16 level
- improve the range of services, with direct trains to St. Pancras, Farringdon (for an Elizabeth Line connection to Heathrow when Crossrail starts), Luton Airport and the Medway towns.
- Improve the late evening service from London Bridge, with 6tph until 21.00
When the service began in May 2018, it was a shambles with a very high level of
cancellations. On one day, only 5 of the 36 scheduled services actually ran. The weekend service was suspended entirely.
An interim timetable was operated from July 2018, which improved reliability. A weekend service started in August 2018. although only hourly between Rainham and Kentish Town. The full weekday service eventually began on 10 December 2018, but the weekend service remained restricted. The May 2019 timetable shows the weekend service increasing to its full frequency of 2tph, but still running only as far as Kentish Town. From 23 May 2020, the Saturday service will be extended to Luton, but Sunday services will still terminate at Kentish Town. GLUG is pushing for all weekend services to run to Luton,
The Office of Road and Rail (ORR) commissioned an Inquiry into the failure of the May timetable. GLUG made a submission to this Inquiry ORR timetable inquiry submission final and the Inquiry report has now been published Inquiry press release It found that nobody was in charge. GTR failed to plan adequately and conducted no stress tests, whilst the Department for Transport failed to approve the timetable proposals in time for a substantial rewrite. Assurances given by GTR before the timetable was introduced were based on an inadequate understanding of the risks.
The House of Commons Transport Select Committee has also held an inquiry. GLUG has made a submission to the Select Committee that can be read here: Select Committee GTR timetable submission final. The Thameslink Readiness Board gave oral evidence showing an alarming complacency and lack of co-operation between all parties. Their evidence can be read here: Transport Committee oral evidence
In response to the disruption, GTR established a Passenger Benefit Fund aiming to provide tangible improvements for passengers using GTR services. The Fund is taking suggestions on station specific improvements up until 31st August 2019. Individuals can make their suggestions at http://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/PassengerBenefitFund. £50,000 has been allocated to Westcombe Park and Maze Hill, and £30,000 to Deptford and Greenwich. GLUG has put to GTR suggestions for station improvements GTR passenger benefit fund revised GLUG has also suggested increasing platform heights, where feasible to do so, at the stopping point for carriages with disabled access; putting Wi-fi on Thameslink trains; signage at the stations advertising Thameslink services; and better signs to rail replacement bus stops. GTR will be analysing all responses to the consultation and is aiming to put proposals to DfT in September on a list of works to be carried out using this Fund.