All change on the trains

Happy new year! And welcome to 2015, the first of three years’ major disruption through the Southeastern half of London Bridge station.

I covered the major changes to Southeastern railway timetables which kick off on 12 January back when they were at consultation stage. I don’t think much changed between consultation and reality (correct me if I’m wrong!) so you can still refer back to that old post to get the gist of how it affects Lewisham. (In summary, we escape much of the inconvenience others may be enduring, and gain more Victoria services.)

In the meantime though, Southeastern have been very poor at publicising some shorter-term but even more major changes all of this coming weekend and the Sunday after too. @darryl1974 tweeted one of their surprisingly rare and certainly not eyecatching posters about this:

and has now also written this up for The Charlton Champion blog, which has nudged me to do the same here.

So (based on Realtime Trains) here’s a summary of train services from Lewisham station on the affected three days. There may be some variations at certain times (check before you travel!) but this should give you the gist of what unusual delights await…

Saturday 10 January 2015

Minutes past
each hour
Destination Platform
02/32 Dartford (via Bexleyheath) 4
05/35 New Cross (via St. John’s) 1
06/36 London Victoria (via Peckham Rye) 3
07/37 Charlton (via Deptford-Westcombe Park) Bus
08/38 Dartford (via Blackheath, Charlton and all stops to Slade Green) 4
10/40 London Blackfriars (non-stop) 3
11/41 Gravesend (via Sidcup) [Dartford via Sidcup after 22.oo] 2
14/44?* Hayes?* 2?*
17/47 New Cross (via St. John’s) 1
20/50 London Victoria (non-stop) 3
22/52 Charlton (via Deptford-Westcombe Park) Bus
24/54 Gillingham (via Blackheath, Charlton and selected stops via Slade Green) 4
25/55 Tonbridge (via Grove Park) 2
29/59 London Victoria (non-stop) 3

* There’s an odd anomaly with Hayes trains on this date on Realtime trains – there’s a half-hourly service from Hayes to Victoria (it’s the one shown at 20/50 minutes past each hour in the table above), but no sign of any trains to Hayes from anywhere until after 8pm. So perhaps they’re stockpiling 31 trains at Hayes in advance, or maybe running a lot of trains back there empty… or Realtime trains is failing to show the planned service in the other direction. I’m guessing the latter and have added the trains in accordingly based on the after-8pm running times.

Sunday 11 January 2015

Minutes past
each hour
Destination Platform
02/32 Dartford (via Bexleyheath) 4
02/32 New Cross (via St. John’s) 1
03/33 Charlton (via Deptford-Westcombe Park) Bus
04/34 London Blackfriars (non-stop) 3
07/37 Dartford (via Blackheath, Charlton and all stops to Slade Green) 4
08/38 London Victoria (via Peckham Rye) 3
11/41 Gravesend (via Sidcup) [Dartford via Sidcup after 22.00] 2
15/45 Tonbridge (via Grove Park) 2
18/48 Charlton (via Deptford-Westcombe Park) Bus
18/48 London Victoria (calling at Denmark Hill only) 1
21/51 Hayes 2
26/56 Gillingham (via Blackheath, Charlton and selected stops via Slade Green) 4
27/57 London Victoria (non-stop) 1
29/59 London Victoria (non-stop) 3

Sunday 18 January 2015

Minutes past
each hour
Destination Platform
03/33 Charlton (via Deptford-Westcombe Park) Bus
02/32 Dartford (via Bexleyheath) 4
02/32 New Cross (via St. John’s) 1
04/34 London Blackfriars (non-stop) 3
07/37 Dartford (via Blackheath, Charlton and all stops to Slade Green) 4
08/38 London Victoria (via Peckham Rye) 3
11/41 Gravesend (via Sidcup) [Dartford via Sidcup after 22.00] 2
15/45 Charlton (via Deptford-Westcombe Park) Bus
15/45 Tonbridge (via Grove Park) 2
18/48 London Victoria (non-stop) 1
21/51 Hayes 2
25/55 London Victoria (non-stop) 1
26/56 Gillingham (via Blackheath, Charlton and selected stops via Slade Green) 4
29/59 London Victoria (non-stop) 3

I hope this info is helpful. I can’t promise to do this again for all future disruption through Lewisham station (which I expect a lot of over the next few years while the work at London Bridge station is ongoing) but it would be nice to think that Southeastern might take the hint and offer this information themselves. We passengers can but dream.

Lewisham Gateway: met the contractors

On Thursday, I dropped into the foyer of Glass Mill and met various people at the Lewisham Gateway ‘meet the contractors’ event there.

It was pleasantly surprising that I think everyone I spoke to was aware of my blog! Likewise, there was a fair bit of holding up of hands and acknowledgement that things could be much improved on the communications front, which was encouraging to hear.

Perhaps because of my own transport bias, my most interesting chat was with a representative from Transport for London. He’s going to feed back that their communications of bus stop changes in Lewisham have simply not been good enough so far – as I said to him, I’ve heard more about the closure of Putney Bridge than of nearly all the main bus stops in my own town centre, and I’ve never been to Putney.

I also took the opportunity to raise with him the apparent trolling of Hither Green residents in the planned final Lewisham Gateway bus stop arrangements (see end of that post), whereby the 181 and 225 buses will continue to stop at entirely separate stops with another between them, as had long been the case before the Gateway works began, despite both heading next to Hither Green. He’s taking this back to TfL and our conversation left me optimistic that this may well be able to be resolved now it’s been flagged up (no bus stop pun intended).

On a less optimistic note, I also tried to clarify stopping arrangements for all the buses formerly terminating at Lewisham Station. These were all curtailed to stop E opposite the Police Station, but this is now closed itself and most of these buses now set down at Stop F outside Glass Mill, on their way to the bus stand on Thurston Road. This was previously ruled out by TfL for reasons given to me in response to a Freedom of Information request a few months ago. Accordingly, TfL’s thinking on this is all a bit unclear at the moment – indeed the TfL rep hadn’t been able to pin down an exact list of which buses were officially dropping off there now in time to bring it along with him to this event.

It seems TfL are still not keen on using stop F due to the potential congestion, but were left with little choice but to give it a go while stop E is closed. I hope they’re monitoring how much of the theoretical congestion manifests itself in reality during stop E’s closure and will review their decision not to use stop F going forward accordingly, but I fear it’s more likely they’ll simply revert to stop E when it reopens later this autumn without any review. Keep your fingers crossed, station-bound bus users!

I chatted too with a council officer, and with Lewisham Gateway’s communications person, the latter of whom said he’d look again at the inadequate information provided on the project’s news page. The TfL bus stop closures link they currently give provides no information at all about alternative stopping arrangements – I suggested that for as long as TfL’s communications are that poor, just linking to them was inadequate and they should instead be plugging the gap themselves.

It looked like there’d been a steady flow of visitors seeking information about the project, so hopefully these drop-in sessions will be a regular occurrence over the coming months as Lewisham Gateway progresses.

And there was one thing that everyone I asked completely agreed on: whether they had any meaningful influence whatsoever over Southeastern, the private railway company (renowned for its complete lack of interest in customer service in the London ‘Metro’ area) whose franchise has just been extended by the government for several years without competition or consultation. I knew the answer before I asked, but asked anyway, and sure enough, it’s a ‘no’. So don’t hold your breath for that Platform 4 gate at London’s tenth-busiest non-terminus railway station to be opened any time soon.

Southeastern draft 2015 timetables: lucky Lewisham?

January 2015 will see some huge changes to rail services in Lewisham and indeed much else of south-east London. From The Murky Depths has already covered this in some depth so do have a read.

Screenshot of Southeastern January 2015 draft timetable web siteOr dive straight into the timetables themselves on Southeastern’s site, but be warned this is not much fun for those of us living somewhere with more than one line passing through it as they’re presented as entirely separate PDFs, making it very tricky to get an overview of all services through Lewisham, for instance.

Undoubtedly the complete inability to change between Charing Cross and Cannon Street services at London Bridge will give people a major headache over the three years of major work at London Bridge that prevents these interchanges – yet in a set of timetables that for many will be grim reading, there are good news stories too and indeed Lewisham could feasibly be the luckiest station on the Southeastern network, notwithstanding its access issues of course!

For a start, Lewisham is well served by services destined for each of Charing Cross and Cannon Street, so the lack of interchange between these at London Bridge will pose less of a problem for locals. The main impact on us may well be people travelling from the lines feeding through Lewisham to London choosing to change at Lewisham for their desired terminus – be prepared for busier platforms.

Victorious

But this isn’t merely a case of us not being too affected by the bad news; the draft timetable for the Bexleyheath line (PDF) brings delightful, long-overdue and very welcome news too: our Victoria service is at last becoming a fully-fledged, all-day, seven-day-a-week route.

Every half an hour, Monday to Sunday, right through until typical service-end times at about midnight, Lewisham will be properly connected to:

  • Nunhead (for e.g. Thameslink services)
  • Peckham Rye (for e.g. Southern services)
  • Denmark Hill (for e.g. London Overground services) and
  • London Victoria itself, with its multitude of other services and Underground connections – somewhere it’s currently possible to head out to in the early evening but not back from past about 8pm (or indeed at any time on a Sunday).

These places are also destinations in themselves of course, not just of use for interchange. As long as improved connections to Denmark Hill don’t see Jeremy Hunt coming back for a second go at downgrading Lewisham Hospital and directing us to King’s College Hospital instead, it’s hard to see a downside!

Bexleyheath byproduct

The people most drastically affected by this generally excellent news are those living along the Bexleyheath line. Their current timetable (PDF) on a Sunday gives them a train to Charing Cross every half an hour, whereas their new Sunday timetable is 100% different, with no Charing Cross services but instead a half-hourly Victoria service all day – a pretty significant change from one week to the next. On the brighter side, the extension of the existing Mon-Sat Victoria service into the evenings means the evening service on those days doubles for Bexleyheath line-dwellers as these are simply added onto the half-hourly Charing Cross trains they already have.

Lesser-spotted Blackfriars service

A final oddity worth noting in the new timetable is Lewisham gaining a rather rarer but still potentially useful direct link to another key London terminus: Blackfriars (via Peckham Rye, Denmark Hill and Elephant & Castle). Don’t get too excited as the service levels don’t even come close to matching those of the current Victoria service, let alone the future: here’s the entire Lewisham to Blackfriars timetable for the week:

Monday-Friday from January 2015 – to London

Lewisham 08.03 08.23
Peckham Rye 08.10 ——
Denmark Hill 08.13 08.31
Elephant & Castle 08.20 08.39
London Blackfriars 08.29 08.49

Monday-Friday from January 2015 – from London

London Blackfriars 16.18
Elephant & Castle 16.23
Denmark Hill 16.29
Peckham Rye 16.31
Lewisham 16.37

(For details of stations served further out than Lewisham, see the full timetable PDF here.)

Yes, that’s all there is – a service level more akin to a 600-range TfL school bus than a rail service! Nevertheless, it could be useful on occasion and does mean from Lewisham you’ll be able to travel directly to six London termini (London Bridge, Charing Cross, Waterloo via Waterloo East, Cannon Street, Victoria and Blackfriars).

Lewisham's central London rail network from January 2015

Zones 1-2 lines and stations directly served at least once per weekday by Lewisham trains from January 2015 are highlighted on this map

So all in all, despite the pain at London Bridge (which will surely be worth it by 2018 to make using that station more pleasant and ease congestion at one of the worst pinch-points in the whole UK rail network), I’d say Lewisham comes out pretty well from these draft timetables – would you agree?

Platform 4 gate: the case against

I welcome (and will always try to engage with) comments under my posts here on SE13URE. But one of the more surprising ways in which I’ve received feedback this week was through an e-mailed Word document letter sent to me via a mutual contact!

With permission of its sender, I’m reproducing it here in full, one paragraph at a time, with my comments, as it seems fair to air a competing view to my much-publicised petition – while also explaining why I disagree!

Dear Paul,

Firstly I wish to applaud you for the excellent Se13ure website.  It is very informative concerning the Lewisham Gateway scheme.   A pity that the Council have left it up to you to provide details of what is going on.

This is a little unfair on the council I think – the developers were tasked with providing this information and (after a very slow start) are now doing so to a decent standard.

That said I wish to take issue with you over the reopening of the dangerous slope from platform four into Silk Mills Path.  I have no doubt that you will get plenty of signatories for your petition but if you asked the motorists using a rat run if they did not wish to see road closures I expect you would get a 100% to sign up with no regard for the children and aged crossing the road.

I dare say you would get a majority (I suspect not 100%) but the comparison is inappropriate – even as the argument develops in subsequent paragraphs it’s clear that the only people whose lives would supposedly be put at risk by reopening the slope are those signing the petition as potential slope-users, so that’s not equivalent to the passive “children and aged” mentioned here.

Originally this was a track workers access route and never intended as a passenger entrance.  When it was used as a temporary exit during the installation of the staircases and lifts it caused a great deal of problems for the residents of this quiet, pretty street who had to endure not just a huge amount of rubbish but late night revellers, people urinating, even defecating between our parked cars, drug dealing and abusive, aggressive car drivers blocking our parking spaces while they waited for passengers coming down the slope.  All of this my neighbours and I would put up with while the first phase of the Gateway scheme takes place.

I’m glad we are at least agreed at this point that Silk Mills Path is a “quiet” street – I don’t know if I’d go as far as “pretty” but that’s just personal taste 🙂  The scenarios described here are of course not good, but it’s very hard to quantify. Much of the described behaviour is clearly illegal, so Police/Safer Neighbourhood Teams could be deployed to monitor this in the event it did become a serious problem. And parking there to collect commuters should certainly be banned, with enforcement.

However please consider how dangerous this exit is.  We residents of Silk Mills Path have witnessed many close shaves when passengers leaving the station via this slope step out in front of vehicles from a blind corner.  It is just a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt – even a bicycle could cause severe injury.  A  very likely accident as bicycles are not noisy.   No health and safety officer would ever countenance the use of this exit.  It is for this reason that Network Rail sensibly closed it.

I have considered how dangerous this exit is, and reached the conclusion that, well, it’s not very dangerous. For a start, we established in the previous paragraph that it’s a “quiet” street. I agree, which is why there’s simply not a high risk of accident. My correspondent mentioned earlier in his letter that the slope was open all the time during the installation of the lifts etc., which from memory took about a year; if it is truly “just a matter of time” before a serious accident, quite how much time will this be, if none happened during that whole year?

And even if we accept that this risk is serious, there are simple mitigation measures that could be employed such as:

  • a short barrier at the bottom of the slope to force people to walk left a short distance when reaching the bottom so that they’re no longer turning a blind corner; or
  • a mirror opposite the end of the slope to show what’s coming.

His next paragraph seems to turn a little sinister:

I have copies of much correspondence with Network Rail, station managers, politicians and other interested parties concerning this potential accident spot.  So if the slope were reopened there would be some anxious people who would quite rightly be fearful of litigation when the inevitable accident happens.  And be assured there are some of us residents who would have no hesitation in pointing the noses of injured parties in the direction of those responsible.

Is that some sort of threat? Does he believe that every signatory to the petition should be jointly and severally liable for damages in the event of this gate being reopened?! All the more reason to get as many people as possible to sign, I suppose, to limit each person’s costs 😉

Finally, I’m pleased to say we can end on another point of substantial agreement:

Paul, I totally understand your frustration at the longer walk you and many other rail travellers have to take but reopening that slope is not the answer.  Far better to make an entrance into Tesco’s car park as it appeared in the original plans for the upgrading of the station.  I have no idea why this was not carried out as it would be simple to, as you say, ‘oysterise’ and provide easier access for disabled people – something not provided by the slope because of the steep steps from the platform level. This entrance would also allow direct access to the central concourse, ticket office, platforms 1 and 2 and the DLR for those coming from the North side of the station.  Minutes in the morning are usually more important when going to work than when arriving home in the evening.

I completely agree that this is the only sensible way forward in the long – but hopefully not too long – term, and have said as much in the petition and in the message to Southeastern that each signature of it triggers. The problem with it, however, is that the eastern end of Station Road is closed now, and arranging to install a proper exit gate in the most sensible place, even if Southeastern miraculously agreed to it overnight, could take months. The only practical short-term fix is to reopen (and Oysterise) the Platform 4 gate – now.

I’d be interested to know what my correspondent has done in the years since the Platform 4 gate was last fully open to press Southeastern for the proper exit to be installed at the foot of the Platform 4 stairwell into the Tesco car park. I suspect, perhaps unfairly, that his enthusiasm for this exit is linked very closely to the chances he perceives of the Platform 4 exit gate being reopened…

(Incidentally, I’m not sure what the relevance of the point about morning versus evening minutes was, but as someone in the minority who catch a train from Platform 4 to work every morning, I’m very much in favour of not assuming any particular exit is only of use at any particular time of day.)

And my correspondent signs off:

Yours,
Geoff Fleming

Ah, can this be the same Geoff Fleming who is standing as UKIP council candidate for Lewisham Central on 22 May? It surely can. It seems Mr. Fleming is keen for thousands of locals to be inconvenienced for the next year for the benefit of the small minority who live on Silk Mills Path and fear problems from those exiting the station via their road. Typical UKIP, always defending minorities’ rights 😉

(Full disclosure: I’m a member of the local Labour party – it hardly seems fair to bring my correspondent’s affiliation into this without bringing my own into it too – neither is really relevant to anything under discussion, after all!)

Anyway, if Mr. Fleming (or anyone else) wants to reply to any of the points here, please do so in the comments – I’d far rather discuss this publicly than by letter. But (sincerely) thanks for the correspondence!

» Sign the petition here

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Lewisham Station Platform 4 gate in Parliament

Thanks to everyone who’s signed the petition to get the Platform 4 entry/exit gate at Lewisham Station reopened so far – it has just hit its 100th signatory!

Meanwhile, Heidi Alexander MP (Labour, Lewisham East), who has signed and tweeted this petition, raised this in a parliamentary debate yesterday, as follows:

May I ask the Minister to revisit my correspondence with his predecessor, who is now the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, about Southeastern’s determination to keep the platform 4 gate at Lewisham station permanently closed? If we want people to use the railway instead of their cars, stations need to be as easily accessible as possible. Although I understand Southeastern’s desire to tackle fare dodging by having a fully gated station, that makes no sense when the next station stops are not gated. With a significant regeneration scheme now under way next to Lewisham station and access arrangements reduced as a result, the platform 4 gate issue has taken on new importance. Even if it cannot be reopened permanently, might a temporary relaxation be allowed for the duration of the construction works on the adjacent development project?

Robert Goodwill MP (Conservative, Scarborough and Whitby), who is Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Transport, responded:

The hon. Lady mentioned the platform 4 gate at Lewisham station. I have to admit that I was not aware of that problem, which is due to engineering works, but I will certainly look into it and see that it is addressed.

Fingers crossed that this achieves results!

In the meantime, please sign and continue to share the petition with your friends, family, colleagues… anyone else you think may be affected by this gate’s continuing closure.

The eastern stretch of Station Road is now shut so there’ll certainly be a lot more people wanting to do something about the extended walk now.

Incidentally, it seems the timing of the closure was a bit all-over-the-place: the original news update said the closure would be from 6 May (unless the tube strike – called off – went ahead); then today at 9.30am Lewisham Gateway tweeted:

Station Rd part-closure rescheduled to start from midday 8 May. Sorry for the change.

This seemed to fit with the Transport for London traffic order notice I’d seen on a lamppost last night, which said the changed rules for the remaining part of the road would come into effect at 12.01am on 8 May, 12 hours before their tweet said the road would close.

But by 3.10pm, that tweet had been deleted and the news then was that, in fact, the closure had already happened!

I didn’t come home that way today so I look forward to seeing this for myself in the morning. Perhaps I should stand at the closed end of Station Road handing out the web address of the Platform 4 gate petition!

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Petition Southeastern to open the Platform 4 gate at Lewisham station

It seems we really are in Month 1 of the Lewisham Gateway 27-month plan now: today the developers announced that the complete closure of the eastern branch of Station Road will begin next week, providing one of their useful Google maps of the closure which illustrates the new walking route round from Maggie’s to the railway station.

Pedestrian diversion signage

This throws into sharp focus the need for the gate from Platform 4 at Lewisham Station to reopen immediately. Its closure already increased walking times by about half the time a train would take to get to London Bridge once you actually reached your platform. This new closure – due to last about 15 months – only worsens the situation by still more minutes, so it’s time to step up the campaign for Southeastern to do the right thing and open and Oysterise this gate immediately.

So: please sign this petition. Thanks!

Meanwhile, enjoy this sight while it lasts: this end of Station Road will close after the tube strike (or on Tuesday if the strike doesn’t go ahead), and when it reopens next year, it will have moved a lot nearer Maggie’s.

The old Station Road

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