It’s not just local news websites which are being alarmist about the shut down of a wide range of rail services over the holiday period, beginning as soon as tomorrow evening.
An email has plopped into the inbox here at Inside Croydon Towers from Southeastern Railway, a transport company with a reputation marginally worse than Septic Bladder.
“Don’t Get Stranded” their email pleads, conjuring up an image of someone rushing around Southeastern’s head office looking just a bit like a flustered Corporal Jones, from Dad’s Army, and crying “Don’t panic!”
If it was intended to be reassuring, then it won’t work.
Southern, the Thameslink operators, have adopted a similar strategy, trying to deter people from using their (probably malfunctioning or non-existent) services at any time over the next 10 days with a doom-laden message on their website which actually refers to the London to Brighton mainline as being “severed”.
Under a headline, “Railageddon”, The Londonist website has compiled a pretty decent overview of the Christmas holiday rail services. It does not make happy reading for anyone needing to travel into and out of central London any time between tomorrow evening and January 4. Or 11 days. “All kinds of rail engineering work are scheduled over Christmas and New Year, and Transport for London isn’t much better,” they warn.
First principles: this may be the greatest city on the planet, but it has no public transport on Christmas Day at all, unless you live in an area with Boris Bikes and then you can pedal your own, or you try to hire a vastly overpriced cab.
Gatwick Express isn’t running between December 25 and January 3.
Flying from Gatwick? Forget the train. Southern and Thameslink trains won’t go any further south than East Croydon or East Grinstead. There are trains to the Sussex airport from Victoria once every 30 minutes. The journey to Gatwick will then take 1hr 30min. See the Thameslink website for more information.
Tube and Tramlink services are limited on Boxing Day. And there are Tube engineering works planned for the Circle, Metropolitan, Hammersmith and City lines, and sections of the Overground during the period, so check before you travel.
Overground from West Croydon won’t start back up again until December 27.
The congestion charge won’t apply December 25 to January 3, though if you try to drive into central London, you probably won’t move very far any way, such have been the traffic jams there of late.
Paddington Station is closed between December 25 and 28 and Charing Cross, Waterloo East and Cannon Street are closed until January 3.
Southeastern: from 8pm on Christmas Eve to January 3, no trains will call at London Bridge, Charing Cross, Waterloo East or Cannon Street. Trains will go to Victoria, Blackfriars or New Cross instead. Check the Southeastern website.
Southern services are affected by the same engineering works at Purley, so nothing will run south of there. Check the Southern website.
Thameslink: no Boxing Day service. Thameslink is affected by the Purley engineering works. See the website for other service alterations.
The train operators explain that this is as a result of “Thameslink Programme improvement work”. We’re looking forward to being able to notice some improvement. Any improvement.
With services out of Victoria to East Croydon having been disrupted on at least four evenings in the past eight weekdays – at a time when there’s been no scheduled engineering works – commuters who have to get to and from work over the Christmas period must be asking what service they can expect for their season tickets.
Those who travel to and from London Bridge must be dreading a repeat of the dangerous over-crowding and disruption they endured 12 months ago, when engineering works over-ran the Christmas holiday period.
Handy little information cards doled out at East Croydon station last week offer little by way of reassurance, let alone compensation.
A story in the latest Private Eye suggests that poor procurement by the Tory Government has contributed to the transport misery – multi-billion-pound contracts with the train operators, including Thameslink, failed to insist on providing bank holiday services on December 26, so when the operators choose not to do so, there is no penalty clause.
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