Transport correspondent JEREMY CLACKSON on the latest reduction in rail services and how the Department for Transport has suppressed an official report into commuters’ months of misery
Just when you thought that the service on Southern Rail couldn’t get any worse… it is about to.
Later this month, Southern are to stop two of its overnight services between Victoria, East Croydon and onwards to Brighton, in an effort to, according to the rail operator, allow Network Rail to carry out essential track and signalling maintenance works in an uninterrupted manner through the night.
The withdrawal of the 01.00 and 04.00 trains out of Victoria on Sundays to Thursdays (Friday and Saturday will still provide the service for those making their wearing way home after a night on the town) will come as a bit of an inconvenience to shift and night workers, who will now have to schlep to Blackfriars to pick up a Thameslink southbound service in the wee small hours.
Emily Yates, of the Association of British Commuters, has broadly welcomed the proposals to help keep one of the country’s most overcrowded stretches of the railway network operate properly, but has claimed on local BBC radio this morning that the move arises from the recommendations of Chris Gibb, the expert railwayman who has conducted an in-depth report into the manifold failings of Southern Railway’s dysfunctional service over the past two years.
The Gibb Report is believed to be highly critical of the Department for Transport, which controls how Southern operates its contract, and which has made a number of highly politicised decisions aimed at attacking the rail workers’ unions.
Gibb’s report was due to be published four months ago, but has been withheld, it now seems because of the damage it could do to Tory MPs in commuter belt seats between Croydon and the south coast, including the likes of Gavin Barwell and Chris Philp, as they have sat on their hands and done little to resolve the crisis for their constituents.
In its short-notice announcement of the timetable changes, which will come into force on May 21, Southern said that together with Network Rail it is “working hard to improve reliability and punctuality. Passenger numbers have doubled in the past two decades and Network Rail needs additional time to carry out essential maintenance and improvement work to give passengers at busier times of the day a better journey across the congested Southern network.
“Southern trains departing after 00.05 and before 04.52 from London Victoria and return will not run on Sunday to Thursday nights (ie the early hours of Monday to Friday mornings) when passenger numbers are lowest.
“Passengers with Southern tickets will be able to use Thameslink services from London Blackfriars or St Pancras International to travel between central London, East Croydon and Gatwick Airport/Brighton; late evening and overnight Thameslink services will call additionally at Purley, Coulsdon South, Merstham, Redhill and Horley as appropriate with some trains also running further than normal, to Haywards Heath and Brighton, to provide an alternative to Southern trains that will not run.
“North of East Croydon to Victoria, Clapham Junction will not have overnight trains … and the other stations (Battersea Park, Wandsworth Common, Balham, Streatham Common, Norbury, Thornton Heath and Selhurst) will lose the 00.16 and the 00.42 from Victoria – there is only one train towards London that is affected, which calls at Selhurst and Balham.
“We advise passengers to use the TfL journey planner at www.tfl.gov.uk/plan-a-journey. At Clapham Junction there is a night bus, which takes about half an hour to and from London Victoria compared to the six minutes normally by train. We’re very sorry. We know this is far from ideal but the work Network Rail can do to improve the track, signalling and power supplies will benefit the vast majority of the 300,000 passengers who travel with us at other times of the day…
“All the stations between Brighton and East Croydon that normally have a Southern train will have a Thameslink alternative.”
For more of this, click here.
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