Southern to stop late night trains from Victoria to East Croydon

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 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.”

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6 Responses to Southern to stop late night trains from Victoria to East Croydon

  1. Lewis White says:

    Your article has reminded me to contact you about the late night/ early morning train service from Victoria going Southwards through East Croydon to Gatwick. I am not talking about the Gatwick Express, but the normal Southern Trains.

    There are trains that only stop at Clapham Junction, East Croydon, and Gatwick, and terminate at Three Bridges, which serves Crawley, but missing out a huge number of stations serving big populations down the route.

    It is obvious that to stop these trains at all stations from Victoria to Three Bridges would take far too long, but It seems a stupid waste of resources ( yes, your taxes and mine) that these trains sail through major stations like Balham, Norbury, Thornton Heath, Purley, Coulsdon South, Redhill and Horley without stopping. To stop them would add say 2 to 3 minutes per station. 7 additional stops. Hundreds of people would use the services to get back from London after late work or leisure.

    The driver and guard are being paid for–the train is being paid for– but the benefits to the traveling public are not being realised.

    At that time of night, Midnight onwards, air travel at Gatwick is not taking place , so who are these services for?.
    Workers at Gatwick? Yes, obvious. Crawley residents?. Yes, good for them, but what about the poor folks who live in Redhill– a major town !
    What about North Croydon residents –from Norbury and Thornton Heath, and South Croydon people –Purley and Coulsdon?

    There are loads of people who use these stations. An hourly service from midnight to 3 pm would not cost a huge amount. Would it be necessary to keep these stations open and staffed?. I don’t think so.

    It would make better use of a resource–a major N-S transport routeway– by having trains used rather than half empty.
    Engineering works would not need to be halted– these trains are running anyway.

    Is there a rail expert among Inside Croydon’s loyal readership who could comment on this idea ?

    • Nick Davies says:

      I forgot to say below, the first flights from Gatwick are around 05:30. The more neurotic amongst us like to check in two hours before hand, and nobody should allow less then an hour to get from London. The all-night service exists for Gatwick passengers.

  2. Nick Davies says:

    It is all trains leaving Victoria through the night that are being withdrawn in favour of Blackfriars, including the hourly service to Three Bridges – not just the last stoppers through south London. I’m sure the stuff about track maintenance is a red herring. I can’t see that the eight mile stretch between Victoria and Streatham Common is in such poor shape that it needs to be closed every night when the other 45 miles of the Brighton line continues to operate. My suspicion is that the there’s a tidy sum to be saved from not having to pay Network Rail to keep Victoria open all night, add in the access charge for the unused track and it makes a nice little top up to GoDire’s bottom line.

  3. sed30 says:

    Reblogged this on sed30's Blog.

  4. Lewis White says:

    Thanks Nick, for clarifying the point re need of Gatwick early morning flight passengers to get to check in around 3 – 4 a.m.

    It therefore seems to me that we need an hourly night-long service from Victoria to Gatwick that stops at the stations I noted. My list would be Victoria, Clapham Junction, Balham, Thornton Heath, E Croydon, Purley, Redhill, Horley and Gatwick, terminating at 3 Bridges.

    I don’t think that would add too much to the journey of the early morning Gatwick passengers or Gatwick workers..

    Or, make Thameslink more user-friendly, by stopping at Blackfriars, Norwood Junction, E Croydon, Purley, Redhill, Horley, Gatwick, and key stops to Brighton.

    What is the point of having trains running fast through 50 miles from London to Brighton, and only stopping at a very few places?. My point is that the public are paying for a service that is currently serving a few, but could serve many by adding these logical stops.

    I use the night bus from E Croydon to Coulsdon, but it adds a lot to the journey time back from London.

    By the way, I am not a supporter of the “24 hour economy” as restaurant staff need their bed as well as the public. It’s more of making proper use of the night time rail resource that is running in any case.

  5. mraemiller says:

    The night train service is the best thing about Croydon as far as I’m concerned but I stopped using the train earlier in the year. It is too erratic, always on strike and at £12 for an off peak to zone 1 it is cheaper to drive so long as you time it to miss the congestion charge

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