Our transport correspondent, JEREMY CLACKSON, reports on how the train operators are railroading through their plans for reduced overnight services to south London and the coast
Transport for London was not consulted over the timetable changes to be introduced at the end of this month on Southern Railway’s overnight services from Victoria, which will see no trains on the East Croydon line after 00.05 during the week.
“The first we heard about it was when we read it on the operator’s website, like the general public,” a TfL source has told Inside Croydon.
TfL could yet play a critical role in taking up some of the slack created by Govia Thameslink – GTR, the Southern contract operators – abandoning the notion of delivering a rail service through the night from Victoria. Yet there have been no discussions about providing rail replacement bus services, extending the operating hours of the District and Circle lines, or quite what passengers arriving at Victoria are expected to do after the last train.
Stuart King, the Labour councillor who is the Croydon Council cabinet member responsible for transport, is seeking an urgent meeting with GTR about the service withdrawal, and representatives of commuters groups from Coulsdon and East Surrey are in discussions with the operator today.
The fears are that the changes – brought in at unusually short notice, and with an absence of consultation or discussion with other key transport providers – could end up being a permanent reduction in service, rather than the temporary measure to get some engineering work completed as many had inferred from the operators’ announcement.
The attitude of GTR is likely to harden passenger attitudes towards demanding that the railway should be re-nationalised – as has been included in the Labour Party’s election manifesto, published today.
Handing Southern’s south London commuter services into the hands of TfL was a solution which for a time was even being championed by Chris Philp, the Tory MP for Croydon South – at least until he was “got at”, presumably by Conservative transport secretary Chris Grayling, and told to toe the party line about union bashing and guard-less trains.
Under the service changes, first reported by Inside Croydon and due to be implemented from May 21, GTR is suggesting that those in central London wishing to travel to south London and the south coast after midnight should do so using Thameslink trains out of Blackfriars. What they have failed to consider is how passengers get themselves across central London at that time of night. The last Tube between Victoria and Blackfriars runs not long after midnight. Cab drivers will be rubbing their hands with glee.
GTR is being quizzed about why it has given only three weeks notice of this timetable change, when the standard for the industry is more than three months.
Commuter groups are lobbying for the shutdown period to be delayed by 15
minutes to allow the 00.14 to Gatwick – and which calls at Selhurst, East Croydon, Purley, Coulsdon South and Redhill – and the 00.16 from Victoria to all stations (Norbury, Thornton Heath and Selhurst) to East Croydon, both to continue to run.
They also want a replacement bus service for the 00.42 and additional buses on route 50, starting it at Clapham Junction instead of Stockwell and diverting it via Balham as it serves all the stations from Streatham Common to Croydon.
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