What does the timetable changes later this month do for the rail users of Croydon and Sutton? CHARLES KING takes a look
In March, Charles Horton, the chief executive of Govia Thameslink Railway, stated in the Metro newspaper that the new GTR timetable, which starts on May 20, will benefit passengers providing greater capacity, more trains and new destinations “capable of carrying the entire population of Bristol every week”.
And Horton is right. There will be more, and longer, trains all day including direct services from East Croydon to Finsbury Park, Stevenage, Peterborough and Cambridge. There will Increases in the number of off-peak services to London Bridge, Blackfriars, St Pancras and Farringdon, which will have a direct connection with the Elizabeth Line – Crossrail – from December.
The increase in frequency for rush hour services will start earlier in the day and the late evening service from central London will be increased. Again, there will be further increases in services in December and in May 2019, when additional services to Kent will start, giving more connections at London Bridge to other destinations.
These changes have been no mean achievement by a dedicated team of train planners who have had to redesign the Thameslink/Southern and Great Northern timetable around the needs of other train services on East Coast and Midland main lines, Southeastern, Southern and London Overground lines, taking into consideration different types and speeds of rolling stock, new crew and rolling stock depots.
But what are the improvements in details in the Croydon and Sutton areas?
East Croydon will see the biggest improvements with two new services of two trains per hour to Peterborough and one to Cambridge all day; both services will provide direct trains to Finsbury Park and Stevenage. In the other direction, the Reigate service will increase to two trains per hour and the service to Brighton increases to five trains per hour.
New metro services will run to Streatham and Peckham Rye. Two late night services after midnight, the 00.08 to Gatwick and the 00.16 to all stations to East Croydon, from Victoria and Clapham Junction on Sundays to Thursday, will be restored.
On Friday and Saturday, additional later trains from Victoria will run.
On Sunday to Thursday, the all-night service to East Croydon and Gatwick Airport will run to and from Blackfriars. On Fridays they will run to and from both Blackfriars and Victoria; on Saturdays, to and from Victoria only.
Many other stations also have altered and improved services.
Norwood Junction gains an all-day Thameslink service to Bedford via Blackfriars and St Pancras, with two trains per hour to Epsom via Sutton service.
South Croydon and Purley Oaks gain a semi-fast service to London Bridge.
Sanderstead, Riddlesdown and the Oxted line gain additional peak hour services to London Bridge, of which a number continue to Bedford. They also gain an improved Sunday service.
Coulsdon Town and Reedham have their service restored to four trains per hour from Mondays to Saturdays.
The Tattenham Corner line will have an evening semi-fast service to London Bridge.
The Kenley to Caterham line will gain a semi-fast off-peak day time and evening service to London Bridge, joining with the Tattenham Corner service at Purley.
Coulsdon South and Purley will have their off-peak Victoria, Clapham Junction and Reigate semi-fast services reinstated. There will be an additional late-night train on Friday and Saturdays from Victoria at 01.10 to Gatwick Airport which will call at Purley and Coulsdon South, while the Thameslink service to Peterborough will call at Coulsdon South instead of the Bedford service.
West Croydon, Waddon, Wallington and Carshalton Beeches gain an increase in the service to Epsom to two trains per hour along with a new off-peak semi-fast service from Epsom and Sutton to London Bridge via Norwood Junction.
At Carshalton, the off-peak service to Victoria increases to four train per hour.
Belmont and the Epsom Downs branch will have its off-peak service increases to two trains per hour and a new Sunday services will be introduced.
Selhurst, Thornton Heath and Norbury will gain two trains per hour to Epsom Downs for Belmont and the Royal Marsden Hospital.
After midnight, the Victoria to East Croydon service at 00.16 is restored at Norbury, Thornton Heath and Selhurst while on Friday and Saturday night the service from Victoria at 01.10 will also call at Selhurst.
But is there any bad news?
The Victoria to Tonbridge service via East Croydon will be reduced to a shuttle service to and from Redhill. The service between East Croydon and Norwood Junction is reduced by two trains per hour as the Tattenham Corner line trains no longer call. This reduces the interchange opportunities with the London Overground.
The all station trains to Victoria from Caterham, Purley and East Croydon is diverted via to Streatham and Peckham Rye, reducing the off-peak service to Victoria from Selhurst, Thornton Heath and Norbury by two trains per hour.
The off-peak West London line service from East Croydon to Watford and Milton Keynes via West Brompton and Shepherds Bush remains at only one train per hour.
Other concerns with the timetable changes are that off-peak Oyster fares, off-peak Travelcard and use of Freedom Pass may change considerably for some people as the first train after 09.30 will be considerably later.
For example, today the first off-peak train at Woodmansterne is 09.34; under the new timetable, it will be will be 09.55. It is worth a close check to see whether the changes might affect your journeys.
Overall, the changes look very good, but will GTR be able to deliver it?
As this is a massive change, it will take a few weeks to settle down with so many drivers having to learn the new routes and the RMT dispute still lurks in the background. Already, it has been announced that some services under the new timetable will not start for up to four weeks.
It would be useful for East Croydon Transport Committee to get passengers’ feedback, once the timetable changes are implemented, about how effective the service is for you.
After the timetable changes, we will be looking for a number of changes to improve the timetable locally. These will include additional stops at Norwood Junction and New Cross Gate to improve connections to London Overground, and an improved frequency of the off-peak service on the East Croydon to Watford service.
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