Our transport correspondent, JEREMY CLACKSON, on the discovery of our loyal reader that finds some serious flaws in the new rail timetable to be implemented in a fortnight’s time
The devil, as the over-used saying goes, is always in the detail, and Inside Croydon’s loyal reader is already managing to turn up some troubling anomalies in the new timetables about to be introduced on Southern and Thameslink rail services from May 20.
We say “from May 20…”, because as is becoming increasingly apparent, Govia Thameslink Railway – or GTR – is phasing the implementation of the timetable, so commuter groups suspect, they are still under-staffed and do not employ enough train drivers to fulfil their service commitments.
And as our loyal reader has found, drill down into individual journeys and journey times, and not everything with the new timetable manages to deliver improved services.
Responding to Charles King’s overview of the timetable changes, which we published at the weekend, one reader says, “Unfortunately, having plotted my times home (London Bridge to Purley), I think the new timetable effectively means that rather than being spaced ~15 minutes apart, trains are now spaced up to 26 minutes apart.”
This, our season ticket-buying reader describes as “a serious regression” in the service that they are getting for their money – which at current prices costs them more than £1,900 per year.
When they took the matter up with the station management in London, they received this response:
“In respect of your evening journey from London Bridge and Purley I can confirm that evening peak departures (that is trains departing London between 16.00 and 18.59) will be at the following times:
• 1617, 1621, 1647, 1651
• 1717, 1721, 1747, 1751
• 1817, 1821, 1847, 1851
“We are changing the calling pattern of the xx17, xx47 departures from London Bridge to call at East Croydon, South Croydon, Purley Oaks and Purley before continuing to Caterham and Tattenham Corner. These trains will no longer call at Norwood Junction, these stops are being transferred to Thameslink trains.
“All trains throughout the day and at peak times will be formed of 10 coaches (currently many operate with only eight coaches). This coupled with the changes to the calling pattern, more trains running between London Bridge and East Croydon means passengers will have greater choice and we expect a better travelling experience as passengers have more choice and in particular for Purley, the Caterham and Tattenham Corner will no longer call at Norwood Junction, which accounts for a high proportion of passengers.
“The remaining trains to Purley will be provided by Thameslink trains originating from Bedford. These will call at Norwood Junction, East Croydon then Purley. Many of these trains will be operated with longer 12-coach trains (although some may initially operate with eight-coach trains). There will also be peak trains twice an hour from London Victoria to Caterham and Tattenham Corner again formed of longer 10-coach trains dividing at Purley.
“I understand your points regarding the spacing of trains from London Bridge and Purley. The timetable has been designed to be a repeating pattern and has taken into account passenger demand between points. The nature of joining together four regions and interworking with other trains from London Victoria (in particular the spacing of trains between East Croydon and Purley and the dividing of trains at Purley from both London Bridge and London Victoria) has been a complex task.
“Whilst we have been able to achieve acceptable spacing between trains for the vast majority of our routes, unfortunately there are a small number of journeys where this has not been possible, trains between London Bridge and Purley being one of those examples.” That’s our italics…
“Travelling towards London from Purley does offer better spacing between trains with trains departing Purley at 09, 23, 39 and 53 minutes past each hour throughout the day.”
The season ticket-holder tells us that they raised the matter with their MP, Chris Philp, who agreed with their concerns.
And our loyal reader adds: “I’m fascinated to see if my concerns are shared by anyone else, particularly once it kicks in (or kicks off…).
“I think it’ll be madness, particularly I believe as the trains spaced four minutes apart will depart from separate sections of London Bridge Station. And just wait until one of them is delayed and two trainloads of people who’ve been waiting up to 26 minutes try to get on one train…”.
And they make this, important point: “I think it’s a particularly interesting angle for our area that it seems the sexy new destinations (which will sound great to the government) are basically being prioritised above actually running a good day-to-day service for people who need it to keep a job (and see their families).
“GTR should be three separate franchises, not one, and I think Southern commuters are going to be losing out. I hope I’m wrong.”
- Check out Charles King’s comprehensive review of how the timetable changes will affect stations across Croydon and Sutton by clicking here
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For my journey patterns (I travel home later..after 6pm) the evening peak service to Purley will improve. There is currently a shortage of direct trains between 6pm and 7pm (18.30, 18.49 and 18.55). Post-timetable change there will be four direct services (1817, 1821, 1847, 1851). The fact that departure times will remain constant regardless of the hour also helps passengers compared to the jumbled mess we have today.