JEREMY CLACKSON, our transport correspondent, on the emerging problems of ‘clustering’ of rail services under Southern and Thameslink’s new timetable, which is due to begin – as long as there are no delays – on Sunday
At Victoria Station this week, Southern Railways have opted to promote passenger awareness of the radical new timetable due to be introduced on May 20 with a giant-sized, Alice-In-Wonderland-style white rabbit.
It hardly augurs well.
And our loyal reader has been hard at work, going through “RailPlan20/20”, examining the detail of the service changes as they affect their daily commute to work, and what they have been finding is less than encouraging.
They have found other examples of how the spacing of services will adversely affect their journeys.
Last week, we reported how, although there will still be four trains per hour for evening services from London to Purley, because of the “clustering” of trains’ departure times, season ticket-holders will instead of having 15 minutes between trains, will effectively have twice as long to wait for the departure of their homeward-bound service.
Our loyal reader notes that the London to Purley route is not the only one affected in this manner. “Some of the worst cases are Hackbridge, which has four trains per hour but they are four and 26 minutes apart.
“On a Sunday, Merstham has two trains per hour, four and 56 minutes apart.”
Southern Rail is an Alice In Wonderland world indeed.
The rail operators have tried to get more trains into the timetable, but they have had to “flight” them, so that trains with similar stops follow each other.
According to Charles King, the chair of the East Surrey Transport Committee, “These have been known for some time by GTR…”, the rail operating company, Govia Thameslink Railway, “… but I think in the end the task got too big to resolve.”
And this issue has had other detrimental effects on convenience of use for rail-users, particularly older passengers who have the Freedom Pass, but can only use it for travel after 9.30am.
King told Inside Croydon, “I am fighting a rear-guard action on off-peak fares and the use of Freedom Pass, where under the new timetable there are a lot of stations where the first train that you will get with an off-peak fare or use your Freedom Pass is almost 10am.
King cites examples of the first service for Freedom Pass-users:
- Coulsdon Town 09.59
- Thornton Heath to London Bridge 09.58
- St Helier 09.57
“In the past, with BR and even Southern, they would have used an easement and let you use the trains at 09.29, 09.28 or at 09.27,” King said.
“However, GTR are adamant that 09.30 is the rule. Even where there is an 09.30 service, such as at Caterham, the chance of you getting to touch in on the Oyster reader and down to the platform for the 09.30 are zilch.”
Like Lewis Carroll’s white rabbit, rail-users across south-east England will all be checking their watches come Sunday…
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