Rail timetable taking the ‘freedom’ out of Freedom Passes

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Just managing to get to a routine hospital appointment feels ‘like I am planning a military campaign’ for MARGARET LEE, right, under Southern and Thameslink’s new timetable

I have just read your article, Freedom Pass users left to wait by Southern’s new timetable.

I have a regular appointment once every three months with a neurologist at St George’s Hospital and have always aimed to book myself in for one of the last slots at 11.30am, so that I can use my Freedom Pass but still ensure I get there in good time. The closest station to my home is Woodmansterne in Coulsdon, and I used to be able to catch the 9.34 and change at East Croydon on to the Thameslink, which departed within 10 minutes of my arrival in Croydon. This would take me to Balham, from which I picked up the underground to Tooting Broadway.

My next appointment is on August 2. I have just looked at the latest, new timetable that Govia has introduced and have found that in order to arrive at St George’s for 11.30am, I will have to wait until 9.55 to use my pass, and change at both Purley and Selhurst to get to Balham, as the Thameslink does not appear to connect.

With moving on to the underground at Balham, I will now have a total of three changes. If catching the 9.25, then the Thameslink connection would work for me, but that is idle dreaming since I am not allowed to use my Freedom Pass on that train.

There’s worse to consider, too. Because if the 9.55 is cancelled or running late, then there is a strong risk of my missing my appointment as the next train would only get me to Balham by 11.14.

Travel restrictions and new timetables make using a Freedom Pass less of a boon

It looks like the 9.50 from Coulsdon South only involves one change at East Croydon and takes less time, so it is a good job I am an able-bodied 68-year-old and able to walk the extra distance to get there. It would be nice to use my local station, though, as there is always the fear that they might choose to close it because it is being underused.

As the Inside Croydon article points out, buses allow Freedom Pass-holders to use them before 09.30, so I could always catch a bus to Wallington and get a train from there to Balham

I am so glad I only need to do this four times a year, as I feel like I am planning a military campaign just to get to an appointment less than eight miles away.

I did write to Govia when the new timetable was published, but received the mealy-mouthed response I expected.

It would be interesting to know whether the inconvenience that continues to be caused to passengers has actually produced some benefit to the running of the trains, as Govia claims. Being suspicious, I wonder whether they anticipate gaining more income from the elderly who have to catch an early train, and also from the commuters who have now lost the ability to buy a cheaper ticket, but still get into work by 10am?

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4 Responses to Rail timetable taking the ‘freedom’ out of Freedom Passes

  1. rogerd202 says:

    Try an alternative route via central Croydon, getting the 264 bus from various central locations (Katherine St, Whitgift Centre or West Croydon bus station). The route is timetabled at 50min but often takes less, especially in the summer. The bus stop is directly outside the hospital so you would even avoid the walk from Tooting Broadway tube station.

  2. Bernard Winchester says:

    My suggestion would be the 127 bus from Purley and Woodcote direct to Tooting Broadway via Mitcham: it runs every 12 minutes and takes about an hour. You can use the pass at any time on it.

  3. Ian Marvin says:

    Best routing is 0955 London Bridge from Woodmansterne, change at Purley to 10:15 to Streatham (also a London Bridge bound train.) This arrives at 10:47. 11:01 G1 bus should get you to St Georges just in time.

  4. Nigel Geary says:

    I suppose you could just pay to take that 0925 train.

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