After nearly three months of misery heaped on inconvenience, long-suffering Southern and Thameslink passengers think they might just be about to spot some light at the end of a very long tunnel of poor service.
Southern has this morning issued a terse statement that their current, hugely reduced service will be coming to a partial end on February 21.
What they appear to be doing is adjusting the number of trains running through to Victoria to try to relieve some of the pressure created on the services by closures to the Brighton mainline due to (yet more) engineering work, south from Three Bridges.
As one commuter forced to endure what passes for a government-approved railway timetable said, the promised improvements will be “a relief to those dealing with the mess there now”.
They said, “Just under two weeks until resumption of normal poor service, rather than current exceptionally poor service.”
As previously reported by Inside Croydon, during December, all services into Victoria were stopped, first due to Christmas-scheduled engineering and signalling works, but then a much-reduced timetable was announced early in the New Year “until further notice”, due to “the significant ongoing impact of Coronavirus, particularly in terms of staff sickness which businesses and transport operators across the country continue to see”.
It amounted to the cancellation of hundreds of services daily – and for an indefinite period.
While many fare-payers used to have direct services to Purley, Coulsdon and into Surrey, they now have fewer trains each hour and often face a 20-minute-plus wait for a change of train at East Croydon for their onward journey.
As a result, East Croydon Station has become noticeably busier during peak times, as many passengers denied direct services to their home stations are forced to change on to slower, stopping trains. What such crowded platforms are doing for people’s efforts to exercise social distancing caution, we will leave to your imagination.
Govia, the operators of Southern, Thameslink and the Gatwick Express lines, refused to provide figures that compared the number of trains they are operating today with January and February weekday services in 2020 – before the coronavirus lockdowns began.
While passenger numbers are, of course, nowhere near the pre-pandemic levels, 2022 has seen a noticeable increase in the number of people commuting into central London.
Yet they are being forced to do so on 200 fewer Govia trains each day than were being provided at the beginning of December 2021.
Rail service watchers and commuter groups have long been suspicious about Govia’s service reductions, providing far fewer trains than they have contracted to provide under the terms of their management agreement with the government. This most recent service reduction is suspected to be an effort by Govia managers to avoid fines for late or cancelled services.
One commuter, confronting the now daily crush at East Croydon to get a train and arrive for work on time, said, “Everyone here is pretty much changing from a slow London Bridge service to a fast London Bridge service or a Victoria service.
“Most people are having to change as there are no direct trains from elsewhere to Victoria.
“When will this end?”
The answer to their prayer (well… tweet) came from a Southern PR person, who highlighted that there will be some services restored from Monday, February 21.
In the main, it appears that the changes are in the restoration of services from stations to the south of Croydon – Purley, Coulsdon, Epsom and Reigate and such like. The timetables show just one additional train from East Croydon to Victoria in the hour to 8am each weekday.
But some of the main points are…
Direct services to and from London Victoria reintroduced
Services to and from London Victoria will operate again on many routes (note the closure of the line between Three Bridges and Brighton). Services previously diverted to London Bridge will once again run to and from London Victoria
The following services will be reintroduced:
- All-station services between East Croydon and London Bridge via Forest Hill
- Sutton and London Victoria via Carshalton Beeches
- Epsom and London Bridge via Carshalton Beeches
- Services between Horsham and Dorking will operate for extended hours
- Reigate and London Victoria
- Tattenham Corner/Caterham and London Bridge (running fast between East Croydon and London Bridge)
- Uckfield and London Bridge
There will be no trains between Three Bridges and Brighton via Haywards Heath.
Passengers are advised to use Southern services between Brighton and London Victoria, which will be diverted via Littlehampton and Horsham.
Rail replacement bus services will serve intermediate stations between Brighton and Three Bridges.
East Grinstead to Bedford services will not operate.
Govia also note that the Tube’s Northern Line is closed between Moorgate and Kennington because of engineering work. “London Bridge Tube station is also expected to be very busy,” they say.
“Where possible, you are advised to use Thameslink services via Blackfriars and St Pancras to interchange with the Tube.”
And the rail operators say, “Trains will operate at different times from Monday February 21, so please check your journey using the journey planner or online timetables.”
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