Funding formula for the country’s biggest railway operator represents ‘levelling down’ for London, according to a member of one of the largest passenger user groups
More Southern and Thameslink railway timetable changes were slipped out last week, just ahead of a bank holiday weekend and with barely a week’s notice before they are implemented on September 4.
Govia Thameslink Railway’s latest timetables mean more reduced and inadequate services for passengers using their stations in Croydon, Sutton and Surrey. And all because of the latest funding formula imposed by the Conservative government.
Govia says that frequencies of services will increase on several Southern routes, at busy times but to allow these “improvements” – which in many cases are simply a return to pre-covid service levels – the number of trains on some overlapping routes will be reduced, mostly at off-peak times when demand is low.
The new autumn timetable will add 45 weekday train services overall.
After extensive lobbying by passengers and rail user groups, Chris Philp, the Tory MP for Croydon South and until recently a junior minister in Boris Johnson’s government, has asked for a meeting with Govia.
“These service changes are all being implemented because of funding decisions by the Department for Transport and the Treasury,” one member of a large railway user group told Inside Croydon. “You can understand why the RMT are in dispute over these cuts by stealth.
“The DfT is responding to a drop in usage post-covid. Philp might well meet with Govia, but he needs to take the issue up with the DfT and the Treasury.”
The reduced services from September 4 are…
- London Bridge to Caterham via Tulse Hill, only runs to East Croydon. This reduces the Caterham branch from 4 trains per hour to 2 traisn per hour and by 2 trains per hour at Purley.
- London Bridge to East Croydon/Coulsdon Town via Sydenham withdrawn. This reduces the Tattenham Corner branch to 2 trains per hour and removes direct trains from all stations from New Cross Gate to Anerley to East Croydon. Penge West and Anerley will no longer have Southern trains to London Bridge. They are left with only London Overground trains.
- The Sunday service on the Tattenham Corner line will be reduced from 2 London trains per hour to an hourly shuttle service to Purley only. This means the service will be used only by those that need to, rather than those that would like to.
- Failure to reinstate the peak hour Caterham/Tattenham Corner line to Victoria. Reduces the peak service to 2 trains per hour, the worst service on the line since World War II.
- London Victoria to Horsham/Dorking semi-fast service withdrawn. This reduces the service from Carshalton and Sutton to Victoria from 4 trains per hour to 2 trains per hour
There are other issues, too…
- The service from Sutton to West Croydon remains reduced from 6 trains per to 4 trains per hour.
- The off-peak service from Selhurst, Thornton Heath and Norbury is still reduced from 4 trains per hour to 2 trains per hour.
- The Oxted line serving Sanderstead and Riddlesdown off-peak is still reduced from 2 trains per hour to 1 train per hour.
When questioned on this, Govia say that their contract with the Department for Transport only allows them to operate this level of service. They say that they don’t have sufficient rolling stock to reinstate these services, something that is disputed by the passenger groups, who claim that there is compatible 379 rolling stock in storage with one of the leasing companies. They say that the government has refused to let Govia lease them as this would require more money.
Local passenger groups are also predicting a round of booking office closures and a reduction of operating hours at stations in the Croydon and Surrey commuter belt, as the operators seek to make cuts in line with the “National Rail Contract” (NRC) that they were awarded by the Department for Transport in March.
Under the deal, Govia, the country’s largest rail operator, will receive up to £31.7million per year to run the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern rail services. The NRC, which is due to run until “at least” April 1, 2025, is a government interim arrangement, part of its covid recovery package. But it provides the operators with a smaller budget for operating services in London and the south-east than was used in 2018.
Coulsdon resident Charles King, of the East Surrey Transport Committee, told Inside Croydon, “The DfT’s version of ‘levelling up’ is to level down London.
“Two trains per hour, as being imposed under this funding decision is not a ‘Metro service’, because you need at least four trains per hour to have a proper Metro service.”
King points out that of all the stations being adversely affected by the timetable changes, 10 are in Philp’s Croydon South constituency – South Croydon, Purley Oaks, Purley, Kenley, Reedham, Coulsdon Town, Woodmansterne, Riddlesdown, Sanderstead and Waddon.
The worst affected constituency of neighbouring MPs, Croydon North, has five stations affected by the service reductions: Selhurst, Thornton Heath, Norbury, Norwood Junction and West Croydon. Carshalton and Wallington (another Tory area) and Croydon Central have only three stations affected.
King says railway users should at least follow one piece of advice contained in Govia’s latest press release: “It is important that passengers check their journey planners for travel from Sunday September 4.”
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