Head on over to greenwich.co.uk for a non-ranty guide to the new train timetables, which will change south-east London’s commuting habits from Sunday. It’s focused on the three SE10 stations of Greenwich, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park, but applies to Greenwich largely applies to Charlton too. Despite the hype, it’s interesting how little will change for Maze Hill and Westcombe Park commuters, apart from the service being a little more even and the awkward switching of some evening Charing Cross trains to Cannon Street.
The real boosts get seen at Greenwich and Charlton, but here it’s robbing Peter to pay Paul – trains switched from Blackheath, to outrage in SE3. I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of those extra trains get switched back to Blackheath at a later date, it does seem a strange move to make. Southeastern says there was a consultation about the train timetables – where have we heard that word before? – which began in 2003, back in the days of the hated Connex.
The timetable is based on the Integrated Kent Franchise draft service specification developed by the DfT, and the former Strategic Rail Authority, who sought the views of local authorities, rail user groups and other stakeholders in Kent, East Sussex and London in a public consultation in 2003 and 2004.
Everyone, of course, except for the actual passengers. Outraged citizens of Blackheath might consider asking their local councils what their response to the consultation was. Or forming a rail user group so they don’t get missed out again. It is depressing, though, how many public bodies think they can get away with calling something a “consultation” when they consult with nobody beyond their own reflections.
The other big change is Greenwich losing its off-peak trains to Charing Cross, but that is off-set by the move enabling Deptford, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park to get six trains an hour to Cannon Street. Again, this looks like softening people up for the eventual scrapping of all Charing Cross trains on the Greenwich line from about 2015, something government and train bosses are very shy in coming forward about. A similar cut to Charing Cross trains has also produced an outcry in Brockley. It wouldn’t be such a big issue if Cannon Street was open later into the evening, if changing at London Bridge wasn’t such an unpleasant experience (platform 4 is one of the world’s most depressing places) and if the fare structure didn’t punish people for using the Tube as well as trains.
But that would involve putting passengers first – something the mainline companies are loath to do unless they absolutely have to. But they’re finally taking Oyster cards, so there’s some hope for the future – if you press hard enough.
And I saw another glimpse of the future in the wee small hours, on the way back from a gig in Shoreditch. Passing New Cross Gate station on the top of a 53 at 1.30am, I saw a brand new London Overground train moving slowly into the old East London Line platform. The new line’s due to be up and running in six months. It’d certainly have made my journey back from Shoreditch a bit easier…