853 exclusive – updated: Thameslink has apologised after diverting trains away from Greenwich and Woolwich on New Year’s Day, even though the line was open and ready for its trains to use.
The beleaguered rail company, which took over services from Greenwich and Woolwich to the Medway Towns in May, ran its Blackfriars to Rainham services via Lewisham and Blackheath on the first day of 2019, instead of running via Greenwich as normal.
The blunder reduced the train service at Greenwich to just two Southeastern services each hour, while at stations between Charlton and Slade Green the service was cut to four closely-spaced trains each hour, with gaps of up to 26 minutes, inconveniencing locals, tourists, and football fans heading to Charlton Athletic’s match against Walsall.
However, there were no engineering works on the Greenwich line that day, with work instead taking place between Victoria and Lewisham, and on the line through Sidcup. Inconveniently for passengers, the Thameslink services only called at Lewisham and Blackheath on their way to Dartford, taking lengthy stops to make up time.
There was no notice of the disruption on either the Thameslink or Southeastern websites – while Southeastern publicity at stations promised a normal service on its sister company’s trains.
853 contacted Thameslink’s press office on Wednesday to ask why it did not run trains through Greenwich on New Year’s Day. It responded late on Friday afternoon.
A Thameslink spokesperson said: “Our hourly Thameslink service to Rainham was diverted away from Greenwich to run instead via Lewisham and Blackheath on New Year’s Day. This was a mistake for which we sincerely apologise. Southeastern continued to serve the route.”
It said the website information had been left up by National Rail Enquiries, which provides the feed, in error, while stations beyond Blackheath needed technical clearance for its new Class 700 trains to stop at them; it said the trains should be able to stop at Eltham and Barnehurst by the end of this month and Bexleyheath soon after.
The company has been in the spotlight ever since its new services unravelled as soon as they were introduced in May – seriously affecting Greenwich line passengers travelling out to Kent. Passengers have been urged to apply for compensation. Weekday services were only restored to their normal level last month, while weekend services remain hourly.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has stuck by the company but told it to spend £15m on passenger improvements to make up for the disruption.
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