Rail passengers on lines through Greenwich borough are facing another week of reduced services, despite local MPs Matt Pennycook and Clive Efford calling on the government to reinstate trains as commuters start to return to their offices.
Train services have been cut on Southeastern and Thameslink routes through southeast London so operators can manage staff shortages caused by their workers catching coronavirus.
Worst-hit are the four stations on the Greenwich line – Deptford, Greenwich, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park. Despite Greenwich’s status as a major tourist destination, the service is as low as three trains per hour on weekdays – with 30-minute waits for some services.
Before the pandemic, the line had six trains an hour – four from Southeastern, two from Thameslink.
Pennycook, who represents Greenwich & Woolwich, stood up in the Commons on Thursday and asked Wendy Morton, a junior transport minister, if she could commit to services being increased as soon as possible.
“With the restrictions having eased and growing numbers of my constituents once again needing to commute, that cut in services is beginning to cause overcrowding on not only trains, but local bus and tube services, as well as incentivising more people to jump into their cars,” he said.
But Morton would not make any commitment. “We continue to work closely with rail operators as they mitigate the impact of staff absences on rail services. It is important that we work together to get people back to work,” she said.
Efford, who represents Eltham, followed up Pennycook’s point and raised the issue of demand at Kidbrooke station, where services have been reduced from six to four per hour, all from Southeastern.
“South-east London is not served by the London Underground, which means our constituents rely heavily on rail service,” he said.
“A station in my constituency where there has been a major redevelopment has seen a nearly 50 per cent increase in footfall: there are 1.5 million entrances and exits a year. It is essential that capacity is maintained and increased on our rail services because of the lack of alternatives. May I impress that on ministers who will make decisions on the [Southeastern] franchise?”
The Conservative minister responded: “We are working closely with the rail operators as they mitigate the impact of staff absences on rail services. Obviously, as restrictions are lifted and staffing pressures ease, operators will reinstate services to meet expected increases in passenger demand. I think it is fair to say that no timetable is ever static. As demand patterns continue to evolve while we recover from the pandemic, timetables must be flexible.”
Thameslink told 853 yesterday that there was no update on when the Luton to Rainham service, which runs through Greenwich, Woolwich and Plumstead, would fully resume.
The company’s chief operating officer, Angie Doll, said: “Our customers tell us they want a reliable service, not lots of last-minute cancellations, and that has always been at the heart of our decision-making. This timetable ensures services are as reliable as possible when fewer staff are available due to the effects of coronavirus. We’re really sorry if this affects your journey.
“As before, we’d strongly urge people to check before they travel for the latest information and to leave extra time for their journeys.”
Southeastern, which was nationalised last year, did not respond to a request for comment.
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