SE London’s rail passengers should report overcrowded trains directly to Southeastern, a local MP said after government cuts to the timetable were introduced over the weekend.
There are now fewer services compared with before the pandemic, with rush-hour trains particularly badly affected, with the rail minister Huw Merriman admitting last week that the cuts were implemented to save money.
The reductions were made without consultation, and include the loss of direct “loop” trains linking the Greenwich line with the Sidcup line which provided a connection with the Elizabeth Line at Abbey Wood. It was also used by Greenwich University students and football fans visiting Charlton Athletic.
Southeastern has also stopped running trains from the Woolwich line to Charing Cross, while Bexleyheath line services will only run there during peak times. The rail company says this is to reduce the number of trains crossing at Lewisham junction, where services to Cannon Street, Victoria and Charing Cross meet.
Matt Pennycook, the MP for Greenwich & Woolwich, told social media users that the Department for Transport and Southeastern had dismissed the concerns of “passengers, local rail user groups and elected representatives”.
“Please publicise and report any overcrowding you experience on revised services,” he said, linking to Southeastern’s contact page.
Politicians from all parties have opposed the cuts, and a petition from Conservative councillor Mart Hartley calling for the reintroduction of the half-hourly Sidcup loop trains reached 2,400 signatures last week. It has now been sent to Southeastern.
The Greenwich Tory leader has written to Merriman asking him to intervene, saying the cut would bring “the certainty of increased car use and congestion”.
He said: “Southeastern keep claiming they are ‘in listening mode’ – here is a chance to prove it. It’s time to listen to local people and restore this invaluable loop service in a new timetable as early as possible in the New Year.”
MPs from Greenwich, Lewisham and Bexley raised the government’s cuts in a Westminster debate last week. Merriman said they should wait for the timetable to bed in, adding that that passengers were “not going to return to the office five days a week”.
While the timetable was formally introduced on Sunday, strikes and disruption from snow, together with the Christmas closedown, mean that it will be next month before passengers really get to see its effects. Services will be disrupted every day until at least January 9.
To complain about the cuts, visit www.southeasternrailway.co.uk.
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