Enough’s enough. Southeastern’s new rail timetable has left passengers in the lurch for more than two months now. SE London deserves better – and that’s why you should sign our petition, says site editor DARRYL CHAMBERLAIN.
It’s hard to overestimate the damage done to lives and businesses in Greenwich, Lewisham and Bexley by Southeastern Metro’s new timetable.
Journeys to work are taking much longer, with people arriving late for work – or worse, spending less time with their families. Trips to hospital have become an even bigger worry. And leisure trips to the West End and beyond have just become a pain.
While rail bosses say demand has fallen, that isn’t the experience of those trying to get to work on jam-packed trains. Or of those stranded in a terrifying crush at London Bridge last month. And there wasn’t a thing any SE London voters could do about it.
When our local MPs took the rail minister to task last December, he claimed he understood their complaints because he also used Southeastern – but from distant East Sussex. Huw Merriman, who is still the rail minister (we had to check as it changes quite often), stumbled on the problem right away, even if it was by accident.
Southeastern inevitably prioritises the lucrative commuter market from Kent and East Sussex – people making the trip as Mr Merriman – a market that has fallen away since the pandemic.
Yet SE London’s needs are different – a regular, frequent train service is vital to keep cars off our crowded roads, to make sure our businesses thrive, and to ensure we can keep building the new homes that will chip away at the housing crisis. Blackheath and Belvedere are a world away from Battle and Birchington-on-Sea – yet the Westminster government thinks they should be treated the same.
The growth of working from home has broken Southeastern’s business model – and it’s Greenwich, Lewisham and Bexley that’s paying the price.
So it’s time to do what the government planned to do seven years ago – split the franchise so TfL takes over Southeastern Metro. London Overground trains have been a huge success since they were introduced in 2007.
There was a plan to extend London Overground’s remit to SE London’s commuter lines. The government and the Conservative mayor published it in 2016, a year after London Overground successfully took over trains from Liverpool Street towards northeast London. But it is sitting there gathering dust.
The plan is detailed. It would have encompassed nearly all south London’s trains. Agreements were made with councils outside London to ensure their citizens benefited too. A programme of improvements was laid out. And fares would become integrated with TfL’s – cutting prices for many passengers and scrapping the surcharge for transferring to the Tube.
It should have been implemented long before the pandemic. But the government sat on its hands.
You may not be a fan of TfL and the mayor – but you can sack the mayor at an election. You can’t sack Southeastern. We know there have been demands to sack Southeastern’s boss, but ultimately, he’s not the one that’s made the calls here. The problem is the Westminster government forcing a broken system on us. And that’s not good, whoever’s in power.
This isn’t party political – in Greenwich, both Labour and Tory politicians agree.
So rather than sit and moan, it’s time for us to join together and demand better – and to demand our trains join London Overground. Please sign and share our petition. If we can get 10,000 signatures, the government has to respond.
If you’ve friends in other parts of London, ask them to sign too – TfL’s plan started with Southeastern, but would have encompassed the whole capital, taking in the Southern and South Western networks too. We can all win – but only if we make our voices heard.
Please sign our petition now and share it with your friends today: petition.parliament.uk/petitions/633153
From tomorrow’s commuters – thank you.
Got a couple more minutes? writetothem.com and ask your MP, London Assembly members and councillors to support our campaign. We’d be interested to know what they say.
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