news, views and issues around Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath and Woolwich, south-east London – what you won't read in Greenwich Time

Archive for the ‘southeastern’ Category

Olympic travel latest: Southeastern timetable out, 286 bus cut

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If you’re planning on taking a train during the Olympics, Southeastern has released its Olympic and Paralympic timetables, which confirm draconian service cuts for many stations around venues in Greenwich and Woolwich.

As first revealed by this website 14 months ago, Woolwich Dockyard station will be completely closed, with Deptford and Westcombe Park losing two-thirds of their services. Maze Hill will lose Kent-bound trains in the morning and London-bound trains in the afternoon and evenings, while Kidbrooke trains will be cut to four per hour.

The restrictions will not only last during the Olympics (28 July-12 August) but they will also be reimposed during the more lightly-attended Paralympics (29 August-9 September). The timetable, opposed by both Greenwich and Lewisham councils as well as local MPs, was backed by the Government, while mayor Boris Johnson has declined to intervene.

It’s worth pointing out that mainline services near the Olympic Park itself, which will see crowds far in excess of what Greenwich and Woolwich will see, are not suffering such steep cuts, with just Maryland station at the north end of Stratford closing for the Games.

Don’t go looking for details of those services on TfL’s lousy Get Ahead of the Games site, though – they’re not on there, although they have belatedly added our own service cutbacks.

Full bus service details are still to be worked out, but this lengthy TfL document covers the current situation clearly and with maps, as well. There are few surprises compared with how things were the last time they were covered here, with plenty of extra buses on services including the 53, 108, 177 and 188.

But there’s a nasty surprise if you use the 286, which links Greenwich with Blackheath, Kidbrooke, Eltham and Sidcup. That service is being reduced from six to five buses per hour because of the diversion buses will have to make in Greenwich. (Ironically, this is what Greenwich Council suggested TfL do permanently to make room for its now-shelved pedestrianisation project.)

Route 129 is also running a reduced service, but will be uprated to double deckers to compensate. No such help is available for 286 users, on a single-deck bus which is regularly full to the rafters at rush hour. Apparently the bus is single-deck because of trees in Rochester Way, Eltham – maybe if Greenwich Council got some chainsaws out, TfL could get hold of some double-deckers? Just a thought.

Finally, above are the stats for people reaching this website via search engines on Monday. They were roughly the same on Tuesday. Sometimes I fret I’m talking nonsense and I’d be better off outside the off-licence shouting at the bins, but yes, it really does look like Greenwich Council has made a balls-up of telling people about Olympic parking permits.

But finally, today (Wednesday) should see us able to get information and apply for parking permits at www.2012gamesparkingpermits.com. If you live in an area roughly bounded by Deptford Church Street, Lee High Road and Plumstead Common, it’s worth a look, whether you drive or not.

Written by Darryl

13 June, 2012 at 7:30 am

The ideal Christmas present for a Southeastern commuter…

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Relive that unforgettable journey! On sale at the London Transport Museum shop in Covent Garden.

Or you could plan ahead for next summer. On sale at John Lewis, Stratford City, and online.

Written by Darryl

16 December, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Did Southeastern overcharge your Oyster at Blackheath fireworks?

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An e-mail from Carys, who visited Blackheath fireworks with her partner two weeks ago – but found that, thanks to our favourite rail company, it cost them more than they bargained for…

Not sure if this is something you would cover and might be a bit after the event now but on Guy Fawkes my partner and I travelled to Blackheath from London Bridge for the firework display.

Apart from the shoddy service from Southeastern that saw far too short trains used for the event – resulting in small children getting crushed at London Bridge as people fought to get on trains – they also managed to con lots of Londoners out of cash.

I have Oyster PAYG. I touched in at London Bridge and tried to touch out at Blackheath, however the readers were taped over and marshals were stopping people using the readers claiming we would be charged a standard fee. Naively we didn’t argue but as you can imagine we have been charged for an incomplete journey.

I know a lot of people do not check their cards but I imagine a high number of people were also affected.

Not sure if it is something you would cover but thought I would let you know as I have read a number of articles of yours on Southeastern in the past.

Oh dear. So even if just 1,000 people were waved through at Blackheath a fortnight ago, that’s a cool £4,500 profit for Southeastern on this (the “maximum fare” is £6.50, and it’s £2 single from London Bridge to Blackheath).

Oyster overcharging’s been a hot political topic – in the year after the little blue cards became valid on mainline trains, the private companies which run them netted £26 million from people who either forgot to touch out, were unable to, or were caught in a delay which meant a maximum fare was unavailable. (My own tip – never touch in until you’re absolutely sure the train is coming.)

There is a system which allows for big events, so if you travel to station X and can’t touch out, but return via station X and touch in, it’ll simply auto-complete your journey so you don’t get overcharged. It’s used for big football matches – but seems not to have been used for an event which attracts 100,000 people.

But what was going on at Blackheath? Why were the Oyster readers taped over? Whose marshals were they at the station? (Southeastern? Lewisham Council?) And will Carys get her money back?

Now, of course, I could ring Southeastern to get their side of the story, but remember, they don’t “respond to blogs, etc”, so we’ll have to go without that. In the meantime, the best I can advise is to ring the Oyster helpline 0845 330 9876 to get it refunded, ask them to send you a statement of your recent Oyster usage, and then make your feelings very clear to Southeastern, London Travelwatch, the London Assembly member of your choice (who can raise it with the mayor) and Lewisham Council, which runs the display.

And, of course, let me know how you get on…

Written by Darryl

22 November, 2011 at 7:00 am

Olympic timetable: No Southeastern refund for reduced services

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Passengers at four SE London rail stations which will suffer a reduced service during the Olympic Games will not get a refund on their season tickets, Southeastern has revealed today.

The government has approved the company’s plans to cut services to some stations to enable trains to spend longer at stops close to Games venues in Greenwich and Woolwich.

Passengers who use Woolwich Dockyard – which will see no trains stop for the duration of the Olympics – will be compensated for the inconvenience.

But those who use Deptford, Maze Hill, Westcombe Park and Kidbrooke will not be entitled to any compensation from the company. Deptford and Westcombe Park will see services cut by two-thirds during the Games, and will have just a half-hourly service, even during rush hour. Maze Hill will see trains stop in only one direction for most of the day, while Kidbrooke will lose a third of its services.

Instead, “ticket holders affected by service reductions will be able to use their tickets on local buses to access nearby stations,” Southeastern claims. However, those same local buses will be affected by traffic restrictions in Greenwich town centre, while open stations such as Greenwich, Blackheath, Charlton and Woolwich Arsenal will also be used by crowds attending events at Greenwich Park, the Dome and the Royal Artillery Barracks.

The plans, first revealed on this website in April, have been drawn up by Southeastern and the Olympic Delivery Authority. An early proposal to cut services at Charlton – despite it being a designated station for gymnastics and basketball at the Dome – was axed after pressure from the station’s rail users’ group and local MP Nick Raynsford.

The full timetable can be found here. It will see…

- Trains at Deptford and Westcombe Park cut from six to two per hour, even during peak times.
– Trains at Kidbrooke cut from six to four per hour.
– No eastbound service from Maze Hill in the mornings, no service towards central London in the afternoon and evenings.
Later trains on all three lines to Dartford, with a last Greenwich line train leaving Cannon Street at 00.56.
– Earlier trains on Sundays.

Written by Darryl

18 November, 2011 at 10:49 am

Ken: ‘I’d give Transport for London Southeastern’s metro trains’

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London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone says he wants to see south east London’s rail network run by Transport for London – and says he’d agreed a deal to do just that before he was voted out of office in 2008.

Speaking to local residents and activists in Deptford last night, he said all London’s mainline rail services should be run along the lines of London Overground, the network he created in 2007 to take over run-down services in north London.

The Labour challenger’s comments follow current mayor Boris Johnson declaring last month that he also wanted to see all London’s railways taken over by TfL.

At present, Southeastern, along with other privately-run services, is free to set fares, acquire trains and decides on the level of service it wants to provide.

But under the model used for London Overground, TfL decides which services, trains and fares to offer – and keeps 90% of the revenue, leaving operator LOROL with the rest. Trains, stations and track have been upgraded, and the service linked with the old East London Tube line – and punctuality has shot up, along with passenger numbers.

Mr Livingstone told the audience:

If people can remember how bad the North London Line was – it was absolutely the worst railway line. We took it over, merged it with the East London Line, and it’s now Britain’s best railway. That cost one and a quarter billion pounds. It’s a lot of money, but it’s peanuts in terms of most major public investment projects.

If we ran all overland trains in London on that basis – if we can run a service that’s as reliable on our overground, why can’t South East Trains? [sic] They don’t give a damn. They’ve got a monopoly, they run a minimum service at the maximum fare.

One of the tragedies about my losing last time was that the Labour government had agreed to start transferring control of London’s overland train franchising to the mayor. They passed a law that allowed two people from outside London to on the TfL board to oversee it, and I was in negotiations with [transport secretary] Ruth Kelly to just take them over and run them like we do the Overground. And [Boris] Johnson just dropped all of that.

That’s something I want to come back to. It’s a power I want from the government, to become the franchising authority and set the same standard for south east trains as you’d expect from the London Overground. There’s absolutely no reason why it couldn’t be done.

With both the main challengers for next May’s election backing TfL taking over the rest of the capital’s mainline trains, and with TfL having commissioned a report into how this might work, it looks as if time could well be running out for the likes of Southeastern, whose franchise expires in March 2014.

It’s fair to say Southeastern won’t be missed, after recent fiascos with snow, the current saga of trains being mysteriously short of coaches and a continuing inability to communicate with passengers. Furthermore, recently-submitted planning documents show the company still plans to cut train services at many Greenwich line stations during next summer’s Olympics.

While some aspects of Southeastern’s service could be fixed relatively easily – such as staffing and customer service – it’s not clear where the sums needed to transform the train service would come from. On the down side, it could see the withdrawal of rail-only tickets in favour of travelcards and the more expensive, but more flexible fares that Tube and DLR users pay. But would this be a small price to pay for a much-improved service?

One thing is for sure – the political will is there, from both Ken and Boris. If you’re a hacked-off Southeastern commuter, it’s worth making sure both men – and their parties, the ones that created this mess in the first place – are well aware you want to see change.

With the coalition government considering longer train franchises for the rest of the country, we in south-east London might not get this chance again for many years.

8pm update: If you use Lewisham station, and find the locked exit on platform 4 (the one towards Blackheath) as annoying as I do, this petition may be right up your street

Written by Darryl

15 November, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Boris Johnson on the cable car and Southeastern

I met the mayor (and his friends) this lunchtime. He was launching the sponsorship deal that will see the Greenwich cable car officially called the Emirates Air Line, but on a morning when a power failure left a train stranded on a viaduct at Deptford for more than two hours, he had some interesting things to say about our trains. Head to greenwich.co.uk to read all about it, and feel free to share your views over there.

Written by Darryl

7 October, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Southeastern’s Olympic cuts: Transport minister caught clueless

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Take a look at the BBC News website for worrying viewing for anyone planning to get around south-east London during the Olympics.

BBC London’s transport correspondent Tom Edwards spoke to transport minister Norman Baker yesterday about transport plans for the capital next summer.

Most of London’s transport is devolved to TfL, so what Baker was there to do was push the idea of working from home during the games, and beyond.

But one thing Norman Baker does have power over is the National Rail franchises – our old friends at Southeastern. Tom Edwards asked him if the mainline services he oversees as a government minister would be up to the job. (4m 15secs in)

Tom Edwards: And finally, some train companies are cutting services, like Southeastern from Greenwich. Is that a good example, if commuters in London are going to get a worse service?

Norman Baker: Well, we’re going to have massive investment in London, right through to the Olympic period there’s extensions to the rolling stock on the Jubilee Line for example, the Central Line’s being enhanced, you’ll see the investment going on a Blackfriars, and so the story in London is one of significant and increasing investment in public transport.

Tom Edwards: Not if you’re a commuter at Greenwich.

Norman Baker: I don’t know about Greenwich, but – the plan for London is such that it takes account of the movements which are anticipated for the Olympic Games, the movements we want to carry out as part of normal business that maximises the public transport network to the best we can during that period.

So, even though Norman Baker’s department is in charge of approving Southeastern’s plans for the Olympics, he has no idea of their effects in south-east London. That’s deeply worrying – particularly as it appears London Bridge will need to lose 50% of its normal traffic during the games. In fact, by blethering on about the Central Line and Blackfriars, does he have any idea what’s he’s talking about?

It’s doubly disappointing because Baker’s Liberal Democrat colleague, Caroline Pidgeon, has been assiduous in trying to get Southeastern and the Olympic Delivery Authority to change their minds.

Written by Darryl

4 August, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Olympic rail cuts: Southeastern starts to own up

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Southeastern has started a publicity campaign to warn passengers about its planned Olympic rail service cuts, but is remaining typically coy about its effects on passengers in the Greenwich area. There’s an new page on its website – www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/olympics – although this isn’t linked from the main front page as I type, it being full of guff about trains to the Open golf. But posters are appearing at stations – thanks to Diamond Geezer for this photo from Herne Hill, referring slyly to “altered timetables”.

Inside, you can find the full planned timetable for the Greenwich, Bexleyheath and Sidcup lines for the Olympics period.

Despite objections from passengers, politicians, watchdogs, and Greenwich and Lewisham councils, the timetable is largely unchanged from the one showed to rail user groups during Southeastern’s “full consultation” period – with cuts to train services at Deptford, Maze Hill, Westcombe Park and Kidbrooke, and the complete closure of Woolwich Dockyard station lest it be confused with Woolwich Arsenal.

The only concession made during the “full consultation” is the reversal of cuts to trains at Charlton station, which always seemed particularly daft considering Charlton is the station for the Dome (North Greenwich Arena).

Charlton is the only station in the area to have a rail users’ group, and I understand there are moves to set up a group for Maze Hill and Westcombe Park to look after their interests.

On the up side, there are some extra late services on the Greenwich line.

However, the schedules are still liable to change – and I suspect Southeastern may be covering itself against demands for compensation by aggrieved passengers by publishing the timetables now. “Please note that anyone purchasing an annual season ticket from 27 July 2011 may be affected by the proposed Olympic timetable changes.”

Written by Darryl

18 July, 2011 at 7:00 am

Blaming passengers: Why did BBC swallow Southeastern’s PR line?

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I had a bit of a lucky escape on a stiflingly hot Monday evening. About to walk to west Greenwich, I felt a few drops of rain ahead of a forecast thunderstorm, so I decided to get a bus. Then I realised the usually rock-solid 380 would be affected by roadworks in Blackheath, so wandered down to Charlton station instead to hop on the three stops to Greenwich instead.

At Charlton, at 5.25pm, I saw what looked like a developing situation of disruption on Southeastern – the first train (via Lewisham) a little late, the next showing just “delayed”, the one after that running 40 minutes late. It didn’t look healthy, so I decided to get a bus from near there instead.

Just in front of me, a man reached to touch in his Oyster card. I almost leaped to shout “NO!”, like a man in a public information film – it’s not worth touching in on Southeastern until you can actually see the train coming, in case they try to rip the maximum fare out of you.

But I let him touch instead. I wish I’d told him not to now.

A short while later, checking the internet from the bus, it was clear what had happened – a major failure on the network through Dartford had thrown the whole system to a standstill. There was no warning at Charlton that something was seriously wrong – and it turned out, no warnings in central London either.

The pal I met in Greenwich reported chaotic scenes at Cannon Street; no announcements, and fights breaking out at London Bridge among frustrated passengers. A quick leaf through the #southeastern hashtag on Twitter revealed mayhem breaking out – tales of police horses blocking access to Cannon Street station, others of people stuck on trains.

It turns out that while stranded in a separate delay near Bexleyheath, passengers decided to escape a stifling hot train by walking along the tracks.

People don’t walk along railway lines unless they feel they have no other alternative. But Southeastern, naturally, leapt to blame its passengers. “We urge customers not to walk alongside railway lines as this is very dangerous, it inevitably prolongs disruption and makes a difficult situation worse.”

The BBC News website dutifully lapped this up…

But where was the passengers’ side of the story?

In nine paragraphs, there’s no attempt to find out quite what happened. It’s not the first time the BBC News website has happily run one-sided stories on Southeastern’s behalf without bothering to see what passengers think.

Strangely, when a similar incident happened to trains heading out to Surrey earlier this month, passengers’ woes were at the forefront of its coverage. In south-east London, it’s the passengers’ fault – with no attempt to find out the other side of the story.

But a simple look through Twitter shows Southeastern’s communication systems had failed – yet again – and there was a bigger story to tell. There was a fresh moan once or twice per minute during the evening – yet precious little from the hapless rail company itself.

So, with delays lasting all evening, why didn’t the BBC follow it up?

I’m aware BBC London’s TV bulletin was making efforts – and it covered the story in its evening bulletin (5 minutes in, live until 7pm tonight, as did South East Today (3mins 20secs in) (links added to this post 1.25pm Tuesday).

But why was its website left to be a PR arm of a rail company which had let tens of thousands of passengers down?

Indeed, the story only ranks as the 12th most important in London as I type, beneath amazing news of sunshine at the Wimbledon tennis and Margaret Thatcher’s handbag being sold at auction. Somehow, if this happened on the Northern Line, and not on the unfashionable SE London rail network, I expect it’d rank a little higher in BBC London’s priorities.

I was lucky, and I hope the guy at Charlton station got to his destination okay. But if you have a tale of woe from your journey back to south-east London, please feel free to vent here…

UPDATE 1:40pm: BBC London’s transport correspondent Tom Edwards, who covered the story in its evening bulletin yesterday (links added above) followed the story up on this afternoon’s lunchtime bulletin by talking about passengers’ reactions and line upgrades. It’s a shame that good journalism wasn’t reflected on the website, which is still running yesterday’s PR puff story.

UPDATE 4:05pm: The London Assembly transport committee is writing to Southeastern to demand an explanation. (Sound familiar?)

Committee chair Caroline Pidgeon said: “While we don’t condone passengers putting themselves at risk by leaving the train and walking on the tracks, you can hardly blame them for being desperate to get out after nearly two hours in a baking hot train carriage.

“Others were left stranded at stations with little or no information about what was happening and when they could expect their train to arrive.

“We want to know whether Southeastern responded as quickly and effectively as it should, and how it will improve its response if something like this happens again.

“We also want to see the passengers involved, who went through such an ordeal, properly compensated.”

Meanwhile, it’s telling to see the casual contempt from rail industry staff for passengers in this thread on the Rail UK forum.

Written by Darryl

28 June, 2011 at 2:21 am

Southeastern’s Olympic cuts: Mayor Boris isn’t bothered

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This crept out while I was on my travels. On one hand, it’s amazing nobody’s made a big deal of this. On the other hand… maybe not.

Greenwich and Lewisham’s London Assembly member, Len Duvall, put a question to the Mayor of London last month about the proposed rail cuts through Deptford, Greenwich, Charlton, Woolwich and Kidbrooke during next summer’s Olympics.

Here’s the answer from Boris Johnson, elected advocate for the capital city in which we live.

I am not responsible for Southeastern’s train planning during the Olympics (or indeed at any other time)… Southeastern believe it [sic] will still provide a good level of service sufficient for commuters. It has been consulting stakeholders about the timetable. It will investigate whether it is able to make changes as a result of the feedback received, including that from London TravelWatch which says that some of the suggestions are ‘unacceptable’.

So, even with an election coming up, our mayor really doesn’t seem to give a damn about a key element of what’s going to be one of London’s biggest challenges next year – keeping ordinary Londoners happy while the Olympics are on. While Boris doesn’t have legal responsibility for Southeastern, TfL is certainly the biggest “stakeholder” in the whole process – if Southeastern’s plans go wrong, the mayor will cop a load of the flak.

Two political questions spring to mind. After all, we’ve an election next year.

Local Conservatives – are you really happy to see your mayor shrug off concerns about public transport during the Olympics?

Local Labour types – why aren’t you making a big deal of Boris’s lack of interest? What would Ken Livingstone do instead?

Greenwich and Woolwich’s Labour MP Nick Raynsford is due to meet Southeastern bosses this week to discuss their plans. He’s already called the proposals unduly disruptive.

Written by Darryl

6 June, 2011 at 12:28 pm


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