Standing at the end of platform six with a notebook and flask so you don’t have to – Southeastern has revealed its draft timetable for December, when it rips up the current book and starts again once the fast trains from St Pancras to distant Kent start rolling. It’s a complete rewrite, and has to be approved by Network Rail first.
The main changes, as they affect this part of the world, will see fewer trains to Charing Cross from the Greenwich line, but there’ll be six trains an hour through most stations during the day on Mondays to Saturdays, up from four (still eight from Charlton, Woolwich Arsenal and Abbey Wood, and six from Greenwich). To accomodate this, the Plumstead-Cannon Street trains which run via Lewisham and call at New Cross (a legacy from the special Victoria trains brought into serve the Dome in 2000) will be replaced with another Greenwich line train, while the trains from Gillingham will go back to running via Lewisham instead of Greenwich, which they did until about eight or nine years ago.
So far, so good, although a pain if you’re heading for the West End as London Bridge is a terrible station to change trains at. However, the link from the Greenwich line to Charing Cross is due to be cut completely when London Bridge is rebuilt as part of the Thameslink programme, so it’s something to get used to. The new timetable also features some extra trains from Cannon Street between 6pm and 7pm – which currently, defying any sensible logic, has no trains on the Greenwich line at all during those hours.
But, if you travel to work around 7am, you’ll be in for a nasty surprise as the new timetable does nothing about the lack of trains early in the rush hour, with only five trains running before 7.15am from Westcombe Park, as now. And with the retimings, that first train afterwards will no doubt be hell on wheels. At the other end of the day, train services continue to mysteriously dry up around 10pm, just as people are ready to come home from nights out. This quaint thinking and unwillingness to invest in train services that will certainly be popular seems to sum up Southeastern’s lack of imagination and regard for its customers in London – and everything that’s wrong with the broken franchise system the government persists on lumping us with.
And the latest word on Oyster pay-as-you-go, with validators now appearing at stations across London?
We are working with Transport for London (TfL) to introduce PAYG which requires significant investment with additional validators needed, automatic ticket gates at some stations, etc. It’s envisaged we’ll be able to introduce Oyster PAYG sometime in 2010. But it’s important to say that Oyster PAYG will not be cheaper than our usual rail fares.
This was meant to happen this year, not next – words fail me.