A quick heads-up to Blackheath Bugle, doing sterling work telling people that Blackheath will be a loser under the new rail timetables planned for December – something that slipped my notice when I mentioned the changes on the Greenwich line a few weeks back. Sadly, these have only come to light now…. just as an opportunity for the public to comment on them (which I didn’t see publicised last month) closes on Friday.
The reply from Southeastern shows the contempt that it holds south-east London’s rail passengers in – those passengers that helped its parent firm Go-Ahead pay an 81p dividend on each share last year, as the Bugle points out. The reply basically means the service at Blackheath is getting stuffed to help put on more trains from Orpington – as agreed with the government, but not actually publicised – through Lewisham.
We looked at all the routes which serve Lewisham, and the only trains which could be re-routed away are the North Kent semi fast trains from Charlton. So the plan is for these trains to run via Greenwich, so passengers for Lewisham can change onto the DLR. Blackheath passengers can either do the same interchange as the Lewisham people or alight at Charlton and catch a bus to Blackheath.
Alight at Charlton?! The only link between Charlton station and Blackheath is the little 380, whose stops are inconveniently placed about 5 minutes’ walk up a steep hill from Charlton station, or buried in backstreets a similar distance away. I presume he may mean “get off at Westcombe Park and squeeze on a packed 108”, a bus service which can barely cope as it is because it serves North Greenwich.
And passengers with rail-only tickets can’t use them on the DLR or buses, just as you can’t use Oyster pay-as-you-go on trains. Joined-up thinking on transport in London? Oh no, we can’t have that, can we? If there’s ever an episode which just exposes how shambolic and ignorant of its customers London’s transport network is, here’s one. Anyone served by TfL does alright – south east London, as ever, can get stuffed.
What is desperately needed is an inquiry into south-east London transport – identify the glaring holes on the map, the bits that don’t work, the bits that do work. Blackheath station doesn’t fit into the narrow focus of many politicians – it sits on a borough boundary, its passengers difficult to lazily pigeonhole. An inquiry should take a broader view, away from that kind of parochial thinking, fix the problems, learn from the bits that work, and apply the results across London. It’d be vastly more valuable than any vanity scheme to build a cod-Routemaster.
(Incidentally – when the new timetable does come in during December, and people wail and complain, and the Evening Standard, News Shopper and the Mercury run stories on it, please remember what London’s evening paper and south-east London’s freesheets did to help expose this when it was first announced. Because since May, they’ve done sweet FA on this story. The Standard was happy to cover a train that Londoners won’t be able to catch, though. Unless you want to go to Northfleet at 140mph, that is.)