Blackheath, Kidbrooke and Eltham to lose direct trains to Victoria from 2022

Blackheath station by Julie Kertesz
A vociferous campaign was launched in Blackheath to keep Victoria services – but there’ll be a better service there from Lewisham (photo by Julie Kertesz)

Blackheath, Kidbrooke and Eltham stations are set to lose their direct rail services to Victoria from December 2022, according to new documents issued by the Department for Transport today.

But Bexleyheath line passengers will be able to take twice as many trains from Lewisham to Victoria, lessening the pain for passengers who complained about the possibility of losing the link.

The current Victoria services will be switched to the Sidcup line, while half the trains that currently run from Hayes via Catford Bridge to Charing Cross will now run to Lewisham, Nunhead, Peckham Rye, Denmark Hill and Victoria.

This brings direct trains to Victoria from stations such as Hither Green, Lee, Mottingham and New Eltham; as well as Ladywell and Lower Sydenham.

Details of the new services are contained in an invitation for companies to tender for the franchise to run SE London and Kent’s trains, which is due to begin in April 2019.

Current operator Southeastern is among the bidders. It sets out the basic service the winning operator is expected to provide.

Blackheath Society
The Blackheath Society was among those who campaigned against the loss of direct Victoria services

An earlier consultation asked for thoughts on whether the DfT suggesting that each line should only serve one terminal station, suggesting services on the Bexleyheath line should all be switched to Cannon Street. This led to the Blackheath Society, Bexley Council, MPs Clive Efford and Heidi Alexander and other groups launching campaigns against the proposal.

However, the Bexleyheath line’s Victoria trains will be replaced by new Charing Cross trains, and most stations will keep trains running to two or more terminals.

But by 2022, the Greenwich/North Kent line will see all trains run to Cannon Street – even those that currently run via Lewisham to Charing Cross.

Line Stations Services from 2022
Greenwich Deptford, Greenwich, Maze Hill, Westcombe Park 4 Cannon Street
2 Luton
Charlton, Woolwich Arsenal, Plumstead, Abbey Wood 6 Cannon Street
2 Luton
Woolwich Dockyard 4 Cannon Street
Erith, Belvedere at least 4 Cannon Street
Slade Green 4 Cannon Street
2 Luton
Bexleyheath Blackheath 6 Charing Cross
2 Cannon Street
Kidbrooke, Eltham, Falconwood, Welling, Bexleyheath, Barnehurst 4 Charing Cross
2 Cannon Street
Sidcup Hither Green 6 Charing Cross
2 Cannon Street
2 Victoria
Lee, Mottingham, New Eltham, Sidcup, Albany Park, Crayford 4 Charing Cross
2 Victoria
Hayes Ladywell, Catford Bridge, Lower Sydenham, New Beckenham, Clock House, Elmers End, Eden Park, West Wickham, Hayes 2 Charing Cross
2 Victoria
Orpington Grove Park, Elmstead Woods, Chislehurst, Petts Wood, Orpington 2 Charing Cross
2 Cannon Street
Grove Park to Bromley North 4 trains/hour

Sources for table: South Eastern Franchise Train Service Requirements and Govia Thameslink Railway June 2017 consultation.

Because the document only deals with current Southeastern services, it does not show a new service planned for the Greenwich line which would run via Blackfriars to Luton, which is to be run by the current Thameslink operator from May.

This document lays down specifications for each service, even outlining stations that trains must not call at. One footnote suggests that some Greenwich line services could be extended to Maidstone West.

Another opens the door for operators to cut services at Belvedere and Erith to just four trains per hour – despite new housing development near both these stations – as they are not currently due to be served by the new Thameslink service. The stations currently get six trains per hour, the franchise specification says operators can run just four.

The minimum standard applies every day of the week, so should see an improvement in services on Sundays when trains aren’t disrupted by engineering work.

The invitation to tender does not specify new trains, so the 25-year-old Networker trains could still be in use. It also instructs the new operator to consult on whether or not it should run trains on Boxing Day.

Last year, transport secretary Chris Grayling refused permission for Transport for London to take on Southeastern’s metro services.

Comments are open below – in case you’ve spotted anything in the huge heap of complex documents that has been missed above. An earlier version of the story had the changes as taking place next year and had got some Greenwich services confused – apologies.

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12 comments

  1. Will all Cannon Street via Greenwich trains stop at London Bridge? Essential for interchanging for Gatwick and for me personally visiting my family (via Headcorn).

  2. Why is there not more of a push for TFL to take the franchise?

    The delivery of more integrated travel solutions is desperately needed. The lack of connectivity / future proof capacity is a significant risk for SE London / Kent.

    -Shift services to TFL.
    -Extend the DLR from Lewisham either to Catford / Hither Green or Eltham to increase cross connectivity
    -Extend New X Overground loop to link with Lewisham for simplicity of connection / capacity as a SE hub
    -Connectivity from Bexleyheath / Sidcup Lines to Abbey Wood / Woolwich

  3. On the Orpington line, are those 4 trains per hour also guaranteed to stop at Hither Green? If so that will give Hither Green a handy 14 trains per hour in total?

  4. Despite the inconvenience this will cause some people, having to switch terminals, the big benefit is that trains will no longer be so delayed at Lewisham going over that big crossing to the west of the station. It’s common for trains in either direction to have to wait a long time for something going across the crossing.
    It’s particularly the Victoria trains to/from the Bexleyheath line, which have to block all the other three platforms at Lewisham. By switching them to platforms 3 and 4 there’ll be less disruption.
    And, while everyone holds up the golden hope of TfL taking on the network, you bet they’d have eventually done just the same: for 80 years TfL and its ancestors have preferred simple routes where trains keep to one line and stop at all stations. TfL knows how disruptive crossovers and so on are — which is why it hates the dual Northern line and is looking for ways to split it into two separate lines.

  5. Please please don’t reduce the Charing cross service at Ladywell! Losing the Cannon Street trains is bad enough, but many of us rely on the London bridge connection! This cannot happen 😦

  6. @Alan, agreed, that flat junction is a real problem. This was an opportunity missed to fully streamline it but I suppose a partial success is better than nothing. Just a shame we have to wait five years for any tangible benefit.

  7. Bit gutted at future 2022 me not being able to get to Denmark Hill from Blackheath directly and back again. Though at least we don’t have to change at London Bridge like in the old days (after 7pm-ish).

    I’m hoping that this new route will at least involve alighting at Lewisham and waiting on the same platform rather than having to faff about moving from 1 to 3 or 4 to 2 or whatever misery it might be. Luckily I’m able-bodied and can get around with ease (though alighting at Lewisham can be a bit unnerving anyway with that platform curvature!).

  8. Hi Jo, come the year 2022 you will need to change from platform 3 to platform 1 at Lewisham if travelling from Blackheath to Denmark Hill.

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