Rail passengers are being asked for ideas for what can be done to improve their journeys from six Greenwich and Woolwich line stations after local MP Matt Pennycook successfully fought to have a little-publicised scheme reopened for suggestions.
As part of its apology for the botched introduction of May 2018’s timetable – which saw a chunk of services via Greenwich transferred to Thameslink, and then regularly cancelled, Thameslink was told to set up a Passenger Benefit Fund worth £15 million to create improvements at stations where its services call.
All stations along the Greenwich line where Thameslink services call were eligible for the scheme, which offered grants of up to £50,000 per station on the line.
But the scheme, which closed on 31 July, was little-publicised on the Greenwich line, where the stations are controlled by Southeastern. Pennycook, the Greenwich & Woolwich MP, argued that the guidance on how the money could be spent was too restrictive – Thameslink was unwilling to fund station-specific improvements at stops it did not manage itself. In total, £220,000 was available for stations in his constituency.
Today, Pennycook revealed that the rail minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, has ordered Thameslink to lift the restrictions on how the money could be spent – and Thameslink has reopened the scheme for suggestions from passengers and user groups until 31 August.
There is £30,000 each for Greenwich, Charlton, Woolwich Arsenal and Plumstead stations; and £50,000 each for Maze Hill and Westcombe Park, which lost a greater proportion of their services in the botched introduction of Thameslink services.
Having lobbied hard for it over recent months, I very much welcome @transportgovuk‘s decision to allow for the @TLRailUK Passenger Benefit Fund consultation to be re-opened so that station-specific proposals can be submitted for stations in Greenwich and Woolwich.
— Matthew Pennycook MP (@mtpennycook) August 14, 2019
(Friday update: The scheme is now open to all stations served by Thameslink trains on the Greenwich and North Kent lines, not just the stations in the Greenwich and Woolwich constituency – so Deptford, Abbey Wood, Slade Green and stations to Rainham also now qualify.)
The Greenwich Line User Group, which represents passengers at Deptford, Greenwich, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park stations, has already made suggestions including a new ticket machine at Greenwich, more seating at Maze Hill and improving the damp and smelly subway at Westcombe Park. However, individual passengers are also invited to send in their suggestions.
Proposals for all stations should be as robust and well-argued as possible, and getting the support of wider community groups would be a bonus. To help, Thameslink has a list of how much improvements at stations would cost.
Suggestions should be submitted via this survey form. If you have already submitted ideas, it is worth sending them again. Responses need to be in by 31 August.
Thameslink took over part of the service from Southeastern in May 2018, operating direct services from the Greenwich line to Blackfriars, St Pancras International, West Hampstead and Luton in one direction and Rainham in Kent in the other.
Most of the service remains with Southeastern, whose future is unclear after the competition to award a new franchise for the service was cancelled last week. With Chris Grayling no longer transport secretary, London’s deputy mayor for transport, Heidi Alexander, last week called for the suburban services to be transferred to Transport for London.
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