Planned cuts to Southeastern rail services will lead to more people using their cars, Greenwich Council’s leader and deputy leader have told the state-run rail company.
Service levels that ran before the pandemic began will be cut across the traffic-clogged borough, which aims to cut car use by 40 per cent by 2030 as part of its climate emergency plan.
Off-peak services are due to be cut from their December 2019 level of at least six trains an hour on weekdays and Saturdays to just four as part of the Conservative policy of recouping money spent keeping the railways running during the Covid crisis.
All Charing Cross trains on the Woolwich line trains have also been rerouted to Cannon Street, as part of long-held plans to simply services.
The changes were condemned across the political spectrum, including by Greenwich’s opposition Conservative leader Matt Hartley.
Southeastern has said its new timetable reflects reduced passenger numbers after the pandemic, although it said weekend travel – which is also being cut- was at 90 per cent of pre-Covid levels. The company did not consult on the proposals, but told 853 last week that the government had allowed rail services to cut services “during this period” to match demand.
In a letter to Southeastern’s managing director, Steve White, council leader Anthony Okereke and Averil Lekau, his deputy, said the changes would result in increased car usage.
“Charlton, Woolwich and Abbey Wood will lose their direct Sunday service to Blackheath and Lewisham which plays a vital role in connecting people with their families, leisure and communities, forcing many into cars,” they wrote in a letter that was shared on social media.
“The reduction in services has a knock-on effect on our borough’s action to tackle climate change, reduce emissions and improve air quality.
“We need public transport to be a viable alternative to jumping in the car, reducing frequencies and curtailing direct point-to-point journeys will only further deter people from using rail services.”
The two councillors also highlighted service cuts through Greenwich itself, hitting a tourist industry they said was worth £1.3 billion a year to the borough.
Service cuts through Charlton would also affect plans to build thousands of homes by the river in the area, they added. The service cuts will render many transport assessments for developments in the borough out of date.
Southeastern’s cuts highlight how dependent Greenwich’s climate strategy is on the actions of other agencies.
While part of the borough has benefited from the opening of the Elizabeth Line, other areas have been hit by service reductions. Earlier this year, Transport for London, which is run by Labour mayor Sadiq Khan, cut bus services between Greenwich, Woolwich and Plumstead – a route paralleled by the train services which are also being reduced.
Southeastern representatives will face councillors at a scrutiny meeting on October 20 to discuss transport issues. To contact the committee and ask a question, visit the council website.
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