Updated story: Southeastern’s managing director has been invited back to face residents and Greenwich councillors for a second time, a month after timetable changes which cut train services across the borough.
Government funding cuts led to reductions in peak-time trains and fewer services across the board compared with the pre-pandemic service, with rail bosses saying that the cuts were to accommodate reduced passenger numbers after the Covid lockdowns.
Southeastern also scrapped nearly all trains to Charing Cross on the Woolwich line and most on the Bexleyheath line in an effort to reduce delays at Lewisham, where lines to Charing Cross, Cannon Street and Victoria meet. Passengers now need to change at London Bridge.
The service is now starting to settle in after weeks of disruption from snow, Christmas closures and rail strikes, and there are anecdotal reports on social media of serious overcrowding and continuing delays on services, particularly on the Sidcup line through New Eltham.
Woolwich line users are also finding an apparent lack of co-ordination with Thameslink, with trains for Charlton and Woolwich Arsenal departing London Bridge just two minutes apart – effectively reducing the service to those stations even further. The Thameslink train leaves last, but reaches Charlton before the Southeastern train, which takes five minutes longer to run via Lewisham.
Southeastern boss Steve White and its operations director Scott Brightwell sat through a three-hour grilling from Greenwich’s transport scrutiny committee in October, with Labour and Conservative councillors lining up to criticise the cuts.
Now the committee’s chair, Labour councillor Lauren Dingsdale, has written to White to invite him back.
She said: “From the reports I have been receiving, the trains since the timetable changes have suffered from numerous delays, cancellations and overcrowding. However, I do accept that the evidence I have seen is anecdotal, and therefore I would like to invite you and your team to come back to the scrutiny panel to show us the statistics in terms of delays and cancellations, comparing both before and after the timetable changes.
“This would also be an opportunity to receive feedback from members of the public who have now had a chance to experience the changes to the termini.
“Just this morning, an 87-year-old resident with a bad leg called me to say that she had attempted travelling to Charing Cross for her hospital appointments from Eltham station, but changing in London Bridge was just too much for her.”
The cuts came a few months after TfL increased services on Docklands Light Railway trains through Lewisham and Greenwich, with more morning trains including direct links to Stratford.
Southeastern told 853: “We are liaising with the London Borough of Greenwich regarding an invitation to a future transport scrutiny committee and we hope to confirm arrangements soon.”
Last December the transport minister Huw Merriman told local MPs that the cuts had been “driven by our current financial and travel habit situation”.
“Travel habits have changed and there is a need to make our railways more financially sustainable, as well as improving their reliability,” he added.
Story published at 7.05am on Monday, updated at 5.45pm on Wednesday with Southeastern comment.
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