Lewisham and Croydon’s rail services should become part of the London Overground network under the control of Transport for London, according to a new report from think tank Centre for London.
The report’s authors call for all rail services south of the river to come under the control of a single operator with the Overground acting like a “second Underground”. Demand for rail services is expected to double in south London by 2050, with an anticipated 80 per cent rise in passenger numbers.
A key aim of the proposals is to give rail passengers in the area the ‘turn up and go’ service they expect on the capital’s Underground network, with an average of at least six trains per hour so passengers do not need to check timetables before travelling.
The current Southeastern service between Lewisham and Victoria operates only two trains per hour, and three at peak times. The think tank’s proposals would involve at least doubling the number of trains available. Brockley station would also be upgraded with extra platforms so passengers could connect from the current Overground line to the new east-west service.
Centre for London estimates that bringing south London’s rail network up to the standard of the Overground would cost more than the £6.5 billion spent on Thameslink. It would be the UK’s third-biggest rail infrastructure project after Crossrail and HS2, the high-speed link between London, Birmingham and the north of England.
London Mayor Boris Johnson has welcomed the idea, telling the BBC: “London deserves even more metro-style rail services.”
Suburban rail services in Lewisham and Croydon leave plenty of room for improvement, says the report. Trains operated by Southern, Southeastern and Thameslink were, on average, twice as likely as London Overground trains to be cancelled or severely delayed.
Southern Railways, which runs trains on the London to Brighton line via New Cross Gate and East Croydon, is currently under pressure from MPs unhappy with the company’s performance.
Chris Philp, MP for Croydon South, told Eastlondonlines: “Southern Rail’s performance continues to be abysmal. The huge problems with their service include lateness, apparently arbitrary train cancellations, over-crowding and station-skipping. It is the worst performing line in the country.”
He favours tough action if problems continue, adding: “I am prepared to call for Southern to lose the franchise if the problems are not fixed fast.”
Centre for London also claims that the proposals would support the growth of 13,000 new jobs in Lewisham and 16,000 new jobs in Croydon between 2025 and 2035.