Lewisham rail passengers are demanding action on overcrowded and late-running commuter trains into the heart of the city.
The Crofton Park Transport Users Group is campaigning to improve Thameslink services at Bellingham, Catford and Crofton Park stations. It held a public meeting at the Rivoli Ballroom opposite Crofton Park station, which was attended by more than one hundred people, according to the organisers. Among them was Lewisham Deptford MP Vicky Foxcroft who tweeted: “Massive strength of community in Crofton Park. Disappointed with Thameslink service. More needs to be done.”
— vickyfoxcroft (@vickyfoxcroft) February 6, 2016
Spokesman Michael Woodhead told Eastlondonlines: “Between 7-8am there are just two trains that take commuters into Blackfriars and frequently these are delayed and overcrowded to dangerous levels.”
“Thameslink have advised that we are getting new trains on the network but these are not coming until 2018 and we need action to be taken now to provide a reliable frequent commuter service into London, as this is causing a real issue for local residents, businesses and the wider community.”
The campaign, dubbed ‘A Cinderella Line’, wants to see trains running more often during the morning and evening peak times, up to four trains per hour. It also wants to see longer trains running on the line, which connects Lewisham stations to Farringdon, Kentish Town, St. Pancras International and Sevenoaks in Kent.
Unofficial rail journey tracker recenttraintimes.co.uk shows that rush hour trains from Crofton Park to Blackfriars have a poor record of on-time performance. According to the website, an average of only two out of eight daily services leaving between 6.57 and 9.27 am have arrived within five minutes of their intended arrival time in the last four weeks.
Passengers on the line, known as the Catford Loop, have taken to social media to express their dissatisfaction with the service.
— Simon Griffiths (@SimonHGriff) February 2, 2016
— Kerry Farmer (@kerry_farmer) February 8, 2016
A spokesperson for Thameslink said: “We apologise to our passengers for delays to recent services. These have been due to a number of factors including a lack of available train drivers, track and signalling issues – as well as lorries repeatedly hitting a low railway bridge at Tulse Hill, on average twice a month.
“Since we took over the franchise we’ve been running the UK’s largest driver training programme but it takes over 12 months to train each driver to the high standards required and, despite tripling the number of courses we run, it’s not possible to train all the drivers we need in one go.
“There are two trains from Crofton Park, at 09.27 and 09.59, which we have to run with only four carriages. This is simply because we don’t have enough trains in our fleet to lengthen them. But the good news is we will be replacing all our Thameslink trains with spacious, modern, high capacity, climate-controlled trains, starting later this year. These are all eight carriages long and can carry many more passengers in comfort than today.”
Transport for London last month announced plans to bring all of the capital’s suburban rail services under the control of London Overground. The first routes to adopt the Overground’s distinctive orange branding will be the Southeastern franchise’s from Victoria, Cannon Street and Charing Cross in 2018.