TfL urged to take over Southeastern metro service

The rail network is essential for providing jobs, housing and improving the public’s quality of life. Pic: Train Photos

Public transport users have called for a management transfer of Southeastern Metro to TfL after new timetables caused travel chaos for commuters across Lewisham and other areas across South East London.

For the last two months, commuters using Southeastern trains have experienced severe disruption since the introduction of new timetables that resulted in infrequent and unreliable train services.

Since Southeastern Metro’s December 2022 timetable was released, journeys across Greenwich, Lewisham and Bexley have been largely disrupted. Big gaps in timetables meant passengers endured long waits caused by a number of Southeastern Metro routes being axed, and planned, regular services have gone.

The exponential growth of working from home has affected Southeastern’s business model with less people having to travel to work, resulting in dynamic changes to their structure. However the shift has meant that Southeast Londoners still commuting into the city must now pay the price.

Founder of and The Charlton Champion, Darryl Chamberlain who started a petition for the responsibility transfer believes “it is time to devolve SE [South East] London’s services to TfL, which has a proven record in local rail”.

Chamberlain started the petition in order to push the Conservative government to enact its 2016 TfL rail prospectus of reassigning the train service to Transport for London. Seven years later and the plans have yet to progress.

In January 2016, the Department of Transport (DfT) worked alongside TfL and the Mayor of London at the time, Boris Johnson, to publish proposals for a transfer of responsibility from DfT to TfL for inner suburban rail services that operate mostly or wholly within Greater London. This comprises of all South London services including those throughout Lewisham.

The government’s cuts have led to noticeable gaps in services. Pic: Alexander Entwistle

After the pandemic, the London Overground was able to bounce back while Southeastern Metro experienced detrimental cuts. As one of the UK’s most successful rail networks, the London Overground has stimulated increases in ridership by four times compared to what it was getting previously, as well as a 50% cutback on delays, according to TfL’s 2016 prospectus.

How will a takeover be beneficial?

  • London Overground trains are well maintained. Stations are well-staffed so trains are usually kept clean and tidy.
  • More frequent services. More consistent Overground train arrivals will help to keep people on the move, with hopes to adopt metro-style frequencies of four to six arrivals per hour.
  • London Overground offer cheaper fares. With rising fares for Southeastern rail journeys, prices will be marginally lower with TfL services.
  • Better interchanges. Simpler and more flexible travelling routes.
  • Greater reliability for all passengers. Network rail work to ensure that the timetables for all rail operators work well together so it is reliable for all parties.

Darryl Chamberlain said: “It [the 2016 rail prospectus] should have been implemented long before the pandemic. But the government sat on its hands.”

The petition has gathered over 3,000 signatures and continues to gain hundreds of signatures each day. It must generate 10,000 signatures overall for the government to respond to the demands set out in the petition.

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