Disruption ahead: Greenwich line passengers learn of five years of chaos to come at London Bridge

new london bridge stationAbout fifty local residents (and local Labour councillors  Matt Pennycook, Dick Quibell, Mary Mills and I) were at the first meeting (at Davy’s Wine Bar last night, March 26th) of a new ‘Rail Users Group’ on the Greenwich line. Well done to the Greenwich Society, the Westcombe Society and the existing Charlton Rail Users’ Group for setting the meeting up.

Top of the agenda was the disruption that the rebuilding of London Bridge station will cause to services between now and 2018.

I commute through London Bridge daily. Everyone agrees that London Bridge station needs to be rebuilt (even though I regret the demolition of the 1860s trainshed, pictured below, that this has required). The regular delays to trains waiting to come in to the station, the lavatorial brown of its platform canopies, the cramped ramps that leak whenever it rains, the lack of lifts for those with mobility problems, and the sheer overcrowding, depress everyone who passes through the station.

But Network Rail is warning of five years of disruption between 2013 and 2018, when the rebuilding is due to be finished. In 2015-16, they say that Charing Cross bound trains will have to run through London Bridge without stopping, followed by Cannon Street trains not being able to stop there from early 2016 until late 2017. Read all about it at http://www.networkrailmediacentre.co.uk/News-Releases/First-major-changes-for-passengers-as-London-Bridge-redevelopment-gathers-pace-1d76.aspx.

While we all have to accept some disruption will be needed, Labour is asking if there really has to be so many years of inconvenience for commuters.

At the same time the franchise to run trains in South-East London is being extended, which means that   Southeastern is likely to remain the train operator until at least 2018. This is potentially good news, as it gives Southeastern an incentive to think long-term and ensure the works do not disrupt services any more than they have to.

Southeastern were at the March 26th meeting but there was no sign of Network Rail. It was worrying that Southeastern said they have little or no influence on Network Rail’s plans, and their representative  could not tell us what the changes would be to services, both during the reconstruction of London Bridge and when it is finished. She had to be told what Network Rail were planning by a member of the audience: more than two years of trains not stopping at London Bridge – one year of Charing Cross trains and well over a year of Cannon Street trains going through London Bridge without stopping!

London Bridge old trainshedThere are huge challenges here, particularly for residents in the northern half of the borough of Greenwich. Those on the Bexleyheath and Sidcup lines at least have a choice of Charing Cross and Cannon Street trains; on the Greenwich line all trains go to and from Cannon Street apart from in the rush hour. This prompts several questions:

  • How are people going to reach London Bridge from other termini, when both the Jubilee and Northern tube lines are running at capacity?

  • Will Oyster PAYG passengers be refunded for having to take London Underground services to reach Charing cross, because they can no longer change at London Bridge?

  • What can Network Rail do to review their plans to reduce disruption, and why have they done so little to warn passengers of all this chaos ahead?

  • Can a shuttle service be provided between Cannon Street and Waterloo East and Charing Cross, on the spur that bypasses London Bridge, during the reconstruction process?

Crossrail will not be an alternative service as it will not start until 2018, by which time the reconstruction of London Bridge should be finished.

Labour councillors, Nick Raynsford MP and London Assembly member Len Duvall are all telling Network Rail that they need to inform, and consult with, passengers – most of whom know nothing of the chaos ahead.  We have also written to the Department for Transport asking them to guarantee that under any extended franchise from 2014 onwards there will be more trains, better disabled access to stations, and that Oyster Cards can always be topped up at railway ticket machines and offices.

My colleague Matt Pennycook (Labour councillor for Greenwich West ward) has blogged about the March 26th meeting at his own blog, www.matthewpennycook­.­org.­uk.

I have also found a fascinating leaflet produced the last time London Bridge Station was largely rebuilt, back in the 1970s, when it was said the rebuilding would deal with the bottleneck there once and for all – plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose…

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9 Responses to Disruption ahead: Greenwich line passengers learn of five years of chaos to come at London Bridge

  1. Will says:

    The link you posted in the article no longer works. I have recently read on a different blog that after 2014 trains from greenwich will only serve Cannon Street station and that for three years it won’t be possible to change at London Bridge. So what is actually happening? See http://deptforddame.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/no-more-charing-cross-trains-after-2014.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+blogspot/FrxcL+(The+Deptford+Dame)&m=1

  2. Pingback: London Bridge Station rebuilding: lots of questions, few answers | Blackheath Westcombe Labour

  3. This absolutely sucks! The Greenwich line is crap at the best of times and whenever there are disruptions, the Greenwich line trains are the 1st to be cancelled. I work in the heart of soho and have no idea how I am supposed to get to charing cross. Further still how the hell do you pick up a train to get to Gatwick Airport, when driving and taxis simply aren’t an option? They fleece passengers out of their hard earned money to travel on cramped over crowded trains and now you wont even be able to travel to your destination without chopping and changing and every given juncture. Cross rail isn’t even going to be of any benefit to those living in Greenwich, yet we are the ones expected to sacrifice the most. Shitish Bloody Rail!

  4. Pingback: Have your say about impending London Bridge rail chaos | Blackheath Westcombe Labour

  5. I think we should be able to use the Thames Clipper service at no extra cost to ourselves by way of an alternative route. I don’t believe this is an unreasonable request.

    • Alex Grant says:

      Dear Dawn

      Thanks for your comments. I will be posting soon on a recent meeting at the Town Hall with Network Rail, TFL and Southeastern Railway. In short there was no certainty over what measures can be taken to give people who commute to London Bridge real alternatives to help them get to work 2015-2018. We were promised more detail in early 2014. I agree that TFL should ensure people can travel by other modes of transport at no extra cost, though this is easier on the DLR and tube than on Thames Clippers, where Oyster cards only give people a discount currently, not free travel.

  6. Pingback: Rail passengers face triple whammy: no more Charing Cross trains on the Greenwich line, no chance to change at London Bridge, and then trains won’t stop at London Bridge at all | Blackheath Westcombe Labour

  7. Pingback: Labour’s petition for a better deal for rail passengers during London Bridge station rebuild | Blackheath Westcombe Labour

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