Labour’s petition for a better deal for rail passengers during London Bridge station rebuild

Labour candidates at London Bridge station

Labour candidates Cherry Parker, Paul Morrissey and Damien Welfare at London Bridge station

Labour’s candidates for Blackheath Westcombe ward – Paul Morrissey, Cherry Parker and Damien Welfare – have started a petition demanding a better deal for passengers during the rebuilding of London Bridge station.

The petition at change.org, which can be signed here, welcomes the rebuilding of the overcrowded and dingy London Bridge station, as it will improve the overall punctuality and reliability of trains into London in the long term.

But the rebuilding will have a major impact on passengers using Westcombe Park, Maze Hill, Blackheath and Kidbrooke stations: between 2015 and 2018, many trains will pass through London Bridge without stopping. As a result many passengers will need to drastically alter their journeys, starting from different stations and using buses and tube trains to reach their destinations.

This will make journeys longer, more crowded, and in some cases more costly for people who don’t use a season ticket. The problem has been covered extensively on this website over the past year (see here, here and here).

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All is forgiven, planners: you are now needed more than ever

Huntsman mapped

Good news from the Planning Inspectorate last week,  who turned down a proposal for 131 new homes on the Huntsman site, a disused playing field just off the Cator Estate.

Although everyone accepts the land will end up being developed as housing (its designation as Metropolitan Open Land was lifted some years ago as part of a land-swap to enable the Ferrier estate to be redeveloped as Kidbrooke Village), the proposed development was wrong in many respects. Above all it would have turned its back on the neighbouring Kidbrooke Vision development it was supposed to be part of. As this map shows, all the traffic would have gone onto the Cator Estate’s narrow (and privately-owned) roads to the west, via a dangerous new entry junction on the corner of Manor Way and Brooklands Park.

It is pleasing that for once a planning inspector has agreed with the council and local residents, and refused the scheme on traffic grounds. It was clear at the public enquiry earlier this year that residents across Blackheath, who organised an effective campaign called No to the Huntsman, felt that this was the wrong scheme both for them, and the borough as whole: although the site is about a half-mile south of Blackheath Westcombe ward (whose southern boundary is Blackheath Park) I was contacted by many concerned residents living north of Blackheath Park as well as south. The Planning Inspectorate’s judgement, issued on February 26th, can be read herePhotos July 2008 029

The Huntsman is not the only large planning application causing concern locally. In Kidbrooke Village itself, Berkeley Homes are beginning to consult on a proposal for a 30-storey tower by Kidbrooke station, with a public exhibition being held later this week. The new proposal is much higher than the building heights that Berkeley already have outline permission for. As most of the new development in Kidbrooke Village has so far been top-quality, let’s hope it won’t be ruined now: see here for a discussion on Skyscraper city, an online discussion forum about tall buildings, and here for SE9 magazine’s coverage (it’s on page 18).  Read more of this post

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

Candidates Paul Morrissey, Cherry Parker and Damien Welfare at London Bridge station

Labour candidates Paul Morrissey, Cherry Parker and Damien Welfare at London Bridge station

If you were given a leaflet about the “Thameslink Programme” at a London railway station recently, make sure you read it very carefully. The Thameslink Programme is not just about changes to Thameslink services between Gatwick Airport and Bedford: it also involves the  complete rebuilding of platforms 1-6 of  London Bridge station between 2015 and 2018.

Anyone travelling through London Bridge faces a difficult three years of missed connections, longer journeys and overcrowding. Given that London Bridge is the UK’s fourth-busiest railway station, and Crossrail is no use as an alternative as it won’t start until 2018, it’s still far from clear how people will commute to and from work over this three-year period. And worryingly, while SouthEastern may not be as bad as their predecessor Connex, they were recently judged to be one of the least popular train companies in the country, before the worst disruption at London Bridge even starts.

The service changes are complex and have not been well-explained to rail passengers, many of whom are confused by the project’s branding as the “Thameslink Programme”, rather than something more sensible such as “London Bridge station rebuilding”. In summary, from early 2015 until August 2016, all Charing Cross-bound trains will pass through London Bridge without stopping. From August 2016 until early 2018, all Cannon Street-bound trains will pass through London Bridge without stopping.

London Bridget_0

Network Rail and SouthEastern railway are, at last, beginning to do more to inform passengers of the chaos in store, thanks to pressure from a new Greenwich Line Users’ Group (GLUG) and the Labour-run council. A new credit-card sized information leaflet was  handed out at London Bridge station in January (much of the content of this can be found online here and here) and more publicity is promised in April.

But the disruption now looks even worse than previously feared (see here and here for previous posts). All rail passengers in south-east London will be hit but Deptford, Greenwich, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park  stations will be particularly badly affected, as all their trains go to and from Cannon Street off-peak (other lines have a mixture of Charing Cross and Cannon Street trains).

This means a triple whammy: from January 2015 onwards all trains on the Greenwich line (including during the rush hours and on Sundays)  will run to and from Cannon Street only. Secondly, from 2015 to 2016 there won’t even be any trains from London Bridge to Charing Cross to change onto. Thirdly, from 2016 to early 2018, all Greenwich line trains will go through London Bridge without stopping on their way to and from Cannon Street: anyone wanting to reach London Bridge, Waterloo or Charing Cross will have to travel by bus or tube from Cannon Street.

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Have your say about impending London Bridge rail chaos

Maze Hill stn 3As many rail passengers will know – but many will not, given the poor publicity so far – train journeys through London Bridge will be severely disrupted between 2015 and 2018 as the station’s rebuilding continues. Please see here and here for previous posts on the proposals.

News has just arrived of four consultation events at stations on  the Greenwich line, this week and next, organised by Network Rail and Southeastern.

Called a “special passenger information campaign”, the events are as follows:

  • Maze Hill: 21-22 October, 7am – 10am and 4pm – 7pm

  • Westcombe Park: 21 – 22 October, 7am – 10am and 4pm – 7pm

  • Charlton: 24 – 25 October, 7am – 10am and 4pm – 7pm

  • Greenwich: 29 – 31 October, 7am – 10am and 4pm – 7pm

The information that is being handed out can be found online here.

The council only got notice of these events last Friday (October 18th), which is only three days before the first of these sessions starts. Not a great deal of notice, to put it mildly, but at least they are now consulting people at local stations, rather than just handing out leaflets at London termini.

I hope local passengers will get a clearer idea of how on earth they will be able to get to work between 2015 and 2018, when many trains will be running through London Bridge without stopping.

London Bridge Station rebuilding: lots of questions, few answers

BlackheathRailwayStationI have posted before about the chaos ahead when the rebuilding of London Bridge station picks up pace in 2015, and platforms 1 to 6 are completely rebuilt.

In a nutshell, the problem is as follows. Deptford, Greenwich, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park  stations only have Cannon Street stations off-peak, not a mixture of Charing Cross and Cannon Street trains as on other lines. As a result, their passengers will be worse affected than any other stations in south-east London between 2015 and 2018, when many trains (first Charing Cross bound trains from early 2015 until August 2016, and then Cannon Street-bound trains from August 2016 until late 2017 or early 2018) will pass through London Bridge without stopping. Read more of this post