Southeastern Stakeholder Forum
Canterbury, Monday 13th November 2023
The second in person forum of the year was held in Cathedral Lodge in the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral, a delightful venue for the meeting.
The forum was attended by around eighty people and local authorities and councils were present from across the SE region but pleased to note that both mainline and metro area commuter groups were well represented as usual.
Presentations were given by Steve White, the South Eastern MD on ‘Building a Sustainable Future’ continuing his theme from March and by various members of the management team along with of Network Rail.
The question and answer session covered a variety of subjects, some very specific to a particular station on the network but more generally on capacity as more people are returning to commuting and lack of toilet availability on main line rolling stock.
Key points South Eastern –
Ø Off peak leisure travel good but peak hour commute still only around seventy to eighty percent of normal and focused on Tuesday to Thursday
Ø Close working relationship with Network Rail providing quicker response to problems with some teams co-located
Ø More staff wearing body cameras for personal safety and to provide evidence
Ø Defibrillators now installed at every station on the network
Ø Ticketless travel has been deduced to around 2.5 percent at key locations
Ø Access for all programme to continue in NR Control Period 7 starting next April but not everything is funded at this point (decisions expected late this year or early next)
Ø Train punctuality now around eighty percent arriving within 5 minutes of scheduled time after earlier dips in performance
Ø Train cancellations generally very low
Ø Sustainability plans being developed for both trains and infrastructure
Key points Network Rail –
Ø 1.25 billion spent in our region over the past five years
Ø Track and points are the biggest area of spend followed by signalling and earthworks
Tunbridge Wells Public Transport Forum – June 2023
The forum held its first hybrid meeting of the year recently which resulted in a fairly even split, fifteen attendees in person at the town hall and seventeen attendees online. Speakers were from Network Rail, South Eastern, KCC and three bus operators. Highlights as follows.
Network Rail updates
Gatwick / Medway – exercise to determine level of demand for airport services from Kent area. Looking at various options but Tonbridge – Gatwick is preferred. Final proposals later this summer.
Recent Tunbridge Wells – Hastings line closure was successful with all works completed on time, no further major works on our line this year.
High Brooms accessibility project – planned for Control Period 4 commencing April 2024 but exact status not yet clear (will follow some other south east stations).
Punctuality – achieved 73.2 percent of services arriving within one minute of booked time.
Cancellations remain very low
Mainline rolling stock (class 375) – 56 trains have now been refurbished from a fleet of 122
Real time data now being rolled out online to show both network status and individual train delay.
Commute to work level remains around 70 percent of pre-pandemic level and is heavily focused on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Off peak travel has recovered far more with both Saturday and Sunday travel close to or, even sometimes, greater than pre-pandemic levels.
Following May 23 timetable revision, noted no additional services on our line but some trains now have additional carriages which is good but urged SE to continue to monitor the situation closely as TW platform can be very busy London bound especially in the key hour between 0730-0830.
The Association is very keen to see ticket offices remain open in some form and hope that SE will press this point with government ahead of any industry wide announcement.
Asked if the new ‘City Beam’ trains which travel as far as Sevenoaks could be used on TW services. Possible issue around lack of toilet provision.
Kent County Council / buses
Mainly covered the Kent BIP (bus improvement plan) – all operators cite difficult trading conditions and acknowledged that some recent service changes had not been popular but companies had to run on a commercial footing. Noted that Brighton & Hove were looking at possible improvements to the frequency of route 29 between Brighton and Tunbridge Wells (currently an hourly service across the whole day). Some local routes already carrying more than 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels. Road closures without notices were continuing to cause issues. Noted that the government funded two pound maximum fare scheme has been extended until October this year.
Day Travelcards - Proposed Withdrawal
TfL are proposing discontinuing day travelcards. This is the add-on to a return fare to London that lets you travel around TfL zones 1 to 6 once you arrive in London. The proposal only applies to that valid for one day; weekly and longer season tickets will continue to have the zones 1 to 6 travelcard option.
If the Day Travelcard were discontinued you would have to use contactless or Oyster for each journey you make in London. The table below compares buying a return to London plus a return journey in London with buying a Day Travelcard:
It will be seen that for 2 journeys in London, there is not very much difference. For more the 2 journeys, contactless/Oyster encounters the "cap". This means, for instance, that if you travel only in zones 1 and 2, you will not pay more than £8.10, which is just under 3 single journeys. Railcard holders do not get a discount on contactless, but most railcards can be used with Oyster.
Hence, for simple out and back commuting, including with flexi seasons, or other simple day trips, there is little impact. When making three of more journeys in zones 1 and 2, you will pay £2.50 extra in total, which is not ideal if you repeatedly make such day trips. The main losers will be those who travel to the outer zones; perhaps seeing somebody off at Heathrow (zone 6) is an example of such a journey.
The reason for the proposed withdrawal stated on the TfL website is the need to raise revenue due to central Government conditions. There is no mention of the lack of cost control of Crossrail construction, so clearly that has nothing to do with it. You can make your views known to TfL here https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/travelcards but seeing we don't vote in Mayoral elections, don't expect much.
Southeastern Stakeholder Forum – London Bridge, Friday 10th March 2023
Delighted to report that the forum returned to its in-person format after three years. Zoom and Teams are fantastic but there really is no substitute for meeting people in the flesh.
The forum was attended by around one hundred people and we even had one of the south London MPs with us. Local authorities and councils were present from across the SE region but pleased to note that both mainline and metroline commuter groups were well represented.
Presentations were given by Steve White, the Southeastern MD on ‘Building a Sustainable Future’ and various members of his management team along with Ellie Burrows, the boss of Network Rail in the southern region.
Presentations were also given by the Community Rail Partnership and the GBRTT (the new rail industry shadow body).
Only forty minutes were allowed for questions which did seem a bit short but interestingly, a common theme was around providing additional peak capacity as more people return to work albeit not on a five day basis.
Key points –
Mixed results in terms of post pandemic recovery – off peak leisure travel good but peak hour commute still only around sixty-seventy percent of normal and focused on Tuesday to Thursday as the busier days
December 22 timetable reflects this but has in built capacity to increase services where demand is proven to exist
SE is operated on a non for profit basis and currently receives around one million Pounds per day as a subsidy from the Department for Transport
Plans to upgrade ticket vending machines and online offering
Looking at extending the PAYGboundaries further into Kent
Major upgrade planned for 375 mainline rolling stock
Increased toilet facilities planned for London Bridge
Procurement process at early stage to replace Networkers on metro routes
New train departure board at Charing Cross
May timetable should see some uplift in services
Some re-timing on Hastings line in May
April closure of the Tunbridge Wells – Hastings line for nine days (from Good Friday) to enable further stabilisation and track replacement works