SouthEastern Stakeholder Forum – 9 December 2016
Thanks go to our friends in Hastings for their write-up: http://www.1066shrimprail.org.uk/2016/12/southeastern-stakeholder-forum-9-december-2016/
Summer 2016 Update
Southeastern held a stakeholder forum on 11th July when they gave user groups an update on various issues. Here is their report:
Spring 2016 Update
Kent County Council 8th Rail Summit
County Hall, Maidstone, 16th May 2016
The Association was represented by our vice chairman, Martin Lewis
This is the 8th annual summit held at County Hall and chaired by KCC and supplements the two stakeholder forums which are held each year by Southeastern Trains. The event is attended by several rail user groups across the south east including Edenbridge, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Deal, North Kent, Bexhill, and Tunbridge Wells. Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is usually represented as well as other local authorities such Ashford and Hastings. The main presentations are by SET and Network Rail but Eurostar and more recently High Speed 1 have also been present to answer any questions.
The summit is very useful in that it sets out the high level performance and issues from the previous twelve months and a look ahead to the coming year but also provides an opportunity for questions from the floor which usually focus on specific issues or parts of the network.
SET presentation: key points from last 12 months –
375 train refresh – significantly underway with mainline stock repainted externally in blue with interior refurbishment
Customer Information Screens (CIS) on stations – upgrades completed
New ticket machines installed with improved ticketing options
Cleaner stations – all stations have been ‘deep’ cleaned and some improvements made such additional seating
Staff IT – all staff have training for and access to IT kit such as i-pads in order to provide better and more ‘real time’ information to passengers
Performance – has been a real point of concern especially during the early part of this year when a number of mainly infrastructure related faults caused considerable disruption but a corner has been turned with punctuality figures now in excess of 90 percent again (fell to 82 percent at beginning of this year
London Bridge works – these do have an impact because when there is a problem the multiplication factor kicks in very quickly as there is little capacity at LB to recover the service when things go wrong
Faults – SET and NR have undertaken analysis of where faults occur on the network (presented graphically) and this that around 10 percent of all faults occur in the London Bridge area and, overall, around 40 percent of faults occur in the London area which quickly impacts due to the volume of traffic
SET – Key plans going forward
Improved remote monitoring of trains to predict /identify on board faults more effectively
Redeploy resources to ensure that rolling stock is dealt with overnight or at weekends to minimise impact on operations
Additional drivers now deployed at Cannon street to assist with service recovery after a disruption
Focus on the right time railway – keeping up trend to improve punctuality and reliability
Network Rail –key highlights
New station opened at Rochester
East Kent re-signalling scheme completed over Easter weekend
New focus on better planning to maximise possessions
Kent Rail Utilisation Study (RUS) – consultation in Autumn 2016
Reminder that in August this year Charing X services will start to call at London Bridge again and Cannon street will not stop at LB until 2018 while that side of the station is re-built
Questions from TWDRTA –
ML asked for clarification on Cannon Street services after 2018 when London Bridge is complete – Richard Dean (Southeastern) confirmed that Hastings line will retain direct services to/ from CS in the peak
ML asked for confirmation re status of Monday/Tuesday evening engineering works on our line – Richard Dean confirmed that the above works, originally planned to finish this month, will continue until December
Welcome to the Tunbridge Wells and District Rail Travellers Association 2013 newsletter
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I have been remiss in communicating with you as regularly as I should but this is a bumper newsletter! It is time to recap on a busy 18 months.
Firstly – and most importantly - the association is now able to offer members a website where they can read news, re-join the association and understand who is on the committee! The place to go is http://tunbridgewellsrta.wix.com/twdrta though typing TWDRTA into a search engine leads you to it easily.
Old news maybe but still important – following the Department of Transport's review after the debacle of the West Coast franchise process, extensions were granted to a number of franchises due for renewal in the near future. Southeastern franchise's was extended from 31 March 2014 to June 2018.
Greg Clark MP
I was asked (with one day’s notice) to comment on Greg Clark MP’s list of 10 demands following the news that South Eastern were to have their franchise extended and prior to a meeting he was to have with Charles Horton South Eastern’s Managing Director. There was no time for detailed consultation with members but I have shown below the list of demands/requests together (in different font) with my comments. Your views would bewelcome on the list and whether my views were reasonable by emailing TWDRTA@hotmail.com
1. Reduced fares from Tunbridge Wells, High Brooms & Paddock Wood to bring into line with Southern’s (Annual season ticket from Eridge to London is £1464 cheaper than from Tunbridge Wells to London).
This feels like "managing the market" too much. Whilst there is an obvious discrepancy in prices, there is also a significantly poorer service on an under-invested line. The point about not hitting Tunbridge Wells’s commuters disproportionately in any fare rise is an important one however.
2. Introduce season tickets for part-time workers using smart card technology
This is an important and overdue development that I believe would go some way to taking the heat out of the fare rises. The figures for people now working at home on a regular basis suggest there is a big need for this.
3. Reduced priced tickets for very early morning commuter services and later evening peak trains to reduce crowding at peak times. Also off-peak season tickets.
A good idea that I am sure would be supported. Needs to dovetail with suggestion above.
4. 12 carriage trains on all peak services.
This is important, as is the need to eradicate four car working during the day. People often stand from Orpington and crowded trains generally devalue the passenger experience. There is also no flexibility to increase number of carriages if (as when snow is forecast) workers want to leave London early.
5. Wi-fi on trains.
Yes but a lower priority
6. Late night trains on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Agreed including one leaving London past midnight and traveling down to Hastings
7. More secure cycle storage at all stations and introduce bicycle-booking system.
Agreed - again the explosion in cycle usage suggests that SE need to act quickly on this
8. Reduce cost of station car-parking, and free parking after 5pm/at weekends.
I would hold car-parking prices, do away with off peak prices in car parks and offer free parking from 3.00 and at weekends
9. Performance information to be supplied on a line-by-line basis.
10. Through Gatwick-Tonbridge-Ashford hourly all day service in partnership with Gatwick Airport.
I agree with this. I find it surprising that as a resident using Etchingham station. I may have to change three times at peak time and twice off-peak to reach a major transport hub like Gatwick airport.
I was asked to go on the morning show of Radio Kent during October to comment on the franchise extension and the list drawn up by Greg Clark. I was bold enough to say that South Eastern’s record and service on the Tunbridge Wells and Hastings line was generally good though when things go wrong they go spectacularly wrong. Of course since then there have been a series of delays and problems which led Mike Gibson in their recent stakeholder newsletter to say:
It’s been a very disappointing few weeks in terms of performance, made all the morefrustrating for us as the causes of the delays, engineering work over runs, signal failure,"leaves on the line", fallen trees on the track and last night, a fire in the Network Railsignalling centre at London Bridge have all been outside Southeastern's direct control.The causes of these delays have been taken up with Network Rail and we are assured thatlessons have been learned.None of this is any consolation to our passengers who since the end of October have suffered delayed and cancelled services. As you might expect this has generated a flood ofcomplaints and at one point, our customer services team had over 25,000 complaints and“delay-repay” claims to deal with.”
The Chancellor announced in the Autumn Statement that the Government will cap the increase in regulated fares (season tickets and peak returns and singles) to the Retail Price Index (RPI).
The July RPI is used for setting next year’s fares, so therefore the average fare increase across the Southeastern network from January 2014 will be 3.1%
Two other noteworthy announcements as part of the statement that you may not have noticed
The permitted ‘flex’ above the overall cap on average rail fares will be reduced to 2%. This means that the maximum increase anywhere on a journey in South Eastern would be 5.1% as long as the operator keeps within an average of the RPI figure of 3.1% across the whole network.
A trial of flexible rail season ticketing that will take place in the South East. This will benefit those who work flexibly or part-time.
Major changes are taking place at London Bridge between December 2012 and 2018 while Network Rail completely rebuild the station at a cost of £400 million. Inevitably train services will suffer disruption, and there will be times when you will NOT be able to get off/on at London Bridge! The station is one of the busiest in the UK with 50 million people using it a year. Those who use the station now know that it is a significant bottleneck. It is cramped, overcrowded and unsuitable to meet future needs.
The current station has six through platforms (1-6) at the high level and nine terminating platforms (8-16) on the lower level. Cannon Street trains use platforms 1, 2 & 3 and Charing Cross trains use 4, 5 & 6. The new station will reverse the arrangements; it will have nine through platforms at the high level and six terminating platforms at the lower level. This will greatly reduce delays awaiting platforms. It will also allow the number of trains going right through London to St Pancras and beyond to increase from 4 to 18 per hour. Additional benefits include: Lifts and escalators to every platform; a lighter, brighter and more spacious station; New entrances giving better access for local cycling, walking and bus routes (Tooley Street & St Thomas Street); and finally less congestion at the interchange into the Northern Line.
London Bridge is such an important station that Network Rail will be unable to close it for the duration of the work; instead they will keep it operating throughout taking three platforms out of service at a time while they are rebuilt and re-commissioned. Decommissioning starts in May 2013 with Platforms 14-16. There will be periods when complete closure of London Bridge is unavoidable e.g. to facilitate work on track, signalling and complex junctions, and to minimize disruption complete closures will be scheduled over bank holiday weekends. You have been warned! So when will this happen? For a long period Charing Cross trains will be unable to stop at London Bridge, while between early 2016 and December 2017 Cannon Street trains will be unable to stop. In December 2014 Thameslink services will be rerouted away from London Bridge, and will not return until 2018 when all the work on track and platforms are complete.
Clearly all of this is a concern and we are liaising with South Eastern on this. The major London Bridge station milestones:
No Southern services to London Bridge from Saturday 25 May – Monday 27 May (inclusive).First platform closures at London Bridge. Platforms 14, 15 & 16 close until spring 2014. Southern services will be running with changes to platforms and the retiming of some services.
December 2014 to January 2018
Thameslink route services between Bedford and Brighton through central London will not call at London Bridge.
These services will be diverted via Herne Hill. The Department for Transport is considering ways to maintain a service between Brighton and London Bridge. The train companies, Network Rail and Transport for London are identifying the best alternative routes for affected passengers.
January 2015 to August 2016
Services to and from Charing Cross will not call at London Bridge. Services to and from Cannon Street will call at London Bridge.
We are developing plans with Transport for London, to identify the best alternative routes available for affected customers to use when travelling to London Bridge and the surrounding area during this period of disruption.Some diversions of services will take place between Charing Cross and Cannon Street.
January 2015 onwards
Greenwich line, New Cross and St. John’s station services are diverted to Cannon Street from January 2015 onwards. The related timetables are in development and will be communicated in advance.
August 2016 to early 2018
Services to Cannon Street will not call at London Bridge. Services to and from Charing Cross will resume calling at London Bridge.Plans are being developed with Transport for London, to identify the best alternative routes available for affected customers to use when travelling to London Bridge and the surrounding area during this period of disruption.
Station and track works are complete with more space and more train services.(Thanks to our colleagues in Tonbridge Line Commuters for some of this information).
Tonbridge to Redhill Line
A Community Rail Partnership (CRP) for the Tonbridge – Redhill Line has been set up with the aim of promoting usage of this route which has been under-used and under-publicised. We believe that it would benefit Tunbridge Wells and Hastings line commuters if there were a through service to Gatwick which would benefit not only air passengers but also rail users needing better connections for onward journeys towards the South Coast. Reading for onward travel to Wales and the West.
Connection back to Uckfield and on to Lewes/Brighton?
Secretary of state for Transport Patrick McLoughlin has asked Network Rail to carry out a new study into the reopening of the Uckfield – Lewes line. Reinstating the 6-mile line, which closed in 1969, would provide towns such as Oxted, Crowborough and Uckfield with a direct link to the south coast. There is also talk of being able to eventually link back to Tunbridge Wells.
Pressure group Brighton Main Line 2 (BML2) is calling for the line to be reopened as part of much wider project to increase capacity between London, Brighton, and the south coast, relieving the congested line through Redhill and Three Bridges. Under the BML2 proposals, the Croydon – Uckfield line would be upgraded, with electrification south of Uckfield and an additional link between the reopened section and the Lewes – Brighton line. This would be accompanied by the development of an alternative route between Croydon and the London area to avoid key bottlenecks and provide a more direct link between Sussex and the business districts of the City and Canary Wharf.
BML2 chairman project manager Mr Brian Hart argues that a new study will simply echo the conclusions of previous reviews. "Network Rail's 2008 study proved beyond doubt there was neither a business case, nor an answer to their capacity conundrum by opening a local line," he says. "Whilst we are all heartened that Patrick McLoughlin is "alive" to opening the line, this is not a local issue but a massive problem for London and the South East. It can't be done on a shoestring. Without BML2 the region will ultimately reach rail gridlock as this is the only realistic means of providing the capacity so badly needed."Network Rail says it is already reviewing options for capacity enhancements on the Brighton Main Line and this work will feed into its Sussex route study next year. "The railway between London and Brighton is one of the busiest routes in the country and there is very little capacity for additional trains," says Mr Richard Eccles, Network Rail director of network strategy and planning. "As the number of passengers continues to grow, it is right that we look at a wide variety of options which may help to provide extra capacity in the future."
(Part of this section is reproduced with thanks to the International Railway Journal)
The Tunbridge Wells & District Rail Travellers’ Association has a committee of three – Martin Lewis, finance and membership, Steve Turner publicity and marketing and myself as chair – we can all be contacted via the TWDRTA@hotmail.com email. We would welcome sharing the load a little more so if you feel that you are able to offer some time (not too onerous!) then please let me know. AGMWe are planning to hold an AGM in May 2014 in Tunbridge Wells and are currently finalising dates, speakers and a venue close to the station. Please look out for this chance to question transport policy and rail provision.
Chair, Tunbridge Wells & District Rail Travellers’ Association
Images courtesy of
Welcome to the Autumn 2011 newsletter!
It’s been a while since the Association was in touch with you but that doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been a lot going on. This is my first newsletter as Chairman and I want to update you on the following issues from the last few months:
• December 2011 timetable changes
• South Eastern franchise extended
• Fares Fair campaign
• London Bridge – future work
• Car parking charges
• Rail Action Plan for Kent
• TWDRTA website
December 2011 timetable changes
On 3rd November South Eastern announced minor changes to the timetable which will come into effect on Sunday 11 December 2011. They say that these “minor changes are primarily to help improve connection times and overall train performance.” The main changes affecting Hastings line services are as follows:
• 06:37 Ore to Cannon Street & 07:04 Hastings to Charing Cross will operate as 12 cars throughout from Hastings.
• 07:25 Hastings to Cannon Street will operate as 8 cars throughout and no longer attach at Tunbridge Wells.
• 08:17 Charing Cross to Hastings will operate as a 12 car throughout.
• 18:03 Charing Cross to Hastings will start at 17:59 and will operate as a 12 car train throughout to Hastings, no longer detaching a portion at Tunbridge Wells.
South Eastern say that the provision of 12 cars throughout to Hastings will eliminate the need for these trains to attach to or divide at Tunbridge Wells and will improve performance in this area. It also provides additional capacity for stations to Hastings.
Our view is that we understood the use of 12 car services to Hastings had always been prohibited because of power issues from the third rail. Presumably this has been overcome and if so the simplification of operational issues at Tunbridge Wells may be welcomed. The retention of current fast and slow trains up and down with attachment/detachment at Tunbridge Wells is also to be welcomed. But, as ever, we will have to wait and see how it works in practice.
South Eastern franchise extended
The announcement in March that South Eastern were to have their franchise extended until March 2014 did not come as a surprise. The firm has certainly made improvements to the train service since the dire days of Connex. Although there are clearly aspects where their performance was poor, particularly during bad weather, I raised the point that I could see no real benefit in changing the franchisee at this stage. For Tunbridge Wells and Hastings line commuters there were significant improvements in the December 2009 timetable. Praise for these improvements should be tempered with a realisation that there have been significant fare increases, which are likely to continue until at least 2015 – a situation that the previous government permitted and which has been extended by the current coalition government. Also at the time the franchise was let the growth forecasts were rather more robust than has proved to be the case and consequently South Eastern are now in a situation known as revenue support – effectively an increase in subsidy as the DfT will fund any shortfall in revenue. It could be argued therefore that we pay through fares and then partly again through our taxes – a situation that – to put it mildly – isn’t great!
Fares Fair Campaign
During the summer I was approached on behalf of the Association to support the Kent & Sussex Courier’s campaign to prevent disproportionate fair rises in the Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Sevenoaks area. The statistics are telling in that stations along the line particularly down to Wadhurst have suffered significantly higher fair rises (i.e. even above the RPI + 3% formula laid down by government) over the last few years. The campaign was run over four weeks with significant publicity and the presentation of a petition against disproportionate fair rises. We will shortly see whether it has had an impact.
London Bridge – future work
It will be important to keep your eyes on the network rail web-pages in the next few months – major work is going on at London Bridge which will last until 2018 and the impact on travellers may be considerable. The issue of future services to Cannon Street has grabbed the headlines but look at http://www.networkrail.co.uk/London-Bridge-station-redevelopment-contracts.aspx for improvements to the station and the Thameslink project for details of changes to track and platforming at London Bridge (though that is still a few years away!)
Car Parking charges
The issue of car parking charges raised its head in October – mainly as a consequence of motorists parking in the road at places like Etchingham and Frant effectively making important thoroughfares into single roads. The Courier article tried to give a view from a number of sides. I was quoted as wanting to see the real cost of car parking for South Eastern and also making the point about trying to encourage people to use the railways and that an extra £700+ a year (the cost of parking at Etchingham – it is more at Wadhurst and Tunbridge Wells) may be a significant deterrent. Even a £4 charge will deter passengers for shorter journeys.
Rail Action Plan for Kent
From being a relatively passive observer front, Kent County Council have recently assumed a more active role in the rail policy the face of mounting concerns about future travel patterns in the county, and have held three summits to enable stakeholders to have their say. The Rail Action Plan for Kent flowed from the results of a public consultation, in which the central focus is the next Kent Franchise due to start in April 2014. In this regard KCC have listened to their critics and have set out a list of requirements which they say are an essential basis of the new franchise.
The main points of interest for local travellers are:
• The Cannon Street service from Hastings via Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Sevenoaks should be retained and not replaced by new Thameslink service in 2018 which would anyway only operate as far south as Tunbridge Wells
• Through Gatwick – Tonbridge – Ashford hourly all day service in partnership with Gatwick Airport Ltd and operator of new franchise for Southern operating area could commence in 2015; KCC will continue to work with Gatwick Airport Ltd, Network Rail and existing franchisee to deliver this objective;
• The County Council would also expect to see ongoing improvements to the station environment (cleanliness, comfort, security, information, customer service etc) and to integration with other modes of transport (i.e. the whole journey experience); there is also a pressing need for increased parking capacity at many stations, coupled with on-street parking controls by local authorities on roads in immediate vicinity of stations;
• KCC also recognises the need for the level of rail fares charged in Kent to offer better value for money, so as to encourage economic growth throughout the county. While KCC recognises that regulated rail fares policy is determined by Government, the County Council will continue to press for a reduction in the annual level of increase in regulated fares charged across Kent, which is currently set by the DfT at RPI +3%.
• The County Council will also seek a change in the current regulated fare policy which permits the franchisee to raise fares above this level by a further 5%, provided that an equal number of fares are lowered by an equivalent percentage. It is this combination of formulae which has resulted in the excessive fare increases in Kent of up to 13.8%; this element of fares policy must be reversed from January 2012 so that the maximum
increase in the county is the same as elsewhere in England at RPI +3%.
As you can see there are links with topics elsewhere in this newsletter and this plan was presented to Transport Minister Theresa Villiers in May 2011.
Martin Lewis – who stood down as Chairman last year – announced in the Autumn 2010 newsletter that the Association now has a website at www.twdrta.co.uk It has basic information about the association but also a news page and links to key rail industry sites. We will make greater use of the site as a central part of our recruitment strategy in the future, and intend to deliver improvements to it over the next year.
The other purpose of this newsletter is to assure you that – although the normal September/October AGM hasn’t taken place this year - we will be coming out to you shortly about how we will re-vamp the AGM (which has not been well attended in recent years) and also about how we can better keep in touch with you and your views in the future. In the mean-time you can contact us at TWDRTA@hotmail.com. It would be particularly helpful to know your email address and whether you would be prepared in the future to receive TWDRTA communications electronically – please use the hotmail address above to confirm this.
Chair, Tunbridge Wells & District Railway Travellers’ Association