The Government have announced that as of the 17th October 2021 the Department of Transport’s “Operator of Last Resort” (OLR) will take over the management of the London Southeastern Franchise. Tickets and services will supposedly be unaffected by this change.
However already off-peak Orpington – Victoria trains via Shortlands, Beckenham Junction, Kent House and Penge East are running only every 30 minutes and have been reduced in length from 8 carriages to 4. Passengers unaware of this change – made without consultation – are caught having to run half the length of the platform when the short train pulls in.
A Department for Transport (DfT) investigation identified £25 million of taxpayers’ money which Southeastern had been hiding since 2014. While the money has now been recovered, the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, has taken firm action in stripping the operator Govia of the franchise. The OLR will take over and prioritise the punctual running of services, also preparing for the Government's wide ranging reforms to railway operations in Great Britain.
Local Conservatives have been campaigning to have services such as the platform 4 Beckenham Junction to London Blackfriars rush hour route reinstated, recently writing to the Managing Director of Southeastern calling for this. They will now be working to try secure the reinstatement of this service with the OLR.
The Southern-operated service from platform 1 at Beckenham Junction to London Bridge via Birkbeck and Crystal Palace was suspended during lockdown and has since had a huge number of cancellations. Known locally as “the Birkbeck Flyer” (because it travels SO slowly), this is Southern’s Cinderella service. Whenever there are driver shortages or other problems on their London Bridge network, this seems to be the first service hit with cancellations.
Beckenham Conservative Councillor and daily London commuter, Michael Tickner, said:
"Southeastern has been consistently at the bottom of customer satisfaction league tables for many years, so let’s hope things can only get better. Our priority from a local perspective will be getting the new operator to begin reinstating key local routes such as the rush hour Beckenham Junction to London Blackfriars service. I hope we will find the new DfT-owned operator more willing to engage with us."