Beckenham’s Member of Parliament, Bob Stewart, has called on Southeastern Railways to be more transparent in how decisions are taken as to when local services will be reinstated. While services between Beckenham Junction to London Victoria have now returned to pre-pandemic levels, the operator has not committed to reinstating the rush hour direct services to London Blackfriars, something the local Conservatives are campaigning for.
Last week (15th July) Bob Stewart wrote to both the Managing Director of Southeastern and the Government’s Rail Minister to raise the issue of reinstating the Beckenham Junction to London Blackfriars service, which has been suspended since the start of the pandemic.
In their response to Bob Stewart’s letter, the full text of which can be viewed on this website, the rail operator says that demand on the Beckenham Junction to London Victoria line is three times the demand of the Blackfriars route and that only 37% of commuters have returned to the Victoria service compared to early 2020. However, Bob argues that there is still significant demand for the Blackfriars service and the Victoria services, on pre-pandemic, levels were already full and therefore asking commuters to travel on these services to Herne Hill for a packed Blackfriars connection is not feasible.
Bob has responded to Southeastern calling for greater transparency around how the decision about when the line will be reinstated will be taken. Bob has pressed Southeastern on five points, asking:
- If only 37% of commuters have returned to the Victoria services compared to early 2020, what is the threshold for Southeastern to deem reinstating the direct rush hour service to London Blackfriars appropriate?
- How often will timetable changes be made as people begin returning to the commute, in relation to the above threshold?
- How often, if at all, does Thameslink share passenger numbers data with Southeastern to assess if capacity remains to take those changing at Herne Hill?
- Similarly, how, if at all, is Southeastern measuring the number of commuters changing at Herne Hill from the Beckenham Junction to Victoria trains to the services to Blackfriars to assess if the services provided meet the demands of commuters?
- Is Southeastern modelling anticipated commuter numbers, to ensure that capacity is provided before trains become full, or are decisions based on solely on those have already returned to commuting?
“A few years ago I supported local residents in fighting to save the Blackfriars service from Southeastern’s axe and I am therefore keen to ensure the service is not permanently suspended via the back door.
I thank Southeastern for the information they have sent over so far, and for doing so promptly, however it is clear that we need more transparency around how the decision will be made. People need to be able to return to their commutes both safely and with confidence, and the only way for this to happen will be for rail operators to be transparent with commuters.
I strongly believe the decision to reinstate services needs to be proactive and not reactive. Southeastern state in their reply that there has not been an update to the timetable since May, yet we have advanced much further down the Governments Roadmap since them. I look forward to hearing back from Southeastern on this really important local matter”.