TLC calls for GTR Southern to be stripped of Tonbridge-Redhill line

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The Tonbridge-Redhill line is currently operated by GTR, better known locally under its unloved “Southern” brand. As regular readers will be aware, GTR is amending its timetables to incorporate more services into its tentacles and has decided that Tonbridge to Redhill should be stripped of direct London service so that Reigate can gain additional routes. All services from Tonbridge will terminate at Redhill – and, worse still, Redhill itself is being drastically being downgraded, meaning longer waits and poorer connections there.

GTR is currently planning its 2018 timetable and is patting itself on the back for having a ‘real consultation’ which it believes to be unique in terms of its scope. Well, TLC has responded to this consultation and GTR has shut us down and worked against us every step of the way. We have no confidence in them as custodians of this strategically important stretch of rural railway.

The line had been starved of investment, and even worse ideas. GTR has clearly given up on the line and seems intent on creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of cutting the service due to poor passenger numbers, causing fewer passengers, resulting in further cuts. We think they see the line as an inconvenience.

It adds insult to injury that GTR is giving the London routes to Reigate, which already has direct to services to London. Reigate can only cope with 4 car trains and so needs more services to meet demand. Our view is that Reigate hasn’t suddenly doubled in size and so this is a local failing going back ten or so years. Why should our line suffer for those who were asleep at the wheel?

We have always felt that the Tonbridge-Redhill line has been undersold. Managed well, it could offer a gateway to Gatwick Airport. The M25 and M23 are packed and so rail offers an alternative route. Sadly, the service is so poor that many won’t risk taking the train for fear of missing their plane. Delay Repay doesn’t cover the cost of a flight to Morocco!

TLC, your voluntary passenger group, has resisted the planned cuts and proposed many options to mitigate the savage destruction of this service. GTR have offered us meetings where it has professed to listen but has refused to budge an inch. The company’s defence is that the numbers don’t justify any effort on the line. Over the past few years, it’s clear that they are spreadsheet managers and have no interest in people and their lives. Their staff revolt and their passengers suffer, many of whom rely on rail.

In recent months TLC has received a lot of feedback from passengers on this line and so we know that people are leaving their jobs, moving house or facing the prospect of being forced to drive to a different station because of this sledgehammer to their services.

We call for the line to be stripped from GTR and given to the South Eastern franchise. We feel the latter franchise will be better placed to invest and develop the line. GTR is a basket case of a franchise and should be relieved of its duties for the sake of passengers.

Despite our representations, the service now looks certain to be reduced to a shuttle from May 2018. We’ve asked for the shuttle to be increased to half hourly all day as a way of mitigating the damage done by removing through services to London. Even this suggestion has been rebuffed, with GTR reneging on its previous commitment to go to the Department for Transport and argue the case for a half hourly service. Our efforts are now focused on seeing this line transferred to a franchise which might take better care of it.

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