Regular commuters will have been relieved that the August works at London Bridge were completed on time and that Charing Cross reopened as expected on 3 September. However, the London Bridge project continues and we will face more disruption between 23 December to 1 January 2018, when the line closures will be even more extensive. We’re concerned about how this next blockade will be handled and believe that Southeastern has some lessons to learn from how it dealt with services during the recent disruption, especially over the four working days affected (29 August to 1 September). We’ve therefore been in touch with Southeastern raising the following points:
- Southeastern put considerable emphasis on the promise that services would be extended to maximum length. However, most rush hour trains appear have only been 8 carriages, including the used heavily used services between Sevenoaks/Orpington and Cannon Street. This resulted in overcrowding which could have been avoided.
- Trains were exceptionally slow, and connections could have been better planned. This included connections at Orpington, which were essential for people trying to travel to and from Cannon Street. We’ve asked for the timetable to be better planned during the December blockade.
- Before the works, there was a lot of emphasis on encouraging people not to travel, without a recognition that many people had no choice. Information on the services actually running was lacking, especially in some of the tweets issued by Southeastern. Moreover, during the works themselves Southeastern failed to keep passengers informed when there were short notice changes. For example, on several occasions trains scheduled to and from Waterloo Main were diverted to and from Blackfriars with little or no warning given to intending passengers.
- There should have been flexibility over when off-peak fares started. Given that journey times were longer, the first off-peak trains arrived in London later than normal and so off-peak tickets should have issued earlier than normal to compensate for this. We have also asked Southeastern to make a gesture to season ticket holders who experienced disruption or felt they had to avoid travelling over the four days. We’ve suggested that the price of four days’ travel should be deducted when they renew their season tickets.
We’ll be interested to hear what Southeastern has to say in response to these points, and also to hear from people who travelled during the August works. What was your experience and what could Southeastern and the rail industry have done better? In the meanwhile, let’s hope that we have a trouble free autumn travelling through London Bridge.