In early July, your TLC committee met with representatives from GTR (Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern railways) to discuss their plans for the Tonbridge to Redhill line. It has long been our view that this is a much unloved stretch of rail and has been the victim of perennial under investment and neglect. Sadly this trend seems to be continuing.
We had high hopes when the consultation was announced. Through trains to London were to be maintained. Our eternal dream of trains from Kent to Gatwick were sadly missing from the plans. This is probably because Network Rail keeps telling everyone there is no connectivity gap between Kent and Gatwick.
Anyway, we digress. Phase one of the consultation saw mass uproar from stations between Gatwick and Redhill (Horley, Salfords and Earlswood) and from the well heeled Reigate area. This has resulted in an about turn by GTR, meaning Tonbridge to Redhill is set to be nothing more than a shuttle service. The service would be half hourly in the peak (4 hours morning and evening) and hourly off peak.
This is all to accomodate Reigate users' apparently insatiable demand for services through to London. GTR are insistant that the demand is just not there for Tonbridge-Redhill passengers. Apparently, most journeys end at Redhill.
We are incredibly sceptical of passenger number data. Travel veterans amongst us will remember the farce of the Beeching cuts and we're not convinced that modern counting methods are much better. We're told train weights can be used but if 5 get off and 5 get on, the net weight is roughly the same. Passenger tickets sold do not reflect the demand either. How many of us hold a London Terminals or Zones travelcard? How can these be accurately recorded?
We've now submitted our formal feedback to GTR, opposing the withdrawal of through trains to Victoria and making the case for investing in this line rather than trying to run it into the ground. Our position is that if GTR is uninterested in the line, they should hand over the keys to the South Eastern franchise so that new and improved services can be developed. You can read our full response here.
If you use the Tonbridge to Redhill line, please get in touch. Let us know your journey. Do you travel go through to Croydon, Clapham Junction or London? Do you head south for the airport or the coast? Alternatively, do you avoid the train as you feel if anything goes wrong, it's going to be the Tonbridge to Redhill line. Please let us know - we've already used some your feedback to formulate our response to the consultation and we'll continue to press for a better outcome for passengers. Most importantly, please also submit your own response to GTR itself. GTR is clear that its decisions are driven by numbers and demand, so the more people who respond the better. Your feedback needs to reach GTR by 1700 on Thursday 27 July 2017. You can respond on the consultation website (you need to look up your journey first, then complete the online questionnaire) or by sending an email to the following address: email@example.com
Tonbridge Line Commuters is a volunteer passenger group, committed to working with the rail operators to improve the service. Our strength is our membership base. The more members we have, the louder we can make our points. Membership costs £4 a year which is a single delay repay repayment. If you would like to help improve the service, please join us to make your voice heard.