Report on a meeting between the DS Traffic and Transport Group and Govia Thameslink Railway on 16 Feb 2016

Present: Govia Thameslink (GT): Stuart Cheshire, Passenger Service Director, Thameslink; and Terry Oliver. Dulwich Society (DS): Alastair Hanton, Pamela Monblat & Barry Coker

Introduction: The DS confirmed that it was the largest local amenity society in SE London representing over 1100 households who make regular use of local transport – especially local rail services.

GT explained that they were part of the group of companies which provide rail services for Thameslink, Southern & South Eastern railways. They also noted that, contrary to popular belief, the income from tickets etc. did not go to GT directly but to the Department for Transport. GT were provided with a fee for running the contracted services but were penalised for trains which did not run, did not stop at stations, etc.

London Bridge:
The DS queried the continued disruption to trains travelling to and from London Bridge including instances where trains terminated at South Bermondsey.


GT explained that Network Rail had intended to provide 4 tracks into and out of London Bridge but that there were only 3 were currently available. This seriously limits the capacity especially at peak times. This problem will continue until 2017.

As part of the discussion it was noted that despite the considerable investment in the new
platforms at London Bridge they still did not provide level access. 

GT said that this issue had been considered during the design phase of the project
but was considered too difficult to address mainly because of the requirements of different rolling stock.

Denmark Hill:
GT confirmed that while they managed this station, it was actually owned by Network Rail, and was served by Thameslink, South Eastern & London Overground. The DS noted that it was well known locally to have major congestion problems with a lack of capacity at the ticket gates at peak times. It was felt that there was a need to persuade Network Rail to undertake a survey at peak times and to design alternative solutions.

GT said that there was already a backlog of about 5 years for committed improvement schemes across the network.

The DS added that all the local amenity societies were to hold a joint meeting to discuss the problems at this station and that, in addition to serious passenger congestion at peak times there remained other issues such as the gates not accepting a Freedom Pass before 09:30 for use on London Overground services. The DS considered that this was for GT to resolve.

Harrington Humps (which help to provide level access onto trains):
Harrington Humps had been provided at many tube station platforms (e.g. Kings Cross). The DS was noted that these would be of considerable assistance at all stations for a wide range of customers including the physically challenged, parents with buggies and passengers with luggage.

GT agreed to investigate.

It was also noted that the gap between trains and platforms was particularly large at the Elephant and Castle.

GT agreed to investigate.

Toilets on Trains and Stations:
The DS noted that stations often had toilets for staff use but the public did not have access to them (e.g. North Dulwich) and this was a particular problem given that some services (e.g. Southern local services) did not have toilets on trains.

GT agreed to review the position but advised that toilets on trains was a ‘political’
issue and should be discussed with the Department for Transport. (It was noted
that all Thameslink trains have toilets)

Renaming Sydenham Hill to South Dulwich:
The DS raised the issue of the need to resolve the continuing confusion caused by the inappropriate name of Sydenham Hill Station. This station is nowhere near Sydenham or Sydenham Hill. The station had been named when the line was built (1863) and called ‘Sydenham Hill for Crystal Palace’ in order to generate traffic (in competition with another railway company) for the newly opened visitor attraction. Hence the name ‘Sydenham Hill’ was the product of Victorian marketing .  The suffix had naturally been removed when the Palace burnt down.

GT said that it costs approximately £250,000 to rename a station, mainly due to
the need to change IT systems - including Apps.

However it was agreed that this issue should be pursued with the Department for 
Transport prior to the retender of the Victoria to Orpington service expected in
2019.

GT noted that it might be easier to add a suffix to the name so it could be called
‘Sydenham Hill for South Dulwich’ as this would only require new signs and
announcements on trains.

Lifts for Stations:
The need for lifts at stations especially West Dulwich, East Dulwich and North Dulwich was discussed. It was noted that there was a national programme with priority allocated on the basis of assessed needs. The DS would continue to pursue the issue.

Shelter on platforms:
DS showed a picture of a shelter, which could be heated, on a platform on Chiltern Railways and asked if such could be installed on the very exposed platforms at West ‘Dulwich.

GT agreed to investigate.


Continuation:
This is name given to the process where trains miss out stations in order to rearrange rail stock to cover gaps in service. The DS noted that these arrangements often arise without notice – eg. a Thameslink train scheduled to stop at Herne Hill (and other stations) travels fast to Blackfriars. While these events were infrequent it was noted that they were of considerable inconvenience to passengers.

GT agreed to see if it was possible to make an announcement on trains advising
passengers that they could make a claim.

New Services:
With the introduction of new timetable the DS pressed for new services:

a)    London Bridge to Victoria via Tulse Hill: This was a traditional service which would reduce peak hour congestion on both Tulse Hill to London Bridge but also Balham to Victoria.

b)    London Bridge to East Croydon via North Dulwich: Previously services from both North and East Dulwich travelled to West and East Croydon. The East Croydon service was stopped several years ago. The lack of this service causes difficulties for local residents seeking to travel to Gatwick airport or the South coast.

GT noted that there were issues of capacity at London Bridge & Victoria but agreed to
look at these suggestions. A revised timetable is due to be published for consultation
in May 2016.

Passenger numbers using local stations
The Office of the Rail Regulator publishes data on the number of passengers using every station per annum. The current information, which was disclosed at the meeting, is as follows:
- East Dulwich        1.9m
- North Dulwich     0.8m
- West Dulwich        1.1m

OUTSTANDING FOLLOW UP QUERIES FOR THE SOCIETY:
- Why did Network Rail only provide 3 lines into London Bridge instead of 4?
- Is there a date when Govia will fix the problem with Freedom passes?
- Why are toilets on trains a ‘political’ issue for the Department of Transport?
- It is unacceptable that both Network Rail and Govia are dodging the issue of accessibility at their stations.  The DDA was published some years ago – what is their timetable for providing access? 
- The episodes of ‘continuation’ are not infrequent but happen on a regular basis.  What is Govia doing to resolve it? 

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