SRUG Meeting Notes 17 November 08

Meeting 17th November 2008 6.30pm in the Bussey building, 133 Rye Lane, SE15


73 in total:

  • Local residents, 60 residents, users of local stations - Nunhead, Peckham Rye, Denmark Hill, Queens Rd, East Dulwich, North Dulwich.
  • GLA: Valerie Shawcross AM;
  • Southwark Council: Cllr Barrie Hargrove, Cllr Veronica Ward, Sally Crew transport policy officer.
  • Railway industry:
    • Current operators/organisations: Andrew Munden, Network Rail; Julie Dixon, TfL, (present for Part 1 only); present for both parts: Barry Jones, Southern Rail; Sharon Hedges, Passenger Focus; Tim Bellenger, London Travel Watch.
    • Train Operating Companies - 4 bidders for South Central franchise (for the second part only ) – Sam Hodder, Govia; Ken Bird, National Express; Cameron Jones, Ned Railways; Piers Atkinson, Stagecoach Rail.

Welcome & Introductions

Eileen Conn (EC), local resident and convenor of the Southwark Rail Users’ Group (SRUG) welcomed everyone and said how wonderful it was to see so many keen rail users present at SRUG’s first public meeting, She said that the overall purpose of the meeting was to help local users to understand the railway infrastructure, and to clarify answers to current service questions, to identify other issues and actions. A list of current questions & issues was circulated (see in the Open Forum discussion below). She thanked the rail industry representatives for attending, and hoped it was the beginning of a good dialogue and collaboration between users in this area and the rail industry. The meeting was in two parts:

  1. Part 1: Railway Infrastructure – information from the infrastructure companies operating the rail system, and education for users about the railway system that serves this part of Southwark,
  2. Part 2: Services & User Needs – information from official passenger support organisations and from Southern Rail operating one of the current franchises, and dialogue with users about the services. The 4 train operating companies (TOCS) bidding for the new South Central Franchise were present to listen to user needs.

Part 1: Railway Infrastructure

Andrew Munden (AM), Kent Route Director, Network Rail (NR), explained that NR was responsible for the national railway infrastructure, allocating timetable slots, and the 18 largest stations. He presented diagrams which explained the tracks and services that run through the stations covered by SRUG. (See here, here and here, and the rest of the presentation here.)

He said that the specification of train service patterns, destinations, frequencies and length is the responsibility of the Department of Transport as part of the franchising process. They do this using the available network capacity as defined by Network Rail. This is based on a document known as the 'Rules of the Plan' that sets out the headways between trains on any stretch of line, the time taken for trains of different lengths and operating characteristics to clear junctions before another train can be signalled in another direction, the dwell times of trains at intermediate stations and the time taken to re-occupy terminal platforms between one train leaving and another arriving. These time allowances are defined in association with the train operating companies on details such as time taken to reverse a train at a terminal station. Other key points in the presentation are set out below.

Train services

The peak services through Peckham Rye vary from the basic off-peak services. These off peak services are (tph = trains per hour):

  • To Victoria

    • 2 tph from Dartford via Lewisham through Nunhead

    • 2 tph from London Bridge (SLL = South London Line) through Queens Rd

  • To Blackfriars

    • 2 tph from Sevenoaks via Bromley South through Nunhead

  • To London Bridge

    • 2 tph from Victoria (SLL) via Peckham Rye through Denmark Hill

    • 2 tph from Beckenham Jn via Crystal Palace & Tulse Hill through North Dulwich & East Dulwich

    • 2 tph from West Croydon via Streatham & Tulse Hill through North & East Dulwich

    • 2 tph from Smitham/East Croydon via Tulse Hill through North & East Dulwich [this ended in Dec 08]

In addition some 128 pathways pass in both directions through Peckham Rye to and from Wandsworth Road each day, that are committed for freight trains, although not all of them are used every day.

Rebuilding Blackfriars station

The existing terminal platforms at Blackfriars will close on 22 March for the reconstruction of the station to start. At the same time the Farringdon to Moorgate branch line will close permanently in preparation for the lengthening of the platforms at Farringdon which due to space constraints, will be constructed on the site of the junction. The effect is that the current Sevenoaks to Blackfriars service (together with some of the additional peak hour trains that currently terminate at Blackfriars) will be extended beyond to destinations north of St Pancras such as Kentish Town. The FCC trains which currently terminate at Moorgate will be extended south of Blackfriars. This arrangement will continue until the reconstruction of Blackfriars is complete at the beginning of 2012 when they will be subsumed into the Key Output 1 train service specification. Effectively these changes will continue until the eventual 2015 full Thameslink timetable is introduced although the Department for Transport has yet to finalise exactly what this will look like.

As part of this change some last late night services will be diverted to Victoria rather than north of Blackfriars, principally to berth the trains overnight in Grosvenor Road sidings ready for the following day and to allow the overnight track possessions to be taken. Only very few trains are involved in this. In addition all weekend trains will run to Victoria instead of Blackfriars and north as the core route through London will be closed every weekend. These will be subject to further review once the full Thameslink timetable has been established. The rebuilt Blackfriars station will open before the Olympics and before significant work begins at London Bridge.

Rebuilding London Bridge station

There are currently 6 through platforms and 9 terminating platforms at London Bridge. To create dedicated platforms for the Thameslink services to Blackfriars, from 2015 this will become 9 through and 6 terminating (see here for diagram). The current design (subject to the Transport Works Act approval) has 4 of the 6 terminating platforms capable of accommodating 12-coach trains (as do all through platforms) while 2 will accommodate 10-coach trains. It might be possible to extend the remaining 2 platforms for 12-coach trains depending on several other factors, although this would be a decision to be taken by the Department as the sponsor and funder of the Thameslink Programme. The caveat is that even were this to happen, capacity elsewhere on the route between London Bridge and Victoria might still constrain the continued operation of SLL (South London Line) services as set out in the South London RUS (Rail Utilisation Strategy). But it is important to remember that the RUS proposals are just that; they are based on the rail industry's best guess of what will be operating by 2015 to meet forecast demand. But they will ultimately depend on the Department’s specification for services both for Thameslink Key Output 2 and for the remaining South Central and South Eastern franchises, together with other factors such as the construction of Phase 2 of the East London Line Extension which is not yet a committed scheme.

East London Line Extension (ELLX)

Julie Dixon, Stakeholder Relations manager, Transport for London (TfL) reported on the East London Line Extension (ELLX). The first phase will connect Dalston and Croydon via New Cross and will be complete by 2010. Phase 2 would connect Clapham Junction via Denmark Hill, Peckham Rye & Queens Rd to the ELLX, and the Jubilee Line at Canada Water (see here for the route map). Almost all the funding was in place except for a gap of £25-30m; TfL and the London Mayor are asking the Department of Transport to contribute half, but this was not yet agreed. To complete Phase 2 extension in time for 2012 and the withdrawal of the South London Line, the funding would need to be agreed now. TfL are very keen to implement Phase 2 as it will complete the London Orbital Railway (see here for the diagram and here for the presentation). The Orbital Railway is managed by TfL as London Overground. In discussion, the plan for Extension Phase 2 was welcomed and the Orbital Railway link was agreed to be very good for London’s transport infrastructure. But it was emphasised by users that the ELLX2 could never be a substitute for the crucial rail links into central London to London Bridge and Victoria.

Andrew Munden and Julie Nixon were thanked warmly by the meeting for their interesting and relevant presentations and participation in the discussion. They then left the meeting.

Part 2: Services & User Needs

Sharon Hedges, Passenger Link Manager at Passenger Focus introduced the work of Passenger Focus (PF) as the national independent consumer watchdog representing passengers’ interests to the rail industry and the Government. See here for more information: (Click here for the presentation)

Two Train Operating Companies (TOCs) have franchises to operate services through SRUG stations:

  • South Eastern Rail – the services from Kent to Victoria and Blackfriars via Nunhead. This franchise was awarded in 2006 until 2012.

  • Southern Rail has the other franchise for all the services through Peckham Rye to London Bridge, including the SLL from Victoria. This franchise ends in August 2009. This will be replaced by the South Central franchise from September 2009.

PF has represented passenger needs and wishes in the development of the new South Central rail franchise. The Government decides which Train Operating Companies (TOCs) will operate the franchise for services in particular parts of the country, and has selected 4 TOCs to bid for the new South Central Franchise which will run from 2009 to 2015. These are Ned Railways, National Express, Stagecoach Rail, and Govia - the owner of Southern Rail. They were all represented at the SRUG meeting to hear what users had to say and what they wanted from the TOC franchisee. Department of Transport had ruled that the TOCs could attend but not address the meeting.


Tim Bellenger, Director Research & Development in London Travel Watch (LTW) explained that LTW is an independent statutory body that represents the interests of users of all forms of public transport, not just rail, in London, with a special focus on TfL functions. They carry out research, hold operators to account, lobby for improvements, help resolve individual cases, raise public awareness of issues, and work with local user groups like SRUG. (Click here for the presentation)


Barry Jones, Area Manager Southern Rail, said that he was responsible for all the stations using Southern Rail services, in the SRUG area. He was new to the area in the last few months and had introduced an improvement programme, especially for Peckham Rye station. This was already evident there with the scaffolding and the improvements to the stairs. Ticket gates were being installed for operation, as in London generally from September 2009. Pay As You Go Oyster card machines would be installed, probably for operation in 2010. He was introducing Meet the Manager sessions at Queens Road, Denmark Hill and Peckham Rye stations on a quarterly basis.

Open Forum

The following points 1-8 were circulated at the beginning of the meeting and responded to during the meeting in discussion, after each presentation or in the Open Forum:

1. London Bridge-Peckham Rye-East Croydon service – is it true that this is being ended in December 2008, and if so how can it be reintroduced?

Tim Bellenger confirmed that the off peak service to Croydon was being stopped in the new Southern December Timetable, but the few peak hour services to East Croydon would remain. London Travel Watch (LTW) had supported the ending of the off-peak service because

  • Southern had produced figures which showed that the numbers of passengers likely to be affected by this change was relatively low, compared to the potential benefits achieved elsewhere on the Network
  • The proposed improved service between Redhill, Croydon and London Bridge that would use the paths released in the East Croydon area by the removal of the Smitham service met long standing requests for improved services from user groups in this area which had previously been supported by LondonTravelWatch.

He said that because capacity is extremely constrained in the East Croydon area, it would be possible to reintroduce such a service only by withdrawing other services.

Users of both the service to East Croydon and to London Bridge expressed dismay that the service was being discontinued, and that they had not been consulted. It was agreed that there should be user pressure on Southern Rail, and the other franchise bidders to restore the service.

2. South London Line (SLL): Victoria-Denmark Hill-Peckham Rye-Queens Rd Peckham-London Bridge – why is this being ended in 2012? What is needed to reverse this decision?

Andrew Munden had explained in his presentation that the constraints arising from the rebuilding of London Bridge station and the lengths of the new terminating platforms had contributed to the proposal in the South London RUS to end the SLL service. However the implementation of this proposal was dependent on a number of factors including the operation of the ELLX2 by 2012. He had said that it might be possible to increase the platform capacity by extending the 2 platforms designed to accommodate 10 coach trains to accommodate 12 coach trains. This would be a decision for the Department of Transport. That would remove the constraints at London Bridge, but not necessarily elsewhere. Users present said that they still thought that the SLL service was a critical part of the local services, that due regard had not been given to the important roles it played in inner south London travel, and it needed to be kept if at all possible. Val Shawcross said that she would take up the new point about the platforms with the Department of Transport.

3. Trains to London Bridge – what are the plans to reduce the frequency of these services, and why?

It now appeared that the current off-peak services of 8 trains per hour (tph) from Peckham Rye to London Bridge, were being reduced immediately to 6tph with the loss of the East Croydon service, and after the loss of the SLL in 2012 would be reduced to 4tph. This was a reduction of 50% and completely unacceptable to users.

4. Peak hours - what are the plans to increase passenger capacity during peak hours?

There was serious over crowding at central Southwark stations in peak hours with users frequently unable to get onto trains going to Blackfriars and London Bridge. The train frequency was irregular and even less than in off peak hours. It was not acceptable given the new housing constantly being built in the area and the continually increasing number of passengers. There seemed to be no plans to relieve this overcrowding, and this was something that needed to be lobbied for with the new franchise bidders and the Dept of Transport.

5. East London Line extension phase 2 via Peckham Rye to Clapham Junction – when will it open?

Julie Dixon from TfL had reported that the plan was still to open the service in 2012, but this was dependent on the £30m funding gap being filled between TfL and the Dept of Transport.

6. Trains to Victoria – what are the plans to improve the frequency of these services?

The plans are by 2012 to introduce a new 2tph service from Bellingham to Victoria, and to extend the Dartford to Victoria service throughout the evening. This would create a regular quarterly 4tph service to Victoria from Nunhead, Peckham Rye, and Denmark Hill. This would be a significant improvement and very welcome. It was not clear however if this plan was guaranteed or subject to further decisions.

7. Trains to Blackfriars: Nunhead-Peckham Rye-Denmark Hill – what is the effect of the Blackfriars station improvements?

From 2009, trains from Nunhead, Peckham Rye and Denmark Hill will go through and beyond Blackfriars as they used to. From 22 March 2009, the current Sevenoaks to Blackfriars service, via Peckham Rye, (together with some of the additional peak hour trains that currently terminate at Blackfriars) will go beyond to destinations north of St Pancras. A few last late night services will be diverted to Victoria rather than north of Blackfriars. In addition all weekend trains will run to Victoria instead of Blackfriars and north as the core route through London will be closed every weekend. Effectively all these arrangements will continue until the eventual 2015 full Thameslink timetable is introduced.

8. Stations’ facilities - What are the plans to improve access and buying tickets?

Access: Plans to improve access at Denmark Hill were agreed and being implemented. There were as yet no agreed plans, but East Dulwich & Queens Road were in an improvement programme. Peckham Rye was not currently programmed for access improvement. A local wheelchair user asked why the goods lift at Peckham Rye was no longer available. Getting it back into operation should be a high priority in advance of a more radical access improvement plan. Barry Jones said he would investigate and report back on this.

Tickets: All stations should have ticket gates operating in September 2009, and Pay as You Go facilities in 2010.

9. What about services to Battersea?

No trains from Peckham Rye will be able to stop at Battersea Park because of changes to the other platform lengths and track infrastructure at that station. Unclear when this would happen.

10. Can the historical stations at Walworth and Camberwell be reopened?

Network Rail has currently concluded that there is no business case to re-open these stations and there is no funding to do so.

Close of meeting

The meeting closed with warm thanks to Sharon Hedges, Tim Bellenger and Barry Jones for their informative contributions, and to the TOC bidders for having attended. All present felt that the meeting had been worthwhile, and further meetings at an appropriate time would be welcomed by all concerned. There were a number of issues which required further actions and EC said she would report to SRUG in due course. It was hoped that the 4 train operating companies bidding for the new South Central franchise would note the keen interest that local rail users in Southwark had in their services and stations, and ensure that their bid proposals responded to the issues raised.


     -- Minutes by EC