SRUG Response to draft South London Route Utilisation strategy (SLRUS)

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Southwark Rail Users’ Group SRUG is a newly forming community group bringing together users of several stations with services linked through Peckham Rye station: Denmark Hill, Queens Road Peckham, South Bermondsey, East Dulwich, Nunhead, & Peckham Rye itself. A major feature, which users of all these stations share, is that they use these services to connect to the Underground and other London rail services. These stations and services are de facto the inner south London equivalent of the Tube system. They form a crucial part of the public transport infrastructure used to make journeys that rely on interconnections with other rail and tube services in and around London in several directions.

We were therefore pleased to hear from Network Rail at the recent Southwark Transport Consultative Forum, and confirmed afterwards in an email by Duncan Stephenson, that Network Rail has now initiated “some further desktop research into travel patterns on the SLL. This will be based on previous survey research, and will give us a slightly more thorough indication than we currently have about the ultimate origins and destinations of people using the line. It is the ultimate origins/destinations which are important.” It seems essential to have a much more thorough understanding of travel needs of rail users in this inner part of south London, and it can only help to engage with experienced users to help to develop a much clearer picture about that. We would therefore like to take up the offer of a meeting made in Duncan Stephenson’s email, to see how that can be taken forward.
Rail usage in this part of London may contain some very different travel needs and patterns from the major flows in and out of London commuter traffic. We have that as well, as those who have to suffer the unbearably crowded peak time trains into London Bridge and Victoria know too well. But local people, of all ages and occupations going about their daily business, use the services to those main line stations and to stations all along the South London Line, throughout the day and evenings. In addition there is a heavy inflow of people who work in south London, especially at the hospitals and medical outposts, as well as patients and hospital visitors. The South London Line, as a heavily used inner London connecting service throughout the day and evening, has a high average daily usage, maybe higher than some of the long distance commuter lines. All of these multi faceted travelling patterns need to be taken into account to ensure that their needs are adequately catered for in the South London RUS. Our view at this stage is that the draft RUS does not succeed in doing this.
Furthermore, these needs are likely to intensify and increase demand. The intensification of housing density, which is being pressed by the London Plan, is already having a visible effect on increased demands for local services including transport. There is an observable inflow of new residents who assume that the existing rail services connecting into central London are going to continue, and be improved, and this influences their move to inner south London. The major hospitals at London Bridge and Denmark Hill also have long term plans, which entail continuous and probably intensifying uses of the rail services between their various establishments. We consider that there could be more planning for the integration of the various forms of public transport in south London, and better methods of publicising the ways that travellers can make best use of the potential connections. The South London Line already plays a significant role in this, and could play an even better one. For all these reasons, we support the responses that have been made by the Clapham Transport Users’ Group and also by the Southwark Ward Councillors for Peckham, Camberwell & Bermondsey. Copies of their submissions are attached for reference.
Against that background, some particular comments:

  • The direct link at London Bridge gives easy connections to Waterloo East and Charing Cross as well as the Underground system. This multiplies significantly the journey patterns that are possible from south London, but much would be lost under the SLRUS proposals.


  • The creation of the link with the Jubilee Line at London Bridge has been a significant enhancement of the services at Peckham Rye, and other stations on the South London Line. Although seriously under publicised, Peckham Rye in practise can now be used most of the day and evening as a turn up and go station directly connected to six Underground lines District, Circle (through Blackfriars), Victoria, District, Circle (through Victoria), Bakerloo, Northern (through Elephant & Castle), Jubilee, Northern (through London Bridge). These links are all within 8 to 15 minutes, and for the user can seem as seamless as being on the Tube system itself from Peckham Rye. But this depends on the maintenance of the current frequency of services to London Bridge and Victoria and Blackfriars. Ideally we would want them improved. But reducing them, as the South London RUS proposes, would seriously degrade this Tube-like nature of the current services. It would be a serious retrograde step against creating conditions for more sustainable travel within London.


  • Similar comments apply to the proposals that would in effect cut completely the direct services to Victoria from Queens Rd Peckham, and South Bermondsey, and from Denmark Hill to London Bridge. These connections are a vital part of the integration of travel patterns in South London.


  • The East London Line Extension (ELLX) with its promise of an extra 4 trains an hour and to two new connections through Clapham Junction and Canada Water is welcome. But these cannot serve, as the RUS proposes, as substitutes for the direct connections to Victoria and London Bridge.


  • A new station at Brixton High level would significantly enhance south London’s connections with the Underground system. It would bring the Victoria line within a few minutes reach of several stations on the South London Line, and with other stations connecting with Peckham Rye. This is a prize that should give it a much higher priority than the RUS gives it.


  • The reopening of the station at Camberwell Green would also be of great help and needs to be considered as a higher priority.

We support strongly the suggestion from the Clapham Transport Users’ Group that the possibility of extending the South London Line through London Bridge to Charing Cross and/or Blackfriars/St Pancras should be considered, especially if the lack of terminating platforms would mean the SLL was discontinued. Alternatively, another possibility to consider is to make room to terminate the SLL services at London Bridge by transferring two more services running through New Cross Gate to Thameslink after the new rail layout is completed in 2015. The South London Line is so significant to south London travel that all means of preserving and enhancing the connections it provides must be a very high priority.
Eileen Conn
24 October 2007