Please note this post is from my previous blog. To read my posts during the 2017 General Election campaign click here.
Today I am launching a new consumer campaign – Sort It, Southeastern – to secure much-needed change in the atrocious service that commuters across Greenwich receive.
When I was selected as Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Greenwich and Woolwich back in July, I made championing the interests of frustrated Southeastern commuters in the constituency one of my first pledges in this campaign. In this I must declare an interest – as a long-standing and frustrated Southeastern commuter myself, and one who like most people, has experienced literally thousands of days waiting for delayed, cancelled or seemingly non-existent trains. I know from speaking to commuters across the constituency that my tortuous daily journeys to and from Westcombe Park are typical of the Southeastern commuter’s experience.
The government has just arranged for a welcome £70m investment to improve this service – and it is now up to Southeastern to deliver. I think it’s about time we used our strength in numbers, as customers, to hold this company’s feet to the fire.
That’s why I’ve launched my new petition calling for Southeastern to improve its service and communication, introduce longer trains on all routes and, crucially, make a commitment to work with Network Rail to restore services from Greenwich Line stations to Charing Cross after the London Bridge re-build from 2018.
(1) Improving service and communication
The petition firstly calls for a drastic improvement in service provision and communication with customers. The recent extension of Southeastern’s franchise until 2018 brought with it an announcement of a welcome £70m investment in improving customer service and maintenance – it is now incumbent on Southeastern to deliver the improved service that commuters deserve, in return for the certainty they have been given by the government.
As important as greater reliability and punctuality is better communication when things go wrong. Southeastern’s record on this is nothing short of atrocious, with a lack of information, often no announcements and stations and incorrect or out of date information appearing on electronic stations displays. The company’s no doubt beleaguered Twitter operators are often the best source of information – but it shouldn’t take an angry tweet to get the information that we need to plan our traveling options.
(2) Longer trains on all routes going through Greenwich
Secondly, the petition calls for longer train trains on all routes that go through the Royal Borough of Greenwich. We will see some 12-carriage trains on the Greenwich Line from January to help ameliorate the disruption caused by the London Bridge re-build, but we need to see longer trains for commuters who use Blackheath and Kidbrooke stations as well, and for the company to commit to deliver 12-carriage services as standard in the future.
(3) Restoring services to Charing Cross
Finally, the petition tackles an issue that has been explored at length by the Greenwich Line Users Group (GLUG) – the little-known reality that as it stands, the 23rd December of this year will be the last date that services will run from Deptford Greenwich, Maze Hill or Westcombe Park to Charing Cross. Ever.
Despite the significant disruption it will cause over the next three years, I believe the London Bridge re-build is the right thing to do for the transport network and will bring south London the well-functioning transport hub it so clearly needs.
However, the permanent loss of the Spa Road junction and the ability of Greenwich Line trains to cross over to Waterloo East and Charing Cross is a real blow to local commuters from Deptford, Greenwich, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park – who are effectively being expected to pay the price of improving everyone else’s services. This is a point that has been lost amidst discussion of the short-term impact of the redevelopment work, and one that needs to be addressed.
The petition therefore calls on Southeastern to commit to working with Network Rail to restore Greenwich Line services to Charing Cross by finding a solution to this problem – such as the one proposed by GLUG for a new junction at North Kent East that would not disrupt other services. We need a full restoration of services to Charing Cross, at all times of the day and week.
Strength in numbers
The only way we are going to get the change we need is by using our strength in numbers to show Southeastern that we are serious – and over the coming months I will be out drumming up support for the petition from my fellow commuters on station platforms, on the doorstep and online. I hope as many residents as possible will give this campaign their support.