Commuters will be affected 'money, time and convenience wise' by train changes

Steve Grocott at Blackheath station, disappointed by the new Southeastern Railway timetable changes.
Steve Grocott at Blackheath station, disappointed by the new Southeastern Railway timetable changes.

Commuters in Greenwich and Bexley are frustrated by a set of changes announced by Southeastern Railway last week, meaning trains will see reduced services to Charing Cross.

The changes, which will come into effect in December, will see all trains on the Woolwich line no longer serving Charing Cross and will instead terminate at London Cannon Street.

Passengers are being encouraged to transfer at London Bridge if they wish to go to Charing Cross.

Steve Grocott is a Blackheath local who learned of the changes last week.

He said: “I use this line a lot and often go to Charing Cross so that will be a real problem.”

Despite being semi-retired, Mr Grocott still often travels to central London. He said: “I travel around quite a lot.

"I don’t have a regular commute, I’m a musician that does training and they send me all over the place so I often go on different routes.

"So flexibility is equally important to me.”

Commuters on the Bexleyheath line will also see an altered service, with trains only going to Charing Cross at peak times.

Weekend and off-peak trains will terminate at London Cannon Street.

This means commuters will also not be able to access Waterloo station without transferring at London Bridge, which a Southeastern Railway spokesperson said was “re-designed specifically for this purpose, with accessible lifts to every platform”.

Often travelling between Surrey and Blackheath for work, Nik Wood said the latest changes have caused him to reconsider his commute.

He said: “I use Blackheath quite a lot to work because I don’t have an office in London. But in order to get to Surrey, for instance, I go through Waterloo East because I don’t have a car.

"So that will affect me quite dramatically, actually. And I’m very surprised to hear that.”

Alan and Sheila Barnett were not aware of the new timetable until yesterday, and have been travelling to Charing Cross from Canterbury every month for years for medical appointments.

Mrs Barnett said: “It would affect [our commute] time wise, money wise, and convenience wise, because we go to Charing Cross and then walk to where we’re going. But from Cannon Street, we can’t.”

The new timetable was created in order to reduce footfall at busy local stations such as Lewisham, according to Southeastern Railway.

The spokesperson said: “Under the December timetable all trains will terminate at Cannon Street to reduce congestion at the busy junction at Lewisham.

"This is part of a plan to reduce congestion at all junctions, which will improve punctuality and see fewer cancellations.”

In response to the rationale, Mr Barnett said: “It’s going to help Lewisham more than Blackheath. Blackheath hasn’t got an issue.”

With the new service, Mr and Mrs Barnett see little reason for them to keep going to Blackheath for their commute, and will use another route to get to Charing Cross.

Mr Barnett said: “Blackheath businesses will lose out.

"Euro car parks will lose out because there will be less parking there. It all ripples through.”

The couple started using public transport more after the pandemic when traffic returned and the ULEZ charge was enforced.

Mrs Barnett said: “This is 2022, we’re not living in 1890. I don’t understand. Things should be easier, not harder. I don’t get it. I’m actually a bit angry.

“This is going to make it harder for commuters, or people who want to travel. I can’t see that this in any way helps people.”

The spokesperson from Southeastern Railways said: “Broadly, the new timetable reflects the change in peak-time demand following the pandemic and the new preference for travel, but still maintains peak-time space on trains to match demand from those who need these services.”

Abena Oppong-Asare, Labour MP for Erith and Thamesmead, said: “I’m very concerned about the changes announced by Southeastern that will make a material difference to commuters in Erith and Thamesmead.

“I’ve been having conversations with concerned constituents and stakeholders on the implications and have raised this with Southeastern and the Transport Secretary to ask them why a public consultation has not taken place.”

Councillor Averil Lekau, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport for Greenwich Council, said: “The changes put forward by Southeastern, without consultation, will rightfully concern many residents in Royal Greenwich.

"This is not the time to be reducing services and potentially creating even worse overcrowding and making life harder for our residents wanting to travel to Charing Cross and other areas of London.”

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