Response to GTR Phase 3 Consultation (May 2018 Weekend & Evenings)

Introduction

We would first like to take this opportunity to thank GTR for their time and effort in consulting upon this major timetable change. Although we feel it is still short of what we would like to see for our Rail Users, thanks to the consultative approach it is far better than the initial proposals to our rail users benefit and thus GTR’s consultative approach has been appreciated.

The Redhill line generates around 10,000 journeys a day and this is around 10% of the total journeys from the Brighton Main Line (which when you consider Gatwick and Brighton – two major centres – are on the route this is a very large portion of other journeys).

We believe there would be far more journeys if the service was improved because of the high level of car usage from the greater Redhill area into London every day due to three reasons: –

  • Slow and overcrowded trains from Redhill to London
  • Expensive and full parking facilities at Redhill Station
  • Relative proximity of Redhill area to London

RRDRUA represents Rail Users from the Redhill route including stations listed above and are very active with our membership of almost 2,000 daily commuters (around a fifth of total daily commuters)

The loss of fast services from Redhill to Victoria will be keenly felt and they will affect several thousand daily passengers. We are also concerned about capacity to Victoria having previously been 3 trains per hour in the high peak hour to just two now. This is the most difficult to accept in the general reduction of services at Redhill compared to the 2012 timetable (which is the last stable timetable to compare to). We still strongly feel that this half hourly all day fast service from Redhill to Victoria should be reinstated as a matter of urgency.

Phase 3 – Main Concerns and highlights

Key positives: –

  • Reinstatement of after midnight service from Victoria (00:08)
  • Sunday services to Reigate
  • Saturday service mirroring off-peak weekday is excellent

Our key concerns with the current proposals for weekends and overnight services are: –

  • Last trains from London to some parts of the Redhill Route
  • Uneven service on Sundays to some stations
  • Provision of Overnight Services to the Redhill route
  • Journeys to Brighton

The Key changes we would like to see: –

  • Services to Redhill route from Crossrail at Farringdon & Blackfriars continuing in the late evening at least 30 minute frequency seven days a week until at least 00:30 to match up with the new frequent all day service to these destinations
  • Last service from Victoria at 00:08 to call additionally at Earlswood and Salfords
  • Additional late night shuttle service to/from Reigate to connect off the 23:36 from Victoria at 00:20 and last Tonbridge service delayed to also connect with this train.
  • Merstham on Sundays – better balancing of timetable hopefully with third train calling to break up long gap
  • Overnight services at all stations on the Redhill route

Last Trains to Redhill Route from London

This best done on a station by station basis and then conclusions at the end. Obviously if our proposal for overnight services is accepted and implemented this section would change drastically but the thoughts below assume this is not the case.

Realistically we think last trains should be after 23:30 to allow time to get from entertainment events with 23:00 curfews (relatively common in London)

Redhill

Redhill is the core of the service along our route and what affects Redhill will also affect much else.

From London: –

  • Victoria
    • Sun Night to Thur Night 23:36 & 00:08
    • Fri/Sat Night 23:36, 00:08 then 01:08
  • London Bridge
    • Mon Night to Fri Night 23:30
    • Sat Night 23:30
    • Sunday 23:19 & 23:45
  • Blackfriars (Thameslink)
    • Mon Night to Fri Night 23:24
    • Sat Night 23:24, then 00:31 & 01:01 Add calls at Redhill
    • Sunday 23:35, then 00:32 & 01:02 Add calls at Redhill

We are pleased to see the reinstatement of last train from Victoria at 00:08. We would like to see two minor changes to the Victoria proposals.

  • 23:36 to run 3 minutes later at 23:39 to match the all day times to the Redhill route from Victoria (Reigate services leave at xx:09 & xx:39 all day – xx:36 is Arun Valley service time)
  • 00:08 to Gatwick to run 1 minute later throughout – also so the xx:09 is constant all day

Blackfriars is a very odd situation with late night services some nights but not others. There is likely to be a change in pattern for our rail users returning from some of London late night, especially when Crossrail opens connecting both the West End and Stratford/East London to Thameslink. This will move some passengers away from the Victoria services and onto Thameslink services.

As this is encouraged during the day we believe there should be regular services into the late evening for returning passengers. Thus, we would like to see regular trains up until after Midnight from Thameslink to the Redhill route to provide the continuity from the all-day services, especially with Farringdon becoming a major interchange. Up to the point of that train, direct services to Redhill should have not more than a half hour gap. The hour plus gap on Sat/Sun nights is too long.

Half hourly until the 00:31 would be ideal every night.

Reigate

Reigate has a much-improved service but has always suffered from lack of late night connection. We think this timetable is better but there are still some issues

From London: –

  • Victoria
    • Mon- Sat night 23:09
    • Sun night 21:05
  • Blackfriars/London Bridge – last connection
    • Mon- Sat night 22:59/23:05 Change ECR
    • Sun night 20:50/20:56 Change RDH

Monday to Saturday, these are all too early. We appreciate that it may not be possible to run direct services after these times but would ask whether the last Reigate train could operate a later shuttle to connect with the 23:36 from Victoria to Horsham at Redhill (although we’d prefer this to operate from Victoria at 23:39).

We also don’t have late night GWR services which could provide this late connection. Currently however their last train operates from Redhill at 23:34 which would be too early to provide such a connection. There are however several later trains from Reading stopping at Reigate.

Tonbridge Line

Last train on weekdays from Redhill is the 23:59 all stations which connects with 23:09 from Victoria and 23:14 from Blackfriars.

On Saturday oddly, this departs 4 minutes earlier at 23:55 and doesn’t call at all stations. We would like to see the same last service on a Saturday as the rest of the week.

On Sunday the last train is 23:07 which seems to early and we would like to see a similar 23:59 service.

For all of these services we would like to see them put back until 00:25 to connect off the 23:36 from Victoria making a much better connection from London events than the 23:55 does.

Merstham

Every day the last calling train is the 00:08 from Victoria – this seems appropriate and provides a suitable level of service from this station.

Earlswood/Salfords

The last calling train most nights is the 23:14 Blackfriars & 23:20 London Bridge service (22:05 from Bedford).

We think the 00:08 from Victoria could easily call at these stations as it terminates at Gatwick.

However, we appreciate that the train is operated by Southern and would be one of only a few Southern services calling here. If this is a problem, we have also asked for later half hourly services from Farringdon/Blackfriars to Redhill route and some of these could call at these stations.

Horley

Similar to Earlswood and Salfords although the 00:08 does call. Horley has had overnight trains for many years so we are not sure why the new proposal removes this. However, our overnight proposals would reinstate this service.

Sundays: Uneven Services to Some stations

Sundays seems to be a bit of a temporary measure to get through a period until services can be ramped up some more on Sundays.

The regular half hourly service between Bedford and Gatwick provides a good service to Redhill, Earlswood, Salfords and Horley. However, there is an hour gap between the 21:07 from Bedford leaving central London and the first of the services from London Bridge at 23:19.

There are three options to fil this void: –

  • A train from London Bridge at 22:45
  • An additional train at 21:37 from Bedford
  • The 21:28 from Cambridge to Three Bridges adding calls at Earlswood, Salfords and Horley

For Coulsdon South and Merstham there is an odd pattern during the day where the Thameslink Peterborough to Horsham and Southern’s Reigate to Victoria trains depart 10 minutes apart at these stations and then there is no train for 50 minutes.

This seems to happen because the alternate Cambridge train (to the Peterborough one) runs non-stop from Purley to Redhill. We think this needs to call at Merstham and Coulsdon South – however this will create a tight turn round time at Gatwick but something needs to be done to stop this very poor services at these two stations.

We are delighted to see Reigate get a Sunday service even if only hourly and hope in time this can be half-hourly like the rest of the week.

We are concerned by last train times both at Reigate and Tonbridge and have covered this above.

Train Services to Brighton

We are naturally disappointed to be losing our Direct service to Brighton on Sundays. However this has been offset weekdays by good connections at Gatwick.

This does not seem to be the case on Sundays but as we can’t see the GWR services this may be an error. Journey times to Brighton should not exceed 50 minutes and we hope this is the case.

Provision of Overnight Services

We have considered the overnight service from Bedford to Three Bridges and would like to see this call at Purley, Coulsdon South, Merstham, Redhill, Earlswood, Salfords and Horley. This has been a long term aim of many rail users along the route and the May 2018 timetable change is a good time to implement this.

To achieve this would need an extra train and train crew be utilised on overnight services and would mean a slower journey from Central London to Gatwick Airport.

We believe the improvements for staff working and living locally at Gatwick Airport plus the improvements for many rail users locally wanting overnight services from London would more than justify this change in service pattern.

We understand that Network Rail will need access to the line for overnight maintenance and hence we have proposed that two nights per week a bus service regularly replaces the overnight trains between Purley and Horley to enable this maintenance to take place. This will provide passengers with certainty through the week.

We have set out a more detailed proposal below:

Proposal for overnight services between London and Gatwick to call at local stations

Stations along the Redhill route do not have any overnight service from London, but London is both an entertainment and employment centre for the residents of East Surrey. When working late nights in London it is often hard to get home and often last trains leave before events finish.

Gatwick Airport is a major employer in the Surrey region and staff often have to make their way to the airport for shifts that start at 4am or finish at 2am. It would be appropriate to have a service through the night between Redhill route and the Airport.

Currently there is a bus service (100) to part of the area from Gatwick but nothing at all from London to the Redhill Area.

There is proposed from May 2018 that there will be an overnight service from Bedford, through central London and East Croydon and then fast to Gatwick Airport running every 30 minutes.

Our proposal is that it simply stops at Purley, Coulsdon South, Merstham, Redhill, Earlswood, Salfords and Horley on its way to/from Gatwick Airport. We estimate this will add 14 minutes each way to the journey time.

Benefits

Journeys made available between Redhill route stations and the airport will benefit both the employees at the airport who know they can always get a train to work and the customers of the airport can get there for early flights or return home by train on late flights.

The knowledge that there is a train every 30 minutes makes this a good choice for passengers when a train is delayed.

Journeys made from London to Redhill route stations will run through the night and will not only benefit residents of the area that there will be an all-night service when enjoying entertainment in London but also for London workers in the restaurant and entertainment industries as they can be sure of getting home after work.

Costs

The extra journey time on the proposed services will mean that an additional train set would be required to be used for overnight trains as the timings at Three Bridges change. Similarly, at least one extra driver and on-board manager would be required every night to cover these services.

It is unlikely to affect existing passengers to Gatwick, as at that time of night the service existing is more important than the speed of the service. A 15 minute extra journey time is unlikely to cause much inconvenience for airport passengers.

It would be expected that CDS/MHM/ERD/SAF & HOR would be unmanned at this time of night but there would anyway be minimal manning at Purley and Redhill all night.

As the railway is already there, signalman are operating it and the stock purchased, it is just the extra cost of running a single unit that makes this service possible.

Complication for Maintenance

Network Rail need to maintain the line between Purley and Earlswood through the Merstham tunnels and need clear working time to do this. So a compromise is needed to provide this time.

We expect they could do the maintenance with two nights of 4/5 hours clear every week with regular planned maintenance. It may also mean they can reduce weekend work on the line as well.

To do this we propose that the Purley to Redhill/Earlswood section is closed after the 23:09 Victoria to Reigate and 22:05 from Bedford (23:21 LBG) which both connect for last train to Tonbridge. This would be set to happen every Monday and Tuesday night to allow Network Rail regular access and can get the appropriate equipment into the area for two consecutive nights per week.

If the line is closed after this then the route will be available to Network Rail for just under 5 hours from midnight to 5am to close the line and work intensely (probably means around 3-4 hours actual work as setting up and clearing takes time). First train in the morning leaves Purley at 05:10 and Redhill at 4:49 although this could be part of the overnight buses. The gap is similar to that left by the Victoria closure so we would expect it would be good for Network Rail to do their work.

It would affect GWR services as well. Their current final service from Gatwick passes Redhill around the same time as the Reigate train. The last train from Reading may need truncating some nights depending on the work required at Redhill station itself each night but as GWR trains are diesel they don’t need power and thus some nights may be able to pass by without affecting the works.

To replace the trains, a bus service will need to run from Purley. The timings of the bus should leave Purley every 30 minutes to connect with the trains. Each train should get initially a single bus calling all stations to Gatwick and return. We estimate it would take two hours to cycle the buses and thus with a driver’s break probably needs 5 buses to run.

Even though the trains can still call at Horley, it is better that the passengers are taken straight to Gatwick to avoid the difficulties of timing the bus to a train – the two services (train and bus) can work independently at the Gatwick end.

When Network Rail have access GTR would be able to run the service with one less unit of stock.

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