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Timetable Change

From 11 December 2022, the train operator Southeastern will operate with a new timetable. Southeastern have said the new timetable is necessary to accommodate post-pandemic changes in travelling and commuting patterns, and to ensure a more reliable service. According to Southeastern, the new timetable will mean:

  • trains avoid crossing at busy junctions such as Lewisham and Tonbridge, reducing delays
  • an increase from 2 to 4 trains per hour on the Bexleyheath line on a Sunday
  • a new service from Crayford
  • new services from Maidstone East to London Charing Cross
  • the reinstatement of Beckenham Junction to London Blackfriars trains
  • a more consistent timetable throughout the day, where trains leave the station at around the same time each hour
  • the removal of First Class to make space for all who travel on mainline trains
  • a simpler timetable so that if and when passenger numbers increase in future, additional services can be added more easily

The Southeastern website has more information on how the new timetable will impact specific routes.

According to a response to a written parliamentary question (PQ), answered by Huw Merriman, Minister of State at the Department for Transport (DfT), the new timetable will mean a reduction in services compared to pre-pandemic levels:

Southeastern operated 1988 services on a typical weekday in September 2019 with 1722 on a typical Saturday and 931 on a typical Sunday. Following the upcoming timetable change on 11 December 2022 on a typical weekday Southeastern will operate 1686 services with 1392 on a typical Saturday and 835 on a typical Sunday.

Consultation

Train operating companies (TOCs) such as Southeastern are expected to carry out a public consultation in advance of timetable changes, which usually happen in May and December. The requirement to consult is usually written into the service contracts held between the DfT and the TOCs.

Since the start of the Covid pandemic however, the DfT has relaxed this timetable consultation requirement to allow TOCs to respond quickly to changes in passenger demand. Regarding Southeastern, Clive Efford MP asked the Transport Secretary in a PQ to ensure there was a full consultation and to urge Southeastern to reverse its decision to reduce services. However, the DfT had already issued a derogation against the consultation requirement on 5 August 2022, as confirmed in a PQ response from Transport Minister Huw Merriman on 14 November.

Southeastern Trains

Southeastern serves destinations in the South East of England, from Central London to Kent and East Sussex. A map of their routes can be found on their website.

Since 16 October 2021, Southeastern has effectively been owned by the Government. As shown in the public register of rail passenger contracts, SE Trains Limited, trading as Southeastern, is owned by DfT OLR (Operator of Last Resort) Holdings, for the Department for Transport.

Prior to October 2021, the franchise was privately operated by Govia-owned Southeastern. The franchise was removed due to a serious contractual breach involving more than £25m of historical taxpayer funding that should have been returned.


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