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Bonkers Blog September 2016

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4 September - Lesnes Abbey regeneration and Southeastern trains both going nowhere fast

LesnesAlternate Sundays is when BiB usually compares the progress Bexley Council has made with Lesnes Abbey and what Network Rail has done to Abbey Wood station, but that’s getting to be ridiculous because the only discernible change to the Abbey park over the past month is that the weeds have grown.

I thought this might be a quiet fortnight at the railway station following the completion of the second North Kent platform but I was very wrong. Today sees the biggest picture gallery so far showing the daily progress. Unfortunately I missed the two main roof beams going in because of another trip to East Ham delivering essential supplies and yesterday’s action is largely missing too. That’s because I had an invitation to be away on either the 3rd or 4th of September and consulted Crossrail’s published list of line closures. Their poster was wrong, I chose the wrong day and therefore missed the action.

Nevertheless the two week’s of photos include the first train to use the new platform, the wooden jigsaw which when assembled will form the new station roof and the demolition of the old Dartford bound platform. The platform that was extended from 10 car length to 12 in 2012 and never once saw a 12 coach train!

The roof components are being shipped in from Austria and have been hoisted into position by a remote controlled device which I am told is called a Self Erecting Tower Crane. To help with all this hi-tech gear there is a man with a big hammer and a bag of nails. See the 139th photo out of 180.

Despite the generally good news on the Crossrail front it has been a very bad two weeks on the trains. A friend who started a new job this week was late three times, fortunately so was the boss and all because of Southeastern. Or was it?

London Bridge was closed throughout the bank holiday weekend (Network Rail), there was no service to Cannon Street until 2nd September (NR), there were signal problems in all sorts of places (NR) and emergency engineering work on Thursday at London Bridge (NR again).

That was just what I observed while on photo jaunts. Lots of trains were running very late and no one is willing to confirm the sighting of a 12 coach train so over crowding was the norm. Why are there not more trains and more modern trains that might be able to cope with Woolwich Dockyard’s short platform? That seems to be the Department of Transport’s (DfT) fault for failing to authorise the expenditure. The only North Kent line failure I heard of last week that might be attributed to Southeastern was due to a train breakdown at Blackheath but the Class 465 units are 24 years old and that must be the DfT’s fault too.

Train expert Councillor Stefano Borella is welcome to offer corrections if he knows better!

Despite most problems being beyond Southeastern’s control there are many discontented commuters pushing for a TfL takeover. Unless TfL can bring more political pressure to bear I don’t see that as a solution (†) although I would welcome the end of South East London fares tax. i.e. Freedom Passes being invalid before 09:30 and children being charged more.

A friend and two cousins live alongside the Liverpool to Chingford line which was taken over by TfL in May 2015. Their experience of it has not been good but maybe there are improvements on the horizon. Nevertheless the pressure continues and another petition for a TfL takeover of Southeastern suburban services has found its way on to the net. If you are more optimistic for improved services than I am then is the place to go.

† I have been reminded that if TfL takes over the DfT drops out of new train commissioning so the chance of getting new rolling stock improves. Thanks to various transport experts for putting me right.


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