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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Lamiat Sabin

Southeastern to run ‘simpler’ timetable from December due to drop in commuter numbers

Gareth Fuller/PA

Southeastern rail services have been “simplified” in a new timetable drawn up in response to more people working from home since the Covid pandemic, the company said.

The operator runs trains through London and the southeast. It said that, from Sunday 11 December, most services will leave stations at about the same time each hour to leave room for extra services at peak times.

Southeastern claimed that the decision – made without public consultation – will help trains run on time, but an MP said that it could worsen overcrowding on the most popular routes.

The company said it will also convert first class carriages on the 12-car trains to add 60 more standard class seats a day on routes between London, Kent and East Sussex.

Scott Brightwell, Southeastern’s director of operations and safety, said: “Our customers tell us reliability and punctuality are their highest priorities.

“So, we’ve simplified routes to remove bottlenecks which will see more trains running on time, fewer cancellations, and a more reliable service.

“The simpler structure of the timetable means we can more add more trains into the timetable as demand changes.”

Southeastern has claimed that the new timetable does not mean there will be a cut to services.

It says on its website that the timetable will “have a very similar number of train services to today but will be structured to better match space on trains with demand and therefore be more efficient.”

It also says: “Most routes will see no reduction in service levels compared to the current May 2022 timetable.”

Southeastern said, between February and July this year, weekday peak demand was only 56 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, travel at off-peak times during the week had recovered by 77 per cent and weekend journeys by 90 per cent.

During the same six months, journeys using weekly, monthly and annual season tickets were down 32 per cent compared to the six months before the pandemic.

The company’s website says: “Our customers have changed the way they travel and are now commuting only a few days a week. While off-peak travel has recovered faster than peak-time travel, hybrid working is here to stay.”

Shadow housing and planning minister Matthew Pennycook said he will be disputing the changes.

The Labour MP for Greenwich and Woolwich tweeted: “These changes have not been adequately justified and I’m concerned they will exacerbate overcrowding on numerous peak hour services.

“I will be raising the matter with Southeastern bosses and ministers at the earliest opportunity.”

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