Having persistently lobbied for additional rolling stock on Southeastern metro routes over the last couple of years, I am delighted that the Department for Transport has today announced that passengers in our area will, from this morning, begin to see 68 extra carriages added to commuter trains going in and out of central London.
This is something I have pressed Ministers on for some time, receiving public assurances in a debate I held as far back as January of last year. Although it has taken too long to reach this decision, this is very welcome news for those of us who travel by rail on a regular basis. In summary, we will see:
- 68 extra carriages added onto existing services between now and November, the first 16 of which will be deployed this week.
- These will be focussed on all metro routes, particularly those going into Cannon Street and London Victoria during peak hours.
- In total, a third of peak services will be lengthened, meaning more than 5,000 additional seats.
The carriages, which are being transferred from GTR to Southeastern under the oversight of the Department for Transport, were only built in 2008/9, and are therefore in the early part of their lifecycle. As a result, we will begin to see longer trains at almost all of our local stations, as well as more modern, air-conditioned carriages. This will particularly alleviate pressure on the Bromley South and Grove Park lines, where a number of peak-time trains will be lengthened from eight to ten carriages and some six-car trains lengthened to eight.
Taken together with a number of proposals outlined in the recent South Eastern franchise consultation – including the introduction of high capacity, twelve carriage trains – I am hopeful this decision will mean all of us can enjoy a more comfortable service when travelling by rail. Last week I met with one of the companies currently bidding to build the carriages for the future franchise, discussing the top priorities for residents in our area. This is something I hope to take up with all the companies similarly involved in the franchise process.
Although today’s announcement is definitely a step in the right direction, I fully appreciate that it is a solution to only one part of a much broader problem, and I will of course continue to push for greater reliability, improved connections and better passenger facilities over the coming months.