SRUG Objection to the South London Route Utilisation Strategy

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Objection to the South London Route Utilisation Strategy

14 May, 2008
The Southwark Rail Users Group represents users of the stations in mid Southwark, who use the services routed through Peckham Rye – in addition to Peckham Rye itself, this is Denmark Hill, Queens Road Peckham, South Bermondsey, East Dulwich and Nunhead. SRUG was established in 2007 as a result of raised awareness about rail planning through the South London RUS consultation.
The proposal that caused most concern was the closure of the direct South London Line (SLL) that loops between London Bridge and Victoria via Peckham Rye. Although there are some welcome improvements in the overall RUS plan, the closure of this service is a serious deterioration for rail users in this part of South East London to which we need to register our formal objection. We question whether adequate information and evidence has been gathered about south London rail usage in this inner part of south London to justify this decision.

In the light of this the SRUG is lodging this objection to the SLRUS proposals to the closure of the South London Line via Peckham Rye, and urges the Office of Rail Regulation to ask Network Rail and the Department of Transport to look in more depth, with local stakeholders:

  • at the role and usage of the SLL,
  • at the overall impact of its closure on current usage and likely future usage,
  • at the impact on transport patterns and other transport modes.

Role and use of the South London Line
In a densely populated part of London, with no Underground stations, the South London Line (SLL) plays a significant and unique role in transport for inner south London. It provides a fast service to other key places in inner south London, and to the mainline stations of Victoria and London Bridge, which are also key connectors to five Underground lines, and through London Bridge to Charing Cross another main central London station. It provides:

  • the only and a fast direct service between London Bridge and Denmark Hill, and the only direct service between Victoria and South Bermondsey and Queens Road Peckham.
  • a means of relieving serious overcrowding on the Tube lines from the Clapham area.
  • a fast direct service between key places in inner south London – Bermondsey, Peckham, Camberwell, Clapham, Wandsworth, and Battersea.
  • important contributions to the services from Peckham Rye to Victoria and London Bridge and the intermediate stations.
  • The only service from Victoria for the SLL stations in the late evening.

Many of these journeys are by peak hour commuters into central London, with the trains packed, and for which there are no adequate substitutes. In addition, the service is also very well used throughout the day and evening until the last trains for all the stations that the SLL serves. Moreover, the direct connection between London Bridge and Denmark Hill serving the staff, patients and visitors to the three main hospitals at either end, is an integral part of their future collaborative development plans.
Consequences of the closure of the South London Line (SLL)
Network Rail acknowledges that the closure of the SLL will have adverse effects. In justification they say:

  • The SLL is lightly used compared with other services.

But this comparison is with the longer distance commuter routes, and the SLL plays an additional inner south London role as well. Moreover, its use may well be less than it could be because:

    • the train is only 2 carriages (often over-packed in peak hours) and earlier promises of 4 carriages have not been fulfilled;
    • the publicity and information for journey planning is very poor for this and interconnecting services, and has considerably deteriorated in the last few years.
    • this may have led to suppressed demand, which puts pressure on other transport modes in inner south London – buses, cars/roads, and Tube.
    • there are new housing and regeneration developments along the route, which will be continuing for many years, especially in the hinterland of Queens Road Peckham and Peckham Rye stations. The increase in rail use is already significant, and likely to continue, leading to more overcrowding.


  • The East London Line Extension Phase 2 (ELLX2) would ‘replace’ the SLL.

But while the ELLX2 would be a welcome introduction of new connections between Clapham Junction and Surrey Quays, it cannot be said to ‘replace’ the SLL:

    • The ELLX2 would not provide direct connections to inner central London main line stations of London Bridge and Victoria, and the direct connections to five lines on the central Tube network, as the SLL does.
    • In addition, in relation to the SLL services direct between London Bridge and Victoria, the ELLX2 would introduce a new change at Peckham. Even with a same-platform change, in some cases this would double the journey times from those provided by the SLL. How well this works would also be dependent on the level of services to London Bridge from Tulse Hill. These are dependent on the renewal of the South Central franchise, which will not be determined until 2009.
    • Moreover, the same-platform change could be provided only with the ELLX2 service in operation and so the closure of the SLL would be, as Network Rail recognise, not acceptable without the ELLX2. With the ELLX2 not yet agreed, this SLRUS proposal to mitigate in a very limited way the serious loss of the SLL, would be incapable of being implemented.


  • The SLL will not close until 2011.

But delaying its closure does not alter the fact that it would mean the loss of a vital part of the interconnecting transport infrastructure, and which would be lost for good. The SLL plays several key roles by providing:

    • the fast direct route in and out of central London for inner south London commuters.
    • fast direct transport radially across inner south London.
    • a key part of the jigsaw for direct connections to the Tube for a part of inner south London with no Tube stations.
    • an alternative to the over crowded Northern Line from Clapham, and thus a means of relieving that part of the network.  

Consultation & Evidence for SLL usage?
In spite of very little and limited publicity, which appears to have been simply buried in the SLRUS on the website, the very high number of direct objections submitted by SLL rail users inresponse to the consultation last year, is evidence of the importance given to these services. If there had been more effective publicity of these proposals there would have been many more objections.
The only opportunity for direct conversations with Network Rail about these proposals was at the Southwark Transport Consultative Forum almost at the end of the consultation period, and it was only one of several items on the agenda. There was no opportunity for any kind of real discussion about the issues. Network Rail however did say that as a result of the objections being made they would initiate some ‘desk research’ on SLL usage. This seemed to indicate that they felt they did not have enough data, at that very late stage, about the use and role of the SLL, including the significance of it for the hospitals’ long term planning.
We had hoped to have a discussion with Network Rail focussed specifically on the SLL and the result of their desk research. Such a meeting was arranged subsequently with them with the assistance of Passenger Focus, but Network Rail cancelled this at the last moment. We have had no opportunity therefore to see the usage evidence on which they have based their decisions. We consider that that should be made available publicly, and that there should be discussions about its comprehensiveness and adequacy, and about the role the South London Line plays in the overall transport interconnecting infrastructure, before decisions are made.
The South London Line plays a very significant role in the transport infrastructure of inner south London. It is premature to take decisions now to close it, even in 2011:
·         The evidence about its current and increasing future usage should be made publicly available before decisions are made.
·         The East London Line Extension Phase 2, which adds new connections between inner south London and outside central London, cannot adequately replace the loss of the SLL, which connects inner south London directly with central London. This should be recognised.
·         The details of new service connections between Victoria and Peckham Rye, and between London Bridge and Peckham Rye, are crucial to whether the proposed new connections can work in practise for passengers. There are significant doubts about these, which need further examination.
·         Further work needs to be done by Network Rail and Transport for London with the local boroughs, the rail user groups, and major stakeholders such as the hospitals, to consider the role of the SLL in inner south London, in the overall transport infrastructure, in its interconnections with the Tube, and with other central main line stations.
·         In addition, no decisions should be made about the SLL until the implementation of the ELLX Phase 2 has been fully agreed.