TRISH LEADS THE FIGHT FOR A BETTER TRAIN SERVICE

R and T at station smallMany of our residents commute to London by train, and the combination of good schools, low crime, a green and leafy borough and proximity to local railway stations is what attracts many London commuters to Sutton South Ward.

For this reason we are concerned at the reports we get from many residents that the train service is not adequate. Both of us have, at times, been commuters into central London and we know the frustrations. In September Trish made an impassioned speech to Sutton Council on the problems residents have experienced, quoting the stories residents have shared with us of cancelled services and broken down trains. The Council called on the Government to review the franchise of Southern Railway and Govia, and implement stringent penalties for failure to deliver an adequate service.

Since Richard was elected he has fought successful campaigns to save the Thameslink service and to get the side entrance to Sutton station open. We are now campaigning to get Network Rail to increase the capacity of the station car park. We want to monitor the performance of the railway so please continue to contact us with your thoughts and experiences.

tunnel train

THAMESLINK DECISION TO BE REVIEWED

Richard presenting the Petition

Our campaign to save the Thameslink loop line and ensure trains from Sutton continue to run direct to the north of London took a step forward when Sutton Councillors were involved in a delegation that met Simon Burns, Minister of State for Transport, on 26 November.  

During the meeting Mr Burns said that he had told the Department for Transport to review the decision to cut the line at Blackfriars and report back to him early in 2013.

The current plan would see the service – which links Sutton to Luton and St Albans through central and north London, calling at key stops such as the City, Farringdon and St Pancras International – severed at Blackfriars from 2018. But it transpired during the meeting that keeping the Loop Line intact would add only 28 seconds to average train times from Blackfriars, and Mr Burns told the meeting the engineering issues at Blackfriars were not insurmountable.

Richard says “We have not yet won, But I think we can take heart from the fact that the Minister is now well aware of the issue and our strong views. He has agreed that the case must be reviewed. I hope the petition I was involved in presenting at the department for Transport has added to the pressure.”

LOCAL COMMITTEE DEBATES OUR RESPONSES TO THAMESLINK CONSULTATION

Presenting our Petition

Richard and Heather called for action by the South Sutton, Cheam and Belmont Local Committee to support our Thameslink campaign, when initiating a debate at the committee on 11 October.

We drew attention to the submission we had put in on behalf of local residents (go to the category of posts called “Thameslink Campaign” to see our submission) to the recent Department of Transport consultation. Councillor Mary Burstow drew attention to her submission.

We know that many of our residents, with our proximity to Sutton station being a reason to live in our Ward, commute into London every day to work. Richard and Heather themselves did this for many years. Some commute to north London and the proposal to terminate Sutton’s Capital Connect trains at Blackfriars will add more than ten minutes in each direction to their daily commute, almost two hours extra down time a week. Taken with the effect of cutting us off from international services at St. Pancras, and Luton airport, and the fact that our ability to attract businesses to Sutton has been greatly enhanced by our good transport links, this proposal has to be resisted.

The most recent stage in what will be a battle with further, continuing stages was the combined Thameslink franchise consultation on which responses were required  by mid-September.

Richard commented, in the discussion “The reputation of civil servants at the Department of Transport, following the West Coast Main Line fiasco, is not high, and having worked there during the time that I was chair of the Channel tunnel Safety Authority, I am not altogether surprised. We will need to be vigilant in watching and contributing to the further steps in this process.

I know that the way responses to consultation are analysed in the Department means that the volume of reaction is important. Councillor Honour and I put in our own response on behalf of our residents. Councillor Burstow did the same. ”

Richard made some suggestions to prepare ourselves for the further stages.

“First, I suggest that all those Councillors who put in submissions send them to the secretary so they can be included – along with his helpful note – with the papers for this meeting, so they are on the record to be used as necessary as an information quarry in further stages.

Second, we should consider, if it is appropriate at a later stage, passing a motion drawing attention to the difficulties this proposal causes for our residents, and send it to the Secretary of State, and seek a reply.

This is an important issue for our residents. On 23 August I presented a petition signed by over 5 000 residents, largely developed through Paul Burstow’s website, at the Department for Transport in Marsham Street, and the numbers wanting to sign shows how significant this is.”

NEW ACTION BY YOUR COUNCILLORS TO SAVE CROSS-LONDON TRAIN SERVICES

Richard, with Councillor Simon Wales, presents the Thameslink petition signed by Sutton South residents at the HQ of the Department for Transport

As so many Sutton South residents commute into London to work every day, and we value our direct connections to St. Pancras, the loss of our cross-London train services, if the Thameslink / Capital Connect services terminate at Blackfriars, will be a blow to local people.
On 23 August Richard joined Councillor Simon Wales, together with Liberal Democrat activists from neighbouring Boroughs, to present our petition to the Department for Transport at their Head Office in Marsham Street, Westminster. The petiton called on the Department to put a stop to these proposals.
 
September 15 is the deadline to comment on the Department for Transport’s consultation document making this proposal, following a decision by the DfT to extend the consultation period. The link to their consultation document is HERE. You can email comments to     Thameslink@dft.gsi.gov.uk
Below is our own submission.
 

Response to the Department for Transport Combined Thameslink Franchise Consultation

From Councillor Richard Clifton and Councillor Heather Honour, Liberal Democrat Councillors for Sutton South, London Borough of Sutton

1. We are the elected Liberal Democrat Councillors for Sutton South Ward, which is just south of Sutton railway station. Passengers leaving Sutton station to the south, by the side entrance (when it is open), pass into Sutton South Ward as they leave the station.

2. Our Ward is almost entirely residential and a significant number of our residents commute daily into central London for work. Many of these commuters use trains on the Thameslink Loop Line to travel to stations north of Blackfriars, including Farringdon and St. Pancras. Residents of the Ward also tell us they consider they benefit greatly from having a direct service to St. Pancras International, for Continental Europe, and Luton airport. 

3. For that reason we are concerned at the proposal, first set out in the London and South East Route Utilisation Strategy (July 2011), that all Sutton / Wimbledon Thameslink Loop Line trains will terminate at London Blackfriars from 2018.

4. Terminating Wimbledon Loop services at Blackfriars would result in our residents losing their cross-London service. This will penalise those of our residents who have made their residential, employment and educational location decisions on the basis of the existence of the cross-London Thameslink service. These residents, who chose to live in Sutton South on the basis of an existing pattern of transport connections, would lose a service that they have had for many years, and based their life around.

5. Any decision should take account of the impact of changes on the travel patterns of existing passengers, and of consequent requirements to change established travel patterns. It is because of the impact on our residents that we object to any proposal that would result in terminating Wimbledon loop trains at Blackfriars.

6. Not only would our residents lose a through service they have come to depend on, they would lose their connection with Eurostar and domestic long distance trains at St. Pancras International and Kings Cross. Instead they would have to change trains at Blackfriars, carrying possibly heavy luggage onto already crowded trains. This movement could be particularly difficult from the western bay platform when travelling north and to either bay platform when travelling south because of the platform lengths and the position of lifts and stairs at each end of the platforms. The recent Passenger Focus passenger survey found that having to change trains was a strong disincentive to train travel.

 

7. Sutton is identified in the London Plan as one of only four Metropolitan town centres in south London , with a large and growing population and employment base. It is a major business centre with many commuters and business travellers. It is therefore essential that Sutton, as a strategic south London destination, retains its connections to central and north London and beyond, and maintains its direct link to St. Pancras and the City.

 

8. We also believe that the attractiveness of Sutton to employers considering re-location away from expensive offices in central London would be affected. Sutton is a location from which one can travel to Brussels with just two train journeys, one taking 45 minutes and one two hours, and the journey to Paris is only fifteen minutes longer. We have been successful in attracting businesses to Sutton and this change would have a negative impact, particularly given the expected mushrooming of international train travel from St. Pancras over the next few years. These negative effects would impact on the residents of our Ward who want to work locally in Sutton.

9. We thus strongly object to any proposal that would result in terminating Wimbledon loop trains at Blackfriars from 2018.

10. We are aware that Sutton Council is submitting comments, and support those comments. However, we are making this submission to draw particular attention to the impact on our residents in Sutton South Ward.

RICHARD CLIFTON

HEATHER HONOUR

  Liberal Democrat Councillors for Sutton South, London Borough of Sutton

THREAT TO SUTTON’S COMMUTER SERVICES: RICHARD AND HEATHER SUPPORT ACTION

MANY RESIDENTS OF SUTTON SOUTH WARD COMMUTE INTO CENTRAL LONDON EVERY DAY TO WORK.

SERVICES WILL BE CUT AND JOURNEYS ON OTHER ROUTES MORE CROWDED UNLESS WE CAN STOP THE PROPOSALS TO AXE SERVICES TO FARRINGDON, St PANCRAS AND BEYOND.

After Richard made a stirring speech to Sutton Council about transport services on 16 July, Richard and Heather joined rail campaigners in Sutton for a day of action on 18 July in a bid to save our vital link to The City, St. Pancras, North London and stations to Luton.

Under current plans Thameslink Loop Line trains which link Sutton to St. Albans and Luton through central and north London will terminate at Blackfriars station from 2018.

But Richard, Heather and other campaigners – including our two LibDem MPs and the Leader of the Council Ruth Dombey – boarded trains on the morning of 18 July to travel to Blackfriars as part of our day of action.

Richard – who was interviewed on BBC Radio London that morning as part of the campaign – summarised our case in a speech he made to Sutton Council on 16 July. He said:

“We all know the importance to Sutton of maintaining a through rail service to north London.

I want to stress the importance of links to St Pancras International as St Pancras develops further as an international rail hub.

Over the next few years there will be a positive mushrooming of international rail travel from London. If the current plans of Deutschbahn and Eurostar come to fruition, by 2014 it will be possible, on arriving at St Pancras, to have a choice of services to travel from London to Amsterdam.

In addition to the current services to Brussels and Paris there will also be services from London to North Germany. This is a big market in terms of business travel. At present, each day, about 30 planes fly from London’s airports to destinations in north Germany, carrying about the same number of people as could be carried by just a few trains, using the Velaro D trains that are being built to provide rolling stock for these new services from London, by the train manufacturer Siemens at its Dusseldorf factory, which in fact I visited recently.

Aside from the potential importance of these international links to the residents of Sutton, there are international companies that have significant centres of their enterprises in Sutton – Sutton, a thriving London suburb, offering office space much cheaper than that found in the centre of London, less than half an hour by train from the centre, with a pleasant ambience and environment, and a location from which – importantly – you can reach the centre of Brussels in just two train journeys, one taking about 40 minutes and one about 2 hours. And the centre of Paris in just 15 minutes more. And soon – Amsterdam, north Germany.

Now, these are transport links that it is vital for Sutton to maintain, for the sake of our residents but also to maintain our attractiveness as a centre for business development. When I look at the data on economic activity that comes regularly to the new Housing, Economy and Business committee, some clear conclusions stand out. It is clear that Sutton is doing relatively well in terms of surviving the recession and maintaining one of the highest rates of economic activity on the part of its residents of any part of London. But we need to continue to attract new businesses.

The Tramlink extension is perhaps equally important, particularly in relation to the north Sutton site, which is an attractive site, and on which the Housing, Economy and Business committee now has a task group working on the planning brief. Our current plans include scope for a Tramlink stop at the site, something that will greatly enhance its appeal, and we see this development as an important part of our future growth strategy. 

So we must keep pressure on TfL to continue work on the feasibility of the Sutton Tramlink proposal, and make clear to the Department for Transport that changes that remove our linoks to north London and in particular to St Pancras, are not acceptable.

The Thameslink service is absolutely vital. Losing it would sever our only direct link to North London and would mean Sutton residents would need to take at least two trains to get to St Pancras. It is quite scandalous that, at a time when we should be improving public transport, there is a serious proposal to cut the link between North and South London.”

We need to act now as the Department for Transport is currently consulting on the new seven-year Thameslink franchise which will run from September next year and incorporate the Southern franchise from 2015.

Ironically, the cross-London Loop Line service which runs through Sutton, Carshalton and Hackbridge stations, was recently reopened at nights and weekends after being split for three and a half years by engineering work. It is all very well reopening it now, but Sutton’s residents need the line to stay open for good.

The new franchise will set service patterns for 2018 and beyond, so it is vital that we act now and do not become a Cinderella area for rail transport.

To view the DfT consultation document visit www.dft.gov.uk/consultations

To give your input into Sutton’s response, email alex.forrest@sutton.gov.uk

Richard and Heather will be submitting their own response.

More detail about the attitude the Council is taking, opposing this threat, is in a further post on this site “Train Links To North London Must Remain” (see archive July 2011).

Heather and Richard outside Sutton station

NEW PLAN TO OPEN UP THE SIDE ENTRANCE TO SUTTON STATION

The side entrance at Sutton station

As local Councillors, we have been enthusiastically promoting and supporting a campaign to ease the congestion at peak times at Sutton station and create an easier route into and out of the station for Sutton South residents by opening up the side entrance. We will continue to promote this campaign.

Our latest proposal is that we will be preparing a bid under  TfL’s “Major Schemes Funding”, for this scheme. The bids are required to be submitted to TfL in September, so we have started work on it and Council Leader Ruth Dombey wrote to Boris Johnson on 29 May to seek his support. We will consult with stakeholders as appropriate. The bid will be for a wider scheme to improve the area around the station, a “Major Scheme” bid. Opening up and staffing the station side entrance is a matter for Southern Rail so the Council will need to enter into an agreement with them to open it up. They agreed to this ‘in principle’ during the Outer London Fund bid preparation, when the Council submitted a well-researched bid for funding under the Mayor’s Outer London Fund to facilitate the opening of the side entrance at the station.

Opening the side entrance would be of benefit to the many commuters and other travellers who live in South Sutton Ward, who could enter and leave the station by this entrance, leading directly into The Quadrant. A page on this site (“Ward Map”) leads you to a map of the Ward, which shows the importance of opening this entrance. As rail travellers pass through the side entrance they would cross the boundary into Sutton South Ward.

As Sutton South Ward Councillors we strongly support this bid, as the outcome would be of benefit to our residents.

The Council wants to improve the “Gateway” into Sutton and the experience of those arriving in Sutton. Hence it wishes to improve Sutton station. The station is an important focal point for the town centre and the first impression that many visitors have of Sutton. It has been identified byTransport for London as a station that suffers from congestion problems due to its limited capacity in terms of the front entrance hall and ticket barriers. The Council continues to hope, in partnership with Southern Rail, to open the side entrance to the station for passenger use. In the longer term a more comprehensive re-development of the station is hoped for to expand and modernise passenger facilities and and enhance this important gateway and transport interchange.

The side entrance at Sutton station would cater for the considerable demand for direct access to the station from the Quadrant House office block, which houses Reed Business Information (which has approximately 2 000 employess, many of whom travel to work by train) and a number of other companies. This office block and those who work there are an important contributor to the economic vitality of Sutton. Reed Business Information fully supported the bid. The new side entrance would also serve the station car park, motor cycle and cycle parking areas, which generate considerable demand for access from that side of the station. It would also serve all the residents of Sutton South Ward who approach the station via Wellesley Road from the Langley Park Road direction.

Opening up the side entrance, which physically is already there, requires the installation of automatic ticket barriers with Oyster readers, a new ticket machine,  associated lighting, signing, communication improvements and CCTV improvements. Staffing costs would be met by Southern Rail. It is accepted that the side entrance would probably not be open all day, but using the entrance could ease the congestion at the station if open during peak hours in the morning and evening.

Despite this strong case, the Mayor refused to support the earlier Outer London Fund bid, although accepting other aspects of the Council’s bid for funding under that scheme. We are not giving up and are taking forward this further “Major Schemes Funding” option. Let us hope for eventual success, as this development will be of value to the residents of Sutton South Ward.

TRAIN LINKS TO NORTH LONDON MUST REMAIN

Sutton Council agreed a motion on Monday 18 July deploring a proposal floated by the train operating companies that trains from Sutton on the Capital Connect line to north London (passing through Farringdon, St. Pancras International and St. Albans on the way to Luton airport) would all terminate at Blackfriars.

Councillor Clifton was to be one of the proposers of the motion but due to the length of debate on earlier motions the motion was voted on without debate. Here is the text of the speech he was to have made:

“I am confident that we will all want to support this motion and to emphasise the importance to Sutton of maintaining a through rail service to north London. I’d like to mention a significant detail that ought to be recognised in our examination of this proposal here tonight.

This concerns the importance of links to St Pancras International as St Pancras develops further as an international rail hub.

Over the next few years there will be a mushrooming of international rail travel from London. If the current plans of Deutschbahn and Eurostar come to fruition – as they will – by 2014 it will be possible, on arriving at St Pancras, to have a choice of services, competing against each other, to travel from London to Amsterdam.

In addition to the current services to Brussels and Paris there will also be services from London to North Germany. This is a big market in terms of business travel. At present, each day, about 30 plane services fly between London’s airports and destinations in north Germany, carrying about the same number of people as could be carried by four or five train services using the Velaro D trains that are even now being built to provide rolling stock for these services, by the train manufacturer Siemens at its Dusseldorf factory, which in fact I visited last year.

Aside from the potential importance of these international links to the residents of Sutton, there are international companies that have significant centres of their enterprises in Sutton – Sutton, a thriving London suburb, offering office space much cheaper than that found in the centre of London, less than half an hour by train from the centre, with a pleasant ambience and environment, and a location from which – importantly – you can reach the centre of Brussels in just two train journeys, one taking about 40 minutes and one about 2 hours.

And the centre of Paris in just 15 minutes more. And soon – Amsterdam, north Germany.

These transport links are links that it is vital for Sutton to maintain, for the sake of our residents but also to maintain our attractiveness as a centre for business development.

We must keep pressure on the Department for Transport to make clear that the changes to the Capital Connect franchise being sought by the domestic train companies, that remove our links to north London and in particular to St Pancras, are just not acceptable.”