Winners and losers on the commuting front


Monday morning, and we’re traveling north on track number five through London Bridge station. North! Can you ever imagine?

I have always suspected that the only way to undo the mess that has been rush hour at London Bridge was to do something radical, or many things radical.

Southeastern Railway had their big, new timetable launch this Monday. They had preceded it by saying that it had involved a great deal of consultation, use projections and planning, but while they hoped that the changes would be generally appreciated, they also expected some people to be disappointed with the results.

There have been mixed reviews. The changes include the introduction of the North Kent high speed line, up to St Pancras, which dramatically decreases journey times from major towns, but costs a premium to use (around 30%).

Some lines have had service reduced, and there have been major route changes. From the customer perspective, it’s quite difficult to get the big picture of the changes.

The line I travel on seems somewhat better in terms of crowding on the trains, but I suspect it is at the expense of other line reductions. Given the growth in London’s population, until new lines are opened, I imagine this will be impossible to solve in an entirely neutral way.

However, we don’t seem to be faced with the taunting presence of emptier trains passing through the station without stopping, followed by packed trains which did stop, which was the previous norm.

The London Assembly recently release a study on the negative social impact of overcrowding on the tube, Too Close for Comfort, in which commuters discussed the stress of being crammed into rush hour trains, and the subsequent decline in social behaviour through competition for space and seats. All of which makes a good argument for transport development and service design in the name of both sustainability and convivial society.