Kent Route Utilisation Strategy (‘RUS’)
Network Rail’s work on the Kent RUS commenced in January 2008 and a scoping document was published February 2008.
Network Rail published their consultation paper in April. (But take care it’s 190 pages!)
The RUS consultation paper explores various options to address future increases in demand but the long-term solutions proposed as they affect Sevenoaks commuters are, to say the least, unpalatable. The additional mainline capacity proposed would be available only after 2019 and then only represent the equivalent of the next 5-years’ expected growth in numbers. And what’s worse, other changes proposed would represent a major reduction in the standard of service, particularly for travellers to the City.
The 3-year rebuilding of London Bridge station beginning in 2012 is likely to cause massive disruption. And on completion of this work, the RUS envisages that there would be fewer high peak trains per hour and these would stop at Orpington and most at Chelsfield. There would be an ending to the current 3 trains per hour mainline peak services to/from Kent into Cannon Street for the City, these services being replaced with only 2 trains per hour into Blackfriars or Farringdon via Thameslink.
In its response to these proposals the SRTA is critical of the absence of any substantive proposals to address capacity constraints on routes into London and its terminus stations, and the bottleneck on the two-track section between Orpington and Tonbridge. Neither does the RUS attempt to address shifts in user travel patterns (including the switch to Docklands and east London) that could be tackled by by-passing London Bridge. We also question the claim that there is insufficient demand for rail access to Gatwick from Kent.
Since June 2005, Network Rail has been required to publish Route Utilisation Strategies (or ‘RUS’) for its different regions. These look at future rail infrastructure needs up to 30 years ahead. Stakeholders, such as the SRTA and other passenger groups, are able to participate in this planning exercise by submitting ideas on future services.
In our view, the supply of, and demand for, commuter services from the Sevenoaks area is increasingly becoming mismatched –
- There is a substantial unmet demand for services to new destinations, specifically Docklands, St Pancras International, Ebbsfleet and Gatwick Airport.
- The twin track section between Tonbridge and Orpington is acknowledged as one of the worst capacity bottlenecks on the South East Main Line But despite this, many thousands of empty peak time seats are run between Sevenoaks and Orpington every day.
- Improvements to the Maidstone East line would encourage more commuters to use their local stations, helping to re-balance demand and take some of the pressure off Sevenoaks.
The SRTA’s submission to Network Rail suggest several ways these problems can be addressed. And at our Annual Meeting in October we had an opportunity to impress upon Southeastern Trains the need to look at the available options in an imaginative and innovative way.
Also of relevance for us is the RUS for South London which was published in March 2008.
For our views on the impact on Sevenoaks trains of High Speed 1 services which are due to commence in December 2009, click here.