I’m pleased to report back on a fruitful meeting I had this week with Stephen Hammond MP, Minister for Transport, and Tim Shoveller, Managing Director of South West Trains.
I stressed to Mr Shoveller the extreme over-crowding at Earlsfield station at peak hours and shared with him the feedback that many of you have provided as part of our campaign to add more rush-hour capacity to the route. Mr Shoveller agreed that the situation is unsustainable at both Earlsfield and Wimbledon stations and that longer trains need to be provided as quickly as possible.
Before I report on the plan to expand all peak hour trains from 8 carriages to 10, it’s worth noting that within the next few weeks we will have two new 10-carriage services stopping at Earlsfield. However, these will run at 7.29 and 9.30am, so outside of the high peak and will only provide very limited relief.
So, when we will have a full fleet of longer trains? Well, this is conditional on two main steps which require investment decisions to be made before they happen:
- Procurement of the fleet of longer trains by South West Trains for the Wimbledon line. This is a major investment - about 30 trains in all - that the operator is currently considering
- Re-working of Waterloo station by Network Rail. This involves converting the former Waterloo International into platforms for local services, reconfiguration of platforms 1 to 4 (and indeed all other platforms), and extensive signalling work to accommodate these changes. It will represent the largest investment at Waterloo for 100 years and will add 30% capacity, so it’s a complex project, which needs Government funding to proceed.
The main bottleneck is the Waterloo project, and assuming both of these investments are approved, we can expect to see the longer trains arriving at Earlsfield throughout 2017, with the full peak hour fleet having 10 carriages by December that year.
Ideally I would like to see this project arrive more quickly than this 3-year timeline, but if we leave it to chance and don’t make our voice heard by the Government and South West Trains, it will be a lot longer coming than even that. I know the Conservatives are very supportive of further rail investment, but we need to secure the funding for Earlsfield.
So please complete my simple survey at www.danwatkins.org.uk/campaigns/longer-trains-earlsfield which calls for the longer trains which Earlsfield so desperately needs. I will use the results to continue to press the Government for swift action to approve the investments and in doing so improve the daily commute for thousands of Earlsfield residents.