Southern Rail is cancelling their direct off-peak services between Brighton and London Victoria, generating a backlash from commuters and politicians.
Gemma Laws | Staff Writer
Last week, Southern Rail announced to commuters that they will stop running their direct off-peak services between Brighton and London Victoria. This timetable change, which will be implemented on 17 May 2020, is due to upgrade works at Gatwick Airport station.
As a result, passengers wishing to travel direct from Brighton to London during off-peak hours will need to use either the Gatwick Express services to London Victoria or the Thameslink services to London Bridge. Otherwise, passengers will need to change at stations such as East Croydon, Haywards Heath or Preston Park. The Thameslink and Gatwick Express services are expected to remain largely the same.
The timetable change is expected to last from May 2020 to May 2022, during which intensive platform work will take place at Gatwick Airport station. This is part of a £150 million plan by Network Rail to upgrade the station. Angie Doll, Managing Director of Southern and Gatwick Express, explains the upgrade is vital to ‘address overcrowding’ and ‘improve accessibility’ with increasing numbers of passengers using the station every year.
The announcement has been controversial for commuters, with those still wishing to travel directly to London Victoria after May 17 having to pay around ⅓ more by using the Gatwick Express. Several Brighton politicians have voiced their opposition. For instance, Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, called the move ‘unacceptable’.
Similarly, Lloyd Russel-Moyle, the Labour MP for Brighton and Kemptown, called it a ‘setback’ that would ‘improve the lives of almost no commuter’. He suggested disabled passengers will suffer the most in having to either pay more or deal with the challenge of changing trains. Russel-Moyle went on to state his plans to meet and discuss public concerns with Govia Thameslink Railway – which operates the Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express services.
The planned two years of adjusted timetables will likely impact the many students and lecturers who commute from London to university or travel through London to go home, who may have to choose between a more expensive journey and a more complicated journey. The full altered timetable is expected to be available on journey planner websites from late February.
[Image Credit: Tomas Anton Escobar]