There have been some queries recently about the reduced Southern Rail train services to Oxted and Tandridge District as a whole and so, in her role as Council leader, Cllr Catherine Sayer wrote to Govia Thameslink (who own Southern) to ask what the position is for the future. This is their reply:
Unfortunately we are currently facing a higher level of staff unavailability. To explain why the service is currently structured as it is, in late December as coronavirus cases rose, we needed a developed plan that would run reliably with fewer staff available as our absence level is very similar to the first UK lockdown, when we operated a Sunday service across the network. Absence is improving, but still significantly above the level which would make the December 2021 or September 2021 service suitable to try and offer to customers.
The only realistic option other than a Sunday service was to continue the service that had been in place over Christmas. Relative to the alternative of a Sunday service, it had the benefit of a better match to standard weekday specification, more school trains and on Southern alone, produced about 270 additional services per day, but had been planned around the closure of London Victoria, meaning many long distance services that would normally use Victoria are operating to London Bridge instead. Additionally it does mean services start later as this timetable was created on a Saturday base timetable.
We know this is very difficult for customers and we are sorry, but we wanted to provide certainty over what would run so that customers could plan.
We know how disruptive large and unexpected gaps can be, and how it can knock trust in a service. Unfortunately, with the available crew had we not opted to run the service in this way, we would be much more likely to have to cancel services. We felt this could potentially be more frustrating if, for example, customers arrived at the station for early morning services only for these to be cancelled regularly.
However, to be absolutely clear this is a temporary timetable based on a viable contingency plan. We do know we need to move to a new timetable and improve the service dramatically for our customers. We are working on this, but even with the head-start of existing plans to adapt, it is a long process. Realistically we are expecting this to mean this current base timetable will be in place until mid to late February unfortunately because of the timescales needed to develop a new safe and resilient service plan.
Once again apologies for the inconvenience facing your constituents at the moment. We would encourage all customers to check prior to travel using journey planners such as click here and we will keep you updated on future service changes.