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Author Topic: State of the Network - Kentish smaller stations during the pandemic  (Read 281 times)
grahame
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« on: January 11, 2021, 08:55:36 am »

A very interesting article / longer read from Kent Online

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Railways face uncertain future as Covid-19 lockdown forces people in Kent to stay home

During the first wave of the pandemic passenger numbers on the nation's railways plummeted to levels last seen in the Victorian era, and with the nation plunged into lockdown once more it could be some time before our trains are busy once more.

With the railways facing a once-in-a-generation crisis, we challenged reporter Rhys Griffiths to visit the county's five least-used stations in one day and examine the state of the network in 2021. Here's how he got on.

He talks of no passenger except himself at Bekesbourne and Swale, Kemsing, Beltring and Snowdown which (I'm sure) is an accurate report in the midst of restrictions ...

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Unfortunately Covid had other ideas, and with the county under Tier 3 restrictions at the time of my journey, it seemed an awful lot of people were unable to venture out since non-essential was strongly discouraged amid the spiralling rates of coronavirus in this part of the world.

However, as journalists are considered key workers (no laughing at the back) I was free to embark on my quest as planned,

and I do wonder if his journey revealed any long term messages, or indeed really was "essential".   

The headline Railways face uncertain future as Covid-19 lockdown forces people in Kent to stay home may be correct, but it's a sad reflection on those who decide how these things are to work if they have been (correctly) discouraging train use in the short term, but then use the effect of those short term and extraordinary measures to throw doubt on something that was working perfectly well ...
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« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2021, 08:53:30 am »

There are many stations in rural Kent that normally only see passengers on a few early morning and evening London commuter trains and a morning and evening school children. the rest of the day the half hourly stops will see perhaps no one boarding or leaving a service.

If the services to some of the station are suspended they are unlikely to see the return of the previous full service
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« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2021, 10:51:42 am »

There are many stations in rural Kent that normally only see passengers on a few early morning and evening London commuter trains and a morning and evening school children. the rest of the day the half hourly stops will see perhaps no one boarding or leaving a service.

If the services to some of the station are suspended they are unlikely to see the return of the previous full service

Of the stations highlighted by the article, only one that I can see has a service call half hourly in each direction in the pre-covid timetable - the others are hourly and that's around a tipping point below which a regional service becomes inadequate for general all day use.  Some experience here (away from the South East) where a station's passenger numbers are held back by a service running at a poor frequency, even though the catchment is a a good one.

I am going to refrain from commenting on the individual Kentish cases - but I was a (school) commuter through three smaller Kentish stations some 50 years ago.  Chelsfield, Knockholt and Dunton Green calls on the 07:55 from Orpington, a 10 car train running against the peak flow, had little traffic.  The occasional slamming door indicated they weren't completely unused.  A similar story on the 16:01, 16:31, etc, back from Sevenoaks.  But they provide examples of how services develop.

At Chelsfield, development was already in the process or turning a rural station into a suburban one at around the time I was there, and watching from afar, I saw extra trains starting to call there. Today, passenger journeys are nearly a million a year.

At Knockholt, passenger journeys have risen from 88 thousand per annum to quarter of a million from the ORR data from 1988 to last year - a fourfold increase.

And if you think the Knockholt figures are spectacular, take a look at Dunton Green where numbers are up from 23k to 260k journeys per annum - that's ten fold. In my day, a station close enough to Sevenoaks to loose out to it, and reeling from the loss of interchange traffic to/from the Westerham branch.  (I wonder if the same growth could be seen at Dilton Marsh if its service was sorted out ...)

I am not speaking on the other cases where I have no experience, other than to throw in a caution about taking short term decisions without looking at local conditions and development plans.  Kemsing is on the fringes of my experience; I am surprised to see its numbers so low ... though even there the published stats show a 4 fold traffic increase over the same period looks at for the Orpington to Sevenoaks section.
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