By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter
South Londoners are furious after Southern axed train services to London’s main stations.
Commuters in Lewisham’s suburbs have been without direct weekday connections to London Bridge and London Victoria for most of the last two years.
Residents of Sydenham, Forest Hill and Crystal Palace have been forced to board the Overground to Canada Water then change on to the London Underground to reach some of the capital’s biggest stations.
They say the reduction in trains has added up to half an hour to their journeys and means already overcrowded stations like Canada Water are even busier.
Southern has blamed the reduced services on staff absences due to Covid.
Sydenham resident Melanie Worthington, 43, said she had taken to cycling to her office in central London because of the lack of trains.
The civil servant said: “I could understand them reducing the frequency but to withdraw the service completely seems a massive overreaction if it’s just staff absences. Since the trains stopped I’ve been cycling into work. It’s a bit of an extreme.
“We have driven into town a couple of times. I would never have done that before. I don’t want to be adding to the traffic problem on London’s roads. I want to get the train. My husband works at London Bridge and before he could get a direct train from Sydenham to London Bridge but now he has to get the Tube.”
Southern’s London Bridge to London Victoria service, which goes via stations including Sydenham, Forest Hill and Crystal Palace, is one of the routes where trains have been stopped.
Another service no longer running on weekdays is Southern’s East Croydon to London Bridge service via Forest Hill, which stops at Sydenham.
Teacher Isobel lives in Sydenham and relies on the connection to reach her workplace – a 15 minute walk from East Croydon station.
Since the service was cancelled, she has been forced to get the train to West Croydon, which is 30 minutes away.
She said: “It’s very annoying having an extra 30 minutes added to my daily commute and really impacting my well-being to be honest.”
Southern said that from February 28, trains running on the West Croydon to London Victoria line via Crystal palace will once again stop at all stations. Full service will resume on the East Croydon to London Bridge on the same day.
Passengers travelling between London Bridge and London Victoria will have to change at Norwood Junction or East Croydon.
Southern’s interim chief operating officer, Angie Doll, said: “Our customers tell us they want a reliable service, not lots of last-minute cancellations, and that has always been at the heart of our decision-making.
“This timetable ensures services are as reliable as possible when fewer staff are available due to the effects of coronavirus. We’re really sorry if this affects your journey.
“As before, we’d strongly urge people to check before they travel for the latest information and to leave extra time for their journeys.”
Pictured top: Melanie Worthington has taken to cycling to work because of the lack of direct trains between Sydenham and London Bridge (Image: Melanie Worthington)