A new rail timetable is in place, having commenced yesterday, 13 December 2015.
The timetable, largely affecting off-peak services, was put together after a consultation process.
Arguably the biggest change for Reigate passengers is that off-peak services that used to run to/from London Bridge are now running to/from London Victoria. These trains will now be non-stop between Redhill and East Croydon, meaning a change at Redhill for intermediate stations such as Merstham.
Although some off-peak Reigate travellers will prefer Victoria as their terminus, and welcome the faster journey time, commuters normally coming home from London Bridge before the evening peak, perhaps to collect children, will now have to change at least once and face a new schedule.
The shift of services to London Victoria will also have an impact at Redhill, which will see less off-peak services to London Bridge as a result of these and other changes. The station will however gain an increase in Three Bridges – Bedford Thameslink services which travel across London through stations such as Blackfriars, Farringdon and St Pancras.
Redhill also now loses its direct off-peak connection with the South Coast, as Bognor Regis / Portsmouth Harbour / Southampton Central trains will no longer call there, meaning a change of trains en-route.
The background to the new timetable is the future completion of the Thameslink Programme in 2018, which includes the London Bridge upgrade work. The new schedule is aimed at the wider network, introducing new journey options, reducing travel times between London and South Coast destinations, and removing duplication on the Brighton Main Line while incorporating the Gatwick Express. The more local changes are stated to be aimed at performance and capacity improvments on the Redhill route, introducing new journey opportunities between Redhill and St Pancras before 2018, and reducing journey times between Tonbridge, Reigate and London while retaining existing journey times between Redhill and London.
The Reigate, Redhill & District Rail Users Association (RRDRUA) is critical of the alerations, in particular pointing to:
“Loss of 50% of off peak service [Redhill] to London Bridge (no longer turn up and go)
50% cut in trains to Crawley & Horsham – plus extended journey time as fast train lost
Loss of 100% of trains to Bognor, Portsmouth and Southampton
Loss of daytime Reigate to London Bridge services
Loss of 50% of trains to Norwood Junction
Loss of 2 evening peak services from Blackfriars to Redhill (since reinstated due to RRDRUA pressure)
Journey times extended to Victoria as trains will be forced to run on less reliable slow lines from East Croydon”
RRDRUA has highlighted the changes as coming against a background of high commuter fares, compared to some stations further away from London, and the poor service while London Bridge works are being carried out. An RRDRUA spokesman said:
“The Redhill route has truly become the Cinderella line heaping misery upon the thousands of daily commuters, stuck in delays on overcrowded trains day in, day out. We call it the #Redhillmoo effect!”
Travellers will only have a limited time in December to try out the changes, as there are major service changes over the festive period – see our article on the engineering works.