Service is worse since train timetable changed

SEEFoE Member Peter Walker writes to the local press regarding recent train timetable changes.

As a fairly frequent train passenger from Southend to East Anglia, I was most annoyed to discover how much worse the train service from Southend has become since timetable changes were introduced last month.

The most damaging point is that the three trains per hour which leave Southend now do so four minutes later than they did before. This ensures that anyone heading for Chelmsford and beyond just misses their connection and has to wait at Shenfield for about 20 minutes in most cases, instead of just a minute or two under the old timetable (that may seem like cutting it fine, but I only ever missed my connection once as a result of the train from Southend being late).

Secondly, fewer trains are stopping at Shenfield under the new timetable. Previously, the Norwich Express used to stop there at least once an hour. Now it doesn’t stop at all, other than one service in the early morning and another in the evening. Passengers from Southend now have to make an extra change at Chelmsford, involving further delay. Chelmsford, a considerably smaller town than Southend, benefits from one Norwich-bound train per hour. Passengers from Southend, changing at Shenfield, have none.

In short, passengers travelling from Southend to East Anglia can now expect their journey to take up to half an hour more than before the timetable changes.

It seems most ironic that Southend Council and Central Government are currently spending large sums on upgrading the road system in order to shave valuable seconds off motorists’ journeys whereas National Express and Network Rail have no problem with adding time to people’s travel with the stroke of a timetabler’s pen. The key point here is that the advantages of travelling to East Anglia by train rather than by car were already marginal: under the old timetable there was not much difference in travelling time, but the rail passenger could relax more and didn’t have trouble parking etc. Now it is much harder to justify the extra expense of buying a train ticket and no doubt there will be many people, including myself, abandoning the train in favour of the car.

And what will be the result of that? Greater pressure on the roads leading out of Southend and a reduction of any improvement that the works at Cuckoo Corner and Progress Road might have delivered.

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