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Pandemic timetable chaos: Trains cut by half in south London blamed on COVID

‘Savage cuts’ that have halved trains travelling through south London have been condemned by a London Assembly member – who has written to Govia Thameslink’s chief executive, urging him to intervene.

Lib Dem assembly member Caroline Pidgeon, who also chairs its transport committee said she was ‘totally unsatisfied’ with the current timetable.

Services from Tulse Hill via East Dulwich to London Bridge are still half-hourly and routinely being cancelled, creating gaps in service of anywhere up to an hour. Routes through Herne Hill are also affected.

“There are also some very large and infrequent gaps in services, including some people now waiting for 45 minutes for some train services, such as people using Streatham station,” she wrote.

“Just this week I received an email from a constituent who makes this telling comment on the service being provided by GTR: ‘This has resulted in Tulse Hill, for example, going from eight to four trains per hour to central London. On Thameslink, the situation has left 45 minute gaps in what is supposed to be a fifteen minute service, leading to overcrowding at a time when it is important for people to still be keeping a distance’.”

Caroline Pidgeon

She believes the operator’s cuts are the worst out of any train company.

As we reported earlier this month, the operator had introduced a heavily reduced timetable at the end of July citing the ‘pingdemic’.

In a statement at the time, the operator had said: “Sadly, like many other industries across the country, coronavirus is affecting our colleagues.

“Unfortunately, following the effect of sixteen months of disruption to the business and a rapid rise in staff now needing to isolate, we have seen such a sharp increase in short notice cancellations that we have taken the difficult decision to reduce the timetable.

“We know ad-hoc cancellations are hugely frustrating for customers. Switching to a reduced timetable will help make your train service as reliable as possible under the current circumstances.

“Our colleagues will do everything they can to help you. We may need to make additional changes on the day and we strongly recommend that you check the latest travel information including at weekends at National Rail Enquiries.

“We are very sorry if these changes affect your journey plans. We will increase services as soon as we can.”

Pidgeon, however, has taken the operator to task for laying the blame entirely on the pandemic.

“Well before Covid GTR has faced serious timetable issues due to a shortage of train drivers,” she said.

“I understand that COVID has made training new drivers difficult.

“However, I would suggest your long standing shortage of train drivers and underlying capacity has exposed GTR to the problems you now face and the impact of COVID-19 should not be entirely blamed on the much reduced train service you are currently providing for train passengers.”

East Dulwich residents have taken to the area’s eponymous online forum to discuss the delays.

One poster commented:  “I have been getting the early trains (between 7am – 8am) for a couple of weeks, accompanying my husband for daily treatment at Guy’s.

“We have noticed the trains are getting busier and this new timetable will make them more so, but people are still a bit ‘precious’ about having someone sat next to them and are reserving the adjacent seat with their bags.

“As a couple of 70+ year olds and my husband suffering from cancer, if we need a seat we are more than happy to sit next to another passenger as we are both double vaxxed.”

Another said: “Recently North/ East Dulwich to London Bridge and return trains have been very poor.

“My return trains late 11pm+ have been cancelled but they don’t show to be on the southern website or on the departures board, so I end up waiting 20 minutes for a train that never gets a platform number and then just disappears off the board. Very annoying!”

Govia Thameslink Railway were contacted to provide a comment but did not reply.



  1. It’s concerning to hear about regularly cancelled scheduled train services. I hope they get their act together soon before the school term starts. My nephew, 12, takes the train from Bermondsey to Dulwich for school. Well raise our concern to GTR and the school.

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