03/10/2014 10:16 BST | Updated 03/12/2014 05:59 GMT

A Week in the Life of a Southeastern Train Commuter: Why SE London Desperately Needs a Bakerloo Extension

A public consultation on the £3 billion extension to the Bakerloo Line, which will run from Elephant & Castle towards New Cross, Lewisham, Bromley and Hayes, was held this week. For some, this may not mean much. For those who have the misfortune of relying on the coughing, spluttering coffin of hell that is a Southeastern train to commute to and from central London, however, this means a long-awaited slice of justice.

South East and South London have been accused of not being 'really' London as hardly any of it is on the tube map (even though parts of Essex and Buckinghamshire have muscled their way in). Yes, there's North Greenwich on the Jubilee Line, which is great if you live in the O2. The DLR is also squashed in a corner of the tube map and not so ideal for those who need to commute from South East into any other part of London, or vica versa. After having to smile sweetly when some poor lamb questions whether Greenwich is in Kent (it's got a SE postcode dammit!), you then have to reveal how on earth you manage to crawl to the capital from your dirty, alien, non-London hole. Behold: the Southeastern railway.


Credit: Matt Buck

A Southeastern train is a bit like the Central Line meets the Midnight Express. The journeys are long, cold and dark. All hope and ambition is lost. The carriages usually smell like drains. You'll be lucky to get a seat. In fact, you'll be lucky if your train even turns up at all. Southeastern trains are notorious for their delays and cancellations- they practically own it. This year, Southeastern was ranked Britain's worst train company in a Which? survey. It was revealed almost two-thirds of passengers are unhappy with the services Southeastern provide.

Extending the Bakerloo Line to parts of SE London/Kent is desperately needed. It's only just a start. By the time the Crossrail arrives, I will happily sing and dance at Southeastern's wake. To show how much it's needed, here's my week of travelling to and from work (Welling to White City) using Southeastern.

MONDAY 29/09/14

Welling to Charing Cross: 8:04

7:59: Platform is miserable and crowded, nothing out of the ordinary for a Monday morning.

8:01:Just paid my £45 ticket for zones 1-4. It all goes downhill from here.

8:45: Train is supposed to arrive at CC at 8:39, pulls in at 8:45 (normal).

Charing Cross to Welling: 19:32

19:17: Sprinting up the escalators at CC and make it onto the platform to meet my fate.

19:18: The train has pulled in around 10 minutes early, praise the Lord!

19:19: Park my tush in a cosy little corner and settle down to read the Evening Standard. All I need is a nice cup of tea and a pipe (that's if I smoked, which I don't).

19:36: Hmmm. Still no sign of movement.

19:38: Still nothing. My eyes are reading over the same line in the Standard.


19:42: Everyone in the carriage is getting a bit mumbly-grumbly.

19:44: Still sitting here and they've just announced the train has been "cancelled"- no explanation. A chorus of 'oh for heavens SAKE' fill the carriage as we all make our way onto the platform and run around like headless chickens.

19:48: Manage to catch a train to Hayes which stops off at London Bridge. Run like the wind to platform 1 to catch a 19:58 to Welling. Jump on it with the doors closing swiftly behind me. Southeastern will get its revenge.

TUESDAY 30/09/14

Charing Cross to Woolwich Dockyard, 18:12

17:50: Slight detour in route as I have plans to go to a friend's house in Woolwich after work. 20 minute wait for the 19:12.

18:08: Oosh, bit tense as we all crowd onto the platform with still so sign of train. Please, please, PLEASE let it actually turn up.

18:10: Glimpse of our Southeastern train in the horizon as it makes its way to the platform. Yes! We all jump up and down and hug one-another (not really, but you could tell we all wanted to)

18:14: This train is one of the fancy Southeastern trains- the ones that don't smell so much like damp and drains and have a bit more room. Still haven't left yet but it only arrived 3 minutes early as opposed to 10 so this is normal for it to leave later.

18:25: Okay, not so normal now.

18:27: Still no sign of movement.

18:32: Ah- the old "technical issue". Cancelled train. 20 minutes after we boarded. We all make our way onto the next platform and crowd onto the 19:38, some of us squashed against the windows whilst others cling onto dear life.

19:10: Slowest train in the world finally pulls into Woolwich Dockyard. I was supposed to be at my friend's house by 18:30.

WEDNESDAY 01/10/14

Welling to Charing Cross, 8:04

8:51: Only just pulled into CC as the train felt the need to stop and have a rest for 10 minutes halfway through London Bridge and Waterloo East before finally crawling its way to its final destination.

Charing Cross to Welling, 18:14

No funny business to report, apart from a 7 minute rest at Lewisham (quite normal). However, my brother said his 19:34 from London Bridge was cancelled one minute before departing as there was a fear the train had "hit someone". A new level for Southeastern, it has to be said.

THURSDAY 02/10/14

Welling to Charing Cross, 8:04

7:44: My brother just texted to say his 7:29 to Victoria was cancelled for the second day in the row.

7:59: The 8:09 to Victoria has also been cancelled- for the second day in a row.

8:03: Tense moment- but my 8:04 actually arrives one minute early.

FRIDAY 03/10/14

Welling to Charing Cross, 8:04

7:59: Make it to the platform to find the 8:09 to Victoria has been cancelled yet again. But I can't see anybody caring. My best guess is that everyone has just given up altogether travelling to Victoria using Southeastern and stayed in bed.