We thought things would be bad for commuters at London Bridge with the upcoming changes for Thameslink, but scenes from the station this week have surpassed even our expectations.
Since Monday, Southern trains' routes have been restricted due to the usual six tracks into and out of the station being reduced to just three. The inevitable result has been delays to rush-hour services and chronic overcrowding in the station itself.
Delays continued until 8.30pm on Monday and Tuesday, before extending into Wednesday afternoon. The BBC's Tom Edwards tweeted yesterday that further delays and cancellations were expected. We visited the station on Wednesday night and found there weren't the same level of queues as there have been on Monday and Tuesday, and the gate line seemed to be working, but there were delays caused by congestion in the London Bridge area which meant people were queuing to find out when their train was departing.
Commuters have also complained about the lack of information and signposting for passengers in the station itself. One Londonist reader said she waited 20 minutes just to get into the station, while others described "disruption and misery", trains leaving the station half-empty despite the crush inside, and delays of up to an hour.
Commuter Fiona Pattison has started a petition calling for "greater honesty" about the impact of the works and demanding a freezing of fares; while Dulwich and West Norwood Conservative Association has started a petition demanding compensation. London Mayor Boris Johnson is set to grill Network Rail for answers at a meeting today. A spokesman for the Mayor said:
“The Mayor shares the frustration of commuters and sympathises with them over the enormous inconvenience they’ve endured. He will be raising the recent disruption at London Bridge and indeed the chaotic scenes at Finsbury Park over Christmas with Network Rail when he meets with them.
“The Mayor wants to hear what went wrong, and to understand what lessons can be learned and how the situation can be better managed going forward.”
The good news is that the work on the Southern platforms is expected to be finished on Friday. The bad news is that from Monday it could get a whole lot worse, with Southeastern services to Charing Cross no longer calling at London Bridge until summer 2016. Southern earlier told a Twitter user that disruptions could continue for the next three years (or longer than the lifespan of a hamster). With the recent fare rises, it feels an awful lot like adding insult to injury.
Network Rail South East director Dave Ward told the BBC:
"The service provision and station operation was not what we would expect or would like to deliver to passengers.
"As a matter of urgency we will be reviewing the operation of the station concourse as clearly not only did the overcrowding prevent the station operating in an efficient manner it led to circumstances that were unpleasant for passengers."
Tell us about your commute into London Bridge in the comments.
Photos by Andy Thornley in the Londonist Flickr pool.