R.I.P. 8:09 from Whitstable

With the introduction of the new Southeastern timetable on January 11th 2015, the 8:09 from Whitstable will be late once and for all, having shuffled off the timetable entirely.

This oddity of a train (and its previous incarnation as the 8:10) was my staple for many years. Nestling awkwardly at the tail end of the rush hour, it still required a premium ticket, so too early for the day trippers, but too late for most of the hardcore commuters. This made it a nice and quiet train for the bulk of the journey. However, at Whitstable it coincided perfectly with the school kids travelling to Faversham, so getting on it was somewhere between a pop concert and a rugby scrum. Still, it would calm down quickly enough when they got off at the next stop.

The new timetable is possibly the biggest change I’ve seen in over 15 years of commuting, so it’s worth checking it out if you rely on the train. For Whitstable, it’s very much a case of giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

The introduction of hourly direct High Speed trains to St Pancras throughout the day is, on the face of it, a good thing, reducing journey times to London considerably. Although, at the extra cost of a High Speed supplement, it might be too much money for some people. The direct Victoria service is reduced to one an hour, but you can change back onto a Victoria train at Faversham from the High Speed if you don’t fancy paying the supplement – adding, of course, another 5-10 minutes to an already lengthy journey. When I first moved to Whitstable, journey times to Victoria were in the 70-80 minute range, these days it’s over 90.

However, whereas previously the Victoria trains were timed so you could jump across onto a High Speed train at Faversham if you wanted, that link has been lost. So, there really is only one St Pancras option per hour from Whitstable now, which seems like a big price to pay for the 10 minutes saved on the hourly direct trains.

Coming home in the evening, it’s the same story. Whereas you could get any of the half-hourly trains from St Pancras to Faversham and jump on the Whitstable train a few minutes later, now your only option is to get the hourly direct service, or go to Victoria. In effect we’ve gone down from four train options per hour (two from Victoria and two from St Pancras) to three, which feels like a net loss to me.

In the heart of the morning rush hour not much has changed, especially either side of 7am which is core commuter territory. There are some notable changes though which I’m guessing will hit a few people quite hard. As well as the loss of the 8:09, the 7:53 now goes to Blackfriars instead of Cannon Street, which is an interesting switch. There’s a few direct trains between Faversham and Blackfriars now, which adds to the options but it’s not a quick journey.

In the late morning rush hour there are now no sensible options to St Pancras at all – you could previously get the 8:09 and change at Faversham but that doesn’t exist, and the new 8:24 to Victoria misses the connection. The next option is 8:50, meaning there’s well over an hour gap from 7:39. That’s pretty poor and I know a number of commuters will suffer as a result – this would have affected me quite badly in previous years.

In the evening I’m not seeing any major changes – the Cannon Street trains look much the same either side of 18:00, and the fast St Pancras trains remain the same. I hope they add more carriages to the 18:25 though, it’s getting very full these days. There’s still two trains an hour from Victoria as well.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve noticed any other big changes that I’ve missed. Don’t bother telling me how sad I am for analysing a train timetable, I already know, thanks!

R.I.P. 8:09 – no flowers.

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