Direct off-peak Southern services from Brighton to London Victoria to be scrapped

Direct off-peak Southern services from Brighton to London Victoria are set to disappear from the rail timetable.

Southern's operator GTR is having to make changes to its timetable due to works at Gatwick Airport Railway Station
Southern's operator GTR is having to make changes to its timetable due to works at Gatwick Airport Railway Station

From May, Govia Thameslink Railway is changing its timetables for two years to make space for a massive upgrade to Gatwick Airport Railway Station to relieve crowding, improve accessibility and reduce delays.

Network Rail’s building work will put platforms out of use and mean speed restrictions for trains passing through the worksite, all of which means fewer services can run.

There will be two fewer Gatwick Express trains in each of the hours either side of the busiest hour of the morning peak but the trains will be longer 12-carriage trains to compensate.

Meanwhile during off-peak times the two-trains-an-hour Southern service direct from Brighton to Victoria will no longer run.

According to GTR, off-peak passengers buying a Travelcard to use the Tube/TfL services in London won’t have to pay any more than they do today to travel direct from Brighton to Victoria because these tickets are already valid on all the trains, including Gatwick Express. The cost of this is £25.30.

If someone wants to travel off-peak direct to Victoria and not include the TfL Travelcard then the current price is £19.80 for Southern-only.

From May, this journey, with Gatwick Express, would rise to £25.30 but that ticket also gives them use of the Tube and other TfL services.

However, they can still travel for £19.80 by taking a Thameslink train to Haywards Heath and then catching a Southern train from the same platform to Victoria.

This journey takes nine minutes longer (the trains leave Brighton eight minutes earlier and arrive one minute later).

GTR says removing the off-peak Brighton service will allow it to eliminate the splitting and joining of the Eastbourne and Littehampton services at Haywards Heath.

Angie Doll, managing director of Southern and Gatwick Express, said: “With over 20million passengers now using Gatwick station every year, this upgrade is essential to address overcrowding, improve accessibility and maintain a sustainable, reliable and punctual rail service for visitors and commuters along the route alike.

“This revised temporary timetable will create room for the work at the station while retaining as many services as possible, supplemented by longer trains.”

Paul Harwood, regional investment director for Network Rail, added: “The continued popularity and convenience of travelling by rail to Gatwick Airport means the station is now seeing more passengers than it was ever designed to handle. With further growth forecast, the station is in urgent need of improvement so that rail travel to and from the airport can continue to grow and help Gatwick support the local economy even more.

“The temporary timetable changes will enable this vital construction work, allowing us to make the station safer, more accessible and capable of supporting smoother journeys for more trains and passengers long into the future.”

Brighton politicians have already signalled their opposition to the removal of the direct Southern services between Brighton and Victoria.

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, called the move ‘totally unacceptable’, while Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown Lloyd Russell-Moyle called it a ‘de facto price hike’ and argued that disabled passengers would now have to either change trains or pay more.

Exact details of the timetable changes are due to be published later this month.