Occupy the Gatwick Express


By - Tuesday 15th November, 2016

Commuters of Croydon, unite! You have nothing to lose but the tyranny of Govia Thameslink Railway


This is a radical manifesto.

The commuters of Croydon have been ABANDONED for TOO LONG.

We are FORCED onto TRUNCATED TRAINS filled with TOO MANY of our fellow travellers.

Veterans of the Connex years once thought that things could never possibly get any worse.

Now their laughter is HOLLOW AND EMPTY.

For Croydon is worse-served than ever. Among these pages you will find THEORIES as to who is responsible. Bosses, workers, national infrastructure. But only HERE will you find SOLUTIONS.

To begin, we must understand three basic truths.

Croydon’s railway problems are not temporary.

Croydon’s railway problems are not the fault of commuters.

Croydon’s railway problems are structural.

The dire situation is made grossly insulting with the sight of gleaming trains rocketing through East Croydon, their carriages empty save for a few suits and bags on their way to Frankfurt, Dublin or Brussels.

Through co-operation and DECISIVE BOLDNESS we can make this dream a reality

Yes, the GATWICK EXPRESS, the thirty minute shuttle between London Victoria and Gatwick Airport, makes a mockery of our commuting plight with its non-stop rushes through East Croydon.

Pleas to stop even one or two of the Gatwick Expresses each day at East Croydon, in the name of increasing Croydonians’ homeward journeys during the now-farcical rush hour, have been callously ignored.

Only DIRECT ACTION will serve to alleviate the pressure on our communities.

STEP ONE: Board a Gatwick Express train en masse at London Victoria. Do not be intimidated by the special barriers. Access to the relevant platforms can be attained via simple footwork from other gates.

STEP TWO: Enjoy a speedy and comfortable journey in a clean, modern carriage designed for express travel.

STEP THREE: Prepare to stop the train. Vanguard Leaders should leave their seats approximately twelve minutes into the journey. All other passengers should safely and discreetly brace for a sharp stop.

STEP FOUR: Pull the emergency brake. Experimentation will eventually reveal the optimum exact moment to do this in order to secure a perfect arrival at the platforms of East Croydon station.

STEP FIVE: Utilise the emergency door releases to open the doors of the train.

STEP SIX: Leave the train, exit the station, and be with your loved ones.

This IDYLLIC IMAGE is NOT beyond our reach. Through co-operation and DECISIVE BOLDNESS we can make it a reality.

If you’re reading this and you work for Govia Thameslink Railway, you could save us all a lot of hassle

But here my mask must slip. For legal reasons, I am obliged to remind my readers that I am not, in fact, a revolutionary proposing civil disobedience. I am not the Lenin of the Tattenham Corner line. I am barely the Russell Brand of South Croydon.

So you shouldn’t take what I say literally. The misuse of emergency brakes on trains not only carries hefty financial penalties, it can also endanger lives. We must, however tempting the image may be, respect the rules that keep ourselves and others safe.

If you’re reading this and you work for Govia Thameslink Railway, you could save us all a lot of hassle and apply a plaster to the gaping sore of Croydon’s rail troubles by stopping just some of the Gatwick Express services at East Croydon. I accept that it would only be a small plaster, but right now that’d be very welcome.

Please listen to us.

They say that the moment that they knew that Mrs Thatcher’s poll tax was done-for was when the respectable middle classes of Tunbridge Wells took to the streets in angry protest.

Let’s all keep that in mind.

Tom Black

Tom Black

Tom is the Citizen's General Manager, and spent his whole life in Croydon until moving to Balham in 2017. He also writes plays that are occasionally performed and books that are occasionally enjoyed. He's been a Labour Party member since 2007, and in his spare time runs an online publishing house for alternate history books, Sea Lion Press. He is fluent in Danish, but speaks no useful languages. Views personal, not representative of editorial policy.

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  • Anne Giles

    I have in the past taken a Gatwick Express from Victoria which did stop at East Croydon. The only problem was that if you were at far end of the train, the steps on the carriage were too high to step off. It required a massive jump.

  • Paddy Blewer

    If EVERYONE did this 5 times a day, 5 days a week for an extended period, combined with rushing the gates once detrained, the relevant authorities would not be able to single out individuals to punish.

  • Ian Marvin

    I’m sure that Gatwick Express is subject to the mysterious wait outside East Croydon which we are all familiar with. No doubt it also stops at East Croydon so staff can get to Selhurst Depot when they find it convenient.

    • Peter Staveley

      The mysterious wait for fast southbound trains is caused by there being a flat junction on the Fast lines to the north of the station at Windmill Bridge Junction where the Down Fast trains from London Victoria cross the Up Fast trains to London Bridge or Thameslink. There are plans to remove that, as indeed the various other conflicts in the Windmill Bridge area.

      The mysterious wait for northbound trains is caused by there being too few platforms at East Croydon to cope with the number of trains passing through. Essentially Platform 2 is used by southbound fast trains which are not stopping to pass through or northbound Thameslink trains meaning that northbound fast trains have to wait for Platform 1 to become clear. Some of that wait is included as pathing time in the scheduled timings of the trains.

      Note that this is a gross simplification of the platform usage at East Croydon which changes at different times of the day to try to cope with the different demands throughout the day.

      Again there are plans to provide an additional two platforms at East Croydon meaning that there will be two platforms in each direction for both the fast and slow line trains.

      There are apps, such as http://sussextrains.co.uk/, which show you a slightly simplified version of the display that the railway signallers use to control the trains. These apps can be useful to try to work out why your train is sitting in the middle of nowhere.

      Similarly the Working Trains are available from the Network Rail website which will show you the exact scheduled timings for each train include its pathing allowances.

      • Ian Marvin

        Thank you for your comprehensive explanation Peter. I’d never admit it in public but I was aware that there are websites which have live traffic and signalling data.

  • Peter Staveley

    I fully understand your point and I too suffer from the effects of the problems. However, from my extensive knowledge of the rail industry I think you (like many others) have missed the real culprit and are directing your (very valid) anger to the wrong organisation.

    GTR would be more than happy to stop Gatwick Express trains at East Croydon. Indeed it would resolve many of their problems. However, like all other franchises the specification is the responsibility of the DfT and they have dictated that Gatwick Express trains must not stop at East Croydon. I believe the reason for that is pressure from the owner of Gatwick Airport plus the desire (by the DfT) to keep the service separated from the other services (at least north of Gatwick Airport).

    With the London Overground concession TfL (and ultimately the London Mayor) takes all the blame should there be deficiencies in the operation. London Overground is operated by a private operator but it is not widely publicised and passengers are encouraged to respond directly to TfL. In other words TfL is an ‘informed client’. That model is also used by London Buses.

    As it happens the DfT decided for the GTR franchise for it also to be a concession (most of the rest of National Rail uses a DfT Franchise model). However, unlike TfL because the DfT has neither the structure nor the will to be an ‘informed client’ it has left GTR to pick up the pieces of decisions that the DfT have made/imposed upon GTR.

    Sure, GTR have made a lot of bad decisions but a lot of its woes are caused by a combination of numerous deficiencies of the railway infrastructure caused directly the now fully Nationalised Industry that is Network Rail and by the impositions from the Government Department that is the DfT,

    I suggest that passenger anger should mainly be directed to where it rightly belongs, i.e. the Government and particularly the DfT, rather than to the railway employees who have to take the stick for the Government’s actions.

    By the way if people do undertake the actions you describe then by the time that all the door releases have been reset and it has been established that no doors which were off the platform have been released (i.e. the GTR and Network Rail employees are certain that so are no people on the track) and the train has finally departed East Croydon then literally thousands of your fellow travellers will experience lots of time looking out of the window at the line north of Croydon and the delay will run into thousands of person-minutes but frustratingly, probably, less than the 30 minutes when delay-repay kicks in.

    What is worse is that those additional delays will affect lots more passengers well into the evening while the services try to recover. Again this is partly caused by the railway industry trying to cram too many trains onto too little infrastructure, which itself is the fault of successive Governments, particularly the Labour Government who failed to invest in Britain’s railways for virtually all of their 13 years in power.

    So, yes direct action has its place but I fear all that will happen is more passengers will be delayed. The DfT has the power to instruct GTR to change its service patterns and I would suggest campaigning there would be the best course of action.