Train, Train, Plane

Direct rail service from W12 to Gatwick Airport comes to an end

The direct train service from Shepherd’s Bush to Gatwick Airport will end this weekend as Southern make major timetable changes across their network.

The Watford Junction to Brighton service currently calls at Shepherd’s Bush and Gatwick, allowing W12 residents to travel straight to the airport without changing.


However, from Sunday 14 December, it will run from Watford, call at Shepherd’s Bush but will only go as far south as East Croydon, where passengers for Gatwick Airport and Brighton will need to catch a second train.


“Research data shows that most of the passengers on this line to Watford make local journeys and change at Clapham Junction for stations in South London. Only 6% of passengers on board north of Clapham Junction then continue to stations south of East Croydon,” say Southern.


Mark Balaam of the West London Line Group says Shepherd’s Bush passengers travelling to the airport will need to change trains at Clapham Junction or East Croydon, which has step-free access. “The West London Line group is very disappointed with the withdrawal of the Gatwick service. We continue to press the Department for Transport and Southern to restore the link as soon as possible,” he said. 


London TravelWatch, a passengers' group that lobbies for better public transport services in the capital, said it also wanted to see the return of the direct service:

"The Southern West London Line has been re-cast to run between Milton Keynes and East Croydon instead of between Watford and Brighton. The DfT's original proposal was to have no trains running south of Clapham Junction, and we campaigned very strongly for this decision to be reversed, and are pleased that Southern has found a way of operating as far as East Croydon. Unfortunately, the new paths being used by these trains make it impossible for them to operate to Gatwick. However, we believe that this link should be re-instated at the earliest opportunity and will continue to press for this," a spokesperson said.

Shepherd’s Bush MP Andy Slaughter says he will be lobbying Lord Adonis, the rail minister, to get the direct link reinstated: “It is my understanding that it is not logistically impossible to run a train to Gatwick,” he said. 


Southern say the change is part of wider plan to run more trains on the notoriously crowded Brighton Main Line, which runs from Brighton to London Victoria. Southern say there have been consistent calls for direct train services to Victoria from some of the stations just north of Brighton, as many more passengers from these stations want to go to London Victoria than to any of the stations on the Watford Junction branch, where Shepherd’s Bush is.


The train company say the new timetable is designed “to reduce crowding and provide the greatest benefit for the greatest number of passengers. This needed to be achieved by making the best use of the trains and railway lines available”.


From the end of January 2009, the East Croydon to Watford service, which stops at Shepherd’s Bush, will be extended northwards to run to Milton Keynes.


Also in 2009, new trains will be introduced on the West London Line which will be longer, more spacious and more easily accessible.

Yasmine Estaphanos

11 December 2008