Southeastern has confirmed that 30 “nearly new” trains are to come into service on the line through Charlton this autumn to replace some of its existing Networker stock, which is nearly 30 years old.
The Class 707 trains had been built to serve lines out of Waterloo, but were deemed surplus to requirements when South Western Railway took over the route in August 2017, just weeks after the first trains entered service.
Now the trains – which are very similar to the ones used by Thameslink – are being repainted blue to run on Southeastern’s metro lines to Dartford, as well as to Hayes and Sevenoaks. They will also have wi-fi, information screens and plug sockets.
They will replace some of the familiar Networker trains, which have been a common sight in the area since 1992, when they followed the old slam-door trains. A handful of Networkers have already been taken to Worksop, Nottinghamshire, for storage.
David Statham, Southeastern’s managing director, said: “Bringing in modern, reliable trains with more space is an important part of the work we are doing to encourage people back to rail travel.
“Following a great effort by everyone across the railway, I’m very pleased to confirm that our new trains are getting set to carry passengers later this year.
“The Class 707 represents a big investment in our train fleet and I’m really looking forward to welcoming our customers aboard.”
Thameslink took over what used to be the Charing Cross to Gillingham service in May 2018, converting it to a Luton to Rainham service.
In 2019 the company was told to set up a £15 million Passenger Benefit Fund to improve stations and facilities Initially, Charlton and other Greenwich line stations were left out of the fund, but were included after lobbying from local MP Matt Pennycook. Even then, the fund’s existence was poorly publicised and had to be reopened after a government minister stepped in.
Having lobbied hard back in 2019 for @TLRailUK's Passenger Benefit Fund to be opened to bids for specific proposals on Southeastern-managed stations on the Greenwich Line, I'm pleased we’ve secured £220k for a range of improvements across six stations. pic.twitter.com/66ppd8KST0
Yesterday, it emerged that the £30,000 allocated to Charlton will be spent on the community garden, a new waiting shelter on platform 2 and waiting shelter improvements on platform 1. Work should be completed by September.
The news was broken on social media by Pennycook, who said: “I’m pleased we’ve secured £220k for a range of improvements across six stations.” Other work to be carried out locally includes landscaping at Westcombe Park and passenger information systems at Maze Hill. Woolwich Dockyard is not served by Thameslink trains so is not included in the fund.
The drab bridge over the railway line at Charlton station has been brightened up by a colourful new mural marking 100 years since Charlton Athletic first played at The Valley.
Artist Lionel Stanhope, whose creations have livened up drab corners all over south-east London, has spent two days working on the mural on Charlton Church Lane along with fellow artist and sculptor Zara Gaze. The project has been paid for by the Charlton Athletic Museum, an independent charity which seeks to preserve and celebrate the football club’s distinguished heritage.
Network Rail has supported the project, which sees Charlton join Brockley, Hither Green, Lee, Forest Hill and Plumstead as neighbourhoods with a Stanhope mural.
Charlton Athletic first played at The Valley on September 13, 1919. The first match in what was then known simply as the Charlton Enclosure, was a 2-0 win for Charlton’s “A” team against Summerstown. It took place in the South Suburban League – league football was still two years away.
Volunteers had converted the old sand pits – then known locally as The Swamp – into a usable football ground after an appeal from the local MP, Sir Ion Hamilton Benn, at a public meeting at the Mission Hall in Troughton Road a few months before.
Stanhope, who used graffiti-resistant materials to create the mural, told The Charlton Champion: “It’s a nice one to do. The colours are really going to brighten up this little stretch outside the station.”
He has completed over 25 murals – mostly large creations under bridges, but a few, like Charlton’s, are smaller works on overbridges. His work is now spreading to railway land outside London, including Kent and Sussex and as far afield as Wales.
Ben Hayes, a trustee of the Charlton Athletic Museum, said: “As a museum we wanted to do something to mark the centenary of The Valley but at the same time brighten up the area. I drink in the Radical Club in Plumstead before games, so always see Lionel’s work by Plumstead station and thought it would work perfectly at Charlton, Eddie Burton at Network Rail was really helpful and Lionel was keen from the start.
“The Valley has a special place in Charlton fans’ hearts for many reasons. Nearly all fans love their own stadium but what makes The Valley special is that it was dug out in 1919 by fans, one of whom was Bob Sims, my great-uncle, and players.
“And then in the 1980s and 90s when we were forced to leave the fans, along with Roger Alwen and the other directors, fought to bring us home. The Valley is Charlton and Charlton is the Valley.”
Hayes added: “We hope it helps local people take pride in their area. It certainly brightens up what was a bit of a drab railway bridge. The football club played a major part in reviving the local community just after World War One when the Valley opened and the sign is one way of that.”
Fellow museum trustee Clive Harris said: “’Now more than ever our community is important. Charlton Athletic is so intrinsically entwined with the local community that to us, as a museum, it seemed the perfect way to commemorate the centenary of our beloved Valley. We hope it becomes an integral local landmark for generations to come.”
The mural also includes a small tribute to Seb Lewis, a 38-year-old Charlton fan who died from Covid-19 this week. A familiar and much-loved figure at The Valley, Lewis had attended 1,076 consecutive matches since 1998 before being admitted to hospital earlier this month. Stanhope was asked to add “Seb 1076” to the mural this morning, a couple of hours after fans heard about the news.
“I just heard about it this morning – it’s a nice touch to add his name and the number of games he’d been to,” Stanhope said.
Hayes said: “When adding ‘Seb 1076’ was suggested, we thought it was a brilliant idea. It makes the design extra special for everyone connected to the club. Seb was a regular visitor to the museum so we’re grateful to have a way to commemorate him in a small way.”
Museum is for local people too
The museum has been open for five years and has generated interest from other clubs, as well as holding events like last summer’s Blitz walk of the area with local historian Steve Hunnisett. Hayes said: “We’ve had visits and enquires for other English clubs such as Wimbledon, Luton and Exeter who have plans for new stadiums or stands that will include museum rooms. We also had a visit from the museums of Benfica of Portugal and Boca Juniors of Argentina.
“We hope that local people, whether they are Addicks fans or not will find something of interest. The way the club was founded in the streets near what is now the Thames Barrier by 14 and 15 year old boys is very much a local story. We’ve had plenty of non-Charlton fans visit and they have all found something that engages them. It might be the old rattles people used or the photos of local people stood on the packed Valley terraces.”
Now Hayes and others are thinking about a bigger idea – decorating the blank wall on the corner of Floyd Road for a wider celebration of the local area.
“There is a big blank wall on the corner of Charlton Church Lane and Floyd Road that is ripe for a mural showing the history of Charlton from the Horn Fair, Spencer Perceval, Siemens, the Thames Barrier and, obviously, Charlton Athletic. It’s something we’d love to work on with local residents’ and history groups,” he said.