Why did the South Eastern Division do away with buffet cars long before the Central Division did so?

yorksrob

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Interesting interior BEP pic here from latter years - 2003 it says. Couldn't find an image pre-refurb with a more original interior on my cursory look
and exterior

Not sure if it's a buffet unit, but there's some nice interior footage of the pre refurb CEP/BEP stock in the episode of The Professionals; A Stirring of Dust.

It's on ITV player at the moment.
 
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WesternLancer

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Not sure if it's a buffet unit, but there's some nice interior footage of the pre refurb CEP/BEP stock in the episode of The Professionals; A Stirring of Dust.

It's on ITV player at the moment.
Sounds worth a watch!
 

route101

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Under normal (i.e non-COVID) circumstances, there's trolleys on long distance services, but the mini buffets in the 444s are long gone.

Only time I seen trolley was on 159 from Basingstoke or Salisbury to Waterloo. Do you get trolley on third rail routes?
 

AY1975

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AY1975

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Could it simply be that loadings on the SE services were that bit lower? Granted there will have been days when large volumes of people headed to places like Margate and Hastings, but I’d place a wager that all-year-round traffic was less than to places like Brighton or Bournemouth.
I seem to remember seeing a Network SouthEast TV advert for Dreamland theme park in Margate in about 1990 with a family travelling there on a CEP and the inside of the train turning upside down as the refreshment trolley came round.
 

Colin1501

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I believe that the BEPs disappeared from the South Eastern in about 1980/81 when they were refurbished and converted to CEPs by replacing the buffet car with a former loco-hauled Mark 1 TSO. The Hastings DEMU buffet cars were also withdrawn at about the same time.
I'm trying to pin down exactly when the last buffet cars operated on the SED. AY1975's dates above are right for 'normal' services, buffets being withdrawn from Chatham line services to Ramsgate from 12 May 1980, and from Charing Cross-Dover-Ramsgate services on 5 January 1981. However, I seem to recall that buffet cars ran in Dover boat trains for some time after that, and the last BEPs did not go to Swindon for refurbishment until September 1983. Does anyone have a final date for (staffed) buffet cars on boat trains?
 
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Catering is shown for all Folkestone (Calais) and some Dover (Ostend - jetfoil / ship) boat trains in the BR 'International' section of the winter timetable (27/09/81 - 22/05/82). The summer 1982 timetable has none, but of course there might been have been a mid-winter withdrawal of the buffet cars.
 

yorksrob

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I seem to remember seeing a Network SouthEast TV advert for Dreamland theme park in Margate in about 1990 with a family travelling there on a CEP and the inside of the train turning upside down as the refreshment trolley came round.

Clearly the route required the attention of the permanent way department.
 

Colin1501

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Catering is shown for all Folkestone (Calais) and some Dover (Ostend - jetfoil / ship) boat trains in the BR 'International' section of the winter timetable (27/09/81 - 22/05/82). The summer 1982 timetable has none, but of course there might been have been a mid-winter withdrawal of the buffet cars.
Thank you - that is really helpful.
 

AY1975

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I'm trying to pin down exactly when the last buffet cars operated on the SED. AY1975's dates above are right for 'normal' services, buffets being withdrawn from Chatham line services to Ramsgate from 12 May 1980, and from Charing Cross-Dover-Ramsgate services on 5 January 1981. However, I seem to recall that buffet cars ran in Dover boat trains for some time after that, and the last BEPs did not go to Swindon for refurbishment until September 1983. Does anyone have a final date for (staffed) buffet cars on boat trains?
I'm guessing that buffets were withdrawn in three stages as the BEPs went for refurbishment and the number of available buffet cars diminished. Dr Hoo mentioned in entry 18 in this thread that by the 1980s vast new housing developments in the Medway towns led to rising demand for travel into London by commuters from those places so BR's number one priority was to provide as many seats as possible on that route, which could be why Chatham line services lost their buffets first (and I think the Hastings DEMU buffets were also withdrawn with the May 1980 timetable change).

I would expect that in practice the last buffets on Charing Cross-Dover-Ramsgate services might have operated just before Christmas 1980 if they didn't bother opening between Christmas and New Year.

Do you know if the SED stopped using BEPs as soon as buffets had officially been withdrawn, or did they carry on running with their buffets closed for a short while after that until they went for refurbishment?
Catering is shown for all Folkestone (Calais) and some Dover (Ostend - jetfoil / ship) boat trains in the BR 'International' section of the winter timetable (27/09/81 - 22/05/82). The summer 1982 timetable has none, but of course there might been have been a mid-winter withdrawal of the buffet cars.
I recently saw a photo on Facebook of a BEP on a Dover boat train in early September 1981 (about 4th September I think). I seem to recall reading somewhere that all on-train catering on the SED was withdrawn in September 1981, and in entry 30 in this thread I mentioned a Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable from around that time that said catering on Dover and Folkestone boat trains had been withdrawn at short notice - maybe that decision had not been taken by the time the international section of the 1981/82 BR winter timetable had gone to press.

It seems a bit odd that the SED still managed to find enough buffet stewards just to staff the buffets on boat trains between January and September 1981, as boat trains only accounted for a small percentage of all SED services and often involved unbalanced workings as mentioned in entry 29 above. That was surely not a very productive use of staff resources once they no longer had any "normal" (i.e. non-boat) trains to work.
 

Dr Hoo

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Just noticed an item in the October 1980 Railway Magazine. The last five Hastings buffet cars were due to cease 'in May' but had a stay of execution until 22 August whist a commuter group 'Save Our Buffets' (SOB) worked with BR to try and find commercial/advertising sponsorship.

In the January 1980 edition there was a report on a (national) review of train catering in which 'only' Clacton, Ramsgate and Hastings were to be chopped, from May. Withdrawal of the Ramsgate services (presumably meaning the BEPs) would allow catering services on the Dover route to be 'stepped up' in connection with Seaspeed hovercraft services.

So it looks as though Dover was definitely given a 'last chance' around 1980-81.
 

Journeyman

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What were the menus like by the end? I'm guessing it was pretty much just sandwiches, snacks and drinks.
 

Helvellyn

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Just noticed an item in the October 1980 Railway Magazine. The last five Hastings buffet cars were due to cease 'in May' but had a stay of execution until 22 August whist a commuter group 'Save Our Buffets' (SOB) worked with BR to try and find commercial/advertising sponsorship.

In the January 1980 edition there was a report on a (national) review of train catering in which 'only' Clacton, Ramsgate and Hastings were to be chopped, from May. Withdrawal of the Ramsgate services (presumably meaning the BEPs) would allow catering services on the Dover route to be 'stepped up' in connection with Seaspeed hovercraft services.

So it looks as though Dover was definitely given a 'last chance' around 1980-81.
Interesting that all the affected routes were multiple unit operated ones. This review of catering ties in with when the 50 Mark 2C/2D TSOTs (or micro-buffets) were converted allowing routes such as Waterloo-Exeter to retain a catering service albeit only a trolley.
 

AY1975

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Although the Kent Coast electrification seemed to be done for longer distance flows - most obviously Dover and Thanet <-> London - this certainly didn't seem to be where most of the passengers were travelling by the 1980s. A significant cohort of long-distance super-commuters from places like Herne Bay who had moved out there around 1960 with a view to later seaside retirement had indeed retired. The days of trains being able to run full non-stop from Whitstable to Cannon Street had long gone.

In contrast a vast number of houses had been built around the Medway towns, largely driven by the construction of the M2. Journeys to the Medway were under an hour and the demand for refreshments was far less. Rising demand dictated 12-VEP formations on the busiest trains with no scope for a buffet.
Slightly off-topic, but in about 1993 Network SouthEast introduced a blanket smoking ban on all NSE trains with the exception of longer-distance South Western Division services. I remember seeing posters at stations on the South Eastern Division announcing the forthcoming smoking ban saying that the average journey time on Kent Coast services was only 40 minutes, and because of this NSE considered it reasonable to ban smoking.

I guess this reflected the fact (as Dr Hoo alluded to in entry 18 above) that by the 1980s and 90s most passengers on longer-distance SED trains were travelling intermediately (e.g. London-Medway towns, Medway towns-Faversham, Faversham-Dover/Thanet) rather than end to end. This may well also be the reason that Charing Cross-Dover-Ramsgate trains no longer ran non-stop between Waterloo East and Ashford from about 1989 onwards: presumably by this time not many people were travelling all the way from London to the likes of Ashford, Folkestone, Dover, Deal and Sandwich, so BR probably deemed that the inconvenience caused to such passengers by making their journeys a few minutes longer would be outweighed by adding stops at stations such as Orpington, Sevenoaks and Tonbridge that would generate extra traffic (and extra revenue) for these trains.

The Central Division's catering provision always seemed somewhat over-generous - Pullmans with full meal services surviving into the seventies, on a route with a journey time of an hour, seems incredible now. Possibly just a historical accident, given that the LBSCR was a keen user of Pullman cars.

Just noticed an item in the October 1980 Railway Magazine. The last five Hastings buffet cars were due to cease 'in May' but had a stay of execution until 22 August whist a commuter group 'Save Our Buffets' (SOB) worked with BR to try and find commercial/advertising sponsorship.

In the January 1980 edition there was a report on a (national) review of train catering in which 'only' Clacton, Ramsgate and Hastings were to be chopped, from May. Withdrawal of the Ramsgate services (presumably meaning the BEPs) would allow catering services on the Dover route to be 'stepped up' in connection with Seaspeed hovercraft services.

So it looks as though Dover was definitely given a 'last chance' around 1980-81.

Again slightly off-topic as Clacton is Eastern Region, but I think you could also say that the griddle car service on the Clacton line in the 1960s and '70s, for the first 20 or so years of the Class 309 EMUs, was rather over-generous for a route with an end to end journey time of only about 90 minutes. A griddle car wasn't the same as a full restaurant car service, but even so it would seem incredible now for a journey of that sort of length. And as with the Kent coast resorts such as Margate and Ramsgate, I would guess that Clacton would be the sort of place that could attract large numbers of visitors on a fine summer day but probably didn't enjoy anywhere near as much year-round traffic as places like Brighton or Bournemouth.

I'm guessing that when the CEP refurbishments started, BR hoped that the hovercraft and jetfoil services from Dover would help to boost takings on South Eastern Division buffet cars on both boat trains and normal services, so they kept them on Dover services for a while after their withdrawal from the Victoria-Chatham-Ramsgate route on a use-it-or-lose-it basis, but in the event it wasn't the success that had been anticipated so they decided to do away with all on-train catering on the SED, thereby reducing the cost of the CEP refurbishment programme by converting most of the BEPs to CEPs.
 
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