Yesterday the expected snow hit the London area. We knew it was coming yet Southeastern trains capitulated like the Information Commissioner’s Office. Whenever the weather plays up the usual friendly greeting tends to be a shuttered ticket office and no announcements. I wasn’t surprised to see that yesterday morning. Getting home was a nightmare mainly because of the complete lack of coherent information from Southeastern.
When the weather plays up I don’t mind the odd delay. When there’s no information coming from the train operators and a complete lack of customer care that’s when there’s something very wrong going on.
When I eventually got back home I logged on to Twitter and watched the #Southeastern hashtag unfold. I’d been one of the fortunate ones. I e-mailed Caroline Pidgeon, the Vice Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee. Here’s an extract from that e-mail:
I must also question what preparations were put in place by Southeastern for dealing with the snow and why were these preparations so flawed. It had been forecast so should not have come as a surprise.
Trying to get home was truly awful. Over half of Southeastern’s display board at Victoria station was empty. The other half showed trains with “delayed” or “cancelled” as status. The National Rail website said nothing about these mass cancellations and that some services were running on time. Placatory “severe weather conditions” announcements were made but offering no real information.
The Southeastern concourse was dangerously overcrowded. I am led to understand that similar scenes occurred at London Bridge and Charing Cross stations. Then when trains were announced there was a huge surge towards the gates and a near stampede to the trains. I feared for my safety when this happened. Of course the trains were dangerously overcrowded as a result and there were no announcements made on the train. The windows dripping with condensation made it impossible to see where we were when the train did stop.
There are laws preventing animals travelling in such conditions. I was kicked, kneed, elbowed, crushed and shoved while on this train. I haven’t been treated like that since playing rugby at school. Nor do I ever wish to be again.
When I eventually fell off the train at St Mary Cray the ticket office was still closed and the monitor now showed nothing but “delayed”. I did not hear one polite word of apology from Southeastern staff during the morning or evening commutes.
I think it is high time that the management of Southeastern were properly held to account and a full review into their fitness to run the franchise undertaken. I pay over £2000 a year to Southeastern for this “service”. I must insist that Southeastern are made to account for their actions and severely penalised for their failures.
Let me be clear: by “severely penalised” I mean stripped of their franchise.
Today hasn’t been much better judging by the #Southeastern hashtag. Caroline replied to me saying that the Assembly Transport Committee will
write to them [Southeastern] again to follow up as it does not make sense with what they promised
Indeed, Caroline has spoken further about Southeastern’s failures while Mark Reckless MP has stated that he and other MPs will be requesting Southeastern boss Charles Horton attend Westminster to account for his company’s failures.
I urge anyone unhappy with their treatment from Southeastern to contact Caroline Pidgeon and Mark Reckless with their information about the performance of Southeastern during yesterday, today and however long this snow business goes on for.
The more evidence they get the stronger the argument for a full review and stripping of the franchise becomes. Again Twitter has been a better source of information than National Rail Enquiries or the Southeastern website. It is time for Charles Horton and Southeastern to go.
Good luck with your journeys home tonight.