The Evening Boris report that TfL will start taking control of London metro train services from 2018 is excellent news. “About bloody time!” seems to be the general consensus I’ve heard on the platforms and concourses of Cannon Street and London Bridge stations.
It is also extremely overdue. I have said before that Southeastern are the worst train operating company in the country and my experiences since first expressing that opinion continue to confirm it.
This news comes too late for many who have found Southeastern’s unreliability threatening to their jobs and careers; they have had to change to jobs are closer to home with lower salaries to avoid being sacked because of Southeastern. I will be moving closer to my workplace because I have had enough of unreliable train services affecting my commute and resent paying over the odds for that privilege.
It is not unreasonable to argue that Southeastern’s unreliability is costing London’s economy through poor services making people late for work and for overcharging obscenely for travelcards. Southeastern have made a profit based on contempt for and incompetence and dishonesty towards the customer. The same could conceivably be argued for the other train companies running Metro services into London: Thameslink, Southern, South West Trains and Great Northern also have their share of disgruntled customers.
If their attitudes towards customers are anything like Southeastern’s then having all metro services under the TFL Overground brand is the right thing to do. It will get the incoming money reinvested where it needs to be.
It continues to surprise me that businesses have not been more vocal in their condemnation of the train operating companies. That said, the London Assembly has been weak in its action against Southeastern as well.
While this is good news in principle, a few questions do come to mind:
Do customers have to continue to put up with the current status quo until the TfL takeover?
If so will travelcard prices be frozen to prevent the train companies from screwing customers as much as they can until the TfL takeover?
Will there be direct accountability for when services fail?
Will there be an improvement in the information given to customers?
Will there be direct accountability for those coming in from outside London on other rail services?
Will the metro services be branded as London Overground immediately or will there be a period of running as TfL Rail?
Since taking over the Liverpool Street – Shenfield metro line last year TfL Rail have not been all that impressive. Their communications when there have been problems recently have been almost Southeastern-like.
TfL should be aware that Southeastern (and other train companies’) customers will expect significantly better performance and communications than this.