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Bonkers Blog January 2016

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15 January (Part 1) - Heading for the buffers

I’m not very enthusiastic about allowing Bonkers to stray well beyond its usual remit even when it is by reader request. Neither is it easy to summon up the same degree of commitment to any old subject on demand but my arm has been gently twisted and today BiB lends a little support to the campaign to rid Southeastern trains of its franchise for their alleged shortcomings.

CancelledI have been a long term fence sitter on matters Southeastern and it is only recently that I have become disenchanted with their service.

With eight trains an hour in each direction from Abbey Wood station only seven minutes walk from home I have long regarded it as my own personal taxi service. Much quicker than a bus when heading south to Bexley or Sidcup. Unfortunately there is a very high probability that the chosen train will be cancelled or late.

Southeastern’s own statistics show late running is at 16% but that is a lie. It measures the timing at the destination station and doesn’t count five minutes adrift as being late at all.

LateCurrently the fastest rush hour service out of Cannon Street is the 17:06 which should arrive at Abbey Wood at 17:33. When I used that route daily many years ago the 17:08 arrived at 17:31 using underpowered slam door stock.

The off peak trains from London Bridge take 28 minutes, they used to take 23 so there really is no excuse for running late.

The constant stream of Tannoyed announcements suggests it is pretty much the norm, I heard one apologising for a 21 minute delay to the 13:33 today. The image above explains why. So that will have meant a 31 minute gap in service.

If a train is running ten minutes late at the beginning of the journey it could conceivably adopt a 30 year old schedule, arrive only five minutes late and be marked as being on time. It’s dishonest.

Southeastern’s official statistics do not show the true extent of the misery inflicted on passengers but it would be unfair to lay every problem at their door.

Barnehurst’s land slip, if it was anyone’s fault, was Network Rail’s. So are the daily signalling problems and the long term disruption at London Bridge, something that was being proposed when I worked right next door to the station in the 1960s.

The lack of trains is the government’s fault, the lack of sidings in which to store them is Southeastern’s predecessor’s fault (they sold them for housing development) and the recent unquestioned extension of Southeastern’s franchise is due to the idiots in government. Not everything is Southeastern’s fault but their attitude to customers is.

I hear their senior management speak at Bexley Council’s Transport User’s Sub-Committee meeting and Crossrail’s Liaison Panel meetings and their anti-passenger, company first sentiments are all too obvious.

The Crossrail staff generally try to be helpful and considerate to local needs but Southeastern point blank refuses to allow Abbey Wood station to be used as a short cut (†) even though the alternative can be a half mile walk. I’ve heard Southeastern’s top man say that their revenue protection scheme is draconian and they will fine a season ticket holder for leaving his ticket at home. It is simply not a customer focused company.

CancelledThere appears to be a move towards local services becoming TfL Overground but the lines I use (Euston - Watford and Liverpool Street - Chingford) are infrequent compared to the North Kent Line and in the case of the Chingford route, just as likely to be cancelled or run late.

So I might have remained sceptical about the benefits of a new franchisee if it were not for a recently introduced Southeastern wheeze which is an outrageous piece of cheating and well beyond the pale.

It is the practice of ejecting passengers from a stopping service in order to run it fast to its final destination. It is a straight forward case of falsifying statistics. It inconveniences many passengers and the object of it is to protect Southeastern’s revenue. Their company’s philosophy of ‘stuff the paying customer’ could not be more prominently displayed.

For that reason if no other I am happy to bring the petition to your attention.

Notes: 1988 timetable - Petition.
† Abbey Wood station staff are more accommodating than their bosses but within the next two months the short cut will close anyway.


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