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Bonkers Blog January 2016

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25 January (Part 3) - The Transport Users’ Committee - Journey 2

Important things first, there was an error in the first Transport report, someone was wrongly identified. Corrected now.

Following Sergeant Osborne’s reference to speed guns and catholic boys it was Mike Gibson’s turn. He is Southeastern’s PR man which has to be one of the most difficult jobs known to man.

Any reasonable person must accept that half his problems are caused by Network Rail and as their man was to be next to speak, Mike, I assume, would be choosing his words carefully.

EyesI took seven pictures of Mike Gibson and as he had his eyes shut in all of them I gave up. Maybe some will think it is a perfect image for Southeastern but it would be irresponsible in the present climate to identify Mr. Gibson precisely.

The Chairman circulated an email from Mr. Gibson but to Committee members only, apparently oblivious to the fact that it was a public meeting and the public has a legal right to see late input to the Agenda. Fortunately Councillor Borella was better educated and passed me a copy after the meeting.

Mr. Gibson said that “the predicted meltdown” was avoided over Christmas and New Year when engineering work dictated that trains must go to Victoria or stop short of London Bridge at New Cross. The plan for New Year’s Eve worked well.

Additional late night trains have been timetabled since mid-December in response to passenger demand.

Performance since the start of the year has however been “bad”. There was a series of calamities culminating in the Barnehurst landslip.

There had been a renewed emphasis on the engineering depot to improve train reliability and it is currently “the best it has ever been”. Some spare drivers have been stationed at Cannon Street “to help with service recovery” and staff have been reminded of “right time start”.

Customers rushing over bridges at the last moment tend to delay trains when seen by sympathetic drivers. This is going to have to stop because dwell times are being adversely affected.

Train drivers are to be retrained on line speeds as some like to go slow. With luck I will no longer see a green light at the end of the Abbey Wood platform and a train leaving Belvedere a mile and a quarter down the straight and still have to wait five or six minutes for it to arrive. Crossrail aims to bring an end to it as well by introducing a kink in the track.

Train times will be “tweaked” to minimise “pinch points at Lewisham and London Bridge”.

“Passenger behaviour” will be modified by moving seats and shelters. In plain language, trying to get passengers to spread themselves along the platform to reduce loading times.

The trespass problem is being given serious consideration too, if the police are involved it means power off and long delays.

The Chairman thought the number of replacement buses brought into use during the Barnehurst incident was inadequate. Mr. Gibson said that rail tickets could be used in TfL buses too.

BorellaCouncillor Stefano Borella had no difficulty in keeping his eyes open and queried the number of rail scrubbers in use for leaf removal and why during the Barnehurst incident trains were not taken as far as Welling and reversed because the line there is equipped for it.

The Network Rail man was not aware of any reduction in leaf clearing and was unable to satisfactorily answer the Welling turn back question. He said that it would disrupt the timetable and have an impact at London Bridge - as if the timetable was not disrupted by wholesale cancellations.

Stefano turned back to Mr. Gibson and asked why station lights were turned off before the time of the last train. Mr. Gibson said they were on a timer so he would check things out.

Howard Marriner who is a ward councillor for Barnehurst said he only knew of the landslip when he heard about it on the television news and it took longer than he would like to get the details and pass them out via his ward email newsletter. “If Southeastern could get the information out faster it would be very much appreciated.”

From that point the questions impinged more and more on Network Rail and they will be reported in ‘Journey 3’.


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