Tag Archives: rail

World class customer service

“Can I have two tickets from the boundary of zone three to three bridges please? I’ve got an annual gold card.”

He gives me two tickets from Blackheath, costing over £18, instead of £13.

When I question it, I’m told its because I’ve only got one annual gold card.

“But my wife has one too- she’s travelling with me!”

“If I can’t see it, you can’t have it. It’s policy”.

So I cancelled both tickets, go and get my wife’s card, and finally buy the correct tickets.

Why can’t I choose the start and end location of any ticket I choose to purchase? With a single annual gold card, I’m entitled to up to three off peak discounted tickets if the other people are travelling with me.

We pay £2,800 a year to the train companies to be treated like criminals.

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If you have a season ticket on your oyster card

Very useful information, via Diamond Geezer:

This guide shows you how to get a third off any single off-peak rail travel using your oystercard, if you already have a 16-25 Railcard, Disabled Railcard, a Gold Card, HM Forces Railcard, or a Senior Railcard.

But you have to go and ask a human being for it, in a station. Which is daft… It’s almost like they don’t want you to use it!

I love the fact that the guide includes step-by-step button-pushing instructions for the station staff.

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Meet South Eastern face to face tomorrow morning

Sliding Blue Door that SouthEastern have decided to lock
As pointed out on the newly formed myblackheath blog (hopefully not run by estate agents), SouthEastern Trains are holding a Meet The Managers morning at Charing Cross station on Thursday (tomorrow) from 8am-10am. This is a monthly event whereby the SouthEastern managers stand around explaining that very few things are their fault, most things are either due to the government’s reduction of state subsidy, or Network Transport’s problems.

Please try and speak to them tomorrow if you can… A few things to consider:

* SouthEastern are owned by Govia. Govia is owned by Go-Ahead Group and Keolis. These two companies made a profit of £23.5m and £93m (€106m) respectively last year. These figures are both up from 2009. For bittersweet irony check this out: Keolis is majority owned by France’s nationalised state transport provider, SNCF. So France is allowed to have a nationalised rail system, but takes profit from our privatised system.

* Network Rail own Blackheath station, but it is managed and run by SouthEastern (see how nothing is one organisation’s fault?)

* If they wanted to open the bloody door, they could! Please sign up to the request to open the sliding door!

* They don’t like speaking to bloggers or press at these events. They also don’t like tape recorders. Go as an individual. Here’s an idea: wear your iphone headphones around your neck, and hit record before you wander up…

* Ask them how fixmytransport.com should contact southEastern. So far they don’t seem to be responding to any messages!

Here’s how it went when I met them last year.

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Get the sliding door reopened


I’m using the excellent new FixMyTransport to persuade Southeastern to get SouthEastern to re-open the sliding blue door!

Who wouldn’t love a website with the tag line “Euston we have a problem”?!

Can anyone explain to me why it would be a good idea to permanently close the side exit from Blackheath station by barricading it with a bannister? Tired commuters on their way home used to love gasping out into the open air. It makes no sense to keep it locked, and makes us miserable!

Please come and support me at

http://www.fixmytransport.com/campaigns/lets-get-southeastern-to-re-open-the-sliding-blue-

Thanks!

PS – The shortened version is bit.ly/openthisdoor which would probably fit on a sticker :)

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Anyone care to balance this up a little?

From the “just has to be read to be believed” department:

Blackheath station becomes more accessible

To keep disruption to a minimum and get best value for money, work to renovate the platforms took place at the same time.

Transport minister Norman Baker said: “It is important that everyone is able to access the railways as rail travel continues to grow in popularity – that is why we have contributed £1.1m from our Access for All initiative to upgrading Blackheath station.

“In total we are committed to spending £370m on upgrading stations across Britain for people with reduced mobility.”

Dave Ward, Network Rail’s route director for Kent, said: “Thousands of people living and working in Blackheath rely on the railway every day.

“This new step-free route around the station is great news for passengers and will make it much easier for everyone to use the train, especially those with reduced mobility or with small children.

“It’s a significant investment in our stations so they better meet the ever changing needs of passengers.”

This article surely is a joke. Where are the delays, the wrong steps, the misery of the commuters? Please head to their comments page and make them realise what a crock their article is. Government subsidy to pay for increased accessibility whilst the SouthEastern is allowed to cream off £61.5m profits every year.

UPDATE:
They’ve now added a statement from Network Rail to the bottom of the page:

A Network Rail spokesperson said:

“We issued a letter in April advising local people that we had experienced some problems with the project owing to a combination of extreme winter weather conditions in December and January, some unforeseen difficulties with the installation of the new power supply for the lift and some issues with the fabrication of the new staircase.

“This meant we would not be able to complete the work to the original timescale.

“We apologise for any additional disruption this caused for passengers.”

Translation: We ordered the wrong size steps, we subcontract to subcontractors who have to come in on the train from Southampton (good luck with that), and our subcontractors can’t agree between themselves who is responsible for removing the wobbly bridge. Suck it up and enjoy those price rises…

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Access for All, eventually…


So it begins. If you want go into London from Blackheath station, you’ll have to get onto the wrong platform, then cross over the rickety bridge… This work is to improve the station (junk food machines count as an improvement apparently), and to allow disabled access. The work was originally planned to be completed back in 2008. I think it was funded by the previous government’s Access for All policy, but I’m having trouble locating the planning documents… Anyway, according to Network Rail, the work should be finished by spring. That’s right. If spring means April, it will have taken 4-5 months to improve the station.

£1300 for a zone 1-3 ticket, and still no seats on the trains…

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Meet the SouthEastern Managers…

Blackheath Station, in need of decoration
Yesterday the SouthEastern Trains managers did their regular Meet the Manager thing at Charing Cross Station.  Managers stand around in the main part of the station, answering questions from commuters.

It’s a good idea, and I imagine it takes some guts to do, especially after the recent snow chaos, and subsequent allegations over stats massaging.

So I had the bright idea of going along, trying to find the most senior manager, and putting some questions to them, for the blog.  The first man I approached happened to be Charles Horton, the Managing Director.  He absolutely refused to be recorded, saying that today was for customers, not for interviews.  Despite explaining that I am a customer, and much waving of season tickets, he would not talk to me unless I switched it off.

So I did, which means that none of the following is verbatim.  Your loss, Charles.

We spoke about the snow and the revised timetable.  He completely denied that the reduction in timetable was designed to avoid big customer payouts, saying that their only concern was avoiding trains full of passengers getting stuck.  When I asked him what was different about SouthEastern, compared to the adjacent networks which operated a better service, he claimed it was due to the way SouthEastern’s lines were structured compared to the others – for example SouthWest Trains run a straight line in and out of Waterloo, whereas SouthEastern’s route has junctions and forks in it.  This sounded thoroughly unconvincing, but hey, I guess he has to come up with something.

I desicribed the difference between claiming a refund from London Underground (fill out a form in the station or online, and send it in) with that of SouthEastern Trains (several different methods, each more byzantine than the next).  He agreed that theirs was more complex, but claimed that this was due to the rules set in place by National Rail and the government.

I asked him whether he believed that the breaking up of the railway into multiple train operating companies allows everybody to absolve themselves of responsibility.  He refused to be drawn on any personal opinions about anything around this, and basically took a pragmatic attitude – “we are where we are”, claiming that the procedures drawn up by the government mean that SouthEastern are highly sensitive to customer satisfaction.  One example he gave was “discretionary travel” (people without season tickets), which he said SE trains relies on heavily- if they can’t operate a good service, then people will use other means of transport.

When I asked which of his competitors train companies I should be using from Blackheath if I wasn’t happy with his service, he acknowledged that they have a monopoly in a given area, but again went back to “that’s just the way it is set up”.

I pointed out the poor state of Blackheath station – not because I expect the managing director to have an intimate knowledge of every station (he was quick to point out that he could not), but because walking through a station with peeling paint, ceilings covered with plastic bags and gaffer tape, and plaster falling off the walls, sends a clear psychological message to your customers that you don’t give a shit about them.  He muttered something about “water-egress” at that station.  I have no idea what that means… I’ve seen water flowing down the steps occasionally, but you’d think that a lick of paint wouldn’t break the (£61.5m profit last year) budget.

To conclude, the problem isn’t SouthEastern trains per se.  They’re a private company, looking to maximise revenue for their shareholders within the boundaries set out by the government.  The problem is the splitting of the railway into multiple companies.  If there’s anything worth campaigning for, railway-wise, it would be the re-combining of the TOCs into a single body.  At this point, I wouldn’t even care if it was a private company – at least it would stop the buck-passing…

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SouthEastern Trains make their sorry excuses

SouthEastern Train Revised Timetable at Lewisham Station during the snow

As pointed out by @AdamBienkov, SouthEastern have provided an explanation of why they ran such a poor service during the inch or so of snow that fell last month in the South East.  I’ve tried to convert it into text, but the hopelessly blurry, badly scanned PDF file provided at the london.gov website made it even less comprehensible.

Here’s a quick summary, if you haven’t got time to read the real thing:

Why did you run a revised timetable, finished at 8.30pm throughout the piddling quantity of snow that fell?

We realised that we’d have to pay lots of money out to our customers for our lousy service, unless we under-promised and over delivered, so rather than try to put on as many trains as possible, we figured out that we could stick up some dirty A4 sheets of laser-printed Times Roman warnings, and this would allow us to wriggle out of our obligations – like this one!

Why won’t you be offering refunds to season ticket holders?

Because they’re a bunch of mugs!  Why on earth should we?!  They pay £1000 a year, and we don’t even have to give them a seat on our cattle trucks!*  Are you high?  If we started giving them their money back, we wouldn’t be able to make £61.5 million in profits!

Now that we live in the age of the internet, maybe you could make it easier for your customers to request compensation?

Yeeeassss… That’s a greeeat idea… Maybe we’ll make a little iPhone app for each of our customers?  And you can click on Charles Horton’s beaming face every time you get squeezed into a carriage, and sit waiting at London Bridge for 20 minutes on  a Monday morning?  That’d work.  If it’s all the same with you, we’ll stick with arcane system we have right now, thanks.

See also:

All aboard the Gravy Train for Network Rail Bosses

* Cattle trucks = “franchises focused on high density, urban commuter markets.”

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Stop the rail cuts. You have two days!

Blackheath new station sign bigger

I wish I’d been home earlier. This appeared in my inbox from The Blackheath Society a few days back, whilst I was too far away to do anything about it. It looks like those wonderful people at SouthEastern Railway have decided that we should have fewer trains during rush hour into London from Blackheath.  Brilliant.

If you think this is a daft idea, please email them and tell them. Also tell your MP – it’s really easy using this website http://www.writetothem.com/ – just enter your postcode, your message, and all the rest is automatic.

I’ve published it in full with some extra links below (I hope they don’t mind – I think it’s a worthy cause). You need to email them now – you only have 2 days left before the deadline!

Southeastern has recently published its provisional timetable for services from December 2009. The main changes are summarised below. The Society is very disappointed with these proposals, which, if adopted, will result in the least convenient service for at least 35 years. However, there is an opportunity to submit comments by 5th June to:

Mike Gibson
Public Affairs Manager
Southeastern
Friars Bridge Court
41-45 Blackfriars Road
London
SE1 8PG
Tel: 0207 620 5430
Fax: 0207 620 5022
Email: Mike.Gibson@southeasternrailway.co.uk

We urge you to comment and would be grateful if you would send the Society a copy of your letter/fax/email. You might also like to copy your message to either Nick Raynsford MP or Bridget Prentice MP, depending on where you live. Ms Prentice will be at Blackheath Station on 5th June to present a Safer Stations Award to staff at 10.30.

Send to:
The Rt Hon Nick Raynsford MP or Bridget Prentice MP
House of Commons
Westminster
London
SW1A 1AA
RAYNSFORDN@parliament.uk or info@bridgetprenticemp.org.uk

Changes are as follows:

Weekday Morning Peak (07.00 – 09.00)
Three less trains to Cannon Street (2 after 08.00); one less to Charing Cross (also after 08.00); one more to Victoria.

Weekday: Evening Peak (17.00 – 19.00)
One less train from Charing Cross (with three service interval gaps of 18 mins and one of 19 mins); however, there will be three, rather than six trains leaving Charing Cross between 18.00 and 19.00; one more from Victoria.

Weekday: Day time to London
On the face of it, there is an improved service, with four trains per hour to Charing Cross, plus two each to Cannon Street and Victoria. However, the intervals between trains mean that the service itself is worse – currently the interval to London Bridge is 13 and 17 mins; intervals on the new timetable are 5, 4 and 21

Weekday: Day time from London
See above.

Weekday: Evenings to London
Still four trains an hour to Charing Cross and none to the other stations after about 19.00. However, the intervals have dramatically deteriorated from 13 and 17 mins to 5 and 25 mins

Weekday: Evenings from London
Here there is a very modest improvement from 3 and 27 minute intervals to 7 and 23.

Saturdays
No longer a service to Cannon Street, but six per hour to London Bridge, of which four go on to Charing Cross. However, there is the same weekday 21 min gap in service every half hour.

Sundays
The best off peak service of the week with 13 and 17 minute intervals as existing.

The full timetable can be seen at: http://www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/index.php/cms/pages/view/263

This offering from Southeastern is particularly disappointing because its representatives have said since it took over the franchise in 2006 that, when the services were retimetabled in 2009, it was its aspiration to provide a regular spaced clock face service. This was most recently confirmed in August 2008. The company has also broken several promises to consult with its stakeholders, including the Society, and the Society intends to make the strongest possible representations against the adoption of the new timetable. If you are a regular user of trains to London, we suggest that you should also do so. Remember that the closing date is 5th June (and please send us a copy of anything that you write).

For those interested in the proposed Lewisham gate closure, the consultation period has been further extended until 22nd June. We are in discussions with both Southeastern and London TravelWatch about this and will send another circular nearer the time.

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Have you lost your rail ticket?

Lost travelcard in Blackheath
Matt says:

Community service time! I found an oystercard just down the road from the Hare & Billet today. I’m going to hand it in at Blackheath Station tomorrow morning, but I thought it might be worth advertising the fact it’s been handed in, here. There was a photocard with it – is there any chance this man is one of your readers?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/latt/3331890306/

I know how annoying it is to lose your ticket, not to mention how patronising the “don’t do it again – we won’t give you another one” letters from our favourite Train Operating Company can be… Hopefully the mysterious ticket holder will claim what is rightfully his! Drop me a message if you read this, and I’ll put you in touch with Matt…

On another note, the photo above was taken from Matt’s Fickr page with a copyright sign on it, so I’m probably not supposed to have it on my blog… And I’ve made it a bit less yellow too – so Matt, switch to Creative Commons for your public photos if you can!

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