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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