Tag Archives: railways

The gravy train continues

As you may recall, I had a lovely £50 voucher from my last disastrous long distance train journey. As I could only redeem it in a station, I checked the prices on Monday morning using thetrainline (£150), then popped over to the station on Tuesday to purchase the tickets.

Guess what? They’d gone up by £50 overnight.

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The gravy train

photo (20)
You remember the little bit of wind we had a couple of weeks ago? All the train companies in the South East switched to emergency timetables just in case, and havoc ensued. My train was massively late, so I filled in the Delay Repay form on the Nationalised French Rail Operator’s website.

Of course, it’s not really the nationalised French rail operator. I mean, we all know that free markets win out, and that the railway companies in the UK were privatised, so how could that possibly be true?

Except that it kind of is. Your season ticket for £1,424 goes to SouthEastern. SouthEastern are owned by Govia. Govia are owned by the Go-Ahead Group (65%) and Keolis (35%). And Keolis (keep up at the back) is majority owned by SNCF, the French equivalent of what used to be British Rail.

I’ve just paid £1,424 for a season ticket – that’s more than most people pay for a month’s rent in London. Then I receive a token for £1.10, which I can ONLY redeem with SouthEastern trains, and will be valid for exactly 12 months. It’s not even redeemable online.

How is this going to encourage the only train company that I use regularly to improve its service? In the notoriously left-wing rag City A.M., Alister Heath laments:

There is sadly mass support for nationalisation and price controls

There is also huge support for the nationalisation of the railways, at 66-23; again, not surprising given the weird public-private mish-mash that characterises the industry, the subsidies, the lack of transparency and accountability (who is in charge? Network Rail? The train firm?), the awful service and the lack of choice. We need a new deal for our railways – but state ownership was a disaster during the decades when it was tried.

Here’s the full YouGov poll.

Yes Alistair, it was a catastrophe… Except that Britain now has the most expensive fares in Europe, says the Telegraph.

The Go-Ahead Group (such a dumb name) which Southeastern is part of, made pre-tax profits of £82 million last year, and proposed to give a share dividend to investors of 81p per share. They’re doing just fine.

Keolis, the French part of South Eastern, made profits of 287m Euro in 2012.

Our rail system was a national asset. The market for rail companies isn’t working for anyone except its shareholders, more than 30% of which in our neck of the woods is now owned by the French government, and run for a profit, which is extracted from your pocket, into the French government’s.

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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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Rail cuts at Blackheath

Tin of Sardines by House of Sims
The rail cuts are going ahead. I think it’s a great idea – those trains are so spacious during rush hour, I never know what to do with all that leg room.

Local councillor Godfried Gyechie reckons we should go and grumble at the managers on 12 November at Cannon Street. I’m not so sure that it will make any difference. The train companies are only doing what they can get away with, based on legislation drawn up by government. If they could stick us all into a single cattle truck, I’m sure they would. So his other suggestion of emailing the transport minister is a much better one – or you could tweet him.

Tin of Sardines by House of Sims

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Puccino’s music

Puccinos

I finally plucked up the courage to ask the Puccinos coffee stand what the music is that can be heard wafting out from there, along with the coffee aroma…

Incidentally, whilst their coffee is lovely, their bottled water is expensive  – much more than the water sold from the little newspaper stall in the waiting room.

Anyway – back to the plot – It is Classic FM, in case you were wondering. It’s really nice to hear this sort of thing whilst waiting for the train. Maybe they could pipe it through the PA system, instead of reminding us not to smoke.

And why does the PA at Charing Cross station always say “luggage left unattended may be destroyed or damaged”? Have they been sued by someone in the past whose luggage was damaged but not actually destroyed? Drives me nuts each time I hear it!

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