Tag Archives: south

A Hack Space for South London

There’s a plan afoot to build a Hack Space in South London. It’s not Blackheath specifically – currently it’s known as the Brixton Tinker Space, but I thought it was worth sharing as it could be a fantastic place to learn new skills and meet new people.

A hack space is a workspace where members pay a few pounds every month to go and work on their personal projects, inventions and designs. There’s an amazing one in Hackney, but nothing in South London yet. Think of it as an allotment for your mind.

I met up with them in a pub in Brixton for one of their first meetings. They’re still looking for a space to use, and it doesn’t have to be in Brixton, so if anyone here is interested, or knows of a suitable location at a reasonable rent, please drop them a line.

Their website is:
http://brixtontinkerspace.org/

And they’re also on Twitter and Facebook, and Google Groups.

Some of the organisers are also involved in a Mini Maker Faire in Elephant & Castle taking place on 6th July. It’s free to attend, and could be a great introduction to all this making business.

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Filed under Not Blackheath but nearby

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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Filed under blackheath, transport

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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Filed under blackheath, snow, transport

Dear Southeastern Trains. You Suck.

If you’re coming home from Charing Cross tonight, the last train back to Blackheath is at 20.32. Yes, you read that correctly. We have less than an inch of snow, and our last train is before the watershed. From their website:

London Charing Cross to Dartford via Bexleyheath

The first service departs London Charing Cross at 0702 calling at Waterloo East, London Bridge, Lewisham, Blackheath, Kidbrooke, Eltham, Falconwood, Welling, Bexleyheath, Barnehurst and Dartford. Services leave at 02 and 32 mins past the hour through the day. The last service departs at 2032.

Or you can take an Interchange Opportunity at Lovely Lewisham by taking their last train, which leaves Charing Cross at 2036.

Also, according to this site:

All Southeastern ticket holders can use High Speed services at no extra cost and tickets will be accepted on London Underground on reasonable routes

As Brenda pointed out on another post:

A harrassed member of staff was reported as saying the reason they are running a reduced service today and tomorrow is if they try to run a full service & fail, they’re liable for penalties and we can claim refunds.

If they run the reduced service they’ve advertised, then they’re not liable.

Perhaps we could send the SouthEastern executives to India to speak to the Railway King?

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Filed under blackheath, politics, transport

“Interchange Opportunities” again

I’m taking advantage of our Interchange Opportunities again today. At Lewisham, as there are no trains from Blackheath. But never fear, our local conservative councillor Spencer Drury knows whose fault it is:

“As a Parliamentary Candidate for Greenwich and Woolwich and Leader of the Conservative Group, I will be campaigning to reverse these changes which seem to be a side-effect of a set of central government requirements to run an all day Orpington service via Lewisham. In the short term, the more feedback that we have about people’s difficulties, the more we can use to sort out the problems, so please encourage everyone to feedback their problems and we will use this to back up our views during the timetable review next year.”

He then added (inside my head):

“I mean, who split up the railway anyway- what were they smoking when they thought that would work? How can you have a free market mechanism when there are only one set of rails from A to B?!”

Except he didn’t say that last bit. In other news, all public transport is now free, and 4x4s are now outlawed, unless being pulled on a rope by Boris Johnson.

And when the train announcements say “we are operating a revised timetable today”, do they mean revised for better or worse?

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Filed under politics, transport

Answers to the name of Lucky…

The Fire Brigade had to be called to rescue a three-legged Staff terrier from the pond in South Row
Gill writes:

Dramatic Dog Rescue from Blackheath Pond

Last night (Monday 13 July) the Fire Brigade had to be called to rescue a three-legged Staff terrier from the pond in South Row. We just happened to be passing by at around ten past ten and heard this terrible howling.

We don’t know how the dog got in there, but because he has only one back leg he couldn’t get out again, due to the steep concrete side. Last seen, the dog was on a string lead, walking two firemen down to Lee Green fire station while the fire engine followed!

Perhaps someone knows who the dog’s owner is?

At least it wasn’t a three legged ferret

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