Tag Archives: SouthEastern Trains

How SouthEastern plan to stop your trains to Charing Cross and Victoria

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As you may have heard, SouthEastern and the Department for Transport are considering innovative approaches to radically enhance your interchange opportunities.

I thought it might be worth going through their consultation document in a little more detail.

If you suspect SouthEastern trains and the DfT are off their collective rockers, there are three things you can do about it.  Let’s have a look through that lovely PDF

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Oh yes Chris, I couldn’t agree more.  I’m all ears, even though you thought it was ok for gay people to be turned away from hotels, and you blocked Sadiq Khan’s attempts to take our trains away from disastrous SouthEastern and give them to TfL.

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Yes.  Trains are not new technology.  Elon Musk can land a reusable rocket on a drone ship from space.  Trains are Victorian.  The reason they don’t work is idealogical.  They work in Europe.  They’re cheap in Europe.  They’re (mostly) nationalised in Europe.  Do you get me Chris?

In fact, SouthEastern is part of a massive transport company called Keolis part-owned by the French Government.  Just let that sink in.  Our leaders believe in market forces so strongly, that they think the best solution to out transport problems is to let a nationalised French railway company run them. In 2015, Keolis made 33 million Euros in profit, which they gave to their shareholders (70% of whom are the French government).  Not reinvested into our infrastructure, or some such bollocks.  Go-Ahead Group is the other part owner, and they made £157m in profit, up 16%.  So the French can run a profitable nationalised railway company, but we can’t, because Chris Grayling says so, and my ticket costs £1548 a year.

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This is a great idea.  Thanks to Oyster, SouthEastern and DfT know precisely where and when we get in and out of the transport network.  And do they use this data to automatically reimburse us when they’re outside their terms of service?  Not on your nelly.  But, have no fear, Chris is to the rescue!  He has an innovative plan!

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Instead of being allowed to fill out a form when your train is 30 minutes late and pop it in a post box, he has a truly 21st century solution!  He’s going to let you fill out a form when your train is 15 minutes late… Maybe…

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Oh, thank God – that’s what we’ve all been crying out for!  We don’t need cheaper tickets, no no, we want Wi-Fi!  You see, commuters don’t have mobile phones with data plans… What we really want is to give the train companies another excuse to “reinvest our money” into another pointless scheme.  Crappy non-working wifi for everyone!  And stop calling it a fleet.  Fleets are elegant, and move in formation.  Your trains don’t.

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Oh Chris… Is it complex to run your little trains?  Do you want to give us simpler opportunities?  My work is tricky too.  Maybe I’ll make it simpler and still get paid the same… That sounds lovely.  Or maybe, you know, just figure out how to get your shit together… You’ve had since the 19th century to figure it out.

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Hang on, haven’t you been messing with our journeys into London Bridge for the last TWO YEARS to solve precisely this problem?

Please make sure you go and have your say on his proposals.

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Filed under blackheath, trains

How to stop Southeastern cutting trains to Charing Cross and Victoria

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SouthEastern Trains really want to simplify your journeys.

They think your life would be much simpler if you had more interchange opportunities when going on your daily commute to Charing Cross or Victoria.  Maybe you’d like to change at Lewisham?  I’m pretty sure your ticket price will remain the same.

If you think this is total bollocks, and SouthEastern ought to be ashamed of themselves, then you have some options.

You can sign this petition, just like 14,500 other people have done.

Please email BetterSouthEastern@dft.gsi.gov.uk, you can use the text below as a template – please amend it to reflect your experiences:

Dear Sir/Madam,

This following is a formal response to the South Eastern Rail Franchise Consultation document published in March 2017.

I’m responding as an individual.

My personal details:

First Name, Surname

First Half of Postcode (eg SE3)

My nearest station is Blackheath

I normally travel to Victoria and Charing Cross from Blackheath Station.

I usually travel some time between 6am-9am and 5pm-8pm every weekday.

The reason I travel is to get to work, but also during leisure time.

My accessibility needs are…

I am responding specifically to Question 17 in the consultation.  I strongly oppose the idea of  SouthEastern stopping offering routes to Victoria and Charing Cross.  I do not want to make multiple changes on a line that previously offered a direct route.  I do not believe that SouthEastern will offer significant improvements in reliability or regularity in service, and suspect they are just using this as a way to lessen the burden of their license, whilst passengers will still have to pay the same prices to get into London.

Finally, there’s public consultation at 10am on Saturday 1st April at Glass Mill Leisure Centre map (the one next to Lewisham Station.  That’s today/tomorrow, depending on when you’re reading this!  Please attend if you can.

 

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Filed under blackheath, trains, transport

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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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

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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Filed under blackheath

Emotional Baggage

Hooray for passports!
I got on the train yesterday at Blackheath. It was packed. I stuffed my bag under a chair to get it out of the way. More people got on, so I moved down. Then a seat next to me became free, so I sat down. The train was still packed to the end of the journey. When I looked for my bag, it was gone. And it had my passport in it. The passport that I need in order to get married next week. Oh god.

So, I spent a miserable morning talking to the Met Police, the Transport Police (who are completely separate), SouthEastern Trains, SouthWest Trains (who also do not talk to each other), and the passport office.

Amazingly, out of all these institutions, by far the most effective and helpful was the passport office. I now have a new passport, and every time I look at that terrified, miserable passport photo, I will be reminded that, yes, I am an idiot, and that, yes, I really should listen to Mrs Bugle when she says hold on to your bag on the train.

And to the lost property man at Waterloo station- a bag that has been thrown away by a thief doesn’t have any uniquely identifiable DNA that proves which Train Operating Company was being used when it was stolen. If I’ve had a bag pinched at Waterloo East, perhaps you should at least pretend to give a damn when I tell you about it at Waterloo Main Station?

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Filed under blackheath, crime, transport