SoutheasternSnowFAIL: representatives respond

So Southeastern’s sudden mysterious ability to overcome the same weather as brought their services grinding to a halt within minutes of its forecast continues into this week. Marvel as their trains run along the same cold tracks they ran along 24 hours a day last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, but this time stop to pick people up after 8pm! Gasp as they offer more than two-to-four trains an hour during the morning and evening peaks! How do they manage now what so eluded them last week? There must be some kind of supernatural forces at work, surely. Or, as Phil Rogers on Twitter put it this morning, rather more succinctly:

Same weather as last week. Full ontime #southeastern service. So last week was lies then

Now, bloggers are often criticised (usually by idiots :) ) for ranting into the void on their blogs, to no effect. Since I rarely even manage to do that, I thought I’d better take my Southeastern complaints somewhere else too, and the wonderful WriteToThem.com made it brilliantly easy to contact:

  • James Cleverly, London Assembly Member for Bexley and Bromley;
  • all the London-wide London Assembly Members;
  • David Evennett, MP for Bexleyheath and Crayford; and
  • Lord Adonis, Transport Secretary (and the reason this post isn’t called “elected representatives respond” ;) ).

So on Saturday I did just that, sending them all essentially the same message (with minor tailoring in some cases):

I’m writing to ask you to protest to Southeastern in the strongest terms possible about their appalling service over the past few days during the relatively light snow we have experienced in this area (Crayford – and indeed south-east London more generally). As you may be aware, they ran a Sunday (and subsequently Saturday) level of service in this area, including during the morning and evening peaks, with the added insult of stopping all trains by around 8pm each evening. In all their news releases they have made no adequate justification of the early finishing in the evening at all – they even talk about running empty trains along the rails all night to prevent ice forming, so why not allow us onto them?! No other train company in London has offered such an appalling service during the snow, despite this corner of London having so far had less snow than many others. Southeastern had already decided to stop trains early on Wednesday night by the end of the working day on Tuesday, before a flake of snow had fallen! Also, the weather conditions today (Saturday) are basically identical to those yesterday and Thursday, yet suddenly today Southeastern are able to run a normal timetabled service including trains up to midnight as usual. There is simply no justification for the early ending for the past three days, which for instance meant that last night my wife and I had to travel home to Crayford on three buses from London Bridge, taking nearly two hours, instead of a single train taking 30 minutes. I trust you will be able to raise this matter with Southeastern and press for the severest of penalties to be brought to bear on them for this totally inadequate service.

I immediately received an out-of-office auto-reply from Victoria Borwick AM, and a help/advice-filled standard automatic reply from both Green AMs, but it wasn’t until this morning that the replies proper started trickling back to me. I shall keep this post up-to-date with any and all replies I receive. (All spelling etc. are as in the received e-mails.) First to respond, at 9am, was Gareth Bacon AM:

I live in Sidcup and travel into central London on the same line as you, and I agree with every word you have written. I will indeed be writing to South Eastern to let them know what I thought of the appalling service on offer last week.

Second came a reply, at 10am, from the PA to James Cleverly AM

:

Thank you for you email to James Cleverly, on whose behalf I am responding. Like you, James has been very concerned about the service offered by Southeastern during recent bad weather. You may like to know that the Mayor, Boris Johnson, received so many complaints on this subject that he wrote to Lord Adonis, the Secretary of State at the Department for Transport on Thursday 7 January, calling on him to direct Southeastern to resume normal hours operation with immediate effect, saying that “I cannot stand by and see action taken which prevents this city functioning normally, despite the inclement weather.”. That letter obviously had the desired effect. I will be forwarding your emailletter and my response to the Mayor’s office for their information and any further action.

Third, at 1pm, David Evennett MP said:

Thank you for your e-mail about Southeastern’s recent service, and as a commuter myself I share your views. I have taken up the issues with Mike Gibson, Public Affairs Manager at South Eastern, and when I receive a response I will be back in touch.

At 9.30am on Tuesday, the PA to Victoria Borwick AM said:

Thank you for contacting the office of Victoria Borwick. I have passed on your email on to James Cleverly, who is the Assembly Member for Bexley and Bromley. I am sure his office will contact you soon to let you know what action they will be taking.

At 10.30am, Darren Johnson AM replied:

Many thanks for your message. I am responding on behalf of the Green Assembly Members, myself and Jenny Jones AM. As a commuter to London Bridge who experienced the same problems as you I fully understand your concerns. I have tabled a formal question to the Mayor of London. I will let you have the Mayor’s response as soon as it is received. Question to the Mayor – Do you find it acceptable that Southeastern decided to implement a revised timetable for 6-8 January, meaning there were very few trains and massive overcrowding during the morning rush hour at a time when other services in London were running smoothly? Will you be pursuing the matter with Southeastern?

I then sent a follow-up to Darren Johnson as he did not mention the early finishing of services, which I found the most baffling (and personally inconveniencing, since I’m not a rail commuter but do go to London frequently in the evenings) aspect of Southeastern’s behaviour last week. He replied shortly afterwards:

I have already put in a question about the early closure of stations and services, too, as other constituents have also complained about that.

At 12 noon, David Evennett MP forwarded to me Southeastern’s reply to his complaint. You can see this in a new Bexcentric post, where I’m asking you to comment with your responses to what they say so I can send an informed refutation of some of their excuses back to Mr Evennett later.

At 10am Wednesday, Caroline Pidgeon AM sent this:

Thank you for writing to the Liberal Democrat members of the London Assembly. I am responding on behalf of my colleagues Mike Tuffrey and Dee Doocey as I lead for the group on transport, and am currently Chair of the Assembly’s Transport Committee. I sincerely apologise for the delay in my response.

Thank you very much for your email expressing concerns about the poor service form Southeastern throughout this bad weather.

I think it has been completely unacceptable and am glad that the Mayor immediately wrote to the Secretary of State over their performance.

I also expressed my concerns over some of the train companies on an Inside Out Documentary aired on Monday evening.

As Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, I have written to the Chief Executive of Southeastern asking him to fully explain what has gone on and to answer key questions. I am also asking about what compensation users will receive.

I will be in touch again when I have had a reply but rest assured I and colleagues take this matter very seriously.

That’s all the replies I’ve had so far. More as and when they are received.

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6 Responses

  1. Thanks for this. I wrote to Lord Adonis, Bridget Prentice MP and Len Duvall (AM) – so far have received a reply from a member of Ms. Prentice’s staff promising a response shortly.

  2. [...] week suffered the consequences of the 3 days of severely reduced timetable, they feel badly let down. As freight and high speed trains were running seemingly as normal, commuter trains operating on [...]

  3. [...] done anything came via Bexley & Bromley assembly member James Cleverly, whose PA responded to Bexcentric’s complaints about Southeastern: “That letter obviously had the desired effect. I will be forwarding your email and my [...]

  4. [...] rolling with a post on its “epic snow fail“, followed up by journalist Tom Royal, then by Bexcentric, with a bit from me in the middle about the mayor’s role. Increasingly, if the media ignores [...]

  5. I was wondering if there is no compensation if it would be possible to take southeastern railways to court over loss of earnings, stress and damage to career prospects as I myself have had all of the above.

    What does everyone else think? I believe if there was enough of us making a joint claim then it would at the very least make southeastern take notice and listen to thier customers.

    Im also sure if there was any action then companies and commuters affected by constant poor service with the right expertise would be able to help.

    • I cannot believe there is no compensation. I accidentally left my ticket at home for the first time in years of commuting and I was “held” like a criminal at Cannon Street and spoken to and treated like a child for not having my ticket. I was told I would not be allowed through the barrier next time and I had to queue up and miss my train to ask a member of staff to print off a copy of my season ticket. I would dearly love to hold Southeastern by the scruff of the neck and give them a piece of my mind – but that would be wrong wouldn’t it. One rule for them and one for us. I am totally with you Paul lets all get together and take some action – they have robbed me of 3 working days and in my office I’ve become a bit of a joke as unfortunately I’m the only one that uses Southeastern on my floor – everyone else makes it in – not me – my station in Headcorn might as well be permanently closed!

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