Southeastern’s accountability hits the buffers

Last night I sent four last points, including some very simple yes/no questions, to Southeastern’s Public Affairs Manager via my MP.

These questions were the ones I’d wanted answered which Southeastern had persistently evaded, twisted and misread in order to save face.

Here’s what he has come back with today:

With respect to your constituent I do not feel that there is any more I can usefully add. As outlined in previous correspondence the revised timetable implemented from 6 January was based on advice received from Network Rail in line with a detailed weather forecast predicting adverse weather conditions on those dates. I am sorry if [my name, spelt correctly] disputes this and I can only suggest he contacts Network Rail direct for confirmation.

We have supplied [my name, spelt incorrectly] with what in our view is a comprehensive briefing on why our services are affected by snow and ice, why we implemented a revised timetable, the level of services operated and are grateful for his feedback. Should he have any further enquiries he is welcome to contact our customer services team. If he feels he has not received a satisfactory answer, he may wish to contact the statutory watchdog for public transport users in Greater London, London TravelWatch at 6 Middle Street, London EC1A 7JA, Tel: 020 7505 9000 http://www.londontravelwatch.org.uk

And that’s it on that matter. Looks like I got his king in check, so he’s upturned the chessboard and said he’s not playing any more and if I don’t like it I can ask someone else to play chess with him instead – someone easier for him to beat!

He then moves onto my Oyster enquiry and applies his usual tactic of completely missing the point of my enquiry again. Nowhere does he mention Gold Card discounts in his response:

However, I am sorry that [my name spelt wrongly again] has not received a response to his enquiry regarding Oyster Pay As you GO (OPAYG) sent to our customer services team last year and have taken this up with the team leader.

By way of explanation, the implementation of OPAYG on the surface rail network in London is a national agreement between the Train Operating Companies, Transport for London (TfL) and the Department for Transport. To make OPAYG work, the rail industry’s fares systems in the Grater London Travel card area had to be integrated with TfL’s zonal fares system and pricing structure.

However surface rail passengers using OPAYG will pay the cheapest possible single peak and off peak fare for their journey, ranging from £1.30 to £3.20 [er, that looks rather a cheap range!] depending on the time of day and the zones travelled. As a result [of our desperation to make money, not Oyster, which is totally unrelated to this, he should say], off-peak day return tickets in the Greater London Travel card area are withdrawn from 2 January 2010.

For passengers paying in cash, fares within the Greater London Travel Card area have been frozen at 2009 levels in 2010 [except we've got rid of the cheap off-peak return ticket so, er, they haven't]. This applies to point-to-point “anytime” return tickets (formerly known as peak day returns), season tickets and travel cards. Oyster is a TfL product and If [my name, spelt incorrectly yet again] has any enquiries, may I suggest he contacts the Oyster Helpline on 0845 330 9876 P [sic]

Mm. I bet TfL devised OEPs, too? I despair.

I think I’ll ask my MP if there’s anything more he can do to demand a reply from Southeastern to at least the simplest of my queries from last night. After all, why should a company like Southeastern take hundreds of millions annually in state subsidy without having to answer, honestly, to taxpayers such as myself?

(Failing that, is anyone reading this in ‘the media’? Or do you have ‘contacts’? This refusal to answer simple questions suggests plenty of newsworthy material around the way in which Southeastern cut back their services, just waiting to be dug up!)

Update: my MP has replied to me and does not wish to pursue my questions any further with Southeastern. He instead suggests I go via (no pun intended, train-company-name-spotters!) London Travelwatch, as Southeastern also suggested. He will also keep me posted with Southeastern’s review outcomes, too.

Well, I’ve come this far so I suppose I’ll have to try London Travelwatch, although its reputation doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.  In the mean time, if anyone can get this tale and these unanswered questions into any relatively mainstream media, please do!

Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting on my correspondence over the past couple of weeks. We now know what we’re up against with this mendacious failure of a company and, frankly, the more quickly I can move somewhere where I can use the DLR and buses more and Southeastern less, the better.

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6 Responses

  1. I’m loving “Grater London” as a concept.

    I’m hating “Grater London” as part of a dismissive patronising diversionary missing-the-point response.

    • Oh hello DG! Whatever happened to that cheese-grater-shaped building they were going to put up in the City, eh? That should clearly, I now realise, have been called “Grater, London”.

      I imagine your blog has rather more than 40 readers. Mine doesn’t. Next time you’re short of a post idea (not something that appears to happen to you often!), feel free to rail against Southeastern (pun not originally intended but then left in anyway) :)

  2. Once Boris is finished, it’ll be Grated London.

    *boom-tish!*

  3. How about sending a link to this blog to every news desk we can find? SE are hiding something interesting in their craftily worded responses….

    e.g. Kent News:

    Editorial
    Call our editorial team on 01303 817100
    or email editorial@kosmedia.co.uk

  4. [...] what now? Southeastern now says Paul should contact London Travelwatch with his complaints. However, my own experience of dealing with London [...]

  5. [...] on Oyster: Pay-More-As-I-Go?When is a Saturday service not a Saturday service? « 853 on Southeastern’s accountability hits the buffersWhen is a Saturday service not a Saturday service? « 853 on Southeastern: we’re no worse [...]

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