A Strong Voice for Croydon Central - Gavin Barwell MP
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Southern Railway must do better
03/02/2015 17:45:00

 
 

It will come as no surprise to anyone who commutes to London that the latest data shows the rail service provided by Southern is deteriorating. I’ve received hundreds of complaints in the last few weeks about delays on services to and from London Bridge, dangerous overcrowding on the concourse there and overcrowding on services to and from Victoria as commuters seek a different route to work. The data shows that there’s been a sharp drop in performance since Network Rail started working on the track approaching London Bridge last summer, but that things have been gradually getting worse for three years now.

Yesterday I and other MPs whose constituents rely on Southern services met with them, Network Rail, the Office of the Rail Regulator and Rail Minister Claire Perry.

Southern admitted that their current level of service is “poor” and that customers’ patience with their service is “wearing thin”. They claimed - and this was not disputed by Network Rail or the Office of the Rail Regulator - that the work going on at London Bridge to increase capacity on the Thameslink line is partially responsible. But they didn’t deny that they need to do better too.

They’ve published a performance improvement plan, which you can read here. It says that by May they will have:

• introduced new trains on Brighton to Bedford services;

• purchased some additional units so that they can lengthen some trains;

• upgraded 38 key junctions;

• made some changes to the timetable to improve reliability;

• recruited 41 more drivers; and

• switched to doing more maintenance at night.

Every MP who spoke expressed fury with the service their constituents are receiving. Several stressed the need to improve the quality of information provided to passengers and to make it easier for people to claim compensation. I asked two specific questions:

1. When will they have ironed out the teething problems with the new track alignment at London Bridge and be able to stick to a timetable? The answer I was given was the end of this month.

2. They've had to withdraw some rush hour services to and from London Bridge. Why can't they use the rolling stock from these services to increase capacity on the service to Victoria? The answer I was given was that if by the end of the month they have concluded that they will be unable to reintroduce these services while capacity on the approach to London Bridge remains constrained then they will try to do this.

My constituents pay a lot of money for their travelcards. They deserve better than the shoddy service they are getting at the moment. I will be making sure Southern honour the promises they have made.

Comment on this blog

 

Readers' Comments

On 03/02/2015 18:43:00 Eddie wrote:
Everything is geared in favour of the train operators and against passengers.

There is little competition - many lines have a single operator so there is no incentive to improve. As this super franchise comes in to effect, it is effectively one company for the entire region. What use is that when you can't take your business elsewhere ?

The industry fixates on PPM. But for a passenger, this is a train at least 5 minutes late and can often mean a missed connection. What incentive is there to arrive on time for an operator if 5 minutes late doesn't matter ? Operators need to be judged on real time train times.

The train operators get compensation if a train is between 5 minutes late and 30 minutes late. We have to wait until a train is over 30 minutes late.

There is an opportunity to free up more seats by declassifying 1st class which could make over crowding less dangerous. But that isn't done because the operators are able to make money through fingers and passengers have no recourse to challenge the use of 1st class.

88% of delay repay goes unclaimed. This proves the system doesn't work and again favours the operators. Compensation should be paid in cash per minute of delays to bank accounts. C2C wool be offering this. At the moment, this is simply another way for operators to benefit at their passengers expense.

Yesterday you had an opportunity to make a difference but in the end, went for the soft option. It was wrong not to invite some passengers along. We side and can bring realism to the talk which aggregating complaints from constituents never will. And it would be a chance for mgmt of the operators to meet their customers properly.

 
On 04/02/2015 00:42:00 Jim wrote:
Nothing will change. Railways are run for the benefit of their own staff, not passengers. They delight in treating passengers with contempt. Most people only use the railway because they have to - there is no choice. The railway companies know that. Can you imagine supermarkets treating customers the same way?

Ever noticed how they usually have multiple barrier staff at East Croydon supposedly manning the different barriers but they often end up just jabbering to each other whilst passengers struggle with tickets that don't work? Does management care? Of course not. Par for the course. Some hapless woman tried to attract their attention the other day and you could see they resented the intrusion. Last weekend I was in Zurich.. you don't see that attitude on the Swiss railways. Loads of money being fritters on refitting the station which is pointless when the staff don't give a monkeys.

It's a pity road building became unfashionable... that's why the M23 starts at junction 7. A few more decent roads south of the Thames would at least give people some choice. The green nutters wouldn't have it though.

 
On 06/02/2015 17:03:00 mark simkin wrote:
Whilst I agree the service is less than satisfactory of late, it was inevitable that this would happen during such a major rebuild of this magnitude at this busy station. Also opening the new track layout during the winter months hasn't helped, but I'm sure the long term benefits will be worth it
 
On 09/02/2015 06:35:00 IAN WILSON wrote:
I commute to and from Victoria, Monday to Friday. Since mid-December the service has become much worse, the frequent excuse in the mornings being that this was due to "shortage of rail staff/crew". That's not acceptable when it means other people who work are delayed getting to where they need to be. Apart from this there are far too many delays due to signalling problems and broken down trains. Why, if the network is being run reasonably efficiently should this happen most, if not every morning? Why can't passengers rely on the published timetable?

Specifically to East Croydon station I have the following to say:

1. the standard of customer-care is dismal; in wet weather the main entrance is treacherous yet far too many staff find it possible to stand around chatting to each other with no interest in the potential hazards to passengers

2. the so-called station improvements, as well as taking far too long to complete are introducing further dangers to travellers: the platforms are uneven, especially near the edges; the platforms flood in wet weather; the temporary roof protection leaks onto passengers when it rains; too much of the platform space has been fenced off meaning the platforms are over-crowded and it's difficult to get to and from trains; the information is extremely poor and often the relatively new equipment doesn't work - it's no use announcing to passengers at the last minute that the train they'd been led to expect would arrive at Platform 1 "will now arrive at Platform 4".

All I can say about this station is that I hope the works carried out to date are temporary and that a Health & Safety assessment will be carried out. Southern and its staff are responsible for the safety of real people, whom they often refer to as "them". It's not some giant train-set and some intense staff-training is well overdue as too many are seen to stand about doing very little while the remainder bark out orders to frustrated passengers.

Ian Wilson,

CR0 7HP.

 
 

 

 

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Gavin Barwell, 133 Wickham Road, CR0 8TE, Tel  020 8663 8741      © Gavin Barwell  2017       Promoted by Ian Parker on behalf of Gavin Barwell, both at 36 Brighton Road, Purley, CR8 2LG