The current South Eastern franchise is due to end in December 2018, and Government has started the process of deciding which company will be the new operator. This could be Govia, which currently operates the franchise under the trading name “Southeastern”, or another company. As part of the process, the Department for Transport has launched a consultation on the new franchise.
Whichever company is successful, the key requirements for the franchise be set out in the agreement between the Government and the new operator. Responding to the current consultation is therefore our chance to set our the priorities for local passengers and ensure these are reflected in the franchise agreement. We have submitted a full response, but it is essential that our members and supporters submit their own responses to ensure that our collective voice is heard.
Tonbridge Line Commuters has signed up to the Better South Eastern Charter, put together by the Campaign for Better Transport and passengers groups including ourselves. The Charter sets out our key priorities as follows:
- A fairer deal for part-time commuters. More and more of us work flexibly. Five-day-a-week commuters get a third off their travel with a season ticket, but part-time commuters and others with flexible work patterns face much higher costs to travel. It’s time for a part-time ticketing option that gives a fair and equitable discount.
- Value for money. The franchise should include a commitment to always sell the cheapest ticket for a journey, with a promise to refund double the difference if a passenger discovers they have been overcharged (as already happens on c2c services in Essex). Multi-modal smartcards should be fully integrated and compatible with all TfL services and local buses in Kent, and include pay-as-you-go with capping, so that passengers are always charged the minimum fare for the end-to-end journey.
- Better stations. Many stations are not the attractive, accessible, well-lit places that they should be. The new franchise should include a package of investment including accessibility upgrades and improved integration with cycling, local buses and TfL services. Toilets should be cleaned regularly and should be open throughout the hours of rail service.
- Better train services. Extra carriages should be introduced on shoulder peak services to reduce overcrowding. Services should run later in the day and on Boxing Day. Accurate, up to date and actionable information about current and future services should be provided consistently online, at the station and on the train.
- Excellent customer service. The new franchise should protect ticket office opening hours and the presence of trained, visible staff on trains and at stations to provide assistance and give passengers security. Where stations are staffed, disabled and older passengers should always be guaranteed ‘turn-up-and-go’ assistance, without booking ahead.
- Monitoring and enforcement. Franchise commitments mean nothing unless they are actively monitored and enforced. The Government must hold the train operator to account, with fines when necessary, if it fails to deliver on promises (for example, ticket office opening hours), and provide real incentives for providing reliable, on-time trains that don’t skip stations. There must also be local accountability – the operator should be required to meet at least twice a year with each rail user group, and to include them on its timetables and website.
Do you support the aims above? If so, it’s essential you complete your own response to the consultation using the Department for Transport’s online form.
Please include the points above – the more people ask for the same thing the more likely we get it!
In our response we will also be covering more matters which are more local but nonetheless important, including:
A new ramp at Hildenborough to aid access to the “down” platform for wheelchair users and others requiring step-free access
Keeping the existing choice of London terminals from trains from Tonbridge, Paddock Wood and Hildenborough
A new service semi-fast service from Ashford to Reading serving Paddock Wood and Tonbridge
Timetable improvements, including two trains an hour from Hildenborough on Sundays
Again, if you agree then please include these points in your response to the consultation. The deadline for responses has now been extended to 30 June.