It’s certainly been a bad start to the year for commuters from Tonbridge, Paddock Wood and Hildenborough. The first couple of weeks of 2016 saw delays and cancellations virtually every day, despite the Christmas engineering works at London Bridge finishing on time. It’s therefore no wonder that some commuters have got fed up and are calling for train company Southeastern to lose its franchise. However, would a change of operator really help?
The majority of the problems which have caused the delays have not been down to Southeastern. Signalling faults, including the serious signal failure between London Bridge and New Cross on Thursday 14th January, are the responsibility of Network Rail. The same applies to the track closures following landslips at Stonegate and Barnehurst, though even Network Rail is not responsible for the weather. Furthermore, there was not much anybody in the railway industry could do when a person was struck by a train at Hildenborough on Wednesday 13 January. This sort of situation has to be dealt with sensitively and properly before the line can be reopened.
All that said, Tonbridge Line Commuters certainly has some concerns about the performance of the current management at Southeastern. For example, we continue to deplore the poor quality of information available to passengers. A good example of this is the confused information we received about train lengths in the morning rush hour. As regular commuters may know, some carriages have been borrowed from trains serving Paddock Wood and Tonbridge in order to run a shuttle service between Dover and Ramsgate, which is required while repairs are made to the damaged sea wall between Folkestone and Dover. One of the trains affected was the 07:42 from Tonbridge to Charing Cross, but despite tweeting Southeastern several timea to ask for clarity about the length of the service we received contradictory information and were finally told it was to return to 11 carriages only for passengers to find themselves standing on a short train the next morning. There is really no excuse for Southeastern not knowing this information and passing it on the passengers promptly.
So while we won’t be signing the petition to sack Southeastern we will continue to hold both it and Network Rail to account when they fail passengers. We rely on our members and suppprters as our eyes and ears on the ground to help us do this – so please get in touch if you have any information we can act on.