On Thursday 16th April 2015 the Managing Director of local train company Southeastern joined us to get a taste of commuting between Tonbridge and London. David Statham joined Southeastern in September 2014, having previously been Managing Director of First Capital Connect, and has decided to get to know his new railway first hand by travelling with a selection of typical commuters on their regular journeys.
Mr Statham joined TLC committee member John Morton on the 18:20 from Charing Cross to Tonbridge. The journey went relatively smoothly, unlike on the previous Monday morning when there were was major signalling problems following an engineering work overrun at London Bridge. Mr Statham expressed his disappointment about what had happened on Monday morning, which seemed to come down to a lapse in Network Rail project management following a major effort to ensure the successful completion of engineering works over Easter.
During the journey we were able to raise a number of key issues with the Managing Director. These included:
- The problem of automatic ticket machine overcharging passengers by selling “Any Permitted” fares that cover illogical routes (such as Tonbridge to Bromley South via Ashford International and St Pancras – a journey taking around three hours as opposed to the normal journey of 45 minutes via Orpington)
- The lack of trains to London Bridge and Cannon Street from both Tonbridge and Hildenborough at certain times in the morning peak – including gaps in departures at Tonbridge between 05:59 to 06:44 (45 minutes) and at Hildenborough between 08:20 to 09:36 (an hour and 15 minutes)
- The need to allow ordinary rail tickets to “London terminals” to be accepted more widely on the Tube while London Bridge station is being rebuilt – in particular we are calling for tickets to be valid at Temple station in order to avoid the inconvenience of passengers having to walk back to Embankment to get the tube to Cannon Street
- The unsatisfactory location of ticket machines at Hildenborough and Paddock Wood stations – at both stations of the position of the ticket machine makes it difficult to read the screen in bright sunlight
- The lack of a formal single line queuing system at Tonbridge station, where people queuing to buy tickets regularly block the path to the ticket barriers for commuters trying to get to the trains
David Statham has asked us to send him a copy of our Issues Log in order that he can investigate these points more fully. We’ve prepared as summary for him and will be holding him to his word. Meanwhile, we’re glad to see that the management of Southeastern is taking a real interest in seeing the railway from the commuter’s perspective – long may that continue.