So far, very little it would seem. I travel from Hildenborough to Cannon Street and back again every day and I have to agree with the hordes on Twitter… Southeastern’s service has been dismal since the ‘all singing all dancing’ London Bridge has opened.
Train journeys have lengthened. This seems to be to allow a pause at London Bridge, presumably to allow paths to become clear ahead. Seems odd though that the same number of trains were able to move through the same space before the works.
The evening commute is a farce. The station management at Cannon Street is poor. Trains come in on the same platform day in day out. I’d wager that there are fewer platform alterations at Cannon Street than other mainline terminals. So why do they persist in delaying the announcement of the platform until virtually the last minute? It causes huge congestion on the concourse and then a stampede when the train is announced. This is incredibly poor for those amongst us who may have mobility issues.
The problem is compounded when the inevitable ‘big’ problem occurs, which seems to be at an ever increasing frequency. You get such bad congestion that the barriers are shut for ‘crowd control’, despite most platforms being empty. I can almost guarantee that people miss their train purely because they can’t get through the throng of tired commuters waiting on the platform.
Whilst many of the problems lie at Southeastern’s door, I think a brighter light should be shone on Network Rail. Day in and day out we see signal failures or an issue with the track. I see they’re active on Twitter saying how busy they are with these issues but they are a plague on the commuter and frankly more must be done.
This month fares went up, as they always do, loosely linked to inflation. We argue that the consumer prices index (CPI) would be a better measure, rather than the almost defunct Retail Price Index (RPI). It seems to me like train faults, signal problems and general rubbishness on the trains has also gone up in line with inflation. The myths peddled by the rail industry on the level of reinvestment must surely be challenged. 97p in every pound goes to improving the service? I think someone should call trading standards as we’re all being ripped off. Sometimes I wonder whether the true figure is even 9.7p.
There are ever increasing numbers of people calling for nationalisation, as if the state offers a silver bullet. I’m not one of them. Network Rail is effectively a nationalised firm and look at how poor the infrastructure is. We need to remove excuses for poor performance and drive up standards, whatever the ownership model.
So Network rail, sort out your signals and everything else that is in your control (we accept that some things aren’t – such as drivers failing to avoid bridges). Southeastern, sort your trains out. Train faults are a ridiculous problem and the current staff may be doing all they can but it should never have got this bad so management need to take a long hard look at themselves. Oh and sort out your toilets. Not a day goes by without a number of toilets being out of service.
Whatever happens, the interests of passengers need to be put at the centre of the system. We pay a fortune for travel and most of us have no choice. We have to work, go to school etc.
Currently, the railway feels like it’s run for Network Rail and Southeastern rather than the people it serves.