15 October 2014

Train day - BBC Radio Kent

I took part in the BBC Radio Kent programme partly to be able to talk to their MD about issues that have plagued the service for ages, but mainly to speak up for Dartford commuters. For too long our MP has let them get away with giving passengers a raw deal and not really put much pressure on them to improve. And his Government handed the keys back to Southeastern for an extra 4 more years last month.

Whilst raising the issue of wifi first during a parliamentary session benefits a few, and more recently praising the renewed franchise for bringing Oyster to only one of the 7 stations in the Dartford Borough, Dartford MP Gareth Johnson has been ineffectual in talking about, let alone making any visible effort to get this improved for commuters from Dartford.

In February 2014 he brought up the issue of punctuality, rather weakly I may add with no prior research on how PPM is calculated (took me a minute to find, read, and understand this as research on for my session with the new Southeastern MD). If he was so concerned about PPM figures for those of us in Dartford then why have the PPM requirements that his Government set, for the lines from and through Dartford stations, been reduced on this franchise from the previous network average. How is this standing up for the Dartford commuters? It isn’t.

In 2010/11 census, it showed that 38% of the working population of Dartford commutes to London. That’s a lot of hard working people in Dartford that have to put with, on average at least 3 train delayed journeys per week

So before looking at value-added services, or saving a few seconds at the ticket gate, after being delayed by at least a minute approx 40% of the time, the focus should be on performance and punctuality, and a better service for commuters. This is what I set out to get from the hour where myself, and 3 other commuters had the chance to talk to the new Southeastern MD, David Statham, live on BBC Radio Kent on Monday 13th October, the second day of their Direct Award Franchise.

In this blog post I’ll cover the questions I asked, on behalf of Dartford commuters, and also Kent as a whole (the issues we experience aren’t just directed at us!).

I’m thankful for those on Twitter and the Dartford Community Facebook group for suggesting questions - whilst I didn’t get to ask them all, they were recorded and David gave me his business card after the session to follow up. I will certainly do this and share the results via my blog.

#Short-termination of trains at Dartford

This was part of the first question I asked - why do you regularly terminate trains at Dartford station that were scheduled to go through to Stone Crossing, Greenhithe and beyond during evening peak?

I’ve seen this raised on twitter many times, by commuters who have had a long day at work and find themselves chucked off a train, so it can be sent back up the line and be ‘on time’ when it travels back out from London. PPM figures would count the short-terminated service into Dartford as well as the one back up the line as failures, however 2 hours after that train left London, it would now be on time.

I understand this, I understand how PPM is calculated. I researched it. However this doesn’t benefit those who are now have around 20 minutes added to their journey. Hard-working commuters who want to get home to their families/other appointments/dinner.

David Statham didn’t have a straight answer for this - even when I pushed that these commuters are now further delayed so future journeys are ‘on time’. He did however say that this “disadvantages the minority like yourself…which is frustrating”, and he wanted to get the maximum number home in the evening.

Clearly he would rather have off-peak travel back ‘on time’, rather than providing regular commuters a service that gets them home without having to get off a train, and wait for another one.

#Delay Repay

Our journeys from Dartford into London average around 50 minutes.

Delay Repay kicks in at 30+ minutes delay, awarding us the princely sum of £2

David claimed this is an industry standard - I didn’t have a chance to point out the recently awarded c2c franchise pays out automatically on delays of two minutes or more.

He did however say that people consistently delayed “over 4 weeks” will get extra compensation, but didn’t go into detail. I’ll follow up with him on this since he’s invited me to send further questions by email to him.

Delay Repay isn’t a good mechanism to compensate for delays that add 60% onto the average journey, which will pay less than the minimum wage for the time wasted on the train.

This needs to change.

#12 car trains

I had a note to ask about this, but it came up as part of the conversation.

Next year’s timetable will have some 12 car trains on the Metro lines. This is good news for Dartford commuters, if it covers our lines.

As with many other answers, David was not very forthcoming on which services this will be on, which I’ll follow up on.

It’s certainly a quick way to fix some of the overcrowding issues, especially as most of the platforms have supported 12-car running for over a year.

#PPM (Public Performance Measure)

I have spent the last month trying to get this figure for the new franchise.

Claire Perry, the Transport Minister claimed ‘tough performance measures’ for the new franchise.

This is simply not the case.

Southeastern pushed out a newsletter at the start of the new franchise - punctuality figures are on page 17. On the original/previous franchise document the target that ended March 2014 was 93.4%, though they only managed to achieve 89.0%.

The targets for Dartford lines are lower than the others, we’ll expect 2 out of our 10 weekly journeys to be delayed. A number that is acceptable to this Government and the Department for Transport. But not acceptable to us commuters that have had to put up with delays for the last few years of this operator.

#Train heating

This has been an issue throughout the summer.

I’ve blogged about it several times, and only got as far as finding out that the temperature is set to at least 21C.

I brought this up during the live broadcast, but David was not aware of it. After the broadcast ended, we briefly talked about it, but rather ironically the Inspector Sands announcement made it difficult to hear each other.

It’s another one to follow up on, but something unacceptable for everyone across the network.

Follow up

At the second break, David said we should talk after the broadcast, and the first thing he did when we went off-air was give me his business card so I can contact him directly.

I fully intend to do that, and will do my best to represent our local commuters to at least get some information about what is actually happening, and maybe even some change. I will, of course, post any results from that on my blog

As I’ve said earlier on in this post, and also on twitter…Wi-fi and Oyster…they’re all good, but just extra bits round an already failing service.

We need to have a better voice to stand up for local commuters, because right now we are being failed by those in power, with misdirection from the actual problem: the continuing poor performance of the service.

## The original broadcast notes

If you missed the broadcast, I’ve written it up in three parts:

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3



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Related links


Southeastern Railway Action Group
Dartford Rail Travellers' Association
Dartford Rail Travellers Association (Facebook)
Dartford Rail Travellers Association (Twitter)