26 February 2015

2015 so far…

I haven’t had time to blog here much, though those who follow me on twitter or via the rail group for dartford would know I’ve been up to lots of stuff.

A fair few of you will be here as a result of leaflets dropping through your door - or if you happen to not be local to me, then it’s here, properly formatted for the web.

What have I been up to? Read on…


#Potential Photosensitive Epilepsy problem…

This has taken up a lot of the start of this year. After being away for most of December for travelling (this time not just for work, but my first proper holiday of 2014!) I noticed the on-board passenger displays on the train were flickering at a rate that made me feel nauseous and give me a slight headache.

After contacting the British Epilepsy Association on twitter, it turned out that this could potentially affect those who have Photosensitive Epilepsy. Obviously a major concern, and something I’m aware of through my day job.

This led to some urgent emails being sent round and a quick fix in place by Southeastern that evening, after nearly a week of fobbing off that they were looking into it. Despite claims that work was being done through that week, I’m not so sure, since their tune changed after I raised it directly to the MD.

#Still happening…

However for the weeks following, it did seem that the problem was still there, albeit on a smaller scale. Again, constant tweets about this were met with the same fobbing off attitude…until I wrote another post about it

And then action! More potential issues identified and a plan to fix over the coming couple of days, with them all addressed for start of Friday service. Which, I think, backs up my assertion above that problems only get looked into when I shout loudly. And those who know me, know that if there’s something that is being ignored, and I’m aware of it, then I’ll do whatever I can to address it, or find someone that can.

#Something different

What followed was a slight departure for me…I had a conversation with Southeastern about working together to solve this problem. A long shot I know, given that up to now progress had been slow…

I proposed a plan where, via DRTA, I write a post explaining what had happened so far with the potential PSE problem, and that we (DRTA and Southeastern) would like to hear reports of flickering still happening on the onboard passenger displays. What better way to find an issue that’s an edge case and manifests itself after the train is 5 mins past it’s last stop, and more than several mins from the next? Crowdsourcing is the technical term - and my first real use of Twitter, during the snow issues we had in 2010

After a few teething problems on Monday, the message was set to be tweeted throughout the week, at preset times, thanks to the Twitter team at Southeastern’s control centre.

As the week progressed, reports got less, and I received private updates daily.

At the time of writing I’ve seen one issue raised on Tuesday. And that’s it.

I’d call that a result…and shows that working together can solve a problem, rather than constantly moaning and making no noticeable difference

Impromptu radio appearance

BBC Radio Kent were doing a piece about the price of car parking near Southeastern stations and invited me on to talk about the effects on Dartford - which I did!

I had time to do a little bit of research into costs, and I was shocked to see that the cost of annual parking at Dartford station was nearly half the price of an annual rail only train ticket! No wonder commuters park on our streets daily.

And whilst parking permits are a possible solution, they don’t really work well for those who have guests regularly and have to pay out for extra voucher books to enable them to park.

There has to be a solution to this, and something I’ve started looking into.

Local stuff

I’ve spoken to a lot of residents in Newtown and across Dartford this year. We’ve had generally good responses on the doorstep, of course there’s the odd bad response, or dog grabbing at updates we put through letter boxes, but on the whole good…and fun.

But cold.

I’m surprised I’ve not been ill yet, though it’s been teasing me this week with sniffles, hopefully I can ward it off for the next 10 weeks.

#We all make mistakes, right?

Cos if you say you’ve never made a mistake, then you’re either perfect, or a perfectly good liar.

I made a mistake, I messed up a sentence on the Labour Team Newtown leaflet that went out. A stupid mistake, that was only pointed to me after it was on its way back from the printers.

My fault. I should’ve double and triple checked it.

So those of you who have received our update for Newtown, that’s why there’s a little sticker to correct my mistake. As someone who generally reads things in a hurry (ah, that’s where I went wrong), I felt it right to correct it myself - a busy weekend of stickering, but glad I got a lot done.

Of course, it took me under a minute to fix the version that’s up on the Dartford Labour site

Dart Charge

This has been a bugbear of mine. And I blogged it here

Ever since then I’ve been keeping an eye on the Dart Charge twitter feed, as well as tweeting at those who have been affected by similar issues.

The truth is this: the site was launched, in an Alpha state, on a stretch of the M25 where the daily unique passenger count was known, as well as the number of local residents signed up to the local resident scheme. To launch with such a half-hearted site, full of bugs isn’t on.

…and this blog, as well as my tweets resulted in me being on BBC Radio Kent today to talk about it - my 5th time in 4 months! The first 3 being about Southeastern, and then effects of commuter parking, so not just all about trains.

I also encountered someone who was issued a Penalty Charge Notice via twitter and helped identify the problem and get that cancelled.

I’ll blog that separately, and also the IT problems that, quite frankly, should not have plagued the Dart Charge website for this long.

I did make it onto the BBC News website, with a quote that’s very important to a lot of us in Dartford (and I guess in Thurrock too) - moving the operation for toll management from Dartford to Leeds, means that local residents can’t just turn up to the Dartford office to renew their Local Resident Scheme account. I hope that my comments, together with the failed IT project that is Dart Charge, will bring some way for locals to be able to handle the Local Resident scheme setup, locally at some point in the future.

What next?

If you’re in the Newtown area of Dartford, then I look forward to speaking to you. We all have a lot of shared interests, hopes, and frustrations with the area we live in.

Together I hope that we can turn things around, in our area, and the wider part of where we live.

I hope that my track record, starting with helping sort out the recycling collection problem (and elsewhere on this blog) through to working with Southeastern on the potential PSE problem gives you confidence that I can get things done to help out all of us in Dartford, from my local community to those who have to commute or take rail journeys daily.

And if you’re not in my local area, then there’s many ways to contact me - so please, do get in touch!


Related posts:

28 August 2015 | Southeastern Apprenticeships
28 August 2015 | Southeastern Apprenticeships

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Related links

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