13 October 2014

Welcome to Charing Cross

Indeed. I arrived just before 8. The train should’ve got in at 0752, but was late…but that’s expected. Signal problems up the line, and the ‘Fresh Start’ living up to the expectations of more delays.

I had to meet the BBC team at 0830 so got myself a bite to eat, carried on listening to the BBC Radio Kent stream - some great interviews and journalism covering all angles. I was looking forward to it already, if a little bit tired from the early start.

I turned up at the new Waiting Room at Charing Cross, and met @peter_mount who I’ve spoken to for ages on twitter, mainly about trains, and finally got to meet. A bit of small talk about what wanted to cover…and then…

9am - live on air

The news happens, and weather, and obviously travel. There’s always travel problems.

Before we went to air, the production team asked us for one main area we’d like to cover. I picked delays. I figured someone else would get asked a question first. But..no…I got to go first.


I had around 2000 words prepared on my iPad of areas I wanted to cover and research, and even pre-canned questions. In the end, I picked bits from a few questions, compounded them together, and fired out my first question…

If you’d like to listen to the whole thing again (I had to, to write this, so you should too), then the BBC have put this up on Soundcloud

The Questions (Part 1 of 3)

The rest of this post will have summaries of the questions and answers from the panel, and a bit of commentary from me (quotes used for what was actually said, you can, of course, refer to the audio link!)

It took me a while to write up the bit to the first break (it was split into 3 sections). So whilst it’s getting late on Monday evening, I want to at least get this out, so I will.

I already prepared the Thank Yous at the bottom of this post, so they’ll stay for the remaining 2 parts of this blog.

Of course, you can listen to the whole hour again on via Soundcloud, if you can’t wait for me to type the rest up!

# Intro

Julia put out the results of the survey for Radio Kent - whilst David claimed that this time last year, Southeastern had the best levels of punctuality, the PPM MAA to March 2013 was 91.1%, whilst in March 2012 this was 91.8% (the original franchise was timed to end-March each year)

David and Julia Me asking a question

# Delays and seats

My question: Over the last few years, trains are more packed each morning, and delays occur at least a few times each week. On evening commutes a few years ago, I could arrive a couple of minutes before the train left, now I need to get there 5-10 mins before to get a seat.

Julia: Two questions in one: Punctuality question, and why can’t you get a seat. Start with punctuality…figures over the last 12 months haven’t been good

David: We focus on delays within our control, and work together with Network Rail. Working ‘extremely hard’ to make the train fleet more reliable, and ‘what we can do with the timetable, to take the delays out of the timetable’

Me: In the evenings, Dartford commuters commonly find the peak services from Charing Cross and Cannon Street, in the event of a delay, get their trains terminated at Dartford. People travelling on to Stone Crossing, Greenhithe and further down the track are chucked off the train at Dartford, and get further delays, in order to keep your PPM figures up by being able to send the train back up the line. What will you do to change this? Commuters in Dartford are getting a really bad deal right now

David: It’s frustrating that trains are terminated short, and missing stations - this isn’t done for punctuality figures, these trains are classed as a failure

Me: You terminate it short, so the knock-on effects are reduced, for your figures at the expense of the commuter

David: We turn trains round short to get the train back on time for it’s next journey, for the benefit of the majority of the people, but this “disadvantages the minority like yourself…which is frustrating”. We will try to manage the railway during disruption to try and ensure we get the maximum number of people home in the evening

My thoughts: Turning the train round early, at around 1840-1910 doesn’t benefit those trying to get home, the train would get back to Charing Cross by around 2000, this is outside of the peak commuter time. He didn’t actually answer the question of addressing the needs of commuters in the Dartford Borough area.

Me: These people are trying to get home from a long day at work that now have further delayed, you’re making it better for people going the other way so they aren’t delayed

Julia: Is this done to massage your punctuality figures? Phil isn’t convinced

David: What we’re trying to do by terminating the train short is to try and get it back into London for it’s next journey out again

Julia (to me): When you are late, do you apply for a refund?

Me: Journey times are now on average around 50 minutes (longer than it used to be, obviously with a few minutes added here and there to mitigate against delays). To get a refund at a 30 minute delay, an extra 60% delay on my journey, that’s a £2 refund into Dartford, I don’t think this is acceptable, do you?

Julia: Is Delay Repay generous to passengers? I don’t fill it in, my husband lost his vouchers. A lot people aren’t convinced you’re doing right when there’s a serious delay

David: We know compensation is a big issue, we’re ensuring the Delay Repay system (standard across the industry), will be made more prominent. We’re introducing an enhanced compensation mechanism, if people are consistently delayed “over 4 weeks” we’ll give extra compensation over and above the Delay Repay process.

Julia: When will people be refunded directly when a train is delayed?

My thoughts: I wanted to jump in here and point out the new C2C franchise that pays out refunds after a 2 minute delay, but didn’t get a chance…

David: We want to look after people, Delay Repay is an industry standard, and we offer refunds if people can’t travel

Julia: Picking up on Phil’s other point - do you regularly get a seat

All put hands up!

Julia: Is this because you travel early in the morning, or late at night?

All nodded

Peter: I’m getting a seat because I get an early train (0744 from Maidstone East) so not many people get on before. By Bromley South the train is standing room early - this is half the journey time

Julia: What’s it like to stand?

Peter: They’ve just got used to it

Julia: It’s tough to get used to. People have to stand, pay thousands of pounds each year, they shouldn’t have to stand should they?

David: The survey showed this is the third highest rated area to improve on. In January there are 2000 extra seats in evening peak

Julia: What does this mean?

David: Good question, we carry 570,000 people in and out of London each day. 2000 is a good start, we’ll build on it. New timetable for Metro will have 12-car trains. Good news for passengers.

My thoughts: I blogged this on the Sunday (day before the meeting) after reading the FOI request, during morning peak there will now be 180 less standard seats (and 92 extra First).

# Information and Delays

Peter: When there is major disruption happening, especially on twitter, the amount of information ceases to exist. I find myself issuing more information than Southeastern does, which is sometimes more accurate on what’s going on, than your twitter. What will you do to improve this?

David: We’re focussing on getting better information out. Three ways to do this: Better information to passengers, via information screens and PA announcements via central control, and more people on the twitter team. It’s important to use twitter for real time information. Passengers want real people to talk to, more frontline staff for better information (100 new frontline staff), with better information.

Julia: Do you want to get Peter to train them up? Departure boards (we had one in the waiting room, of course) is looking good, all trains ‘On time’.

My thoughts: I think Peter could do a good job to build out systems that make information work well, though I’ve been a fan of the data he puts out on his site for a while, also being someone who likes taking huge amounts of data and crunching it into something useful…

Julia: Call from Medina:

Medina: Question related to disability (I’m blind and on crutches) - can’t take the direct route, but due to disability I have to take the long way round

Julia: Is there something you can do about this?

David: Better access to people who need it is important - working to making stations more accessible with upgrades, and also making trains more accessible, and over the next 3.5 years trains will be more accessible. 90 carriages

Julia: What’s your journey?

Medina: I have to go to Bat & Ball via Swanley (from Tonbridge) due to lack of accessibility

David: We’re dealing with Victorian infrastructure and have a booking line to help people.

My thoughts: I wanted to point out that the Passenger Charter says that there will be space for disabled people on trains, however the class 465/6 trains do not provide this, as pointed out to me recently from a local Dartford resident. Sadly the time for that section was up so I couldn’t raise it. I will follow up on this though (see a future post on my next actions!)

Thank yous

Thank you for BBC Radio Kent, and Southeastern, for hosting the session at Charing Cross Station. I hope that the listeners and commuters got something out of it.

And Dartford Living’s Editor for putting me forward for this (as well as Councillor Jonathon Hawkes who mailed me about it a few days after!)

Oh, and Peter Mount, who has an amazing amount of stats at uktra.in - was very useful for me to get stats together for one of my questions

Next part…

It’s taken me 45 mins to blog 13 mins of the stream…there’s a lot of information there.

The second part is now posted


Related posts:

26 February 2015 | The Year So Far ...

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Related links

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