A happy relationship between the DfT and Southeastern
I’ll start this post by looking back to a previous Freedom of Information (FOI) request that I made to the Department for Transport (DfT) about Southeastern.
It was back in March 2016, when I made an FOI request to find out how Southeastern were performing against their internal targets with the DfT - read about this here.
After sitting opposite David Statham a few days later, and him gloating at how the data won’t be released due to commercial interests, I got it after filing another FOI to DfT to point out that their excuses (obviously given to them by Southeastern) were wrong.
But it does beg the question - why are the DfT asking Southeastern for information about past events and how their performance is?
My requests are to a public body (the DfT) about data they should hold, if they are actually ensuring that their rail franchises are being properly managed, and meeting the requirements that the DfT have set out.
From the recent lack of action from DfT with Govia’s Southern franchise (Govia run Southeastern), it does make you wonder if there’s some sort of love-in between Govia and the Dft, doesn’t it?
Why do the DfT need to ask Govia’s permission to release data that the DfT hold? Surely this is in the public interest.
And as I have already shown, it is.
National Rail Passenger Survey
Every 6 months, we see the results from the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS), and for the last few survey results, we’ve seen a decrease in Southeastern’s performance.
To save you looking, here’s how they have performed since 2013:
Not particularly well as you can see, and getting further away from the London & South East average, and their high satisfaction result in Autumn 2013…and about that result…
Customer & Stakeholder Engagement Strategy - October 2014
This has now been updated however I’ve posted up the October 2014 version here.
Back in October 2014, here are some highlights:
Maintain overall customer satisfaction to the highest levels achieved in 2013. (So 85%)
To maintain customer service levels during the franchise, we have developed an integrated plan that is designed to mitigate the challenges we face over the next four years.
Throughout the next four years we aim to deliver consistently excellent standards in customer service by improving train and station presentation, passenger information and retail, and by harnessing technical innovations to improve the service for our customers.
We’re experts in managing change across our network.
The list could go on - have a read of the document yourself and see how they’ve achieved very little of their promises in the past 2 years
In the November 2016, update they now simply say:
- 85% by 2018 – 85% overall satisfaction in National Rail Passenger Survey and 85% satisfaction in the employee survey by 2018.
A big difference from maintaining this satisfaction from 2013.
But not a surprise - another failed promise from Southeastern and Govia.
Back to the NRPS
I put in an FOI request to the DfT regarding how Southeastern have followed their requirements for publishing NRPS results.
In summary Southeastern must:
display, at all stations a summary of their performance against NRPS benchmarks as well as against other companies in the ‘same NRPS Service TOC Categories’
on their webiste, the full results of the NRPS, together with the same benchmarks and comparisons as should be on the posters
I’ve not seen these in stations.
And nor have any others - apart from one tweet with a recent photo showing data that is over a year old…
I also asked as part of my FOI what action the DfT are taking for not meeting the benchmarks as set out in the franchise, which I believe they have not met
Southeastern need to vet DfT’s response
After the 19th working day, I got a request to extend the request, since the DfT needed to ask Southeastern for reasons of commercial and confidentiality.
Whilst some of my requests do ask what the DfT’s action plan with Southeastern is to improve the NRPS results, they haven’t answered my question about how their own monitoring of Southeastern’s requirements have gone. I’ve asked if at least this can be immediately released.
Why do DfT need to go back to Govia each time?
This worries me.
It worries me a lot.
And it worries me even more in light of how the DfT have been totally ineffectual with Govia Southern in recent months.
I’m asking questions of the Department for Transport, about information that they should hold.
About surveys that our rail users sometimes get to participate in, that provide an indicator as to how Southeastern are performing.
That show they are not performing, and are getting increasingly worse.
If the DfT do deem that disclosing the information about how Southeastern’s lack of communication of the results to passengers is not in the public interest, then they are clearly not acting in the best interest of rail users.
If the Dft do deem that not disclosing the plan they have with Southeastern to improve our rail journeys, and therefore our satisfaction with the services, then they are again not acting in the best interest of rail users.
And if this happens I will ensure that this is challenged.
It’s about time the DfT do their jobs
Enforce the franchise.
Penalise the Train Operating Company for failing to do what they should be.
And act in the interest of the rail user, who is generating so much profit for Govia and the Go-Ahead Group.
Enough is enough.