Time to Act on Poor Southeastern Service – Petition Parliament; Elected Representatives Must Act; Concerted Effort Needed
We Radicals are known for our views on Southeastern and often like a good rant (these posts normally start off with the intention of being short but even with the relaxing sound of Test Match Special in the background this Radical is struggling to maintain composure…). After the latest debacle with the response to the landslide we are once again faced with the same old issues of poor customer service and amateurish responses to incidents that certainly do not take in to account the trials of long suffering passengers.
The Revolt accepts that the infrastructure issues are out of the control of Southeastern but the response to incidents is not. Knowing, as all passengers do, that there are regular issues with signals etc. should lead Southeastern to have good contingency plans. Instead we see half-hearted responses. Going through the archives (we’ve been around for two years now!) we noted the poor response to the emergency engineering works in Lewisham in autumn 2014; anticipated the London Bridge fiasco at the start of 2015, even though Southeastern were apparently not expecting problems; and wrote to Southeastern with some simple suggestions on how to improve the poor customer service. On the last of those we are consistently promised improvements but see absolutely no change. We Radicals, who are no communication experts or handsomely paid directors of a train company, proposed some fairly basic remedies. Yet still no change. This is not good enough.
We do not pretend that one blog can change the world, and indeed tens of thousands of angry customers seem to have no effect on the complacent Southeastern management either. However, someone has come up with a the rather good wheeze of starting a petition about the franchise on the Parliament website. The link is here and it has already gathered over 8,000 signatures. 10,000 means it gets a government response and 100,000 gets it debated. It would be easy to dismiss this as pointless, but the Revolt thinks this is a rather good idea – 10,000 should be easy, and it is open until June so 100,000 is not impossible. It may prompt someone to take note, including our elected representatives (although probably not Southeastern who seem immune to any entreaties). We note Clive Efford MP has been raising the most recent issues in Parliament and we need more of this. This Radical wonders if the service was so poor on a mainline route whether company bosses would be hauled before the Transport Select Committee and censured in some way.
Our elected representatives need to join forces on a serious issue that affects constituents – a sizable group of MPs and local councils covering the Southeastern network may have a chance of forcing debate or change, or at least holding Southeastern to account in a very public way. Why not take our ideas on customer service changes to the Chief Exec (who it was claimed had some experience in this area) and ask politely “Why can’t this be done?”, “What do you propose to do?”.
Tweeting and complaining to Southeastern is not enough. Remember life exists outside of social media. Thousands of people writing to their MPs and Councillors about Southeastern and exhorting them to take action can have an impact too.
This should be a non-partisan issue so let us avoid grandstanding and hand-wringing about privatisation, franchises and renationalisation, and focus on action that can and will make a difference to passengers. The Revolt wants to see action to hold Southeastern to account and improve the service.
If enough customers make a noise, if our elected representatives take up the cause, then maybe, just maybe, we can do more than just shame Southeastern management and actually make a difference.
One area that is often overlooked is that Southeastern receive compensation from Network Rail for disruption caused by infrastructure. Yet most customers are unable to claim any compensation. As an example, this week one of your Radicals was delayed most days this week and lost at least an hour over four days, not to mention the disruption of using a different station and changing routines. But no one journey was delayed by 30 minutes so no ‘delay repay’. An annual Gold card for Blackheath now costs £1,008, yet we put up with this service. Whilst on Gold cards this Radical also wonders how much some of the ‘rewards’ schemes cost. The latest is a free glass of champagne (worth £10) if you spend £35 to go up the Shard. This Radical would rather see that money and Southeastern efforts going in to improving the service, not gimmicks. Or get that £10 off the recently renewed Gold Card.