Southeastern: Learning nothing from the snow
Regular readers will recall the trouble caused by Southeastern’s shutdown of its rail network during January’s cold spell, which brought it complaints from Boris Johnson and a rare and under-reported public lambasting from the boss of Transport for London.
The criticism brought a promise to do better, including the improvement of communication with passengers. One innovation was a Tube-style “good service”/”minor delays” breakdown of the network’s lines for its website – so innovative, in fact, that you’d forget its predecessor company South Eastern Trains (not to be confused with the current firm, franchised by the Labour government in 2006) started using that style of information at its London terminals six years ago.
One point raised by London Assembly transport committee chair Caroline Pidgeon when she wrote to Southeastern boss Charles Horton was the lack of information at stations – this site reported the information boards at Charlton station being turned off back in January, with a generic message replacing information about the next train.
Charles Horton’s response dismissed these concerns:
So, today at Charlton station, the information screens would be working, wouldn’t they?
Of course not. Just at the time when people need information the most, Southeastern’s information system had been switched off. Worse than useless.
Indeed, from all accounts, it looks like Southeastern’s contingency plans failed miserably this afternoon, with little information provided to frustrated passengers about a disrupted service. Gripes on Twitter in the past couple of hours include…
Charing cross update. If you ask at the desk they will tell you which trains are running. No PA announcements as only 1 person upstairs—
sarah (@sarahluv81) November 30, 2010
…and so on. With a knackered and fragmented system, delays and glitches during snow are pretty much unavoidable. Indeed, it was a tragedy at Slade Green which closed the Greenwich line this morning, rather than the snow. But how long can Southeastern go on hiding from its customers like this?
I would have contacted Southeastern for a comment on this, but – you guessed it – the train company told me earlier this year it “doesn’t respond to blogs, etc”.