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South by SouthEastern, continued.

The fallout from SouthEastern Railway’s utter failure to cope with the recent snow continues, and you’ll find a good summary of the latest developments here. One thing to add is that, of the three politicans I contacted, one has sent a proper reply.

Bridget Prentice MP (for Lewisham East) confirmed receipt of my letter via email, then sent a full response by post. In it she said:

“…I am very sorry to hear of these concerns and hope they can be addressed in full very soon.

I have written to South Eastern Trains’s Public Affairs Manager and have raised with him your concerns. I have asked him to respond to these concerns, and to let me know what South Eastern intends to do in future to ensure that services will not be affected by weather doncitions in the way they have over the past few days. As soon as I have a reply, I will write to you again.”

This seems to me more than fair, and I’m grateful for Ms Prentice’s intervention. I now look forward to the company’s reply – not least to see if it bears many similarities to the less-than-helpful ones received by Bexcentric and published here.

Update: On the 23rd of January I received, via the office of Ms Prentice, a ‘Briefing Document’ from SouthEastern Trains. It’s the same document already sent to Bexcentric, and published here.

In response, I’ve sent the following back to the company, with Ms Prentice CC’d:

Dear Mr [Contact name]

Thanks for passing on, via Bridget Prentice MP, the SouthEastern Railways briefing document regarding the limited service operated on the 5th to 8th January – I note that this response has also been distributed to others. I do have two further questions, however, which I’d appreciate if you could answer.

Given that:

* According to your document, on the 6th of January SouthEastern ran 665 services rather than 2024 – less than one third of a standard timetable, thus leaving up to two-thirds of customers unable to use the service they pay for

* Southern Railways, which operates the same “third rail” electrification system on infrastructure also provided by Network Rail, attempted to run a full service that day, as it did throughout the period of 6-8 January

* SouthEastern Railways receives a significant subsidy from the taxpayer to operate its services – a subsidy that, in 2009, worked out at over £350,000 per day

* On the 9th of January, despite no improvement in weather conditions, SouthEastern decided that it was suddenly able to provide a full Saturday timetable – with more trains and later running than during the 5th to 8th January.

SouthEastern Railway customers could be forgiven for getting the impression that both:

A) The management of SouthEastern Railway cut its service from Weds 6th to Friday 8th in order to avoid damaging its punctuality and reliability statistics, and thus avoid paying compensation to customers as per its ‘Passengers’ Charter’ rather than out of necessity (after all, on Saturday 9th, when the charter no longer applied, the service immediately recovered), and

B) The management of SouthEastern Railway have no intention of delivering value to the taxpayer in return for its Government subsidy.

So, I have two questions. Both can be answered with a simple yes or no:

1) In order to avoid the appearance of slashing services merely to avoid paying passenger compensation, will SouthEastern mark its own  reliability results down to 32.8% (per your running statistics: 665/2024 = 0.328) over the three day period of 6-8 Jan, thus providing a fair chance of customers receiving reasonable compensation for its limited service over this period?

2) In order to avoid the appearance of taking a huge subsidy but providing a service only when it sees fit, will SouthEastern return an appropriate percentage of its last subsidy – say 67% (again, per your statistics) of the amount of subsidy received per day, for three days? Alternatively, perhaps an equivalent sum – I make it just under £749,000 – could be donated, as a gesture of goodwill, to the DEC Appeal for Haiti, providing a positive end to this entire debacle.

Many thanks for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

All the best

Tom

Will update when I hear back.

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