August evening timetable – update

I stumbled across the ‘Electronic National Rail Timetable’ earlier which has all the train timetables in until December.

Timetables that are still not yet to be published on the Southeastern site.

It turns out that there are 3 trains that I didn’t catch in when I did my analysis the other day, so here’s an updated image – changes are in green

The missing trains are on the Sidcup line, and should restore some sense of balance compared to the current timetable – albeit with 3 trains less than 2014

It will be interesting to see if Southeastern will ensure there are enough cars per service for Dartford trains, but that’s something they’ll have to reveal themselves

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 13.06.35


August 2016 timetable – evening trains analysis

Please read this updated post showing some extra trains!

Following on from yesterday’s morning train analysis, I took a look at the evening times (1700-1900 from Cannon St or Charing Cross to Dartford) and noticed there were less, so I’ve hastily put this out.

What it shows:

  • In 2014 we had 23 trains to DFD from CST or CHX
  • In the proposal put to us last year there were 21 trains in the draft timetable
  • Logged in the system there are only 17 trains leaving CST or CHX between 1700 and 1900 going to Dartford
  • The routes from both CST and CHX are both varied compared to the current timetable, which means you can get to the Woolwich line stations from CHX during the evening peak
  • Where we had a 10-car 1801 service, the 10-car 1818 service, and the usually full 6-car 1823 service from CHX, there is now a 1758 service (with I guess the 1750 making up for the 1752 service), and an 1816 service. So that’s 26 carriages of trains into a maximum of 24 carriages, most likely 20 as Southeastern are incapable of running many 12-car services.  So that won’t be squashed at all…
  • Peak services from CST have also been reduced, for these services that already very busy, and even the walk to London Bridge won’t fix that with the reduction in CHX services

All in all, we have got yet another raw deal from Southeastern – unless the data fed into the systems is not complete. We can only hope that the final published timetable has some of the omitted trains put back in.


August 2016 timetable – morning trains analysis

So thanks to I’ve managed to look at the morning timetable through Dartford and done this quick analysis of:

  • how a similar journey differs compared to the pre-London Bridge works
  • how the published timetable differs from the proposed one that Southeastern put to us last year

The numbers are shown below, but a few highlights are here for those of you who don’t want to examine a spreadsheet in detail:

  • Journey times are typically longer than they were before the London Bridge works
  • Journeys on the Sidcup line that were once around 46 minutes are now around 52 minutes (from Dartford)
  • Journeys on the Bexleyheath line now have around 3 minutes added to them
  • Whilst there have been a few journeys with a minute reduced vs the proposed timetable that Southeastern put forward, many journeys have had additional minutes added

I don’t expect that we’ll see a reduction in journey times once the London Bridge excuse works complete, and that Southeastern will continue their ongoing trainflation, and keep journey times ever increasing so that their ‘performance’ levels can be met.

I may get round to doing the evening analysis on another day…but would expect a similar, sad, picture.


The potential for off-peak overcharging

Southeastern are potentially complicit with passengers thinking they are being charged for an off-peak, when in fact their journey is recorded as being in the peak period.

I stumbled across this purely by accident last Friday evening.

Read on for more…

Railway time

Railway time was invented in 1840. The idea being that all trains can be kept running to one particular time, instead of the various variations across the country.

That’s 1840, 176 years ago, when the time was standardised

When does off-peak start?

That’s the question that I asked to the helpful lady at the customer service desk at Charing Cross Station.

I was just wondering if the system was clever enough to register that I wanted the 1902 service – the first off-peak service out of Charing Cross that evening – if I touched in before 1900. My logic being that I could get to the end of the train and have a window seat.

I had a few minutes to idle, so I set my phone recording audio – the objective being that if I did get charged peak based on any advice of touching in early, then I’ll be able to appeal.

What happened next was very interesting

Cubic time

I was advised that it was more than just touching in to Pay As You Go at 19:00:00.

There was a notion of ‘Cubic time’

Why is it called that? Cubic are the company that manufactures the ticket gate system across the Tfl network and a lot of our railway stations.

I know them more as Westinghouse Cubic from when my Dad worked on the underground and we did a little bit of investigation into the paper tickets, but that story can be kept for another time…

What time is it?

All credit to the lady I spoke to, she got up off her seat behind the counter, and asked me to follow her to the gateline! There was still a few more minutes before 1900, so why not.

She called over to the member of staff on the other side of the station to read out the time on the screen that shows the operation of the gateline.

It was 20 seconds behind the time displayed on the platform clock.

20 seconds.

But…Southeastern staff were aware of this discrepancy, and were more than happy to inform me of it.

The advice was that he’ll call over to me once the clock ticked over to 19:00:00 so I get an off-peak charge.

We had a little conversation about this as I waited for 1900, all recorded.

19:00:00 (Cubic time)

As the station clock ticked past 19:00:20 I was advised I should touch in. I made the train on time, and a later check on my ‘Oyster’/TfL account showed the journey was recorded as off-peak.


Why is it so hard to have the correct time?

Indeed. If, 176 years ago, railway time could be standardised and is meant to be the point of reference to the time, then how are Cubic’s systems 20 seconds out?

How do Southeastern staff know about this discrepency without any remedial work being taken to fix this?

How many customers have unwittingly waited for 19:00:01 on the station clock and touched in to get an off-peak fare and got charged the full peak fare?

What will Southeastern do about this at their stations?

Next steps

I have a bunch of Freedom of Information requests filed in this area…which will no doubt return on the 28th day (as required) – so I’ll see that on May 9th.

I’d also like to invite Southeastern’s comment on this – they can contact me on the usual email address should they have something to say.

In the meantime, I’d allow 30 seconds past the peak-time (or allow 30 seconds before off-peak goes to peak) to ensure you’re not being overcharged.

Oh, and when I have time to edit the audio I’ll post it up too – if you’re a member of the Press and want to follow up on this story, together with audio, then let me know and I’ll prioritise the audio edit higher in my ever growing list of things to do!

Why Southeastern’s reporting figures must be made public

‘Commenting on the report, Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the PAC, said: “The troubled history of this programme hammers home the importance of getting contracts right—and the importance of then holding contractors properly to account.”‘

Troubled history ?? check

Contracts poorly framed to deliver what’s required ?? check

Promises of being held properly to account not kept ?? check

Except this wasn’t about Southeastern, this was about the DWP’s Work Capability Assessments – and an interesting headline there, too.

There’s one big difference here, though. Whilst it impacts on claimants, the WCA contracts are about a service delivered to Government. For railway franchises, we’re talking about a service delivered to us, the paying travellers, by a monopoly provider. How much more important, then, that the contracts are not only properly framed (well, that one’s flown until 2018 at the earliest) but also properly managed.

We have no confidence that this is happening. All we have is a bland assertion from the Rail Minister that Southeastern haven’t breached the terms of the franchise agreement. We are absolutely entitled to see the figures that can tell us whether this is really the case. The public interest here is far greater than any considerations of so-called commercial confidentiality.