DRTA questions for Southeastern

We’re having a meeting with Southeastern Managing Director, David Statham, and some of his team.

Here’s what we have on our list to cover – if you have anything to add then let us know via Facebook or Twitter!

Firstly – following on from our meeting in Spring 2015, it was great to see bicycle provision at Dartford improved (and put in sensible locations, with many more places than expected) even though we were given no updates on progress on the work – which did happen later than expected.

Main issue:

Resetting relationship between DRTA and Southeastern staff so valid concerns are taken seriously and not dismissed without being properly investigated, whilst we’re told they have been – as was exemplified by the response to our challenging PPM posters in January 2016. This leads to the inevitable question of how much else is this actually happening to ?? (see “outstanding questions”…)

Outstanding questions

Here’s what we currently have outstanding

22nd October 2015 – Heating question

Work continues on our project to relocate heating thermostats onboard, as a direct result of passenger feedback, to improve temperature regulation and our drivers are informed that heating should be switched off onboard during the peak on Class 465 units.

I questioned what turning off heating during peak meant.

As we all know, the heat on the Class 465 network trains reaches unbearable temperatures, even during winter.

5 months on, we do not have an answer to this question

Turning off rail problem alerts

14th October – via twitter, JT said he’d asked MG to write to me to explain the rationale for changing alerts.

I’ve received nothing since then, and for several months, no alerts from the new alerts provider…

Ongoing heating problem on networkers during winter

This has been covered here: https://www.drta.org.uk/127/its-time-to-stoptheroasting/

Bikes on trains at Dartford

This is an ongoing problem, we’re constantly told that the station manager will be told, but nothing happens

Responses to ongoing campaigns

Reports of flashing signs on board trains

but no update – this started happening again late in 2015. What’s going on?

No clear restart date for #stoptheheating

Calls for heating to be turned down during winter have fallen on deaf ears. Whilst too cold can be solved by adding layers of clothing, the excessive heating inches from customer’s legs and belongs could potentially be dangerous. To suggest that “since half the complaints are about it being too hot and half being about it being too cold, we must have it right” was, presumably an attempt at humour but nevertheless inappropriate.

Other issues that (may) have been raised before

Very rarely is any useful information given during disruption

Despite repeated promises by Southeastern, and by DfT to hold you to account, this remains probably the no. 1 issue, with too many examples to list. Our cynicism over the issue of iPads to staff proved to be well-founded – and it also turns out Mike’s question at Dartford JTB regarding back-office systems support for them was pretty accurate (i.e. there were/are none). Is there any hope of us being privy to a clear action plan with timed objective measures (i.e. not passenger survey results) for passenger information to be improved ?

On a plus point, it was fantastic to see HS1 ticket acceptance making a comeback during disruption earlier this month.

Overcrowding on HS1

Our members who travel from Ebbsfleet understandably resent being unable to gain a seat given the premium price of tickets. Suggestions have been made for re-instating Ebbsfleet starters, other than the 08:08, which apparently is often cancelled.

Stopping services short/skipping stops

You’ll be well aware how annoying it is to passengers who are already delayed when services are stopped short or skip stops in order to recover the service and our MPs are now raising this. Insulted is added to injury when:

a) Skipping stops isn’t announced until after the train has departed London, or not at all

b) The train makes up so much time that it passes skipped stations early, as happened recently with a Dartford-Victoria service that ran fast to Lewisham (it was less than 10 minutes late leaving Dartford)

Policy on use of manual gates

Dartford’s station manager and a Revenue Protection manager were insistent that the policy for use of manual gates is that they are only for use by people with reduced mobility or luggage, and that people being shephered away from it when there were queues for the automatic gates (and one was not accepting paper tickets) was correct. This policy would NOT be relaxed under any circumstances (except, presumably, an emergency…)

Despite Mike pointing out that he’d never seen this happening before this occasion (during a Meet the Manager session at Dartford), he was told that this was what should always happen.

For every day the following week, he deliberately went through the manual gate along with large numbers of other people – as always, we were never challenged.

Is this policy, and if so why do staff never enforce unless very senior management are present – the answer being obvious, of course – to enforce it is appalling customer service, and your front-line staff know this. If it is policy, it needs changing promptly.

Lessons in Customer Service for Southeastern – from TfL

Just in case anyone has any doubts about TfL providing better service – here is a lesson in Customer Service for Southeastern from them. OK, it’s a one-off personal experience, but I’ve yet to hear of Southeastern delivering anything like this.
Sat 5th March we travelled from Dartford to North Greenwich, my wife using her Oyster card (me, my paper season). Checked her online Oyster account today and she was charged £2.20 (correct fare with Senior Railcard loaded) for the return journey, but £2.85 for the outward journey – same route, touching in & out at all the same places (Dartford, Lewisham, Heron Quays, Canary Wharf, North Greenwich).


So we filled in an on-line complaint form on the TfL website. Within 3 hours Customer Service had called back on her mobile – yes, on a Sunday – couldn’t explain the error but would be reporting it to the technical team, 65p being refunded direct to our back account.


How about matching that on Delay Repay, Southeastern. Or do you really think that issuing bits of paper that can be exchanged for cash at a ticket office is customer-friendly ? And having a respone time of 10 working days is sensible – when TfL can do it in hours. On a Sunday. Come on, time for some proper investment in customer services. However long you have left on your franchise.

It’s time to #stoptheroasting

I brought my IR thermometer to work today, and discovered that Southeastern were breaking HSE guidelines on safe radiator surface temperatures…

It’s been talked about a lot on Twitter over the years, about how hot the train was…and…I think we’ve just got used to it.

But…after my left leg being literally roasted on the Monday commute, I took some time to find my IR thermometer that helped with the #stoptheheating campaign, and was shocked to find this:

Roasting1

The Health & Safety Executive guidlines recommend that surface temperatures of radiators that could come into contact with people ‘should not exceed 43C’

So an extra 30.3C is way over the amount that the HSE recommend.

These are heaters that go within inches of rail users’ legs

I took another reading later on in the journey, a less toasty 51.1C, but still 8.1C above the guidlines from the HSE

Roasting2

What could you cook at 73.3C?

According to Heston Blumenthal, a 70C fan-assisted oven is great to roast a chicken

And another article states that above 70C the meat no longer holds its oxygen and turns grey. Just like your leg

What have Southeastern said so far?

Nothing on twitter.

However their Public Affairs Manager mentioned it in passing in an email to me earlier and said:

“With regard to your query about train heating, if there is an issue with a particular train, please let us know which service it is and we can arrange for the system to be checked. On a general level its fair to say that complaints about train heating are split 50/50 between passengers claiming its too cold and those complaining it too hot.”

Which I did! My first tweet to @se_railway had the carriage number in…they obviously didn’t read it.

The comment seems to follow their ongoing disregard for the fare paying customer

Time for Action: how you can help

Over the next few days, if you have an infra-red thermometer take it on your commute, and take the temperature reading of the service of the radiator on the train.

And tweet us @dartfordrailTA:

  • The service you took (timetabled departure time, and station)
  • The temperature reading
  • A pic of the temperature reading
  • The 5 digit carriage number of the train (it’s above the doors at either end of the carriage) – if you can see it
  • Also the type of train if you know!! or just a pic of the interior, I can figure it out

Or email contact@drta.org.uk if you’re not on twitter

And a selection of these will be featured on the website – either here or over at http://serailaction.uk 

What do we want from Southeastern?

An acknowledgement that this is an issue. And a clear explanation of what they plan to do.

We’d also like to know if they’ve carried out a Risk Assessment of their heating on board trains, in line with the HSE’s recommendations.

As ever, any response will be shared.

Excessive heating so far

From Peter Mount:

Carriage 65883, Class 465 train, 54.3C

PPM posters: A response and apology from Southeastern

This morning I responded to the ongoing email chain about the PPM Period 9 poster, and also escalated…

Within an hour we received this response from Southeastern:

Apologies all,

I thought this had been communicated across the board.

My team give the information to rhe Marketing team to publish. For Period 9 my member of staff copied the correct headline figures and then the Period 8 line of route and service group figures into the file sent to Marketing or possibly did not update the line of route figures at all before sending the file.

As you can imagine this is extremely embarrassing having stated that our figures were correct and I am not happy that we have made this error.

I have supplied the correct figures to our Markering Team who are republishing the posters and I am personally checking that future figures are correcr.

I am grateful that you have pointed out the error in the figures, there were considerable differences in the two and you are correct that there is no way Mainlines suddenly assumes greater importance in our figures from one period to the next without a significant change in timetable.

Regards

At last…however it shouldn’t have taken all the posts on this site, continual berating of this on social media, and lots of emails to have got this point.

The numbers were clearly wrong in our first email to Southeastern nearly 2 weeks ago, and were dismissed out of hand without any actual verification.

Our thanks to Southeastern’s ‘Head of Performance’ for responding and providing this update on a Sunday morning!

We will, of course, keep a close eye on the data that is published by Southeastern…

PRESS RELEASE: Southeastern Publishing Misleading Public Performance Measurement (PPM) Stats

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SOUTHEASTERN PUBLISHING MISLEADING PUBLIC PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT (PPM) STATS

In early January 2016, Dartford Rail Travellers’ Association (DRTA) noticed that the PPM posters at Charing Cross were virtually identical (to one decimal place) to the previous month’s line of route results. The only difference being the overall PPM which was 1.3% lower than the previous period.

This was immediately raised to our contact at Southeastern who said would pass it onto the marketing team for investigation. Nearly a week later we were informed that the stats on the poster were “independently verified” and that they were “satisfied they were accurate”.

Phil Rogers, co-founder of DRTA, did some further analysis and noted how mathematically improbable it was that the results for each line of route can be the same for two periods in a row, whilst also reporting that the overall average had such a large deviance of 1.3%.

On reporting this to Southeastern the response was “The best way forward would be for you to meet with us to discuss this in more detail.”. Which is their standard response to many of our questions. A meeting is difficult for the two founders of DRTA as we are both in full-time employment, and a simple email response can adequately address our concerns in this case once Southeastern carried out a full and detailed investigation based on our findings.

Rail users rely on PPM stats to see how their line is performing and these need to be accurate.

It is a requirement of both the Southeastern franchise , and Southeastern’s own Passenger Charter, to provide PPM data by line of route, and overall, for each 4 week period. This data is to be provided online and at selected stations.

They have not done this since period 8 which ended on 14th November 2015.

We call on Southeastern for an urgent review of their reporting process, and their “independent verification” to ensure that the information they provide to customers is accurate and correct for the period they report. And that this data is provided in a timely manner.

Phil Rogers today said “It is unacceptable that they haven’t provided this so far for Period 9 (15th November – 12th December 2015) and that they continue to fob off passengers and rail user groups that have asked for this. This information is available to them and continually lying to customers with wrong data is not what a train company, that paid a dividend of £25m to their parent company last week, should be doing. If Southeastern still stand by their Period 9 poster and provide verifiable data, then, as way of an apology I am more than happy to donate £250 to a charity of their choice.”

Phil Rogers, Mike Pellatt

Co-founders, Dartford Rail Travellers’ Association

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

About Dartford Rail Travellers’ Association: DRTA was formed in November 2014 after Phil Rogers’ appearance on BBC Radio Kent at the start of the renewed Southeastern franchise and further discussions with Southeastern.  Together with Mike Pellatt, a fellow Dartford commuter, DRTA operate via Facebook (Dartford Rail Travellers’ Association), Twitter (@DartfordRailTA) and on the web (http://www.drta.org.uk)

Previous articles on our website about this issue can be found here – https://www.drta.org.uk/112/ppm-posters-what-can-you-trust/ – and here – https://www.drta.org.uk/119/independently-audited-ppm-stats-from-southeastern-lies/

The franchise document can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/485668/red_lser-rail-franchise-agreement.pdf – with the relevant PPM section on page 247

Southeastern’s Passenger Charter is available here: http://www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/download/16816.8/dac-passenger-charter-2014/ – with the relevant PPM section on page 24

DRTA can be contacted at contact@drta.org.uk