Epilepsy risk from on-train displays

We have today sent this message to David Statham following a week of rapidly flashing on-train displays with no action by SouthEastern. Having received advice from The Epilepsy Society, this is an issue that needs urgent attention

Hi Mike and David,

Sorry to reach out to you directly, however this problem has gone on for over a week on the networker/class 465/6 trains.

I originally raised it here:

The indicators on the trains, when attempting to display the London Bridge disruption message, end up in a state where they flicker very fast for the stretch of the journey where the train doesn’t stop for over 5 minutes.

It’s been reported by DRTA group members and others on Twitter since, and Southeastern have not addressed it – I’ve also asked for an update constantly since seeing this last Wednesday, with no ETA.

I contacted the British Epilepsy Association about this last night to verify this could trigger PSE and it was confirmed this morning that the signs should be fixed/turned off:

Please can you investigate this asap, and provide an ETA (or disable the messages in some way) – over a week to not have a fix isn’t really acceptable, especially since it could have health effects…on top of the overcrowding many are talking about.

Also cc-ing my local MP, Gareth Johnson, for information, who can hopefully follow up on this – and MP Heidi Alexander who I know is interested in Southeastern issues as a result of the London Bridge changes.

London Bridge works – the feedback so far

I’ve been gathering up feedback over social media over the past week, and the main themes are outlined below.  A few comments are from rail users in the areas immediately to the east and west of Dartford, but have an impact on us in some way, so I’ve included them – they also aren’t fortunate enough to have a rail group speaking up for them…yet!

Better provision to allow ticket usage at other stations.

In Central London, adding Monument, Tower Hill, Mansion House, and Temple, would help ease the pressure – and allow those who work between Cannon Street and Charing Cross stations to take the tube.  This is particularly important as last week Southeastern were pushing commuters in the direction of Charing Cross/Waterloo East where it was less crowded.

Allowing rail users to go via Dartford. For example, during congestion/problems in the London Bridge area during PM peak, it might be more comfortable, and even quicker to take a train from Charing Cross through to Dartford, then returning up the line to stations on the Woolwich line, e.g. Slade Green, Erith, Belvedere and Abbey Wood.  I raised this on BBC Radio Kent, and the Southeastern MD, David Statham, skirted around the answer when asked it – although, to his defence, Radio Kent didn’t use the example I gave them when I sent through my notes on Friday.

Southeastern need to look at improving the provisions of using other routes, to ease the pressure on rail users, and not further reduce the quality of their journeys.

London Bridge overcrowding

Over the weekend, David Statham, was quoted as saying ‘we had no particular reports of overcrowding’ – he was obviously reading a different Twitter feed than we have been – maybe, in the spirit of classic crime films, someone had stuck a piece of card over the CCTV cameras showing empty platforms.

During the first week of the new timetable, where Dartford residents have seen a reduction of over 50% on morning and evening peak services, there have been reports of overcrowding, scuffles, and angry passengers.  I predicted this as part of my interview on BBC Radio Kent on the first day that the timetable started – Southeastern simply can’t reduce the service by that much and not expect any of the problems that have happened at London Bridge.

…Rebalancing of carriages for services

There are a finite number of trains services that can run on a particular piece of track, there are also a finite number of trains that Southeastern can use (read this article that covers long term failings through successive governments). However, given that Charing Cross services regularly run emptier (or should I say, less full) than before the changes, some of those carriages should move to the Cannon Street line?

I end that last line with a question – Southeastern should be aware of the utilisation of each service since they have mechanisms to weigh carriages as they go through service.  This is one area we want to follow up with them, so that if carriages are moved to the Cannon Street line, Charing Cross users aren’t affected.  There has to be a balance, what we have right now isn’t it.

Meeting the franchise agreement

The new franchise agreement states that there should be “a reasonable expectation of a seat 20 minutes after boarding”, and that the timetable should have “the best allocation of Passenger Services and rolling stock vehicles to Passenger Services” to meet this. Southeastern should have been able to forecast this, and instead of reducing services to London Bridge by over half (at least to/from Dartford), made better provision to cater for their passenger loads.

We will follow this up, since getting this right is a condition of their franchise, and something that they have obviously missed given the last weeks problems through London Bridge

Delay Repay

If passengers need to route via another station as a result of overcrowding/being unable to board their train, Southeastern have said, on Twitter, that the extra time taken to move to another station isn’t covered by Delay Repay. This isn’t our understanding of the rules, since it starts from the attempt to use one of their services, and something we will be following up over coming weeks to allow customers to claim what is rightfully theirs, even if it works out around £2 for a delay of up to an hour.

Potential of Photosensitive Epilepsy/Seizures through faulty on-board messages.

There is a known issue which I raised last Wednesday that the added message on the on-board train indicators sometimes causes them to flicker violently, and could cause those who are affected by Photosensitive Epilepsy a potential seizure, Southeastern need to address this as soon as possible to avoid a potential seizure.  This has been raised by myself and several other twitter users over the past week. We’ll definitely be following this one up.

Over to you…

What others would you like to add to the list? Talk to us via the usual channels on Twitter and Facebook, or post a comment here

Let’s talk in person?

The next gathering of DRTA will be on Wednesday 28th January at the Forresters pub in Dartford (15 Great Queen Street).

Since it’s pay day, I’ll get at least one round in – so an incentive, if any, to pop along and talk about your train journeys!

Service changes via London Bridge

To help you plan your journey during the London Bridge works here are the trains serving our stations to and from London during the morning and evening peaks.

The trains that depart earlier are highlighted in red, as well as any significant changes.

Morning peak (departing 0630-0830)

During the morning, the number of trains are the same, however when previously 24 trains called at London Bridge, only 10 will during the new timetable.

The 0734 service from Swanscombe is planned to be a 12-car service

Evening peak (departing London 1700-1900)

The evening has a few more significant changes…two services are no longer running – the 1812 from Cannon Street, and the 1834 from Charing Cross.

Additionally, the 1716 and 1728 services from Cannon Street seem to be merged into one service – the 1721. This service doesn’t call at Swanscombe so you will have to take a later train, obviously not convenient.

There are also now only 8 Dartford-bound services from London Bridge, instead of the 20 we had previously.

We’d be interested to hear how this affects your journey home in the evenings.

The cancellation of the 1812 service from Cannon Street might have an impact on those of you who finish after 1730, again, please let us know your experiences with these changed services.

Ticket acceptance

You can find full details here: http://www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/thameslink/january2015/january-tickets/

In summary, you can use your rail ticket between the following Underground stations: Charing Cross, Embankment, Blackfriars, Cannon Street, London Bridge, Southwark, Waterloo, Elephant and Castle.

The expectation is that the Jubliee line between Waterloo and London Bridge will be busy, so please plan for extra time to get to your destination!

We want your feedback

As previously posted, please give us feedback on your journey as a result of these changes – whether good or bad, so we can collect this up and send on to Southeastern to help plan future timetable changes.

You can comment on this post, tweet us @DartfordRailTA or at the facebook group.


Thameslink works/London Bridge feedback

Southeastern have contacted stakeholders for feedback on the Thameslink works/London Bridge changes – we’ll gather these up for Dartford rail users over the next 1-2 weeks and collectively send feedback through.
Areas to look out for:

  • are the alternative routes provided convenient for you
  • communication – were you able to get the answers you needed from staff, is enough information available etc.
  • train times – do these need changing to improve connections (whilst Southeastern haven’t explicitly asked about the number of services in general, the points about Cannon Street have been noted, so send through any comments on train times!)
  • any problems with TfL staff/machines accepting tickets on routes where rail tickets are valid
  • staff – is there enough staff at stations, or too many that they should be deployed elsewhere?

…and any other points!

Feedback via the usual routes: here, twitter (@DartfordRailTA), or facebook

Or join us at the next meeting of DRTA later in January

Dartford Rail Travellers Association – a voice for Dartford rail users

Dartford Rail Travellers Association (DRTA) was formed in November 2014 with our first meeting shortly after.

With the recent direct award of the Southeastern franchise and the work at London Bridge affecting many Dartford rail users over the coming years, it’s time that Dartford rail users have a way to channel our feedback on the rail services that we use daily.

DRTA was formed after Southeastern suggested to me, after my appearance on BBC Radio Kent, that if we had a rail user group, then we would be able to engage with them on a regular basis.

The group is a joint effort led by myself, and Mike Pellatt, a fellow commuter in Dartford. The aims of the group are informal and apolitical, of course the lower case politics of train issues is acceptable, however the group is here to represent all rail users, regardless of any Political views.

We have no immediate plans to create a committee or charge membership feeds – we believe that any costs can be covered between us during the initial stages of the group.  Joining the group is easy – follow us on twitter @DartfordRailTA, our Facebook group, or see our website at www.drta.org.uk

The Thameslink work at London Bridge over the coming months and years may cause us some issues to travel, if you tweet about this please use the hashtag #TLDartford to help us gather up these thoughts easily.

We will also hold regular face to face group meetings, and whilst it may be difficult to have a time that suits all group members, we hope that as many of you can turn up as possible.  The next meeting will take place within the next month, and will be announced shortly – we will also invite all Dartford Councillors and invite their thoughts from conversations they may have had with local residents.

What next?

We will engage with the local community through a variety of means:

  • Twitter @DartfordRailTA – this will be used for short posts and retweets of news relevant to Dartford commuters or the rail industry
  • Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/DartfordRailTA/ ) – we will use this as the place for community discussions since this is a more natural place for that kind of engagement. There will be guidance of acceptable posts soon, to ensure we stay focussed on trains, and not cheap sunglasses!
  • Website – www.drta.org.uk, which will act as a broadcast platform for longer articles by the group
  • Local media – this press release will be provided to local media to increase exposure of the group, and relevant updates provided to the media
  • regular meet ups – please contact us directly if you have something to raise but can’t turn up
  • meetings with Southeastern. As membership numbers increase we’ll look to invite Southeastern to our town to talk to us
  • consider leafleting to expand knowledge of the group, with the support of Southeastern

What can you do?

Join one or all of our social platforms and join the discussion, and come along to meetings if you can. All feedback, discussions, and suggestions are welcome.

As the group grows, and we engage in conversation with Southeastern, we hope to have useful information to convey to Dartford rail users, and look forward to support from the local media, and community groups to pass this on.  If there are any specific media contacts that you’d like us to add to any release mailing list, then please let me know.


Press release issued on behalf of DRTA, by Phil Rogers
For press requests please contact Phil on 07478 677432 or drta@philr.me