It’s the most protracted cold snap in years, and railway staff work their guts out to get a normal service up and running. They do it, with some style…
Oh, sorry, that was in 1963. In 2010…
“Announcement’s” – oh dear. But Southeastern’s awful grammar is the least of their crimes inflicted on south-east Londoners today, with timetables slashed to a miserly two trains per hour today after not all that much snow fell on us late last night. Those information boards aren’t even carrying any train times. The emergency timetable was introduced on Tuesday evening, before a single flake of snow had fallen. The result was mayhem at many rail stations, with BBC London News showing police dealing with crowds at Blackheath.
Worse still, services are due to pack up completely at around 8pm, with the same timetable due for Thursday as well. Clearly, the situation has changed a little this afternoon with further snowfall (this post is being written to a soundtrack of non-winter tyres struggling to cope on the road outside) but if it’s so hard for Southeastern to run a service, why is neighbouring Southern “planning to run a full timetable for Southern Metro (London area) services”?
To compound the ludicrousness, Londonist caught the 23.44 train out of London Bridge last night, when the snow was bucketing down, without any problems at all.
We’ve left messages for Southeastern, asking how long this is planned to continue and whether they’ll be offering any sort of compensation, and will update this post when/if we hear anything. In the meantime it seems there’s little to do but fume silently (or loudly, whichever is your wont) and contemplate secession from the rest of the capital.
As I mentioned, BBC London News featured footage of mayhem at Blackheath station. But did it ask Southeastern just why it was mass-cancelling trains when its neighbouring operator was attempting a full service in the capital? Did it heck. It’s only south-east London, after all.
(Thanks to Blackheath Bugle for the video)
If Southeastern had put into place a full timetable today, it would have been liable to pay refunds if the snow had severely disrupted its service. But the emergency timetable means it can skip that requirement. Is this the reason that it axed most of south-east London’s trains today?
Last year, Southeastern received a subsidy of £136m. This year, it is due to trouser £116m from taxpayers. That’s on top of the cash it’s received from fares which have increased substantially over recent years, the minor cuts for Oyster users not withstanding. Perhaps it might like to explain itself to the people who pay its bosses’ wages? If they don’t, other people have some suggestions…
(UPDATE, 1AM 7 JANUARY: Greenwich & Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford, whose Labour party privatised Southeastern in April 2006, says the company is “the weak link” in the transport network.)