TfL’s boss attacks Southeastern

Adam was slaving away over a hot webcast from City Hall this morning, when Transport for London’s board met. TfL commissioner Peter Hendy told the meeting – and his boss Boris Johnson – just what he thought of Southeastern’s “emergency timetable” during last month’s snow. Southeastern’s decision to start trains late and stop them early was “odd”, “unecessary” and “bizarre”, he said.

I think the first train from Bexleyheath to London for the first full week in January was half past eight in the morning which is pretty odd especially when established railway practice, when you have got third rail operation in cold weather, is to run your trains all night. So it seems a bit bizarre to actually turf people off them and run without them all night.

Mr Hendy also suggested Southeastern’s motivation in running such a restricted timetable was to get “a very good performance result” – ie, to prevent it having to refund passengers for poor service. More at Tory Troll.

On Monday, the London Assembly’s transport committee published the reply it had from Southeastern (PDF, 1.3MB), in which the train company claimed it was instructed by Network Rail to curtail services (it’d previously claimed it’d taken the decision in conjunction with Network Rail) and with the outright lie that its “service frequencies were similar to normal off-peak frequencies” (emergency timetable: 2 trains per hour, Greenwich line timetable: 6 or 8 trains per hour) and the claim that its passenger information screens were switched on (even if they weren’t showing any useful information for anyone intending to catch a train).

I’ve also had a reply from my local MP Nick Raynsford passing on the stock response Southeastern has handed to him which also states that he is due to be meeting Southeastern’s MD Charles Horton today to discuss the issues raised. Hopefully he’ll be able to pass on the results of that discussion.

A Downing Street petition has been launched to ask for Southeastern’s franchise to be reviewed.

(See also: Tom Royal, Blackheath Bugle.)

Incidentally, while also on transport, Peter Hendy has indicated he isn’t best pleased with the hated Oyster Extension Permits travelcard holders need to use on some National Rail routes if they leave their zones.


  1. There is a subtle point made about who decided what between Southeastern and Network Rail during those three days.

    In the letter of Southeastern to the GLA Transport committee, at the section entitled “Network Rail’s role as infrastracture provider/operator” the Kent Route Director of Network Rail Dave Ward is quoted saying that Network Rail asked them to run a revised timetable but also specifies that the terms of the revised timetable were completely down to Southeastern.

    In all other paragraphs of the same section the Southestern Managing Director Charles Horton doesn’t contradict this but by reading his carefully chosen words one can understand that Network Rail decided the timetable. For example:

    “Network Rail specified the requirements for an amended timetable”

    That doesn’t mean that Network Rail specified the timetable, only some of its requirements that it had to meet. It’s a fine point but critical.

  2. The specification being “there must be some trains, sometimes”, presumably.

    All this would be so much easier if Network Rail was subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

  3. A response to a customer request for details of the discussions and decision making process between SE and NWR:

    “I am sorry that you are unhappy with the responses you have received about the changes to the timetable during the recent poor weather conditions. I regret that I will not be able to provide a transcript of the decision making-process between Southeastern and Network Rail; not only do we not have access to this information in the Customer Relations team, the information will not be published on public record.”

  4. While we are on the subject of Southeastern – something really needs to be done about how they can use their monopoly position to put up car parking costs by 10% every year. Can they be referred to the Office of Fair Trading?

  5. When is South Eastern going to be taken to task for the new timetable from December 2009, following the introduction of “high speed” trains? Many mainline passengers have a much slower service as a result of revised timings of services to “Southern” London Termini. From North Kent Coast, travelling on High Speed services at a premium fare, the saving in journey time is negligable (a minute in some cases) compared to the old services – but the traditional services have had their timetables extended to make the high speed services look better. Run the High Speed trains from Ashford, Dover and Folkestone by all means – where the advantage is greatest – but forget using them from the North Kent Coast where they are routed through the most tortuous stretch of railway in the south (the Medway Towns) and time saving is non-existent. What a waste of new trains.

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