‘Inexcusable’ Southeastern criticised by transport secretary

Eltham MP Clive Efford raised Southeastern’s poor performance in the snow in the House of Commons this morning. Following an urgent question on the country’s preparedness for the harsh weather, he urged transport secretary Philip Hammond to “get a grip” on the situation.

In return, Mr Hammond called the lack of information provided by Southeastern “inexcusable”.

Here’s the fuill exchange, which you can watch here (approx 26 minutes in).

Clive Efford: “The secretary of state has got to get a grip on this situation. For my constituents, Southeastern rail is the main route into London. We’ve had no trains running on the service through Eltham this morning, yet we’ve had people standing on the platforms and the station concourse who don’t know what is going on. What is he doing with the train operating companies to make sure that they are giving up-to-date information to people who might be mistakenly standing on cold platforms waiting for trains that are never going to turn up?”

Philip Hammond: “I agree with the honourable gentleman that the lack of information is inexcusable. The Office of Rail Regulation has said this morning that it will have its inspectors out on the Southeastern and Southern networks looking at the information that is being provided making sure that the operators are meeting their obligations under their franchise contracts. If they’re not, they’ll be dealt with according to the provisions within those franchise contracts.”

The Office of Rail Regulation has said there can be “no excuses” for the lack of information provided to passengers. In a statement released yesterday, chief executive Bill Emery added: “It is absolutely right that, with the great strides that have been made in communication technology in the 21st Century, rail passengers should expect to receive useful and timely information during disruption.” However, it says it will be monitoring information given during disruption between January and March 2011 – there’s nothing there about inspectors being sent out today, as Mr Hammond implied and some reports have claimed.

Southeastern has blamed “a technical fault” with Network Rail systems for being unable to display emergency timetables on station information screens.


  1. I saw that ‘technical fault’ message… Do they not practice these things? They managed to change the display from the normal timetable so I suspect that they are telling porkies. It also doesn’t excuse the fact that the twitter feed hasn’t been updated and the information on the website is still misleading.

  2. “Should we continue to fail to see improvement, we will work closely with the Department for Transport to explore options for taking action against poor performers.”

    The iron fist there…..

  3. Early on in Transport Questions John Spellar MP asked about the mess on the trains and why Boris was swanning off to Zurich.
    Although John’s seat is in the Black Country he is well qualified to ask about this since his family home is in south London and he was also for a long time at the Ministry of Transport under Labour.
    He was very much slapped down for by Hammond who inferred that he was ‘out of touch’ and that what Mayor Johnson was doing in Zurich was more important. What is interesting is that Hammond seems to have taken Clive’s question much more seriously – and it begs the question that his briefing may have arrived late! His response to John Spellar hardly seems to come from a Minister in touch with the situation.

  4. The attitude of the train staff the last few days has been a disgrace, especially Southeastern. I was trying to get to London from Canterbury East and the lack of information was appalling. When I got to the station, there appeared to be no staff around anywhere and people were just hanging around the platform wondering what to do. No information on the electronic screens either. Nothing.
    I had to resort to pushing the button at the help point to get directed to national rail who were equally as useless and kept getting cut off. There had been some tape placed over the button,to stop people pressing it – I did anyway and after a few mins as I was on hold, a member of staff finally appeared from a back office and asked what I was doing and abruptly said she had taped it off as national rail had apparently been giving out the wrong information. What else was I supposed to do when there was no one around?! She then didn’t know how many trains were going to london or the delays but I had to change at Faversham. When I asked her how often the trains were she just told me to look on the whiteboard inside and walked off. Totally disinterested. The information on the whiteboard had not even been updated in 3 hours. Some more members of staff turned up later but did not seem to want to talk to anyone and skulked off inside a back office out of sight. I presume they didn’t want more people complaining or asking them questions to which they had no answers. But really, disgraceful to leave people standing there in sub zero temperatures and not even attempting to help by making themselves visible or available. I did manage to get a train in the end which was also freezing – WHY is there hardly any heating at all, especially in such cold weather inside the trains? I got back in 5 hours instead of the usual 1 and a half. Lucky I did I suppose.

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