MPs have demanded an investigation into the way Southeastern compiles its performance statistics after it narrowly escaped paying compensation to regular customers.
Commuters on the firm’s mainline routes – outside SE London – would have been entitled to a 5% discount on season ticket renewals if the company’s punctuality figures had fallen below 82% in the 12 months to December.
But the Daily Telegraph says operating emergency timetables helped the company post a figure of 82.04% – meaning it only just escapes the penalty, and gets to pass on its full fare increase to passengers on Sunday. It also gets compensation from Network Rail for the disruption to its business.
Greg Barker, a climate change minister and Tory MP for Bexhill and Battle, has demanded an independent inspection of the figures, telling the Telegraph they “didn’t smell right”.
Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark and former Labour rail minister Tom Harris have also called for the figures to be looked at, as has the watchdog Passenger Focus.
It’s not the first time the possibility of Southeastern cooking the books has been raised. In February 2010, Transport for London chief Peter Hendy told TfL’s board that running “a very high percentage of a very restricted timetable gives you a very good performance result”.
Passengers regularly got discounts for poor performance in the first two years of Southeastern’s franchise, which began in 2006, as well as from its predecessors South Eastern Trains and Connex. In fact, the only reason I didn’t get an Oyster card for many years was it was cheaper to renew my Travelcard at Charlton station than to buy a new one on Oyster at North Greenwich.
Metro services – which include all SE London stations – are judged by a different set of statistics. Southeastern insists its figures are independently audited each year and are in line with industry practice.