In yesterday’s post about the mysterious disappearance of Southeastern’s tweeting train driver I mentioned the magical ‘look-up tool’ which the hapless rail company’s spokespeople claimed would help it communicate with passengers better. It isn’t. It’s giving out the wrong information.
“We have a look-up tool which, at-a-glance, will tell people what lines of route are running and what lines of route aren’t running.” – Southeastern spokeswoman Sarah Boundy, BBC South East Today, 3 December 2010.
As I type (5.55pm), power problems at Charlton mean the Greenwich line is closed. I was affected in a different way – riding home by bike, I was stuck for over 10 minutes at Charlton Lane level crossing while Network Rail scratched their backsides working out what to do.
So what is Southeastern’s magical “look-up tool” telling punters this evening?
Apparently a whole line being closed merits only a “minor disruption” line. Not a “major disruption”, nor a “suspended”, but a “minor disruption”. On London Undergound, “minor delays” means you may held up for 10 minutes or so. This isn’t the case here. If you click on the coy “line problems between Woolwich Arsenal and Charlton”, you get this…
There’s disruption, blah, blah, oh, and the trains are diverted too! Get the most important info out of the way last, that’s the way to do it. While it’s good to hear people can get to one stop – Greenwich – by DLR, there’s no word on whether London Buses are taking Southeastern ticketholders once they get to Blackheath or Eltham or wherever.
The National Rail Twitter feed isn’t much use here, either:
Delays? That’s putting it mildly.
Here’s the nub of the problem with Southeastern – when the shit hits the fan, it’s hopeless at telling us. That “look-up tool” is worse than useless if it doesn’t tell us immediately about line closures, whether it’s because of electrical problems or engineering works. For this company to demand ever greater sums from its passengers, but get worse and worse at talking to those passengers, demonstrates the contempt that only a featherbedded monopoly can show to its customers.
If, as it is rumoured, staff cutbacks have meant that there is nobody who is able to actually provide this information to people in a legible, clear, and immediate manner; then they must be reversed. And it’s down to the government – and us – to tell Southeastern that, not shy away from challenging this inept outfit.
UPDATE 6.50PM – Bromley and Chislehurst MP Bob Neill has joined fellow Tories in calling for a review of Southeastern’s “suspicious” performance figures.