It’s not just Southeastern who can’t communicate…

I went for a drink last night near St Pancras station – an easy journey to make; up to London Bridge, and change for for a First Capital Connect (Thameslink in old money) train through to St Pancras. Easy. Well, not so. Southeastern wasn’t having a brilliant evening, and the indicator on platform 6 at London Bridge may as well have been replaced by a magic 8-ball, as usual.

But the First Capital Connect train pulled in on time, and off we chugged up to Blackfriars – taking it very slowly indeed. At Blackfriars, we sat in a platform for 15 minutes, for apparently a train had broken down ahead of us and needed to be put away in the sidings by City Thameslink. We didn’t actually move again until an out of service train passed us heading south. Scores of passengers joined us from the broken down train at City Thameslink, and the train became busier still at Farringdon.

There’d been no warning of any problems at London Bridge, I should mention.

I reckon we were 20 minutes late by the time the train got to St Pancras, where another huge crowd squeezed on. Here, there was a commotion on the platform – a PSCO confronting an angry passenger.

What was going on? I’m not quite sure, but a voice cut through loud and clear.

“I’m the station manager, and I’ve called the police because you tried to take a picture of one of my staff.”

I can only guess that the passenger had a row with a staff member, and decided to try to take a photo of her to assist him in making a complaint against her. No idea who was in the right or wrong.

But since when was taking a photo illegal? I thought I’d take another picture, in that case.

I’ve blanked out the passenger’s face, while the station manager is second from the right in this scene. Whatever happened between the angry customer and the staff member, unless he was threatening her or being abusive, I’m not quite sure what the station manager aimed to achieve by hauling this bemused blue-badge down to remonstrate with this angry passenger. Unless he wanted to inflame tensions even further, of course. The impression I got was of a company that, like Southeastern, has lost control and perspective of how it deals with its passengers.

Abusing or threatening railway staff is always wrong – one thing that concerns me about the way some people are dealing with the implosion of Southeastern’s service is that they see platform staff as fair game for stick.

But the poor way in which the privatised train companies deal with delays can provoke people to acts which they’ll later regret. As I left St Pancras station, I turned around to see what information First Capital Connect was giving passengers about the rotten service before people left the shops and cafes of St Pancras and descended down to platforms which, among other things, have no mobile phone reception…

Those empty blue boards read: “Please listen for announcements.” No wonder why people were pissed off. I wonder how many police hours have been wasted intervening in disputes which could be easily solved by these private train monopolies actually providing decent information.


  1. It’s not illegal to take pictures at any station, no matter what staff tell you, Southeastern have history on this as well.

    I’m in some sort of agreement that staff shouldn’t be made targets of, however I can see why they are. They’re the only available “face” of train companies because their management are too cowardly to face passengers themselves.

    I am probably the biggest culprit of targeting staff, and I make no apologies for it. If staff don’t want to be targeted it’s simple to solve.

    Help your customers and we’ll help you. Don’t antagonise us by being complete and utter knobs.

  2. Great photos. I wonder if I could get a policeman that quickly if someone said something to me I didn’t like? That is rhetorical, I know full well the police would tell me to swing my hook.

    Last night at St Pancras, they locked all the barriers “for safety” and prevented anyone getting on the platform. Then, with 2 minutes to a train, they opened the barriers. It was (not surprisingly) like the starting line of a race. We were standing at least 20 deep at the barriers by this time. Everyone rushed to the empty platforms and, amazingly, nobody got crushed as far as I could see, or knocked on the rails. The train pulls up and 6 people got on the doors I was at before there was no room to move. Whatever Health & Safety plan thought that was the safest way to handle the mayhem would make interesting reading.

    Interestingly, the website said the problem was points, the staff said it was with signals, First Capital Connect’s Twitter links said it was overhead power cables and others said broken trains. Communication is vital and they did none whatsoever (turning all signs off and giving a loudhailer to a foreign gentleman to whisper into in pigeon English while looking away from everyone).

  3. Well done for taking the picture. Technically you can be asked to stop taking photos as stations etc are private property. However it seems completely ridiculous to call the police for someone daring to whip out a cameraphone.
    I do often feel sorry for the station staff as I suspect most of them just wish their shift would end or that for once the system would work. But it’s not that hard for someone within a company to get information across and for the most part the ‘franchise’ I use most (Chiltern) are very good at it.

  4. Be fair, Darryl, it is not the PCSO doing the confronting – as your photo makes clear.

  5. FCC have a particularly great trick of saying the next train will be late by just three minutes and keeping it at three minutes no matter how much time has passed, so it’s ten minutes later and the train is stil a tantalising three minutes away. Then they’ll tell you it’s actually been cancelled.

    They are also the only train service I know who, when late, have just gone straight past the platform without stopping, which I’m sure is illegal on any number of levels.


  6. The service and information given were truly pathetic last night. Headed for the 2318 Thames train from St Pancras going north, and found only the dreaded rail replacement buses. Something about broken points. So, no service on Thameslink anywhere south of LUTON!

    Thing is, you were ok if you were starting at St Pancras. But as the coach driver didn’t know where the hell he was going, and pulled up at Hampstead Heath station declaring WEST HAMPSTEAD, it wad only cause of one nice man who went and sat at the front, directing the driver, that we made it anywhere at all.

    And god help anyone without any common sense… everyone who managed to find the rail replacemebt coach said there was no info at all on the stations.

    Total fail.

    Oh, and always worth checking the #thameslink tag on Twitter, or tweeting yourself and using it. They all get automatically retweeted by a bot. Brilliant.

  7. I’m glad to see you were there too to see what was going on, Indigo.

    Olly – you aren’t helping anyone by calling station staff “complete and utter knobs”.

  8. A colleague of mine left work here in Canary Wharf at 1900 hrs. It took him 4-1/2 hours to get back to St. Albans.

    He has also told of useless communication etc.

    Every so often whilst waiting at Blackfriars he would go for a pint. When he finally boarded a coach at St. Pancras (with people banging on the side to be let in) he was busting for a piss.

    He knew that iof he got off the coach there was no way he would be able to get back on so on his long trip to St. Albans he said he perfected the art of Zen…..

    He was told it was busted overhead lines.

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