Friday, 21 January 2011

Open letter to Rehman Chishti MP - Concerning Southeastern Trains

Dear Mr Chishti
I never thought I would ever write to my MP or  bother them with something that may be trivial but I have become so incensed by Southeastern railways tonight that I reached the end of my tether and I have no other recourse.
Southeastern Railways have as you know raised their prices by up to 12% and yet their services have not improved a single iota. Although their figures demonstrate that they are indeed meeting their 81% targets there are certain factors that I don't believe show up in the figures.
* The majority of trains may be on time however the majority of people travel during the rush hours and it is this minority of trains that are often late.
* The definition of late is quite an elastic term. Southeastern's idea of "acceptable lateness" encompasses trains that can be up to ten minutes late which is clearly unacceptable.
* Another consideration that affects commuters from Medway area is that trains coming up from the coast are often on time, or at reasonable lateness, for the first eight stations but are running late by the time they reach Medway and late getting to its final destination in London.
Other problems with the network include their lack of customer service. A lot of staff are surly and unhelpful almost uncaring. When ever there is a severe problem on the network you can guarantee that the gates are open on Gillingham station and there will be no platform staff in sight. During the snow crisis the information passed to customers was ropey to say the least. I, and other commuters have been forced to turn to Twitter and read comments. To be honest Twitter still forms my first port of call to check how the network is.
I work within the civil service and thus have had my pay frozen for two years and yet my transport costs have risen by 12% this year which means that approximately 20% of my wages are taken away by Southeastern and they are due to go up again next year. I would not mind the rise, I understand that companies need money to expand and improve but Southeastern has not done that. In fact I believe that their Managing directors have awarded themselves a bonus. They are also cutting station staff at London terminals as an austerity measure.
The trains themselves are often overcrowded with smelly or broken toilets, a number of commuters, including myself, are often carrying fold up chairs so that they don't have to sit on the floor in wet weather. So I'm effectively paying £300's a month for the privilege of sitting on my own seat or being wedged into a corner between five other people. I do not feel that this is value for money. If, in any other service I felt I wasn't receiving a value for money I would find another service provider but unfortunately the railway network has the monopoly and I like many others have no other choice but to continue paying and hoping for the best.
On a personal note I have a baby daughter, due to my shift patterns and the distance I commute I barely see her on days I am working. Today I was allowed to leave early and hurried to London Bridge to catch a train which would have got me home in time to kiss her good night. There was a fault at Canon street and the train started from London Bridge around five minutes late. All very understandable, even if I had to get my information from Twitter. What infuriated me is that it arrived in Gillingham station 25 minutes late with no explanation as to why and thus I missed my daughter. I was chilled to see a comment on my Twitter stream from another commuter who stated
My two girls have given up asking me if I'll make it home to tuck them in.
I know that your colleague Mr Reckless of Rochester has started a campaign to ask South eastern to be made accountable, I have signed his petition but I thought it would be wise to communicate with my own MP on the subject. Is there any light at the end of the tunnel for the long suffering Southeastern commuters or is it just another red signal from Charles Horton?
                                                                                Yours Faithfully

                                                                                Chris Sams

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