Southern Rail Fail

Subject: Southern Rail Fail
From: Girl On A Delayed Train
Date: 22 Feb 2016

Considering the content of my complaint below, I suppose I shouldn't really be surprised that despite your automated response to my email telling me that you "Aim to respond fully" to my "enquiry within 20 working days".......I haven't yet received one. Time keeping certainly isn't your strong point is it Southern?

So I wonder if an open letter will help prompt a reply to the below email which was sent on 26th January 2016?

Let's see......

Dear Southern,

I have been travelling on the London to Brighton line between Clapham Junction and Burgess Hill since March 2014.

During this time I have experienced many, many delays to the services which I pay a hefty sum for each month.

Since the new timetable came into effect in mid December 2015, my regular trains changed to the 7.42 service leaving Clapham Junction and the 17.35 service leaving Burgess Hill.

Both these services are supposedly fast running and should take no longer than 45 or 48 minutes.

According to your timetable the 7.42 from Clapham should reach Burgess Hill at 8.27. Also according to your timetable the 17.35 from Burgess Hill should reach Clapham Junction at 18.23.

I catch these trains every day Monday - Friday and I am appalled that not once has my return train into Clapham Junction arrived on time.

In addition, it is astonishing that only once has the 7.42 train into Burgess Hill arrived on time. ONCE!!!

I can't understand why, when it is a timetable you have recently updated, and by your own admission was changed with an aim of "Improving performance due to better spacing of trains on the mainline". Before the new timetable came into effect, customers travelling from Clapham Junction to Burgess Hill could catch the 07.16 or the 07.23 service from Clapham Junction & change at East Croydon. These two options are no longer available on the new timetable, thus and as per your plan, the 07.42 performance should by default have an "improved performance" as the previous trains have been cleared from the schedule. Yet it doesn't. Go figure.

"Delivering good performance is a key objective for Southern" but again, according to your figures for 15th November to 12th December your performance dropped to below your own PPM baseline performance level. "Poor weather had an impact on our performance overall". I know we're British and we love to moan about the weather but we had one of our warmest winters during that time. No snow. No ice. If you're not prepared for normal weather conditions then there's no hope for you.

It has become a bit of a running joke between commuters on this line that there seems to be a delay Bingo with various different excuses being cited as the reason we are spending our evening on a train platform after being turfed off when the trains decide to terminate at a different station. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to hear 'Awaiting a member of the crew' over the station announcements. This is your timetable, schedule your staff in line with it!!

On your January update to your Performance Improvement Plan, you cite the reasons for the poor December performance to 'Crew availability....with Christmas leave running at it's maximum level, as well as the need to release drivers for training programmes". Staff cover over Christmas & training programmes are planned in advance in any other business to ensure there is adequate cover & staffing levels. Why on earth do you think that is an appropriate excuse for poor performance? Both of those factors you have control over and can effect in advance to ensure your services aren't disrupted.

The 6 P's could help you here; Proper planning prevents piss poor performance.

In the January update you also quote, "We are making steady progress on the joint GTR network rail improvement plan"
I think you'll find your own data in the same document shows that performance worsened in the period from October to December. What evidence do you have exactly to make that claim? I'd be very interested to see it.

"Between 24th December and 3rd January inclusive Network Rail replaced a major railway junction at provide a better ride and more reliable journeys." It hasn't worked. Reliable is not a word I would ever associate with Southern.

"A short period of bedding in is taking place with trains running at reduced speeds. This is not expected to have a major impact on journeys." Could you be a little more specific on that short period? How long exactly will the trains be running at reduced speeds? If you are aware that trains will be running at reduced speeds to do you not think it would be a good idea to advertise the exact timing of the trains while running at reduced speeds so that the people paying for it can plan their journeys? Or should we just guess?

For £4000 a year I expect an awful lot better.

I also resent the fact that I have to spend time filling in a delay-repay form for every time my services arrive 30 mins after the scheduled time. It is still an inconvenience when they arrive 29,28,27,26 etc mins late. Although our onward connections might not be with southern or any train service, we still have to make them, and we have jobs to keep. Lack of punctuality is highly unprofessional and can reflect badly in performance review.

I do understand that there are some situations which are beyond anyone's control, and that you cannot pre-empt everything. But you must understand with all of the above you make it very difficult for us commuters to sympathise with you when the majority of the time your services are useless.

I look forward to your response,

Your sincerely

Girl on a Delayed Train