Written answers in House of Commons about Southeastern Franchise

The following is a set of Written Answers in the House of Commons dated 20 Dec 2010.

It contains details of some of the figures being used in determining if SouthEastern retain their franchise when it’s up for a two year extension in 2012.

The original document is available this section is a long way down that page.

London and South Eastern Railways: Franchises

Mrs Grant: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent assessment he has made of the performance of Southeastern in discharging its obligations under its franchise agreement. [30738]
20 Dec 2010 : Column 999W

Mrs Villiers: Department for Transport Officials monitor Southeastern’s performance against the contract on a four weekly basis. This review includes operational performance and the delivery of committed obligations.

The Southeastern franchise agreement is currently due to end on 31 March 2012, though the option does exist for a two year extension to the agreement to allow the franchise to end on 31 March 2014. In order for Southeastern to be offered that two year extension, they must pass a performance based continuation review. That review period concluded on 12 December 2010 and the Secretary of State expects to notify the operator of the outcome early in the new year.

London and South Eastern Railways: Standards

Mrs Grant: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proportion of rail services run by Southeastern was subject to a delay of over 10 minutes in (a) 2008, (b) 2009 and (c) 2010. [30735]

Mrs Villiers: The information requested is given in the following table.

Period Trains planned Trains more than10 minutes late % of trains more than 10 minutes late
(a) 2008-9 (periods 1-13) 590,435 13,947 2.4
(b) 2009-10 (periods 1-13) 604,972 16,251 2.7
(c) 2010 (periods 1-8) 417,208 9,808 2.4
1. Results are reported on a four weekly periodic basis each year, starting with period 1 on 1 April to period 13 ending on 31 March.
2. Rail Industry Period 8, running from 17 October to 13 November 2010, is the latest period from which this data is available.

Mrs Grant: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many rail services Southeastern has cancelled in (a) 2008, (b) 2009 and (c) 2010. [30736]

Mrs Villiers: The information requested is given in the following table.

Period Trains planned Trains cancelled % of trains cancelled
(a) 2008-9 (periods 1-13) 590,435 7,326 1.2
(b) 2009-10 (periods 1-13) 604,972 9,653 1.6
(c) 2010 (periods 1-8) 417,208 4,008 1.0
N otes:
1. Results are reported on a four weekly periodic basis, starting with period 1 on 1 April to period 13 ending on 31 March.
2. Rail Industry Period 8, running from 17 October to 13 November 2010, is the latest period from which this data is available.

Mrs Grant: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he has had recent discussions with Southeastern on ensuring the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of its service. [30742]

Mrs Villiers: Department for Transport officials review Southeastern’s delivery of its services on a four-weekly
20 Dec 2010 : Column 1000W
basis. This includes its train performance and the financial delivery. The effectiveness of the operator’s delivery is also tested on an annual basis through the business planning requirements of its franchise agreement.

Separately, as this House is aware, Sir Roy McNulty has published his interim report into the Value for Money of the railway, available at:

which identifies potential savings of up to £1 billion a year in the running of Britain’s railways. The Government will be taking forward these savings with train operators and Network Rail, to ensure a more efficient and effective railway.

London and South Eastern Railways: Tickets

Mrs Grant: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what mechanisms are in place to ensure that Southeastern carries out efficient ticketing enforcement on its rail services; and if he will make a statement. [30734]

Mrs Villiers: All franchise agreements entered into since 2004 require train operators to implement a structured revenue protection strategy.

Southeastern’s revenue protection strategy includes a penalty fares scheme, approved by the Department for Transport. Under the scheme, a passenger who cannot show a valid ticket for their journey, where ticket facilities were available at their starting station, may be liable to a penalty fare of £20 or twice the single fare.

Revenue protection officers operate on the Southeastern network to combat instances of ticketless travel and, where appropriate, to issue penalty fares. The Southeastern network is also served by teams of rail enforcement officers, who are authorised collectors of penalty fares under the penalty fares scheme.

© Parliamentary material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO
on behalf of Parliament. Licence No: P2011000006

How a single train can cripple an entire network

This morning a train failed between two main stations, Tonbridge and Sevenoaks. Although this happened just before 8am it caused chaos across the entire southern half of the network which was felt well into the late evening.

The following has been taken from the uk.railway newsgroup as it’s one of the best accounts I’ve seen for any failure from someone who must be someone who works on the Railway.

First of all the unit was on the up line, the train involved being 06.39 Ore – Cannon St.

It depends what you mean by “the rescue” train. When the Ore service came to a stand (formed 12 coach 375) very quickly the following 07.40 Tunbridge Wells – Charing Cross (formed 10 coach Networker) was at a stand behind it at Hildenborough. This had to be moved back first before any rescue train could go to the passengers. There was a nearby access point (from a public road bridge) however the gate was chained out of use owing to the access steps being in poor condition. This meant that detraining was out of the question. To my mind trying to arrange road transport to meet somewhere in the region of 750 – 800 people would have been a logistical nightmare.

So the decision was made to get a train up behind to try and push/rescue the passengers. The Tunbridge Wells train was moved back wrong line to Tonbridge (a series of procedures to follow, as not a signalled move), and an additional delay while trains were emptied at Tonbridge to (1) provide a platform for the Tunbridge Wells train to come back into and (2) supply an assisting train. The assisting train needed to be emptied, otherwise its easy to get two train loads of people stuck in the middle of nowhere.

While this was going on the driver was in touch with various technical people receiving assistance, but the fault appears to have caused the whole 12 coach train to have become disabled. There was also a possibility of an attaching train having the fault transferring. About 09.40 the front and rear units got power and there was hope of limping the train forward to Sevenoaks, but this was scuppered when the brakes would not then release.

During this time an empty 12 coach train was brought up to Hildenborough and at 10.00 went onto the back of the failed train to remove the passengers. By shortly after 10.00, the evacuation of the failed train was underway, however it required 750 – 800 people to walk though one gangway connection into the other train which had arrived behind. As can be imagined this took time, but by 11.00 the passengers were transfered and the rescue train was ready to move back to Tonbridge, once authorization for the wrong line move was obtained.

During this time a crew from GBRf were found to go to Hoo Jn and pick up and engine there, and this then started making its way over towards Sevenoaks. The fitters were on site as well, but despite numerous efforts unable to get the train to come back to life.

There were several false dawns when the staff on site believed they had fixed the faults, only for something else to then occur.

During this time only a limited amount of trains could go via Redhill (Network Rail Sussex zone stated not more than one per hour to be diverted) and this was also hindered by Networkers not being cleared to run via Redhill, and also the limited crew knowledge (only Tonbridge and Hastings crews sign the route via Redhill). All other trains were having to use the down line in both directions, and owing to the nature of the signalling, a maximum of one train every 15 minutes could go up the down line (assuming of course that nothing is actually coming the other way).

The rescue engine from Hoo Jn got to the failure at around 13.00, and was attached to haul the errant train away. Owing to the different couplings on loco and units, this meant the movement back to Tonbridge could only go at a maximum of 5mph. The wrong line move commenced at 13.13, and was back in clear at Tonbridge by 13.54, at which time the up line could be used for the first time since 07.45 this morning.

During this time disruption spread out over a vast area due to train crews in the wrong place, not helped by the complexity of the crew workings. The intricate nature of the crew working is something that South Eastern are aware of, but have so far chosen not to address, for whatever reason.

In addition the supervision of train crew has been drastically reduced, instead of each depot having its own Train Crew Supervisor, they are now based at Orpington and Ashford for the whole county (so one person deals with seven depots instead of one). I understand train crew find it difficult to contact these staff, as needless to say the phone is constantly busy due to the vastly increased workload. This is another issue that I believe South Eastern are aware of.

The Gene Genie.

The original posts are available here: http://bit.ly/e6olZ9 and http://bit.ly/glaDhP

Thanks to @TimJWatts for sending those links to #southeastern on twitter.

Why do commuters feel SouthEastern should loose their franchise?

Although I do tend to stay away from politics the one big topic over the recent months has been about the dire state of the rail network covering the southeast of England operated by SouthEastern.

It first started way back in December 2009 when they first introduced the new High Speed service into St Pancras. Doing so they raised fares across the region and changed the timetables to accommodate it.

The problem was that the HST only serves the north and east of the county. If you are in the west or south you are out of luck unless you travel in the wrong direction and use normal trains to Ashford first. Also the HST is only fast when it’s running on the High Speed 1 line. Once it leaves that like at Gravesend or Ashford it runs over the normal lines.

Finally to add salt into the commuters wounds they then tried to get as many people to use this new, more expensive service by reducing normal services. Remember our season tickets went up to fund this new service that we couldn’t use.

For example at Maidstone East before HST we had three services to Charing Cross and Cannon Street between 07:50 and 08:10. Those services were removed. If you miss the 07:44 then you now have to wait until 08:18, a 34 minute wait. In fact there are no direct services from Maidstone to either station, just Victoria.

Next came the snow, not what we had over the last two months but in January. SouthEastern suffered major problems, people had trouble getting home as the rails froze up and they had what has now become a joke, a lack of communication to their passengers.

Since then the quality of services started to fall apart. The ‘new’ class 375 trains used on the mainline (also known as Electrostars), I say new as they are now 10 years old but we’ve only had them in service for five years) have become dirtier, smellier (the smell of vomit, urine and excrement is common place) often with broken windows simply taped up, seats damaged or missing or sharp edges where fittings have fallen off.

While I’m on the subject of maintenance (or lack of) we have the toilets. Some of us now have a game of spot the working toilet. Over the past year the chance of a working toilet has reduced to the point that finding one is a miracle. In the first six evening journeys home this year I’ve seen only two working toilets.

On one occasion an eight car train had just one out of the four toilets working. This was last week and on this occasion I ended up guiding two disabled passengers towards the sole working toilet, one was deaf and the other blind – imagine trying to go through a crowded train with a guide dog!

On another occasions we have instances of the toilets overflowing. I’m not talking of a minor trickle of water but fully overflowing. On one train you could see how often this happened due to how corroded the metal work was. On another I personally saw excrement flowing down the centre of the carriage – this happened again yesterday going by a report on twitter.

One member of staff told me recently that when they become full they are supposed to be moved to one of a few depots to be emptied. This is not always done and when they are moved sometimes they are not shunted to the right place in the depot so they can remain full for days on end.

Now we get to the recent period of disruption caused by the early snow fall. Here confidence with SouthEastern hit an all time low not seen since Connex ran the franchise at the beginning of the century.

Other bloggers have described this in depth, however the main issue was how bad they communicated the situation to passengers – they didn’t. After the January snow falls they had put in place, supposedly, new features to ensure that passengers knew when or if they train was going to run. In reality passengers and platform staff new nothing as no information was getting out.

In fact more information was being provided by ourselves on Twitter under the #southeastern hash tag. For example out of almost 9000 tweets I’ve made in the last 2 1/2 years about 1/8th have been since November, most about the trains. We were able to find out what was going on, why couldn’t they?

Then was the PR disaster. Regularly they would put on a PR droid on the radio blaming the third rail for the problems every time. This we already knew but refused to concede they fucked up in telling us what’s going on and why they couldn’t.

Another bombshell was when it was discovered that the only two trains available for dicing the rails were in a depot undergoing maintenance when they have had all summer to do it.

Then they refused any TV interviews. None whatsoever. BBC South East managed to get their sister company on but SouthEastern refused. When they tried to get the MD Charles Horton in an interview he refused passing the buck on to PR.

Shortly after all of this we then discover he had a senior management position at the former Connex franchise and since then there have been many calls for him to resign.

Now after all this we were hit with the highest rail fare increase in the country. Some parts of Kent have been hit with a 13% increase for a service which is continually getting worse.

In these increases they are saying it’s for further investment and to make up with the fall of government subsidy. For what? So far all I’ve seen as an improvement is that some stations have had some blue & White paint applied to them and not much else.

Now the interesting bit, under the terms of their franchise if, over the period of a year their punctuality falls below 82% then they have to award season ticket holders a 5% discount. This period ran for the year up to the middle of December so included both periods of disruption. Did we get it? No. That’s because their punctuality was 82.04%

This figure was so close many have questioned how accurate it is. In fact on one occasion a group in Ramsgate went though the published figures and they couldn’t match that figure. Several MP’s have now demanded an independent audit on those figures while commuters have queried if this could be a case for fraud.

While we are talking about audited figures, at first SouthEastern stated that their figures had been independently audited, however it’s now turned out that the process involved was audited not the figures.

Further more, today we find out that in the last three years SouthEastern made £57 million in profit and gave £44 million of that to their shareholders. Going by what’s been said on twitter this evening I think not many people know this yet but when they do they will become even more pissed off with them.

Finally on top of this there’s the possibility of a rail strike by the RMT about platform staff cutbacks at several major stations including Victoria, Charing Cross. Feelings about this are mixed by so far from my poll it’s about 2:1 against a strike.

The next few months are going to be interesting. There’s several campaigns goings on both online & in first life targeted at either SouthEastern or at the fair increases in general.

Personally I’ve been running a twibbon campaign since the snow fell in November & I have a bot running on twitter (@SET_CrowdMap) which has been recording the reported train delays, hopefully to compare their stats with what we actually experience.

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