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When things go wrong on the railways

January 13, 2015 6:58 PM
By Alan Bullion

Local Lib Dems are backing calls by Sevenoaks Rail Travellers Association for adequate compensation and better information for passengers.

(1) 10% discount as compensation for annual season ticket holders

Until a few years ago, annual season ticket holders used to get a 5% discount on renewal if the previous year's service had been sub-standard. That was seen as a fair system for day-in, day-out, failings.

The London Bridge scheme not only involves sub-standard performance but also the removal of 40% of the fast trains to London Bridge. Limiting it to annual season ticket holders could be seen as rough, but it does focus it to the most loyal (or captive) customers. It should be affordable as, nationally, train companies currently pay out less than £50m of the £172m compensation for delays they receive from Network Rail, and the London Bridge work will increase the amount Network Rail pay Southeastern even more.

(2) extend the free use of rail tickets on the Underground to cover (a) Victoria, (b) Bank and (c) all intermediate stations between these and existing free stations

Victoria is a viable alternative for Sevenoaks commuters. So too is reaching the City via a train to Waterloo East and then the Waterloo & City line to Bank. These should be added. The rule that intermediate stations such as Temple cannot be used is a petty one, and just adds to crowding on the Tube.

Southeastern will be worried about cost and also claim that it would add to tube overcrowding: we think that in a £6.5 billion project there must be some spare cash to cover any genuine additional costs (bearing in mind TFL are running and staffing the tubes anyway) and even if crowding makes these alternatives difficult in the peak they should be available for off-peak travel. Southeastern and TFL have not been good at negotiating with each other on these issues, so heads may need to be knocked together.

(3) a Get You Home guarantee.

When stations get overcrowded Southeastern simply close them. There's a real possibility that thousands will be left on the streets of London unable to get trains home. Southeastern should make an absolute Get You Home guarantee, and publish exact details of how this will work, including the free and instant information services to passengers that will support it.

(4) free public access to the same information station staff have

When something goes wrong, the station staff are overwhelmed. Yet they have information - computer systems and a "station handbook" - that's not accessible to passengers. Making these available on Southeastern's website and through its mobile application would get the information to more passengers more quickly. That helps passengers and helps Southeastern. Southeastern may mutter about "sensitivity" - the counter-example is HMRC who publish almost all their staff tax manuals on their website.