Great ambitions for rail passengers in south east London, Kent and East Sussex

18 April 2017

I grew up in Kent, so have been familiar with the South Eastern network. I used to travel from Sevenoaks to London through the days of British Rail, Connex and then Southeastern. The network is due to go through another change next year with the contract coming up for renewal in December 2018. As part of this process, we have researched what passengers want from their new franchise.

Of course, commuters making up two-thirds of the demand on the network, with most travelling into London in peak hours. This often makes this a busy and congested operation. Commuters told us they want more punctual, reliable services with enough room to sit and stand. Many, especially within London, face particular challenges simply getting on to trains, so their main concern is having enough space to board the train and stand in safety and comfort. But longer distance passengers quite reasonably value a seat for their journey.

When things go wrong passengers want the operator to deal with delays more effectively. They want the company to take ownership and staff to be able to provide help and assistance. They want answers to: how long will the delay last? When will the next train run? What alternatives are there? These are the basic requirements of passengers.

But the High Speed line, a relatively recent addition to the network, is rather different. The core needs are generally met on this service, with passengers seeing their journey as a ‘premium product’. The Javelin trains are seen as cleaner, smarter, more reliable and comfortable. So their requirements shift away from the basics to something that will improve the quality of their experience such as Wi-Fi. One passenger tweeted he wanted more comfortable seats.

So let’s hope that the passenger experience will improve after 2018 with ambitious plans for delivering better value for money and helping passengers feel valued. At the moment, I am hopeful as the Government is signalling what they are looking for and consulting passengers on their priorities and plans. However, there are still a good few months to go and we are keen to work with Southeastern to secure improvements in the interim.

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